davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Yes. I admit it. I watched a BNP Party Election Broadcast. Its OK I've had a shower.

Its all rather unpleasant to be perfectly honest (I think you knew that). Lots of stock footage of WWII, photos of Winston Churchill on Nick Griffin's desk, etc. (I didn't check if the Spitfire was Polish, and I can't bring myself to watch it again). Its got all the usual crap about how great Britain is, and how much Nick loves his country, interspersed with some really nasty graphics. Universally aimed at the Muslim community. There's the "Immigration Open your eyes" union flag, and the cartoon of a woman in a burkha next to a map of the UK covered in minarets.

Architecturally speaking I like minarets. I'm less enamoured of Islam, but that's got rather more to do with my dislike of all organised religion, and the various brands of extremists who make the average believer hold their head in their hands. (Steven Green, I'm looking at you.) I'm not overly keen of the burkha either, but that has rather more to do with whether or not the woman in question has a free choice to wear it or not. Speaking to various Muslim friends over the years there's certainly nothing in the Koran that states its compulsory, its very much a cultural thing. And when it is a free choice I do not find it the least surprising that first, second or third generation immigrants choose to wear it, in order to identify more closely with their faith and ancestral culture. Especially when faced with the consistent islamophobic, anti-immigration rhetoric of the Daily Mail and co.

I like immigration. Immigration is a good thing, My grandfather's family came from Poland and Lithuania, via Canada. (I don't have a UK passport, but a Canadian one for this reason). In the wke of the leader's debate twitter is currently full of people pointing out why #iloveimmigration (I'll just repeat [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b - "Freddie Mercury. 'Nuff said"). Our culture, cuisine, scientific progress, history, etc, etc would be very much poorer without it. The Huguenots came in as refugees, and within a generation had strongly influenced the lands they settled in. Wikipedia has a list of people who can trace their ancestry back to the Huguenots. Oh look. Winston Churchill's on it.

The broadcast asks what would our veterans think of multicultural "politically correct" Britain? Well as many WWII veterans were conscripts I think their views would be very diverse. I'm sure some thought Hitler was right about the Jews. Equally many others would have volunteered for the International Brigade and gone off to fight Franco in Spain had they been old enough, and of course there would have been all points between the two.

As for "Political Correctness" well, yes perhaps people go a bit too far in trying to avoid offending groups, who, had they been asked would probably wonder what the fuss was about. Mostly however what is reported to have happened, and what actually happened are usually rather different. Ultimately its about recognising that not everyone is a straight, white, cis-sexual, Christian male. And I think the country would be rather better if more people lived by that maxim, rather than any of the strange ideas they have about what constitutes "British Culture".

Ultimately were the BNP to get in virtually everyone I know and value as a friend or colleague would be made to feel unwelcome in the country that either they were born in, or have chosen to call home.
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davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
I am registered to vote in Dartford. There are seven candidates. Now there's no way I'd vote for the Tories, or UKIP. (I'm generally pro-Europe, and I certainly think its much better to be inside the tent. If we don't like it we can work to change things. You can't do that if you go off in a huff like UKIP want us to.)

Stephane Tindame seems a nice enough chap, lots of stuff about doing things for the community. His policy on immigration sounds a little simplistic-

"My national policy on integration is simple we must make sure that those who come here to stay are valuable members of the community and not benefit lovers. We must screen and treat our migrants fairly but at the same time demand a net contribution to the country they live in... Under my proposals all immigration application would be processed in six months sharp and a decision reached within this time whether to remove or allow the applicant to stay."
 
Still it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, at least when compared to some people.  However he talks about the UK as a "faith country", but doesn't say what his brand of faith is, nor where he stands on stem-cell research and abortion. His manifesto states that he is against "Euthanasia, assisted suicide and messy killing [sic]". Pity. I'm absolutely in favour of assisted suicide. But as he's standing as an independent he's no chance whatsoever of getting in. Nor am I going to vote for him.

I can't find anything about the policies of The Fancy Dress Party. Sorry guys. If I can't read the manifesto of a party I don't know anything about, then I'm not going to vote for you.

English Democrats. Ewww. Really. Their candidate sent me a letter in with the confirmation of my postal vote-

"I take the view that this country is first and foremost a Christian Country and this should be our priority".
 

