Friday, 30 January 2009

Life For Reilly

This is a bit of a non-story really, but I rather thought the headline was amusing so I ran with it - it's a play on the expression "the life of Riley" meaning having it easy - bit like a modern-day politician or Life Peer, perhaps...


Nicky Reilly is a 22-year old Islamic convert who tried to blow up Exeter's Giraffe Restaurant in May 2008. Calling himself "Mohammad Rashid Saeed Alim", Reilly failed in his attempt to hurt anyone when he accidentally detonated the explosive device he was preparing in the toilets. He was swiftly arrested as he staggered, injured and bloodied outside.

In sentencing Reilly to life (with a minimum tariff of 18 years) Justice David Calvert-Smith said that "The offense of attempted murder is aggravated by the fact that it was long-planned, that it had multiple intended victims and was intended to terrorise the population of this country."

Reilly's lawyer described him as, "the least cunning person ever to have come before this court for this type of offense," and while Justice Calvert-Smith accepted this, he observed that, "Unfortunately those who attempt to commit suicide and in doing so murder other people are almost invariably unsophisticated in many aspects."

What is most interesting about this case is the way that the media are alluding to Reilly's apparent affliction with Asperger's syndrome - a low-level form of autism suffered by many. Although Asperger's sufferer's are socially awkward they are no more likely (and perhaps even less so) to harm another human being than any "normal" person.

Life is like a box of chocolates and Reilly has a long time to ponder on his actions although I have to wonder if a secure psychiatric unit would be a better place for this poor misfit - like Tony Blair before him, he was a puppet controlled by an outside force determined to fuck things up their personal gain.

BBC Editor: It's My Way or The Highway

Rather like a few politicians I could mention, Radio 4 controller, Mark Damazer obviously forgets who pays his wages.

Towards the back end of 2008 Gavin Orland set up a pledge on Pledgebank to have Thought For The Day either removed or revised to include non-religious speakers such as A.C. Grayling (who correctly describes TFTD as a homily). Those who contacted the BBC (over 1,500 if PB is to be believed) received a nonchalant and thoughtless automated "fuck you" from Damazer, which goes like this:

Thank you for your email.

I regard this as a genuinely difficult question. There may be a case for widening the pool of contributors on Thought for The Day by having someone with an avowedly non-religious perspective. However on balance the BBC's position is that it is reasonable to sustain the slot with believers. Let me now set out the reasoning.

Thought for the Day is a unique slot in which speakers from a wide range of religious faiths reflect on an issue of the day from their faith perspective. In the midst of the three hour Today programme devoted to overwhelmingly secular concerns - national and international news and features, searching interviews etc - the slot offers a brief, uninterrupted interlude of spiritual reflection. We believe that broadening the brief would detract from the distinctiveness of the slot.

Within Thought for the Day a careful balance is maintained of voices from different Christian denominations and other religions with significant membership in the UK. We are broadcasting to the general Radio 4 audience which regularly engages with the comments and ideas expressed by our contributors from the world's major faiths - whether they are believers or not.

Outside Thought for the Day the BBC's religious output contains both religious and non-religious voices in programmes such as Sunday, Beyond Belief, Moral Maze. In these programmes atheists, humanists and secularists are regularly heard, the religious world is scrutinised, its leaders and proponents are questioned, and the harm done in the name of religion is explored.

Non-religious voices are also heard extensively across the general output in news, current affairs, documentaries, talks, science, history. These programmes approach the world from perspectives which are not religious. As, of course, do the other 2 hours 57 minutes of Today.

Yours sincerely

Mark Damazer
Controller, Radio 4

OK. So this clearly isn't good enough for those of us (probably a majority) think that TFTD is exclusive and pointless - especially when it's broadcast at peak time in the station's flagship news programme! Many of those people offended by this response wrote back in stronger words:


why is it I just feel as if I've been gently patted on the head and told to return to my seat?


Besides being a published author, I am also researching a book into this sort of platitudinous stock response from broadcasters.

My original email already addresses the note attached and I now require this complaint is escalated to the next person in charge - beyond Mr Damazer since he is obviously incapable of making a cogent argument without resorting to the supernatural.

I will, in time, escalate this to the BBC Trust and my MP if necessary - as a fee-paying licence holder I expect to be treat with more respect than this.

Predictably perhaps, the response came back within a couple of days:
Dear Marc Draco,

Thank you for your further email reply.

As I intimated this is a genuinely difficult issue, but I don't think I can add anything of real substance to my original email. If you would like to pursue this further, it is open to you to write to the BBC Trust at 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA. Full details of the complaints and appeals process are on the BBC Trust website:

Yours sincerely,

Mark Damazer
Controller, Radio 4
So, stock answer #2 - not as obvious this time (the other one appeared on the Radio 4 iPM website) but fairly obvious as it includes my full name and a gentle push to fuck off and complain to the trust. Damazer knows full-well the trust has no power to press for changes in editorial policy so this is a dead end.

Or is it?

Gavin Orland has had enough, writing to the signatories of the original pledge, he says:
"Ultimately, we were “stonewalled” by Mr Damazer and the religious department. He did not engage with any of the arguments put to him. It is obvious the religious dept. wield disproportionate influence in this – but it remains a mystery to me as to why.

"Some have said the trouble here is this is just not public enough. The BBC are in trouble over all sorts of other issues, but this one seems so far to have slipped under the radar, despite all our action.

"I personally am not listening to The Today Programme any more. I find the BBC generally too religious and too politically correct and am so fed up of TFTD specifically, and by the way we have been ignored, that I just don’t feel like it any more. I also, of course, have my own life and work to get on with."
More news when I hear back from the BBC Trust because I won't let this arrogance drop without a fight.

The Water's Deep. Row or Wade? It's All About Choice!

Row versus Wade? Geddit? No... Don't worry, you will.

Roe v Wade is a landmark US supreme court ruling which effectively afforded women the right to choose what goes on in their own bodies. The idea essentially is that a foetus has a right to life only after such time that it becomes viable - that is, when it can live outside of the mother's body: even if that means using artificial means.

Roe v Wade effectively gave US women the right to a medical termination across the entire country. This was particularly offensive and shocking in a country which puts such a religious right on life.

President Obama has already quashed Dubya's idiotic sanctions against supporting organisations outside the US but in response a group of right-wing senators have re-introduced the Life at Conception Act which will, if passed, overturn Roe v Wade and outlaw abortion by giving even a zygote equal rights as a person under the 14th amendment.

This is obviously idiotic but it's driven by religious conviction - not careful measured thought. The 14th amendment, ratified in 1868, was originally written to protect former slaves and effectively empower them with the same rights and responsibilities as the "white folk".

Laws are funny things and if their authors are not extraordinarily careful they can be widely abused, as example, consider this quote from Republican Senator, David Vitter
“As science continues to advance, the evidence that life begin at conception is becoming more and more irrefutable. This bill is critical to the fight to protect the culture of life, especially as we face an administration and new Congress that seems determined to advance the agenda of a practice that a great number of Americans find abhorrent.”
Even in the first sentence, the mind-buggering veil of ignorance & simplicity that these people operate under becomes horribly clear. Life (by this definition) has always begun at conception and we've known that for a hell of a long time.

However, how are we to define life?

The turning point in Roe v Wade was when the court accepted that life (as most of us understand it) begins when the foetus becomes capable of supporting its own life (even with medical intervention): and this in itself may prove critical.

That aside, the second part of Senator Vitter's statement demonstrates that he fails to understand the right to choose! Choice (not necessarily over pregnancy) isn't specifically written in to the US Constitution, but it is implied in the right of freedom (also implied in the 9th amendment).

No. This is about the religious right's wish to lord it over everyone else.

Choice - as we have it now and as Americans have had since Roe v Wade allows each person to chose based on their circumstance and personal belief. If it were overturned, the religious right would have removed the ability of clear thinking people to decide what goes on inside their own bodies; a dangerous precedent indeed.

As an extreme example, if a child with precocious puberty becomes pregnant the Republican idea would require she carried it to term and gave birth; by any means. Yet for a child of 5 or 6 years that is neither possible or practical. While rare, it happens. Similarly, who are they to decide - for others of conscience - that a woman should sacrifice her life for the sake of a foetus that has no hope of survival?

One law does not fit everyone and here's what a supporter of this bill has to say in a comment appearing pasted as it appears replete with all the errors - judge for yourself:
"i totally agree. if anyone becomes pregnant, there is a reason. that is a life in there. if it is there, then God thought of that being. MADE THEM UP! why would He make a person without any intent for their life? He wouldnt.Everything has a purpose in Him, and just because you arent ready to have this child, God wants it here. So deal with it. =]"
We lay it all at your door, of course!

