Monday, 28 June 2010

Military Intelligence? A contradiction in terms

Here’s a little Monday quiz.
Who said the following………

"In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal...Qualities and core values are fine as an acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level."

Before I identify the pillock, also ask yourself if you would trust him to run a boy scout troop.
No? Thought not!
The speaker was General Sir Richard Dannatt, formerly Chief of General Staff for the UK Armed Forces. Seems he’s a bit of a godbotherer, as he proved last weekend while (thankfully) the only damage he was doing to humanity was boring the arse off local spookchasers at a prayer breakfast. He’s just the latest in a long line of losers, deadbeats and minor fraudsters to have received this less than prestigious insult. (see for more).
With a superstitious bampot like that running ‘our’ contribution to the cock-up in Afghanistan is it any wonder a few beardy wierdos armed with little more than knackered potato peelers can run rings round the world’s most expensive armies?
Lions led by donkeys doesn’t even begin to cover it – and, anyway, as my grandfather told me several times, the pack mules he worked with in World War One were far cannier than Army generals , so it would also be an insult to donkeys.
The good news is that at least he isn’t planning to move here, so won’t be joining other intellectually challenged ex-military buffoons running events like yesterday's that insult ex-servicemen.
But the really bad news is that one of Eton’s worst alumni is still rumoured to be finding a place for this chump in the Lords.
Yet another argument for abolishing the Second Chamber then.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Another Sunday, more pointless rituals to perpetuate lies

It seems that as fast as one generation is spared cretinous military rituals of state and the dubious delights of ‘serving one’s country’, the klingons who perpetuate such big fibs conscript younger victims.
Today around 100 Manx kids will march about pointlessly as part of a sham ‘war memorial’ (see for more).
Like the UK government, the Manx one likes to pretend this fatuous, publically-subsidised pray-in has a point. It doesn’t, unless you count distracting us from wondering how they managed to screw up public services in years when obscene amounts of money could have rolled in to build them.
I’d also have to ask such ‘vets’, quite bluntly, how crap was the rest of your life that you need to commemorate a wasted adolescence several times a year – on the rates? I’ve seen the Sex Pistols and seen off the National Front, but I don’t need to dress up in bondage trousers with a bunch of balding sad-acts and march down Kings Road every pigging summer.
In fact, the funniest thing is I’ve probably seen more war zones and intervened positively in more conflicts than a whole platoon of today’s marchers. I did it by the simple method of taking an interest in world and social affairs and building up a network of like-minded friends in other countries. This is almost the bi-polar opposite of the ‘advice’ given to me at school by the kind of xenophobic tossers who perpetuate this twaddle so that they can queen about in a beret.
On the other hand it is exactly the advice given to me by my grandfather, who was crippled in the First World War and only survived it because he was rescued by a German soldier. He threw away his war medals after that war faster than the UK government threw him on the scrap heap, never went to an Armistice Day parade, and never had a bad word for a foreigner of any description that I heard.
Like my wife’s grandfather, he would have probably been delighted that I married the grand-daughter of someone who not only served against him but was also conscripted in the Second World War, and by all the evidence in letters home from the Russian Front we recently discovered found the whole situation as pointless, sick and stupid as my own grandfather. The even sicker thing – he hated the Nazis even more than the Allies did, and had only been conscripted for certain death at an advanced age as revenge for being a pre-war Communist Party member.
I sincerely hope that all this pseudo-patriotic nonsense finally dies out before I get a sad letter from a head teacher informing me that my daughter is expected to perpetuate this lie. The thing is, unlike the professional liars and muddle-headed loons who do, I have far too much respect for war victims to let her.
To those who think we should still commemorate the war I have a simple suggestion. Let your chintzy soldier statues fall down and replace them, if you must, with a simple image of a dead baby impaled on a bayonet.
If you can’t handle that, you’re not serious about why we need to remember the horrors of war and ‘inform’ the young.
So stop wasting our time and public money.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

