Thursday, 30 August 2012

Another day, another sick joke

 The Department of Sick Jokes just gets sillier and sillier.
Earlier this year it  ran the worst government ‘consultation’ in Manx history before confirming vacuous pro-life freaks with double digit IQs will dictate all care of the terminally ill. Which is exactly what the faith-addled pro-life freak posing as a health minister and his hand-picked faith-addled pro-life advisors always intended to do anyway.
It is now letting loose possibly the least-informed bunch of amateur prodnoses ever to register as a Manx charity (quite an achievement, given the sheer range of superstitious dullards and bored rich parasites already causing misery and chaos amongst the local dispossessed) to provide “open access, support and advice services for addictions.”
See and try not to burst out laughing.
There is some small compensation in knowing that this will be a complete waste of time. For example, the Department of Hopeless Affairs solemnly assured us not so long ago that the island does not have anywhere near the drug problems all the ESPAD surveys they underwrote said we have. For another, once you plod your way through the details of an expensive survey a few years ago which was supposed to save the AAS’s funding you discover that, actually, the survey of young people, well….wasn’t…. because the academics running it couldn’t find any young people. So they asked eight or ten random older bods instead and then just converted the whole thing into percentages which figured in scary press releases, which were dutifully run by a compliant press who simply never bothered to read the research.
To their credit, as they had to get it published in an academic journal to build up their own claim to be proper academics, the researchers did admit this. True, they only said it in a publication which the government though was only available at huge cost to academic institutions, but anyone (well, me) determined to track it down can find it for free. So, when government ‘experts’ claim to know about drinking patterns amongst the young (or indeed any age group or sub-sector of Manx society) I can just snigger with impunity, because unlike them I’ve actually read the evidence they commissioned. 
The dumbest thing is that, way before the latest troupe of clowns gained control of the Sick Department, we even had a perfectly adequate facility for dealing with alcoholics and some professionally qualified staff to run it. But rather than pay the going NHS rate for staff, the government left it empty for a year or two. Now they are handing money to a bunch of quacks without so much as a science GCSE between them, who are busily trolling local churches for even more clueless volunteers to do the actual counselling.
Please laugh loudly, and often, and then treat yourself to a drink…or possibly two. Considering how much we’re paying to keep these chumps in pointless employment I think we’ve all earned it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Of freaks who come out at night

