Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blair And Iraq - All In One Picture!


Having spent today following the reports of Tony Blair's historic grilling, yesterday, at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, I was really not sure what impression I was left with.

Then, I saw the above picture in The London Daily News and it seemed to sum it all up perfectly!!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

MMR Jab - The 'Proof' Is Still Out There!

One of the biggest decisions for parents of small children over the last decade, has been whether to have a child vaccinated with the MMR jab.

The triple vaccine is said to protect against Measles, Mumps and Rubella and is highly recommended by the officers of our nanny state who, of course, always know best. They do not take kindly to anyone questioning their self proclaimed wisdom and will take all the action they think necessary to quash any dissent.

One such dissenter is Dr Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist who now faces being struck off as a physician by the General Medical Council (GMC) after a hearing said to have cost £1million and lasting 148 days.

The GMC, today, ruled that Dr Wakefield has ‘failed in his duties as a responsible consultant’ and ‘acted dishonestly’ after he published the results of his study questioning the safety of the MMR jab in The Lancet in 1998. He believed - and still does - he had uncovered a link between the MMR vaccine and bowel disease and autism.

Following publication of his claim, the uptake of the jab decreased by over 20% and he was blamed for panicking the public. It seems unsurprising then, that an attempt would be made to destroy his reputation.

Interestingly, Tony Blair, while in office as Prime Minister, refused to clarify one way or the other whether his own children had been given the vaccination and this did little to instill confidence amongst worried parents.

Today’s ruling has not found Dr Wakefield guilty of being wrong but guilty of using the methods he did when carrying out his research.

The children in his study, were aged between three and ten and all had enjoyed a life of normal development, before having the vaccination. However, soon after having the MMR jab, they were found to suffer intestinal problems including diarrhoea and constipation. Nine of the group were diagnosed with autism.

According to the research team, subsequent study of a further 48 children revealed that 46 followed the same pattern.

However, the GMC has not questioned the results of the study but the methods used by Dr Wakefield’s team.

Amongst the accusations were: ‘subjecting vulnerable children to inappropriate and invasive tests’, of ‘being in breach of some of the most fundamental rules in medicine’ and accusing Dr Wakefield of not having paediatric qualifications and not having worked as a clinician for a number of years.

Finally, the GMC claimed the children did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the research and that the doctors did not have ethical approval to investigate them.

Surely, one of the most ‘fundamental rules' of a medical researcher, is to voice concern when there is doubt about something that could be so harmful to those most vulnerable.

All of the above accusations are, really, just technicalities and designed to distract from the main point.

Dr Wakefield has not been found guilty of being wrong but has been found guilty of questioning the word of those who are too arrogant to believe they could ever be wrong.

Science is, by its very nature, a subject of continual questioning and we must never just give in to things we are given as 'fact'.

After all, it was not that many years ago we were told, as 'fact', the earth was flat!

The future health of our children is even more important.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Obscenity' And The Ministry of Defence

Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has been forced to reveal, in reply to a parliamentary question, that a senior official at the Ministry of Defence trousered a bonus payment of £84,500 last year.

The average payment for senior fixed term appointees was said to be £31,890 over the same period.

What the heck is a 'senior fixed term appointee'? Well, the Cabinet Office describe the positions as either consultants brought in from outside the civil service, or seconded from other departments. Hmmm... I am still none the wiser.

Given the way we follow everything the US does, I am tempted to question whether these 'senior fixed term appointees' are really private security personnel (aka mercenaries) contracted to perform dirty deeds - while allowing plausible denial for the government - in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Taxpayers' Alliance branded the payments 'obscene' but what is really 'obscene' is the sight of the coffins in which our dead military personnel return, after losing their lives while earning a fraction of the pay being awarded to the recipients of the bonuses.

What is 'obscene' is the fact that the Ministry of Defence could not afford to supply our troops with the equipment needed to protect their lives during a war we should, arguably, not be fighting but can, instead, afford to pay consultants large bonuses.

What is 'obscene' is the cost of the security circus that will be protecting the man who led us into the present military actions, Tony Blair, as he is grilled by the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, at the end of this week.

But the biggest obscenity of all is that it has taken a parliamentary question to even discover that our tax payments are being frittered away in such an unsavoury fashion.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Robin Hood And The Twitter Terrorist!


It’s a well known fact that Twitter is the place where terrorists the world over announce their intentions to commit another outrage. Well isn’t it?

Errrr actually no it’s not.

It is, instead, a place where millions of people the world over empty their heads by sharing thoughts that can sometimes be outrageous and stupid. It is not known for being a place of enormous intellect. It is communication in its simplest form - however irritating it can sometimes seem.