Myself, I'm going to "Roe, roe, roe me boat, gently down the stream."

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You Paid HOW Much?

£37,071 is the going rate for a missing child website these days, according to accounts published in the Daily Mail.

The Mail isn't a paper you can usually rely on for unbiased facts, but since this amount has been carefully extracted from the Find Madeline fund's published accounts we can probably take it at face value.

£37,000 for a goddamn poster site! What are these people coding on, Crays? No wait, they're PAYING the Krays - because that's fucking daylight robbery.

It also pissed away spent a staggering £111,522 on legal expenses not connected with the McCann's defence; £36,000 on professional fees;
over £13,000 distributing merchandise and nearly £27,000 producing it; it goes on.

The largest single expense was the £250,000 wasted on the portugese detective agency which claimed it would find the missing child (yeah, let's not forget this is about a missing child) in three months.

£250,000 spent - result: fuck all! I hope these arseholes are proud of themselves - if I buy a toaster and it doesn't work, the shop gives me my money back, but it seems if I make an outrageous claim that I can do what the police have failed to - I get to keep the money when I fail to produce a result.

What a farce. This is why, like all good parents, I keep my children close to me or have a responsible person in charge of them when I cannot.

Madeline and her siblings deserve non of this, her parents however brought it on themselves.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Ah! The Sweet Sound of Spin!

Dakota Voice is running this story today, basically an updated version of an older anti-abortion argument. There's a beautiful irony here considering I found this on a Republican pro-life lobby and as ever it's loaded in favour of the pro-life argument.

When you think about abortion, think of something. Imagine a child…

This child’s future is a broken home…

He will be abandoned by his father…

His single mother will struggle to raise him…

Despite the hardships, he will endure…

This child will become the first African American president.

Life: Imagine the potential.

That's the thing about choice, President Barack Obama's mother didn't choose to terminate that pregnancy and if she had, history would be different.

What pro-lifers never get is that this is about choice - one option cannot fit everyone. For some women, abortion will be the wrong choice, for others, it will be the right one. We cannot judge what any foetus will become because we don't know how life will influence them; for every black president or musical prodigy, there will be many others which life leaves by the wayside.

We can know with a reasonable degree of certainty the outcome of many genetic diseases, however. We know the pain and suffering that some children will have to endure as they lose a desperate battle for life in the hours and days after they are born - sure to die.

Many others will have deprived lives, may die of starvation or suffer from malnutrition or disease. Still more will become petty criminals, living life on the fringes of society and spending much of their lives in an out of prison.


Rowan Pelling's moving account (in the generally awful Daily Mail and right-wing) is an inspiration to those faced with the dilemma of termination. Of her first pregnancy, a child suffering with Patau syndrome, Pelling writes:
"I recognise that it can seem near impossible that anyone could terminate a foetus at this late stage, when its claims to existence appear so tangible. But I am certain that if my first baby had not been diagnosed with Patau syndrome until the 20-week scan I would have still made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

"This knowledge, which will be abhorrent to some, has brought home to me the fact that other people’s agonies, situations and choices are often impossible to imagine from any distance. Can I really understand, say, the dilemma faced by a pregnant woman who endures brutish social deprivation and domestic violence?"

This is the choice (and a future we can't predict) that pro-lifers want to take away.

Look at this picture and tell me your loving God made this I dare you.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Stephen Green Can't Have His Own Way.


Stephen Green is pissed off - as this release from a couple of days back demonstrates. More on this later, in the meantime here is the complete and unexpurgated release!
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the humanists behind the newly-launched bus advertisement which claims there is 'probably no God' can't substantiate their claims.

The ad, the brainchild of comedy writer Ariane Sherine, says: 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'.

But Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, and 325 others, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. Many complaints said the ads were offensive. Stephen Green and others said the advertisements broke the ASA's codes on substantiation and truthfulness.

The ASA website says: 'Advertisements are not allowed to mislead consumers. This means that advertisers must hold evidence to prove the claims they make about their products or services before an ad appears.'

But in a ruling today, the ASA says the claim that there is probably no God is 'not capable of objective substantiation'. It says further that the complaints were not 'serious' or 'widespread' enough.

Stephen Green said today:

'If the ASA had thought the humanists could provide evidence for their claim, they would have asked them for it. As they know there is no evidence for the proposition that 'there is probably no God', they have let their secularist friends off the hook. 'I debated this issue secularists five times in recent days, and despite repeated challenges, they could not once come up with anything to back up their claim that there is 'probably no God'.

'The ASA have finessed Code 7.1, which says a ad should not mislead or be likely to mislead, ruling it would not be likely to mislead, so avoiding the thornier question of whether it actually does mislead. Which it does.

'On 'taste and decency', the ASA have simply taken a subjective decision to dismiss the complaints of offensiveness. On planet ASA, complaints from people of faith are not given the same weight as those from secularists. But what do you expect when the ASA Council is appointed and run by a campaigning homosexual, Chris, Lord, Smith of Finsbury?'

Last year the ASA ruled against Sandown Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster when the church published an advertisement 'The Word of God against Sodomy' against Belfast Gay Pride. That ad, decided the ASA, breached its code on decency (offensiveness) after receiving just 4 complaints. But they allowed that the ad was a legitimate expression of opinion when dismissing another part of the complaint.

Last week, it ruled against an advertorial Christian Voice placed in the New Statesman, after just one solitary complaint that a prediction that every Government initiative on teenage sexuality would increase teenage infertility could not be substantiated.

Stephen Green commented: 'The ASA upholds or breaks its rules as it goes along. It all depends on who is being complained about. They get 326 complaints and decide the bus ads were not causing serious or widespread offence. They get a mere 4, and say Sandown's ad was. They allow Sandown to express an opinion, but not Christian Voice. They excuse the secularists from the need to provide evidence for a categorical statement, claiming it is impossible to do, but they say Christian Voice needs hard evidence for a future prediction, which really is impossible.

'We always knew the ASA was just another tool of the politically-correct secularist establishment, but here's the proof. Their ruling is a good example of how the deck is stacked against Christians today, and the Church needs to wake up to the anti-Christian agenda right now. The good news is we now know that when the secularists decided to say: "There is probably no God", they had no reason for making that absurd claim, and time has not helped them come up with one. The bad news is that if Christians don't start standing up for their Faith and their Saviour soon, we shall see religious liberties trampled on, and the secularists will take us further down the road to their hell on earth.'

NOTES for Editors:

The CAP Code, which the ASA administers, says:


'3.1 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.

'Relevant evidence should be sent without delay if requested by the ASA or CAP. The adequacy of evidence will be judged on whether it supports both the detailed claims and the overall impression created by the marketing communication.'


'5.1 Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. ...'


'7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.'

Monday, 26 January 2009

Stop That! You'll Go Blind!

And so goes the old wive's tale of admonishment dealt out to many a happy schoolboy caught "spanking the monkey" or "bashing the bishop" when he should have been studying.

Ah, those were the days...

Now it seems there was an element of truth in that old saying - but only if prostate cancer can metastasize to the optic nerves or other visual areas; and if it should, well frankly that would be the least of your worries.

The BBC reports from a Notingham University study, published in BJU, which has found a tentative link between the amount of sex a man has in his early years (20-30s) with the occurrence of prostate cancer in later life. Wacking off seems to present just as great a risk as engaging in sex with a partner, suggesting that hormones play a roll and reducing the implication that a virus or other factors may be involved.

As prostate cancer is often treated with hormone-reduction therapy, the team suggest that the increased presence of male hormones may be causative link although other studies have suggested that ejaculation causes the gland to release toxins.

While cancer charities have welcomed the finding, they were quick (and correct) to point out that this research is based entirely upon the recollections - and honesty - of each man tested. Memories that in some cases were 30+ years old! Not exactly the most reliable evidence...

So, it is with that skeptical view in mind and the fact that I won't live forever that I'm now going to flush me "custard bag".

Now where did I put those biology texts I used to study behind the bike sheds?

Pot Calls Obama Black

The pot is (perhaps not that obviously) the Roman Catholic fuckwit Archbishop Rino Fisichella. Mr Fisichella has got himself all in a stew because the world's most powerful man has signed an accord which will allow US funding of overseas organisations which support abortion.

Of course, this is none of his business, but as Fishhead is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he thinks it is. Fisichella is quoted as saying:
"What is important is to know how to listen... without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death"
When of course, this is precisely what Obama can do if he so chooses: he could (for example) commute the death sentence for prisoners on death row by little more than a wave of his pen; thus granting life back to those who took it.

