Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Facebook fascism

There’s been a sad little story on the local radio station Energy FM today that I feel I should mention, just to demonstrate that there is a world of difference between opposing religious privilege and critiquing what passes as ‘religious morality’ (which is what I set out to do) and outright racism posing as religious discussion (which is what pondlife, often claiming to be sincere religious believers, do).
It seems the island’s small Muslim community has outgrown their temporary mosque and is making moves to acquire something more fitting. They’ve gone through all the right channels and not sought public subsidies. Generally been neighbourly, self-sufficient and acted pretty much as a respectable community organisation should do. That in itself is a refreshing change for a Manx religious group in the 21st century.
This seems to have annoyed local knuckledraggers so much that, in order to oppose it, they formed a Facebook group of 300 people, or around 150 wits with a combined IQ of, say, 3, if you prefer. You can find the report at http://www.energyfm.net/news/bulletinstory4.htm.
‘But you’re always knocking Muslim fundamentalism’, I hear some say.
Yes, but not Muslims (or Christians or Jews…) themselves.
Frankly, I don’t care what any consenting adult gets up to in private as long as they don’t abuse the vulnerable or expect me to subsidise it. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between me and a ’person of faith’.
I could also misquote Muhammad Ali to explain why I won’t be joining this sad little band of locally born bigots, white flighters and other losers.
No Manx Muslim has ever denied me employment, access to education, medical help in a crisis, or found their premises were too fully booked to rent out to groups I’m involved in because I was of the wrong or no faith. That’s more than I can say of ‘respectable’ Manx churchgoers.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Under a frog's arse.. but still kicking

I’ve had a couple of minor setbacks this week. Nothing serious – just the usual petty stuff you get by upsetting Manx folk with the strange notion they’re competent, dedicated professionals.
So, I took a look at the latest on the ICAHK website (see sidebar) – best way I know to put your tiny troubles and attempts at speaking out against ruritanian twaddle into a world perspective.
There I found an open letter to Mahmoud Abbas from Nahid Abu T’eima, who is apparently Head of Production at the Bethlehem studio of something called the Ma’an Network; originally from Gaza she now lives and works in the West Bank with her children.
The Hungarians have an expression 'Under a frog's arse down a coal mine', as a way of signifying the world is so loaded against you things just couldn't get any worse. That's got to be close to where a Palestinian woman is any day of the week.
Amongst other things, Nahid says:

‘I am writing to you President Abbas because you are in charge, and you will be asked for an explanation as to why tens of women are being killed by their family members every year. You can stop these “honor” killings with a stroke of your pen and tell our families that there is no honor in killing. Our noble Prophet Muhammad was quoted as saying, “Every individual is responsible for his subjects,” so you too must take responsibility. No more soft law for killers.’

‘….Palestinians write about the steadfastness and courage of our women, they call them the guardian of Palestinian culture; it is nice talk. While writers write Palestinian courts have passed 70 laws related to the printing of currency; they have not passed a single one on family law or the personal status of women. Mr President, we are fed up with being fuel. We are fed up with people killing our women and boasting that they put an end to the shame of a family. We are fed up with no one questioning the hollowness of these boasts. We are fed up with explanations of honor.’

’….I - we - are infidels, non believers, in our own feeble society. We are fed up with having a Women’s Affairs Ministry which does not demand each time a woman is killed by her kin a halt to the pagan slaughter of females. We are fed up with our weakness and defeat by a heritage that legalizes our killing.’

Spike Milligan, during one depressive mood, memorably complained the BBC were treating him ‘like an outcast in a leper colony’. Compared to the alienation of any half-bright Palestinian woman (and mixing my comedic references to pull in the Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch here), he had it easy.
I’m not sure how any of us would cope with being dismissed as unimportant by not just militaristic neighbours with US backing who can bulldoze your home at will but even the official ‘opposition’ in your home country – unless, of course, you’re willing to either strap on a bomb belt or breed kids who will.
Some people, it seems, do. Not only that, they have the courage to buttonhole one of the sods responsible in public and say, in effect, ‘Oy, muppet, stop fannying about and get this sorted!’
Read the whole thing at http://www.stophonourkillings.com/?name=News&file=article&sid=3544 and get inspired.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Quack Christian 'therapy' causing Ugandan bloodbath

I’ve blogged a couple of times on the effects of Bush’s brand of ‘overseas aid’ to Uganda, and on the way a fine African example of the fight against HIV/AIDS has been reduced to a disaster zone run by Christian bigots – some homegrown, but many just Western parasites following the cash.
The most recent disgrace was a conference led by bogus ‘therapists’ and Holocaust revisionists, not unlike the one organised in London today and tomorrow by Anglican Mainstream and similar lunatics who push the ‘gays can be cured’ lie. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8015711.stm for more.
We really do need to stop this nonsense in its tracks, and distance ourselves from any efforts to export it, be it under the guise of ‘therapy’, ‘medical aid’ or whatever other thin excuse. To see why, read about the way the ‘Exodus International’ event in Uganda has been followed by vigilante campaigns against gays led by major politicians, clergy and mainstream media at http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/04/19/10764.
I’ve said it before, and I am going to say it again and again. Don’t just drop your money in the tin, check out the charity – properly. Ask more questions -lots of them. And if you cannot get straight answers, do not risk giving money which could set off a bloodbath instead of improving a life.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Right Virus - immunity is possible