ICAHK shows us the way, even when in poor English

I haven’t been looking at the excellent International Campaign Against Honour Killings site as regularly as I should, so almost missed a revealing report there this week.
A Delhi court came down hard on the police for launching a massive hunt for the Police Commissioner’s dog yet failing dismally to protect local women – often from their own families.
The criticism came up as the court heard a case concerning a man sent to jail for eloping with a girl after her parents alleged she was raped. It seems police are often acting on such complaints, which tend to stem from families unhappy that a girl freely chooses her partner, yet are failing dismally to investigate honour killings carried out by families.
You can read more at . Try not to be put off by the sometimes clumsy English translations on this site, by the way, because that never lessens the importance or impact. In fact, it should probably put us to shame because folk are trying to report this stuff on their own communities, while we fail to even look in ours.
For example, as I quickly discovered a couple of years back when trying to contribute to the Manx government's pseudo-attempt to create a better homelessness database, the real extent of homophobia, racism or violence against women on the Isle of Man will never be known as long as those compiling the figures have an interest in protecting some of the worst offenders. That is, bigots in key places within certain government departments or the religious right organisations who otherwise employ them and control other agencies which might help - from homelessness to fostering to bail to prisoner rehabilitation and prisoner family support to the local women's refuge. All, in my experience, hiding the real nature and extent of the problem, and all with skeletons in the closet.

Woe, woe, woe, woe....Portaloo

The Deluded Herd were trying convene another Homage to Nuremburg this morning. This time they used their special privileges to ‘do a Glastonbury’ down at the godawful Bay Festival (see for more).
Under normal circumstances they wouldn’t need a tent. A festival Portaloo would have done the job nicely and had just the hot, sweaty atmosphere evangelicals seem to like.
But was there more to this than meets the eye?
Last year’s original Bay Festival set new local precedents for the over-pricing of tickets to see sad burn-outs, inconveniencing of locals and, in return, mass disinterest. It was no surprise that the organisers irritated Peel residents and local politicians so much that nobody wanted them back –ever – or that the commercial set-up behind it eventually went bankrupt.
How or why our national misgovernors ever fell for the whole charade all over again and lent an even bigger venue in the capital - Nobles Park - to the ‘new’ festival management we’ll never know. It certainly couldn’t have been a brown envelope job, as most island retailers are having nothing to do with a ‘business’ which probably still hasn’t paid last year’s bills, never mind wanting a credit line for this year.
The ticket prices are just as outrageous – with an average family needing to spend in the region of £100 to see the Sunday afternoon X Factor runners up meet Britain’s Got Talent runners up extravaganza which features the only artists anyone under 40 has heard of. So how handy that godbothers, presumably, could stroll in free on Sunday morning then ‘forget’ to go home again, and I’m sure nobody from the churches would have thought of that – them being such paragons of virtue and all.
Or it might be even simpler than that.
This year’s festival has been played up like nothing is wrong (see ), though that’s probably more to do with the advertising clout of the ‘sponsors’, but it’s noticeable that yesterday what should have been a crowd-filler (the Diversity show) eventually offered free entry to kids with every adult ticket in order to make the place look even half-full. And this ‘looking full’ is the key because (as the unsuccessful organiser of a previous festival once told me) the money is in the webcams, not punters on the ground.
Maybe the simple truth is that even the Sunday afternoon show isn’t shifting units, so the organisers are happy to have a few hundred godbotherers waving their hands about and looking blissed on camera – kind of like crowd extras in a Hollywood blockbuster who you don’t even have to pay, and who don’t even need to act because they’re naturally enthusiastic about total rubbish anyway.
Yup, reckon that’ll be it. Though that won’t be the way either godbotherers, tourist department or festival organisers will spin it in coming weeks.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Hit or Amish?

Question: What goes clip-clop, clip-clop, BANG, clippetty-clop, clippetty-clop?
Answer: A drive-by Amish shooting.
Well, I liked it!

