Sex with animals and children, public nudity, drugs, and free train travel for all.
"A ban just makes children curious. We want to make paedophilia the subject of discussion." An interesting take on the bring-it-out-into-the-open argument, usually reserved by liberals for the likes of the BNP.
Anyone fancy saying "I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it" with regards the Charity, Freedom Diversity party of the Netherlands? Anyone?
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Sex with animals and children, public nudity, drugs, and free train travel for all.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
I know I'm days late, but this kerfuffle over complimentary medicine in the NHS. Thank goodness some proper doctor types had the guts to come out in public and question the quackery of some alternative medicines.
Personally, I have always been slightly mistrustful of any person who professes to be a professional in the medical arena, and yet suggests some unproven, slightly odd, hippy dippy solution to some major health debacle of mine. And worse, far worse, is when they suggest joining some sort of "support group". On the one hand I suppose it has always been a pleasant surprise that some being who spent their student days sawing up skulls and playing tricks on people with human eyeballs, could be so sensitive as to recognise that ill health can be an emotional issue. But on the other hand, I can get tea and sympathy from friends and family. What I want from my eight minutes of sitting in an airless room with someone who has spent years studying medice, is medical advice. Proper medical advice, the latest advances in surgical procedures and drug care, not bloody healing energies and funny drinks.
To my shame I have tried acupuncture twice. What I wanted on both occasions, once private and once on the NHS, was good old fashioned hands-on bone and muscle crunching. Because when I get that, it works. But I think that's rather hard work for some muscular-skeletal experts - Christ knows my knotted muscles would test the strength of Jeff Capes. Far better than physically exerting themselves for forty minutes though is the option to stick a couple of pins in me and fuck off for a fag. Twice, dear reader, twice I was persuaded to take the pins, because both times I was told acupuncture produced "results". To be fair every time I have had pins stuck in me it feels like my nerve ends have been set and fire and gives me a headache that lasts two days, so it must have some effect, but did it stop the pain? No.
And both times I asked what was the science behind acupuncture, and both times I was told about balancing energy and the yin and the yang. I don't mean to be rude, but wtf?
Far better, for me, was seeing a chiropractor. It was good for the chiropractor too at £30 for a six minute bone-cracking session. There is at least some science behind this and it's a credited profession. It always helped me, but the trouble is that if your bones are being held to ransom by your muscles and inter-connective tissue, no matter how many times you keep clicking the bones back into place, your bones will just keep on getting pulled right back again into their awkward painful position by the squidgy bits. Muscles need to be pummelled into submission too for it to really work, but try as I might I can't find anyone who does deep-tissue massaging on the NHS. In fact when I suggested it to a rheumatologist he looked at me a bit funny. And yet it was perfectly acceptable for him to suggest to me that I could think myself better. Try as I might I just cannot think those knots in my muscles away. Twat.
Nor do I think that silly flower remedies and nice smells will help the knots in my muscles either, or anything for that matter, and any quack who suggests they will earns my immediate and very obvious disdain. It's scraping the bottom of the barrel in healthcare. Suggesting alternative healthcare allows the doctor to look like a helpful caring, gentle type interested in the optimum well-being of their patient, whilst what is really going on is that they can't be arsed to Google for the latest scientific developments of your condition and they want you to fuck off and see if the placebo effect does the trick, because there is nothing wrong with you anyway you malingering git.
Give me healing hands, yes, not to repair a discoloured aura though, but to cut and slice (preferably under anaesthetic), or to knead into every cell of my flesh and bone, or to crack things into position. I'm sorry of that makes hard work for someone, but I wasn't put on this planet to give people an easy time.
Posted by Helen at 8:42 am
Sunday, May 28, 2006
First, special mention to the fabulous Matt C and Iain - who can normally be found here and here - with whom I met-up with before going to the Union Chapel. A more pleasant and interesting pair of chaps you could not hope to meet. We could, I feel, have spent the whole night just sitting outside that pub in Islington whizzing through conversations that ranged from ginger Jews to the odd face of Margaret Becket and beyond. I did once read that when bloggers meet-up in the flesh there can be no pause for breath, and I think we bore that out. Our conversation was broken only by the fact we had the launch of a new democratic progressive alliance to attend.
Inside Union Chapel, things took a surreal turn. It is an odd, slightly dreamy experience to be amongst a very large group of people, many of whom you suspect you have dealings with on-line, but with whom you cannot identify on sight. Like going on some kind of mass anonymous blind date. Being in church also made the event feel a little like a wedding, and one of the ushers turned out to be none other than the lovely Anthony Cox. Marrying the Left with a sense of decency, Nick Cohen made for an unconventional yet very effective Vicar... I'll spare you any further extension of the wedding metaphor.
I knew Norm on first sight. I'd seen his picture a couple of times accompanying pieces in the press, but before that night I would have doubted that that would have been enough to identify someone. But it was. And to meet him was to meet the same warm soul that comes through from his writing. Only more so.
