Apr 292009
 

In the Telegraph: ‘Medical student dies after taking ‘party drug’ GBL that Home Office failed to ban.

Police are investigating whether she took the drug knowingly, but a long-term friend has told Miss Stewart’s family that she “never ever took drugs” and would “never have knowingly taken this substance”.

Nobody ‘never ever’ takes drugs. Nobody ‘would never’ take drugs. There’s a first time for everything.

But mainly:

In an emotional interview with The Daily Telegraph, Maryon Stewart, her mother, a leading nutritionist, said that she felt “cheated, frustrated and angry” that the Home Office had hesitated on a promise last year to ban the substance, despite it being illegal in several other countries.

She said she was “mortified” to learn of the delays in prohibiting the drug, which is similar to the notorious “date-rape” drug GHB, and said that it may take “my darling Hessie to die for somebody to take notice”.

With all sympathy for the grieving mother, allow me to impart some logic lessons.

(1) Making a drug illegal is not the same thing as banning it.

(2) Even if it were, banning a drug does not make it unobtainable or indemnify partying students against death-by-illegal-drug.

(3) Reductione ad absurdum, the Home Office should ban anything that “can lead to dependence, unconsciousness and even death by intoxication”. There goes, well, everything, since apparently human beings are so fragile they can die from an overdose of water.

I wish people would stop, stop, stop inflicting gross infringements of liberty on the populace when something uncommon, but hideously tragic and preventable, happens to members of their family. For the love of God, enough with these one-man (or -woman) personal-preference crusades!

Me? I think the Home Office should ban idiots. And itself.

Pavlovian training

 fabulae  Comments Off on Pavlovian training
Apr 292009
 

Sitting in my bedroom with the window open, enjoying the cool of the evening and the smells of spring, I half-heard what sounded almost like church bells ringing.

Instantly, my entire being tensed up like an aerobics instructor – heart pounding, eyes widening, chills ebbing and flowing along the spine – which is exactly how I used to feel all the time when I was living in Oxford where the bell-ringers, like maddened over-zealous robots, practise their craft day and night. For a moment, I was back in that hell-hole: miserable, poor, stressed, and foreign; bleak bleak bleak, despite all the dreaming spires and golden sandstone.

Then a child darted past the window and I realised it wasn’t church bells at all. It was an ice-cream van.

Sex ed for tinies

 argh, stupid-heads  Comments Off on Sex ed for tinies
Apr 282009
 

Via wh00ps, I find this story in the Times, about new curriculum guidelines for sex education. Oddly enough, the headline reads ‘Pupils aged 11 to learn about gay sex’ (a pathetic attempt to outrage and obfuscate if ever there was one), but the lead paragraph says:

Compulsory sex and relationships lessons for 11-year-old children are to include classroom discussions on gay unions and civil partnerships. Secondary pupils will learn about contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while primary school children will learn about their bodies and friendships, a review of sex education has concluded.

So far, so good. Discussing contentious issues like same-sex relationships is something schools ought to do more of (although I have little hope that ‘discussions’ in this context means anything more than indoctrination and guilt-trips: 11-year-olds are particularly impressionable, and they will certainly absorb from authority figures simplistic ideas like ‘People who disapprove of homosexuality are eeeeeevil’) – and children should be taught about changing mores, because obviously learning about society is part of the process of maturation. Secondary pupils to be taught about STIs and contraception – fine, fine, get on with it: it’s about fucking time somebody threw contraception into the mix (see: the Fucking Stupid Initiative). And hey, why not teach little kids about friendships and bodies? It’d be pretty damned stupid to try to hide from them the fact that… they have friends and bodies.

But that first paragraph is about the sum total of sense in the whole article.

The review was ordered in October after ministers announced that sex and relationships education (SRE) lessons should be made compulsory to help primary and secondary pupils to “navigate the complexities of modern life” and to ensure that children learnt their sex education from the classroom, not the playground.

First of all, who is going to be teaching this stuff? Because if it’s people like me – and after all, I am a teacher – I could probably witter on about warm-fuzzy civil unions, the clap, and condoms as well as anybody else, but relationships? Not saying I’ve never had them, and not saying some of them haven’t been good. To use a simplistic example, however: that I have a foot (two of them, in fact) does not qualify me to teach podiatry students about feet. And believe me, a teenager is the equivalent of a podiatry student when it comes to relationships (so, at least, your average teenager will claim).

