Monday, 20 October 2014

Tantrums in Toytown

I don't know who comes out looking sillier in this story(see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/historians-told-you-re-not-welcome-1-6901578 ), the busload of visiting style nazis who were told to sling their hook, or the locals who also thought they should have had an automatic right to go rubbernecking around somebody else's house. Wonder what they have in common, other than beige anoraks, tartan Thermos flasks full of weak tea, no real friends or social life.... and a tendency to trap normal people in corners and bore the backside off them in order to compensate for all that?
Gordon Bennett, you sad sacks. If it mattered to any of you that much, you could have bought the house when it was on offer. As you didn't, at least have the decency to shut up and butt out.
Be honest, it is not as if Baillie Scott built houses any sane person would give up a morning to mooch around anyway, never mind buy the dumps. OK, in some perverse Disney Gothic sort of a way they might be very pretty (if you were tripping your tits off and near blind from years of self-abuse), but they must be a bugger to light and heat. These are houses for cartoons, not people, and only a self-despising masochist with deep pockets, no taste and a sick sense of humour would buy one. When I pass several of the monstrosities daily I always wonder if Hansel and Gretel have escaped yet, or how bad the mould is in the gingerbread walls.
I also have news for anyone who thinks this incident somehow damaged the island's reputation or caused the English to think us a bit uncouth. Another unfortunate sighting of a twee Baillie Scott building caused the first outburst of laughter in a day, back in the mid-1980's, which gave some English upper-middle class professionals funny stories they have been dining out on ever since.
It happened when a notorious financial scandal hit court, and caused the world's press to wonder if anyone in the Manx offshore racket of that era - either as “service providers” or legislators - was even capable of dressing themselves in the morning without professional help. Which, to be honest, they were not.
The trial took place in the old Castletown court, and at 8.30 AM a mini-bus full of the thousand pound an hour QCs hired to fight the case delivered them there. I have it from both the bus driver and the native guide hired to escort them that as they sighted Castletown Police Station one wit drawled “I say, do you think Will Hay still works there?”
The bus rocked with laughter, and neither the legal hacks nor the UK press hacks in the bus following stopped sniggering from that moment until the farcical trial finished. As a result the island's reputation as a finance centre was destroyed completely for at least another fifteen years.
Some will maintain this was because the industry was then run by chumps, drunks and con-artists.
 Me? I blame Baillie Scott, his Noddy-on-bad-acid imagination and whatever cretin actually employed him to design a building meant to instil respect and lock up hardened criminals.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Lazarus - raised and reburied with the living

For reasons some readers might know about, but which I won't go into here, I was otherwise engaged last weekend so could not share this (see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/town-sermon-not-appropriate-1-6886645 ), which has had me giggling like a stoned loon for days.
My immediate reaction was that when only the living dead attend such drab, parochial bun-fights, then if people really did walk out the reverend doctor may have performed the best example of a miracle since his ultimate role model supposedly brought back Lazarus. Sadly, having raised the dead, he not only reburies them but their vaguely conscious pew-mates.
Honestly! A cleric gets an open goal – a chance to preach to the only right wing throwbacks in town likely to share his warped view of humanity – misses by a mile and even turns the bigots against him. As I understand it, he was recruited (using savings made by not replacing retiring professional clergy) as a missioner priest charged with getting younger, intellectually minded locals into churches. From his record thus far, his employers may be wondering if he ever intends to start work.
More seriously, I know socially committed clergy and Manx Christians and in my experience they never get the genuine support of “management” or even their fellow punters (though the same are always ready to take the credit or opportunity of public funds). For all I know (though thus far he has shown absolutely no evidence) Dr Gomes may well be, outside his “special project”, a dutiful and conscientious priest to his flock. But if so I cannot see believe he still accepts the kind of social myths he reportedly endorses – myths disproved ad nauseum over the last 60 years.
As a salaried priest, this man has an opportunity denied to most of us to support families and individuals struggling just to get by against a wall of prejudice. A wall which gets bigger every time a Manx government minister opens his mouth in public and vomits more effluent. I respectfully suggest it is time he started doing this, not aligning himself with the kind of tabloid-reading excuseniks whose prejudice is at the root of most poverty and social problems on this island.
In addition to his Christian and professional duty to do this, he has an intellectual duty to speak truth to power. As the learned man he is, Dr Gomes should not be reducing all morality to that sub-section of ethics any genuine academic knows as religious morality. If preaching to those without the benefit of formal education in morality and ethics, surely he has a duty to be more precise rather than play to simplistic stereotypes favoured by professional tub-thumpers of no integrity.
And finally, if 21st century families do not choose the church, that is generally because, having made a reasonable effort to understand the arguments, they no longer believe in an omnipotent deity, or because even if they do they find the church itself wanting. In either case, that is not a failure of parenting or the community but a failure of the church, so it is for the church and its servants to do better.



