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October 31 2008
Statistics can mean what you want them to mean

A perfect example of statistics giving whatever conclusion is sought after is the recent 'findings' of a study regarding alcohol and pregnancy, which conclude that drinking moderately [between one and two drinks a week] during pregnancy were not found to be at any increased risk of behavioural problems compared to those whose mothers abstained from alcohol. They were even found to score more highly in some areas, such as vocabulary tests, when they were assessed at the age of three.

The British Medical Association warns the study findings may "lull" women into feeling drinking alcohol in pregnancy is safe. It says moderate and heavy drinking are definitely not safe, and that the evidence is not conclusive on light drinking.

Far from being scientific in any way, the team of researchers at University College London merely looked at the statistics gathered by others and drew conclusions, based on very little, that light drinking in pregnancy is not bad for children.

They found that mothers who consumed moderate amounts of wine during pregnancy [one or two glasses a day] did not harm their babies. On the face of it this could indicate exactly what this team concluded, but closer analysis indicates this is far from the case; the mothers who drank wine were middle-class, intelligent and educated, whereas those who didn't were lower class, and less well educated, and probably less intelligent, although this was not verified by any testing. The middle-class babies would inevitably score better in tests of cognitive ability due to genetics, nurture and schooling. Those of less well off, less well-educated parents would naturally be expected [on average] to peform less well. Alcohol intake during pregnancy was therefore irrelevent; although it could easily have had a deleterious affect on the potential of the children, this is not proved by studying statistics.

The National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome estimates more than 6,000 UK children are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder each year. This a name given to a set of symptoms which can include facial abnormalities, such as small heads and widely spaced eyes, poor growth, impaired learning and memory skills and behavioural problems such as hyperactivity. This is science rather than stats.

Halloween again

England never 'celebrated' halloween [from All Hallows' Evening] prior to the seventies, it's not our tradition. It all started with Irish and Scottish immigrants to the US in the nineteenth century celebrating the Celtic festival of Samhain a celebration of the end of the harvest. Halloween in England arrived in the seventies from America with a stream of films and TV programmes aimed at children, and it wasn't long before the possibility of retail profits was exploited as a marketing opportunity - last year the US spent $5 billion on Halloween, the UK is lagging behind this still, but is expected to spend £120 million this year, up from £12 million five years ago. There's nothing traditional or religious about the current nonsense where small children roam the streets knocking on doors and getting up to mischief or worse and making old people fearful. It's also an excuse for teenage yobs to lose even their normally miniscule inhibitions and, with November 5th so close, firework throwing at people, cars and animals increases every year.

October 29 2008

Happiness is not getting what you want, but appreciating what you have

As the recession bites, there will be increasing numbers of people unhappy because they are no longer getting what they want, which is mostly decided by advertisers anyway. They would be so much better off if they stopped desiring so much and fully appreciated the things they have already. Making a list of things you are glad of could be a start, and a surprise to most to realise just what they do have to be glad about.

Apart from financial constraints, there is a pressing need to turn away from the capitalist obsession with wealth, the single biggest cause of environmental degradation, and to stop using up the finite natural resources of Earth. If you make the step to not desiring, you free yourself from the influence of advertising and the slavery of consumerism. Those who have always got by on little, will continue to get by, and won't lose any sleep over falling stock prices or runs on banks.

The Earth's natural resources are being depleted so quickly that "two planets" would be required to sustain current lifestyles within a generation, the conservation group WWF said on Wednesday. 'If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles,' WWF International Director-General James Leape.

Yobs get their come-uppance.

Ross and Brand have been suspended while the BBC investigates the offence they have caused. So far 30,000 people have contacted the BBC [and rising] to complain about their behaviour, and almost everyone is calling for their dismissal. Most are outraged that they should be paid so much of licence payers money anyway, and this is likely to be the finishing straw.. With so little worth watching, getting rid of the TV could become an option. Brand has resigned rather than face any more criticism, Woss has been suspended for 12 weeks, what a joke, do they really think this will now go away. I'm off to write to the BBC again.