Unfortunately, no-one had told the officers of the South Yorkshire Police, who arrested a 26 year old man for tweeting, in total frustration at the effect the bad weather was having on his travel plans: "Robin Hood airport is closed," continuing "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

A week after posting the comment, Paul Chambers was arrested at his place of work under the Terrorism Act and questioned for seven hours, before being released on bail.

He said "I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post," and "I'm the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine."

He has since been suspended from his work, pending an internal enquiry and banned from Robin Hood Airport, in Doncaster, for life.

An expert on privacy laws and free speech, Tessa Mayes commented:

"Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm.

"The police's actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter."

Of course she is right.

No-one would ever dispute that we should take the threat of terrorism seriously but if we are to live in fear of being arrested everytime we make a misjudged comment or an attempt at a joke, then the terrorists have already won the war.

The police, of all people, should know the difference between a genuine threat and what is obviously nothing more than a foolish declaration of frustration.

Be careful what you say or you could find your self being apprehended by a right bunch of tweets!

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It's 'Butter' To Reduce The Prices!

One of the UK's leading heart surgeons has called for a ban on butter and some high fat foods, in an attempt to halt the rise in coronary disease and its related problems.

Oh that life were so simple.

The fact is, the things that are bad for us are often the very things we can all afford (and they taste just as good).

After all, despite the adverts and claims of the cholesterol reducing alternatives, it is highly unlikely that many people can afford the high prices that such 'goodness' will cost.

A tub of 'healthy' stuff to spread on our sarnies is almost four times the cost of that of its 'unhealthier' alternative.

Unless the government introduces measures to make the healthy alternatives affordable to all, it is unlikely that a ban on butter alone will make any difference.

In the long term, though,the cost to the health service is far greater than any of us can afford!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nick Clegg, Schools And The Gay Vote!


Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, has stated that all school children, particularly those from faith schools, should be taught that same-sex relationships are “normal and harmless”.

He also said:

“Crucially faith schools should have a requirement to have an anti-homophobic bullying policy at their school.”

Surely, there should be a requirement to have a policy against all bullying in schools? It seems strange that he has managed to single out bullying just related to homophobia.

Of course, there is an election approaching and like all political leaders in the UK, he is pitching for votes wherever he can get them. It just so happens that the UK has a large gay community, who are often referred to as the “pink vote”. Hmmm….maybe that explains it.

What I find to be of greater concern, though, is that he is promoting the idea that homosexuality is “normal” - it is not.

My dictionary defines the adjective as:

conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected

The majority of relationships in this country are not those of same-sex couples, so none of the above definitions come into play when referring to homosexual relationships.

Before I am attacked for being homophobic or offensive by an outraged section of the gay community….I am not and neither am I trying to be. I am purely taking issue with the concept of a portrayal of normality as being something which it isn’t.

Normality, to a child, means the everyday experience of life. Very few of them, knowingly at least, have contact with members of the gay community as part of that everyday life. For most, therefore, “normal” means heterosexuality.

Forgetting, for a moment, the human race alone, surely “normal”, in any lifeform, is about survival of the species. That cannot be achieved by a same sex relationship, so “normal” in nature, at least, takes two differing sexes coming together for life to be preserved.

Of course, in the natural world some same sex relationships do exist but they are behavioural relationships and not survivalist.

It is a subject which can generate complicated and emotive arguments from both sides and we could go on all night discussing the pros and cons. What might have been more constructive, however, is for Mr Clegg to choose a more suitable word.

Perhaps, without intending to sound even slightly patronising, he should have used something like “acceptable” .

If you have better alternatives then please let me know but just because a statistical minority group has persuasive powers, does not mean we should accept the propogation of a myth by a political leader just to win votes.

After all, that is just not “normal”

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Lord Mandelson - The Man Who Controls Brown's "Marionettes"

In today's Independent, columnist Bruce Anderson writes an intriguing article about the state of Gordon Brown's government and the man who holds the real power by pulling the strings, Lord (Peter)Mandelson.

Anderson writes:
Although there may have been someone like him at Court in Versailles, Lord Mandelson's position is without precedent in British politics. He is the choreographer-in-chief, with the rest of the Cabinet as Mandy's marionettes, Mr Balls excepted. But where is this all leading?

In answering that, we should never discount Peter Mandelson's fascination with the political process, irrespective of its content. At times, it seems as if his whole soul has been sublimated into manoeuvring and manipulation. There is also Labour tribalism. Beyond that, everything becomes mysterious. At one moment, he seems determined to keep Gordon Brown afloat. Then, he tells some very important people that he has had it up to here with Gordon. One can only surmise.

