davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Liff)
2013-08-29 12:35 am
Entry tags:

Jamie Oliver, poverty, tv shows, and some ill-considered opinions.

 There have been several well-written rants about Jamie Oliver's attempts to drum up an audience for his new programme. There being no such thing as bad publicity, he's decided to do so by offending exactly the groups of people his programme is intended to entertain, educate, and inform.

Jennie
has already explained the reasons why people might buy ready meals rather than make stuff, far better than I can. I've done the living on minimum wage thing, and it isn't fun. I was lucky in that I had parents I could fall back on if necessary. And, importantly, the only person I had to support was myself. Cooking on a budget of £10 a week is not something I've ever had to do. I couldn't even get a wildcard entry to the All-England Four Yorkshiremen Contest. If I'd had to look after anyone but myself I don't think I'd have coped. I'm amazed anyone can frankly.

The comments on Jennie's article are very interesting and I recommend reading them, as are the ones on Jack Monroe's (although I'd avoid the ones on her Independent one like the plague). I want to like Jamie Oliver. I really do. I think his heart was in the right place when it came to school meals, and I like what I've seen of his style of cooking (measuring? pfft! chuck it in, slosh it about, off you go). Its just that I can't stand his chirpy mockney twattery, and the more he opens his mouth the more like the objectionable brand of Tory he sounds. On the other hand I can make a pretty good guess who Nigella votes for (and I wouldn't be surprised if I was completely wrong), but she makes aspirational food pr0n, rather than being on a mission to save the world from twizzled turkey..

I don't know what kind of programme Jamie has made, and frankly I've been thoroughly put off watching it. Besides the programme that should have been made would be much better anyway. It should probably have been made by the Kamikaze Cookery guys and Jack Monroe.

For most people in London, fresh fruit and veg is readily available pretty cheaply. There are lots of greengrocers that will sell a kilo of slightly wonky peppers for what the supermarkets will charge you for one perfectly formed one, that tastes exactly the same when you cut it up and put it in a stew. If you have a reasonable sized saucepan you can make a decent stew from onions, peppers, whatever seasonings you might have (mustard, chilli sauce, marmite/bovril instead of a stock cube), and a tin of kidney beans, and some tinned tomatoes which won't break the bank, won't take very long, and depending on how many it needs to feed whatevers left can be whacked in the microwave the next day. I haven't costed it up, but per person it'd be under a pound. If you have access to cheap fruit and veg.

For people in this situation, where cheap healthy food is potentially available then "all" one needs to do is help them understand the resources they have available, how best to make use of them, such as the variety of "one pot" recipes, and how to make the best use of tiny kitchens with next to no equipment, and understanding the economics of scratch-made vs ready meals, and when they're a saving and when they're not. Which is something I think not even the sainted Jamie Oliver is equipped to do. Its certainly beyond my ability, and I can't help but feel that for many people its too late. They never learnt to cook, and while it doesn't necessarily have to be difficult, as Jennie so rightly says it takes time and effort to acquire new skills, and time and effort to use them. Which many people regardless of their financial status just don't have.

Perhaps we should be teaching this in schools. You could call it "Economics of Household Management, including Essential Practical Skills". Of course there might be a better title out there. With all the money the government has saved by implementing the Bedroom Tax they could provide information packs with important and useful information at the benefit office. If you have to have training or lose your benefits perhaps this should be an option?

Like I said, the recipe idea above works if you can get cheap fresh fruit and veg. Unfortunately having spent my life in an area where they are readily available I don't have a solution for what  to do for people for whom this is a luxury. Which of course would be an ideal hook for episode 2, and might open a serious discussion about food deserts, because that's something that needs to be had. Its all very laudable of me, Jamie, and the rest advocating educating people about how to eat healthily and cheaply but its a waste of time if they can't put it into practice.

And I can't help but feel after all that rambling that nothing will change, that Jamie Oliver's programme will achieve nothing but make the typical victim-blaming Fail readers feel smug, and that I'm no better than the rest of them, because like the young lady in the Pulp song, I'll never really understand either.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2013-08-04 11:08 am
Entry tags:

(no subject)

Is Salah Al Bander still a member of the Liberal Democrats? Because I think someone needs to have a quiet word with him about "liberalism". Harassing Nahla Mahmoud and her family like this is certainly not "liberal".
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Liff)
2013-02-05 07:02 pm
Entry tags:

The Marriage (Same-Sex) Act debate

Its been a slow day at work, so I've been watching the Grauniad's feed of the debate in the House of Commons. Mainly because I heard Charles Moore on the Today programme being mind-bogglingly stupid, and I had to check that he wasn't just a complete idiot they'd dragged off the street, and those opposing the bill actually had some sensible reasons for opposing the bill.

