Sunday, 27 February 2011

Melanie Phillips on Abortion

Melanie Phillips. Five syllables that are almost guaranteed to send even the most patient and understanding person into the foetal position, awaiting the cavalcade of reactionary and rambling bilge. Which is ironic really, because today she turns her attention to foetuses. Again (yet again! - I never intended to write this way, but it seems impossible to do it otherwise) I shall reproduce the whole sorry affair, with my comments in red
 What hope is there if doctors won't respect unborn children?
You really do have to wonder which is the more extreme effect of our politically correct culture — the way in which it brutalises people, or the way it turns them into cerebrally-challenged automatons? Well. That's quite an opening sentence. Just for the record, I pride myself on being what the Mail describe as being 'politically correct' (i.e. non-discriminatory), but I'm fairly sure I am neither 'brutalised', nor am I a 'cerebrally-challenged automaton' - I lack the.. well, the brutality for the former, and the metal addendums for the latter.
Both attributes were on startling display in the latest piece of advice to emanate from no less august a body than the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

This guidance, intended for all doctors, nurses and counsellors advising women contemplating having an abortion, said such women should be told that terminating a pregnancy was safer than having a baby. This is from a draft paper for peer review (PDF, p.15). Now when I read this, I read it as a sentence that is designed to reassure women who wish to have an abortion that they will not permanently damage themselves in any way, despite what the anti-choice people may say. I agree it may be ambiguous, but which interpretation is more realistic?

To which one can only ask: safer for whom, precisely? Not for the baby, certainly. According to the British Pregancy Advisory Service statistics from last year, 91% of abortions occured before 13 weeks gestation. Can we agree here that, whatever your opinion on abortion, before 13 weeks a foetus is at best a potential baby - especially given that until the sixth week of gestation, around 25% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage?

This is not meant to be a flip comment. For the point is that these doctors seemed to have totally lost sight of some basic humanity here. Only if you read the statement from a purely reactionary can't-wait-to-become-enraged-at-nothing-at-all viewpoint, instead of considering it as medical advice for what to expect from an abortion.

Abortion is — or should be seen as — at best, a necessary evil. Some religious people, of course, do not accept even that. They regard abortion simply as the killing of the unborn and a crime against humanity and the Almighty. But it's fine to kill people who perform medical abortions. According to some, God's cool with that.

Although their views should be respected, the fact is that very few people would want to return to the days when abortion was illegal.Quite rightly. I respect people's right to hold a viewpoint, but not to impinge it on the rest of the world. I hate mushrooms, but I'm not about to launch a campaign to stop anyone else eating them.

Nevertheless, there is widespread and increasing disquiet about abortion — on account of both the rate at which it is occurring and the coarsening of values that it has brought in its wake. This is the kind of "widening and increasing disquiet" that occurs only on the pages of the Mail.

For like so many other liberalising measures, what started as a humane response — in this case to the dangerous back-street butchery of desperate women — has turned into something quite different.

The framers of the original legislation never foresaw that abortion would turn into a routine form of contraception. But that’s what has happened. Does Phillips really think that people think "Oh no, we're out of condoms! Oh well, I suppose I'll just have an abortion instead then!"?

The official figures for 2009 show that there were 189,100 abortions in England and Wales — with no fewer than 42.4 per cent of all pregnancies to women under the age of 20 ending in a termination, rising to around 60 per cent among under-16s. Indeed, from 1969, the number of abortions to girls under 20 more than quadrupled to over 40,000 in 2009. Daily Mail: hates teenage mothers, single mothers and the poor - yet still inexplicably anti-choice and anti-sex education.

Experts have said that although some progress has been made in reducing Britain’s world-beating rate of teenage pregnancies, abortion is increasingly being seen as the major method of contraception for many young women. What experts? Where? Oh, and this progress you speak of - it couldn't possibly be because of better quality sex education, could it?

These figures are horrifying. Abortion should be a last resort. The law was framed as a balancing act between different levels of harm. The destruction of the foetus could be undertaken only if the harm to the mother of having the baby was considered too great. Wow, I'm really not even going to get into that argument here. Personally, I'm with Bill Hicks on this one - you're not a person until you're in my phone book - but each to their own. Just as I'm not out forcing people to get abortions, neither should anyone be out stopping people from getting them because of their personal beliefs.

This was because what was produced at conception was considered an early form of human life. And even though it was not considered to have the same status as a developed baby, it was once deemed vital to treat it with respect. To do otherwise was to devalue life itself and our common humanity. See above with regards to 'potential' and the argument I am not getting into here because otherwise I'll be typing for the rest of my damn life.

Well, this is precisely what has taken place. That sense of balance went out of the window long ago under the pressure of ideologues screaming about ‘a woman’s right to choose’, which reframed abortion solely as concerning the interests of the mother. MUST. RESIST. URGE. TO. DISCUSS. WOMEN'S. RIGHT. TO. CHOOSE.

It is dismaying indeed — even if not altogether surprising — that even doctors specialising in bringing babies into the world have succumbed to this savage reductionism. Only if you read it with your specially made, only available in the tabloids, extra-reactionary goggles on!

Simply as a procedure, it may well be the case that having a baby is more dangerous than an abortion. Is... this.. the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Oh wait, no. Here's where they chose to print one of the most controversial anti-abortion adverts of all time

But to imply that having a baby is a dangerous procedure is a disreputable piece of scaremongering. It amounts to the psychological manipulation of women who are already in a vulnerable state. It is a form of bullying and a gross abuse of medical power. Yeah, because doctors = NHS = nanny state = Labour = socialism = communism = AGAINST EVERYTHING WE STAND FOR SO THEY MUST BE EVIL AND OUT TO MAKE POOR INNOCENT WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS. Or something like that.

Nor is that all. The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm from the procedure. Which wouldn't be necessary, if people like... oh, let's say, Melanie Phillips, didn't insist that it did, petrifying women who are already at an incredibly difficult point in their lives.

But rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who have had an abortion. While cause and effect cannot be proved, it defies common sense to say that there is no connection. Or possibly women who are already in a vulnerable emotional state don't feel ready to bring a child into the world?

Indeed, according to consultant psychiatrist Professor Patricia Casey, there are more than 30 studies showing an association between abortion and psychological trauma. Why newspapers aren't forced to show citations, I will never know.

Moreover, this new guidance is even more extraordinary since doctors are always supposed to base their advice on the individual circumstances of every patient. Yet these are blanket guidelines for the treatment of all women considering abortion. They are, therefore, not geared to every woman’s own best interests. Which would be why they included the word 'most' in the advice while still offering counselling?

They are intended rather to achieve one aim — to get all such women to have abortions. WHAT?! I'm not even going to imagine how she made this leap.

This is by no stretch of the imagination a medical agenda but an ideological one — and a terrifyingly inhuman one at that. Seriously. My flabber is truly ghasted. I have not a single clue what she is going on about.

It appears that, taken aback by the ferocity of the reaction to this guidance, the Royal College is now having second thoughts about the wording. Possibly because of fuckwits like Phillips frothing at the bit because they can't imagine how to interpret anything.

But the question remains how doctors can have lost their ethical compass so badly that they dehumanise life in this way, and dress up as ‘treatment’ the manipulation of fragile patients. I'm confused. I'm really confused. Is she now suggesting that doctors are forcing people to have abortions just so they suffer psychiatric harm?

The answer is that medicine itself has been progressively brutalised under the impact of abortion.

In 1948, in the wake of the atrocities of the Nazi period, doctors subscribed to a professional oath enshrined in the Declaration of Geneva which contained this clause: ‘I will have the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception...’

By 1984, however, the last five words had been altered to read ‘from its beginning’ — and, in 2005, they were deleted altogether. The beginning of life had been written out of the world’s medical ethical script as just too inconvenient. I made this picture last time Phillips was on Question Time, just to illustrate Godwin's law to her. Apparently, it didn't work.

It could not be allowed to interfere with the ‘rights’ of a woman or girl, including the ‘right’ to indulge in unconstrained sexual activity. The early product of conception was thus stripped of all human value. Right. I'm not going to debate the point at which a clump of cells becomes a foetus becomes a person. But does she really see it as an open invite for a no-contraception free-for-all?