But this isn't about abortion, it's about choice and in some cases it's about saving lives too, as AFP reports:
More than 250 health and human rights organisations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy "which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls."

Which surely makes a very serious case (from those on the front line) that choice is precisely what is needed. As the ludicrous Fisichella enjoys his ivory tower and wears his knees out praying to his invisible friend, very real women are suffering because of his policies on birth control.

Surely, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Not FITna for Broadcast

Right-wing dutch politician, Geert Wilders anti-Islam Film was scheduled to be show to the House of Lords on the 29th January, 2009 but has now been cancelled after a group of Muslims led by Lord Ahmed put a case to the Government Chief Whip of the House of Lords and Leader of the House of Lords.

This is, quite frankly, fucking dumb.

One wonders what Lord Ahmed has to worry about! I've seen Fitna and it's pretty unpleasant but the really nasty stuff seems to come directly from the mouths of Muslims themselves. We have to temper that and remember that not all Muslims are that crazy, but ignoring it is like ignoring that some (very small number of people) abuse children.

Christian Democrat and Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, supported Wilders and led those supporting his right of free speech and the fact that the film provokes honest debate about radical Islam.

Times newspaper, leader writer Oliver Kamm, writes:
"Insisting on the right to offend religious believers may seem an unfeeling and uncaring doctrine. (The non sequitur that many Muslims in western societies are poor is often brought into the discussion at this point.) But the case for liberty has never been that it protects sensibilities. It is rather that by allowing people’s beliefs to be scrutinised, criticised and — yes — insulted, bad ideas are more likely to be superseded by better ones. Allowing ideas to die in place of their adherents is a mark of a civilised society. It is not hyperbole to say that in the defence of the unlikely figure of Geert Wilders lies also the defence of western civilisation."
So I'll ask again - perhaps rhetorically - what is Lord Ahemd so frightened of?

Hat tip to which also has obtained footage that you can watch and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

There's Definitely (Probably) No God

Hat Tip to Mediawatchwatch which has broken this story:
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has concluded that the “There’s probably no God” bus ad campaign by the British Humanist Association is not in breach of the advertising code. The ASA will therefore not launch an investigation and the case is now closed.

The ASA carefully assessed the 326 complaints it received. Some complained that the ad was offensive and denigratory to people of faith. Others challenged whether the ad was misleading because the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God “probably” does not exist.

The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.
So that's the end of that - there's probably no god and it's OK to say it.

But believers are already extrapolating the ASA's requirement for "demonstrable facts" interpreting this in a manner to suit. Following is an extract from an email I received today from an Australian author:
"First, this issue is not one of 'faith vs science'. It's 'faith' vs 'faith' and 'science vs science'. Atheists have faith too. In fact, that is why Dawkins and the other atheists in the UK worded the sign on the London busses the way they did. They did not say 'There is no God' but they said 'There PROBABLY is no God.' In other words, they are not sure. So they have chosen to have faith in spite of the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God."
The writer has already received a reply which I'll not post here, but essentially this is the sort of thing we can expect. Despite Stephen Green and other idiots like him taking offence, others refusing to their jobs or just missing the point (see here) the ASA was happy to pass the advert.

Critical to this writer is his opinion that we have faith when in reality we're just complying with rigorous and completely fair advertising regulation that requires honesty; ironically precisely the same rules that Stephen Green has fallen foul of himself.

The interesting thing with people of faith is that so much of what they take for granted it based on highly suspect evidence or complete red-herrings - like this one. If you managed to grow a mighty oak in a sandy soil, it would still fall down with the slightest push.


A New Hope

I can't find the words to express what relief this is, but my brother-in-blogs Luke O'Dell can though - here!

Wait! You know that feeling you get when you're constipated so badly that your brain has started to fog up, you feel like you ass is going to prolapse and your haemorrhoids are going to explode?

No, not that feeling.... this one.

The feeling of blessed relief in taking that almighty dump secure in the knowledge that the almighty piece of shit that's been clogging up the world has finally been discharged into the toilet of history.

Yes, Obama, America can - and you'd bloody well better make sure you do.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Alternative Therapy II: The Crackdown!

You have to love the English language - take words like compliment and complement, for example sound alike but have entirely different meanings.

To complement, from the Latin, complementum means to add to something. Whereas to compliment, also from complementum but via the Italian complimento means 'the fulfilment of the requirements of courtesy'.

If a man appreciates a woman's attire he may be paying her a compliment, but not a complement (and these days, thanks to fucking PC, he may even be accused of sexual harassment).

It is to this end that I may me introduce you to the "Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council" - which is one of those QUANGOs that has self-assumed the roll of overseeing the behaviour of alternative practitioners - quacks, in layman's speak. The website proudly (and predictably announces that):
"The CNHC has been developed with the help of complementary healthcare practitioners and with support from the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health. The Department of Health has consistently supported the CNHC throughout its start-up period and is committed to establishing the CNHC as the national voluntary regulator in the complementary healthcare field."
That would be this guy, HRH Prince Charles Windsor - the future monarch of England who desperately needs a proper job and whose no-expense spared education has failed to provide him with a modicum of cynicism or the power of critical thinking. Charles is dangerous - not like a terrorist is dangerous, but like an idiot with unlimited money, power and a cause is dangerous. Dubya was dangerous.

Charles lives in a protected environment where everything is done for him and he has access to the best medicines that science can produce and money can buy. Yet still he staunchly believes in and promotes some of the worst quackery imaginable.

So here we have an organisation (CNHC) funded and encouraged by a specialist in weird medicine which is going to regulate weirder "complementary" medicine.

Quack Complementary medicine should, by definition add something to a conventional treatment yet more often that not, practitioners give the impression or worse, advice, that theirs is an alternative of equal or better efficacy.

Many of these "remedies" have been around for thousands of years and have their bands of enthusiastic followers, yet they comprehensively fail to stand up to scientific scrutiny. Homoeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, herbalism - the list is long but every single one has been examined at some point and found lacking.

There's some evidence that some traditional remedies have had active ingredients that might have treated disease (gout, for instance) and plants such as Deadly Nightshade (atropa belladonna) gives us atropine which is one of the most basic medicines (of its type) we posses. Evidence is the key here: and there's no evidence whatsoever that any of the quack treatments are any more effective than a good doctor and a large dose of a powerful placebo.

CNHC co-chairman Maggie Dunn doesn't understand irony of this statement appearing on the BBC:
"If that means that people who are not up to scratch are driven out of business, I will not cry for them "
Up to scratch? By whose measure? Are the CNHC going to introduce some system of exams to make sure these people can cure the ailments they claim to?

Well, errrr, No. This rather toothless organisation, says BBC Health Reporter, Nick Triggle, will:
"...not judge clinics on whether therapies are effective, but rather on whether they operate a professional and safe business."
So this government-sanctioned, voluntary register (it's £45 per annum to join) is going to ensure that quacks behave in a professional manner and somehow that's acceptable.

If anything, this lends some credence to these fuckwits and failed wannabe doctors - ensuring they carry insurance and pay membership to a toothless QUANGO? What fucking genius!

Health Minster, Ben Bradshaw MP, spoke warmly of the idea saying that member practitioners will offer the public:
"...the reassurance of knowing that they have had to meet minimum standards of qualification and that they have signed up to a rigorous code of conduct."
Of course, a doctorate in quackery is still in quackery! Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter's, Peninsula Medical School had reservations, telling the BBC:
"I have concerns that the regulator does not have mandatory powers and is not looking at the efficacy of these therapies."
As do I. As will proper medically trained doctors. My dictionary defines medicine thus:
"the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease"
If complementary "treatments" do not diagnose or can be shown scientifically to treat or prevent disease, then they are not fucking medicines and do not deserve that title!

Quack! Over and out.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Theos' Director Can't Read

In all the furore surrounding the atheist bus ads, you could be forgiven for missing the plight of one Ron Heather.

Mr Heather is bus driver for First Bus and when he turned up for work and saw the infamous Atheist adverts plastered on his company's bus, the one he is required to drive as per his conditions of employment, he complained. Speaking to Radio Solent, he said:
“I felt that I could not drive that bus, I told my managers and they said they haven’t got another one and I thought I better go home, so I did,” he said. “I think it was the starkness of this advert which implied there was no God.”
Oddly enough, there must be plenty of atheist (or non-Christian) bus drivers around yet did anyone hear a peep out of them when the laughable Alpha Course was advertising, “Is this it?” and “If God did exist, what would you ask him?”