October 28 2008

A fireraiser can't put out this fire

Gordon Brown reminds me of the fireman who sets fires in order to gain attention and praise fighting them. Having been intimately involved in getting the UK to its present financial state - failing to regulate the banks, selling off our gold reserves for a fraction of what they would be worth now, encouraging mortgage providers to ignore income restraints in the mad Thatcherite drive to sell everyone a house - he now presents himself as the man to get us out of this mess, and has managed to convince quite a few European politicians that he's the 'man of the moment'. His big idea when faced with out of control debt is to borrow more, and while ordinary people are told to tighten belts, and are cutting back on their spending, Brown sinks the country deeper into debt which future generations will have to pay back, while coping with the effects of climate change which Brown has done nothing to avoid; he talks about it a lot but still agrees to airport expansion even while airline customers are dropping and clearly doesn't understand that 'growth' of the economy is the enemy of environmental responsibility. He thinks that by repeating at every opportunity 'the credit crunch which started in the US', he will convice everyone it is the Americans' fault, despite Northern Rock being nothing to do with America. Nice try moron, but it won't wash.

The obscenely overpaid and talentless ego, Jonathon Ross, is about to have a Simon Dee moment [I hope]. Together with the equally untalented Russell Brand [whose brand of humour seems to be to have awful hair and shout a lot] he's broken at least one law - making obscene and insulting phone calls - and is now reaping the results of an out of control ego and a lamentable lack of judgement or even just decency and fairness. Picking on a pensioner, albeit a retired actor, Andrew Sachs, who left Germany at the age of 7 with his family as the Nazis took over, and played Manuel in Fawlty Towers, to leave a series of obscene messages about his grandaughter on his answerphone, whilst on air on BBC Radio 2. So not only tasteless bullying of a much loved old man, but incredibly stupid to do it with witnesses listening in across the country. The overwhelming opinion appears to be that they should both be sacked. So the yob with the speech impediment [Woss can't even say his own name properly] is about to get the push from his overpaid job [£17 million a year]. Good riddance, one less reason for me to switch channels. 10,000 complaints to the BBC so far, and rising. A few say they found it funny, and the only excuse anyone has come up with is that Brand 'pushes the boundaries.' No, Monty Python pushed boundaries, Little Britain pushed boundaries, League of Gentlement pushed boundaries as do The Mighty Boosh. Brand merely pushes his brand of men's toilet humour..

October 27 2008

The Uillean pipes

Here's a treat for all who love music; Davy Spillane playing Caoineadth Cu Chulainn on the Uillean pipes [pronounced ullawn] the most emotional instrument ever invented, and played by the master.


October 26 2008

The scum always rises to the top

Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne started it off by speaking about Peter Mandelson 'dripping slime' about Gordon Brown, and now a vicious spat has broken out which could involve yet more investigations of the newly appointed 'business secretary'. Old Etonian George is looking rattled at the viciousness of fellow old school 'chums' dissing him in public, claiming that he was on the yacht looking for funding for the tories from a foreigner, which is strictly illegal. A Rothschild is inevitably at the centre of it, but it would appear to have been masterminded by Mandelson to teach hapless George a lesson - never upset a powerful queen with super-rich friends.

Some politicians find themselves attracted to obscenely rich crooks like flies round a turd. They just can't stay away. Mandelslime is one of them; already forced out of government twice for dodgy dealings under Blair [don't go there!] now, with a third chance at government given him by Brown - who supposedly hates his guts yet brought him into government again, I wonder what dirt he has on him - is off schmoozing on a multi-storey yacht with a Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, purely coincidentally an aluminium billionaire and banned from entering the US, who first met Mandelbrot when he was EU Trade Commissioner. The fact that EU legislation was passed a year after they met which favoured the Russian's aluminium business, is, of course, utterly coincidental, and Peter had absolutely nothing to do with it, despite lying initially about how long he had been 'friends' with Oleg, who strikes me as being in the athletic, Putinesque-gay-bodybuilder mould. There's no mention of any women onboard the monstrous yacht while these important networking meetings were taken place.

