Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Die-in-Hell option

According to a story planted by godbotherers in the Manx Indifferent, the Bishop is welcoming yet another professional pro-life misdirection artist to the island.
Baroness Ilora Finlay will give a lunchtime lecture in February at St. Georges, a bat sanctuary near Athol Street in Douglas which the Manx Diocese has spent an unsuccessful decade trying to ‘reinvent’ as the Manx equivalent to St Pauls in a desperate attempt to drag in some finance sector punters. Unfortunately, they did this just as the real finance sector was moving to purpose built out of town premises, leaving a few aging winos from the unregulated 1980’s to stare at their Athol Street office walls until the bailiffs turn up.
Finlay passes herself off as a ‘palliative care’ expert. Indeed when not collecting expenses at the House of Lords she is Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, which is not as impressive as it sounds.
Because 21st century ‘professorships’ are often little more than an honorary title given to a tame academic, in return for services rendered to whichever industry paid the university to create the post. This scam works both ways. The university gains a ‘department’ and maybe some paying students: the sponsor gets academic endorsement of their 'product'.
In this case, the palliative care industry is an ugly combination of private health care contractors and profit-orientated faith groups running facilities for society’s most vulnerable and desperate, using semi-qualified and voluntary labour to offer bogus ‘feelgood’ therapies rather than state of the art equipment and medical ‘best practice’.
She also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well, which again is not as big a deal as it sounds. In fact, just a ragbag of pro-life charities and right wing faith groups lunching with the Conservative Christian Fellowship and claiming expenses.
The Die In Hell attitude to any genuine attempt at a cross-party discussion of end of life care, which would have to consider options like assisted suicide, is to try and prevent such discussion by refusing to join in unless they get to run the committee, and when it does happen to complain loudly to the Daily Mail about the findings because they ‘were not consulted’.
Pretty much what you would expect, in fact, from a nasty little industry with a fortune to lose if people could make choices about the end of their lives, instead of having to die in desperately sad dives where no decent person would allow a dog to conk out, never mind their nearest and dearest.
But Finlay is an unashamed career prodnose, to be honest. Her other ‘achievements’ include proposing a bill to outlaw smoking in public buildings in Wales, pushing the Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill through the Lords (because it was in danger of being laughed out of the Commons) and attempting a private bill (whose main beneficiary would be cheapskate private health parasites) to change opting in to organ donations to having to opt out.
From all this, she gives the impression of being little more than an opinionated elitist who thinks ordinary people have no right to take decisions about the way they spend (or end) their lives, and whose very bodies should be the property of the state and her Magic Invisible Friend, but who is happy enough to draw a salary from either the state or the private sector to spout such twaddle.
A bit like a bishop, in fact. Which is why nobody except the kind of chump who likes superstitious claptrap will be turning out to listen.