[Insert sound of crickets]

They just did their jobs - but when this idiot has his own faith called into question, he quakes in his boots. There's no implication in the advert - it's pretty open with its message.

But on with the show,

Theos Director, Paul Woolley [there's nominative determinacy cropping up again], said the ads were “hardly going to be a great comfort for those who are concerned about losing their jobs or homes in the recession.”

Though he didn't elaborate precisesly how God was going to dig us out of this hole either. Perhaps the Vatican would consider giving up some of its staggering wealth? Maybe the Church of England could stump up a few grand?

Only when airborne pigs are sighted over Conisholme. Woolly-brained Mr Woolley went on to say:

“And what does it tell us to do when we stop worrying?” he continued. “Volunteer overseas? Give money to charity? Campaign for the environment? No. It tells us to enjoy ourselves. It would be hard to come up with a more self-centered message than this.”

Wiat! Does it actually say "enjoy yourselves"?

NO! NO! And again NO!

It says, "enjoy your life." Which is an entirely different message.

This is a neat piece of spin and isn't corrected or questioned by Christian Post writer, Jenna Lyle who is clearly either too dim and uninterested to check the facts -or- more interested in pushing her own bias.

Now, does God of the Bile tell us to volunteer overseas (NO); does he tell us to give money to charity (NO); what about campaign for the environment? No again.

All of these things are human choices which any right-minded person should be able to figure our for themselves. You don't need to be a god-botherer to campaign for the environment - and ironically, it's the neocons in Bush's outgoing administration who partly fucked up the environment in the first place by greed for oil.

Do atheists volunteer to go overseas? You bet they do - the difference is they don't go and preach their bullshit ideas to poor people who don't know any better. They go there to help without a hidden agenda. And as for charity, only today I gave some money to save the Chinese bears - so there you have it, Theos Director Mr Woolley caught and gutted like a fish.

As for Mr Heather, he should be thankful that I'm not his boss.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Devonian Physics Lecturer Doesn't Do Evolution

I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech, but there's a fine line between arguing a point and actually deceiving people. The North Devon Gazette reports that Tim Street, a retired physics lecturer, is among the speakers appearing in an "antidote to Darwin Day".

The trouble with physics lecturers is that they don't know biology but because they are men of science people take them at their word. Woe betide any churchman who tried that around where I live, because if they do, they're in for a nasty shock.

Mr Street told the Gazette:
"How could all the amazingly complex plants and animals have come about by chance?"
Chance? Chance! Life may have originated by chance, but the diverse forms we see around us are the product of millions of years of evolutionary change. I could go, on but Mr Street is quite capable of demonstrating his ignorance of life science, going on to say:
"As for the origin of life, the idea that life spontaneously comes from non living matter was clearly disproved 150 years ago by Louis Pasteur. He showed that once all living bacteria or organisms are killed off, life would never start on its own."
This is abiogenesis - not evolution you dolt. Darwin never, ever argued the origin of life - the book is called the Origin of Species and for an intellectual to make such a basic mistake is inexcusable. Professor Stanley Miller (who died recently) and his professor demonstrated how it might have appeared but the jury is still out on that.

I get so angry when people pose these straw man arguments and then claim to have a better solution - which is always (predictably) goddidit. These Intelligent Design arguments invariably spill over from US-based "think" tanks such as the Discovery Institute who have only ever discovered one thing - how to make retrograde-monkeys out of highly evolved apes.

Next he'll be telling us that we're not actually apes at all but some special creatures created in God's own image - which is a weak argument in itself - would a creature capable of creating the universe really have such a ridiculous design?

What really bugs me is the Gazette's words which say that this is an "alternative" view to the accepted Darwinian evolution (which has been superseded by neo-Darwinism since 1950ish) as if this is a valid view.

It isn't and it never was. It's dumb, theological boilerplate of the highest order. A way of spreading ignorance of the worst kind.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Welsh Kids Can Opt Out of Zombie Worship

Education Minister, Jane Hutt has decided that Welsh sixth-formers are to be given the right (like their English counterparts since 2007) to opt out of religious assembly.

Amazingly, this is due to the Education Act which dates back to 1944 which insists that children are exposed to a daily act of worship. The act says all schools:
"...must provide a daily act of collective worship which is broadly Christian."
This has less to do with the broadly secular UK and more to do with the stranglehold Churches had and still have on our nation's schools and, of course, the patently ridiculous notion that Bishops have the right to shit on, sorry sit in our upper house. This was gleefully seized on by Sir Peter Vardy's band of snake-oil salesmen who force children into what they call "tutor prayers" with the government's blessing.

1944 was an odd time for blighty. The 2nd World War was still raging, DNA had not been discovered and even television was in its infancy: yet it's not even a lifetime ago. It's not surprising that such an invidious piece of legislation should have slipped onto the statute books but it surprising that it's still there: but for the Bishops in the Upper House it most probably wouldn't be.

64 (!) years on and we've travelled to the moon, have hundreds of TV channels in glorious colour and high-definition, the Internet, personal computers, unlocked the mystery of DNA. The bishops are still in the House of Lords and (some) politicians don't think that young adults can think for themselves.

This is the problem: some of the Zombie Worshippers want to force their outmoded belief systems down children's throats even though it doesn't serve any useful purpose.

Ignoring the ubiquitous Rent-a-Quote, Stephen Green, the BBC quotes the Union of Welsh Independent Chapels, which said the assembly was,
"throwing away 1,500 years of Welsh Christianity to the wind - at the very time when young people need a sound moral and spiritual dimension in their lives more than ever."
This sort of comment really, really gets on my man-boobs. Who gives them the right to suggest that secular education does not or cannot give people a moral foundation? As for spiritual - that's a faith thing and it's for individuals to decide IF and WHAT they believe.

The UWIC is frightened that if this sort of outmoded practice is removed (and it will eventually be dropped from other schools too) then children won't follow their idiotic notions and may actually have to think for themselves.

Dr. Geraint Tudur whined to the BBC,
"Over the centuries, Christianity has been the bedrock of Welsh identity and morality."
Oh do move on dude! Christianity may have been the foundation of morals but we've moved on from there. Society is evolving (has evolved) to a point where most people - children included don't see the need to look up to a God. And, should it exist, it certainly doesn't need protecting.

As I see it, they're more likely to be frightened for their "jobs" - welcome to the real world, fucker!

A catholic spokesman was more relevant Father John Owen, a chaplain of Cardiff University, told the BBC:
"I have always thought that any form of compulsory worship was counter productive.

"I think it's a personal decision and personally I have no problem with this."

Amen to that brother. Errr....

Graham Stringer MP Is Ignorant

Ignorant is to stupid what intelligence is to intellect.

The Labour retard backbench MP for Blackley, Graham Stringer says that dyslexia is a myth and we shouldn't be ploughing millions into helping people with a recognised disorder and it should be consigned to the "dustbin of history."

Stringer is basing his words largely on the controversial work of Durham Professor Julian Elliot who wrote in the Times Educational Supplement and was part of 2005 CH4 documentary called "The Dyslexia Myth". Stringer refers to Prof. Elliot's reseach:
"(it is also pretty damning that according to Professor Julian Elliot there are 28 different definitions of dyslexia).
But despite Stringer's posturing and complaining, even Professor Elliot concedes that dyslexia is real in a thoughtful article here: .
"I would hope that in twenty years from now, scientific advances have made a major impact upon our understandings of reading disability and the ways by which we can best help those who suffer so greatly. Maybe the term ‘dyslexia’ will survive but, if so, I hope that we will all – academics, clinicians, teachers and parents- have a much clearer consensual understanding about what we mean by the term."
What irritates Stringer is stuff like this (in his words):
"This reached a pinnacle of absurdity, with Naomi Gadien, a second year medical student initiating a legal case against the General Medical Council because she believes she’s being discriminated against by having to do written exams. I don’t know about anybody else but I want my doctors to be able to read and write."
But he has the answer: phonics. In the same way that social conservatives confuse gender dysphoria with natural learning (details) Stringer has picked up the title of a TV programme and run with it.

I'd agree Naomi Gadien has some gall to expect to be treated differently (and sue when she isn't) but that doesn't automatically mean that dyslexia is a myth and there is only specious evidence that phonics helps in dyslexia.

We really don't know what causes it - and like autism, it's more likely a spectrum with varying degrees of severity and even types. Calling it a myth is plane ignarnot.

Glenn Stanton Is (Gender) Confused

With apologies to Cole Porter:

"Birds do, bees do it, even ignorant Yankeeeees do it...."