Saturday, 4 October 2014

Read up, wise up and join in

Next Sunday afternoon I will be at the Isle of Man Freethinkers AGM. This year I have a more than usual interest in proceedings (more on that after the event).
Sadly, though, it means that I will not get over my Britphobia long enough to experience this amazing conference (see https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era and the full conference agenda at http://www.secularconference.com/agenda/ ). Still, I can at least urge anyone in the UK who hasn't yet booked to get along to what is - without a shadow of a doubt - the most important meeting of secular minds in the British Isles this year; in fact, given the timeliness of the subject matter and quality of the speakers, possibly this decade.
Maryam Namazie, Houzan Mahmoud, Taslim Nasrin , Gita Saghal and numerous other speakers are people who shatter the myth that secularism is somehow a white or 'Western' project. I am proud to say I have corresponded and worked with a few of them in recent years, and if I have learnt anything about global secularism in the last decade it was directly due to them. While straight, white, male and old “celebrity atheists” are the ones inevitably appearing on TV or pushing flabby abstractions in opportunist pot-boilers passed off as “serious books”, these are the folk at the coalface, squaring up to the mad mullahs and getting chased out of their homelands (or, if born nearer here, their ethnic ghettos) by pitchfork-wielding mobs. As if that was not bad enough, once in supposedly more liberal places they are blacklisted (I know, joke in poor taste, but absolutely correct here) by the kind of pathetic, white and privileged guilt-trippers who make many ”progressive left” organisations a nonsense (check Gita Saghal's experience with Amnesty International as a typical example).
In between the UKIP-lite shite about non-whites being peddled by some “celebrity atheists” and the Stalinist groupies who think it is somehow cooler to hug self-hating to the point of suicidal, religious apologistic bombers than properly deal with the complexities of neo-colonialism, trying to do the right thing without resorting to magic and Imaginary Invisible Friends has never been a tougher gig – and more necessary.
As Maryam concludes: “It is not racist to defend equality or secularism. In fact, it is racist to deny people the same rights and freedoms because they are deemed “different”. Also, secularism is not a western concept but a universal one. It is a demand of people everywhere. Nor is it “progressive” to support Islamism vis-à-vis imperialism. Islamism is our far right. Any progressive person or group must oppose all forms of fascism including the religious right. And they must support and show solidarity with those who have survived and are resisting. This is a fight we need more people to join.”
So read up, wise up, and join in.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Of honours and bombers