My belief is that he has already written off the election and is devoting all his energies to the future. He will continue to work hard in the election campaign, to try to avoid a massacre and to ensure that he retains his current prestige: kingmakership beckons. There are those who believe that he is working for a Blairite restoration, and he is certainly determined to stop Ed Balls becoming leader. Yet it may be that a Blairite renewal is an oversimplification and that Peter's main aim is to keep the Labour party together

I would say that given all that has happened recently, it seems to be a pretty fair summary of the present state of play!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

There's 'Snow' Reason To Believe The Daily Mail


Today's Headline on the Daily Mail's website Mail Online is shown above. It reports that eight inches more snow is expected today and tomorrow. It also reports panic buying in the shops with 'essentials' having sold out.

it specifically mentions my home county of Kent saying:

"In Kent, for where the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning, police said the Army was ready to help out with the situation and warned people not to travel unless absolutely necessary."

Enough to make you panic? It certainly could be.....unless you check on the Met Office website which shows the following:

Metsnow.png snow shown anywhere and I have picked the town of Tunbridge Wells which has suffered quite badly recently. You could pick almost any other Kent town and you would get the same forecast.

So does the Mail have a hotline to a greater power that is giving them information the professionals do not have? Or could it just be irresponsible journalism trying to make a story out of nothing.

I leave you to make up your own mind but looking out the window and seeing yesterday's snow has mostly disappeared I think I already know the answer.

I await the proof with interest!

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Greedy Selfish Society - All Is Revealed In Tesco!


This afternoon, I braved the 'blizzard' and nipped down to my nearest Tesco store to get a few necessary supplies.

Bearing in mind it was only just past two in the afternoon, I was amazed to discover that there was not a single loaf of bread to be found along an aisle that must have stretched for fifty feet. The shelves were literally empty.

Now, I am not talking about a small local Tesco Extra here I am talking about a massive Tesco store that sells everything from....well nothing to everything!

When I got to the checkout with less than I had wanted, I asked the lady, using light sarcasm, if they had been visited by a plague of locusts or something.

She told me that from nine this morning it had been "worse than Christmas" with shoppers panic buying almost everything on the shelves. It had got so bad, the management had been forced to limit the number of loaves of bread to 12 per person. Even then, shoppers were still trying to pass up to 25 loaves through the checkout at a time and became very abusive to the staff when they were informed of the new limit.

Come on people....what the hell is the matter with you? How can anyone possibly NEED that much bread let alone EAT it?

Of course what we are witnessing is the selfish 'I'm all right Jack so sod the rest of you' attitude that pervades all areas of society nowadays. It is all about "I want it so I'll get it" and not "Do I really need it".

It is the attitude that has placed millions of people in massive debt from spending funds they do not have and which has almost brought down the financial system of this country and many others. It is about a selfishness and self interest that has destroyed the community spirit that used to be the lifeblood of Britain.

We have reached a stage in our society that is not pretty to see.

To the people who's greed in Tesco today meant there was nothing left for anyone else, I say is only a few days of snow and I hope the bread rots in your stomachs.

To society, I is time we all take a long hard look at ourselves before it is too late!

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Friday, January 08, 2010

It's All White..!

Frozen Britain.jpg

I think this satellite picture of our snow covered island is just amazing.

It does more to explain the extent of our present condition than a thousand words in the media ever could!

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Bad News For Brown And 'Badder' News For The Plotters!

According to a poll commissioned by BBC 2's Daily Politics Show and released this afternoon, half of all voters think Labour would do better if Gordon Brown stepped down as leader.

However, before we all get carried away by the excitement, a staggering 70 percent could not think of any of his colleagues who would be better in the job!

Yes, that does include members of the Cabinet who declare support for GB in public and scheme away in private.

Perhaps, it might help explain the sudden outbreak of cold feet amongst Brown's underlings during Wednesday's misjudged 'coup' attempt.

What a state the country is now in!

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Was Hoon Just The 'Puppet'?

If you feel your life is a little bit cold at the moment, Geoff Hoon must be finding it positively Siberian.

After yesterday's failed attempt, with Patricia Hewitt, to stir up a leadership challenge in his party, he is now having to suffer the full scorn and ridicule of his colleagues.

I have surprised myself by spending today feeling some sympathy for his situation. There are many things that just do not add up.

It seems almost inconceivable, that someone with Hoon's experience of top level politics would have been so inept as to stir up such a controversy, if he were not to have been assured of success and support in the first place.