I love Dakota Voice, just when you think they've dredged into the deepest, darkest trenches of Conservative idiocy, they come with something new - this time it's Glenn Stanton. It's quite a short post, so you can see the video and Bob Ellis' comments here.

Stanton has been invited onto the Dr Phil show to discuss "Gender confusion" which Ellis has confused with homosexuality in his tags. Homosexual folks aren't confused about their gender - that's transsexuals you dolt! Homosexuals are attracted to people of the same gender.

Says Ellis:

"Due to a variety of environmental factors, children can become confused about their sexuality, what their proper role is and how they should act."
Which is bullshit, of course. Since Ellis is a God-fearing throwback, he cannot accept that. Even Stanton has this to say about gender dysphoria in children (the full article is here).

"Is it normal and healthy for young children to participate in cross-sex behavior? Of course! The whole world of a child is exploration. The role of the parent is to make sure their children explore and learn about their world in safe and directed ways."
Which is fair enough, but regrettably Stanton doesn't really understand what he's actually burbling about so this advice is misguided and wrong. The behaviour he alludes to is perfectly normal in normal children. His religiously formed guidance won't work in a truly dysphoric person. Our own NHS has this to say:
"The symptoms of gender dysphoria usually appear at a very young age. Children may refuse to wear typical boys' or girls' clothes, or dislike taking part in typical boys' or girls' games and activities. In most cases, this kind of behaviour is just a normal part of growing up, but in cases of gender dysphoria, it persists into later childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

"The exact cause of gender dysphoria is unknown. It is currently classed as a psychiatric condition (relating to the mind), but many recent studies have suggested that it is more to do with biological development (relating to the body). There is ongoing research into what causes it."

Key here is the observation that a person with true dysphoria will refuse to wear clothes "appropriate" to their gender even at young age. (I did myself as a very young child. Children often dress up in alternative outfits - from the opposite sex to their favourite superhero - yet when they do, we don't assume they will grow up and go around dressed as Batman.)

Normal children just grow out of it! Biology and sexual identity will take over. Parental guidance (as promoted by Stanton) is a good thing; but our parents can't really influence our ultimate sexual identity: any more than zombie-worshipping plonkers can make God appear out of thin air.

Stanton says, Dr. Kennth Zucker:
" of the world's leading authorities on gender confusion in children, calls this dynamic "family noise" which he explains as unhealthy relationships between mother and father, parents and child, as well as sibling to sibling. He says allowing a boy to live as a girl might solve the immediate anxiety of such a child, but it would ignore the larger problem driving such desire, and it fails to serve the child and the family."
Does he indeed? Actually, we're not told what, precisely Dr. Zucker said that Stanton hasn't manipulated into his own words and since there is no real citation, there is no way to check, but googling does reveal why Zucker was chosen. (who represent the opposing case) describes him thus:
"Ken Zucker is a psychologist at the Clarke Institute (aka "Jurassic Clarke") in Toronto. Zucker is famous for forcing gender-variant children into reparative therapy to conform to his expectations for male and female behavior in children. He considers transsexual women a 'bad outcome' for gay men."Zucker is a darling of the 'ex-gay' movement because of his work 'curing' gender-variant children. "
Now I won't go as far as alluding to Zucker as a quack, but shit, I'm sure I can hear ducks around here somewhere. Now, I think I'll go and pop some sheer stockings on. Oooo that feels soooo gooooood.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I've Seen Flying Saucers!

It's true! The last time I saw a flying saucer it was coming toward me at breakneck speed just after the cup of tea and slightly before the spoon following. That was the last time I called the vicar a corpse-worshipper.

But UFO sightings are in the news again (or is that still) as the paper which claims to have broken this latest tomfoolery has now solved another mystery. The Scunthorpe Telegraph reports this morning that the curios orange lights seen in the Lincolnshire skies around Christmas were ---- wait for this ---- Chinese lanterns!

Local resident, Christine Harriman explained:

"We lit some Christmas day about 5ish as you light them and let the hot air raise them into the sky. Traditionally you make a wish, but we did them for our departed family members and our dog, which was a lovely way to remember them."

I'll agree with that.

Chinese lanterns are, in effect, miniature hot-air balloons. You light a lightweight candle inside and the less-dense hot air inside causes them to rise into the sky. On a still night they are quite beautiful and a great way to introduce young children to basic science.

See Nick (Pope) - doesn't matter how much you stir people up with your idiotic other worldly explanations, the truth comes out in the end. Now go back in your hole and feel ashamed - you ought to.

Peter Hitchens' Schoolboy Logic

A couple of days ago Peter Hitchens ranted about wind farms. No, not about the silly events at Conisholme, but about the fact that when (as Hitchens put it) they are needed most during a cold snap, they stand dormant.

In his opening salvo, he demonstrates his skill with words in equal measure with his confounded ignorance:
"The swivel-eyed, intolerant cult, which endlessly shrieks – without proof – that global warming is man-made, has produced many sad effects. The collapse of proper education has made two whole generations vulnerable to rubbishy fads."
Let's not forget that this is a man who believes Darwin was wrong about evolution: so if anyone needs to do some soul-searching about education he needs to look in a mirror. There is any amount of proof that global warming is a man-made - but to understand it you have to open your mind to the frightening possibility that we're fucking with our environment.

Hitchens ignorant and intolerant naval gazing makes him popular with his followers, who take his word for it because that's what they want to hear, but leaves scientists in a frenzy of despair. Hitchen's needs to keep his job and the best way to do that is to raise a cheer from middle England's dullards .

Hitchens goes on:

"But the disfiguring of the country with useless windmills, and the insane plan to ban proper light bulbs, are supreme triumphs of this dimwit pseudo-religion.

"Both schemes override facts and logic. During the current cold spell, observant persons will have noticed that there has been very little wind, a rather common combination. Thus, at a time of great need for power, wind turbines would be almost entirely useless for producing electricity."

But as is usual with Hitchen's schoolboy approach, he's completely missed (or deliberately ignored) the very point, which is this: if wind farms generate electricity when the wind is blowing then conventional - precious - resources such as coal, oil and gas are preserved for the times when it isn't.

I can't say I'm terribly fond of wind farms and hope that new developments will improve and even remove the need for them. But we have to put the future first - because we only own the here and now; the future belongs to our children.

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Americans Are Dafter Than We Are!

You have to hand it to the Americans. Whatever dumb idea we come up with, they can make it sound intelligent by comparison.

I've been blogging about the silly antics at Conisholme for a couple of days now as the story rapidly spread around the globe, seemingly unchallenged by rhyme or reason.

You can see my original posts here, here and here.

In which I've (a) dismissed and demonstrated the idea of a UFO as compete fantasy, (b) pointed out the alleged missing blade was never missing in the first place, (c) pointed out the terrestrial evidence (fireworks) for the lightshow and (d) had a bloody good laugh at their expense.

But I wasn't prepared for the lunacy appearing here !
The "tentacle" appearance of an unidentified flying object (UFO), such as reported over a wind turbine farm near Conisholme, England, on Jan. 4, 2009, may have been "constantly changing, torque-generating plasma beams" related to an exotic propulsion system.

An experienced American scientific researcher has proposed that the "jellyfish" or "octopus" visual effect that some witnesses have reported in the UK and United States could actually be what is called a "magnetoplasmadynamic" or "magnetohydrodynamic (MHD)" field.
Holy magnetominimetrohydrodynamic force fields Batman! (Grasps clenched fist in other hand).

This guy is a scientist! No?!

Magnetic motion-producing water?

Now that's too much, now I'm convinced I've been abducted by weird aliens and transported to another, parallel universe where stupid people walk the Earth. Only everything else is the same.

Writing for the American Chronicle, Steve Hammons quotes Ray Stanford (a pioneer in UFO detection systems), as saying the tentacle-like [fireworks, folks, fireworks] effect is:
"most often and readily visible when a craft is either slowing down or moving very slowly over an uneven surface."
"Although some UFO-generated physical phenomena may, through human mind's ever-interpreting 'lens,' look 'organic' (as though what was observed is something alive), that absolutely is not the case."
[even stinkier bullshit]

Now clearly, he's got a point that the phenomena we're seeing (fireworks in this case) aren't actually organic or alive - but that only lends credence to a completely idiotic thesis.

Standford apparently prefers the term, anomalous aerial objects (AAOs) to UFO.

I on the other hand prefer the term "complete fucking lunatic" to "scientist" when applied to these crackpots. Writer Steve Hammons deserves some credit for this drivel as he appears to be another UFOlogist - but hey maybe I'm wrong.