A while back I was laughing at the clueless ‘street pastor’ scheme, whereby those few special constables the Manx police force can persuade to patrol Douglas’s deadly dull streets as the pubs chuck out now at least have brightly clad evangelical ‘care in the community’ cases to talk to.
As I said at the time, this bonkers phenomenon seems to be taking off in quiet towns with no history of late night disturbances – which seemed odd. The only common traits seemed to be grandstanding small town politicians along with close links between redneck police forces and the most mentally challenged brands of the godbothering racket. In short, a recipe for more faith-based lunacy and another drain on the rates.
It was no surprise that such nonsense would eventually reach the island – given the number of what P. J. O’Rourke calls ‘moral buttinskis’ blundering around government buildings looking for a handout – but if geriatric spinsters want to make up for wasted lives by watching daft adolescents spew down their tasteless T-shirts around Friday midnight, let them. Got to be more fun than flower arranging or whatever else they spent their previous six or seven decades doing.
Now a friend ‘across the water’ (he's another close observer of faith-based lunacy) has more evidence of this fad. It started when he noticed a Guardian article (see uncritically parrot an obvious press release (see in more detail at ). So far, so unsurprising. Private Eye, amongst others, has noted that even the press bible of the bleeding heart liberal is carrying rather a lot of one-sided twaddle from rank amateurs at present – possibly linked to the same falling sales and staff layoffs the entire print press industry is seeing.
Note at once – eerily similar claims and stories, which give away the source of all such stories as a common one, which is certainly not any of the dreary bible-bashers currently causing small town drunks to redecorate high street pavements with even more of the alcohol and spirits industry’s produce even faster.
The stunning thing about these phenomena is that the movement has spread around the UK without one police force doing background checks which should immediately interest any half-awake Fraud Squad. 
The 'charity' behind it is the Ascension Trust, which has actually been registered twice. First in 1994, when it managed to run until 2010 without once filing accounts or even basic information to the England & Wales Charity Commission. In turn,  behind that was an odd evangelical from Ghana who I seem to remember was the subject of numerous complaints and suspicions - never investigated because of his friendship with police officers who tried to introduce the Guardian Angels (also closely linked with evangelicals - Seventh Day Adventists in that case) to London. 
In 2008 the Ascension Trust re-registered but still didn't file any accounts until 2010 (i.e. the last possible moment before the Charity Commission could have instigated strike-off). The source of £682,20K of the £776.20K declared income is described only vaguely as ‘charitable activities’, and the 'charity' doesn't do any fundraising. In short, since 1994 the charity has never made any satisfactory explanation as to how it raises funds or what it does with the loot, and has been allowed to get away with this on the dubious grounds that it is a religious group 'helping' busy police with good works.
If you check the latest examples, you'll see that the new groups tend to start in quiet towns with no record of late night violence and general drunken disorder, and the volunteers tend to be elderly white churchgoers of limited education and - well, let's just say they tend to have had quiet lives!  This is significant, as is the way that new groups spring up in areas where godbotherers have more than a little influence on local police through police liaison committees and so on, and also places where professional police officers are being pulled off the street in favour of either special constables or those community wardens/police support officers (i.e. volunteers and part-timers with little or no training and no powers of arrest).
 Police, councils and indeed the organisers of the new groups have all bought into the myth that the charity started in inner-city, multi-racial London giving practical help to police and calming potentially violent situations - a myth which seems ever less likely, especially given that the first version of the trust was so carelessly recorded by officialdom. As the new groups spring up, the original myth is being buried and only the claimed exploits of the new volunteers are recorded by journos who don't find time to look further, and the press cuttings in turn are the evidence offered for the next group along the line to start. Perhaps there's also some sort of franchise deal where the groups are expected to make a contribution to the Ascension Trust from whatever 'expenses' or 'charitable donations' local authorities make to their 'patrols'.
Steady little earner for the trustees, I’m sure, but probably only par for the course. Evangelical scamsters everywhere feed on not so much actual social unrest as the lazy tabloid mythologising, then use it to pimp their dubious schemes to cash-strapped local authorities. Public money is thrown down the drain, but no actual lives are altered for the better. All window-dressing, but do we blame the venal bible-bashers and their pyramid schemes, incompetent local authorities, lying local politicians, or lazy local press? Or all of the above?
And should we worry enough to stop it, or should we just have a quiet chuckle at yet another crazy addition to the curious subculture that passes for modern nightlife?
(hat tip to John Hunt)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sick Note

According to a government press release this week (see ) ordinary members of the public are being invited to apply for six voluntary positions as Members of the newly-restructured and independent Health Services Consultative Committee (HSCC).
At this point, any Manx resident who has ever turned up for a routine hospital check or procedure only to be told that  the doctor didn’t, or the appointment was changed weeks ago but nobody bothered to tell you, or even that the clinic or service itself has been axed (i.e. pretty much anyone who uses the health service but isn’t related to a doctor or politician) will be thinking ‘Oh good, about time they got some feedback from ordinary punters.’
Except that they won’t.
Because: “To ensure that members are independent of the Health Service the members will be appointed by the Appointments Commission and will be appointed for a period of three years. Applicants do not need any formal qualifications, but a positive interest in the performance and delivery of Health Services would be very advantageous. Applicants should not be clinically qualified or be currently, or previously have been, employed in the Health Service.”
In plain English, that’s thickos with no knowledge or interest in the work only, appointed by a government puppet show remarkable only for each puppet’s ability to obey orders without question and be incapable of thought, which itself was chosen by a Sunday lunch sweep of the same desperate dives government ministers and civil servants hang out in.
The real question, then, is: ‘Where will the Appointments Commission find six individuals of such low intelligence and with such a small social circle that they don’t realise how badly the Health Department is being run, and by such  faith-addled throwbacks?’
Just a wild guess here, but how about in the same church pews they found the Appointments Commission and the health mismanagers?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Even atheism has a tinfoil-hat tendency