Watching him being interviewed on Newsnight last night, it was obvious from his body language, he was deeply disappointed at the way things had turned out and was holding back on revealing the true story. His admission of failure was a rare thing to see from a politician with his pedigree.

Even though the media has spent today revealing off-the-record comments from senior politicians and speculating about certain members of the Cabinet being spineless and performing U-turns, I doubt the real story will be told until Mr Hoon leaves the world of politics - which could be sooner than he originally planned - and publishes his memoirs.

The whole charade, however, does seem to have been carefully choreographed by someone with a skill for manipulation of both the media and politicians and the talent of being able to provide himself with a plausible denial of any knowledge of the incident in public.

There are not many within the world of Parliament who are so skilled at such dark arts....

Who could be the Puppet Master?....the show continues!!

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The 'Coup' Could Have Worked...Or Could It?

The BBC's Political Editor, Nick Robinson, has claimed on tonight's BBC News that six members of Gordon Brown's cabinet WERE prepared to support a leadership challenge.

Amongst those he named, were David Miliband, Jack Straw and Harriet Harman. All have subsequently claimed - some more convincingly than others - their support for Brown's leadership.

It does go some way to explaining why support from members of his cabinet took several hours to be made public.

While, GB is probably now holding interviews for a food taster, David Cameron will be rubbing his hands in glee, as he contemplates being elected into government without having to think of a single policy.

It seems that slime appears in many forms!

Two More 'Idiots' In Westminster Village

As if Gordon Brown is not looking battered enough, today he had to suffer another attempt at stirring up support to oust him as his party’s leader.

This time, it came in the shape of a letter sent to his own MPs, penned by ex-ministers Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Colleague,

As we move towards a general election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is deeply divided over the question of the leadership.

Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance.

We have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to resolve this issue would be to allow every member to express their view in a secret ballot.

This could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the government.

Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all.

Strong supporters of the prime minister should have no difficulty in backing this approach.

There is a risk, otherwise, that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across.

Equally those who want change, should they lose such a vote, would be expected by the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party to devote all of their efforts to winning the election.

The implications of such a vote would be clear - everyone would be bound to support the result.

This is a clear opportunity to finally lay this matter to rest. The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited.

It is damaging our ability to set out our strong case to the electorate. It is giving our political opponents an easy target.

In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents.

We can only do that if we resolve these distractions. We hope that you will support this proposal.

Yours fraternally,

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt

Normally, I would not reproduce the whole text of a letter in my posts and certainly not one that started “Dear Colleague”. Given the technology now available, it is not difficult to make each letter appear as if it is personally addressed to the recipient.

However, the reason I have done so today, is to demonstrate there is not one single mention, hint or reference as to what is best for the country; it is only about what is best for the party and individual MPs. We do not exist in the world governed by self-interest!

Given there is no-one in the party brave enough to openly admit they are willing to stand against their leader, this coup attempt seems doomed - yet again - to failure.

It has been said that every village needs an idiot and the village of Westminster has just gained two more!

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Whale....We Certainly Got You This Time!

The Japanese certainly have a delicate way of dealing with anti-whaling protesters.

This video was shot by whaling researchers from the Institute of Cetacean Research.

Fortunately, the crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's high-tech speedboat, managed to escape any harm, other than that to both their pride and vessel....

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Surprise Surprise...It Is Winter And It Is Snowing!!


If you were watching the TV news this evening you would think we were approaching the end of the world.

Shock has been snowing!

The white stuff has already caused chaos in Northern parts of the country and now there is more panic as it is heads to the capital and into the South East over the next few hours.

Hello...newsflash.... it is winter and this sort of thing happens at this particular time of year!

I grant you that people have short memories and the last few winters have been fairly mild but the snow that has fallen this year is no more than in the average winters I remember from my past.

People living in other countries, where snow is a regular part of their lives, must roll on the floor and wet themselves laughing at how such a small amount of adverse weather can cause such chaos here in the UK.

Lets be positive: kids are getting more time off school to play, workers have a believable excuse for not getting into their workplace and the best bit of all....we do not have to listen to the empty election promises of our political leaders while the cold front takes over the headlines.

See? isn't all bad!!

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Wootton Bassett Does Not Need Islam 4 UK

The previously little known web-based extremist group, Islam4UK, has managed to grab attention in the media by creating an outcry over its plans to hold a demonstration in the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett - the town whose people have lined the streets to honour the passing coffins of our military personnel returned from Afghanistan.