His speech has stayed with me. I think it always will. It is a strange and emotional experience to hear your thoughts, for so long carried alone, spoken by such a man, with such a sense of compassion, at such an event. He spoke of the "cold, shameful, appalling responses" to the events of 9/11, and I remembered those responses, and I remembered how helpless I felt to combat them, and how guilty I felt that I couldn't. I remembered the sense of indifference in some newspaper reports. I remember the implications of a sentimental over-reaction by America. I remember one week on from coming back from New York, having seen what I had seen, and trying to explain to someone as tears ran down my face that the people in the Twin Towers, in the underground, on the planes, did not deserve to die that day. You would have thought it would not need saying, but it did. It still does.
And on Iraq, the "discourse of denial" as Norm puts it. The "banners and slogans" paraded in London on the 15th February, 2003. I remembered that day too. Stuck in work on a Saturday shift firing off e-mails about how angry I was that people could march in such a protest in such a cheery, self-assured manner when to achieve their aims would mean to extinguish the hopes of the people of Iraq that they might ever be rescued. I remember getting e-mails back that told me that George Bush and Tony Blair were as bad as Saddam Hussein. A "sense of non-belonging" does not even begin to cover it. But Norm's words, delivered in such a calm, constant manner, leave you with an unshakable feeling that what you have just heard is the truth, and that the truth has always been known to you.
And so did the words of the other speakers, Shalom Lappin, Eve Garrard, and Alan Johnson. It seems unfair to pass so easily over the other three speeches, but in the interests of keeping this post of a reasonable length, I must - though I hope to link to the full text of their speeches in due course. I should however give mention that Alan Johnson gave a speech that was a fine a rallying call as any I have heard for people to do their bit to return a sense of justice and decency to the left for everyone's sake. I was glad to shake his hand later that night.
And so, after four speeches and an hour at the bar, did I learn anything new that night? Actually, no. Did I hear anything I hadn't heard before? No. Have I any idea what is going to happen next? No. But I think what I wanted from the night was to make the Euston Manifesto, the sentiments behind it, and the people involved in it, real and not just something that existed on my laptop. And I wanted to say to the people behind the Manifesto that you are supported. All this, I hope, was achieved.
And travelling back home on what was a bone-shaker of a coach journey, Mr Scribbles having decamped to the seat behind me to try and get enough room to sleep in, I realised something important. The sense of guilt and helplessness I felt after bearing witness to events in New York has mostly left me. This is in good part due to finding a voice through the Blogosphere and now getting the chance to support an initiative like the EM. Travelling down to the launch gave me a sense that I was both fulfilling a duty and also a promise never to forget. Though I left New York, I have never forgotten the people whose faces I saw on "missing posters" fixed on streets powdered with the grey dust of the Twin Towers. A futile gesture maybe, but I think that for me attending the launch was also an act of remembrance.
Posted by Helen at 8:47 am
Friday, May 26, 2006
Just been up the High Street where I saw two dysfunctional looking hooded youths help an old lady up after she had fallen over. Warmed the cockles of my heart, I can tell ya.
Yesterday I went to the launch of the Euston Manifesto and will be writing up some thoughts on it soon. In the meantime I will say that I met some fabulous people and that the highlight of the night for me was Norm's rendition of "True" by Spanau Ballet. The disco wasn't bad either.
Posted by Helen at 9:48 am
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Very Interesting post Women Versus Men by Sunny on the Pickled Politics blog.
"I've been managing online discussion communities for over seven years," says Sunny, "and this is a consistent pattern among discussions on politics and current affairs - both sexes read discussions but it is mostly men who respond and get into slagging matches over controversial issues... Why is this the case?"
Good question. I'm a woman. I blog. I read lots of blogs. And yet I rarely comment on blogs. I've always put this down to the fact that I just don't have the time or energy to contribute to many on-line discussions. In fact, I just don't know how people do it so well and so regularly. But come to think of it, with me, there is also a sense of 'what would be the point? Whose mind would I change?' When I do comment, in stark contrast to a lot of (male) commentators, I don't do it to take a pot shot at the writer or to win an argument. I do it purely because I feel I have something useful or even (goddamn it) funny to say. And usually, come to think of it, it's on a blog where I've taken a liking to the blogger.
Is my lack of commenting then, rather than an issue of time and energy, more of a sort of feminine conditioning?
Don't really know. One thing I would say is that there is a lot to this idea of women being social conditioned into not arguing or even being verbally assertive. I've always been quite a plain speaker and up for a good debate, without I hope any sense of aggression, but after so many years of university seminars, pub discussions, business meetings where I've managed to make people incredibly defensive and had to put-up with men and women telling me to "chill" or feeling they have to placate me, I had to learn to modify my behaviour. I am simply not allowed to talk with passion about anything; it makes people feel uncomfortable.
This is not to say that I stopped speaking my mind, but more that I had to become far more careful of how I phrased things and constantly mindful of the tone of my voice. I would not have done this were it not for the fact that it produced results - I had to deal with less sarcasm and people, ironically, patronised me less. And I don't think I would have had to have done this if I were male. Men can argue. Men can say someone is wrong. Men don't get punished for trying to win an argument. Women, however, are not respected for being 'disagreeable'.
Quite frankly though having to enforce a verbal filtering system to soften what I have to say bores the tits off me. It's such bloody hard work. And I don't always manage it. I just wish that people would not be so quick to take offence, take me seriously rather than trying to jolly me along, and not be so intimidated by someone who wants to talk about serious stuff once in a while.