I am bored by so called ‘rationalist’ and ‘secular’ groups at the moment. In fact the poorly disguised racism and flat-earth thinking prevalent on even usually sane and witty websites and forums bores me so much I’ve withdrawn permanently from some and may stop looking in on others until the nonsense abates.
Inevitably, the sad case of Shafila Ahmed brought out the bigots in force but then, as a veteran anti-racist, I’ve always known how the fash and their kissing cousins like to infiltrate and poison the unlikeliest forums. Sadly, if any well meaning secularist points out, say, a problem caused by Muslim fundamentalism or orthodox Catholic thinking then it quickly becomes an invitation for the pub bore to jump in – and when you mention Judaism all kinds of freaks crawl out of the graveyard of ideas we all thought they’d been confined to since 1945.  
Some years back I was perturbed to see a flat-out UKIP lie circulated as ‘fact’ in a BHA forum, and more recently names I recognise as dreary BNP klingons were trying to start ‘skeptic’ and ‘atheist’ groups which – rather curiously - seemed far more intent on spreading common folk myths about Islam than exploring their origins and then debunking them along with the religious mythology they claim to be worried about. When even one of the atheist world’s best known women academics says she is avoiding some secular conferences after getting death threats from misogynistic male skeptics you know things are out of hand.
It rather proves the point I try to make to such fundamentalists. They assume 'All Muslims are....' (as if every Muslim lives in a tiny closed  community with no access to others, and has no interaction within other communities) and also assume 'All atheists are...' (as if every atheist was also a non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic progressive liberal, when every second comment on every secular website shows that all they have in common is a professed disbelief in the supernatural, while the vast majority are all too willing to swallow whole the most common folk myths about every sector of society).
Still, I hadn’t realised just how bad things were until I sent a jokey response in to a NSS Newsline item concerning a Revelation Channel report on Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, in which it was claimed that he mentions Israel a lot because "Israel is mentioned in the Bible more than any other country".
Things, I should explain, have been a bit dull on Newsline recently. The stories from the two producers are as sharp and relevant as ever, but they invite reader letters in response, and I suspected they have been ready to slash their wrists at the drivel from non-religious ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ types which have featured in recent months. So, tongue-in-cheek, I pointed out that “Reliable sources insist that the State of Israel came into being on 14th May 1948”, and that if he “is correct, (and as a deeply religious man and avid Bible-reader running for the most powerful job on earth surely he must be)” I wondered “would Mr. Romney accept that the Gutenberg Bible, all such historical Bibles held in museums around the world, and all those Bibles passed down for centuries and so solemnly read on Sundays in our nation's best known churches must be forgeries?”
I readily admit I do this every few months on NSS and other forums to draw out and wind up the flat-earthers. Anyone who knows me well can testify that when asked in interviews for my hobbies I always reply “Winding up fundamentalists until they explode”, so my refusal to take ‘serious’ topics, well….seriously is hardly a state secret. I picked up the idea from the late Robert Anton Wilson, who worried about ‘the New Inquisition’ – those who create a scientific orthodoxy that can no more be questioned than a mediaeval pope – and thought that the best way to draw attention to a ludicrous failure to approach things with an open mind was to poke fun with a very straight face. Usually it works, and I get a few e-mails from friends who had a giggle, but this time not just one but two herberts who probably think they are models of sane and sober rationality replied to Newsline trying to ‘correct’ my ‘mistake’ about the birth of Israel.
DUH!!! (Bangs head on desk in stunned disbelief before falling off the chair shrieking with laughter). It’s tempting to reply in turn asking if there’s an e-mail equivalent of the ‘SATIRE’ sign that used to flash on and off during Monty Python sketches, but is there much point?
So, all a bit sad, and by comparison I heartily recommend you read the reply sent to a BNP pamphleteer by one Dick Wolff, who describes himself as a United Reformed Church minister and Green Party  councillor for Oxford City. You can read it at and I think the sane and humane attitude expressed will make your day, as it did mine. Mr. Wolff may be a believer in things I cannot rationally accept as true, but is certainly someone I would be glad to count as a friend - unlike the tinfoil-hatters currently crowding to sites I used to think of as refuges for the purely rational.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pay back time

Sometimes (but not often) that nonsense machine that some call the Manx media throws up some genuine good news. And so it was when I read on the Energy FM website that: “This year's Firestarter Festival has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.”
Yes, I also had problems believing that hardcore evangelical tub-thumpers can ever admit a plain truth, but go to if you want to see for yourselves.
Even better is the final sentence of a short and unhappy press release in which the organisers promise that:  “Those people who have bought tickets will receive a full refund.”
So, it seems to be official then. Manx fundamentalists are admitting that - even with many wealthy and unscrupulous friends - they cannot round up enough kids to voluntarily attend their annual weekend prayerfest. Even worse, it seems they no longer have enough friends in the social and probation services to drag some along involuntarily, then send the government the bill.
I wonder which realisation hurt most. The one that no amount of pleading from the pulpit or promises of free sweets in ‘educational support groups’ was going to harvest enough victims (sorry ‘visitors’), or the really frightening one to any evangelical - that they actually have to pay back money received for services they were never going to deliver.
Despite the brave talk, I also doubt they will ‘Do a Terminator’ and come back next year twice as big and twice as ugly.
Gone for good, I think……. and forget about ‘The Rapture’.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hot air, (ba)lunatic debate