In another priceless quote from the same piece, Hammons reports:
Stanford added, "It looks as though a craft is breathing, but that is only an interpretation the human mind makes in searching for analogs. In such case, it is a big misinterpretation. Likewise for the 'tentacles,´ which are really only constantly-changing, torque-generating plasma beams. But, they can bend under the 'Lorentz force' and other forces which are most often and readily visible when a craft is either slowing down or moving very slowly over an uneven surface."
Sure, a string of ionized gas (plasma) is very pretty - I got a lamp that does it from the pound shop just a few weeks back - but as for generating torque?

Torque derives from the the latin torquere meaning to twist is a measurement of turning force. It's useful for measuring the power from a reciprocating engine; but hardly much use for repelling gravity!

Sorry folks, the smell of bullshit is too much to bear. I gotta go wash.

As Succinct As It Is Dumb!

There's a website devoted to the strange and frequently bizarre things that Christian fundamentalists come out with and it's well worth a visit, but this one found by the good fellow, Luke O'Dell at Creationist Idiocy is a corker that really should adorn science books: as an example of what not to say and English references as an example of how not to form a cogent argument.

Luke found this on PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog, and although I've tried thrice to leave a comment, I've failed, so I'll repeat it here, but for heaven's sake, take your socks off, tighten your belt and sit down - because your sides are in danger of splitting.

Wait for this.... it comes...

...this was posted by someone who doubts biological science (presumably believing in the literal Genesis tale from the KJV)...

...North Carolina resident Joel Fanti said:
"If evolution is so slow, why don't we see anything evolving now?"
I shouldn't really laugh at poor Joel, but I can't help myself. However, it does go some way to question the quality of American education. I don't know what Dr Myers' reaction was but I bet his sides ached for days. I know mine will.

Cheers Luke! I was having a shit day until I read that - what are you drinking?

How Stupid Are These People?

Marie Jon a new writer over the uber-conservative Dakota blog, Dakota Voice looks to be a fun girl. Between all the hand-wringing about lies and deceit she claims to like Dubya, saying:
"Bush leaves office with a very low popularity rating in large part because of the one-sided, biased media. You’ll soon find out just how pervasive the media has been in persuading America’s electorate. In the months to come, President-elect Obama will be spoken of in glowing terms. The drive-by media will continue to lie. As our country moves in the wrong direction because of Obama’s policies, only good writes-ups and happy talk will be heard from our “in-the-tank spinmeisters.”
There's a grain of truth there. Some of the American media is very, very pro-Bush. Yet even with the media behind him, swing voters looked at the disastrous fiscal legacy and incredulous stupidity of the woman many saw as his eventual successor [McCain still is a dead man walking, politically] and thought, fuck that!

Obama is the great white hope - despite being part black. He's intelligent, articulate and so far, seems to have his head screwed on. Time will tell.

It's a sad reflection on the Bush years that the opposition fielded both a woman and African-American and won: brilliantly. I hope this has set a precedent in this country where the vacuous rub shoulders with the brilliant - in the corridors of power.

America is hated and despised in many parts of the world with good reason. Dubya led the west into an unjust war and his financial planning brought the world's financial systems to their knees. Islamic terrorism is more rife than ever before even though America has not been attacked recently, they have lost a lot of good men.

This is a man who was an alcoholic; a wastrel who has never had to balance his cheque book. A bloke who once suggested that "god" had spoken to him. Google for Bushisms and you might chuckle for a while before realising that this tongue-tied imbecile was barely able to produce a cogent sentence when he wasn't reading from a prepared speech - that someone else had written.

Yet blinded by some force that I am unable to fathom, people still profess to like the man.

Personally, I wish these people would realise the truth - not this selective biblical truth, but a scientific truth where even the nasty answers are acceptable when they happen to be the right ones.

Abortion Not Applicable, Marriage Optional

Funny story this - not ha ha, but a little odd.

A Portsmouth couple who have been trying for a baby for a reported seven years have finally conceived but in a cruel twist of fate, the twins Lisa Chamberlain is carrying are are conjoined with a rare form of the condtion called dicaphaly.

They have separate heads and brains but a single body.

Doctors have advised an immediate termination but 25 year old Ms. Chamberline is not interested, calling them a gift from god, telling the Sun:
"To me, my twins are a gift from God and we're determined to give them a chance of life."
You might expect a pretty sharp response from me being an atheist. But I'm also pro-choice and it's Ms. Chamberline's choice to keep the babies despite the overwhelming medical evidence.

US-born twins, Abby and Brittany Hensel have the same condition and survived not only birth, but recently celebrated their 18th birthday.

In reality most conjoined (Siamese) twins do not survive to term and to make a spectacle of these unfortunate children and this family is fucking disgusting. Still, the smiling Ms. Chamberline and partner Mike Pedace, 32 don't seem phased - so that's alright.

I am phased at the double standards.

Ms. (read MISS) Chamberline is not married to Mr Pedace - and that's no real news in the 2008 - or in 2001 when they started trying for a family. It's no news the couple have been trying for a family but then there's a small point of relgion:

Now Ms. Chamberline is supposed to be "staunch Catholic" which may be the reason she opposes the termination.

But hang on - this isn't entirely consistent.

Staunch Roman Catholics teach marriage before family.

And what sort of god delivers this cruel blow to these children? I don't really care what Ms Chamberline thinks - she has a choice - but to believe that a loving, caring god could deliver the gift of life so cruelly beggars belief. Should these babies survive to term, their chance of ultimate survival is poor; and even then, they are destined to live out their days as freaks.

UPDATE: 20:00

At just 25 she has years of childbearing left. The suggestion she has been trying for seven years speaks volumes - has she never heard of a fertility clinic; or even a GP? Hell's teeth, perhaps the poor girl is pre-disposed to produce faulty embryos - we just don't know.

Please, please someone tell me it wasn't the lure of a tasty packet from a tabloid (the Sun in this case) that forced their hand. Tabloids are known to promote these freakish incidents because people love the lurid details of how these "determined" women are going to keep the multiple foetus despite being told none are likely to survive.

Anyone else remember Mandy Allwood - back in the mid-90s, she had fertility treatment and ended up the talk of the nation after receiving money from the tabloids and even engaging Max Clifford to represent her. Refusing a selective termination which would have given some of the children a fighting chance, Mandy lost all eight. It caused a sensation at the time and irritated the hell out of me.

Human females are "designed" for singleton pregnancies - like Kangaroos. Twins and triplets are unusual, but as the number increases, the chance of any foetus surviving to anything near term drops away sharply. Eight was fucking ludicrous.

I just thank common sense that termination is still an option for those who choose it.

Ecotricity Isn't Helping

Yes, it's that bloody "UFO" at Conisholme again.

Of course, there isn't a UFO and there never was. They simply don't exist, but as if to pour petrol on already furious blaze, an unidentified spokesperson has told the Louth Leader that:
"If there is a rational answer out there, we will find it."
What is the matter with these people? "IF" there is a rational answer? IF!!

Blades fall off wind turbines all the time - and suddenly Ecotricity are hinting that the cause may be unexplained. Hell's teeth, despite the amazing accuracy and regular NDT applied to the turbines in jet engines, even they occasionally fail with deadly results.

So either Ecotricity is either incredibly clever or incredibly stupid.

It's clever because by playing the long, unexplained game, they avoid having to deal with the failure in their duty of care - they are ultimately responsible for ensuring the blades don't drop off in the middle of the night.

It's stupid because playing the long game promoting the UFO myth is going to harm wind farms (and its business) in the long term. Already dumb people who need jobs and/or girlfriends are trying to get on site to search for bits of crashed UFO.

They won't find any because nothing crashed there.

That won't stop them looking while people like Nick Pope appear in national radio and hand-wringing on TV telling supporting the myth with their own pet theories. Very few tangible events remain unexplained for long, but Rent-a-Fools like Pope make a nice little living from gullible people and perpetuate this crazy myths.

Of course with a name like Pope, it's not surprising he is into ridculous myths: nominative determinacy anyone?

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Daily Mail Readers Are Gullible

This is just a quick update on a story I ran a couple of days ago here.

One Daily Mail reader had the gall, the audacity to point out that the other commentators were well, daft, by writing:
"Are the public so gullible to believe such rubbish[?] One blade has broken off and the other was damaged in the freak weather conditions."
Which is pretty close to my own diagnosis and that of many experts including an insurance specialist who sees several of these incidents every year.