An old habit from my full time journo days has just paid off again. Before recycling I routinely check through old local papers and magazines for stories and tip-offs I might have missed. Today I found another to make me laugh, and to offer much more insight into the honours system.
Now, this piece of sycophantic claptrap (see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/long-goodbye-for-governor-1-1740566 ) really should have been the last time the nastiest RAF flyboy since Bomber Harris got a mention in a Manx newspaper.
Sadly, not so. Because on 12th August we learnt in the Manx press that he was “surprised” to receive a knighthood.
Not half as surprised as me.
For the benefit of those who take no interest in war crimes against civilians, Macfadyen was the RAF chief of staff during the first Gulf War, i.e. the one that stopped when the survivors amongst Hussein's untrained conscripts from the foreign labour force left a wealthy neighbouring country we do loads of business with and his full time army emerged from their British built nuclear bunkers to gas the Kurds.
The latter, apparently, was none of our business. It was also none of our business that the much famed and filmed carpet bombing of Iraq hit almost no military targets but did kill around 350,000 civilians. By contrast, I would hazard a guess that some reconstruction contracts also fell the way of UK businesses via a long chain of offshore middle parties - in the UAE for example.
So another thing that does not surprise me is that, when Macfadyen's part in both this and the early Al -Yamamah arms deals became too awkward for the RAF and he was offered the governorship of the Isle of Man instead, he notoriously admitted to having to look the place up on a map. Frankly, given his poor map-reading skills I'm more surprised he found it.
By the way, if you know little about Al-Yamamah this (see http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=9008 ) may help put things in context.
By chance, years ago, I was putting on an event in a Manx venue when Mrs M showed up with some American ladies. With a little sly probing I was able to find that El Guv was deep in hospitality with old US war chums, so the memsahibs had been sent out to see quaint local sights while the boys got down to business.
And it was nasty business too. Because with a little more sly probing I found that old US warhorses were regular guests at Dunbombin and interestingly, like him, their retirement interests revolved rather a lot around arms companies consultancies.
This was a period in UK business history when the OECD and FATF were causing a clean-up of the offshore finance industry, and organisations like Campaign Against the Arms Trade were taking so much interest in a civil service unit attached to the UK Department of International Development that it had to close down. The unit, in a nutshell, had for years employed around 100 civil servants to advise and assist the UK arms trade in efficient use of offshore entities in order to avoid public scrutiny, not to mention hassle with end user certificates (which by international treaty are required to prevent arms sales by “respectable” countries to the uglier type of dictatorship, such as the ones Lockheed and BAE might find very profitable).
This use of the governor's quarters (politically a bit of a grey area because not strictly under control of either Tynwald or Whitehall) for quiet chats about arms deals via cosy third country offshoots of major arms companies was, I feel sure, continued by Mcfadyen's successor and may not have tailed off until we got a civilian governor (though again one with extensive business experience of Africa).
Also note that (1) at least one former employee at the shadowy DID outfit went on to work in the Isle of Man public sector and that (2) a scheme which on paper helps Manx finance sector “experts” to help small nations develop more honest international trading practices and stamp out corruption (and was sold as such to FATF to help us clean up our own reputation) is substantially a creation of the Said Business School in Oxford and was originally based at the Isle of Man Business School.
That's the Said Business School started with a £23 Million donation from Saudi-Syrian businessman Wafic Said at around the time Blair & Co were shutting down a government enquiry into Al-Yamamah and the Isle of Man Business School which went belly-up because....... well, many wonder if the faculty and management knew much about basic business or accounting practices.
My wife sometime wonders why I laugh so much when I read Manx newspapers.

The real public health menaces

I had the, um …... interesting(?) experience of meeting some people who either already are or shortly will be indirectly employed to tackle the island's so-called substance abuse problems last week.
Inevitably, I was not impressed, and rather than yet again hear fact-free drivel that's been printed uncut in the local media for years fell to musing what might be done to tackle one of the island's real social problems.
You know, some days I really worry about the Manx addiction to inventing social panics, linked to the ease with which intellectually challenged middle class deadwood can feed off a social network close to government which will find things for them to do. Frankly, I'd rather they stayed home and did something less socially damaging ..... drink a bottle of supermarket own brand sherry daily, read what Sunday supplement critics pass off as literature, weave baskets, make pots....anything really but engage with the real world and drag others down to their level.
Now this (see http://www.clivebates.com/?p=2391 ) is the kind of thing they should be reading, and to stay well ahead of their publically subsidised games you should too. Take a quick look and have most of your misconceptions about “public health” blown away ...... just like that.
And as Chris Snowden commented (see http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-conceit-of-public-health.html for more):
“Clive is too polite to mention one of the other reasons why 'public health' people are "surprised to find there are people who get up and do something, and do it for nothing", which is that they would never consider doing anything without being paid for it, preferably by the government. A grass roots, volunteer-run 'public health' group is an oxymoron.”
Over here, it is even worse. I suspect most morons would be offended to be associated with the kind of woo-woo merchants and research-free tactics all too common in Manx health scams.
And for another succint analysis of the way this stuff works, you really have to see http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2014/09/soda-sock-puppets.html
Local Government running an astroturf campaign to promote their own no-brainers and money-drainers to taxpayers? You just could not make this stuff up! Thank goodness that kind of stuff never happens on the Isle of Man...
..oh hang on a minute......