I doubt I’m the only parent irritated by teachers infected by what William Burroughs termed ‘the right virus’. I have to believe susceptability to this virus is a freak of nature, as no-one gets this dumb even by Manx education and if it was just pure malice I’d have to seriously worry about it.
It doesn’t matter how many times you politely explain to them that you don’t want your child involved in religious activity and would prefer she decides for herself when she is older.
They first say, even in one of the island’s larger primary schools, that it isn’t ‘convenient’ for her to sit out sessions led by dangerous and deluded freaks with open access to local schools.
Then they promise not to preach, and to allow her to sit quietly, not to join in prayers and so on, only to try and brainwash her anyway if we’re not physically there to check on the basis that, being religious, they know better.
I really wonder how such self-delusion sticks, especially as even at six my daughter was sometimes correcting their sloppy spelling in class.
Thankfully, she's demonstrating that even guided by a ‘Religious Education Advisory Committee’ formed only of apologists from the four largest churchs and chaired by one chosen by a religious leader in another country (not Iran, but it might as well be), they’re wasting their time.
This week she cracked me up again by asking if it was wrong to just sleep until a teacher finishes praying in assembly. As she so logically argued, all the little godbotherers around her are sleeping so why does she have to be the only one awake?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

No cover ups, no new privileges

I am puzzled by a report in the Times today that Jewish and Muslim families will be allowed to prevent autopsies being carried out on dead relatives (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6140789.ece ).
Surely the whole point of an autopsy is to answer questions about a mysterious death. Frankly, my dears, it doesn’t matter which sky fairy you believe in and what your particular book of mumbo jumbo has to say about the matter. If your relative dies inexplicably there are questions to be answered.
It doesn’t matter if you, personally, are content in your flat earth belief that it was preordained. What if Dad/Mum/Brother/Sister/Baby died of something that could be spreading to others and that hasn’t been identified yet? The health authorities have a public duty to make sure, and your only public duty is not to get in the way.
And there are other considerations too. This blog reports on and has links to campaigns to prevent honour killings and similar violence against women around the globe. The grim fact is, these things do and will increasingly happen in the British Isles too. However many decent religious families there are, there are still fundamentalists with such a low opinion of their own womenfolk that they will kill them for ‘giving offence’ to medieval cretinism. If or when they do, they must not be able to hide behind ‘faith’ or ‘tradition’ to stop the crime being revealed.
There is a simple rule of thumb to follow here. Either the next of kin of all who die mysteriously have the right to prevent an autopsy, or no family does. The bizarre ability of some families to believe any given number of impossible things before breakfast simply should not be a factor or a ‘special case’.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Question Time at Camberwick Green.

I spent the earlier part of last night, along with the family, at the Manx Radio Any Questions session at Ramsey Town Hall. We thought we could combine free family entertainment and simultaneously demonstrate an interest in community politics.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I’ve seen enough ‘meet the politician’ type events to enjoy the sheer inanity providing I can escape at the first hint of a teabreak, while I suspect my wife just wanted to know how long it would be before her boss, a cheery Boris Johnson clone and the token ‘business panellist’, would be reduced to a gibbering wreck. My daughter – well she’s happy to accompany her mum to any new experience, and you’re never too young to learn that local democracy in action usually isn’t any of the three things implied in the phrase.
So it was that we slipped in at the back behind a selection of the retired, retarded or otherwise unemployable loons who always attend such things, presumably because they haven’t mastered the On/Off switch on the TV yet and have no other friends or entertainment. Britain’s Got Talent was on at the time, so watching a roomful of clueless losers who can’t spell ‘ironic’ was similar to our usual Saturday night in, except it was live. Well, sort of.
How to describe our experience….
Imagine a radio version of Question Time at Camberwick Green, with the Education Minister as Mrs Honeyman and the leader of Liberal Vannin as Captain Snort, and you’d be close. I still don’t know what any of the actual questions were, as the careful arrangement Manx Radio had made for a wide-ranging selection to be read from cards got shouted down within seconds by a rabble whose only interest seemed to be (a) why the pier hadn’t been restored, (b) why Ramsey isn’t a lively metropolis and the hub of island life and (c) why the cafĂ© in the new civic swimming pool isn’t as good as the old one.
The answers, though no-one dares to say, are (a) because only the senile want the pier restored (b) because almost anyone with a job works in Douglas and (c) because swimming pools are for swimming in, so any additional social function as an impromptu day care centre where the confused can sip tea and moan is a free bonus, now stop complaining.
It was interesting watching the panellists try to avoid this, and particular brownie points go to the token business panellist for, effectively, managing to intimate that before pier restoration takes place there first needs to be a town with modern facilities built close by for people to take their aged relatives around after 30 seconds reminiscing about the ‘good old days’.
We also enjoyed watching the ‘small business lobby’ complaining about local shops not being supported. As mentioned before, one reason for this is that hardly any Ramsey resident works there. So the town’s daytime visitors are the elderly, the disabled and mums with small kids -none of whom can get down the narrow, broken pavement in the main street because shopkeepers park their 4x4s with two wheels on the pavement.
Of course another reason for empty shops is that there’s only so much of a market for novelty mugs and scatter cushions bearing twenty year old jokes. If shopkeepers offered something their potential clientele need – say incontinence pads – then they might get some custom.
According to the Manx Radio website report which drew our attention to this hilarious night out: ‘Highlights from what is expected to be a lively evening will be broadcast on Manx Radio next month’.
Well, that’s another hour I’ve freed up for you then.