Stand up for an Egyptian free speech blogger

There’s a petition to help Karim Amer at .
For those who haven’t followed the case, Karim, a young Egyptian blogger, was charged with publishing material ‘critical of Islam’ and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarek. He was imprisoned for four years, and claims that, while imprisoned, he has been beaten at least twice under the supervision of a prison officer.
As the folk behind the petition point out, one of the luxuries of the internet is that it's a forum of expression available to anyone with some cheapish, basic technology to hand. And in this forum, anyone should be able to contribute to a discussion and speak their mind. Karim just exercised what is universally agreed is a right to peaceful freedom of expression - a right all decent governments have committed themselves by various international agreements to upholding.
If the advantages of the internet are to be used to their fullest, we need to speak up for folk like Karim, and stop powerful interest groups from extending their ‘right’ to be beyond jokes, honest criticism and other means by which ordinary folk can cut such loons down to size.

Abuse, misuse and statistics

I’ve just been watching a sad example of the current state of British academia.
More precisely, I’ve been watching what happens when the subsidy from one major industry pays for not only the ‘right’ research results, but a pseudo-professorship at a former minor technical college upgraded to university status to enforce the ‘rightness’.
The sad example appeared on my favourite Sunday morning comedy show to argue that ‘we should all pay the price of alcohol abuse’. What’s even sadder, I once spoke to this ‘professor’ and her more principled research partner about the misuse of their work by the Manx government, so know that they have grave reservations about the way in which the tip of the research iceberg – articles in properly peer-reviewed social science journals – is quoted totally out of context when used by advocacy groups and the major drinks companies to forward their agenda (i.e. no more cheap alcohol in supermarkets and artificially inflated prices in pubs and licenced premises which have no choice but to pay them, then pass them on to the punter).
One of the show panellists – a liberal rabbi whose name I didn’t catch and who looks like Jonathan Pryce’s stunt double - put his finger on the problem. If we’re serious about reducing alcohol intake, why does a pint cost £2.20 and a soft drink cost £2.40 in an average pub?
The answer, though no-one said it, might be obvious to anyone who can be bothered to do the research and join the dots. It is because the same company owns both the beer and the soft drink and has a virtual monopoly over supply of both, at prices artificially inflated by a moral panic over ‘binge drinking’ based only on the misquoting of ‘research’ which (like the academics and academic departments who produced it) those drinks companies also own.
Notes From The Borderlands, an excellent print and online mag which provides the UK’s best research on far right and secret state activity, uses the term ‘state compromised journalism’ to describe when ‘investigative journalists’, incapable of or reluctant to do proper research, have their stories written and agendas set by state agencies. Such stories then appear in documentaries or left of centre papers like the Guardian and so help the state to keep smallish reform groups at each others throats, while dismally failing to end racism or any of the other tools of government. A clever tactic, as us liberals automatically discount anything in rightish broadsheets; especially as we know, thanks to folk like Nick Davies, that MI5 are on good terms with editors and key staff.
Similarly, isn’t it time we ask which academics are ‘state compromised’ or ‘commercially compromised’ – not always simply by career choice (though it definitely happens), but in many more cases because research parameters - and sometimes the existences of whole university departments - are set by the sponsors? Not only that, but there is no longer a true academic commitment to fearlessly independent research and making results available for public scrutiny -due to the high price anyone outside academic networks has to pay to see academic articles, and the way the sponsors also control publication and use of ‘their’ research.
Certainly we should still pay attention to the ‘freedom of speech’ arguments we sometimes hear when one major interest group tries to gag the research of a more independent writer, e.g. the Simon Singh case. But we should recognise such independent research is now the brave exception, not the rule it is held up to be.
And there are also those who ask why I am obsessed with the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ end of civil liberties, not more mainstream concerns like poverty. To which I would reply thus.
The police say they practice ‘zero tolerance’ of petty crime, using the rationale that it prevents it escalating into major crime, though the reality might be that they can’t go after major criminals anyway – especially when they are in government or running the civil service!
Similarly, I have zero tolerance of PR misdemeanours, like greenwashing , advocacy research and the deliberate twisting of results which (far too often) aren't available for proper independent scrutiny: because their drip, drip drip of misinformation dominates and sets ‘common sense’ understandings of society and morality.
We cannot, overnight, change the effect of decades (sometimes centuries) of bigotry and lies. But we can chip away at the newer, smaller lies before they take root, in the hope that they make more people question the bigger ones. And at the very least, people will then refuse to cooperate with the state, the churches and other major anti-democratic interests on newer infringements on civil liberties.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Should bible ownership be licenced?