Mail readers are outraged - so far the comment is rating -90 (Sunday 21:00) and sinking! Dear god - are they really that stupid? Apparently, they are:

Molly of Stockport (currently one of the most popular comments at +86) has this to say:
"It isn't mentioned in this account but others state that there was no trace of the missing blade ... could ball lightening do that?"
It isn't mentioned, dear because it ISN'T MISSING and never was - it's been sent back to the manufacturer to see what went wrong; and what's ball lightning got to do with it?

It goes on to quote, rent-a-fool, Nick Pope a former MOD employee who now specialises in UFOlogy for TV. Mr Pope told the Mail:
'This is a really bizarre case. What's particularly exciting is that because there's been a collision, there will be residue of the object involved. Forensic science will enable this material to be recovered and analysed. This elevates this UFO case, because with most sightings all you have is eyewitness testimony or indistinct and shaky film footage taken on a mobile phone.'
Does it indeed? All it elevates is the smell of bullshit coming from your direction.

The flashing lights were still most likely of terrestrial origin - fireworks; and the noise - well can you imagine the din if a rotor blade comes off and hits a neighbouring one at speed? There's going to be one hell of a bang!

The residue - what are you going to say when this turns out to be parts of a neighbouring blade, Nick? Will the German engineers even bother to look?

Much of the rest of this is empty speculation fuelled by Nick Pope and his band of gullible idiots. Not that it matters. Nick never has to answer his critics: he just does a Hitchens and ignores them.

Lloyd Webber - "UK Lyricists Are Crap"

OK, hands up, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't really say that - but he might as well have.

On Saturday, the BBC reported that US writer Diane Warren will pen the lyrics to an ostensibly UK song that will be competing in Eurovision - the cheesy, political, waste of money that even Wogan has turned his back on.

Warren who has written powerhouse hits for Toni Braxton and Cher, is to write the lyrics for Lloyd Webber's music - or is that the other way around? Tin Pan Alley style never did much for me.

Not that it matters.

The UK has a mass of talent and really, what the fuck is a yank (albeit it talented one) doing stealing our jobs? If I were a potential competitor in one of the other competing countries I'd be feeling a bit short-changed too and laughing at us for not being able to produce the lyrics in-house as it were.

I mean, this is a small island - there's only 50-odd million people here!

Surely, if we're daft enough to make a spectacle of a bunch of hopefuls by running a televised competition to find the artist, the same could be done for the words, couldn't it?

I'm sure you could line up some walking egos like Simon Cowell, Peter Hitchens and maybe even Bruno Tonioli to judge whatever our home-grown scribes can get onto paper. Then we could have a national phone-in vote to raise loads of money for the telly company while the result is decided long before the phone lines close.

That would be great!

Peter Hitchens Is Gutless

Under Peter Hitchen's latest pseudo-scientific diatribe I noticed link where readers were invited to debate with the Mail on Sunday's Idiot In Chief.

Could I resist telling this educated, self-indulgent fool pretty much everything he wrote was wrong? Well yes and no. Many fellow bloggers have already tried (and failed) to engage Hitchens; tearing his rants to pieces on various blogs - the Lay Scientist being a personal favourite.

Out of curiosity, I waited until comments started to appear and read the following message, tucked away in light-grey against the white background. Visible - but not hardly DDA compliant.
Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.
So put another way you can't debate with Hitchens - any more than you can debate with his fellow Creationists.

For the sake of the Mail and Mail readers, here's what the word actually means:
Debate: Vb. [Trans.] to argue about (a subject), esp. in a formal manner.
Argue means to disagree about something so in order to debate something with Hitchens you have to be able to engage him. Yet by enabling comment moderation in this way, Hitchens has denied anyone with a modicum of knowledge the route to contradict him.

Predictably the only comments appended to the blog are of the sort that Hitchens could have written himself - my god, that man must have an ego the size of Arcturus.

Well here's an open to challenge to Mr Peter Hitchens of the Sunday Mail.

Come and debate some of the people you see fit to critcise in an open forum and see how you fare. Come and edify us as how Darwin was wrong about evolution; how climate change isn't man made; what future generations are going to do when the coal runs out and so on.

No comment moderation - everyone gets to have a say.

I say you can't Hitchens: because you're haven't got the guts to stand up and fight or the evidence to back up your outrageous claims. You just want to sit around and have that gigantic ego stroked by people who think you're infallible while destroying the reputations of people who actually know what they are talking about.

We're waiting.

No Tits Please, We're Christian Politicians

A bunch of throwbacks in Australia are trying to mess with evolution again - only this time it's a cultural evolution, not a biological one. I have to admit this story is over a week old, but it's too good not to report on it.

A group of Conservative Christians in New South Wales are trying to ban topless bathing on the the state's glorious beaches. Led by moral throwback, which Reuters describes as "Christian lawmaker and veteran morals campaigner Reverend Fred Nile" the group wishes to constrict laws governing nude sunbathing on the beaches.

Topless bathing has been acceptable and commonplace in this part of Oz since the 1960s - yes folks, nearly half a century ago - but Reverend Fred is disgusted (and old). Perhaps he hails back from the Victorian era when covering up was the order of the day: not just a sensible thing to do on our terribly chill beaches.

It's certain his ideas do. Fred told Reuters in heavily accented Oz dialect:
"She demeans herself. I believe that she's taking away her own self-respect and I'd say any of the men around that area would not have any respect for that girl and probably would think that she's cheap and maybe even trying to pick up somebody"
There's that word "probably" again.

When did breasts become offensive? We're used to covering ourselves - originally it was to keep warm and clean, but then later when the god-botherers got involved it was to cover our reproductive areas.

To me, Fred and his supporters are performing a sort of self-flagellation because they can't get close to a pretty young girl any more and being denied that, they want to stop everyone else.

Breasts are there to feed our children before they are able to take solid food. That's what nature developed them for and we all have them - it's part of being mammal. They're just less developed in men and no one complains about men going around topless!

Which brings me to a super song about this very topic, the great Rodney Carrington has a song about it: "Show them to me!" - you'll find it on and I'd recommend going there now if this story depresses you.

Because it seems that Fred and his followers might be making some headway and the idiots may actually get their way and prevent women having a another choice. Did I mention that? It's not compulsory for a woman to put her funbags on display in NSW, but it's her right to do so if she wants to.

Excuse me now while I nip to Oz before evolution goes into reverse like it did on that Guinness advert a while back.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

PETA Needs To Check Its Facts

When PETA got wind of a 140 year-old cock lobster, it knew it had to act and persuaded the City Crab and Seafood restaurant in New York to release it back into the sea off Maine, according to the BBC.

PETA's Ingrid Newkirk was pleased:
"We applaud the folks at City Crab and Seafood for their compassionate decision to allow this noble old-timer to live out his days in freedom and peace. We hope that their kind gesture serves as an example that these intriguing animals don't deserve to be confined to tiny tanks or boiled alive."
She doesn't have anything to say about the other lobsters or crabs or other stuff that the restaurant goes through daily.

Now I don't know who told PETA that George was 140, perhaps his birthday was inscribed on his shell somewhere? No wait, can't do that, because lobsters eat their old shells when they moult. Watching these beautiful creatures gracefully exit their shells is a sight to behold - what remains looks like a ghostly image of its former resident for a while before it disintegrates in the tide or is eaten. I've kept smaller lobsters such as crayfish over the years and despite what PETA are saying, you can't really get an accurate age just by looking at or even weighing them. Even within a species, a crustacean's weight and size are determined by its diet.

This from (which seems fitting, considering PETA screwed up):
"The only way to gauge the exact age of a lobster would be by their shell. However, since lobsters shed their shells so often, it is impossible to determine their age. Knowledge of body size at age makes scientists believe that lobsters can attain a maximum age of 100 years. The normal life span is about 15 years. Lobsters can grow to be 3 feet long in overall body length."
According to an expert, the animal's (?) age bears no relationship to the taste either (that's after it's been boiled). Lobsters and crabs eat all manner of things and it's this that gives them that distinctive seafood flavour - excuse me while I go vomit.

Worse still for George (insomuch as the expert was concerned) being a cock lobster he wasn't actually a lot of use. A large female would be far more valuable since she could produce far more eggs - and therefore, lobsters - and was therefore more valuable to leave in the water.

Although no one knows for sure, lobsters probably only live about 40-50 years - even 100 years would be a wild overestimate.

PETA do have a point - though not about George's age - research suggests that crustys feel pain like we do: so a British inventor has come up with a gadget to electrocute them in about 5 seconds. Better than being boiled alive - slowly - (OUCH). A home version is available and you can find out more here.