Which is why blogging is such a relief, because I don't have to filter my verbals here. People will either like what I say or not, but they won't tell me to "calm down" because other bloggers Get It. And the men are not distracted by the sight of my flowing dull-brown locks or flutterin' eyelashes on my little piggy eyes. Equally though if I put up a post, here or on the Popinjays, I have no right to expect people not to shoot their words at me like wounding bullets if they so choose. But if I minded getting shot at, I wouldn't put my head above the parapet.
But having said all that, to write this blog I do not wear a false moustache and put rolled-up socks in the crotch of my trousers. I am not here to try out some sort of male-alter-ego. If I didn't announce on my profile that I was female, you could probably tell after a while anyway. There is a real sense of blokishness on some blogs that doesn't appeal to me and I'm definitely not a fan of bear-pit blogging. And this blog does not attract the type of people who like to throw insults around and neither would they be welcome here. Honest disagreement is always welcome as is sarcasm, taking the piss, and rudeness, but nastiness isn't.
God, I am such a big girl.
From the PP comments:
oh yes back in 1995 when i used to sit around bulletin boards and irc channels, i used to use 2 nicknames - psychotic and neurotic ( ha ) Everyone assumed by my username i was male and also by the things i said. apparently i was 'aggressive' - this was mentioned when it somehow came out that i was female. when i was thought to be a man - there was no such comment. people weren't very friendly when they found out you were an 'aggressive female with "ideas" - as opposed to all the 'gurgling' females acting 'true to type' who got a) sexual attention and b) compliments. no surprises why all these girls behave the way they do then - who wants to be a social outcast!
... women aren't rewarded in society for sticking their necks out and making blunt statements and in a nutshell - not conforming. ooh no..and who 'regulates' the behaviour of females the most but other females? being seen as unfeminine, argumentative, unattractive - these are the judgements that are heaped upon those of us who make a fuss. oh yeah - and you get icy looks from the masses of women - 'you think you're better than the rest of us' - type bitchiness. and who wants to put up with that? not too many people that's who.
the irony of feminism - we're let down by our own kind. when im in bangladesh - yes men look at you on the streets if you're dressed a bit non-conservatively. but who looks at you 'funny'? the women that's who! and if they know you they make it their business to point out things like 'your bra strap is showing' ( so fucking what) or aaaee!how can you go out in public minus a chemise. anyone who stands up and says sth is deemed a bad immodest girl - by whom - the aunties that's who.
So true, and sometimes self-identified feminists are the worst about that, aren't they? The in a different voice kum-ba-yah safe-space-for-women kind, I mean. I had to just stop reading a friend's blog because whenever I would disagree with anything anyone else said (politely, I thought, and pretty much the same way I do on other friends' blogs without causing any kind of fuss), she would immediately step in to smooth over the presumably ruffled feathers and basically tell me to shut up (in non-judgmental facilitator-speak, of course). I couldn't seem to remember to adopt different manners for this one blog for more than a few weeks at a time, so giving it up entirely was the only solution in the end.
For me, I get into online arguments occasionally but not nearly as often as I actually disagree with something I'm reading. I don't think its so much that I fear being seen as aggressive as that it tends to get all the way under my skin if whomever I'm arguing with gets insulting towards me, and I will be resenting and fuming over it for days afterwards. Sometimes I'll suddenly remember some online slight that happened years ago and fume over it all over again. It's an extremely unpleasant emotional state to be in and every time it happens I swear off online debate for a while.
I don't know if it's a gendered thing or just specific to my own personality. I do recall reading about some study or other showing that young girls tend to take verbal duels much more seriously and attribute much higher stakes to them than young boys do. It supposedly had some relationship to girls and boys different attitudes towards competition in general, but I can't remember what now, wish I could find the article again
I think that women (not all women by any means) tend to see political discussions as discussions, i.e. a conversation to explore the possible ramifications and consequences of a particular proposition and try and find some sort of consensus without falling out, whereas men (not all men by any means) tend to see political discussions as a competition which is won by the person who gives least ground.
So I do find that there is a certain type of person, and it is usually a youngish bloke, who will say anything, absolutely anything, no matter how ridiculous or unworkable it is, to keep up their end of the argument rather than admit that in the course of discussion what they are saying has turned out not to be workable. If I’m talking to someone like that I do tend to bow out of the conversation because it seems pointless to me, it achieves nothing. But one of the things I like about this site is that the people on here generally (male and female) aren’t like that at all.
Everyone here is talking absolute bollocks none of you know what you're talking about you're all wrong and I'm right and none of these stereotypes are true you are all idiots and none of you know what you're talking about men are not aggressive on the internet you bunch of f*Â£$*ng bastards and I have a bigger cock than all the men here.
And it's so good to have such clever and articulate women here who can actually have discussions but I have noticed that they tend to become irritable once a month.
Twats. It's all about the Enlightenment.
Posted by Helen at 8:47 am
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Report in the Birmingham Mail:
Officers believe up to a dozen people were involved in the brutal slaying of the 23-year-old simply because of the "colour of his skin".
Det Chief Insp Ward said: "I welcome the convictions of these three young men as one successful step on a long journey for justice, his family and his friends. The police investigation was always more than just the trial of three defendants.