I got carried away by other stuff yesterday and forgot to pose a question inspired by a Beeb Sunday morning live comedy show, i.e., ‘should bible ownership be licenced?’
I ask after viewing as much of The Big Questions as they could transmit before either a technical fault or (as I suspect) they stopped recording so that Campbell could gaffa tape the gob of a particularly stupid audience member.
Inevitably, the Cumbria shootings spawned an inevitable question about gun control, ‘Should all guns be illegal’,with the inevitable lunatic fringe views ranging from, on one side, a bloke who thought all pensioners should be issued with handguns to a madwoman whose son had been shot, thus giving her a permanent income screeching about it to the media.
And Wendy One Note (as we’ll dub her), really did screech. From the point Campbell began introducing the topic, and she interrupted him, to the point where, having allowed her to screech for 30 seconds, he tried to bring in another speaker, who she interrupted. At this point there was a technical breakdown, and when abnormal service was resumed Campbell tried to precis the argument thus far, only for Wendy One Note to interrupt, at which point there was a longer technical breakdown.
The signal came back, Campbell tried again to precis and Wendy again screeched before he had got two sentences out, at which point technical difficulties again stopped play, and the Beeb finally gave up and moved to a replacement programme.
Much as I love such knockabout stuff, there is a serious question to be asked, if only we can move away from kneejerk stuff about gun control.
And that question is ‘Should bible ownership be licenced?’
Think about it, compared to the miniscule number of nutters running amok with shotguns, the damage caused by widespread, often totally irresponsible, bible ownership in this country is immense. This isn’t just individual lives, but whole families - whole communities even – who get damaged.
Now historically, of course, bibles were chained to the lectern in churches and only licenced priests could read them. But were things any better in the good old days?
No, they may even have been worse. Because religious nutters totally ran the country and nobody else even had a bible to bash back with. Plus, being illiterate, they couldn't have quoted it out of context as an excuse.
So was the invention of the printing press, the rise of Protestantism and literacy – thus bringing the potential of bibles for all and the ability of most to read them - an improvement?
If anything, things are much worse. Bibles are everywhere – not just in churches or hotel bedrooms but readily available in bookshops without mental health or criminal record checks… and even compulsory in schools.
And that’s not all. In addition to officially condoned bibles, cheap replicas and a whole range of similar weapons are flooding the street for the impressionable to get hold of. The Book of Mormon, the Koran and the I-Ching (how on earth do you get ‘divine wisdom’ from a glorified gambling device, by the way) to name but a few… and not a training manual or certified course of instruction in sight to prevent any passing lunatic from picking one up, opening it at random and causing untold havoc.
Forget tightening up on the licencing of shotguns. There’s a far greater menace to society on our streeets, and we need to get a grip on it.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