Of Cultures and Vultures

The announcement (see that: “Applications are currently being invited from members of the public who are interested in becoming Trustees of Manx National Heritage (Manx Museum and National Trust)” made me laugh out loud.
Why? Well, partly because a former Trustee used to tell me that MNH board meetings are like a wet Friday in a small town morgue. He seriously wondered if some of the superannuated fossils in the room were still alive, and used to joke that one executive deliberately dulled proceedings and used their failure to respond as a sign of assent when trying to push through dodgy business.
But mostly because any serious analysis of ‘Manx Heritage’ (there hasn’t been much) would worry about the McDonaldisation of ‘heritage’ to suit the tourist trade, and in particular the whimsies of potential upper middle class visitors with a drippy hippy past and more money and spare time than sense.
Related to that is the more serious problem that the public cash and effort thrown at ‘culture’ is based on a (frankly) racist definition of ‘culture’ that even some Nazis would have problems with. It is propagated by folk who simply don’t understand the basics of sociology, anthropology and cultural (and more particularly subcultural) theory – or anything else which actually studies how societies tick and individuals interact within those societies. They completely fail to recognise the contributions and lives of the vast majority of Manx residents, past or present.
The few serious studies which do are all by off-island academics who consider the matter in contrast to developments in heritage, tourism and cultural policy elsewhere and end up falling about laughing. I know about them because some 20 years ago I was headhunted to do a Ph.D. as part of a massive project by professors at two once great universities who were being funded to make the only significant analysis, then or since, of regional development and the late 20th century ‘heritage industry’.
The disinterest of the Manx government in either current affairs or serious cultural analysis meant I never got a grant, so the project went on without me. But I stayed in touch with the professors and we still swap jokes (disguised as examples of political and bureaucratic cretinism), or commiserate with each other about declining standards in academia and the state of the world. Ironically, the completed project featured prominently in the readings for my Cultural Studies M.A. through the Open University, which I also funded myself due to continued Manx government disinterest in such topics a decade later.
One of the few interesting, though not encouraging, snippets of information to come from the latest futile exercise is the information pack (see which chunters on ad nauseum to excuse the project, but also mentions that any loser considered brainless enough to join the Trustees will get £78 a time (plus around 50p a mile ‘travelling expenses’) to snooze or pick their noses while 3rd division marketing morons lay out the strategies by which the great Manx public will subsidise our regression back to the Bronze Age.
I keep hearing about retired executive types who are trying to flog the poor judgement that ended their careers to Manx government ‘advisory bodies’. Jobs like this should keep them in claret for another day without a free business lunch - and never were two dimwitted interests better matched.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Oh ye of little faith!

As I hope every sensible person will have realised by now, Age Concern is a notorious bogus charity that preys on the elderly while posing as a pressure group. In reality most of their real lobbying is on behalf of the pensions and insurance industry with which it is so closely linked, having (with the help of such powerful interest groups and the blindness or sheer lack of social concern of politicians and civil servants) simply put every small, local and genuine charity worried about older people out of business. This also explains why the policies it wants most involve the private health industry taking on 'vital services' which the government can 'no longer afford'.
Considering these links to private (i.e second rate and cost-cutting) health I have often wondered why it needs to beg so much money from the public .Or perhaps that is just a charade too, like other local bogus charities most of whose income, policies and even 'voluntary help' is actually provided by government.
Still according to this week's Courier, this 'charity' is looking for a member of the clergy to lead a sponsored abseil laughingly entitled 'A Leap Of Faith'.
So here is my question to the religulous.
If any of the clergy really had so much faith, why would they need a rope?
Mind you, I still would not pay to watch them jump without one. On principle, I never support bogus charities, or any other drain on the weak and vulnerable.

Beyond the lunatic fringe - and beyond a joke

According to and Manx Radio:
“A former Lord Mayor of Belfast is speaking in Port Erin this weekend about how he turned his life around from an unpromising start. With dyslexia and little education, Reverend Eric Smyth was told at a young age he wouldn't amount to anything. However, after finding religion he went on to become Lord Mayor of the city and, in that role, met former president of the United States Bill Clinton, and was awarded an OBE for his charity work.”
Well, that’s one interpretation of it. Possibly provided by someone with little or no link to the real world, or just a compulsive liar.
It might be nearer the truth to consider Smyth as a professional bigot who became a DUP councillor in 1981, only keeping his seat for most of those years because he moved house after the wards were redefined in 1985, which meant the only constituents he had to please were the Shankill hardliners. He also tried regularly to run for the Northern Ireland Assembly in its various forms but failed – dismally - eventually even quitting the DUP in 2000 because they would not back his mayoral campaign.
He only met Clinton because he was contractually obliged to welcome him to Belfast in his role as mayor between 1995 and 1996. After Clinton had gone he told the press that "the President stands for republicanism and is a supporter of it". There was an election looming, but being such a fair minded Christian this cannot have been connected.
And as such a firm Christian man, what about his involvement in any ecumenical efforts which might have brought an end to Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’? You can get a sample of his stance on those things by his call for a boycott of Catholic shops towards the end of his mayoral year in 1996.
The ‘charity work’? Well, both his sons were jailed for drug dealing, so rather than just apologise for being a poor parent he spent time conning free trips abroad under the banner of a bogus social campaign called European Cities Against Drugs then coming home and preaching about it. Not too seriously though, as upsetting the drug rackets which funded rival Shankill paramilitaries at the time would have lost him votes. Actually, considering Smyth went on record in 2004 supporting a Shankill hardline view that Loyalist paramilitaries should not give up their weapons, we can be fairly sure he is no pacifist or critic of violence either – at least not violence inflicted (with state help) by one Christian faction on another one without such friends in political high places.
As Northern Ireland left the dark ages and Smyth’s political career nosedived he spent more and more time as Reverend of the Jesus Saves Mission Church, a sorry bunch of chancers he founded which is closely aligned with the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, which is in turn a breakaway of Paisley’s similarly monikered freakfest. He disagreed with the DUP's implementation of the St Andrews Agreement, and following Paisley's agreement to stand down as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, he stated that Paisley "has gone back on everything he ever preached and there was no way he could continue as leader although I do think he should have stood down years ago."
So, a freeloading halfwit who not only broke away from Ulster’s most right wing political party because they got softer on Catholics, but also broke away from a church run by Paisley (which was in turn little more than the DUP at prayer) because it didn’t hate women, gays and most other people enough, then tried to form a hardline splinter group to the right of the hardline splinter group….
Hmm. Just the kind of wholesome character you need to spend a weekend taking moral advice from, isn’t he?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Sod Manx marital apartheid. Get hitched in a civilised country instead