"Up to a dozen offenders were involved in the attack and so our inquiries will continue, more determined than ever, until we have identified all those responsible for this senseless murder and sought to bring them to justice."
He called on members of the community who had previously
remained silent to come forward and "make a stand".
From the Birmingham Post:
"...Maxie Hayles, chairman of the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit, claimed little had been done to bridge the divide between the black and Asian communities.
"There is no respect-building between the Asian and Afro-Caribbean community. We talk about community cohesion, but how much do these two communities really know about each other?"
Some might say that constantly talking about Lozell residents in terms of different communities, and all those various self-appointed "community leaders" can't help a sense of cohesiveness.
Previous thoughts on this sad event here and here.
From Pickled Politics...
The BBC website: Rise of UK's 'inter-ethnic conflicts'. (Conflicts? Do they mean racism?) Mr Hayles, of the Birmingham Race Attacks Monitoring Unit, says:
"You'd have to walk miles to find a black-run business in Lozells, even some of the businesses selling Caribbean food like yam, they've been taken over by Asians, forcing African Caribbeans to spend their money with Asian businesses."
Forcing African Caribbeans to spend their money with Asian businesses? Forcing? And just how do statements like that help the situation? Dear God, how do these people get these jobs?
Posted by Helen at 11:31 am
Monday, May 22, 2006
I've got tickets to the Euston Manifesto launch on Thurs, and have even booked my travel down so it looks as if I will actually be there. If you're going too, I'll be the one in glasses, rubbing her aching neck, and complaining it's too cold/hot - if you spot me come and say hello.
I will of course be doing a write-up on how I thought it went. This, I am sure, will be an invaluable reference amongst the flurry of pieces that are sure to flutter amongst the quality press. Though I think Murdoch has yet to declare.
Posted by Helen at 7:21 pm
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Friday, May 19, 2006
The film of the book "The Da Vinci Code" is out soon and so I thought I'd get a post in. I have read the book and I will be seeing the film, and so I'll probably be doing a review of both in the near future. Try not to let the anticipation of that get in the way of normal living.
What I wanted to say here was just something briefly about Mary Magdalene. I think she's one of those interesting historical characters who has had the fashions and tastes of the centuries projected onto her. Some are trying to make out that Dan Brown's assertion (it's not just his assertion, and he's not really asserting it as this is a book of fiction we are talking about) that Mary was Jesus's wife shakes the Christian Church to its very foundations. No it's doesn't, and the whole thing is bollocks, but it's one of the many ideas about who this woman was.
I don't like it. My Mary is an unmarried, intelligent woman out of place and a little lost until Jesus comes along and casts out her demons. As one of the brighter disciples she then rises to be Jesus's right hand person, able to understand his world-view and converse in depth with him whilst the other thickies in the group sit around going, "Huh?" After Jesus's crucifixion, Peter challenges her authority, and the rest is history. Later the orthodox church, whilst not able to downplay the importance of her role, seeks to downplay her status. Oh, somehow, just somehow down the centuries, she gets mixed up with a prostitute and then gets generally thought of as a "fallen" woman who was saved by Jesus. She becomes all about the sins of the body and salvation through the Church. Hmmm.
Personally, I think Mary Magdalene's sexuality, either as wife and mother, or as whore to the Romans, is unimportant. Forget whether Jesus might have fancied her or not, Mary is clearly important to Jesus for her intellect. She's also the one with balls. When all the others are pissing themselves about what to do after Jesus's death, she's the one who tells them "do not weep or grieve or be in doubt" you big fat gibbering babies.
I think she was a woman who could have changed the world, but was ultimately crushed by the unfair hand of a patriarchal society. Or perhaps I'm just projecting.
If you're interested this article in "The New Yorker" is an excellent round-up of Mary down the centuries.
Posted by Helen at 2:47 pm
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I've finally picked up my specs!
I can't quite believe how bad my normal eyesight is compared to eyesight with glasses on. Everything snaps into such sharp focus. I see that's washing on the line in my next door neighbour's garden, not a very flappy tent.
Of course, my personality is completely different now I wear glasses. I am now smart, organised and efficient, and have become prim in a way that makes everything seem improper. And it's a real shame that boys don't make passes at girls that wear glasses because obviously I'm now into kinky sex too.
Don't think I'll look in the mirror with my glasses on though. I prefer my wrinkles in soft focus.
Posted by Helen at 1:18 pm
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The other thing The Daily Politics featured was about the new intake of Polish immigrants. Leading a small life I've noticed nowt around here, but my mom who always has her finger on the pulse has noticed an intake in two of her local supermarkets.
I've never talked about immigration on this blog before (other than in relation to the Tories election campaign last year), but the first thing I would like to say is the respect I have for anyone who immigrates to another country to make a better life for themselves. Think of what they do, leave their home, their friends, their families, leave everything that's familiar to them, and go to another country, where everything is different, and no one speaks like you do, and the food is shit, and everything is so bureaucratic, and the press is hostile, and there are no guarentees. I'm telling you I don't know that I could ever leave my home and family, no matter what the promise. It must be terrifying, and it must take real guts.