The result of this profound cultural shift has been not only that a solemn and even tragic dilemma has been turned into an unthinking extension of ‘lifestyle choice’ which has all but destroyed the intrinsic respect for human life which defines a civilised society, it has also helped undermine childhood and exposed ever younger girls to both psychological and physical harm and exploitation. *WARNING: MASSIVE LEAP FROM ONE CONSPIRACY THEORY TO ANOTHER. MIND THE GAP*

The belief that the only harm arising from the sexual activity of young teenagers is the unfortunate consequence of a live baby has helped promote not just the normalisation of abortion, but the premature sexualisation of even very young children. Of course I'm opposed to the over-exposure of children to sexualisation (albeit from a feminist point of view), but really - what is she talking about? I'd kind of like to live in Melanie Phillips' head for a while, whenever I write as her for Daily Mail Death Articles, it gives me great pleasure to be just that damn illogical for twenty minutes or so.
 As an investigation by this paper found last week, businesses are targeting children under ten with ‘Lipstick and Limo’ parties and U.S.-influenced ‘mini-model’ fashion parades, complete with pageant-style tiaras and scaled-down catwalks, ‘pamper parties’ and cosmetic tips previously confined to the adult market. The Mail's coverage of this story was covered excellently at Nothing Special. Suffice to say, 'hypocrisy' is not their word of the week.
In addition, children are being pushed by their parents to make YouTube videos in which they sing sexualised or drug-influenced pop lyrics, mimicking the provocative routines of stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna.*MID THE GAP AGAIN*

Treating children as if they are mini-adults in this grotesque manner illustrates once again the collapse of the understanding that adults have a duty to parent children by providing appropriate boundaries, and thus protect them from harm.

Indeed, if individual safety really were the top priority, our society would be seeking to reverse the disastrous doctrine of ‘lifestyle choice’ which has produced this rampant sexual promiscuity and catastrophic rise in teenage abortion.

But don’t expect the dehumanising automatons of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to say so.

To conclude this post, I'd like to say I kind of admire Phillips in a way. I mean, she's a genuinely, genuinely awful journalist - but the way she manages to go from "look at what doctors are saying!" to "they're trying to make vulnerable people get abortions!" to "this is all to do with society being too permissive!" to "and they're making our children into sex objects!" and back again is pretty damn impressive.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pick'n'Mix Science

Today the Mail ran a story titled "Life of crime begins at three for some children, scientists warn as disturbing traits identified". As per usual, the story is 10% fact, 40% publishing unrelated information as part of the same events, 40% hyperbole and 10% bullshit.

I have reproduced the whole story here, and as usual, my comments are in red:

"At the age of three, most children will want to grow up to be a train driver, astronaut or princess.

But according to scientists, some toddlers are already destined for a life of crime. The research does not suggest this at all. It suggests that some toddlers who have a lower 'fear' response may be less afraid of committing criminal acts than others in the future. There is no 'destiny' about it. People still have free will. The study may be found here (PDF).

Disturbing evidence has emerged that the psychological seeds of a criminal career can be seen before they even reach nursery school.

Abnormalities in the parts of the brain that handle emotions, guilt and fear are far more common in criminals than in law-abiding members of society, it shows. While it is implied by the study is that poor fear conditioning is a result of an underdeveloped amygdala, and that poor fear conditioning may also result in a propensity towards criminality, the study about three year olds does not specifically or explicitly investigate the link between the two.

It is unclear whether these abnormalities are genetic, the result of upbringing or both – but they can be measured at a surprisingly tender age.

The finding means youngsters could potentially be screened to see if they are at risk – and then ‘treated’ to prevent criminal behaviour. Uhm - remember this story? No, this research does not mean youngsters could be screened to see if they're at risk of criminality. Could they be screened for their 'fear response'? Yes. Could their brains be scanned to see how well-developed their amygdala is? Yes. Will this ever happen on a national scale? Don't be fucking stupid.

Professor Adrian Raine, a former Home Office criminologist, agreed predictive scans were many years off. Surprising, that.

But the father-of-two added: ‘If you told me my son had an 80 per cent chance of being a psychopath, but that he could be treated for it, I would have him treated. But it has to be a decision made by individuals, not by scientists.’

Professor Raine, who now works at the University of Pennsylvania, studied brain scans of prisoners. Not in the study they were originally talking about, you understand. He did here (PDF) though, in perhaps his most famous study - which dealt with Positron Emisson Tomography of 41 adults in California that pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of insanity. In 1997.

Psychologists have identified key personality traits in childhood which are linked to poor behaviour later in life.

Seven-year-olds with unemotional and ‘callous’ traits were much more likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour at the age of 12, a study by Dr Nathalie Fontaine, criminal justice expert at Indiana University, Bloomington, showed.

Other signs include not having at least one good friend, being unkind to other children and not being helpful if someone is hurt. Notice that this study - again, a completely different one (abstract here - doesn't seem to be available online without subscription) - talks about antisocial behaviour, not committing criminal acts.

The experts stress that not all youngsters with the traits turn into criminals – and not all criminals had the traits as children, but that they increase the risk of a life of crime.

He found that murderers who kill in the heat of the moment are more likely to have a poorly functioning prefrontal cortex – which deals with reasoning and helps suppress base instincts. Not in the study of three year olds though.

Psychopaths who lack remorse, guilt or empathy tend to have smaller amygdalas – a region that handles all three emotions, he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Raine also tested the fear response of three-year-olds by playing them a neutral sound followed by an unpleasant one, until the children learned the nasty sound always followed the neutral tone.

For most, the sound of the first tone was enough to raise their pulse rates and start a sweat. But a few showed no ‘anticipatory fear’ – a possible symptom of an abnormal amygdala, Professor Raine said. Please note the word 'possible' with relation to abnormal amygdalas.

The prospect of scans suggests a serial killer such as Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe could be spotted and treated as a child –  but it also poses dilemmas. Peter Sutcliffe was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after four psychiatrists diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. They would have been hard pressed to predict that he would kill 13 women as a result of this because he didn't respond to a noise when he was three.

‘It raises the question to what extent should we develop new biological interventions to reduce crime,’ Professor Raine said."
UPDATE: My wonderful and learned friend Lucy had this to say about the study of three year olds, which explains the problems with it better than I ever could:

"When the results say they are significant, it means that there is a small possible chance that these findings are the result of pure chance, but probably isn't.

The results section says that the group-by-stimulus interaction was significant to p = 0.033, meaning that there is a 3.3% chance that the results are actually just the result of blind chance – a 3.3% chance that they were mistaken, and that there is no link between low electrodermal fear response and crime. That's not a bad percentage margin; the cut-off point is usually p=0.05, or 5%. So when they say it is significant to the p=0.033 level, it means that there is a 96.7% chance that there is a link – i.e. that one affects the other. Basically, significant means that the results weren't down to chance – the numbers found accurately represent some link between groups.

It doesn't mean that a group are x times more likely to commit a crime at all; you just can't get that result from these numbers. It just means there is a link between electrodermal fear conditioning and crime committed. The results are correlational (i.e. kids with a low response commit more crimes) but you cannot attach an "it's x times more likely" tag to it without running a linear regression, which they haven't. Even if they had I still wouldn't attach that tag because this is correlational evidence which CANNOT, under any circumstances, imply causation. The link may operate the other way around; it may be that low electrodermal response at age 3 is representative of another problem, not linked to fear conditioning, which causes an increased chance of criminal activity when older; or any number of alternatives.

I would also not trust these results AT ALL. The paper has some serious methodological flaws (e.g. absolutely no gender representation at all); the statistics are hard to fathom and presented weirdly, and I'm not convinced the statistical tests were appropriate because they haven't reported why they chose what they did. Plus, it looks overcomplex. The results section is ludicrously short, ill-reported, uses non-operationalised terms and has had no post-hoc tests reported to check which group interactions were significant. That in itself is very suspicious.

They're also drawing unjustified conclusions from the results section. Just because they've found a correlational link, they cannot say that x causes y. It's one of the things we learned in first year in methodological analysis. They're cutting out the influence of environment (despite controlling for home life). It may be that kids with low electrodermal response are more susceptible to peer pressure, or need more attention from peers, or any number of things.

I didn't like this paper. Maybe it was just down to the limited space they were had to report it, but in particular the results section was extremely poor.

They mention that cutting down on smoking, drinking etc whilst pregnant and eating healthily helps prevent the birth of criminally-prone kids (because, they suggest, it allows better brain formation – without ever telling us what that means), but they're stating the bloody obvious and missing the point. Mothers who do these things whilst pregnant are also more likely to be better mothers in terms of discouraging criminal activity when the kid is young; this could be environmental, not biological. They also pulled out that old chestnut about there being brain deficiencies in people with criminal tendencies, which once again trips straight over the cause-and-effect, environment-or-biology fallacy; that idea's been kicking around for ages. They try to recover the conclusion they've made with the very last line of the paper, but that seems to conflict with what they've been saying up til this point."

Friday, 18 February 2011

What's funny about retinal damage?