What passes for a Manx media is all of a twitter over the idea that two hotels have been licenced as wedding venues(see ).
….and this is progress because…….?
Bottom line is that we still suffer from a system of marital apartheid on the Isle of Man.
Absolute bottom line - if you believe in magic a bloke in a dress can legally marry you in a ceremony where all sorts of flowery language and music can be (and often is) incorporated, asking his Imaginary Magic Friend to bear witness. If you’re slightly more rational you can only be legally married by a civil servant, and if you depart from the dull as ditchwater script by so much as a word it is null and void.
Why, exactly, is it an improvement that you can go through this grey charade in a hotel rather than some small town government office?
The funniest thing is that, thanks to the continued bigotry of some church leaders, the only people who now have total equality in marriage are gays and lesbians. Because they, and only they, can only be legally hitched in a civil ceremony. Following that they are free to either find a liberal priest who will bless them or to make up their own imaginative ceremony according to what they hold most dear. Religious or secular, that ceremony makes no difference, because only the civil ceremony which proceeds it is legally binding.
This is exactly the same circumstances as I experienced, years ago, for my wedding in Hungary where, like many European countries, it is a normal, common sense notion that the state presides over some token rubberstamping of your relationship to make it all legal, then you go off and do it as quietly or spectacularly as you like in a ceremony which means something special to you and those who matter most to you, even if it’s pure nonsense to everyone else.
So if you’re not gay and you’re getting married, take my advice. Sod waiting around for this third world ruritanian backwater to join the 21st century. Set a date with these guys (see ), then take a break in Scotland and get legally married in style – and most importantly in a ceremony that means something to YOU – in a country which doesn’t treat the huge rational majority like kids with special needs.
Just do it.
You KNOW it makes sense. You KNOW you deserve it.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bogus charity bingo night goes ballistic