Anecdotal evidence: wildly off-topic in a class of 12-year-olds this afternoon, one pupil asked, ‘Men and women in relationships are always complaining about each other, so why don’t more of them go out with members of their own sex? It seems like it would solve a lot of problems.’

I was about to pontificate that same-sex couples do whinge about each other, all the time, when a different student butted in: ‘It’s not that men and women don’t get along. It’s that, when couples fail to compromise, they complain about each other. And because there are more heterosexual couples than not, their common complaints are more prominent.’

12-year-olds, people. They should be teaching me about relationships.

Second, whence comes this strange duality in the minds of policy-makers (and, apparently, Times reporters) that sex can be learned about from one of two places, the classroom or the playground? What in the name of bleeding Jesus do parents do in this country any more? They don’t educate their children about anything, so now the school must, in addition to taking on the fairly Herculean task of forcing academic information into the minds of youngsters, explain to the children how to be human beings, at the expense of the taxpayer. The state pays for the children’s upkeep in the form of child benefit, at the expense of the taxpayer. The state pays for and provides the child’s early learning, at the expense of the taxpayer (SureStart). Are there any parents out there reading this who would care to explain just what part of the upbringing process you did participate in?

Or perhaps this is the state’s usual practice of undermining the role of the parent in a youngster’s life. Contrary to what we might think, it is not the state that is the brainwasher of the youth, oh no, but the parents who, if left to their own devices, would raise a generation of racist, homophobic, fundamentalist-creationist-terrorist-fascist Nazi skinheads, the sheer chavvy-looniness of whom would quickly overrun the civilised world. Of course nobody learns about sex at home! All the parents are too busy urging Origen-style abstinence on the boys and showing the girls how to sew their vaginas closed because if they ever, ever, ever indulge in the natural human urge, let alone use contraception in the process, GOD WILL DESTROY THE EARTH! And then recreate it again in an instant so he can DESTROY IT A SECOND TIME! to punish humanity for its corrosive sexual immorality.

The changes to personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) classes mark the culmination of decades of campaigning by sexual health organisations, who believe that the patchy nature of sex education in schools is helping to fuel a record level of teenage pregnancy and STIs in England.

I can tell you right now that these PSHE lessons are utterly useless. The pupils at my school loathe them. They are taught by middle-aged types whose knowledge of economics in particular wouldn’t fill a thimble, and whose own obvious personal, social, and health circumstances do not always inspire confidence or imitation (in the same manner as, for example, a poor stockbroker or a bent cop). So nobody listens.

However, poor sex ed is not the ‘fuel’ for Britain’s levels of teen pregnancy and STIs. The ‘fuel’ is a culture in which parents do not have to look after their children (and, therefore, do not have to think long and hard about whether or not to produce one) and healthcare is ‘free.’ Eliminate child benefit and charge people for visits to the GP (but keep funding contraception and abortion), and that teen-pregnancy-cum-disease-of-Venus level will plummet like Gordon Brown’s approval ratings.

Sexual health charities warned that allowing parents to opt out, even if it involved only a small number, was an infringement of young people’s rights. Julie Bentley, chief executive of fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, said that while religion and sex education were not incompatible, schools should not be allowed to interpret the report “to mean they can tell young people, for example, that contraception isn’t a matter of choice – it is simply wrong”.

She added: “We would like further assurances that when SRE becomes statutory, all schools will teach it responsibly, ethically and factually as a core subject.”

Ponder the irony of Julie, who insists unequivocally that contraception is a matter of ‘choice’, saying so in the same breath as a reminder that, soon, sex ed will become statutory, i.e. not a matter of choice.

Some dude called Simon is a bit less dogmatic:

Simon Blake, national director of the sexual health charity Brook, said: “Young people need to understand the law – that you can get contraception, that you can have an abortion – and understand the health benefits of practising safer sex. It would not be right for anyone to tell them that this is wrong, but it is OK for them to be told that some people believe it is wrong.”

Thanks, Simon. Glad to know it’s ‘OK’ to tell children that some people disagree with the social engineers.