Prime example of failure to understand the law from Richard Littlejohn today:

A criminal prosecution brought against a man who hit a woman in the face with a flying sausage has been laughed out of court.

Judge Anthony Goldstaub told the Crown Prosecution Service that the case was ridiculous.

Ashly Brearey, 22, from Harlow in Essex, was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm as a result of injuries sustained by 24-year-old Candice Whybrow during a food fight at a party.

But when it reached Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge Goldstaub told the CPS to drop the case.
Although he sympathised with Miss Whybrow, who suffered retinal damage, he said the prosecution undermined the dignity of the court.

The judge said that apart from the difficulty of securing a conviction in front of a jury, ‘there was the prospect of a lot of laughter’ which could harm the judicial process.

Earlier, the prosecution had alleged that the party had got out of hand when ‘there was a period of unruly horseplay, before the sausage came into the scene’.

There was also a suggestion that the injury could have been caused by a chicken drumstick.
It sounds like something out of Beachcomber. Spike Milligan would have had a field day with the Case Of The Flying Sausage.

But when we’ve all stopped giggling, you have to ask how this ludicrous case ever got so far. And how much police time and public money was wasted on a food fight?

M’lud, my client Bugsy Malone pleads guilty to GBH with a sausage and asks for two jellies, one bowl of custard and a Turkey Twizzler to be taken into consideration.

Right Richard. Time for a quick law lesson.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is prohibited by section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.

Here's the CPS guidelines for prosecuting ABH:

45) The offence is committed when a person assaults another, thereby causing actual bodily harm. Bodily harm has its ordinary meaning and includes any hurt calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim: such hurt need not be permanent, but must be more than transient and trifling: (R v Donovan 25 Cr. App. Rep. 1, CCA). It is an either way offence, which carries a maximum penalty on indictment of five years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

46) As stated above, the factors in law that distinguish a charge under section 39 (common assault) from a charge under section 47 are the degree of injury resulting and the sentencing powers available to the sentencing court. For instances where common assault will be the appropriate charge. Where the injuries exceed those that can suitably be reflected by a common assault a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm should normally be preferred. By way of example, the following injuries should normally be prosecuted under section 47:
  • loss or breaking of tooth or teeth;
  • temporary loss of sensory functions, which may include loss of consciousness. (T v Director of Public Prosecutions, [2003] Crim. L. R. 622)
  • extensive or multiple bruising;
  • displaced broken nose;
  • minor fractures;
  • minor, but not merely superficial, cuts of a sort probably requiring medical treatment (e.g. stitches);
  • psychiatric injury that is more than mere emotions such as fear, distress or panic. In any case where psychiatric injury is relied upon, as the basis for an allegation of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and the matter is not admitted by the defence, then expert evidence must be called by the prosecution. (R v Chan-Fook, 99 Cr. App. R. 147, CA).

47) A verdict of assault occasioning actual bodily harm may be returned on proof of an assault together with proof of the fact that actual bodily harm was occasioned by the assault. (i.e. it need not be intentional to cause the harm done)

48) The test of recklessness is as per R v Cunningham (Archbold 19-167).

I think it's safe to say that retinal damage falls under those guidelines, given that the victim has lost a significant portion of central vision in her eye.

A clearer picture of what the judge actually said is offered by the Telegraph:

  “Apart from public interest in the matter he is of good character and it is a question of whether a jury can be persuaded to consider a conviction.

“I want it to be seen by someone more senior. I have concerns on four points: public interest; the prospect of conviction; the dignity of the court and the prosecution process.”

Following a review of the evidence, CPS barrister, Richard Stevens, told the court the Crown had decided not to proceed.

Yesterday, he told the court: "The Crown have considered the matter further and have reached the conclusion that there is not a realistic prospect of a conviction.”

At that point the judge quipped: “There is the prospect of a lot of laughter.”

The Crown then formally offered no evidence against Mr Brearey, who was found not guilty and discharged.

It seems to me that the CPS decided to drop the case as it couldn't prove that the defendant was the one to cause the injury, and also that he was unlikely to reoffend.

Richard Littlejohn: now against justice if it involves a word he finds amusing. You couldn't make it up.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


A lot of people point out that the Mail writes scare stories about Facebook because it increases their online traffic. I've decided to try increase mine, but without involving piss-poor journalism (mainly because I don't get paid, so I can't be a journalist).


Anyway, this is on the front page of the Mail today:

"How many more child victims of the Facebook sex gang?"


Guess what? There is no Facebook sex gang.

I'm going to take my trusty red pen to this, but not much, as it's fairly self explanatory. (Facebook)

How many more child victims of the Facebook sex gang? Parents of 16,000 children get warning letters after attacks by internet predators

By Sam Greenhill, Stephen Wright and Ryan Kisiel Three people were paid for writing this, and I'm a bloody barmaid.

    * Man, 19, arrested in connection with investigation
    * Police praise 'bravery' of 20 victims who came forward
    * All victims, aged between 12 and 15, knew offenders
    * Police investigate whether children were groomed on web

Parents of 16,000 pupils have been sent stark letters warning that internet predators may be trying to groom their children for sex. Online, the Mail reproduces the letter about halfway down the page. I'm going to reproduce it here.

Find me the word "Facebook" in that, and I'll give you whatever the Mail journos earn for finding it.

Police believe at least 20 pupils – and fear as many as 50 – have been ensnared on Facebook and other social networking sites over the past three years.

The victims are thought to have been plied with drink and drugs before being abused or raped. Some were as young as 12.

Yesterday council staff took the extraordinary step of warning parents of pupils at 14 Devon secondary schools that it was no longer safe for their children to go out alone. Where?

In a bombshell letter, signed by headteachers, parents were told there was no need for alarm. But it added: ‘The safety of your child is never more important than at this crucial time.’

It revealed police were investigating the ‘sexual exploitation of a number of young people’ and officials wanted to ‘raise awareness of the potential dangers’.

The mass mail-out was sent to pupils at schools in Torquay, Paignton and Teignbridge.

Jenny Faulkner, who is Torbay council’s ‘children’s champion’, stoked further anxiety by warning children: ‘Don’t go about alone – go in groups of twos or threes or fours.

‘We are saying children need to be careful and be vigilant. If they are going home, they should go straight there.’ She urged parents: ‘Just watch your children.’ I can't find this online but just note that she SAYS NOTHING ABOUT FACEBOOK.

All known victims attended three of the 14 schools and yesterday police arrested a 19-year-old man on suspicion of child exploitation.

Another man is being hunted by Devon and Cornwall Police, which has launched a major child abuse investigation codenamed Operation Mansfield.

Detective Inspector Simon Snell said the victims were predominantly girls – but also boys – aged between 12 and 15 and that two were in care.

He said the offenders had befriended their victims first rather than snatched them off the street.

‘There appears to have been all manner of grooming taking place, which may have occurred on the internet,’ he added. May have occured on the internet. May.

‘We are keeping an open mind with regards to Facebook, Bebo and other internet sites.’ This is their link to Facebook.

‘We have interviewed around 20 children so far with regard to offences connected with child exploitation. We may deploy officers to interview further children.’

Police have dismissed links with other inquiries of a similar nature such as  that of Asian sex gangs in the Midlands and North. Because only people from Asia abuse children, right?

The inquiry started last week after children came forward to childcare agencies which then alerted police.

Officers could not confirm the setting in which the abuse took place, but said they wanted to make clear it was not in any of the schools.

Mr Snell said the offences included indecent assault and rape and could go back two or three years.

He paid tribute to the victims, saying: ‘We are dealing with children from all different backgrounds and social groups. I respect their bravery – they have been very brave coming forward to us.’

‘If the letters have alarmed parents and alarmed victims then I can only apologise on behalf of my organisation. That was certainly not the intention.’

The decision to send out the letters was taken by two local councils.

Mr Snell played down the dangers of walking home: ‘Parents need to know that their children are completely safe to walk the streets of Torbay and can return home from school completely safely.

‘It is simply not the case that a group of paedophiles is grabbing children off the street, I need to emphasise that.’

Police sources said none of the attacks were random and many of the victims were vulnerable children, some of whom had run away from home and had fallen into drug use.

Mr Snell apologised if the letter, which was sent out by each school and signed by its headteacher, had caused panic. ‘I need to clarify the reason we sent these letters out. We are reacting very quickly to intelligence we received from lots of agencies,’ he explained.

‘The letter was sent out to reassure parents and to make sure that they didn’t hear on the grapevine about the police investigation.

‘The whole idea was to tell parents there was an investigation in progress and we are very limited in what we can say.