Apparently for Charles marriage is all about shagging and having kids. So anyone who can't have kids, or doesn't want them shouldn't be married. Nor should people who don't like sex be allowed to get married. Except they should because it would be "open to the possibility", but same-sex marriage isn't. Unless of course the woman has had a hysterectomy, so that argument doesn't work either. I do see his point that marriage these days may be more about the wedding than the actual relationship. But that says far more about the willingness of individuals to enter into agreements without due consideration than it does about what shape genitals they have. In which case Las Vegas has probably done more to harm the institution of marriage than the homosexuals will.

So far I've been disappointed.

"Sir Tony Gale: There is a way forward. It has been suggested but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not."

I've thought for a long time that it would be a good idea for some sort of civil union that allows two people in a mutually caring relationship to form some sort of legal partnership, so that, for instance, they can defer paying inheritance tax, so one doesn't lose the house they were living in when the other dies, such as in the recent case of the two unmarried sisters who lost their appeal to the European Court. Should they be exempt from inheritance tax? Perhaps not, but I see no reason why, as long-term mutual dependents, they shouldn't be able to defer payment."The absence of ... a legally binding agreement between the applicants renders their relationship of cohabitation, despite its long duration, fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple," I am not aware of any legally binding agreement the two women could have entered into.

Sadly I suspect this is not what Sir Tony had in mind.

"Craig Whittaker, a Conservative, said it would be better for the government to create a new category of marriage called state marriage. That could replace civil partnerships, and it would allow gay people to be married without undermining religious marriage"

Given that the CofE and the Anglican Church in Wales are expressly forbidden from marrying same sex couples and no religious institution or minister has to marry a same-sex couple if they don't want to, then I'd say that's not far off what we've got. We just haven't given them the same names. Alternatively, perhaps we should have state and religious marriages, and only state ones confer the legal benefits. Allegedly this is the situation in France. Again, I don't quite think that's what he was getting at.

Nadine Dorries continues to be an utterly vile and completely clueless individual.

"This bill in no way makes a requirement of faithfulness from same-sex couples. In fact, it does the opposite. In a heterosexual marriage a couple can divorce for adultery, and adultery is if you have sex with a member of the opposite sex. In a heterosexual marriage a couple vow to forsake all others ... A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow because they do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce for adultery. There is no requirement of faithfulness. And if there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage? "

I'm pretty sure a heterosexual couple don't have to vow to forsake all others if they don't want to. Plenty of people are in open marriages, and of course because adultery is defined as having sex with a member of the opposite sex that you aren't married to you can't sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery if your husband leaves you for another man. So its a pretty restrictive requirement of faithfulness, even if only the straights can get married isn't it? Of course most sensible people would be suing on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. But then Mad Nad hasn't made a career out of being sensible. I was hoping that someone would have tabled an amendment to redefine adultery so that it does apply to people sleeping with members of the same sex, which would handily shut these people up, but that doesn't seem to have happened.

"Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, said he was opposed to the bill. And he said he objected to David Lammy implying that those opposed to gay marriage were similar to those who opposed civil rights for blacks in America in the 1950s."

Poor little mite. Did the nasty opposition MP hurt your feelings? Tough. Because the people who are opposing this bill are similar to those who opposed the Civil Rights movement. Specifically the ones who wanted to keep the miscegenation laws.

"David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said the bill was about redefining marriage. It was a redefinition that downgraded marriage, he said.
He said he had been subject to death threats because of his stance on this. MPs who oppose the bill have been called homophobes, Nazis or bigots, he said."

I deplore the death threats, but the description of MPs opposing the bill as homophobes and bigots is perfectly accurate. Also, I'm pretty sure we started downgrading marriage when we allowed people to get divorced, stopped putting people to death for adultery, stopped thinking of women as property, that sort of thing.

"Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon, said all previous attempts to allow gay marriage have led to marriage being defined. He suggested that this could lead to marriage being redefined to include polygamy. In the Netherlands three-way relationships were now acknowledged under cohabitation agreements, he said."
 