The Better Half, The Prodigy and I are just back from an enjoyable afternoon over in the local park, the Mooragh. Actually, we are just back from the best afternoon of the best week in the year in the best town in the island – unless you’re a health freak, an environmentalist, a Christian or other common forms of misery guts.
Bit different to the usual Sunday afternoon atmosphere today as it’s Mad Sunday. For the non-bikers, that’s the best part of the TT, when the Mountain section of the public road course is kept one way so visiting nutters can emulate the racers in a community where, being civilised, we have no speed limits outside built up areas anyway.
Watching mad Germans and Paddies riding four abreast at around 180 MPH on the fastest part of the course while coppers just laugh is something you’ll never, ever, see anywhere else in the world. Petrolheads, read this and weep.
On Mad Sunday there’s also a ‘run what you brung’ quarter mile bike sprint down Mooragh Prom, which borders the park. So while street legal dragsters are doing that, the rugby pitch is turned into an impromptu bike park and the park is filled with fun-lovers of all ages.
Sadly, this year the usual vintage bike display was missing – not sure what happened there. Still, I did spot one beauty amongst the 21st century Jap technology. A mid-sixties BSA A65. Not even collector condition, but better than that. This one had signs of daily use.
I had an SS80 of similar vintage and condition back when I was 17 – not too fast but black, loud and crude. Never could have graduated to something like an A65, which now (thanks to dull, middle-aged collectors who were too busy studying accounts to ride them when they were new) run at about £15K even for a shed job ‘suitable for restoration’, but I did ride one – just once.
And what a ride that was. In Hunter S. Thompson’s Hells Angels he describes a midnight ride on his BSA, from Ken Kesey’s house in La Honda down the Californian coast right back to Haight Ashbury. When I first read it, aged 17, I wished I could emulate it, and spent my last penny on the monstrous SS80 rather than a practical Japanese bike.
Then in 1992, during a brief visit to California, the unbelievable happened. A friend of a friend I was visiting had a knackered A65, and he let me do it – at midnight on an August perfect moonlit night, on a clear empty road. The fool, the mad, trusting, angelic fool (him, not me)!
The best bit – I got talking to a San Fran journo of Thompson vintage, who told me Thompson never even did it. The ride in the book is the amalgamated experience of a number of rides over that summer. i.e., I had just out-gonzoed the Master of Gonzo.
Anyways, rambled a bit there – back to this afternoon.
There was a metal band playing in the Mooragh bandstand – where they usually have brass bands, folk dance displays and other wholesome entertainment. A proper metal band – three ageing sheet metal workers from Brum by their looks and accents.
Lead guitarist with the world’s longest mullet and deep vein thrombosis, a grimacing drummer with ZZ Top beard, and a bass player catatonic enough to make John Entwhistle look lively. And they were loud, proper rock band loud, with Marshall stacks and everything.
I sat against a pillar ten feet away with a huge grin while the Better Half and The Prodigy were off getting sausage and chip baps, HP sauce, tomato ketchup, sticky buns, ice cream, crisps and a host of other unhealthy stuff (we’d decided before going that it would be that kind of a day – no special diets, no regrets). Later The Prodigy braved the racket enough to join me for her first ‘proper’ rock gig. The social workers can try coming for her later if they like, but it’ll be over my dead (or at least deaf) body.
She got there just in time for the drum solo – a proper one. While ZZ’s stunt stand-in did every drum clichĂ© in the book the guitarist and bassist walked off – and I kid you not here – into the cafĂ©, where they queued for, then sat down and ate, egg and chips. They got back just as the drummer was pulling his final stunt, which involved drinking a pint of Lucozade mixed with Jack Daniels while simultaneously keeping the bass drum ,hi-hat and a ride cymbal going, and as a finale played Wipeout, which meant the drummer had to put in most of the work anyway.
I haven’t laughed so much in years. What very heaven it is to be alive and living in Ramsey on the best afternoon of the best week of the year.
(with no apologies to Willie Wordsworth. Sod him, he had his life and his fun, now it’s our turn)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Too old to party, too young for a bus pass