Another young woman to be executed in Iran - tomorrow

Amnesty International are mounting a last minute attempt to prevent the execution of Delara Darabi, who faces the death sentence in Iran for a crime committed when she was 17, therefore not an adult, and of which she may even be innocent. According to Delara the murder of her father's female cousin was committed by a 19 year old boyfriend.
Delara Darabi initially confessed to the murder, but soon retracted her confession. She claims that Amir Hossein asked her to admit responsibility for the murder to protect him from execution, believing that as she was under the age of 18, she could not be sentenced to death. Hossein has reportedly received a prison sentence of 10 years for his own involvement in the crime.
The death sentence was originally passed by a lower court in Rasht, a Northern Iranian city, and has been upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. Delara maintains her innocence, and has claimed that she was under the influence of sedatives during the burglary.
You can find a good sumary of the case at http://en.wikipedia.org:80/wiki/Delara_Darabi.
Delara Darabi's name was the first on the Stop Child Executions petition, and her case has also been taken up vigorously by Amnesty International. A similar petition made for another Iranian minor, Nazanin Fatehi, raised more than 350,000 signatures and worldwide attention. Fatehi was subsequently found innocent and freed from prison in January 31, 2007.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran officially undertook not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18. This hasn’t stopped the executions of at least 18 children that the outside world can verify.
In 2005 alone, despite being urged in January by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to suspend the practice immediately, at least eight child offenders were executed, including two who were still under 18 at the time of their execution.
For anyone who happens to be in London tomorrow (20th April) , a demonstration will take place between 9 AM and 11 PM outside the Iranian Embassy, 16 Princes Gate, SW7 1PT. While most can’t join that, we can at least do our bit by signing the Amnesty appeals at http://www.amnesty.org.uk:80/actions_details.asp?ActionID=9 .

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Plonkers on parades

Courtesy of the ever excellent Ophelia Benson’s Butterflies and Wheels site (see sidebar) I was guided to a P.Z. Myers demolition of the newest witterings by Madeline Bunting and Julian Baggini.
If you haven’t been following the debates on the Guardian ‘Comment Is Free’ section, this sad pair of hacks are being wheeled out to try and convince liberals that the New Atheism (whatever that means) is just the teensy weensiest bit too strident, and Bunting in particular, rants on a lot about ‘foghorn voices’. Pot, kettle, black in her case from a frequent apologist for the worst kind of faith-based bigotry.
P.Z’s satirical piece has Bunkum and Bagpuss tutting away like two old biddies as an Atheist Pride parade goes past. Tittering at their ‘sorrowful cluckings’, he goes on to say ‘the image that keeps coming to mind is of two old prunes reassuring each other that their wizened ways are the only path to reason, all the while they sit alone, ignored. It would be amusing if it weren't also a bit sad and pathetic.’
See http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/04/mr_b_and_miz_b_savor_their_suc.php
for more.
And as befits one of the best atheist blogs in the world, even the comments section on P.Z.'s site, Pharyngula, is a source of wonder and inspiration.
I was particularly encouraged by Pareidolius, who said:

‘I love my varied group of friends and day to day life, but I also know that my sense of self-approval grew out of a youth spent in the heart of the Gay community in San Francisco. It was a revelation to find a loud, proud, accepting community that helped wipe away the years of being called a faggot and a geek in highschool. Being different was okay, hell, it was encouraged. There was love and acceptance and yes, it was noisy and obnoxious and certainly turned off the fundies and some of the old "lets just live quietly and get along" types (gay uncle Toms).
When I sometimes feel like Hitchens or Dawkins are too hard and polemic, I remember my coming-out years, and that as god-free folk, we are still awash in the hatred of magical-thinking. Awful violence is committed daily in the name of gawd. Women still get clitorectomies in the name of Allah and some kids in rural towns are in danger of being bashed by their own parents should they come out as queer. In our own way atheists are queer. Queer in every sense of the word as we are perceived by "good", polite, religious society. Maybe a few float laden parades wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.’