Sensing a feeding frenzy, the media pack gathers menacingly, they may yet get to devour George, but may not be satisfied with that small morsal, requiring more succulent meat. We could have a third Mandelson 'forced to resign' moment coming up. After which, this grandson of a former highly respected socialist is unlikely to get a fourth crack at power and will have to retire to enjoy his accumulated wealth. Already the word Yachtgate has appeared. There's always a gate waiting in the wings these days.

Meanwhile, the search continues for hundreds of lemmings left stranded when heavy rain and flooding hit the Lake District where they were taking part in the Original Mountain Marathon, despite weather forecasts of dangerously wet weather bringing floods. Hypothermia is one of the things many are suffering from as they've been out on the mountains all night. Some were rescued and housed in local schools with dozens of casualties taken to hospitals in the area, but over a thousand were still out on the mountains overnight, with police and rescue teams renewing the search this morning. Survival of the fittest kicks in again, and I'm just amazed at the numbers of those who test themselves at times like these. Perhaps modern life is just too dull and safe for them. Or perhaps they just don't take notice of weather forecasts.

October 21 2008

What goes around comes around

With banks being nationised all over the world including the US, sales of Marx's Das Kapital, the book that in the 19th century dissected capitalism's method of exploiting people for the benefit of the rich, have trebled recently in Europe as a new generation becomes interested in a more equitable system of wealth sharing, and socialism, once written off as defeated with the fall of the Soviet Union, seems set for a resurgence, while never having become unfashionable in Latin America. With record numbers of people losing their homes to the repo man, often with the homes remaining empty and deteriorating fast, there's a revived attitude towards a fairer distribution of wealth. Obscene wealth and abject poverty existing together tends to do that.

Cuba continues as the example of what socialism can achieve despite hardship caused by a bullying neighbour's embargo; it's health service is the best in the world and often takes in patents from wealthy, developed nations as well as sick children from poor nations across the world who are all treated for free, its literacy rate is one of the highest in the world, easily outstripping the US where illiteracy appears almost the norm, especially in the more backward Republican states of the south. And the rabid, right wing criminals of Miami's Little Cuba, plan a mass celebration when Castro dies, thinking they will all be welcome back after that event, little realising that socialism only works if the people are committed to it, and Cubans seem to be pretty committed.

With the new oil find in Cuba's territorial waters looking like it could equal the US's total oil reserves and knowing the Iraq invasion was all about oil, there's always the possibility that the oil-junky might invade. This would doubtless be led by the Miami rabble of former mafia pimps, gangsters and porn merchants, thinking they will be welcomed back with open arms. The only arms they are likely to see will be the small arms of the Cuban defence force just before their brains splash in the sky. Cuba won't have much time to enjoy the fruits of its oil boom however, it is being increasingly battered by storms which are set to increase in severity and frequency in the coming years.

What's certain is that if Cuba was still ruled by the rich and criminal, the poor would be expendable during storms, they couldn't afford the entrance fee to the shelters at present supplied free by the socialist government. It amuses me when Americans of a particular political bent use the word socialist as an insult, quite the worst word they can think of and one that terrifies them, and apparently socialism will be the end result of bankrolling the banks. These are not rich people, but they dream the American dream, so have high hopes they will be one day. Their rabid anti-leftwing brain washing has given them all nightmares of socialism threatening the land of the free to be idiots.

October 13 2008

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the ... bankers?

What extraordinary times we live in. Major banks in trouble and in need of rescue with taxpayers' money, so they are stable enough for taxpayers to continue to withdraw cash from them. So, here's a lot of money, can I have some money?

So now, a government which abandoned Clause 4 ["To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."] some years ago, is nationalising the banks. I'm all for it, but would have preferred a straight nationalisation without compensation. Next, the railways, which have seen nothing but chaos and rising prices ever since they were sold off by Thatcher - the real culprit for the present financial crisis who sowed the seeds of out and out greed with no concern for society, which, according to her doesn't exist. If they were nationalised and fares returned to actual costs without huge profits for the likes of Branson we would see a gradual return to the railways from our clogged roads, a reduction of traffic jams and pollution and a drop in our carbon emissions, which is what we're supposed to be achieving.