I like being surrounded by people from other countries though. I don't know why people get their knickers in a twist about it. I like to hear different accents, and see different types of dress, hear different types of music, and see different restaurants spring up. Alright, I'm not too keen on the Kosovo gangs with their people-trafficking and drugs, or on the odd gun-toting bank-robbing policewomen-murdering Somali, or Turkish gang-masters causing trade-wars, but these people don't make themselves known in my local Asda or down the nearest Weatherspoons. I like the flavour that other cultures bring to an area and have enough faith in my country's own culture not to fear its going to be lost or overwhelmed.
One thing I have to pick a bone with though (oh didn't you just know there was a "but" coming?) is this thing I keep hearing that immigrants do the jobs "that the British won't do anymore." Where the hell has this come from? Where are all these thousands of British people going, no, sorry, I'm not doing THAT!?
For instance the company that runs my local buses WMT are now hiring and training drivers in Poland to come and work here. WMT tell us that they simply can't hire enough people here in the Midlands and they are "forced" to go abroad for their workforce. Will someone please explain to me about this theory that British people suddenly don't want to work as bus drivers anymore, when there is a long tradition of working class men them doing just that?
And go to any school or office block and who now mops the floors and empties the bins? Growing up such cleaning jobs were the stuff of female working class life because the hours fit in around kids' school hours. I reckon every school in the West Midlands has had one of my relatives working in them at one point, whether doing the school dinners, or cleaning, or playtime supervising, or caretaking, or whatever. Now a lot of these jobs, particularly the cleaning jobs, go to the immigration workforce.
So are we just to believe that the British people, or let's face it the British working class, woke up one morning and decided they wanted to do something else? It sounds like the working classes have got completely above themselves and now won't touch anything unless one of the perks of the job involves a company car and use of an executive toilet. Tsk! Ungrateful sods. Should know their place shouldn't they? No wonder we have to get Johnny Foreigner in to keep the country running.
But I've got a feeling it's all bull. It's not about the British working classes being over-educated and all wanting plum white collar jobs really, is it? It's about companies figuring that immigrants will take less wages. Yes, those upperty working classes want fair pay for a fair day's work, but foreigners know their place and won't try and rattle the company's piggy bank like those greedy British pigs. Grateful for what they can get, immigrants, they know what real suffering is. Not like the bolshy British.
But if the old traditional working class jobs paid in real terms now what they did twenty years ago, the British working class would still be working them. It's not the work people won't do, it's stop in a low paid job when they can paid more doing something else they won't do. And this idea that companies are being "forced" to get immigrant labour is a white-wash to hide the fact that these compaines are ready to exploit whoever and however they can to make more profit.
They call it the free market, they call it globalism, but without some kind of conscience being in play doesn't this just fuck everything up for everybody long term? WMT can pay decent wages to local people, or it can misuse the people of a poor country by getting them to do the job at a cheaper rate. Isn't it morally wrong to do the latter? Isn't that why WMT make a big thing of telling everyone they are "forced" into doing this, because they know they simply cannot say "we want to make money by paying shit wages"? And if all the brightest and fittest people are leaving Poland to get a better life in Britain, where does that leave Poland? And I know it's market forces or whatever, but isn't it just damn unfair to pay immigrants less money than they deserve for any given job just because we can?
Yes, I know, I'm being foolish again aren't I? At some point I shall just have to grow up and stop all these silly thoughts about social justice.
I would like however to at least have a little less talk about the British not wanting to do certain jobs, and a little more talk about companies not wanting to pay competitive wages.
Posted by Helen at 12:29 pm
Arch-twat Otis Ferry was on The Daily Politics this morning.
He wanted to tell us that the old-style fox hunting before the ban was better for the fox than this new style hunting they all have to do to keep within the law. This is because, he says, that when they used to run after a fox if it was healthy it would generally get away, but if it was old or ill then they would most likely catch it, and therefore there was a sort of natural selection going on.
Now, he says, they dig foxes out of holes and shoot them, and therefore the fox has "no choice" about being killed. This is worse for foxes, says Otis.
Hmmm. Accept for the fact that hunts have always dug foxes out of holes to kill them. A fox on the run from a hunt would naturally run and take refuge in its den, and would the hunt then think "Fair play, he got away, grrrrrr, we'll get you next time Mr Fox!!!"? No, oddly they wouldn't. They would dig the exhausted animal out of its hiding place and throw the thing to the hounds.
The only difference to that after the hunting ban is that the fox gets shot rather than torn to pieces. Don't know about you, but I'm struggling to see how this makes it *worse* for the fox.
And the very idea that the nice people of the hunt only ever wanted to kill old or injured animals would be laughable were the whole thing not so disgusting. I suppose Otis must be unfamiliar with the practice of flushing? The practice where young cubs are dragged from their den and flushed out of the woods only to run into the jaws of a pack of hounds that surrounds the copse? Wahooooo! Tricking baby animals into being eaten alive! What a hoot!
There is one thing though. If Otis is so keen to try and persuade us all that fox hunting isn't cruel, that tells us that he understands on some level that cruelty to animals isn't right. Follow that thought through, Otis. Stop twisting reality and change reality. Get another job.
He got a good thumping from fellow guest John Denham though, which was pure delight to watch. Denham said that you do not, no matter how strongly you feel about something, do what he did when he broke into the Commons. 50 million odd other people might feel strongly about other things, Denham said, but they don't all storm the political institutions of this country. Otis flushed red and as he tried to excuse himself his voice went up a pitch making him sound like a petulant child. Which he is. I'm glad a grown up put him in his place.