TV Chef Lloyd Burgess suggests an alternative method:
"Live lobsters can be humanely killed by putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer for about two hours. They slowly lose consciousness and die."
What a way to go, boiled, suffocated and frozen or the electric chair - I'll never be able to watch Spongebob Squarepants again.

As an aside, starfish which are closely related to sea urchins, are thought by some experts to live essentially for ever - unless they starve to death, are eaten or otherwise destroyed. Weird. Weirder still, while they have tens of thousands of independently controlled hydraulic feet commanded by intricate and fiendishly complex nervous system, they don't have a discernible brain - as you or I would understand.

Bit like some of the journalists writing today, I guess.

"Mark Damazer is God" - BBC Presenter

On the BBC's iPM, journalist Eddy Mayer referred to BBC Radio 4 Controller:
"Mark Damazer or God as we call him."
It isn't clear at this stage if Mr Mayer will be struck by lightning or just a reprimand for this blasphemy. He was being flippant (at least I HOPE he was) but I would be surprised if some rent-a-quote like, oh, S. "Burdshite" Green didn't have something to say.

On the same slot, Director of Christian Think-tank, Ecclesia Johnathon Bartlay, called the automatic inclusion of Bishops in the upper house, "absurd". Further noting how he had been quietly removed from the panel of "Thought For The Day" when he argued that non-religious speakers should be allowed a voice.

Presumably this is why Mayer referred to Damazer as God and not just the "baldy bastard from upstairs."

Damazer eloquently spews vitriol on the Today programme's audience on the iPM blog, where he writes:

"I regard this as a genuinely difficult question. There may be a case for widening the pool of contributors on Thought for The Day by having someone with an avowedly non-religious perspective. However on balance the BBC's position is that it is reasonable to sustain the slot with believers. Let me now set out the reasoning.

Thought for the Day is a unique slot in which speakers from a wide range of religious faiths reflect on an issue of the day from their faith perspective. In the midst of the three hour Today programme devoted to overwhelmingly secular concerns - national and international news and features, searching interviews etc - the slot offers a brief, uninterrupted interlude of spiritual reflection. We believe that broadening the brief would detract from the distinctiveness of the slot.

Within Thought for the Day a careful balance is maintained of voices from different Christian denominations and other religions with significant membership in the UK. We are broadcasting to the general Radio 4 audience which regularly engages with the comments and ideas expressed by our contributors from the world's major faiths - whether they are believers or not."
Obviously, he's talking shit as anyone of an atheist persuasion would be able to tell you if they could sit through this five minute interlude, which is effectively a short sermon, every weekday for a couple of weeks.

I have - and I can't bear the Archers. ("Oooooo Arrrrr. Look at the udders on that, baby!")

What Damazar refers to as "secular concerns" is, in fact, the real world. The tangible. But let's not forget, as he seems to have, that many of the wars - and certainly the bloodiest conflicts that are happening right now are - you guessed it - religious in nature. Jews and Muslims are fighting in Gaza and US Christians sending forced to pound Muslims in Afghanistan.

As a second point, and this will form part of my own argument to BBC management, why do we need "a brief, uninterrupted interlude of spiritual reflection" anyway?

If Mr Damazar is, as I suspect, a bible following Christian that is his own concern and he has no respect for the wishes of the largely secular R4 audience by continuing to bang us over the head with introspective, Abrahamic naval gazing.

TTFD is there to please a small minority of people who cling fearfully onto the notion that there is an afterlife and it'll all be better rather than having the guts to face what the future brings or the courage to change it.

Today would be better off without it.

The ASA Might Draw Battle Lines!

Work commitments prohibit me from commenting any more than to promise I'll write more on this later with citations, but currently reports are suggesting that 100+ people have added their voice to that of Stephen Green complaining about the atheist bus advert.

This is likely to be the ASA's toughest ever challenge.

If it decides it has to rule (and it might even have that hand forced) it may effectively have to rule on the very existence of a god or gods.

If it were me, I would demand the complainants define what constitutes god (because you can't have something if you can't define what it is) AND which god they are alluding to. The nasty, jealous, antagonist, murderous fucker of the Old Testament or the slightly more charismatic and gentile figure portrayed in the New. Which is a dichotomy in itself!

Gavin Orland, who organised a campaign to email the BBC to protest about the corporation's Thought for the Day told the Telegraph:

"The fact that humanist, non-religious contributors are excluded from the slot gives the impression the BBC believes morality is the exclusive remit of religious people, which is offensive, unrepresentative and untrue.

"It's great that there will be a non-religious thought allowed on iPM: let it be an example to the Today programme."

This may indeed be a turning point for religion in the UK, which although ostensibly secular, still carries the weight of centuries of Christian heritage. At the simplest level, this manifests itself as people, almost instinctively, tick CofE [Church of England] on forms where religious affiliation is requested; right through to the startling control that religious influence still holds over schools. In England, religious schools are maintained by the state; yet are free to fill the minds of vulnerable children with sectarian bile.

The problem for tub-thumping "out" atheists is that ordinary English folk don't care either way.

It's part of being English. We drink milky tea, go out in the noonday sun and declare to be Anglicans (unless we're catholic) even when we're not. Even today, many official forms still contain options for religious affiliation (AS IF IT FUCKING MATTERED) and yet omit the option for: none.

Many regard Stephen Green and his ilk as a bit of a joke - but a harmless one - when in reality, it's only the efforts of a campaigning core of rational, free thinkers that keeps him tethered.

Chief god-botherer , Tony Blair was quite happy to allow Peter Vardy's Doberman, Nigel McQuoid to teach Creationism in his academies until a bunch of academics and ordinary folk came out and took a stand until the government was forced to legislate against the slow march of stupidity.

I was one of them and I'm proud of our collective achievement.

But this is far from over - this country - indeed the West as a whole needs to a have an open and honest debate on these matters.

Christian Bigot Claims Unfair Dismissal: Fails

Direct from my friends at the National Secular Society comes a story of common sense beating religious bigotry. Terry Sanderson reports:

A Christian therapist at the Relate counselling service, who refused to give advice to gay couples, has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.

Gary McFarlane was employed by Relate as a counsellor, but he later qualified as a psychosexual therapist. He told Relate that although he had counselled gay couples in the past, he was unwilling to provide sexual therapy as it conflicted with his religious beliefs. After objections from his colleagues, Mr McFarlane was sacked in March 2008.

Mr McFarlane, of Bristol, claimed unfair dismissal against the Avon branch of Relate on the grounds of religious discrimination, but the tribunal panel unanimously rejected his claim. The panel said: "The claimant was not treated as he was because of his Christian faith, but because (Relate) believed that he would not comply with its policies and that it would have treated anyone else of whom that was believed, regardless of religion, in the same way."

Mr McFarlane's boss at Relate had said during an earlier hearing that he had been sacked because he made it clear that he would not abide by its equal opportunities policy, which states that all clients must be treated in the same way, regardless of sexuality. Mr McFarlane's case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre which has been party to a string of failed challenges to the equality laws over the past year.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "This is the right outcome for this case. The fundamentalists who are mounting one challenge after another to Employment Tribunals are trying hard to overturn the laws that protect gay people from discrimination. They are seeking to place Christian dogma over the rights of people to fair treatment. They must not succeed."

Meanwhile, Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar who refused to carry out civil partnership registrations for same-sex couples, has asked permission to appeal a recent ruling by an Employment Appeal Tribunal that her employer, Islington Council, did not discriminate against her on religious grounds.

Ladele's lawyer, Mark Jones, head of employment law at Ormerods, said that he hopes to hear in the next two weeks or so if permission to appeal has been granted. He said he could not give too much information about the appeal but that one of the grounds would relate to evidence put before the tribunal and the EAT by the council's own witnesses "relating to the treatment of Ms Ladele and the reasons for it".

Ladele's case is backed and funded by The Christian Institute. She is still employed by Islington Council and still, presumably, refusing to carry out her duties in full.

Carla Revere, Chair of the Lawyers Secular Society, commented "Religious discrimination law is about protecting people not their beliefs. The Ladele judgment clearly explains that a refusal to carry out an employer's instructions because of religious beliefs that are prejudiced against gay and lesbians is not religious discrimination. Miss Ladele was sacked not because of her beliefs but because she refused to do her job. Mr Justice Elias, president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal said that an anarchist who burnt down his employer's office would be sacked for burning down the office, not because of his philosophical beliefs.

The law requires employers to treat gay and lesbian employees and customers with equality. The Ladele judgment shows that religious people cannot use religious dogma to exempt them from the requirements to treat and respect gay and lesbian people equally. "

(c) 2009 National Secular Society