But parents spoke of their fears after news of the investigation emerged. Sharon Houghton, who has children aged 11, 13 and 15 at different schools in Torbay, said she and her husband Ray were worried and in the dark.

‘It is obviously very concerning and we have been given very few details about the investigation,’ she said. ‘I am now thinking I can’t let my kids go out. I want to know where they are at all times.’ I appreciate that Mrs Houghton is worried, but really? The police and council have reacted very quickly to this, and are to be commended for their actions in alerting parents to the investigation to stop tittle-tattle and unnecessary worry.
One mother of a 13-year-old girl said: ‘We’ve been told not to let them on these sites like Facebook because they could be meeting up with strangers.

‘These older boys seem friendly and nice on the internet but they are a real threat.

‘I’ve talked to a lot of the other mums and we’re all going to stop them going on there.’ Again, I appreciate this woman's concern, but surely the answer isn't to ban Facebook, but to set their child's privacy settings to the maximum and tell them not to speak to anyone they don't know in person?

Another mother added: ‘I am worried about the internet and when we get home we’re going to go through all her online friends and see who she has met in person and not just on the computer.’

Special assemblies were held to warn children to be vigilant. Carol Tozer, director of children’s services in Torbay, said a team of eight social workers had been drafted in.

To summarise:

Child sex abuse takes place. This may or may not have occured after grooming online. Council and police commendably keep parents up to date on the investigation. Admittedly send slightly mixed messages about how to keep children safe. Mail decides they are in the wrong for....something. Also, FACEBOOK.

Why is this on the front page of the Mail? There is no 'Facebook sex gang'. The Mail can't even make up it's mind as to whether the Council are wrong to "worry parents" by alerting them to the investigation, or whether they need to be told more. Articles like this are the reason I drink.


*If I don't get a million hits now, the theory about the Mail just trying to increase online traffic goes out the window, and we'll be forced to conclude that they really are just that stupid.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

An open letter

Dear fuckwits who arrived at my last post by searching "Lara Logan rape pictures". I hope you are ashamed of yourselves. You are absolutely foul and disgusting, and I have nothing but utter contempt for you. I can only hope that you might have learned something from all the links like mine that you clicked, but I'm not holding my breath.

If anyone would wish to add anything, comment below.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Debbie Schlussel on Lara Logan

This post is going to be very difficult to write. Before I begin to explain why, I need to introduce our two main players.

Lara Logan is a war correspondent for CBS News. On Friday, 11th February, she was covering the celebrations in Tahir Square, Egypt. She got caught up in a foul element among the celebrations, and suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating". Eventually, she was rescued by a group of women and soldiers. It goes without saying that the people who rescued her represent the fundamental goodness of the majority of those present in Tahir Square that day, and that we must all remember their bravery.

Debbie Schlussel is an extremely right-wing American political commentator and blogger, who is viruently and unapologetically anti-Muslim. She is a religious zealot. She is also one of the charming and intelligent people who believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. She has devoted her career to exposing the 'threat' of "radical Islam".

When I first read about the attack on Lara Logan, I was stunned. That even in the midst of the celebrations following Mubarak's resignation, some evil, evil people would take it upon themselves to attack and sexually assault another person disgusted me. Later though, I came across what that foul excuse for a human being Schlussel had written about the attack.

I read that nearly an hour ago, and I'm still in shock. I've sat in silence and read it over and over again, trying to find some small shred of humanity, or decency, but I can't. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I feel sick to my very core with the knowledge that out there, someone thinks things like that. I'm not ashamed to say I've spent the best part of the past hour in tears.

I'm going to take it line by line. My comments, as usual, in red.

How Muslims Celebrate Victory: Egypt’s “Peaceful, Moderate, Democratic” Protesters

As I’ve noted before, it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are. Schlussel starts as she means to go on, by tarring a group of people with the same brush as the most disgusting of them. The fact is, she doesn't know that the attackers were even Muslim. Egypt's Christian population were just as much a part of the protests and eventual celebrations (as were other faith groups and atheists). This was not a religious uprising, it was an uprising of the people against an oppressive regime.
 In fact, it kinda warms my heart. It is at this point where you start to realise what a foul person she is. She is happy when acts of violence occur to those who disagree with her rabid proclamations of evil.
 Still, it’s also a great reminder of just how “civilized” these “people” (or, as I like to call them in Arabic, “Bahai’im” [Animals]) are: Schlussel at this point demonstrates her view that Muslims are inhuman. By dehumanising them, it makes it easier for her to spout her poisonous bile without a jot of guilt. Having read some of her other articles (don't do it to yourselves), it is clear that not only is this a continuing theme of hers, but that she is on a mission to indoctrinate others to think of Muslims this way. Without meaning to sound crass, I find it strange that a person who identifies themselves as a 'proud Jew' would resort to depersonalising the entire people of a faith for the purpose of being able to abuse them easier.
 There follows two pictures - one of the Islamic star and crescent, and one of Lara Logan in Tahir Square. The caption reads "Alhamdillullah [Praise allah], Islam Fan Lara Logan Gets a Taste of Islam". I'm not sure if I'm even able to begin to talk about just how wretched that caption is.
 On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

 In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering. Those two paragraphs contain the only truths in Schlussel's article, and given that they read almost identically to the BBC report linked above, I suspect she is just quoting the press release.
 Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara. I don't know whether it is true that Schlussel has ever had any threats of beatings and rape made against her, let alone regularly, and I wouldn't care to speculate. The Muslim population in America is estimated at between 1.3 - 7+ million people (demographics section). The likelihood of there being at least one bastard who thinks it's OK to make rape threats to people they don't like is fairly high. That does not mean that anyone else of the faith would condone it. That argument is like me saying "I have 100 cats. One of them is a tabby, therefore they all are".

 There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

I just love it when the people of the profession of “the public’s right to know” suddenly want “privacy.” Tell it to your next interview subject, Lara. Of course CBS has no further comment. Wouldn’t wanna impugn the “peacefulness” of “Religion of Peace” animals, would we? Now, if they were Christians or Jews, well, then there would be comments galore. Here Schlussel comes into her own. Logan was subjected to a serious and sustained sexual assault, as a private individual, but Schlussel wants her to leave convalescance and talk about how she was attacked by Muslims. I will point out again that no one has any idea that these awful, evil men were Muslim, and it wouldn't matter if they were - it proves nothing about Islam. Schlussel makes no comment or speculation on the religion of Logan's rescuers. They do not even warrant a mention beyond the fact that she was rescued. In this paragraph, Schlussel takes another opportunity to dehumanise Muslims to serve her purposes, and proves her religious zealotry with her finishing sentence. Once more, we don't know what religion the attackers were.
 WARNING: What follows is possibly the most disgusting few sentences I have ever read in my life. I am not going to analyse them, I am going to let them speak for themselves.

So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered.

This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled.

Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.”

Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah].


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Hitchens and Raabe

So, the latest brain-spew offered by self-styled "voice of reason" Peter Hitchens is all about Dr Hans-Christian Raabe. You may know him as the man fired from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for failing to disclose some of his more 'colourful' past - like his complete inability to deal with evidence that has anything to do with his beliefs as a member of the very conservative Christian group, the Maranatha Community, nicely illustrated by his co-authoring of a 2005 paper entitled "'Gay Marriage and Homosexuality: Some Medical Comments", which rather charmingly linked homosexual activity with paedophilia.

Raabe has claimed he is a victim of TEH LIBERALZ and TEH GAYZ and he has been fired unfairly, because all he did was publish a study which practically replicated the findings in a 1998 Home Office Report!

As Hitchens says, at the beginning of his article:
"Who said these words? ‘Approximately 20 to 33 per cent of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature.’ I will tell you.

It was the Home Office, on Page 14 of Sex Offending Against Children: Understanding The Risk, published by the Policing and Reducing Crime Unit in 1998. I have a copy.

For saying roughly the same thing, Dr Hans-Christian Raabe has just been sacked – by the Home Office – from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). That’s right. He has been sacked from a body to do with drugs, for having unfashionable views about sex, views that the Home Office has itself espoused."

Oh, except - surprise, surprise - that's not what happened.

The Home Office report he refers to, "Sex Offending Against Children: Understanding The Risk" (PDF) was authored by Don Grubin. One line, on page 14 of the report (p. 23 of the PDF), says: "Bradford et al. (1988) suggested reasonably that approximately 20 to 33% of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature and about 10% mixed".

A summary of the Bradford et al. article is here.