I have also had a busy, varied and eventful past in urban, activist communities elsewhere, and am now trying to get by in a quieter place. Sadly, the Isle of Man is still a racist, superstition-riddled backwater everywhere outside our finance sector, and that’s the worst paradox. Our public sector, our small business community, the euphemistically named ‘third sector’ which throttles all attempts at true community in favour of a Stepford alternative fit only for braindead rednecks – all dull little pools of incest and bigotry closed to gays, foreigners and other ‘subversives’.
Only in the finance sector can you, for example, be assured of BUPA coverage or retirement benefits for a gay or common law partner, or know that you will be employed or promoted based on your ability, hard work and determination, not your nationality, family links with toytown Rotarians or membership of a cretinous evangelical cult.
Even funnier, some local finance sector critics conveniently forget that the main inspiration and backing for their self-important ‘community ventures’ is right wing religious organisations who used offshore structures to contribute to the Bush, and now even Obama, campaign funds via a network of trusts set up specifically to (1) evade US regulations limiting political funding and lobbying and (2) close down professional US public services in favour of amateurish ‘faith based’ charities ultimately controlled by evangelical ‘megachurches’. If they took time out from vacuous sermonising and begging for a chance to throw away public money they might have noticed a Manx court case involving the IRS less than two years ago – the international financial community certainly did.
…and they wonder why nobody who works for a living takes them too seriously!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Manx Legislative Council - failures as humans and unfit for office

I openly resent a religious leader, chosen by the church management of another country with his appointment rubber stamped by the prime minister of that country, being imposed, unelected, on our upper house of government with no popular mandate.
I do at least expect him to live up to the excuse offered by his supporters and be a force for truth and common decency in Tynwald. From a report in this week’s Isle of Man Examiner it seems he cannot even manage that.
I’ve blogged before on the Gender Recognition Bill currently going through Tynwald, particularly on the insidious way the churches are using particularly superstitious or bigoted politicians to get opt-outs. Churches are looking for a way to prevent transgendered people getting married in church, which they cannot do unless they ‘reasonably believe’ they are dealing with such a person.
In fact, a priest cannot ‘reasonably believe’ that someone has changed gender unless someone else provides him, illegally, with the information from the confidential register.
Sadly, rather than humanitarian, the bishop’s only interest is in ensuring that, should anyone do so, both parties would be immune from the statutory prosecution and £5,000 fine which any other publicly funded bigot would face. He got that assurance too from his fellow members of Legislative Council in return for dropping it as a formal amendment.
Doesn’t this perfectly demonstrate that he and his fellow unelected friends are, in being prepared to turn a blind eye to crime against the most vulnerable committed by public servants, total failures as human beings and unfit for public office?
And let’s just think about the basis for their bigotry for a second. We are talking about folk with such an appetite for fantasy that they believe a virgin gave birth and people can rise after death. Some believe the world is only 6,000 years old and fossils were put there by their fictitious friend to test their faith. One crowd think that when some ex-public schoolie in fancy dress snaps his fingers a biscuit and a glass of cheap plonk magically become the body and blood of an omnipotent being we’re all supposed to bow down before……yet when someone born into the wrong gendered body, having had help from the best medicine and psychiatric counselling around, is finally matched up in the right one that’s a problem, especially if he or she wants to get married?
Yeah, right!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Car driving considered as libertarian good practice

My brand of freethinking is more concerned with what to do once you’re free of instinctive puritanism and subconscious yearnings for Big Daddy so peculiar to religion than with getting state-subsidised religionists off your back. So, I do like to keep an eye on ‘freethinkers’ in the wider sense, which in turn means I regularly check out libertarians and other individualists too.
The US libertarian community is wide-ranging enough to encompass anyone from Milton Friedman to members of the Grateful Dead, from the organisers of ‘Burning Man’ to the Cato Institute. Sadly, I find that the UK variant means to be as free ranging, but scratch the surface and way too often a ‘Little Englander’ emerges – especially when Europe or immigration gets mentioned.
Still, I spotted this provocative little item on a libertarian blog a few days ago (see http://northwestlibertarians.blogspot.com/2009/03/shared-space.html) and meant to pass it on.
I once used a similar example in more modest form (and more unusual format) on a Manx Radio ‘Thought For The Day’, believe it or not! As I drive to work daily, I’m fascinated that there’s never a traffic jam at a busy and complicated roundabout until a police officer starts to direct traffic, because left to their own devices 99% of drivers have the sense and decency to work things out fairly. Similarly, at one of those temporary traffic lights that accompanies road works, how long before someone gets irritated at a pre-timed red light and drives on when you can see the opposing traffic light 50 metres up the road has nothing coming? I could also mention supermarket car parks with one way signs to each row, so you have to drive up and down three rows to get to the second space to the top on a row where the arrow points the wrong way. Why do so few people just drive straight in when there’s not even one moving car in the entire car park?
The blog mentioned above also reminds me of an item I saw on a newspaper website a few years back, where an English town council were adopting ever bigger and more threatening road signs to stop people committing suicide by driving through or clambering over crash barriers to jump into the river. A Dutch blogger laughed at this, saying that in Amsterdam they had the odd problem with suicide by similar means. They chose to deal with it by a polite little sign on the barrier saying, in effect, that it was your choice and right to commit suicide, but if you failed you would be billed for the damage to the barrier and inconvenience to the emergency services.
Some countries and communities really do have a more enlightened attitude to individual freedom and personal responsibility. Some of us in others, I suspect, will just have to ignore or laugh at the nagging a while longer. All poorly wired machines short circuit eventually.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Watch out, freaks about