And what's so bad about that pray Matthew?
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
2012-06-22 09:12 pm
Entry tags:

Science. Its a girls thing. But only if its pink.

As usual the world has shown its knack for horrific timing. A day after the death of Caroline John who played one of the few Doctor Who companions who could match him in a battle of wits, and who I'm sure did much to inspire many women scientists (and indeed women generally) who saw that yes, you can be whatever you put your mind to even if you're "just a woman" we have this from the EU.

Here's the teaser trailer.



Are you done with the vomit bucket yet?

To be fair, the profile videos are pretty good- here's Joanna Zmurko, a Polish student working for a PhD in Virology in Belgium:-



She makes a pretty good case for why science is so cool. "On Friday I didn't know what the function of a certain gene was, but on Monday I did". That one sentence will do more to inspire young women to go into science as a career, than any number of flashy ads with pouts, lipstick, high heels and short skirts.

Naturally enough twitter has completely exploded against this #sciencegirlsthing, and the alternative #realwomenscientists is doing very nicely. Rarely has the "can we make maths pink?" joke felt more like reality.

If you want to inspire women to be scientists tell them the story of Vera Rubin, who had to meet her prospective PhD supervisors in the departmental lobby because women weren't allowed inside the offices, and provided the evidence that convinced people that Dark Matter exists.

How about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who showed that the sun was made of hydrogen, and said:

"The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. ... The reward of the old scientist is the sense of having seen a vague sketch grow into a masterly landscape."

You want inspirational women scientists- Caroline Herschel, sister of the more famous William (who discovered Uranus), was a first-rate astronomer, and was the first woman awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal (the second? Vera Rubin). Or Margaret Burbidge, coauthor of the B2FH theory, that still explains how the elements up to iron are made, and is an ardent feminist who turned down the Annie Jump Cannon (another female astronomer) Prize because it was only given to women.

And that's just four of the astronomers I could name off the top of my head. You want biologists? Barbara Hastings, Dorothea Bate, Miriam Rothschild, Mary Lyon. We have Florence Nightingale to thank for the pie chart- I'd argue that was a far more important contribution to medicine than being "the lady with the lamp".

But no. We have high heels, lipstick, and pouting. Its enough to make you give up and become a hairdresser...
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2012-03-07 06:59 pm
Entry tags:

Weighty issues The Fail thinks are important for feminism..

Via the F-word, and [personal profile] miss_s_b I bring you the important things that the Daily Fail thinks are important. And perhaps. in the context of a wider discussion about bodily autonomy, freedom of choice, the way people use language, and suchlike they are. However I don't think the Mail will be much interested in this wider discussion.

Can you vajazzle and be a feminist?

Well I can't, what with not having a va to jazzle. Isn't one of the things about feminism the fact that its your body so you get to decide what happens to it?

Is it sexist to call a woman "love" or "dear"?


In certain parts of the UK, and for a certain generation its the norm. Of course it depends on how you say it. A cheery "what can I get you love"? Is not sexist, is not being said in a derogatory manner, and nor is it intended to be anything than a cheery greeting. An annoyed "I don't care, love, you ain't coming in" probably is being said in a manner to belittle the woman its being said to.

Does Katie Price let women down?

All the fucking time. You phone her up because your car's broken down, and if you've got testicles she's over in a shot. If you haven't she takes ages, never brings the right tools, and complains her sat-nav was playing up. (Look its the best I could come up with. Jennie's already used the valve joke).

Should women take their husband's name when they get married?

Only if its awesome.

Is Rihanna a feminist icon?

I suppose so. Is it feminist to forgive, and remain friends with someone who physically abused you? I have no idea. But its certainly human.

Who should pay the bill on a date?


Whoever can afford to. Splitting the bill equally for the first couple of dates, or taking it in turns might not be a bad idea. If you're arguing about the bill on the first date the chances of their being a second don't sound too likely.

Is stripping an acceptable career choice?

Don't see why not. I won't be going to the show, but if you enjoy it, its not my place to stop you.

What feminist issues do you think are more important than any of the ones asked about above?

All of them?

davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
2010-04-30 02:24 pm

I did it so you don't have to...

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.
Ctrl+Enter to post
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2010-04-23 12:14 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

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...