As a retired boho, I had to shake my head sadly at a piece on the Guardian music pages entitled Why don't rock stars trash hotel rooms any more?
Honestly, musicians today – total disgrace. Don’t know why they don’t just give it up and join some pointless local government department or other.
Caroline Sullivan (see ) sounds a little nostalgic for the golden days of Led Zep & Co, and has some fun at the expense of modern artists who behave like theology students and limit their demands to things like pillows with no feathers (because a band member has an allergy).
I know what she means, but then I was lucky enough to be schooled by the best at the end of that golden era. On the other hand, if I’m honest, not only do I not remember some of what they taught me, to this day I don’t know where I was when receiving instruction.
The days immediately following a 1982 after-gig party involving the early Motorhead line-up are a particular black-hole. I’m not sure I even wrote the article I was (in theory) supposed to provide to the Dublin mag Hot Press. Not that Lemmy, Philthy Animal or Fast Eddie ever worried about bad publicity – or in this case the lack of it.
But I started earlier than that. Around my 18th birthday, in fact, when a friendly college tutor invited me along to a party given by his landlord at a former village rectory in Norfolk and, for reasons he wouldn’t explain, suggested I brought my tuba. It was supposed to be a gathering of local arty types, and the host was a trad jazz trumpeter who’d started out at London art schools, so I thought no more of it.
The party started normally enough. Then, about 10 PM, there was a huge crash outside, and we emerged to find a large US car had hit the rectory gates before skidding into the duckpond. Out of the passenger door emerged a very drunk Viv Stanshall, the Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band singer, who I soon learned was one of the host’s old art school mates. Then Viv’s best mate Keith Moon got out of the driver’s door, and the party livened up….somewhat!
For example, at about 1 AM the village cop watched me accompanying Viv Stanshall in a 1920’s ditty, Tubas in the Moonlight as we both sat on the rectory roof, then walked off, totally flabbergasted, saying, ‘Forget it, no magistrate would ever believe me!’
If your rock education starts by partying with Keith Moon you’re never going to be normal again, or bother going to office parties when commissions from corporate publishing bores dry up (as they will) and you have to grow up and get a proper job.
But the golden age of rock excess was also, funnily enough, an age in which people may have partied hard, but also looked after each other, and even famous rockers cared more about their fans.
For example, reading in Sullivan’s piece about the sad security worries of the whiney stude faves Keane, I remember the night when The Clash’s White Riot tour hit Plymouth. After a stonking gig where the audience rioted, chasing a notorious venue’s scumbag security into the toilets and jamming the door shut with an iron bar, the hardcore fans followed the band back to the Holiday Inn, where Mick Jones and Paul Simenon opened windows and fire exits to slip them all in for the night.
No, they couldn’t afford the bill for the damage, and no, the band’s label didn’t stump up either. That’s just the way musicians earning no more than the dole behaved back then, and probably never will again.
My hedonistic days are long gone now, though every time work colleagues try to impress with small town tales of excess I’m not smiling at their antics, just passing the time until they stop talking by recalling my own.
I'm also wondering how Keith Moon or Viv Stanshall would cope in a retirement home. Or more precisely, how the management would cope with them.

Pimping for Jesus in the Cumbrian gun tragedy

I will get on to cheerier subjects, honest, but I can’t let the intrusion of Jesus Pimps on the Cumbrian shooting tragedy go without comment.
We’re well used to the way religious parasites leech onto any misfortune under the pretence of ‘helping the grieving process’, and also the way the media, having counted the dead and suggested (often inaccurately) some culprits, automatically asks a priest to comment and goes looking for a handy church service for the victims, however irrelevant.
My fellow regulars over at Platitude of the Day have quickly commented on the crass, insensitive offerings heard since the tragedy on Thought For The Day. Real sick bucket scrapings from Dr Sacks and Canon Billing so far.
Can it get worse? They’re professional religious pimps, totally lacking shame or compassion, and this grief-fest has economic potential, so we know the answer already.
But over in Cumbria stage two of the religious intrusion is now in full swing.
Last night there was a high profile service to ‘pray for the souls of the victims’ at St Mary & St Michael, Egremont, and Border TV also announced local churchs are leaving their doors open, lighting candles, praying, singing hymns and generally running about in an attempt to look concerned. In fairness, maybe some folk genuinely will get solace from that, but can I point out something?
There’s a profile of all the known victims by BBC Cumbria at . With the exception of one elderly couple, James and Jennifer Jackson, who were involved in their church parish council, not one victim is identified by their families or friends as regular church goers or people to whom religion was important.
Furthermore, the family of at least one, Michael Pike, specifically said on both BBC and Border ITV interviews they intend to celebrate his life, not mourn his death, and have no use for or interest in the faith-based irrelevance now taking place.
In fact, Jude Talbot, his daughter, said to the Beeb: "That's the sort of person he was, he was a humanist, he thoroughly believed that we should celebrate life, not rake over coals. So that's what we are doing, we are focusing on my father and the happy times we've had with him."
She said something similar to Border, but it was cut to something less specific about him still being around, literally, through all the work he’d done on the family house and garden. An ex-shipbuilder who went on to work at Sellafield, trade-union organiser and mature Open Uni graduate, he sounded like a great guy to call friend or relative.
Which is why the misapropriation of his identity and misrepresentation of his beliefs, along with those of all the other victims for the St. Michaels and St Mary service and others, without (and in his specific case against) family wishes is another crime we should add to those chalked up by churches.
Perhaps we should also be asking why the gunman had nobody to talk his troubles through with. Or more accurately, as in the Isle of Man, would that be the case if it wasn’t for government pennypinchers closing the advice and social services which should be available, but hiding the closure by ‘supporting’ new, and useless, faith-based schemes which no-one in a small community ever uses unless forcibly sent there, e.g. by a court order. Because we know only too well the bigotry and general worldly ignorance of village idiots paid to light candles, talk to the sky and otherwise waste public money.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Careering blindly