The money obsessives are flapping around wetting their trousers and generally panicking, which is the whole of the problem. If they could stop worrying about the wealth they are losing every minute, the situation would calm down and return to some semblence of normality. But there would still be a recession, which isn't a result of the banking crisis but the cause of it, and of the fear and loathing on the money trail.

October 9 2008

Doing yet another bit for the environment

Regular readers may notice a 350 Challenge badge on the right, this is because I joined the 350 Challenge and am now having 350 pounds of carbon offset in my name. That's like flicking off 100 lightbulbs for a day. Or going two full weeks without your car. As I only use my car at most once a week and then normally only a few miles, this is probably more like me going without it for six months. The offsetting is done by funding renewables projects in the US, but the campaign is open to bloggers everywhere, so any of my friends from Blogcatalog reading this should pop over to the site by clicking the link above or the badge and sign up. It takes a minute and a small snippet of code to paste and you're done [apart from stitching the badge onto the page, took me ages to find a needle and thread]. Never been easier to 'do your bit for the environment', but don't stop there, there's plenty more you can do. Is there an electricity utility in your country which sources all its power from renewables? In the UK the only one that does is Good Energy, my supplier, and I recommend them highly, they are lovely people and what they say, they do. You can sign up online and switch from your present supplier easily, Good Energy do it all for you and all you do is take a meter reading when they tell you to. Other countries most likely have their own 100% renewables energy utility so do some research and switch.

Three cheers for Leona Lewis, the singer who won ITV's X Factor and has gone on to make massive record sales, has turned down a £1 million offer to perform at Harrods because it sells fur coats, of which she doesn't approve. 'I'm totally against animal cruelty.' she said, 'I don't have clothes, shoes or bags made from any animal products.' Harrods, which last month received a protest from 400 anti-fur campaigners, declined to comment, of course they did, still intent on selling animal skins to ugly, rich bitches with no shame. Good on you Leona for making a stand. Much of the fur the UK fur trade deals in comes from China where they keep dogs and cats in small cages for the whole of their lives and then slaughter them in appalling conditions where many of the animals are skinned still alive. Notice Harrods labels some fur rabbit, but the rest seems to lack a label and is just called fur, wonder why?

October 6 2008

Things men under 60 don't know.

As you grow older, the impulse to whistle increases. This is an observable fact; next time you hear someone whistling, check their age. It creeps up on you, you find yourself whistling tunes you haven't heard for decades but know every nuanced note of despite not being able to render them perfectly lips persed. Your liking for jazz, dormant for the forty decades of rock n roll, surfaces, and you find your whistling is extemporising round a Miles Davis solo heard only in your memory.

Another thing that happens to men as they age, and no one warns young men this will happen to them [well up to now anyway], is their nasal, ear and eyebrow hair increases its growth rate, even if the hair on the top of the head has gone awol or is in process. Nasal hairs can be pretty alarming; suddenly there's a tickling of the upper lip, and when you investigate, you find the bloody thing goes right up a nostril like the tentacle of an alian creature that crept in there in the night thinking it a nice place to raise some kids. Best way to keep the folliage in check is to stick a pair of scissors up each nostril and snip away for a while, being careful to snort the cut hairs out before you breath them in.

But the most disconcerting are the eyebrows, which speed up to the rate of stop-motion films of plant growth where the writhing plant progresses from tiny shoot to monstrous vine in minutes. With the eyebrows this can happen overnight and you wake up blinded by an insistant pointed hair spearing an eyeball. You can't focus on it, but it's hazily there in your vision, and now and then stabs you painfully, so eventually you have to make a two fingered grab for it, sometimes getting several in a bunch, separate the offending beanstalk hair and grasp firmly between fingernails and yank, lose it and go hunting again to finally get it out. They can turn out to be several inches long! Do barbers do this as a service to their older clients? Having not visited a barbers since I was last made to go by my father age 14, I haven't a clue about what hair they trim for other than kids.