Help davegodfrey and get your own badge!
(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.)
Ctrl+Enter to post
Ctrl+Enter to post
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2010-03-01 10:49 pm
Entry tags:

Lab Romance

Ctrl+Enter to post

via Osscillator

Also Universe has an excellent interview with Ursula K. LeGuin, who is understandably not happy about Google Books plan to avoid worrying about copyright. But she talks about other subjects too. And I feel shamed that I have not read anything by her. This shall have to change rather soon.

Everybody before Google who wanted to copy an o.p. or orphaned work had to find who held the copyright and ask permission. And everybody did so.  And Google can do so.

It won't bankrupt them.  They just saved quite a lot of money getting out of China, I believe.

davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2009-09-28 07:47 pm
Entry tags:

Beer!

You may have heard of "Brew Dog". They've run into problems with the Portman Group, several times (they had a beer called "Speedball", and described "Punk IPA" as "anti-social".) Their website gives you the idea of the kind of company they are. They like to market themselves as being a bit edgy, and then say something that makes you think they're just idiots.

They're a Scottish brewery who were recently condemned for making Tokyo*, at 18.2% one of the strongest beers around. Made with champagne yeast to get the percentage that high it is sold in 330ml bottles, and each of those contains 6 units of alcohol. This is I admit rather a lot for one bottle. They've hit back by making "Nanny State" a 1.1% beer. Alcohol Focus Scotland are not amused that Brew Dog are taking the piss somewhat. When Tokyo* came out they said-

"It is utterly irresponsible to bring out a beer which is so strong at a time when Scotland is facing unprecedented levels of alcohol-related health and social harm.

"Just one bottle of this beer contains six units of alcohol - twice the recommended daily limit."

Brew Dog were marketing this as being a "cure for binge drinking" which does sound stupid, but as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

However this beer costs £9.99 per 330ml bottle. And was produced in a run of 3000. There are much cheaper ways of getting drunk. Vodka for instance. Good vodka even. This beer is about £20 a pint, which is about my budget for a night out, including club entry. Not a beer that lends itself to the "lets get as drunk as we can as quickly and cheaply as possible" market. AFS really are barking up the wrong tree with this one. This is not a beer that will be drunk in quantity, it'll be shared around a group of people in a "look what I've found" session, along with random fruity things from Belgium. Brew Dog are not trying to muscle in on the Special Brew Market. Really they're not. Its a gimmick to get the name out there and people interested in the other beers they make.

Now I don't know much about the binge drinking culture- although if three pints is a binge I "binge" nearly every time I go out for a drink with my friends, and I'm sure most of you do too, so maybe I do know more than I thought? Anyway I digress. This is an expensive, limited edition luxury product. It is not something you would drink in quantity. Hell beer above 8% is not something you can drink in quantity. For one thing the taste and strength is usually somewhat overpowering. Until it ceased production in 1999 Thomas Hardy's Ale was the strongest I knew of at 12%, and I'm sure there were others. Most were marketed as nightcaps, or beers to lay down for a special occasion.

Jeffo's Beer Blog
has some interesting things to say on the whole saga- and on their other beers, of which he seems to be a fan, but he does point out that the "strongest beer possible" market is not a large one, and the whole thing is something of a gimmick. He doesn't have much sympathy for the "Beer Geek" style beers, preferring beers you can actually drink more than one of in an evening. This is a view with which I am in general agreement. As for Tokyo* I am not likely to try it, I suspect they've sold out by now. And I'm not spending £10 on less than half a pint- even if its guaranteed to get me blotto just by sniffing it.

I have however tried a couple of their other beers, I didn't particularly like Dogma (7.8%), a heather honey infused ale, that also contains gaurana, kola nut and poppy seeds. I suspect the guarana and kola, coupled withthe strength is why I didn't like it, as I'm rather fond of honey ales, and Fraoch is lovely. (Note to self. Hunt down some mead for the winter). Punk IPA (6%) was nicer, but I prefer its weaker brethren. Sainsbury's still have some left, and it may reward a second visit. I would like to try Paradox (an ale conditioned in whisky casks, like the delectable Innis and Gunn), though at 10% I'm a bit leery of it. If I see it I will try "Trashy Blonde" which sounds much more interesting- its 4.1% so I'd actually want to drink more than one in an evening. I like these guys attempt to be as far from the conventional image of brewing as they can be, but in the end I can't help but agree with Jeffo when he says that "There's little point in pandering to the beer geek market: it's far too small and fickle". I don't drink 8%-9% beers regularly, and I don't know anyone else who does either.

davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
2009-06-08 11:37 am

I admit it, its all my fault.