The Catholics are on side with my gripe about parents v. the state, as I knew they would be:

The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales welcomed the opt-out. “This is a crucial right in a community where parents are the first educators of their children, because parents are responsible for bringing up their children, and not the State,” it said.

And yet, even for the Catholics, parents are only the ‘first educators of their children’ until they teach something out of line with Catholic dogma, e.g. the ability to prevent pregnancy humanely is the single most important development to enable women to progress along the path from property to personhood. (NB: dogma and doctrine are not the same thing.)

Finally:

Sir Alasdair [MacDonald] said that making PSHE compulsory would help the quality of teaching. “There is probably greater variability in teaching and learning in this subject than in most other subjects,” he said.

Wow. That has to be the first time anyone in the gravy train that passes for education administration has ever admitted that ‘greater variability in teaching and learning’ might actually ‘help the quality of teaching.’ Pity, then, that they continue to put would-be teachers through the automatonic, one-size-fits-all, routine torture of the PGCE. [UPDATE: No, just kidding. Clearly he is saying that making the subject compulsory will allow the government to standardise the teaching of it, thus decreasing that pesky ‘variability.’ Let this be a lesson to you all in reading the words of state mouthpieces optimistically. Cunts.]

Just proof that, apart from the bit contained in the decent lead paragraph, this whole ‘review’ (as well as the Times article) is a massive load of wasteful, nannying, pointless bollocks, dreamed up and lobbied for by fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association (clever re-branding there, no?) and Brook (fake charities, anyone?) to create make-work jobs advisory consultancies for their members and put a bunch of pushy lefty bastards right-on hipsters into cushy pensions teaching jobs that brainwash guide children in ‘navigating the bullshit complexities of a delusional socialist utopia modern life.’

[UPDATE 2: Brook is indeed a fake charity:

In fact, Brook has been doing rather well under New Labour. Its income from the government has doubled since 2004. Its 2008 accounts show a total income of £1,456,832, of which:

* Department of Health grant: £86,000
* ‘Other government grants': £433,517

* Total £519,517 (35.6% of all income)

It also received £534,259 in ‘other grants’. If, as is not unlikely, these grants emanated from local or central government, its total state funding would be at least 72%.

Ha!]

Apr 222009
 

Opposition to the death penalty is discriminatory, when there are differential benefits from its application, between different groups in society. The obvious example is the possible introduction of the death penalty for discrimination. Discrimination by ethnic origin is well-evidenced on the labour and housing market in western societies, for instance. Existing anti-discrimination laws have made no impact: enforcement is minimal and limited to extreme cases. Introduction of the death penalty would, through its strong deterrent effect, reduce discrimination – and therefore benefit minorities.

If there is a case of discrimination, and if the death penalty can be applied, then there is a conflict of interest between the victim and opponents of the death penalty, including Amnesty. Some victims may also reject the death penalty, and some may even prefer to suffer discrimination, rather than see someone executed as a result of their complaint. But suppose the victim is a Somali woman refugee in a western European state, discriminated by a racist employer. What if she does approve the death penalty? What if she did complain, and what if she wants the perpetrator to be executed, in order to deter similar discrimination in future?

Can a successful white middle-class lawyer (a typical supporter of Amnesty International) legitimately deny the woman the implementation of her preferences? Isn’t that simply another discrimination – “white middle-class lawyers count for more than Somali women”? Amnesty’s answer would presumably be, that they are not appealing to individual preference, but to universal rights. However, that’s simply another way of saying “Our views are superior”. The rights can’t be shown to exist, they are simply claimed to be universal and binding. The value preference of the privileged group (non-immigrant ethnic majority) is imposed on the weaker minority, using this appeal to universality.*

Now, as any fule kno, there is a very good argument for limiting capital sentences, if you are going to have them at all, only to the most destructive and physically damaging of crimes. There are very good reasons, as chappie claims elsewhere in the post, for believing the death penalty to be a deterrent to crime, but a simple thought experiment flags up his error:

You are a bigot who lives in a country where discriminators, rapists, murderers, etc., can be executed. One day, a dark-skinned lady applies for a job you have advertised. So incensed are you at her presumption that, momentarily unable to control yourself, you call her a filthy name and assure her that you would die before you gave a job to a pathetic dark-skinned specimen like her. As she stares at you, affronted, you realise that you have now opened yourself up to prosecution for discrimination with a possibility of capital sentence. In your panic, an idea blossoms: you can silence her! After all, the state can only kill you once; and if she’s not around to inform on you, maybe you’ll never get caught at all. What have you got to lose? So you throttle her and bury the remains in a landfill. Problem solved.