Last November ( see ) I prophesied that a Manx bogus charity was running out of government funds and would launch a new moral panic to stay in business. To recap, I said that Isle of Man Alcohol Advisory Service had “struggled for a year or two now to justify further direct government funding, or to use their relationship with government to demand ‘charitable donations’ from local retailers in return for not further infantalising the whole process of buying alcohol.” I then outlined how they would join forces with a similar British government puppet charity to talk up the ‘dangers’ of gambling until someone threw enough money at them.
Not only have I been proved right, but a report today (see )suggests that (1) they’ll split the loot with their Brit ally and (2) in the process open up a process of back door taxation of Manx businesses to subsidise a Brit government ‘third sector’ initiative.
Funnily enough, this means the Brits get to tackle an entirely imaginary ‘social problem’ without having to spend a penny or employ a single public sector ‘professional’ or ‘expert’. Sadly, that doesn’t mean the problem of the imaginary social problem will go away too.
This all began when in 2007 GamCare received 80% of a £3.5 million budget set aside on government mandate by the UK gambling industry to ‘promote responsible gambling’. They were hoping to bump that up to £5.34 million in 2010 and 2011, but the latest accounts they’ve submitted to the Charity Commission suggest that the gambling industry told them where to get off, also that the ‘charity’ still gets no other income apart from their gambling industry hush money.
And on today's 'news', I should also say that the pseudo-survey is a classic marketing scam, and now a bog standard tool for the moral panic industry.
As I’ve explained elsewhere, the trick is to decide what answers you need, then set the questions and participant parameters so that you can get no others. It is ridiculously easy, as the full results and methodology will not be in the public domain, old fashioned rigorously neutral academics able or willing to find the time to take such nonsense apart are thin on the ground, and even cynical lay people tend to take such surveys at face value if they’re for a ‘good cause’ or concern a matter which decades of biased reporting lead us to falsely believe is a ’social problem’.
A classic example is the infamous regular ESPAD 'surveys' of ‘’under-age drinking’ which, here and elsewhere, have kept an entire bogus therapy industry in funds for over a decade now. But even right wing amateurs like the Mothers Union are getting in on the scam (I mentioned their scare tactics over ‘parenting’ some while back, and now it seems they have David Cameron’s ear, so keeping tweedy geriatrics with one foot in ga-ga-land off the backs of decent parents is going to be an increasing problem in the coming year).
If only such imaginary problems and the proponents of their equally imaginary solutions could go away or be forgotten as quickly as bad dreams.
Sadly, I would not bet on that any time soon. Not considering the amount of public money wasted dreaming them up, along with ever more pointless employment opportunities for the bogus therapists involved.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Marriage advice from Hell

It seems I’m not the only one raising an ironic eyebrow at the news that a notorious ‘family values’ group is being allowed to run a marriage workshop at Ramsey Town Hall.
It’s tempting to get serious, and write a letter to the Commissioners checking if they have a policy on preventing the promotion of hatred, because strip away the veneer and Care for the Family seem to dislike a lot. The track record of their parent, CARE, suggests either discomfort or flat out disgruntlement around gays, and pretty much anyone and anything else that stands for decency, compassion and, in general, a happy, self-disciplined existence that doesn’t subsidise religious parasitism.
Probably not worth the bother, because this sad bunch have done a pretty good job of putting themselves out of business anyway, which is the only thing to thank them for. Take away any losers they’ve picked up from Living Hell’s Grammar School ‘outreach’ and the organisers will be talking to themselves. Mind you, evangelical headbangers spend so much time talking to invisible friends they might not notice the difference.
What might be funny is if some gay couples turned up and joined in – not that any well balanced couple planning to marry for love rather than outright desperation would hang around for more than five minutes.
Actually, what would be much better would be if people who could not be less qualified to 'advise' on personal relationships took advice from other people instead of being not only arrogant enough to offer it, but dishonest enough to charge for knowledge they simply do not have. Particularly, they should learn from those who have struggled for years against bigotry to maintain such relationships.
Who knows, if they actually listened they might even learn something. And considering the sorry mess that most evangelicals pass off as 'family life', many of them need to learn a lot - and fast.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

...and who guards the moral vanguard? (Pot, kettle, black)