Note that neither the Home Office, or the Bradford article actually say anything like what Raabe and Hitchens are claiming they do. There is a world of difference between saying:
"While the majority of homosexuals are not involved in paedophilia, it is of grave concern that there is a disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles and an overlap between the gay movement and the movement to make paedophilia acceptable." (Raabe)

and what the Home Office report clearly says, at page 18 (27 PDF):

"As described above, some offenders target only boys, some only girls, and some children of both sexes. This does not appear to reflect, however, sexual orientation towards adults."

 Here is the rest of Hitchens' bile. As usual, when there is so much absolute nonsense in one concentrated piece, my comments go in red.

 A pathetic creature called James Brokenshire (MP - see his voting record here, because it looks to me that Hitchens and Brokenshire might get along very nicely, given that he also hates TEH GAYZ) has allowed his name to be put to the letter that formally dismisses Dr Raabe. This is the first known instance of anyone being fired from a Government post under the provisions of Harriet Harman’s Equality Act 2010, Section 149, though I don’t think it will be the last. Well, given that the Act came into force only four months ago, I should hope so. Section 149 may be read here. I would contend it is less the product of ultimate evil that Hitchens seems to think it is, and more a piece of legislation to ensure that human beings are not discriminated and demonised by, let's say, frothing primitive throwbacks who's names might rhyme with 'kitchens', and 'garb'. What would I know though?
Mr Broken Reed did not actually sign the wretched epistle, as a smudged rubber stamp indicates. I don’t blame him. It is a cowardly document and so sloppily prepared it even manages to misspell Dr Raabe’s address.

Dr Raabe is accused of having expressed ‘controversial’ (read: 'disgusting, but we're too polite to say, and also a bit scared of what the Mail would do if we outright condemned you for them') views on homosexuality and of having ‘failed to declare them’, though they are traceable in seconds on the internet and he had no good reason to think they had anything to do with his appointment. Except for the part where they made his appointment to a public body untenable due to, y'know, being a raving bigot and all.

It has come to something when a man is required to guess which past words of his may be regarded as ‘controversial’ when seeking a state appointment, and be dismissed for getting such a riddle wrong. Not really a guess, is it? "Hmm, I wonder which of my past works will look controversial? It could be the one where I claimed that homosexuals and paedophiles are inextricably linked.... No, no one could ever call that controversial!"

I have spent several days trying to discover exactly what the Home Office means by ‘controversial’ in this case, or who defines this word. No reply. I think we should also wonder why it is a sacking offence, in a free society, to be controversial. It's not. Well, it might be. I imagine that if I went to work and instead of pouring pints, I started punching customers in the face, that might be described as 'controversial'. I also imagine I would be sacked. However, I wouldn't say I had been sacked for being 'controversial', I would say I had been sacked for a) breaking the law and b) being the kind of idiot who punches people in the face for no reason. Unless I was some kind of moron who was trying to complain that I had been unjustly fired in the face of all evidence. Then I'd probably pull the 'controversial' card.

When I asked them if their own publication’s words on the subject were ‘controversial’, they wouldn’t say. They’re hiding something. No, they're really not.

And what they are hiding is this. That when the Prime Minister defined himself the other day as a ‘muscular liberal’, he meant exactly what he said. The official ideology of Britain, from Downing Street downwards, is a militant and highly intolerant political correctness, originating in Marxist thought and forced on us by EU directives (so much for ‘Euroscepticism’). Do I have to comment on this, or can we all just agree it's barmy and move on? Yes? Thank you.

Interestingly, this miserable dogma is all he has to offer in response to the growing challenge of Islam in our streets and in our culture. Not centuries of Christian tradition, and the heritage of Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution, but ‘equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality’. Yeah! Let's fight an imagined threat with centuries of intolerance! Damn those pesky forrins, women and gays, not discriminating against them means we'll all be Muslim by Monday!

The affair of Dr Raabe is one of the most fascinating episodes of modern times. The doctor, who is German-born and so at least can’t be accused of ‘xenophobia’, (because they would do otherwise!) works in a poor district of Manchester and observes every day in damaged lives the dismal effects of the law’s feeble attitude to supposedly illegal drugs.

He can see for himself that the official policy of ‘harm reduction’ is actively doing harm. His appointment to the ACMD (to a seat reserved specifically for a GP) was a great moment for every mother and father who wants the State to stop complacently accepting mass drug abuse as an unalterable fact, and instead to help keep their children safe from the little packets of madness on sale at the school gates.

It was a great blow to the selfish, irresponsible people who have for years spread the false idea that drugs can be taken safely, and denied the growing evidence from the mental hospitals that many young cannabis-users go irreversibly, horribly mad. Or to people who don't like people just plain making shit up to suit their horribly warped agendas advising the government on science.

His dismissal is a great loss to those who care about the lives and minds of the young.

I will reserve for another time an examination of the fascinating role of a senior figure in the supposedly impartial BBC in what happened next. He deserves a lot of time to himself, and I shall get round to that.

But let us say that a campaign to remove Dr Raabe, boosted by anonymous misty threats of resignations from the ACMD, roared rapidly into action. Can we just do that thing where the fact that this is so obviously hyperbole and lies from Hitchens means that we just move on?

And that, preferring political correctness to an honest, decent doctor worth dozens of any of them, this Government swiftly bowed to that campaign (see my last comment, please). And that the person directly responsible for this grovelling hawked himself to the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup as a ‘Conservative’. And they believed him.

It would be funny if it were not so disgusting. A bit like Hitchens' columns every week, really.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Saving the Daily Mail some time

I've realised the danger of dying horrifically and tragically for some time now. However, aside from the actual, y'know, dying part, there is a secondary danger: the Mail might write about you. Even worse, they might write about you to make a point about your lifestyle.

So here's the Daily Mail column that I imagine will be written about me, in the event of my demise. 


      Ever since barmaid Natalie Dzerins was found gnawed to death by a hoarde of escaped, stampeding chinchillas last week, we have been digging up dirt about her in order to tie her death in with one (or more) of our sickening agendas trying to rationalise why such a thing would happen to a young girl in the prime of her life.     

Some may say she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but what we really must ask ourselves is how we can turn this series of events around to sell more newspapers to idiots if it really wasn't the fault of her lifestyle?     

Not a normal young woman: Chinchilla victim, Natalie Dzerins   

   As I approach the house that Natalie shared with a man who was not her husband or boyfriend, but instead a "housemate", I am struck by the bleakness of her surroundings, living as she did in a rented back-to-back terraced house instead of a decent house that we could have property porn wanks over.   

   Entering the house, I am greeted straight away by what she, in her poverty-stricken Northern way would term 'the living room'. As a self-described 'feminist', Natalie had made no attempt to make this into a nice home to raise children in. The furniture is mismatched, and the divide to the kitchen is merely a breakfast bar. Copies of the Guardian lie in a pile for recycling near a pair of Doc Martens, showing how truly warped this young woman's mind was before her demise.     

Not a place for children: Natalie's squalid living room shows her unbalanced state of mind.  

    I am also saddened by the text books that lie on the sofa. There are no magazines like Hello or Grazia anywhere, to indicate that Natalie may have sought better for herself, but instead they are replaced by books with titles like "Contract Law: Cases and Materials" and "What's Wrong With Feminism Today?". I can only imagine that Natalie was lying to herself  by not getting married and raising a family before her death. These are not the reading materials of a normal young woman.    

  I venture up the stairs to nosy around investigate Natalie's mind further, by looking at her bedroom. I am met by a horrifying sight. Not only did Natalie insist on having a bookcase in her bedroom, it was also filled with more disturbing examples of literature like the ones I found downstairs. The precious few examples of fiction I am able to find are not, like one would expect, normal novels by the likes of Louise Bagshawe, but instead appear to be examples of the new trend of 'science fiction' and 'fantasy' books. If only she had found a man to tear her away from such follies, I am sure she would still be alive now.     

Glancing over her DVD collection, I am struck by the same sadness. This was not a sane young woman. Instead of trying to rectify her sad, childless existence by watching proper films for young women, she instead spent her time watching left-wing BBC programmes like 'Blackadder' and 'Doctor Who', when she was not watching films with violence in. Perhaps the violent manner of her death may be explained by this obsession of hers.     

Sickening: Natalie's bizzare taste in DVDs may explain her death    

Her wardrobe is even more disturbing. Natalie owned no clothes from Chanel or Versace. There is not even a Helmut Lang shirt. Rifling through her drawers, I do not even find a respectable Marks and Spencer's bra. This young woman's death must have been full of sadness at the realisation that she had not fulfilled her true potential.     

I go back downstairs to leave, full now of understanding at the real cause of this young woman's demise. Before I leave, I decide to check Natalie's fridge and her computer in order to gain better understanding of what mistakes young girls make which lead to them being eaten by chinchillas.     