While in the Co-op yesterday I passed the local bishop in the bread aisle.
I suppose the very presence of a bishop in a supermarket is itself evidence of a humbler new approach by the current Anglican area manager. His careerist predecessor ignored and was unknown to the entire population until he could sneak back off to London, and his predecessor was so old school he was never seen in public unless in full regalia, and I suspect he didn’t even know what a supermarket was as his wife dealt with ‘domestic matters’.
I may mock, but I seriously pity the task of any well-meaning Manx cleric as they just cannot win. It isn’t the disinterest of us rationalists which defeats them: it is the rapid ageing and dimming of the local Christian community.
Just before heading to the Co-op I’d quite by chance seen a passage in a P.G. Wodehouse short story which nicely sums up their predicament.
Wodehouse, always a shrewd judge of clergy, says of one of his regular characters:

“The task of composing a sermon which should practically make sense and yet not be above the heads of his rustic flock was always one that caused Augustine Mulliner to concentrate tensely. Soon he was lost in his labour and oblivious to everything but the problem of how to find a word of one syllable that meant Supralasarianism.”

(Gala Night in Mulliner Nights)

On re-reading the prominently featured ‘Easter sermon’ in this week’s local free paper to see if there was an ounce of sense in it (there wasn't, see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/Bishop39s-Easter-message-condemns-39digital.5152937.jp) I thought of that.
And today things descend into pure farce as the poor man goes paddling at Peel along with the freaks who put both the fundament and the mental into fundamentalism. See http://www.manxradio.com/newsread.aspx?id=34732 for more while it’s still up there.
It’s all very sad. Twenty years ago I worked on the little Peel paper and loved the town’s uniqueness. When I moved back here I wanted to live there, but now I thank my wife for talking me out of it.
The rot set in when Manx Heritage’s plastic 'history theme park', the House of Mananan, went up and the entire road system was ‘rationalised’ so that tourists could drive in to H of M, then out again to shop with Jesus at Stepford Central a few miles away without meeting a Peel resident. Businesses shut, property prices fell and the power balance shifted.
In my day community power may have been in the hands of Methodists and Anglicans, but they had a small town decency about them.
Just as a small example, there was one camp as a row of tents little guy who did all the flower-arrangements for big church events. He and his partner lived openly together in a town of under 5,000 before the Manx legalisation of male homosexuality and …nobody at church mentioned it. They were grateful for what he did to brighten up the church, and what he did elsewhere just wasn’t their business.
Then, so many businesses shut even the charity shops had to amalgamate. The nastier, US backed fundies moved in, buying seafront properties, opening ‘community facilities’ which have charitable status, pay no tax and force the closure of real youth and community projects.
In my second short spell on the town paper I was sent to interview raving lunatics who claimed to be curing AIDS and leprosy on their ‘foreign missions’, other nutters who home schooled their kids to keep them safe from ‘communists’…… It was so unbelievable and unprintable even my editor (himself an Anglican lay reader of conservative mind) turned white in horror.
These are the folks now running the town, and with so much political clout they can put on their Bampots on the Beach shenanigans and effectively close a seaside town to the general public on what should be a major public holiday.
Just go elsewhere. Even on the Isle of Man there’s no need to spend your hard-earned holidays at a fundamentalist freakshow.
13th April addendum
I just couldn't resist pointing out http://www.manxradio.com/newsread.aspx?id=34737 . You can tell the newsroom is still on holiday as the religious broadcasting gang who fill in on Sundays have slipped in the days old 'fantasy finance' sermon to try and fluff things up. Hilarious stuff -though as I've never met an evangelical who could count past ten you can't take the crowd figures too seriously.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Health care, or just preying on the sick?