There’s an interesting example on Taking Liberties (see ) of what happens when an English MP asks for details of how a dubious ‘health charity’ is funded and what influence it might have on the Department of Health and other relevant government bodies.
To be specific, Tory MP Karl McCartney wrote to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health asking for details of how ‘public health charity’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is funded. McCartney also wanted details about the number of people associated with ASH who have placements with the Department of Health and other areas of government.
Whatever your views on smoking, this sounds like a reasonable question from an MP wanting to check just how ‘independent’ is the advice used by government to make policies (which could well include the decision to further openly or discreetly underwrite ‘public health charities’). So it seems odd that the Chairman of the APPG’s response was to demand, via a rather one-sided press report of the affair, that government “tighten up the regulation of lobbying" because McCartney once “accepted hospitality totalling more than £1,300 from Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which produces Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut".
All McCartney actually did was to accept some tickets from JTI to the Chelsea Flower Show - and incidentally to scrupulously declare he had in the Register of Members Interests, from which source he appears to have been grassed up to tame hacks by someone we can assume was not quite ‘neutral’ in such matters.
Manx politicians really aren’t bright enough to operate at such a level of duplicity, but this nonsense, when mixed with the prominent reporting of the latest ‘drink driving campaign’ (see for example) did remind me of similar silliness in the Isle of Man.
The obvious question to me is: ‘If a month of dedicated police work, stopping over 800 vehicles, produces just nine prosecutions, while on average at least one motorist a month is found guilty of drink driving anyway without dedicating specific resources, then isn’t this an annual PR stunt, and a waste of time and public money?’
If you ask any police source not threatened by budget cuts that question, or check any regional or national police annual statistics, the answer is ‘Yes’, because the only evidence of more drink driving over Christmas is arrests made only as a result of dedicating all police resources and much police overtime to seeking those arrests.
There is, on the other hand, no evidence that people drink and drive more over the holiday period. It is a folk myth, fed by press too lazy to look for real news, which in turn causes the police to mount campaigns (which they know are pointless) simply to avoid criticism from, say, the kind of tabloid reading politico who is too disconnected from reality to kick off about real world issues rather than fairy stories.
But also touching on that local story – the funniest thing is that the biggest alcohol-related waste of Manx police time and resources that I know of was actually CAUSED by characters who, elsewhere, dominate local (urban myth and junk science led) government consultations over alcohol.
To be specific, a charity and an enterprising retail manager put on a fair trade wine-tasting evening for local bigwigs. No problem with that – it was intended to introduce senior government figures to the idea that ‘fair trade’ was not only a decent (and achievable) moral goal for the island, but that the produce is pretty good too.
Unfortunately, those senior government figures sampled rather too much of the ‘product’, and this was also an era when ministers (of either government or the cloth) were too posh to take a bus home and carry a paper bag in case they got queasy. The upshot was that the entire police night shift for that end of the island had to be deployed ferrying our ‘tired and emotional’ moral leaders and decision makers home.
These folk - let us remember - are the ones who think doctors, teachers and the police should spend their time nagging the public into total abstinence to 'save money', rather than actually ensure such public employees do what we pay them to do.
And even worse - they also subsidise (from our taxes) an entire subculture of lemon-sucking, morally degenerate, flat out bare-faced lying career prohibitionists who could be more usefully employed (if any supermarket would ever take them) stacking shelves and contributing to public funds rather than being a total drain on them.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Who guards the guards, or judges the judges?