As I expected, Natalie's fridge is almost bare. She had no husband or children to cook lovingly for. I am immensely disturbed to discover that Natalie was a vegetarian, a sickening and selfish practice which is known to cause cancer in anyone contemplating it (see health pages). I silently say thank you to God for taking Natalie in the way he did before she had chance to get ill and waste taxpayer's money, as she clearly had no BUPA plan.     

Finally, I turn on her computer. I notice immediately that she listens to whatever music we're linking with violent crime this week. She also has music by known homosexuals on her computer. Again, I thank God for taking her before she got AIDS or cancer caused by such a debauched mindset.     

Natalie had 264 'friends' on Facebook, but no husband to protect her from chinchillas. I weep at this. Her dangerous lunacy prevented her from acquiring the one thing that would have made her truly happy.     

As I leave Bradford, I see a couple with children leaving church who, rather poignantly, are not being eaten by chinchillas. Perhaps this is a lesson Natalie could have learned which would mean she would still be alive today.

 EDIT: I am now doing more of these at Daily Mail Death Articles, where you can request your own in the Daily Mail writer of your choice!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Just A Word

EDIT: Even though I wrote this post a year ago, I still see a lot of people linking to it defending their use of the word. So I thought I'd include a caveat here: This post is about my feelings towards the word 'cunt', and why I personally am not offended by it. However, I grew up in an environment where it was never used against women, but in the manner I describe in the post. I know that is not the case for everyone, and I fully reserve other people's right to be offended by it, and if my use of it does offend anyone who has different experiences from me, I will apologise for it. For what it's worth, I consider this a clunky and badly-explained post, and wish I hadn't included the part where I seemed to tell people not to be offended, because that's not my opinion. It is far better to read that paragraph as if I am talking to myself, as that's how it is meant. I don't mind people linking to this as an explanation of why they personally, like me, are not offended by the word, but please don't use it to try tell people why they shouldn't be offended by it. That's not cool. Just think about why the person who is might be offended by it and consider whether an apology for using it may be in order if you have had the privilege not to have had the word used against you as a gendered slur. 

WARNING: This post will contain a LOT of swearing.

Today, I have been reading posts by Harpy Marx, Laurie Penny and Holly Coombe at the F-Word about the word 'cunt'.

Harpy Marx hates the word, pointing out its historically negative connotations and arguing that it should be offensive to all women. Laurie Penny seeks to reclaim the word for women, "as a word of sexual potency and common discourse rather than a dirty, forbidden word". Holly Coombe argues that the word should be neutralised, saying:
"It makes me squirm when men apologise for using the word cunt in front of me. I realise some of those men will be making an effort to respect certain feminist objections to the way the word has been used to oppress women but, in my experience, many more will reveal antiquated and unhelpful ideas about feminine delicacy. This leads me to the strategy of making it clear that I find such ideas far more sexist and offensive than a word for a part of my own body. This isn’t an invitation to be rough-housed or verbally abused to make some boorish statement about so-called equal treatment. Like plenty of other women and men, I don’t appreciate aggression from anyone. I just don’t object to a word that I am all too aware men may or may not use around me in order to prove a point".

So, now I thought I'd wade in with my opinions on the matter.

In my opinion, the debate needs to stop. It is a word.

Yes, it's a word that has historically been used towards women negatively. So what? It's 2011. It someone called me a cunt in 1811, I might object.

No, we don't need to 'reclaim' it, because all that saying that you are reclaiming a word does is tell people that deep down, you are offended by it (because you want to be the only group to be able to use it) and gives people the power to use it against you. Think about words that have been 'reclaimed' by ethic minorities and LGBT groups. Now, if you were a racist, or a homophobe, what words would you use in order to offend them the most?

The word 'cunt' just a swear word. Yes, it is a very strong swear word, but it's just a swear word*. I am not offended by the word 'cunt', any more than I am by the word 'wanker'. I use the word myself, frequently and liberally (much to the chagrin of my parents). I use it to describe men and women. Hell, I use it to describe animals and inanimate objects. I use it as an adjective ('cunting'). I use it as an exclamation ('Oh, cunt!'). However, when I use it, it's not because I'm referring to something as a vagina, it's because I want to swear. Like if I said the phrase "the fucking toaster won't work", I don't literally mean that my toaster is in flagrante delicto, I just want to express my annoyance. If I call someone a 'bastard', I don't literally mean that they were born out of wedlock, I just want to swear about, or to, them.

It's not a word I use more, or less than other swearwords (I like to mix them up - calling someone 'an absolute cunting bastard' is joy unbounded). The fact is, in English, we use sexual swearwords. Whether the swear words are for sexual acts (fuck, wank, bugger, etc.) or for sexual organs (prick, cock, dick, twat, etc.), they are words that, at some point, have been deemed offensive enough to be classed as swear words. They are words we use when we WANT to be offensive. So why leave the word 'cunt' off the list?

If you feel the need to swear, then swear**. If you're offended by swear words, be offended by them because they are swear words. Don't proselytize about how no one should use a specific word because it has, and can, refer to women's sexual organs, because all that does is give it a significance above other swear words that it should not have.


*Obviously the situation is different if the person using the word 'cunt' as an insult is a man using it specifically because the person on the receiving end is a woman and they are using it in a sexist manner - like the word 'prick' is different if a woman uses it to insult a man in a sexist manner.
**Although you probably shouldn't in, say, a job interview, or at your nana's house.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In Defence Of The Police

Today the tragic story of Samantha Hancox has been reported in a few newspapers. Ms Hancox died at the age of 40 from dehydration and a skin infection. She suffered from terrible and crippling OCD, and was cared for by her elderly and infirm parents.

However, her death is not what caused the media flurry, but rather the fact that her parents were questioned for several hours after she passed away.

It is difficult for me to look at this case in greater detail, since reports are practically identical.

However, what I will say about this case is that once again, it seems that the media are misrepresenting what actually occured in a tragic case in order to suit their readers' desire for moral outrage. While it may seem, on the face of it, distasteful for the police to question Ms Hancox's parents after her death, I believe it was completely justified, and I'd like to explain why.

Ms Hancox's parents were questioned because her death was unexpected, and they were the last people to see her alive. This is standard protocol. Where this deviates from the norm is the fact that they were questioned under suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter. 

Gross negligence manslaughter occurs when a person a) assumes a duty of care for V, b) breaches that duty of care, c) the breach is so bad that it may be judged criminal and d) the breach causes the death of V [1].

This usually occurs in the sphere of professional duties (i.e. when a doctor assumes a duty of care to a patient), however, it may also occur if the accused person was a lay person who voluntarily assumed a duty of care for another (as Ms Hancox's parents did), and then subsequently neglected their duties, which resulted in the victim’s death.

Allow me to give a couple of well-known examples:

In the case of R v Instan [2], the defendant lived with her elderly aunt. In exchange for food and lodgings, she was expected to look after her aunt. In her last few days alive, the aunt was completely bedridden. The defendant had bought food and brought it to the house, but failed to give her aunt any. She also failed to summon a doctor to see to the woman. The aunt died from ‘exhaustion’ and gangrene. The defendant was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, as she had owed her aunt a duty of care, which she had breached. The breach had caused her aunt’s death and was “such that it should be judged criminal”.

In a similar, more recent, case, that of R v Stone and Dobinson [3], the defendants were convicted of the grossly negligent manslaughter of Mr. Stone’s sister, an elderly woman whom they had allowed to live with them and agreed to take care of. The victim was eccentric and anorexic, often locking herself in her room for prolonged periods of time. The female defendant, Miss Dobinson had made some small attempt to care for her, by way of washing her once or twice with a neighbour (who testified about the shocking state that the victim was in on these occasions), but they failed to ensure that she ate anything or to inform social services of her condition or to summon a doctor to visit her. The victim died as a result of bedsores caused by lying on dirty bed sheets for extended periods of time. Her decline was hastened by her emaciated state.

In the case of Ms Hancox, it is stated that she died as a result of dehydration and a skin infection. However much her parents may have tried to care for her, something obviously went wrong, and she was not given the correct help. Whether this is as a result of the inadequacy of social services, or because the correct help was not sought by her parents, I do not know. I must also point out that I do not doubt that her parents loved her and tried to care for her themselves in the best way they could.

All I can say is that I defend the police's decision to question her parents. Their desire to see that an immensely vulnerable woman's death was not preventable may be commended. The fact that they followed protocol in order to ensure that she was not the victim of a crime in what may seem like a cut and dry case ought be applauded, and not something to be used as a smear against the police by the right-wing press.