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Slaveheart

“Management” found a new game at her workplace on Friday – taunting exiled Scots who, if they had a chance, would have voted No anyway.
As she so aptly put it, “I hear Mel Gibson's making a modern sequel to Braveheart . It's going to be called Slaveheart.”
Ouch! But couldn't you just predict that, once finally given a chance, all those Presbyterian dullards would opt for an English Nanny over free choice and responsibility?
A fear of freedom perhaps? I blame John Knox myself. Once you've internalised the doctrine of Predetermination, maybe you can never think and act for yourself.
If you do have enough self-respect to get involved in a major contemporary political issue, get down to the Manx Legion Club in Douglas tomorrow night (Monday 22nd) for this (see http://positiveactiongroup.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=518:pag-public-meeting-disability-and-equality&catid=34:pag-meet ).
Gareth and Paul are two of my favourite Manx human rights activists. Since coming here just a year or two ago, Gareth has galvanised the whole local debate over disability and moved it on decades. As in the UK until the 1990's, it used to be dominated locally by patronising faith-led “charities” who would do anything to help the disabled except get off their backs and stop using them as an excuse for lifetime subsidised employment. Gareth, by comparison, has a practical grounding in the Disability Rights Movement, the kind of militant crips who, if you lay in a bath of baked beans to buy them a wheelchair, would quite rightly smack you in the mouth instead of thanking you.
Paul has been slogging away for as long as I can remember on equality issues. He was key to the abolition of the vacuous Section 38 (the Isle of Man's equivalent of UK section 28, which prevented schoolteachers assuring kids that there is nothing abnormal about homosexuality or gay relationships) and to various moves to abolish institutionalised Manx homophobia in the 21st century. More quietly, he was the sole advocate prepared to help two Muslim guys refused bail because they could and would not attend daily prayer meetings at the island's bail hostel, run by a Christian charity. The case was also important because the Manx government's answer to the first local request for asylum was going to be to quietly ship them back to the UK and pretend the applicants had never been here, thus ensuring a legal judgement would not be made and a legal precedent could not be set.
But while Paul and Gareth will raise valuable issues, this Equality Bill is a much bigger deal and we all need to be thinking about how it might affect us.
For example, luckily I was married in a civilised country, and if my daughter ever gets round to being married or entering a civil partnership I will want the same for her. As long as a superstitious cross-dresser, calling on his imaginary invisible friend as witness, is deemed to be a fit person to pronounce her legally married but a responsible and rational adult is not that ceremony is unlikely to take place on the Isle of Man. I will advise her to go to Scotland or the Irish Republic instead.
Similarly, we all have to pop our clogs sometime, and I would rather my friends do not suffer the indignity of seeing me off in a room dominated by the amanita muscarita-inspired ramblings of ancient Middle Eastern goat herders, thank you very much. Some will say that as I will be dead at the time it does not matter, but, honestly..... Yuk! I would not EVEN be seen dead in a drab dump where the furnishings are that tacky, P-U-L-L-E-E-A-S-E!!!!
Maybe we should all get serious...or maybe not. When even some of my loved ones' jokes bear more serious analysis than what passes for the serious contemplations of the average Manx politician it may only be necessary to be awake, laughing and active to make a difference.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Oh, OK then....