April 9 was the final day in the USA for public comment on a proposal to rescind an ugly faith-biased health regulation, the "provider conscience rule", which slipped in right at the end of the Bush era.
It’s a nasty little get-out clause for superstitious bigots which permits health workers at hundreds of thousands of federally funded clinics to refuse to provide health information and services related to abortion and other procedures they find objectionable. For example, an emergency room doctor at a federally funded hospital could claim the right to refuse rape victims information about emergency contraception, if doing so would offend the doctor's beliefs.
Crucially, there is no provision for considering and addressing the impact of such refusals on patients, and it doesn’t require the clinics to ensure that women receive essential health information and care despite the bigots in question.
There is also no provision for exceptions to the rule or other alternatives in the case of a need for lifesaving procedures or other emergencies, and the regulation does not require a referral to another employee who does not object and can carry out the procedure.
You can find out more courtesy of Human Rights Watch at http://www.hrw.org:80/en/news/2009/04/08/us-rescind-regulation-jeopardizing-women-s-health.
While in theory things are more flexible in the UK, in practice it’s something you still need to watch for –especially here in the Isle of Man.
I’ve already blogged on religious prejudice blocking Manx access to pregnancy termination (see From Third World to Romania, with ignorance), and in addition I strongly advise anyone rational and terminally ill to avoid the local Hospice. From experiences relayed by various friends the chances of anyone dying there in a way which doesn’t suit certain faith-biased bigots are non-existent.
Frankly I expect nothing anyway from a place which juggles Manx charitable and ‘independent’ health status in order to avoid the common decencies you’d expect at a pukka public health facility. But sadly this twaddle is spreading to the Manx NHS too.
In theory, while living wills have no firm legal status here because there is no Manx equivalent to the UK’s law on mental competency, living wills are recognised as ‘best practice’ and NHS staff expected to respect them. Yet only three months ago I am reliably informed a woman who made such an advance directive well before showing the first signs of dementia had her wishes blatently ignored by un-named NHS staff, who must have included at least one consultant. Her directive was supported by her immediate relatives, yet someone determined to ‘save her life’ by inflicting an invasive procedure on her phoned through a long list of relatives until finding one prepared to agree with ‘the expert’, not the woman and those she chose to take difficult decisions in the case of her inability to do so.
It is a troubling case, and I’m assured all decent senior Nobles staff were disgusted. Sadly, under current circumstances, the chances of ordinary Manx people being safe against medical decisions based on religious bigotry being quietly implemented by a few NHS staff are slim. Yet one more area locally where church claims to ‘moral authority’ or even 'humanity' have to be unmasked as nonsense and abolished if we are ever to get decent public services delivered.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A case for legalisation

(a) you’re as bored as I am by pointless self-congratulatory pieces in the local press written by Dept of Home Affairs staff about the ‘success’ of the Drug Squad and the Chief Minister’s Drug & Alcohol Strategy and
(b) you’re as irritated as I am at the way Manx government agencies play to redneck ignorance or ask dimwit faith groups for ‘advice’ instead of researching and discussing drug issues properly…..
you might want to look at some proper research on the topic.
Transform Drug Policy Foundation (you can find them on the sidebar) have just commissioned and conducted the first proper report into the likely results of legalising most of the stuff currently banned by the Misuse of Drugs Act. It was published yesterday.
TDPF considered four possible scenarios, ranging from no increase to 100% increase in use of currently illegal drugs under conditions which would see them legalised, taxed but well controlled, rather than continuing to waste police and other resources just tracking down and arresting users and sellers.
Working mainly from Home Office and No. 10 Strategy Unit reports, Steve Rolles , Head of Research at TDPF, came to some suprising conclusions. In effect, a regulated drugs market could save between £4.4 billion and £13.9 billion in England and Wales.
He also finds that the UK government have done their own quiet research and, contrary to the public stance, their experts agree legalisation makes sense.
For example, Rolles uncovered an Independent Drug Monitoring Unit survey which considered how to raise taxes amounting to £1 per gram on cannabis resin and £2 per gram on skunk. He also discovered that the UK government has carried out at least two major surveys into such a scenario, but neither are available despite Freedom of Information Act requests.
The report ends:
“The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to drugs-regualted markets in England and Wales would provide a net saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system and drug users of somewhere between within the range of, for the four scenarios, £13.9 billion, £10.8 billion, £7.7 billion and £4.4billion.”
You can read the report for yourself at http://www.tdpf.org.uk/TransformCBApaper.pdf or a summary of some main arguments by Danny Kushlick of TDPF at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/07/transform-drugs-prohibition .
And the funny thing is, rather than the increasingly conformist liberal press, it is the business press that backs such moves.
Who would have thought it? Touchy-feely hippie types gang up with evangelical ignoramuses to condemn hedonism or tout their dubious therapies, while pinstriped bods think it would make better economic and social sense if you could just buy skunk at Boots.
I kid you not. Even The Economist concluded last month:
“Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution”.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Remember Du'a Khalil Aswad