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)
2009-01-20 10:33 pm

Nurse removes IUDs because she thinks they're a type of abortion

I went top the pub to wave a colleague off to another job and I come back to this.

No. Not the presidential inauguration. (Tho' I hope Obama and his team does a better job than GW- then again he can't be much worse. surely? surely?)

Nope. It was the news via Pharyngula that Sylvia Olona of the Presbyterian Health Services Rio Rancho Family Health Center in New Mexico removes her patients IUDs. Without their consent.

"Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it's not true, they accidentally come out when I tug."

Now I don't know much about IUDs, but I'd assume that they don't just "accidentally come out when I tug". Or indeed, that in order to adjust one that much tugging is involved. She's being sued for removing one without consent. And it isn't the first time. Until now I didn't know entirely how IUDs worked. (I'd been told that it was an anti-implantation technique- which, it turns out, is wrong). But I'm not a nurse. I'm not expected to know exactly how individual methods of contraception work as part of my day-to-day job. This woman's career is based on the fact that she has this kind of information at her fingertips. And she's this ignorant of her own specialism? And uses her ignorance to determine the course of other women's lives?

If these allegations are true this woman should lose her licence. If half the allegations are true she should be struck off.

If Obama does nothing else in his first 100 days, I'll be glad if he removes the "provider conscience rule" that means people like this can ride roughshod over someone else because their personal (and clearly ill-informed) beliefs somehow trump someone else's decisions about their own body. The most frightening thing is that this kind of crap is already affecting people.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2009-01-13 02:48 pm
Entry tags:

Stephen Green = Wrong. No change there then.

I do love Stephen Green sometimes. His latest shtick is to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority about the "There's probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life" advert London buses. Of course if he hadn't started jumping up and down and stamping his little feet virtually no-one outside London or the prominent atheist internet communities would know.

If he didn't exist I think the atheists would have to invent him. His campaign against Jerry Springer The Opera got the laws against Blasphemous Libel overturned, though with the introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act in 2006 its death was on the cards anyway. Incidentally Green's private prosecution was dismissed by the High Court on the grounds that it was impossible under the acts governing theatres and broadcasters to be charged with blasphemy.

I shouldn't be surprised that people like Green don't understand that being told we're bad people for not agreeing with him annoys us. Clearly by his logic feminists should keep quite about all the adverts that portray women's bodies as dirty things to be ashamed of. (Actually Green probably thinks women's bodies are dirty things to be ashamed of.)

What's annoying too, is the Christians who like to think of themselves as moderates, and the concern trolling atheists and agnostics (Clifford Longley as quoted by Andrew Brown for instance) "Ooh no, we can't upset the religious people". To which the only response I can think of is bollocks. Insulting for no reason? Yeah, I'm not a fan of that. I've been guilty of it myself, and it just makes you look stupid.

There are however times when its perfectly justified. Osama Bin Laden and Fred Phelps (to take the most extreme examples) clearly have some warped ideas about what their religions should be. I'm sure they have (and in the case of Christianity know) bits of their holy books that back up their ideas, but there are plenty of other parts that contradict this, and big lumps that are just plain ignored. After all Christians women don't make blood sacrifices after their periods any more. (They don't do they? Or is it like that secret evolutionist ritual where they show us all the Precambrian rabbits?)

Sometimes it would be really nice if it didn't feel like it was just the humanists and the "outspoken atheists" getting up and telling the religious extremists that they're mental. And Christians, what is it with the persecution complex? Guys you took over the Roman Empire, and have been in charge of Western Civilisation ever since. You haven't been able to cry "Oppression" in 1800 years, except when you've been oppressing each other.

I'm going to stop here before I turn into Marcus Brigstocke without the gags.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2008-12-23 06:24 pm
Entry tags:

I for one welcome our new homosexual overlords

You probably all know that Darth Ratzi's claiming that the LBGTQs an equal threat to the planet as the destruction of the rainforest. Its all the fault of "gender theory". Which according to him "lead towards the definitive emancipation of man from creation and the creator". Sounds like a good idea to me given the kind of creator he seems to believe in. I'm still not sure how the homosexuals are going to destroy mankind. Possibly in the same way that they'll destroy marriage by um. Er. Being able to visit each other in hospital, and avoiding higher levels of inheritance tax.