OK, in the last week alone several people have asked if I've given up on blogging. Of necessity, I did have to stop for a while to attend to other things, which took longer than I expected. But numerous times in the last month or two I started looking at a local topic, then prevaricated so long that posting would be irrelevant. Anyway, I gave my word I would be back online within the week and I've stalled long enough, so here goes......
Assisted Dying then, as it is back in the news (see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/health/looking-at-the-issue-of-assisted-suicide-1-6846326), though I wish people would pay enough attention to get the terms right. Ten years ago, as is public knowledge, I helped Patrick Kneen and, after his death, his widow to run the Manx Death With Dignity campaign. It started as a personal favour for friends who nobody else wanted to go out on a limb for. As I said to Patrick at the time, I was actually fed up with talk about older people dying well and wanted a bit more talk about younger folk living well. But oddly enough, despite the grim subject matter, it was mostly fun and a year or so of life lived as fully as it can be when you have the courage to - though in the process I also learnt just how devious, dishonest and plain nasty powerful local people with no interest in human rights or democracy can be if nobody smacks them down.
So, as something of a reluctant expert, I think it necessary to explain why the terminology matters, especially when exponents of emotional fascism use it to misdirect us (though all fascism works by excluding logic and provoking a pure emotional response).
First, discard anyone who still uses the term Euthanasia as they are either lying or too idle to keep up. The term euthanasia originates in the ancient Greek concept of mercy killing, which was inevitably involuntary in a society where “democracy” discounted 90% of potential voters and politicians as it did not consider them adult - or even human. Modern advocates of Assisted Dying first used it in the naïve belief that anyone joining the debate would be educated enough to know and intellectually honest enough to discuss it in those terms.
Dumb mistake, sadly, when arguing with pathological liars with an economic interest in perpetuating the dark ages, though in fairness not helped when the Nazis made euthanasia as oxymoronic a term in the 1940's as, say, military intelligence or social security in the early 21st century.
Involuntary Euthanasia happens quietly anyway. If that alarms you, fund the health service properly, abandon semi-privatised end-of -life care run by greedy faith-heads at public expense and change the focus of management from economic bead-counting to deciding (1) what the objectives are of optimum socialised medical care and (2) the reasonable expectations of those who use and pay for it, then deliver it. Simples.
Assisted Suicide is helping someone who would like to commit suicide but is physically incapable of doing so to overcome those physical barriers to kill themselves - for example by self-administering pills or an injection. It is not the same as the broader term Assisted Dying, which recognises that the potential suicide is not able to self-administer and so someone else will have to administer the medication. Too often we unconsciously assume this has to be a doctor, but this is a lazy assumption, and I suspect that many friends of physically incapable suicides who quietly help illegally may not be medical professionals but will be intelligent and well informed enough to know what they are doing. By the way, for a broader discussion of the unconscious but strictly speaking illogical privileging of state-determined medical 'professionalism” try Ivan Illich's excellent 1970's classic “Medical Nemesis”.
All clear? Can we move on?
I just wish the discussion as outlined in the press could. Inevitably, if you get an overdue discussion going then the politicians sideline it for a decade new people come to it without the benefit of prior knowledge. Fair enough, but there is no excuse for the current Bishop not to have studied the joint response to a Tynwald committee on a possible Bill drafted by a previous Archdeacon and approved by his predecessor and three other faith leaders (but without daring to consult their flocks).
All this talk of slippery slopes and failure to acknowledge that, in every objective survey, around 80% of the population of any country (across all ethnic and faith subcultures) want legal Assisted Dying makes it look as if he is disinterested. Manx DWD also did a strictly confidential survey of local doctors (somewhat hindered as the GMC list of Manx doctors was so old around a quarter had moved on or died) which showed cautious acceptance of the case for tightly controlled legalisation in very specific cases.
I also know from that survey alone that, in a community of around 80,000 people, it is perfectly possible to find one or two doctors prepared to help if subject to a strict medical and legal process. To put things in perspective, this would be about the same as the number of Manx NHS surgeons legally permitted and expected by their contracts to carry out an abortion in tightly defined circumstances but who, oddly, always seem to be “unavailable” when such circumstances arise. Incidentally, a bogus survey passed off as representative of local medical opinion was also presented to the Tynwald committee, but it bears no serious analysis. According to some who were “consulted”, it was done by a senior Hospice figure, face to face only and in a somewhat disorganised fashion, and they had the distinct impression that “wrong” answers would lead to a very short medical career on the island and bad references for work elsewhere.
Finally, while I have little time myself to get seriously involved in a new campaign, I wish it well. In particular I applaud one Manx politician who is willing to make an informed stab at long overdue change and stop playing to the idiocracy in order to get re-elected.