Fantasies that science could make it so people could live for 800 years only appeal to the young and people who live in Florida. For the rest, the prospect becomes less attractive as each year passes and the world becomes progressively more insane and dangerous, and getting out of bed becomes a conscious effort rather than a joyful bound. And anyway, think of all the murderers locked up for life, would 999 years be enough?

October 4 2008

Rentboy returns

In a move that sent more than tongues wagging around Westminster, Peter 'Mandy' Mandelson has been moved back into the cabinet by his previously sworn enemy Gordon Brown. Many think Brown has done it to appear more exciting and unpredictable - he may at last have realised that he's marginally less popular than genital warts - as no one could have predicted he would let back in an unreconstructed born again Blairite who's been thrown out of government twice already for behaviour many perceived as dubious if not downright dishonest [as eastenders would say, bent as a nine bob note], but I couldn't possibly say. I think Brown's animosity towards Mandelbent was the result of jealousy over Tony, who Mandelbrot was, shall we say, rather close to, and now since Brown has decided Blair is a bastard for cocking everything up and leaving him to suffer the consequences while he swans off to Yale teaching religion complete with shades-wearing, bullet-stopping security posse presumably. Perhaps they both feel abandoned and rejected by the charismatic teeth and are sharing something personal; the two most reviled politicians in the UK. Or perhaps Gordon isn't such a moron, and has decided that when around the odious Mandelbrat, he will appear so much more likeable and dependable that his popularity will soar, on the sitting next to someone uglier principal. About as likely as the American public deciding Palin has a brain after all and could be put in charge of the USA and its arsenal without anyone losing any sleep. For those thinking she's only standing for VP, ask yourself, does McCain look like he could live for years and years?

Here's a video from 1956 for all you old blues fans, if there are any others reading this. Before Dylan, before Eric Clapton or Brian Jones, even before the Grateful Dead, there was Big Bill Broonzy. This is a gig called Low Light & Blue Smoke, filmed in a 'dive' in Belgium, and you can't get any seedier than that. From DailyMotion, a site I've just discovered and will definitely be visiting again. Enjoy a master of the guitar.


My most hated word, rather than most hated phrase, is 'absolutely'. It started off as a media outbreak, and spread as fast as a dose of flu through the chatterati. No interview could be heard that wasn't peppered with absolutelies, it has become a verbal tic with most of them now, and they have forgotten the simple English word 'yes'. Now any affirmative reply to anything is absolutely, which, rather than confirming very strong support and agreement as it once did, is now just an irritation that cuts through all meaning and thus makes the conversation an exercise in pointless verbal preening. It also makes it difficult to ever use the word even when it would be perfectly suited and absolutely the right word, so another word to be dropped from the lexicon.

October 3 2008

Where's Steven Seagal when we need him?

A Ukrainian cargo ship laden with arms for Sudan is captured by pirates, the US fleet sends four warships which surround it and do nothing, a Russian navy ship is said to be on the way with a special forces team onboard [didn't they used to be called Spetznatz?] yet no one has called for Steven Seagal, who has cleared a ship of a bunch of very dangerous multinational terrorists already, so some drug-crazed Somali thugs would be no contest! The Americans say they can do nothing because the pirates are armed and unpredictable - pity they didn't consider that before invading Iraq. The EU is planning to establish an anti-piracy security operation off the coast of Somalia, but the timescale is unsure and won't solve this particular problem. The pirates are all Qat addicts as most are in Somalia, a failed state according to the UN, so are stressed out now, having running out of their drug. Drinking their way through the ship's alcohol store has led to some violence and shooting between them, but so far most of them appear to still be alive, and clearly more than a match for the US navy. I say call in Steven and be done with it.