The moral of the story is: the death penalty, if applied to minor crimes, will deter neither those nor the more serious ones. It is only an effective deterrent when applied to the most serious of crimes, and then only because they can’t be covered up using worse ones.

I leave you with the words of a far greater mind than mine:

One day when I was dining with him there happened to be at the table one of the English lawyers, who took occasion to run out in a high commendation of the severe execution of justice upon thieves, who, as he said, were then hanged so fast, that there were sometimes twenty on one gibbet; and upon that he said he could not wonder enough how it came to pass, that since so few escaped, there were yet so many thieves left who were still robbing in all places. Upon this, I who took the boldness to speak freely before the Cardinal, said, there was no reason to wonder at the matter, since this way of punishing thieves was neither just in itself nor good for the public; for as the severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual…

St Thomas More, Utopia.

*[For further context, this is the same chappie who petitioned the Dutch government to censor the websites of LPUK and the Adam Smith Institute on the grounds that both groups seek to subject others, against their will, to freedom – as well as to exclude Drs. Madsen Pirie and Eamonn Butler from the country (ha! not possible under EU law) because ‘they obstruct the work of the financial regulatory authorities.’ In the case of lpuk.org, at least, he was unsuccessful.]

Apr 222009
 

Deluged in more visa paperwork. The new permit I’m applying for has a 73-page application and 50 pages of guidance notes. It will cost me £820 to make the application, not refundable if I am turned down. I also have to provide somewhere between 8 and 12 original documents proving my antecedents. This includes:

  • my passport, which the border agency will keep until they get round to throwing me some breadcrumbs
  • two separate documents proving my qualifications
  • two separate documents proving my income in the past 12 months
  • three months’ worth of official bank statements proving funds for maintenance
  • one document proving I spent a year as a full-time student in the UK (not related to the two above for qualifications) despite the fact that I’ve lived here full-time for almost four years
  • proof that I can speak English

Now you would think, considering today’s budget, that UK plc would be desperate to attract and keep middle-class professional types like me (after all, we provide the lion’s share of tax revenue); and, rather than charging me £820 for the privilege of being a cash cow in what is now surely the worst of the first-world nations (economy at least as bad as everywhere else; climate worse than everywhere else), HM Government ought to be paying me £820 not to fuck off.

Or at least not demanding that I contribute to the UK economy in exchange for permission to continue to contribute to the UK economy.

[Some of you may wonder, in light of my bitching and moaning, why I’m so determined to stay here. No need to go into details, but there are rather compelling personal reasons.]

Apr 212009
 

According to Old Holborn, ‘every bastard on the web is doing it.’ I admit, I have not seen it anywhere except Old Holborn, but… oh well, what the hell:

Led Zeppelin III
Who’s Next – The Who
Their Satanic Majesties Request – Rolling Stones
Demons and Wizards – Uriah Heep
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

[Thought about putting the Beatles’ Revolver on the list, but I realised that the only Beatles album I really like all the way through is Abbey Road, and that not very much.]

iPhone: tool of the patriarchy or friend to women everywhere?

 sexism: alive and well  Comments Off on iPhone: tool of the patriarchy or friend to women everywhere?
Apr 212009
 

iControl Her:

Tired of telling your woman over and over how to please you? Weary of self-repetition and downtrodden by the futility of your Stepford-wife ambitions? Never fear; your iPhone will boss your woman about so you don’t have to.

Have you ever wished to have a remote control for people? This application offer this mythical remote and by pressing a button on the remote, it will say the words for you.

Feels like and operate just like a remote and you can have so much fun with it.

Updates will be posted weekly.

Future update: Ability to record your own voice over a button. The possibilities are then ENDLESS! Buy now and enjoy the free updates as they become available.

icontrolher1

Note to self: The male mind explained, at last! Now I realise where I’ve been going wrong all these years. I must throw off this pesky habit of autonomy before I permanently ruin my chances to catch me a husband.