Every year the Manx Education Department puts on a careers fair, meant to give kids some idea of the range of UK university courses on offer. I openly admit, I look for the press release very year, because alongside the legit colleges who come recruiting, there are always some barking mad ones.
Beats me that, not only are they let in, but that our kids actually get grants to go there. On the other hand, this is an Education Department which has only been overseen by one politician educated to graduate level in at least 30 years, to my certain knowledge.
So, is this year the exception? Well, go to and find the answer, which is ‘No!’
I just love the way they try to sneak in: “Other bodies attending include Theological Colleges and Christian Gap Year opportunities; Scripture Union Ministries Trust...”
Theological colleges? Last I heard even the biggest European ones are closing because parents no longer think being a child molester (sorry…....priest) is a proper job.
Christian gap year opportunities? Now honestly, if you were unlucky enough to be raised in a closed Christian environment, wouldn't Christianity actually be something you badly need to take at least a gap year (possibly even the rest of your life) escaping from?
And judging from any local example, the only way that Scripture Union Ministries Trust is a career opportunity is if Manx schools are still churning out kids too dumb to stack shelves at Tesco.
So what kind of reflection on Manx educational standards is that?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Overseas obstacles to progress

According to an announcement on the Manx government’ s website:
“The Isle of Man Overseas Aid Committee has responded to appeals from the Tearfund and Christian Aid charities to provide emergency aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the south east region of India affected by Cyclone Laila. “
And in particular:
”The sum of £36,000 has been donated to Tearfund to assist the emergency provision of water and sanitation facilities, and the distribution of items to more than 10,000 people in the Fizi Territory of DRC.”
I’ll ask more specific questions.
Why give taxpayers money to spook-chasing homophobes to help them prolong the power struggle between rival superstitions which is one of the two main reasons for continued conflict in the Congo?
Why give money to a ‘charity’ which specifically demands that any worker or volunteer signs a pledge to uphold ‘traditional’ Christian values, and which is known throughout the UK gay community for using that as a way of weeding out gay people?
Why support such institutional homophobia and other prejudices, enabled only by the sickening privileges governments here and either side of the Irish Sea from us insist religious groups must have, not only in their bizarre worship practices, but their business and employment practices, even when carrying out public sector work which should be equally available to all?
You can read the official line at , and I will say in passing I have slightly less problem with Christian Aid also getting £14K to distribute relief supplies after the Indian cyclone. Because I do recognise that, unlike other ‘faith based charities’, Christian Aid do not, for example, impose their immorality on the dispossessed to the extent of refusing to help poor communities who try to practice birth control.
OK, Christian Aid will never get a penny in donations from this household, for the same reason we’d never give money to a charity called ‘White Aid’. In a nutshell, a charity with a name like that perpetuates the lie that one culture is more decent than another. They can argue until they’re blue in the face that they don’t mean to and we’ll never believe them, because what other purpose could the word ‘Christian’ have in the name of the charity?
I also think their strange insistence on working with ‘local partners’ which in practice means churches, is indefensible. Because in practice, as with Tearfund, that tips the power balance in poor areas in favour of religious organisations. And churches are, by their very nature, irrational in their ideas and anti-democratic in their practice.
So, to sum up, another £50K in taxes either down the drain or handed over to ‘charities’ which perpetuate hate, injustice and obstacles to democracy both here and in poorer parts of the world. We do that, and in the 1990's we also enabled offshore arms deals which allowed major corporations to secretly fund militias in the Congo in order to gain control of cheap minerals used to bring down the price of mobile phones.
We still hide the money creamed off from aid projects by African dictators by helping them funnel it through pyramids of offshore companies around the world, but ultimately controlled here or in the Channel Isles.
And we still wonder why people over there, rather than being thankful for our 'charity', absolutely hate us?