But at least he doesn't seem to condone the charges of heresy against Galileo. I'm actually mildly surpised that he's been pinned down on this pressing topical question.

Also. This Christmas I'm going to need an new irony meter. An Italian priest, Father Botino, in Northern Italy has been criticised for telling kids that Father Christmas doesn't exist, "he never intended to hurt anyone but it was his duty to distinguish reality of Jesus from a story that was fable just like Cinderella or Snow White".

Fortunately a group of real terrorists have been found guilty. There are some experiments I don't like. I'm not sure I support a lot of the medical tests on chimps and other "higher" primates. But I also recognise that curing AIDS, learning how embryological development works, and all the other things that people do experiments on are important, and worthwhile. And they're only done when there isn't an alternative. You can't do everything in a computer or a petri dish. Biological systems are just too complex.

If it wasn't for animal testing an awful lot of people would be dead. Including most of these "activists".
davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
2008-11-11 07:18 pm

On Prop 8, and blaming the wrong people.

The madness of one minority blaming another on the fact that an assorted bunch of Mormons, Christian Right-Wingers and other such people got Proposition 8 passed in California still goes on. Frankly it seems just nuts. I was willing to entertain the possibility that African-Amercian voters might have made up a large enough percentage of the population, turned out in large enough numbers and all voted in a large enough block that it might have outweighed all the nice white people all of whom must have voted No. Because white people can't be homophobic can they?

I think I'd better clean up the sarcasm before it infects the rest of the post.

It turns out that (as is so often the case in these things) the figures don't mean what you think they mean. Or indeed aren't actually true. Shanikka, over on the Daily Kos has an excellent post going through all the figures and handily debunking the various claims that have been made. I recommend you stop reading this now and go there. Seriously, its fantastic.

The CNN exit polls cited are pretty flawed. It doesn't count absentee or early voters, and picks counties at random. In a state like California where the majority of the counties are solid Republican, but as there are a few counties with much, much, bigger populations who collectively swing the state over to the Democrats this type of poll is not going help very much.

Basically there are 2.26m blacks, making up 6.2% of the population. Not all of these people are eligible to vote (many are under 18. convicted felons, or just aren't registered), so there's at most just over a million registered voters. Taking the highest levels of turnout into account, Shanikka estimates that at most 720,536 blacks made it to the polls.  Remember these figures are really rather overinflated to give people the benefit of the doubt. (Not that they deserve any quite frankly). This means that at most 504,000 Blacks voted for Prop 8 (if the 70/30 split is to be believed). Prop 8 is winning by about 510,000 votes. Even if African Americans had voted exactly in line with the other Prop 8 would still have passed.

Is homophobia common within the black community? Quite probably.
Is it more common than in other communties? I have no idea. Maybe it is. But blaming anyone other than the groups who go the damn proposition on the ballot isn't going to help anyone.
davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
2008-10-21 03:47 pm

(no subject)



I don't know who Keith Olbermann is, but he's clearly not happy with McCain and Palin's campaign. I'm seriously worried that if they get in they're going to reform the House Un-American Activities Committee. Frankly the way the McCain campaign seems to have been going I'm not surprised Colin Powell is supporting Obama. I wouldn't want to have anything to do with that bunch.

davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
2008-05-15 12:49 am

More burning stupid...

Remember Michael Medved? The chap who thought that slavery "wasn't so bad" and that the Native Americans weren't the victims of genocide?

He's at it again folks. This time, America is awesome because of its DNA. According to Peter C. Whybrow "immigrants to the United States and their descendents seemed to possess a distinctive makeup of their “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.”" John D. Gartner adds that the laissez-faire capitalism with minimal or ineffectual governmental controls "sustains the influence of immigrant genetics."

On its own this is stupid. It's a classic example of when evolutionary psychology runs away with itself and gets it completely wrong. I don't know exactly how a particular version of your dopamine receptors controls preferring to move to a different continent to dying of famine, but I'm fairly sure the psychiatrists (or does he mean psychologists?) don't either. But this is Medved. The stupid doesn't stop there.

"The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S."

Now I wonder which group he's talking about here? But its not all doom and gloom. There have been 3 million immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean to help mitigate the effect of the descendants of all those unselected people. Dare I mention the problems involving Native Americans? And what of the issues facing the Hispanics? A good proportion of their ancestors came from Spain, so its not as if they should be lacking in the "immigrant gene".