Posted by Helen at 10:47 am
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Professor Simon Wessely is in the news today with the publishing of his new studies that "suggest there may not be an Iraq war syndrome"
"They are surprised by the results," says the article in the Guardian about Wessely and his team, "which are not in line with work carried out in the United States."
This seems to be a habit of the studies on war veteran's health carried out by Wessely and colleagues at King's College. An article about the previous differences between his studies and studies done in the States can be found here.
You know dear reader, Scribbles thinks that sometimes there are lies, damned lies, and studies.
Professor Simon Wessely informs me this post misquotes his work (see comments). In the interests of fairness, here's the link to the King's Centre for Military Health Research which is led by the Prof, which should soon have the link to the Lancet's website where said studies have been published.
Posted by Helen at 7:47 pm
Sunday, May 14, 2006
I've been getting a shed-load of hits courtesy of my last post, so if anyone is interested in the issues I raised below, but doesn't just want to take some random bloggers word for things, then I would suggest the following document as helpful reading:
What is ME? What is CFS?
Information for Clinicians and Lawyers
Courtesy of MEActionUK
Posted by Helen at 9:13 am
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
It's ME awareness week.
The Times calls it a "Mysterious fatigue illness" and very kindly points out how much money people with ME cost the country.
The idea that ME (or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is a mysterious illness persists, but it is no more mysterious than other conditions with unknown etiologies like Parkinson's Syndrome. Just like with ME there is no one test that diagnoses Parkinson's, and it has many causes, including some drugs, various infections, and chemical poisoning. Sometimes, like in my dad's case, there seems to be no reason why Parkinson's should have struck. It affects different people in very different ways. And yet no one calls Parkinson's "mysterious".
You will also find that ME is often tagged a "controversial" illness. This supposed "controversy" comes from the differing opinion in the medical community as to whether or not the symptoms spring from a physical (organic) or a mental cause (all in their heads). There has been extensive research to show however that if you test along the neuro-immune-endocrine axis then clear abnormalities will show. People with ME have had something go wrong with their internal regulatory systems which results in an inability to maintian homeostasis. This in turn can give rise to cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, respiratory, hormonal, gastrointestinal or musculo-skeletal dysfunctions and damage.
One reason that ME is tagged with being "mysterious" or "controversial" when other diseases that pose the same clinical difficulties with diagnosis and treatment are not, may be that people with ME show no physical abnormalities. It would be hard to tell a person with Parkinson's Syndrome, given the noticeable physical problems such as the shuffling gait or body tremors, that their illness is all in their heads. But people with ME however rarely look ill or diseased. Nothing swells up, nothing turns a funny colour, the eyes stay clear and bright, the skin is often rosy. We seem to think that people who are suffering from illness must always look ill. Some Doctors included.
The other reason there is a persistent rumour that ME is a psychiatric illness may also be political. Martin J Walker in his book "Skewed: Psychiatric hegemony and the manufacture of mental illness in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" (reviewed here by Dr Derek Pheby, an epidemiologist and Director of the Unit of Applied Epidemiology at the University of the West of England, Bristol), argues that there is a lot of evidence suggesting that "a small group of clinicians and academic psychiatrists have attempted over the last two decades to gain control of a number of medically unexplained illnesses."
The reasons behind the mystification and promotion of ME as a psychiatric condition could very well be because certain sectors of the medical community have a vested interest in the advancement of Cognitve Behavoural Therapy and Graded Exercise, and big business may have an interest in not having to admit that they poison people, and it may not suit pharmaceutical companies to know that some drugs have such harmful side-affects, and financial services may want to have a get-out-clause so as not to pay out health insurance claims, and the government may want to get 1 million people off Incapacity Benefit.
And the government have been implicate in this process of treating ME as a illness that can be recovered from purely by way of the identification of core beliefs and exercising a little. They are finally funding treatment for ME, but I can't see that any of these "treatment centres" seem particularly interested in any exploring physical causes for the debilitating symptoms.
ME, therefore, is seen as a something the sufferer must cure themselves. No one suggest this to people with other neurological, endocrinal, or immune deficient conditions - people with Parkinson's or endometriosis or AIDS are not told their illness exists only because of their own belief systems. Any assumption that people with ME are not truly physically ill denies them sympathy and respect, as well as medical assistance and financial support. Some liken this to the Nazi concept of "lebensunwertes Leben" - life unworthy of living. For reasons of national efficiently and economy people with ME, fibromyalgia and Gulf War Syndrome have become "the undeserving ill".
Well, as The Times points out above, people with ME are a drain on the country's resources.
I should make clear at this point that there are of course people who are chronically fatigued. Life events can sometimes overrun the body's system and a person can become constantly tired. A stressful event or just working too hard for too long can make people feel exhausted to the point of collapse, and a period of recovery may well be needed. For these people the term Chronic Fatigue (without the syndrome on the end) seems fitting, and a prescribed routine of exercise and other such lifestyle changes will work.