[1] R v Adomako [1995] 1 AC 171
[2] [1893] 1 QB 450
[3] [1977] 64 Cr. App. R 186

Woman Angry At Reading Stupid News

Today I stumbled across an awful story. A story so bad it made me break down and weep, cursing the cruelty that the world can inflict upon poor innocents. A story so utterly, utterly heartrending that I'm not sure I can bring myself to write about the terrible plight suffered by the victim. But I shall. I will remain strong, because this is a story that needs to be told to the world.

The poor innocent victim I speak of? That victim was me, when I had to read this utter rubbish:

"Woman angry at KFC meat policy".

A woman is angry that she ate halal chicken from Keighley’s KFC restaurant without realising.

Emma Lee did not realise that all meat sold at the outlet had been slaughtered in line with Islamic beliefs.

All fillets sold at the company’s Keighley restaurant are drained of blood and blessed by a Muslim slaughterman.

The policy was brought in to cater to the large Muslim population around the restaurant at Keighley Retail Park in Hard Ings Road.

KFC says the killing method complies with both Islamic teaching and rigorous animal standards. The takeaway giant insists the chickens are stunned before they are slaughtered and their care meets UK and EU laws.

Ms Lee, from the Skipton area, said she felt “totally violated” when she discovered what she had eaten during her visit.

She said: “I was absolutely disgusted. I have been eating food that is against my beliefs!”

Ms Lee said she objected to halal killing on both religious and animal welfare grounds. She said: “I have no problem with people who do wish to eat halal meat, that is their personal choice.

“I just feel like I had my personal choice taken away from me by changing the meat without informing us so I could go elsewhere.”

Ms Lee said that while queuing she noticed a certificate on the wall saying the restaurant was allowed to sell halal meat.

She added: “I sat down to enjoy my dinner and got thinking about this. I started to get a bit concerned. It turns out that all the meat they serve in store is halal meat. I feel that everybody should know what they are eating.”

KFC introduced halal-only meat at about 100 restaurants across the UK last year in communities where it anticipated a strong demand. Pork is not allowed under Islamic law, so the company’s Big Daddy burger with bacon was withdrawn.

Although the chickens are killed mechanically, the slaughter and preparation methods are certified by the Halal Food Authority.

KFC’s website states: “The edicts and requirements for Halal accreditation are strictly followed. A verse is recited from the Qu’ran by an appropriate person at the point of slaughter.”

KFC said the animals were not dead prior to slaughtering and all blood was drained from their bodies. It added: “We remain committed to the same animal welfare standards and insist our poultry is stunned before slaughter – a pain- free process that makes the animal insensible to pain and suffering.

“We will only purchase high quality, Grade A, farm-assured chicken from the same leading suppliers used by major retailers.”

So, some time around the end of 2009 (I can't find exact dates), KFC, in response to customer feedback, decided to supply around 100 of its 'restaurants' with halal meat. Yes, this is the TERRIBLE INJUSTICE suffered by whinging EDL fwap-fodder Emma Lee.  A woman who has, presumably, never heard the phrase "supply and demand" in her life.

KFC point out in their FAQ on the matter that the restaurants which are halal-only display the Halal Food Authority logo on the door, and were also chosen to be in close proximity to non-halal restaurants.

Emma Lee claims that she feels "completely violated" and "absolutely disgusted" that she ate food which was against her "beliefs" (I don't know how long being a stupid bigot has counted as a 'belief', but there you go).

She also tries to claim that this she opposes the move to halal-only on "religious and animal welfare grounds". Now, I've looked for a religion that forbids eating halal meat, but I can't find one, so I can only assume that what she opposes is the religion that halal meat comes from. As for animal welfare? Don't make me fucking laugh love, you're eating KFC.

Her story gets even stupider after that. She claims that she has "no problem with people who do wish to eat halal meat, that is their personal choice" (except if they want to buy it from a popular fast food chain of course, then she's opposed to it).

She then says "I just feel like I had my personal choice taken away from me by changing the meat without informing us so I could go elsewhere", and "I feel that everybody should know what they are eating".

The restaurant had a sign on the door, and a plaque on the wall, that she even says she read before ordering her food that said it was halal-only. She freely admits that she walked in, looked at a sign that said that the food was halal, ordered the food, sat down and started eating it, and only THEN did it dawn on her that she might be eating halal food (which I'm still not sure why she opposes).

Without getting into a huge debate about the rights and wrongs of eating any meat (yes, I am a vegetarian), I'd love to be able to ask Emma what her opinion on kosher meat is, given that that forbids the stunning of the animal before slaughter, unlike the halal meat in this case, which was stunned.

So, to summarise: Woman so thick it takes her brain ten minutes to process what is on a sign she read doesn't want people of a different religion to hers to be able to eat in the same restaurants, because the rights of a white woman who wants to be a bigot should trump the rights of all the local muslims. Or something like that.

Predictably, the local EDL dickheads have picked up on the story as an example of the inexhaustable tide of "islamification" across the UK. It's so nice of the Keighley News to give them bullshit like this to feed on, don't you think?

Thursday, 3 February 2011


The Mail have come out with what may politely be termed an 'interesting' article today. Entitled "Labour's lizard king: Ed Miliband likened to reptile by body language experts for bizarre way he licks his lips", the article reveals the mythological origins of Labour's leader in a volcano under the North Pole, hatched from the egg of a phoenix that the leaders of the political parties use different body language when speaking.

Oh. That's... not quite as interesting as I'd have hoped.

They say:

Ed Miliband has been likened to a lizard by experts because of the bizarre way he repeatedly licks his lips to stay calm when giving a speech.

They say the Labour leader's 'lizard tongue' helps him focus on his words and appear self-assured and methodical at the despatch box.

Body language experts studied the actions of all three political leaders and found Mr Miliband to be the most pensive, Nick Clegg the most passionate, while David Cameron came out on top for being charismatic and engaging.

Alex Grinder, a physical communications expert at body language firm Ascot Barclay Group, said: 'Watching the videos of Miliband, we notice he moistens his lips with his tongue - we call this the "lizard tongue".

'Research on this gesture suggests that when someone does this, it is a way of pacifying or giving oneself strokes.

'He is extremely cognitive, in other words he speaks very much from his head and thoughts.'

Mr Grinder said that, despite being new to the job, Mr Miliband exuded a high level of confidence.

'Ed stands with his weight on both feet and this helps to create a level of credibility, he is balanced and grounded,'' he said.

'We see the hands coming together in prayer a lot and this gesture allows him to reconnect with his thoughts.

'When he does so his feet are centred, this balanced posture together with his light touch of the lectern suggests that he is confident.'

However, analysis of Mr Miliband's first speech to the Labour Party Conference last year revealed subtle differences in his body language when referring to certain MPs which could be evidence of future problems for his leadership, Mr Grinder added.

'There is a definite difference in what he does with his eyes, his hand and the length of the arm in the gesture to Harriet Harman versus everyone else, he said.

'He takes away credit from her through his non verbals. So we are curious as to what is going on there and the relationship dynamics between them.'

The Prime Minister's repeated pumping of his fist, with his palms facing downwards, when giving a speech makes him appear 'ready for action' and in control, whereas Mr Miliband often has his hands facing inward which is less authoritative, the experts added.

Mr Grinder said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also cleverly adjusted the volume of his voice when speaking to draw people in.

'Clegg has a great voice pattern as he delivers his speech - it crescendos up and then drops down to the start again, this keeps the audience intrigued and we pay closer attention,' Mr Grinder said.

'He would be very effective at giving moving speeches and will come across as though he is speaking from the heart, which is in direct contrast to Miliband whose approach is more "head" orientated.'*

There were two very interesting comments on this article from the company that supposedly provided the 'research' they refer to. The first of these read:

This is an interesting debate and unfortunately one which does not accurately reflect our research. Non-verbal intelligence (NVI) provides much deeper insight into human behavior patterns than simply reading body language. In actual fact comparing NVI to Body Language is like comparing neuro science with astrology one is based on science fact the other isn't. The political rhetoric somewhat amusing and perhaps the real reaction the journalist responsible for this article set out to achieve.

The second:

I should also point out we don't actually have any one called 'Alex Grinder' at Ascot Barclay but why let a few 'minor' factual errors get in the way of a good political debate :-)

OK, it's a lot, lot less interesting than the headline suggests (surprisingly), and based on a pack of lies (even less surprisingly) but there's something else I'd like to look at.

In the headline, and the first line of the article, they claim that Miliband licking his lips when he speaks is "bizarre". By way of experiment, I tried to read the article out loud without my tongue touching my lips. It's harder than you think**. Also, the Mail (and possibly the researchers) haven't considered that maybe Ed's just in dire need of a Chapstick***. Really, it just looks to me like they're trying to smear Miliband on flimsy pretexts (shocking as that may be).