Medved's point, when he finally gets to it in the last paragraph, is that imposing a European-style welfare state "not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature."

Yeah. Because society is genetic. The Inca's? Predisposed to ridiculous amounts of polygamy, human sacrifice, and not using the wheel.

ETA: (Hat tip to Pharyngula again. Some of the comments are worth reading too. (Cue lots of people [including Americans] pointing out that by this logic Canada, India and New Zealand shouldn't have welfare states, or the alternative hypothesis- America is full of cowards who didn't want to stay and sort out their problems so legged it.)
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Dave Godfrey)
2008-04-23 01:43 am
Entry tags:

The internet seems to have gone 'splodey again

Some pillock has created the "Open Source Boob Project". And then thought it would be a good idea to tell the internet. I heard about this from [profile] snapesbabe, and under highly specific circumstances could be a healthy thing to do (along with getting to know your genitals on a farm in California). That's about the only context where I think you could involve strangers, and even then there's rather more social interaction than "Here's your badge, now can I touch you?"

There isn't really a male equivalent set of organs that you could use, so the one-sidedness of this interaction bothers me. As does the idea that women might feel pressured into taking part, guilty for not taking part, put off doing something they'd otherwise like, or that someone will take it too far. But I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that the idea that it was degrading to women didn't cross his mind. Probably because he's an idiot, but possibly because he's a man and men don't necessarily think like that which they fucking should.

I still don't think it did. And then I saw this link to [personal profile] kate_nepveu's journal. And some of the comments quoting what he'd written in his comments. Now I think he's a creepy idiot, and I'm not in the least surprised he came up with this idea. If the guy was 18 I might be able to overlook this as the folly of youth, but he's clearly old enough to know better.

The more I read about this the angrier I get.

It would be nice to live in a world where people didn't have hang-ups about sex and nudity and the body being "dirty". Being comfortable with yourself means many things. I'm not sure where allowing some bloke you've exchanged three sentences with to cop a feel comes into this. If you want to do it then hooray for you. But why are you doing it? There are better ways to improve you self-esteem, and wouldn't it be more fun to be fondled by someone who at least pretended to be interested in you as a person, even if all they really wanted was a shag?
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
2007-11-28 09:54 am
Entry tags:

The Stupid! It Burns!

Via [profile] maureenlycaon
Michael Medved. I've never heard of him until now. Frankly I wish I hadn't. He was a film critic. Now he blogs. Its nauseating. Sadlyno has an article on a recent entry, dissecting it far more eleoquently than I can. Basically Medved says that slavery wasn't that bad because:

1. SLAVERY WAS AN ANCIENT AND UNIVERSAL INSTITUTION, NOT A DISTINCTIVELY AMERICAN INNOVATION.

So the greeks did it. So what? And France and the UK had banned it on home soil before the founding of the US anyway.

2. SLAVERY EXISTED ONLY BRIEFLY, AND IN LIMITED LOCALES, IN THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC – INVOLVING ONLY A TINY PERCENTAGE OF THE ANCESTORS OF TODAY’S AMERICANS.

In the history of the republic perhaps. In the history of the colonies? Rather longer I venture. And the majority of African-Americans have slaves as their ancestors. 

3. THOUGH BRUTAL, SLAVERY WASN’T GENOCIDAL: LIVE SLAVES WERE VALUABLE BUT DEAD CAPTIVES BROUGHT NO PROFIT.

Er? One of the commenters on SadlyNo points to this painting, "The Slave Ship" by JMW Turner. Says it all really. And as slaves were cargo the traders could claim on the insurance. Profitsss all  round.

"Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean."

WHAT?!!!!!????????!!!???!?!?!?! Did I just mention the insurance? Did you look at the pretty picture?

(Sadly No interrupts their blog for puppies. I suggest you look at Ugly Overload. They have cute centipedes.)

4. IT’S NOT TRUE THAT THE U.S. BECAME A WEALTHY NATION THROUGH THE ABUSE OF SLAVE LABOR: THE MOST PROSPEROUS STATES IN THE COUNTRY WERE THOSE THAT FIRST FREED THEIR SLAVES.

Actually the slave owning states were one of the most wealthy at the time beacuse of the Triangle Trade. And the ones that freed their slaves were industrialised. Places producing raw materials tend not to be massively wealthy anyway.