This story (see ) nicely illustrates why I have given up on the pathetic right wing farce that passes these days as trade unionism.
If the paid full time ‘area manager’ of a large trade union doesn’t know that the sole punishment of a convict is to be imprisoned, and that prisoners should not be subject to a 'punishment' (even passed off as 'therapy' or 'rehabilitation') that has not been specifically laid down by the judge, then he is unfit for the job. And any trade unionist who supports a practice which abuses the basic rights of another human being deserves to be treated by other working class people with every bit as much contempt as those who run immigrant labour scams in the UK or child labour factories in poorer countries.
Because prison work parties are a modern form of slavery, often directly for large corporations with a poor record of human rights or indirectly with the ‘supervision’ costs passing to such pond life. And whatever public statement is made by the DHA the truth is that prisoners who refuse to be slaves will be marked down as ‘difficult’, find themselves unable to be considered for parole, or even to get proper access to their legal counsel or families as the law is supposed to ensure because the screws keep ‘losing the paperwork’.
But of course, Salter doesn’t give a monkeys about that. His sole interest is in ensuring that any of his members who might be called upon to assist in such disregard for the law and human rights get a handsome kickback for…well, basically for sitting about watching someone else do the actual work.
I suppose the minister in charge of the DHA who thought up this scheme (see ) is only the latest in a line of inadequates with a government portfolio. For as long as I can remember we have only had one Education Minister who could spell his own name without assistance, and we currently have a Health Minister who prefers prayer and other voodoo to science, so a Minister for Home Afairs who does not know how courts operate, or that judges determine the punishment of offenders (and not friends of politicians wanting cheap labour for government underwritten sweatshops and scams) is just par for the course in Manx politics.
But we cannot depend on the Manx courts for justice either, or for the judiciary to stay independent when government is riddled with such idiocy.
For example, when that minister, just a few hours after warning the public not to get drunk at Christmas, got so rat-arsed at public expense at his own department’s Christmas party that he puked up on the bus home (see for more) he paid just £60 to clean up the bus – and even that was only because the press, for once, ran a story on it instead of looking the other way.
By comparison, a mere member of the Manx public this week got a £150 fine for being so drunk he threw up in a police cell. As the prosecution only asked for a £50 fine plus £50 costs the new deemster yet again demonstrated why Manx justice is such an oxymoron.
But is the Manx justice system as hypocritical and moronic as those who run the DHA itself? Better judge for yourselves, because the judiciary seem either unwilling to judge or incapable of judging anything.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New year, same old idiocies in print

A Happy New Year to both my readers, and one I shall start on a comedic note.
I nearly wet myself laughing at this (see in Thursday’s Manx Indifferent.
For one thing, because you have to wonder how badly off Johnston Press are if they’re reduced to printing this twaddle to stir up a row. Certainly, last year JP published several anonymous letters easily traceable to two known Manx BNP supporters who were listed in the infamous wikileak as ‘activists’, so they have been scraping the barrel for a while now.
For another, because in the press version of the letter the author let slip he lives on Bucks Road, which reminded me of a funny but true story and made me wonder if he had featured in it. He certainly fits the bill – apparently socially disconnected, cranky and so poorly informed about the world he seems to get his main information from tabloids and other alehouse lepers who are glad of an audience, etc., etc.
A few years ago a very nice Polish deli briefly opened on Bucks Road. It didn’t last long, because Tesco quickly picked up that there was an untapped market in East European foods and undercut their prices, but while it was there it acted as something of a community resource and information exchange for young East European workers. This is probably not surprising, as they wouldn’t have been seen dead with the ageing religious bigots in the Columba Club next to the Catholic Church, which claimed in vain to be the true community resource for guest workers on the dubious evidence that Poland is such a religious country.
Actually, as anyone who talked to young Poles working here would know, Poland was a screwed up, quasi-fascist theocratic mess with no job opportunities for graduates, so anyone with half a brain left to work abroad for a while. Having then gained enough cash and work experience to buy a house back home and put down roots (without having to worry about the spook-chasing reactionaries who had run things under both the old party and the even older church), most return. So, the last thing they wanted while out of Poland was to get into the clutches of the Manx versions of such village idiocy.
But to return to the funny story….
One unwelcome guest at the Polish deli was an often sozzled neighbour who, having read one too many tabloids, put two and two together when he noticed young foreign women going in and out, concluded it was a knocking shop and kept trying to ‘buy’ the female customers. Having been told (politely at first and then with increasing exasperation) that he was mistaken, eventually things degenerated until he was forcibly removed once or twice by male customers. This led him to repeat his fantasies to the police, adding the twisted logical argument that as the lads who gave him the bum’s rush were also foreign they must have been pimps.
Could be a total coincidence, but too funny not to mention. More serious point - don't bother perpetuating the Indie's circulation by answering that letter unless you're as under-employed and tired of life as its author shows ample evidence of being. You cannot argue with a maladjusted loner in print without also appearing to be one, and will give him the opportunity to raid his junk fiction collection for 'evidence' in the process.
P.S. I read the 'Happy New Year' joke in an old Jeffrey Bernard 'Low Life' column months ago, and have been patiently waiting to use it ever since.