I have tried to follow the pseudo-debate about Overseas Aid in the nominally local press without laughing. Really, I have.
It started off when some junior league Ayn Rand groupie asked why we don’t just abandon the whole concept of overseas aid – or at least that individuals should decide for themselves what to give through charity, instead of having their taxes spent by a government committee. Fair enough question, if somewhat belligerently put, and for the next week or so the papers carried exchanges in which the government minister who chairs the Overseas Aid committee put some fair answers. As did the retired PR guru who pretty much bankrolls the One World Centre now that government are pulling out and the business sector have never put in, who…well……didn’t, to be honest.
At this point a local finance sector figure – a real dinosaur who I honestly thought by now was just urinating what few brain cells remain against a wall while leaving younger, sober minds to run his business –decided to have a pop. Predictably he took an obscure example of African ‘misspending’ dredged up from an American ‘academic publication’ produced by and for finance sector throwbacks who never got over the end of apartheid. And predictably he could not equate this to any Manx overseas aid project, because many of them favour faith-based charities and religion is almost as sacred as racism and misogyny to the sponsors of such publications.
I didn’t expect the ‘other side’ would have an answer and they didn’t. A teacher who acts as the Global Poverty Project Ambassador (in between throwing her hands in the air down at Living Hell) did point out that he hadn’t actually mentioned a Manx project before descending into the usual happy-clappy twaddle about helping the unfortunate. We were then promised a letter page full of ‘argument’ in today’s Excrement.
We also got more in last week’s Indifferent about the GPP’s attempt to get up a petition (see Incidentally, as they’ve been putting this about for months and the numbers haven’t risen I suspect the Mannifest crowd took no more interest than the rest of the island.
So, I eagerly open today’s Excrement only to find ..well…just more of the same old really. Hitler’s Grannies (Mothers Union), who’ve bagged £28K from the committee thus far to religiously brainwash developing world kids but are looking for £42K in all, more from other figures who pretty much depend on the committee for a job, but neglect to mention that they advise it…and that was about it. Ho hum!
The funniest thing is that it would take a competent journalist about two minutes to spot a huge joke. 
Out of curiosity, I looked up the Global Poverty Project, and as their main website is vague about their real origins and purpose (which immediately tells me there’s a well-funded practitioner of the grey arts hovering in the background) I looked a little further and got some answers at , which gives perfunctory detail on the real management – or at least the team assembled by others to put the case for the unidentified sponsors.
In particular note PriceWaterhouseCoopers, auditors to some of the nastiest companies and worryingly willing to sign off some of the oddest accounting strategies, Bell Pottinger, founded on Tim Bell’s use of direct marketing techniques to socially isolate and demoralise the miners for Margaret Thatcher and more recently PR merchants to the most sickening dictators, and The University of Western Australia’s Religion and Globalisation Initiative, which is pretty self-explanatory.
What I suspect we’re really looking at is major churches looking to control the aid industry and major business investors in the developing world who are happy for this to happen because faith-based charities (unlike, say, local political groupings or the international trade union movement) never interfere with serious business investors who, in return, cut their tax bills further with token sponsorship of religious charities and their local church partners - who give token relief after the tragedy while also propping up the anti-democratic business and political hierarchies which are keeping the locals dispossessed.
I really wish this wasn’t the case, and that some useful and productive Manx debate about the possible need, purpose, form and methodology of overseas aid was kicking off here, but it just isn’t. If it ever did, all of us should be willing to join in. 
But for now, do we even enter social and moral arguments thus far confined on one side to the type of emotional blackmail which religious groups do so well and on the other to the knee-jerk appeals to personal greed and fear of ‘big government’ by which the ‘New Right’ seek to distract us from discussing real life issues? At this point, I simply do not know.
For now, this seems one of many topics currently destined not to be fully explored until we find the courage to raise them, and of course the time and energy to explore and research far more thoroughly first. Until we do, I fear that on the Isle of Man we may be powerless spectators of pointless pseudo-debates.
I sometimes howl with laughter at the sad, simplistic techniques and agendas of those involved. My only excuse is that (1) if I stopped laughing I could get angry at the deceit and (2) that clampets like this are never that effective in the real world anyway, so no more lives are lost whichever pseudo-side pseudo-wins.