5. WHILE AMERICA DESERVES NO UNIQUE BLAME FOR THE EXISTENCE OF SLAVERY, THE UNITED STATES MERITS SPECIAL CREDIT FOR ITS RAPID ABOLITION.

Except that the US needed a civil war before slavery could be stopped, and the UK didn't, over 30 years earlier. Plenty of other places had banned slavery long before the US did it. (But at least they did it before Saudi Arabia in 1960! So that's all right then.)

6. THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TODAY’S AFRICAN-AMERICANS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THEIR ANCESTORS HAD REMAINED BEHIND IN AFRICA. 

True. But their ancestors being transported would have. Slavery is wrong. Just because 200 years down the line your descendants have a walkman and nice shoes doesn't make it right here and now (or there and then.)

Then again it turns out the the man has form. After all the Native Americans weren't the victims of genocide.

Best of all Pharyngula notes that Medved is now a fellow of the Discovery Institute! Are they trying to discredit themselves? Its almost as if we don't need to bother any more.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2007-08-09 01:03 am
Entry tags:

Tedium is the right of all sentient beings...

I mentioned I'd discuss this in my last post, so here goes. [livejournal.com profile] tyrell and [Unknown site tag] kicked the whole shebang off by posting a video of men in giant robots fighting over a woman simpering in the corner. (The video has been removed before I could see it which is a shame, 'cos steampunk giant robots just sounds cool). The objectification of women in this clip however is not cool.

Given when they're trying to set this then I suppose I'd expect her to sit quietly in the corner and let them get on with it, but because its not Victorian melodrama there's no reason why she shouldn't tell them both where to get off. Without seeing the clip I don't know if the giant robots would distract me enough to not mind the sexism.

Similarly in Transformers there are two women with useful skills, one of whom barely uses them- instead of which she gets someone else to work for her. And the other one, as [livejournal.com profile] innerbrat notes is sexualised in virtually every shot. Now I can understand that when the young hero gets her to look at his engine- he's 17 and actually talking to the girl he's fancied for god knows how long. After that one scene we get the picture. He likes her, he's in awe of her, and yes, she is very attractive, but is this really neccessary? Then again Michael Bay isn't a subtle director. Maybe he didn't think the audience would notice, so he had to keep hammering the messsage home. Whizz! Boom! Bang! Pretty Girl! Crash! Thud! Smash!

Objectification of women is a problem. Maybe not for the middle-class university-educated people I surround myself with, but outside of this world? Yes it is. The Sun still publishes Page 3. Benny Hill is ridiculously popular in Europe- and if they brought it back on British TV it'd probably get massive ratings.

Boiling it down to biology, men (subconsiously at least) want to breed with as many partners as possible, producing as many children as they can. With this kind of inbuilt preference there's going to be objectification of women and women's bodies. As soon as these attitudes colour your interactions with people then there's a potential problem. I'd like to think that in an enlightened western society that men were able to override these feelings and ignore them, except between consenting adults.

However in most areas of the world this is very much not the case. I can't count how many adverts I saw on the tube today with attractive young women trying to persuade me to buy something. And the sad thing is advertisers won't stop using this technique, because it works. Beacuse my fellow men continue to objectify women, and will buy things because it might attract a pretty girl to them. (Like women are really turned on by your mortgage). It just pisses me off something chronic. Nearly as much as using couples in these adverts (but that's just 'cos I'm single and bitter about it.)

Christ that's a lot of unfocussed waffle.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
2006-12-05 12:50 pm
Entry tags:

Just a bit scary...

US Radio Host calls for forced identification of Muslims 

When Jerry Klein used his talk show to call for US Muslims to be given a crescent tattoo or forced to wear a distinctive armband his phonelines were jammed. The first caller said he must be "off his rocker". Other callers called suggested this didn't go far enough and advocated internment camps and deportation.

The statement was a hoax. At the end of the show Klein said

"For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people's bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver's license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It's beyond disgusting... Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen..."

I have a nasty feeling something similar would happen if a similar hoax was staged in the UK. Having said that there's something about phone-ins that brings out the nutters. There's usually at least one racist/homophobe/nazi on each episode of "Any Answers".

Muslims in the States blame ignorance of their religion as a major factor in this. Given the level of ignorance some Americans have about other parts of America, let alone the outside world I'm not surprised.