But Chronic Fatigue is not the same condition as ME, though since the term Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was chosen to replace the term ME in 1988 they have been lumped in together as if they were one and the same. This interchangeability between two very different illnesses can mean that treatments used to succesfully cure people with Chronic Fatigue are also said to cure people with ME. The change of name from ME to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome therefore has been very unhelpful to people with ME. ME actually has very little to do with fatigue.
There are many other ideas from the "psychiatric illness" lobby that I could debunk, but the point of this post is to do my bit to raise awareness of an illness they call ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Immune Disfunction Syndrome. Some people get very sick and remain completely debilitated for many years, if not forever. It seems to me greatly unjust and entirely without foundation that these people should also have to live with the stigma of their illness being labelled as mysterious and vague.
If you think this too, and you have a blog, then I would ask that you please post a link to the Action for ME website, and perhaps to this post, in support of ME awareness week.
One last thing. Fatigue is one of up to about 64 symptoms recognised as being part of the thing they call ME. A Sudden Illness - How My Life Changed, by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and ME sufferer, tells better than anything the level of suffering that can be experienced. ME isn't about simply feeling tired all the time. I wish it was.
Posted by Helen at 2:49 pm
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
EAT MY GOAL!
There may be No football for her.
But just to let you know, Ayatollah, that I will be watching plenty of football this summer, sometimes out in crowds containing both men and women, and most definitely wearing little strappy tops, cropped jeans, and, on occasion, will be drinking like a fish.
And just for you, here's a picture of a woman's naked arm.
Ooooooh! Don't let your head explode now!
Posted by Helen at 7:25 pm
Sexist Pig Pensioner, more like.
"To slap a woman is not the cruellest thing you can do to her"
Well Sean, I'd like to see you try and slap me, you rickety old chauvinist. You'd soon find out what's "crueller" than a good slapping and it involves a punch to the nose from a girl in glasses.
Loves Scotland so much he just spent a quarter of a century living between Marbella and the Bahamas.
And he can't act.
Posted by Helen at 7:08 pm
Monday, May 08, 2006
We just can't get it right, can we? This whole baby malarkey?
We have them when we're too young, we have them when we're not married, we have them by different men, we have not enough or none at all.
And now we're having them too old.
I refer you to Larkin.
Although he seems to think dads have got something to do with it too. Fool.
Posted by Helen at 7:28 pm
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I've been having trouble with my eyes this year. Every now and again my sight's been going all blurry and I've found I can barely spend any time reading or on the computer before I get the most horrendous headaches radiating from my left eyeball. This particular type of headache became so frequent that it even got its own name: the nail-being-hammered-into-the-eyeball headache.
Affecting the usual pattern with which I deal with all pressing health concerns I let this go on for some time without doing anything about it except occaisonally Googling my symptoms. I figured I either had a brain tumour or MS. Eventually the headaches and semi-blindness got so inconvenient I mentioned it to my GP whilst visiting for another reason. She didn't seem particularly concerned and suggested I see an optician.
And because she didn't seem particularly concerned I figured I leave it for a while, just to, you know, see if it went of its own accord. The symptoms lessened for a while when I was down in Devon, unless I picked up a newspaper, but when I came home all the symptoms came straight back full force the first time I used the computer.
As blog post after blog post went unwritten I finally decided enough was enough and booked in at my local opticians. I don't get on great with opticians. One once failed to notice my retina was detaching. But this guy was fabulous. He has suggested that because the head and eye pain can come of its own accord without help from the blogosphere, and is often accompanied by VERY LOUD tinnitus, that I might be having some kind of ocular migraine. After having a play with my eyes however he suggests that because of the rubbish vision in the left eye (due to the work done on it to save the retina) the poor little thing is struggling to keep up with its better functioning neighbour. And it might be this strain that is causing all of my trouble.
Result - I'm getting a pair of glasses to wear for reading and driving.
I find myself quite excited at this prospect. I've picked out a lovely squarish-framed sort of pair in a rose-tinted nickle-free frame and I get them some time next week. I don't mind having to wear glasses at all. In fact I'm quite chuffed at the idea that this latest health issue can be solved simply by balancing something on my nose as opposed to resorting to surgery or drugs with nasty side-affects as is usual.
And of course, if it works, it means lots and lots more blogging. Which is the most important thing here.
Posted by Helen at 10:03 am
Friday, May 05, 2006
So it's Steve McClaren. Whatever.
And what's all the hoo-hah abut Rooney being not being able to play in the world Cup? No, we don't stand a chance of winning now, but then we didn't stand a chance of winning before. Let's all just get beyond this idea that we will do any good in this tournament, now or in the foreseeable future.
And Albion are down. I take no consolation from the fact that Birmingham City are also down. Not whilst the Villa are still up.
Posted by Helen at 2:38 pm
My new Councillor is Seveliata Hargreaves (Labour) who as yet defies Googling. As per previous post I had every intention of spoiling my ballot paper but much to my own amazement found that when it came to it I couldn't actually do it. Maybe it seemed too loutish, or maybe it just seemed churlish to punish grass roots Labour for the sins of their elders, or maybe I just didn't want to kick my party when they were down, I don't really know in all honesty, but once again my vote went to Labour. Seveliata got 3343 votes, a good majority.