Islam4UK is said to be the front for the Al Mohajiroun group, which has been banned in the UK for several years. Their aim is to cause political instability and to turn Britain into an Islamic state governed under sharia law.

Its frontman, Anjem Choudary, is said to have stated that “Islam is undeniably the only real solution for Britain’s problems.” This ‘solution’ is said to advocate banning alcohol and introducing public floggings for people who get drunk. Mr Choudary is also said to believe Christmas is "evil" and turkey dinners, crackers and Christmas trees are the "pathway to hellfire".

Choudary has published an open letter on his group’s website, addressed directly to the people of Wootton Bassett. He explains, in rather long and ranting prose, his reasoning for his proposed action. He also invites us all to join the Islamic faith. Interestingly, when I tried to access the website tonight, it appeared to have mysteriously disappeared but you can read the full text here.

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has said, in his usual understated way, that Choudary’s intentions are “completely inappropriate”.

They are far more than that. They are inflammatory and designed to cause conflict and civil unrest.

I have immense faith that most members of the Muslim communities in the UK will be horrified at the publicity seeking actions of Islam4UK and will shun them totally.

I am not so hopeful the same is true of the extreme right wing organisations this stunt is designed to irritate.

Meanwhile, if Mr Choudary and Co. are genuine in their concern for the Afghan people, I am sure we could offer them free passage on the return flights that delivered our dead soldiers.

Somehow, I think life in the UK, and the right we all have to freedom of speech in our non-Islamic state, is far too comfortable to leave behind!!

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Is the G-spot a myth?

All those wasted years….from fumbling teenager to inadequate adult I (like many other men) have been searching for the holy grail, only to find it does not really exist.

Just like my disappointment on hearing that Santa is an imaginary figure, that politicians never deliver what they promise, or bankers are just greedy twats, I feel totally deflated.

It seems that a team of scientists at Kings College London have concluded, after an extensive study of over 1,800 British women, that the G-spot is not real.

The magic 'spot' that all men have been led to believe is the key to opening the door to any woman’s heart and guarantee they are regarded as the greatest of lovers, turns out to be nothing more than a myth - at least in scientific terms.

However, on thinking about it…. it WAS only 1.800 women and they are all British.

I think to be fully convinced and in the interests of the human race, I should carry on with my personal research until I find the definitive answer.

After all….do scientists do sex?

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'Full Body Scanner' - A Potential Problem!

Body scanner.jpg

Following the failed xmas day plane bombing in the US, PM Gordon Brown has announced, today, that the full body scanner is to be introduced in all our airports.

This controversial piece of machinery is said to show, on a screen, the parts of us that are only normally to be examined by members of the medical profession, or our loved ones. An earlier attempt to install this technology proved unpopular with the public. So, it is no surprise that the failed xmas day bombing is being used as a great opportunity to promote an increased fear of terrorism and convince us all it is needed.

In reality, a full body scanner is unlikely to have revealed the substances that were concealed in the underpants of Umar Farouk Addulmatallab. When he detonated his bomb, he did rather more damage to his person, than he did to the rest of the plane.

Whether this was an amateurish failure on his part or just a malfunction of the chemicals is unsure but what is certain is that he should have been detected by the intelligence services and prevented from joining the plane in the first place. He was, ultimately, not restrained by members of the security services but by fellow passengers.

However, what I find to be of more interest is that use of the full body scanner is unlikely to be very popular with members of the Muslim faith. In everyday life, the women are discouraged from showing any part of their bodies to other men, so it is unlikely they are going to be keen on security staff, at airports, being able to examine their true ‘form’ normally hidden from our view.

There lies the dilemma.

Does our government make a concession to travelling Muslim women exempting them from being scanned? Alienating the Muslim vote in the UK is to lose a lot of crosses on the ballot form at the next election.

In such a case, it would make a mockery of the need for these machines in the first place, after all, the chosen religious belief of most of the world’s terrorists seems to be Muslim.

Alternatively, does the government guarantee that Muslim women are only scanned by fellow Muslim women security personnel, in which case, is this practical?

A dilemma to be sure but as a final thought, how long do you think it will be before the first claim for compensation reaches the courts, from an airport security officer who’s sex life has failed miserably, after looking at all those naked shapes everyday?

After all, some nightmares never cease!!

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Laptop Discrimination - whatever next?

Originally uploaded by Westerly21
This sign was spotted on a table top in the bar of an hotel I stayed in near Lincoln UK.

I am not sure what it means but it gave us something to talk about.

Seems like we might need an anti-discrimination law to protect the rights of laptop users!!

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