I also love the fact that when they talk about "certain MPs" being a threat to Miliband, they then go on to only namecheck their sworn nemesis, that awful feminazi Harriet Harman. Hey, at least they managed to stop themselves referring to her as 'Harriet Harperson' for once.

 Anyway, I think we can safely file this under "another day, another piece of sensationalist bullshit at the Mail".

As you were.

*I would have posted the pictures the Mail did to accompany this article, but I was unsure about copyright. I tried to find my own, but there are only so many fruitless searches you can do to find a picture of Ed Miliband with his tongue out before you start to get paranoid that Google think you're a pervert.

**I'll admit this is a very unscientific experiment, but I am writing this post at 06.30 so, y'know, empiricism when mocking the Mail is not at the top of my prorities. However, to rectify this, I would ask anyone who questions the validity of my experiment to do the same and report your findings to me, and we'll test my hypothesis.

***I might send him one and see how he does at PMQs next week. Suggestions for flavours? I think he's a Cherry man, myself.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

From Bar to Bar

The following is the story of my experience of college, university, trying to break into the legal field and life as a graduate in 2010/11. I have tried to stick to the facts proper and not become too 'woe is me'. I'm aware that a lot of people are worse off than I am, but this post is something that has been preying on my mind for a while, and I'd like to share it. If you'd like to share your story too, either post it in the comments, or get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter.

Around the age of 14, I decided that I wanted to be a criminal barrister. I don't know what inspired me originally, although if you ask anyone who knows me, they will probably say that the idea of being paid to argue was what appealed to me. I think it was partly to do with that, but also the desire to right injustice and the chance to make a difference (I may have been an overly-idealistic 14 year old).

Anyway, at the age of 16, I went to sixth-form college, still with the singular ambition to be a criminal barrister planted firmly in my mind. During my time there, I was constantly told by my teachers how difficult it would be for me to achieve my aims, but I was undeterred, and certain that if I worked hard enough, it would pay off. In time, I applied to study Law at the University of Leeds, and was offered a place with the condition that I achieved A grades in my three subjects. I knuckled down and left college in 2007 with A grades in Law, Politics and Psychology.

I began my degree at the University of Leeds at the end of 2007, continuing, as I had done with college, to commute from my home and balancing my education with working approximately 25 hours a week at my local pub.

As in college, in my first year at university I was repeatedly warned about how difficult it would be to become a criminal barrister. As in college, I naively assumed that as long as I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything I wanted.

It struck me in my first year that as a law undergraduate with a job, I was in an extreme minority. I thought nothing of it at the time, and merely envied those who were being supported by their parents because of their free time. That's not to say I didn't have any, but there would be many a time to come in the next three years where I would be desperately trying to juggle revising for an exam or writing an essay at the end of the bar in between pulling pints.

Before I discuss my experience any further, it would be useful at this time to talk about how one goes about becoming a barrister. After taking a Qualifying Law Degree (which basically means a law degree, but with seven essential modules covered - I'd say 99% of people do them), you take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and register with one of the four Inns of Court. During your time, you must also attend at least 12 Qualifying Sessions at your Inn. These take the form of education days, dinners and other events. After this, you apply for a pupillage, which lasts two years. Once you have completed this, you are called to the bar and may begin practicing.

In my second year, shit started to get real. We were advised that our chances to be accepted to study for the BPTC and to gain a pupillage would only be maximised by having completed around three mini-pupillages by the time we graduated.

Mini-pupillages are essentially glorified work experience in a barristers chambers, usually lasting 2-4 weeks. However, they're seen as vital to gaining experience and knowledge of how life in a chambers works. There were a few interconnected problems with this for me. Firstly, there were very, very few criminal chambers in Leeds that would take on students for mini-pupillages. Secondly, having a job meant that I couldn't just take two weeks off to work 9-5 for free, nor could I afford to even contemplate travelling further afield in order to do one.  Finally, due to commuting to Leeds and having a job, I found it very difficult to attend any of the networking events organised by the university - in fact, I didn't manage to attend a single one. Because of this, I was at another disadvantage - if there's only one mini-pupillage place going, who are you going to give it to, the person you've met, or the person you haven't? There were also many, many instances of people who were given mini-pupillages either by their parents, or friends of their parents.

I did one mini-pupillage, at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Leeds, towards the end of my second year. It was judged entirely on merit, not who you knew, and I was the only one of a hundred applicants to get it. Unfortunately, they were only able to offer me a place for a week.

I entered my third year somewhat disillusioned with the notion of ever managing to become a barrister. The facts that the fees for the BPTC were around £12,200, the Inns of Court all located in London, that I would have to work extra jobs throughout my time, and there would only be roughly a 20% chance of me managing to get a pupillage to finish my training* all conspired to put me off it. I knew that I would be forever trailing in the dust of those with parents who were more well off than mine.

I was still absolutley dedicated to and passionate about going into criminal law though, so I decided that my best course of action would be to join the CPS in any position I could get, either to save the money to complete my barrister training, or in the hope that they would put me through the Associate Prosecutor training.

(*this statistic is somewhat flawed in my case, given that a) there are a lot less pupillage vacancies for prospective criminal barristers, b) I had far less work experience and connections than others and c) I wasn't willing to move to London for a pupillage)

My third year went by, and I found myself about to graduate with a QLD, specialising in criminal law. In my time at university, I had studied Constitutional Law, Land Law, Equity and Trusts, Criminology, Victimology, Criminal Law, Tort Law, Contract Law, Legal Research Skills, Advanced Legal Review and Law Reform, Jurisprudence, Judicial Review, the Jurisprudence of Judicial Review and Democracy, Feminist Theories of Jurisprudence, Evidence Law, Forensic Evidence Law, the Modern English Legal System, Policing, EU Law and written a 12,000 word dissertation on the merits of the introduction of a hypothetical criminal offence.

I graduated in July 2010 with a 2.1. The plan was to take a couple of months off for the summer, and begin applying for anything I could get my hands on in the three West Yorkshire offices of the CPS in September. However, thanks to budget cuts and the reduction of the public sector, this is all I've seen since about April last year:

So, since then I've been reconsidering what I want to do with my life, now that I can't do what I've spent five years working for. I've hit a bit of a brick wall. Not only do I not know what I want to do, without experience in internships or the voluntary sector (not that this will be around for much longer), I can't get a job that would use my degree effectively. I can't afford to do these though, because I have these horribly inconvenient things called 'bills' and 'rent' to pay. So instead, I'm just pootling along in my bar job, trying to avoid having to take a 9-5 job that I will hate, just for the sake of having a 'real job'. Whether I will end up in law eventually, I don't know. I'd like to, of course I would, but I have to be realistic. I've also toyed with the idea of doing a masters, or a second undergraduate degree, but there's no way on earth I could ever afford to. I could write for ages about how unfair it all is, the fact that as a member of the working class, it's almost impossible to go into the field of law and all the other horrible things that I had to go through during my time at university, but I would hope that the facts as they are speak for themselves. Really, I'm lucky to have a job at all.

This is the experience of a History Graduate I spoke to:

I graduated from Durham with a BA in History in 2007, moving to London soon after.

An MA was never on the cards because, despite loving the subject and wanting to carry on, there was no way I could afford to pay for it.

I started to look for work in the public and third sectors - just basic administrative roles really - to get my foot in the door. I was told I had no experience, despite having just graduated. I didn't have three years of being a student journalist or anything like that to fall back on, when I worked at uni it was in a little shop.

So, I did some unpaid work to bump up my CV. I did a couple of months editing things online (which was good because I could do it from home whenever, but didn't get me any office hours) and then three months working in the HR department of a homelessness charity where they paid for travel and lunch. The work was basic admin: editing, photocopying, responding to enquiries etc. I found it through a friend who was already working there.

A couple of months after I finished the semi-internship, one of the recruitment agencies I had reluctantly signed up to finally found me a few jobs for which i got interviews. I had resorted to agencies after a stream of time-consuming applications for well-suited jobs I found in places like the Guardian (graduate, third/public sector, officework) went off with some small measure of expectation on my part, only to receive no replies. I got the second or third job (public sector office admin - has developed slightly into some work with databases and editing) that the agency turned me on to.

Two things I would most recommend to new graduates whose degrees don't lead straight into a specific job are a) getting experience as a volunteer or a intern as early as you can, because even having spent three/four years as a full time student you're expected to have some experience and b) sign up to recruitment agencies - most of them are shit but you should at least get some temp work, even if it's just data-entry, which means you don't starve/get evicted.