Two years ago today Du'a Khalil Aswad , a girl of 17 from the minority Kurdish Yezidi religious group, was stoned to death by a group of eight or nine men in the presence of a large crowd in the town of Bashika, near the city of Mosul, northern Iraq.
Du'a Khalil Aswad's murder is said to have been committed by relatives and other Yezidi men because of her relationship with a Sunni Muslim boy and her absence from her home for one night. Her death by stoning took some 30 minutes and was recorded on video film, which was then widely distributed on the internet. The film shows members of local security forces present but failing to intervene or arrest those responsible.
In remembrance of Du’a, the International Coalition Against Honour Killings is making 7th April each year a day of action.
This year they have asked the public to contact the the Kurdistan Regional Government asking what progress there has been in finding and prosecuting Du’a’s killers, and what they intend to do to reduce the rate of ’honour’ killings in Kurdistan. There have been at least 300 other victims since Du’a’s death.
In the UK you can do this by e-mail to uk@krg.org or by letter to

KRG Representation in the United Kingdom
Winchester House,
8th Floor 259-269 Old Marylebone Road

But Kurdistan is not the only culprit. For example when NATO forces hand regional power to traditionalists as a means of sidelining the Taliban the first effect is increased violence against women, often justified by religious courts. And Channel 4’s recent Unseen World programme on Turkey revealed around 200 ‘honour killings’ in the last year - this in what is effectively an EU country!
Amongst recent victims in other countries there have also been at least two British citizens, but the UK government did nothing. Perhaps the victims were neither white, rich nor photogenic enough, or perhaps our politicians just think a tankful of petrol means more to us than a human life.
Then again, the phenomena is coming closer than that too. An International Womens Day conference in London this year heard that a hotline for victims of honour crimes and forced marriages set up by Cleveland Police in November 2007 had taken over 300 calls, while even sleepy Cambridgeshire cops averaged 30 calls per month when they did the same.
I'm sick of the way that when a dog gets mistreated Manx folk react like it's a war crime, yet we've turned a blind eye to domestic violence and child neglect which can even lead to death for decades because it's a 'tradition'.
So where does it stop? In future years is burning your kid alive for wearing make-up or answering back going to be passed off as 'tradition'?
Actually, it's not so far off that now, and I'm not talking about new residents or minority religions either.
Just a few months ago there was a tragic case involving friends of my small daughter. Their mother was self-harming badly and in serious danger of topping either herself or her kids due to the mental cruelty of their fundamentalist throwback of a dad. Not wanting to inconvenience a 'well respected' churchgoer, Manx social services did the obvious - sectioned the mum and left the kids with Dad. As if he even noticed their existence due to his 'preaching commitments'.
The MHK Quintin Gill showed the way a couple of months back, introducing a Bill to end an anomaly which, bizarrely, meant female genital mutilation was not previously a crime on the Isle of Man.
If enough of us speak up we can stop all this faith-based lunacy, before it leads to a local tragedy even our courts and social workers cannot hide from the world.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

New arse, same old excrement

I’ve followed news about about the new Archbishop of Westminster with increasing hilarity.
I laugh because it proves that all rationalists need do now is sit back and watch Anglo-Catholicism chew itself to bits.
Forget recent attempts at positive spin by the church’s PR wing and look at the real signs.
The Daily Telegraph has long been Anglo-Catholicism’s real mouthpiece, and by that I mean not just those ‘officially’ within the church but fellow travellers secretly wanting to abandon Anglicanism but unable find a new paymaster for reactionary twaddle.
As I’ve mentioned before, the paper’s ‘official’ religious correspondent reported back on the views of insiders at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5067037/Bishop-of-Leeds-favourite-to-become-next-Archbishop-of-Westminster.htm. He went into more detail at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/4991585/Leading-candidate-to-be-next-Catholic-Archbishop-criticised-by-fellow-bishops.html, from which we learn that, not only do many other bishops despise the new guy, but the Vatican’ s own London ‘ambassador’ briefed Benny the Boy Nazi against this ‘career churchman’.
So unsuprising that when the new Westminster Weasel had to be announced to Telegruff readers the PR team bypassed their usual cheerleader and went for someone blander with http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/damian_thompson/blog/2009/04/04/ten_things_you_should_know_about_archbishop_vincent_nichols_englands_new_catholic_leader.
By the way, do we really care about any of those ‘ten things’ and isn’t the only relevant question something much simpler?
Murphy O’Connor's record on clerical child abuse was abysmal. So will his successor, when faced with evidence of priestly improprieties involving kids, co-operate with police enquiries? Or will he simply follow diktats put in place by Benny when he was just the ‘Defender of the Faith’, i.e. use the Vatican’s ‘diplomatic immunity’ and send the papers direct to Rome to be hidden away in a big safe long enough for victims not to be able to press charges?
Think we know the answer to that!
Then again, no-one in their right mind these days leaves vulnerable people in the same room as clergy, so why not just laugh from the sidelines as they screw each other’s lives up.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Watch out, professionals about