The wolf killer Palin apparently didn't make any major goofs on the TV run in with Biden, that's more than her party could have hoped for as she's arguably the most ignorant US politician in a history of ignorant politicians in a country of ignorant politicians. A case of a big fish in a small puddle looking downright ludicrous when thrown into the sea of national politics. I'm just astonished that there are not only men as well as Pitbulls who find her attractive, but that some of them have actually admitted it in public.

I've recently been taking on a bunch of inbred no hopers who both defend the murder of wolves and indulge in it, arguing it's necessary with a catalog of 'crimes' which would be better attributed to men rather than wolves. They are all scared shitless by wolves, yet, armed with powerful rifles, still venture into wolf territory, and justify their murder by saying things like 'the wolf was a huge male and he was looking at me' or 'it was standing in the middle of the road staring at the kids'. Such behaviour by a wild animal clearly cannot be tolerated and deserves the death penalty.

These are their email addresses, please feel free to write to them and let them know how you feel about their perversion. I have the feeling they welcome communication on this issue.


These deviant hominids shoot magnificent creatures like this, delight in their suffering, spread lies and panic among rural communities and run websites extolling the pleasures of killing wolves. They are so low down the food chain that I guess they're scared of becoming lunch. The last one is Ron Gillett the senile old waste of oxygen you see below. He's recently been to court for assaulting an animal rights activist, and he spends his time speaking at meetings in rural sheds about how the wolf is a monstrous random killer which kills whole herds of animals 'for fun', will eat your children and your cat and will slaughter all your dogs in a mad frenzy. That sounds more like a human seriel killer to me. As you can see, Ron is not long for this planet, although he looks older than his 68 years, so help speed him on his way with some heart-attack stimulating emails. He wouldn't make much of a meal for a wolf anyway being mostly skin and bones with a very small brain.


This is the face of deranged hatred, ugly isn't it?

October 1 2008

Most hated phrase

My most hated phrase currently is 'doing our bit for the environment'. It's used by everyone who wants to make a nod at concern for the planet, and most especially by companies wanting to sell me stuff. It's irritating because it implies that all any of us has to do is just a little thing 'for the environment' and all will be ok. Well it won't. We have to do more than a bit, we have to do a whole lot; change our lifestyle, simplify, use less of everything especially energy, eat locally grown food rather than exotic foreign produce flown in for our selfish desires, and stop doing things that harm the environment. Saying 'I've done my bit for the environment' is often just an excuse for a pat on the back or to allow something bad for the environment because we 'did our bit'. It's what enables people to behave like greens in their normal life; recycling, driving only when necessary, saving energy etc. and then flying off halfway round the world on holiday where they do nothing for the environment. It's the biggest example of hypocrisy, it's self-serving and dishonest, and very common.

Having been doing everything I could think of to lessen my impact on the planet for most of my adult life, I've been doing a lot more than 'my bit' for quite some time now, and now that our damage to the planet is coming home to roost and it's clear to most, the environment has become the number one topic and on everyone's lips. But still too few appear to realise what it means, and what we need to do. What is needed is not some small token 'bit' for the environment, what is needed is a whole paradigm shift, a major change of attitude and lifestyle, and that doesn't include flying round the world on holiday just because you recycled some plastic. It's 100%, full time, full on saving the planet time people, we have just a few decades left to try to counter what we did, and a lot of species will inevitably perish in that time as a direct result of our actions. It isn't a small trivial thing, it's ultimately survival of our species [if you think us worthy of a second chance] and things are going to get very, very hairy before there's any improvement. And to think some are still denying it's even happening!

So now for some more wolves, they will inherit the Earth after we are gone, and it will be the better for it.


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Time to move to higher ground

The time to move to higher ground link [above] will change from time to time, illustrating how this phrase has become more and more common of late; from New Orleans, to Fiji to East Anglia to Holland.
I moved to higher ground in 2000 when it was clear that flooding was becoming the norm and climate change was happening now.
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The scenes from this war will create thousands maybe even millions of militants intent on inflicting damage on the only superpower. The war will be waged across America and in any American outpost and embassy. It will be brutal and messy and will continue for decades. Bush doesn't know what he has unleashed.
Fool on the hill March 2003


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