[Hats off to Twisty.]
Apr 172009
 

with which I wholeheartedly agree. Replace ‘United States’ with ‘Britain’ and ‘Americans’ with ‘the British’ and it applies equally as well here.

I feel I must explain, at least to the small audience that is available to me, that the naivete with which people are discussing the tea party protests is distracting everyone from the meaning of those protests.

The people who went to those protests were not there simply because they don’t like Obama and they don’t like paying their taxes. There is something much deeper behind their revulsion–a revulsion I share.

The point is this:
American citizens spend half of every year working simply to make their tax payments. That is to say, all taxes combined (US, state, county, city, etc.) are so burdensome to Americans that they must spend literally half of their income paying them. I don’t care what you say about the cost of running the government, protecting our shores, or helping the poor. This is wrong.

It is interesting to note that we consider ourselves free and self-determined yet we are subjected to such staggering regulation of our lives. You can point to our material wealth and say, “you’re wrong… we have it great,” but you’re fooling yourself if you think that. Being free and being rich are not the same thing. Essentially, we’re rich because we’ve managed to fool the world into thinking our money is actually worth something…this is another story. What is really going on here is that our government has become so monstrously plutocratic and tyrannical that they feel they can start wars, spy on us, and abscond with half our paychecks. We are told to shut up and stop whining.

Well, I’m tired of being told that I should put my “nation” before myself. That’s obviously not what this is about. People who say that mean, “put the government before yourself–you are their property.”

I don’t care who the president is (they all manage to find a new and unique way to be absolutely terrible) and I don’t care what they promise us. I think that the feelings of the people at the tea party protests and my own feelings can be quite succinctly expressed:

All experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

I don’t suppose many people today would even recognize that text but be sure, were it written by someone today, its writer would be labeled an “extremist” or “domestic terrorist” and thrown into some dark prison. In its day, that text caused a war.

I urge anyone reading this (and believe me, I have no delusions that many are) to consider for a moment whether the life led by an American is a free life. Consider whether anyone can actually claim, under threat of force, half of all your labor. Can those people spy on you? Can force you to fight a war on the other side of the earth? Can they silence you? Can they imprison you? If not, can they stop you if you decide to rob them of their power? Can they stop a million like you? Can they stop 300 million belligerent Americans who know what freedom is and crave it?

I think not.

Having said that, I do not believe these tea party protests were at all effective. Sadly, a protest against the government and its atrocities is rendered impotent when the scoundrels who operate that government make speeches at the protest. Yes, I refer to the infamous Richard Burr who gave a less than stirring speech against Obama and his bailouts. Oddly enough, Mr. Burr voted for the original bailout. How disingenuous to oppose graft only when it’s politically expedient.

Thus, any effect the protest might have had was soundly negated. Especially since Fox News took it upon themselves to portray it as a partisan anti-Obama rally. I think they just like rattling our cages, to be honest.

Just remember, the struggle the United States face today is a lot simpler than economics, party politics, or monetary policy. It is simply a struggle for power between the People and the government. The only power you and I crave is power over ourselves but the government claims that power as well. I am not prepared to submit to them.

Remember, there is nothing patriotic about supporting the government. The United States government is not the United States themselves. We are. We are the country. Our homes and our neighbors are this country. Your choice is either loyalty to them or loyalty to the government. I know on what side I stand.

CARPE LIBERTATEM.

Apr 172009
 

I’ve been arguing half-heartedly with a soi-disant friend recently about the charitable status of private schools. I teach in one, so I’m hardly a casual (or objective) observer, but his contention is that he shouldn’t have to subsidise tax-breaks for the ‘half-witted children of the rich.’

Which made me ask myself: is the absence of tax the presence of subsidy?

Upon reflection, I think in theory, no. In theory, there are neutral entities which are neither taxed nor subsidised.

But in practice – in a society where every bloody thing you can think of is taxed – yes: not taxing something is, effectively, the same thing as subsidising it.

(Never mind about the private-school argument; my friend is a David-Osler-type student-union whinger-on about class privilege, and logical discourse has no effect on his deeply-held conviction that the rich are eeeeevil.)

The whole question of taxation/subsidy reminds me of that Monty Python sketch wherein the civil servants can’t think of anything new to tax except… one:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTfdn5x7td8&hl=en&fs=1]