I was sorry to read on the Manx Government website that ‘Multi Agency Teams are being established throughout the Island as part of an approach to help improve the lives of children and young people’ and that ‘Representatives from social services, health, education, the police and voluntary sector are joining forces in order to achieve a number of common goals’. Don’t bother with tidied up press reports, read the original government propaganda at http://www.gov.im/lib/news/dha/ceo/multiagencyteams.xml.
Translated into plain English, that means that, in future, when someone acting on behalf of the Manx Government screws up a child’s life no individual or agency will be to blame.
That isn’t so different from past practice, when you think about it.
It just means that now the original balls-up will be even harder to trace back, because nobody ever took a decision or acted. Things just somehow….emerged from…..well, not even from a single meeting, which wouldn’t have been minuted anyway, and even if it had you couldn’t read the minutes because you’re just a lowly member of the public and not a ‘professional’ so you wouldn’t understand.
You’re just there to pay their wages. Who do you think you are asking questions, an aromatherapist?
But Manx people are used to public sector professionals who are not to blame when kids get hurt.
No-one was to blame when schoolkids were locked up in Victoria Road jail in the 1980's and 1990's.
No-one was to blame a decade ago when godbothering professionals ‘advised’ the families of victims of their kiddyfiddler mate not to go to court and give evidence. No-one was to blame when those who did were ‘advised’ to leave the island afterwards.
No-one was to blame when two kids were murdered in a government-run care home.
No-one was to blame when a ‘multi agency’ meeting including government departments such as Home Affairs and Social Services and various voluntary agencies decided to reduce a three page questionnaire from Shelter (meant to be used in all instances where such agents encountered the homeless in order to build up a Manx government database on homelessness) to a 10 question tick form.
Purely coincidentally of course, the form was weighted towards picking up off-island or ethnic minority homeless, and totally ignored all the factors usually associated with housing problems (racism, sexism, homophobia, slum landlords, unhelpful employers, government facilities not available at crisis times, thick and disinterested civil servants….). I was at that meeting, and say with absolute certainty that I have never, before or since, been in a room so full of vacuous racist knuckledraggers all posing as ‘social workers’, or been so astonished that apparently nobody (except me) was there from an interest in tackling homelessness yet all were claiming overtime from the public purse.
I've since learnt not to be astonished at this. After all, just a few weeks later I was at an even bigger event attended by even more public and 'third sector' parasites not interested in learning facts about or discussing policy on drug and alcohol consumption either.
In short, try to keep your kids safe from the professionals. You have more chance of being cured of AIDS by a pentecostal lunatic than getting justice if (or more likely when)they make another tragic ‘mistake’.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

From Genesis to Depravation

I let out a whoop of joy on hearing that a much loved figure from my distant youth, Robert Crumb, the veteran hippy underground cartoonist, is to release a comic version of the Book of Genesis (I know, the original is pretty funny anyway, but bear with me here).
His publisher, Jonathan Cape, says it will be a "scandalous satire" which "presents a complex, even subversive, narrative that calls for a significant re-examination of both the Bible's content and its role in our culture". See more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/31/robert-crumb-book-genesis .
For the benefit of younger readers, Crumb was one of the original underground comic cartoonists way back when. Impressively, he is one comic book artist who never worked in the mainstream. I guess chain-toking characters like Devil Girl, Fritz the Cat, and Mr. Natural were a tad too radical for DC Comics.
His characters even got a disdainful mention or two back in the 1971 Schoolkid Oz trial – a 'free speech or obscenity' case that predates even the Gay News trial caused by Mary Whitehouse.
Much later, Devil Girl was used to promote an unlikely chocolate bar, whose wrapper proudly warned:
"7 Evils in One! 1-Delicious Taste; 2-Quick, cheap buzz; 3-Bad for your health; 4-Leads to hard drugs; 5-Waste of money; 6-Made by sleazy businessmen; 7-Exploits women."
Crumb himself wrote the text which went underneath the display boxes, telling startled retailers:
"A word to wholesalers and retailers of the Devil Girl Choco-Bar. It may seem to you the depths of marketing ignorance to state in bold letters on the package 'IT'S BAD FOR YOU', but think about it... this is a brilliant strategy in consideration of kids today; a stupid, know-nothing generation of brain-dead morons who want nothing more than to be 'BAD'. We're certain this morally bankrupt horde of 'slackers' will eat up this low-grade product as fast as you can place it on your candy counter. The sharp, up-to-date business operator will not fail to perceive the beauty - and reap the profits - in the hook 'IT'S BAD FOR YOU!'"
Oh, go on, you gotta love the guy!
The book will be published simultaneously in the US and the UK on 19 October.
I can’t wait to see if this turns into another Danish cartoon saga, and to see how long it takes before some fuming Christofascist claims Crumb wouldn’t dare do that with the Koran.
Actually, he would, and if Genesis takes off he probably will!