Labour didn't go into meltdown in Birmingham and the only real thing of note seems to be that for one hour the BNP were said to have won a seat in Kingstanding, only for it to be later announced that there had been a mistake. Har har! So Birmingham, I am proud to say, remains BNP free.
Oh and Salma Yaqoob of Respect won her Sparkbrook seat.
In my ward, out of five candidates, the BNP came last with 173 votes, which is a relief but still 173 votes too many.
Not such good news in my old 'hood, Sandwell. Many congratulations to Bob Piper, but the man has unfortunately got to share his workspace with three BNP councillors. Imbeciles with third-rate minds feeding off the bile of a fascist organisation that attracts thugs and morons is the last thing a poor borough like Sandwell needs.
On the national news I was glad, if surprised, to see Clarke has been given the push. I think he should have resigned. You simply cannot try and push through a controversial "people's agenda" of being tough on criminals supposedly for the protection of the public, but then run a department that fails to protect the public at a very base level. It made a mockery of Labour's whole crime agenda. In my eyes.
And as for Prezza. He now has a hollowed out job with a somewhat shabby status and a meaningless title. I hope the shags were worth it.
Posted by Helen at 1:57 pm
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Well, it's the day before those oh-so-important local elections the press keep banging on about, only you wouldn't know it where I live as not one of my available candidates has even thought fit to shove a badly written leaflet through my door with a cheesy photo on it.
To find out who my local candidates are I would have to go to the end of my road to where there is a lamppost hung with those silly posters, write down their names and then Google them. And normally I would too. But, you know what? Fuck it all.
This is the pit of hell into which my vote will be cast.
And this is how I feel about Clark and his mess.
And when I think of Prescott I now think of this, except he's more "man of the people, turned politician."
Patricia Hewitt. This.
And they want to make voting compulsory? Yeah, you first.
To them all, I wanna say this.
You make me wanna .....
You're all getting my vote tomorrow. A ballot paper with just one big X.
Posted by Helen at 9:44 pm
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
A man has been arrested over the recent arson attacks on Asian shops in London.
Meanwhile, another shop was fire-bombed in the West Midlands today, although no one else but me is making the connection yet.
I'm worried this might have something to do with the trouble in Lozells last October. There were shady elements trying their very best to stir up trouble between the black and Asian communites. And Asian businesses were in the firing line.
Posted by Helen at 5:42 pm
Before watching Tariq Ramadam's "Dispatches: The Muslim Reformation" I was unaware of the Islamic concept of Ijtehad - a concept that permits the re-examination of Qur'anic texts and Muslim teachings in a new context. This, argues Tariq, is the way forward for Muslims who live in non-Muslim secular states. Bring it on - liberal, progressive Muslims able to live in liberal and progressive countries with no contradiction between their surroundings and their religion. Everybody wins
Not so say man from Hizb ut Tahrir.
That's just looking at Islam from a colonial perspective. Apparently. Changing the meaning of Islam to fit in with the western imperialists. Yes, the man from the Hizb used that word colonial. Because he knows colonization is bad and that Europe is now ashamed of its colonial past. Twas bad of us.
Now. Man from the Hizb and his fellow reactionaries believe that the rest of the world is hostile to Islam and that Islam is in conflict with the non-Muslim world. Their literal interpretation of the Qur'an gives them a religion that hits hard against enlightenment values and sits squat out of sync with secular, democratic countries. With disasterous results.
Scribbles would like to ask therefore why these reactionaries come to live in countries whose core values are so completely at odds with their fundamentalist beliefs? Why? Why? Why?
Why don't they all piss off to Iran or wherever else their 'conservative' interpretation of their religion means they can trample all over each others human rights to their hearts content, and leave the rest of the world to us liberals and democrats - whether followers of a religion or not - so that we can live in peace?
Unless of course, this is about colonization. But, surely not. Because as we all know. Colonialism is bad.
Posted by Helen at 4:56 pm
The most insulting come-back, I suggest, from those who fired-off criticisms at the authors of the Euston Manifesto has been to suggest that they - and by implication all of us who supported international intervention in Iraq - are shameful armchair warriors, happy to send off other people's sons and daughters to risk their lives whilst we sit smug with laptop on laps lecturing to the world. We are cowards, some said, for supporting a war in which we do not have to fight, and we have blood on our hands.
From Will's post at the Popinjays.
"Clooney urged the public to attend rallies across the United States this Sunday to pressure Khartoum to stop what Washington says amounts to genocide in Darfur...
Hollywood actors, political, religious leaders and sporting personalities will be among those at the rallies, which are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people."
But hang on!
Are all of these actors, political and religious leaders, sporting personalities, and hundreds of thousands of people going to be hoisting an AK-47 across camouflaged shoulders to face the dreaded Janjaweed themselves?
Hmmmm. The insult becomes as dust.
Come fellow humanitarians, the good people of Darfur need rescuing, come to my armchair. I'll hutch up.
Juan's comments on Will's post that leads to "Trying to have it both ways" by Marc Shulman.
"Even as they demand intervention in Sudan, they excoriate Washington for employing U.S. military power without due respect to the opinion of the international community and against nations that pose no imminent threat to our own, which is to say, precisely the terms under which U.S. power would have to be employed in the name of saving Darfur"
Posted by Helen at 2:59 pm