I'm not a Christian. So that'll lose you my vote. The manifesto has all sorts of nice platitudes about "polluter pays", and unlike UKIP they recognise that anthropogenic climate change is a real problem. They also want to sanction animal experimentation only in connection with human health, and where no practicable alternative exists. Do they know fruit-flies are animals? Do they know why people do all sorts of weird things to HOX genes. I doubt it. Their stance on same-sex couples and "political correctness" is also unacceptable to me. There's no party line on assisted suicide or abortion. Oh yes, and they want to reclaim Monmouthshire. Why I have no idea...
 
Labour, frankly haven't done enough to justify me voting for them. OK so they dumped Clause 4 to woo people to the right of me, and when they came in it all seemed so much better than it had been under the Tories. But then they introduced tuition fees for universities, but I figured that maybe they'd get around to doing a few other things. I had patience. So I gave them another chance. And then they invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because Bush told them too. And that hurt. But the choice was them or the Tories. And even though they'd hurt me I knew things would be just as bad with the other guys. So I voted again. But this time. This time I've had enough. I don't care if the new MP's a Conservative. It doesn't matter where I live, its a two horse race, and with a majority of 700 Labour won't keep this seat anyway. Sorry Labour You're just not left-wing enough for me any more.

Which leaves the Lib Dems. As they've got Evan Harris as their science bod, a man who's views on abortion, assisted dying and several other areas of science match mine it looks like they're the only people I've got left on my ballot paper to point my vote at...


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(The Livejournal Electioniser was made by robhu)

Right, now I'm going to get dressed and see if I can't find a scorpion. (A mate was given one as a leaving present. And she's beautiful.)
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davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
OK. I admit it. I didn't vote. I had my ballot way in advance, I have a postal vote as I'm registered with my parents, rather than where I live at the moment. I'd even voted, put everything in the envelope, and had it in my bag ready to post. And I totally failed to actually send the damn thing off.

And then I discovered that If I had voted I'd probably have voted against my principles anyway. We had four candidates in Dartford East in the council elections, the Conservatives won it (unsurprisingly) but the Lib Dems (who I voted for in this one) were beaten into fourth place by the "English Democrats". Turns out the English Democrats sound an awful lot like UKIP, and want to leave the EU, end "mass immigration" and "those laws promoting political correctness repealed." It seems they "want English freedoms and values, not multiculturalism." I wonder how many of them drink lager and eat curry. Hmm. They got about twice as many votes as the Lib Dems.

Damn.

And now for the European Elections. Here I would have voted Green. And then the day before the election I discovered their stance on Embryonic Stem Cell research. As
Sciencepunk reports:

The Green Party believes that experiments on human embryos could have unforeseen outcomes harmful both to individuals and to society. We would work for an immediate international ban on all cloning and genetic manipulation of embryos, whether for research, therapeutic or reproductive purposes. We do think that the use of 'adult' (or 'mature') stem-cells has promise for both research and therapeutic purposes and does not involve the same risks and ethical issues as embryonic stem-calls. The Green Party would work to allow the use across the EU of adult stem-cells, subject to the precautionary principle.

It does not mention exactly what the risks are. (are they really going to be any different from those involved in adult stem cells. Really? Digging a bit further into their policies on science I'm finding more to disturb me.

HolfordWatch has an excellent summary of their health policies, which range from a rather detailed policy on banning mercury fillings (but rather less on any other aspect of modern dentistry), and the very worrying support for "complementary" medicine, including homeopathy, etc- most importantly their proposal that they will:

...encourage the development of a wider and more relevant range of research techniques, including methods appropriate to the assessment of complementary therapies.

As Ben Goldacre, HolfordWatch and others repeatedly demonstrate the standard scientific toolkit works very well at evaluating the claims made by homeopaths, nutritionists, and others. Unfortunately for them they are less than complementary about the efficacy of the proposed treatments. Are the Green Party really this anti-science? At first their policy on Genetic Modification seems reasonable.

ST362 The Green Party accepts that certain aspects of genetic engineering may be benign and may lead to enhanced quality of life, but feels that there is an urgent need for informed public debate on the issues raised because of the economic, environmental and social control aspects of this technology

ST363 Pending research into the effects of the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment, the Green Party seeks a moratorium on such releases through agreement between industry, research establishments and government, as well as a ban on importation of such organisms into the UK. (see AR410)

AR410 Patents will not be granted on any animal and strict controls will be introduced to prevent genetic manipulation for profit or curiosity

Fair enough you'd think- the public understanding of science is something I want to see vastly increased, I too am concerned about Monsanto and co patenting crops, and using terminator genes to force farmers to keep buying their seeds. Similarly most GM that's actually been used in agriculture merely allows you to use more pesticides, rather than increasing yield, drought resistance, or something really helpful there.

However the key wording is this: a ban on importation of such organisms into the UK.

Gimpy is a life sciences researcher who performs genetic modification on organisms for research purposes. Some of you may know that I was prescribed Human Growth Hormone while I was a teenager. This was not obtained from cadavers, but from GM bacteria. Its where diabetics get their insulin, and is going to be a source of plenty of other drugs- after all bacteria are cheap to grow, and can produce the chemicals in much larger quantities than the original organism usually does. Science is an international, collaborative effort. Scientists regularly send each other samples of the organisms they're working on, and Gimpy is naturally concerned that ST363 and AR410 sound like the Green Party's policy could have real problems for scientists if they gained a position of power.

At least when pressed by Gimpy for clarification a (unnamed) Green Party member stated that:

I must admit I don’t know what the purpose of that last part of ST363 is, since clearly there could be importation for research where there is no potential environmental problem, and I can’t see that there is necessarily a problem in the circumstances you describe.

We review our policies from time to time, and maybe we need to take a look at this one!

Damn straight! I think you do. Is that a reason not to vote for them? I don't honestly know, certainly in Europe they've done much to get climate change onto the agenda, something that I'm worried will suffer with UKIP's rise to prominence and their avowedly Anti-Global Warming stance.

I rather like (at least in principle) the Green's policy of allowing all members to propose policy, which then gets voted on, leading to such things as a clearly defined policy on mercury fillings in teeth, but somewhat more ambiguous statements on genetic research that they admit they don't know the intention of worry me.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)


Who does this woman have for a science advisor? Ken Hovind? I knew she was in favour of ID, I've heard the McCain rhetoric about the $3m "overhead projector" for a planetarium. Properly funding education for people with special needs is a very worthy aim. I don't doubt that the some of the "earmarked" pet projects aren't worth spending money on. But they've made themselves look very silly by picking on the science ones.

But really? This is insane. This woman has a son with Down's Syndrome. Drosophila melanogaster is a model organism. Basic research on this animal has taught us an awful lot about the genetic and developmental basis for thousands of conditions affecting millions of people. Many of them with the special needs that Palin is so keen on helping.

Comments on Pharyngula claim that the research she is criticising is on the Olive Fruit Fly (not D. melanogaster), which is now a major pest in California. It is native to Europe, so doing the research there makes perfect sense. Now one could make arguments about whether the amount of money spent is worth it given the size of the olive growing industry, and distinguishing this research from that research. (Is spending $211,000 on an industry worth $59.4m in 2006 worth it? Its a criticism one could make. But not the one she did.) Of course what happens if the fly evolves and changes host? You might want to have done some research on the animal to understand its ecology to see how or if this might happen, and how to control the thing if it does.

Of course Palin and McCain are harping on about helping small businesses. I'd have thought that $211,000 to control a pest that can wipe out the that year's souce of revenue of just such a small business might actually be of more benefit than the tax cuts.

I don't doubt that there are pet projects that probably don't deserve government funding, but renovating the Adler Planetarium (which needs a new "overhead projector" because its 40 years old, and the company that made the old one can't service it any more) sounds like the sort of thing which makes the government look good. Its a nice project that will do much to inspire children across the wider area. And if the new kit lasts as long as the old one its only $75,000 a year. And the government aren't going to be paying for the whole thing anyway are they?

Besides aren't kids with special needs allowed to be interested in science? I don't know anything about the Adler's education programme, but I would be very surprised if there was no provision for children (and adults) with all kinds of disabilities.

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davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
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