Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tasteless Jokes Invalidate Elections Apparently

I heard a story on the radio about a Derbyshire councillor who has been sacked for making a joke about the two murdered police women last week.

He sounds like a dick, and I would not vote for him- but there's something very dodgy about the notion that elected representatives can be sacked for doing something completely legal.

Who has the power to overrule the electorate and invalidate the election just like that?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Denis MacShane Doesn't Like Wikipedia

It's an absolute disgrace apparently, asking a Justice Minister this question:
"What comment will the Minister make on the fact that Wikipedia publishes biographies of people that are then regularly amended to include untrue, defamatory and unpleasant language?

"Does he think that Wikipedia should inform those people whose biographies have been re-written in such a way that causes them damage and then allow a truthful statement to be made?
"At the moment, Wikipedia is an absolute disgrace, allowing the British National party, fascists, anti-Semites and other extremists to alter people's personal entries."
 Wikipedia should employ an army of staff to write to the subjects of articles every time it is edited?

There is some irony in Denis MacShameless complaining about defamation despite regularly smearing his opponents as Nazis, racists or supporters of human trafficking. It appears likely that he upset about some of the information contained in his Wiki-biography- the examples of lying, corruption and bullying are certainly unpleasant but I cannot see anything that is untrue.

Eternal Truths

There is a defence of Muhammad- the founder of Islam- in the Guardian, with regard to accusations that he was a paedophile for marrying a six year old girl.

A lot of effort is made to contextualise this by comparison with what was normal at the time- and it is true that taking very young wives was a lot more acceptable in earlier centuries than today. Various figures from ancient times to the late middle ages did this.

This kind of context matters in judging most historical figures but the problem is Muhammed is not most historical figures. If Mo had simply been a particularly successful warlord it would be tiresome to denounce his sexual morals or the fact he was a slaver. However he and his adherents have never claimed that he was simply a man of his time, but rather that he was the source of eternal truths, that are as true today as they were then.

It is similar to how the massacre of the Trojans by the Greeks is not a problem for modern admirers of ancient Greece whereas the massacre of the Canaanites by the Israelites is a problem for those who believe that the Bible or Torah are divine sources of truth.

Of course in the modern world most Christians and Jews don't endorse the worst aspects of their holy literature. This is not the case with Islam, when simply speculating that some passages may be allegorical is a death sentence in much of the Middle East.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Binge Drinking Parents

According to the Children's Commissar, Maggie Atkinson, 1 in 3 children live with a binge drinker.

Something Must Be Done!

Think of the Children!

I heard her being interviewed and she insisted this was what children were telling her- whilst parroting phrases that I've never heard anyone who is not a professional busybody utter. It turns out that these phrases were uttered by children in focus groups- given that even with adults focus groups tend to say what the person in charge wants them to say and the people in charge were professional busybodies, this isn't a surprise.

While I do not doubt that alcohol is the cause, or at least the catalyst, for a lot of social problems, it does not seem plausible that 1 in 3 children live with a binge drinker and that a ludicrously inflated figure is being used for the purpose of scaremongering. And sure enough the definition of binge drinking is men who have more than eight drinks on one session or women who have more than 6.

No definition of what a "drink" is, but I suspect that they are referring to units because the definition of binge drinking given by other bodies is 8 units for men and 6 for women. That is about three glasses of wine for a woman or three pints of beer for man. I often "binge" under this definition- having up to 12 units over the course of about 6 or 7 hours on a weekend day every so often. Yet I don't consider myself to be a binge drinker, as I drive home and beat my terrified family in an alcohol fueled rage..... or not.

The report does not say how often this one has to binge to be classified as a binge drinker either- is having three sherries over Christmas Day a danger?

Yet the Childrens' Commissioner uses figures derived from these kind of definitions to imply that scenarios like this are endemic in Britain:

‘“I need somewhere safe to go quickly when mum starts drinking and cutting herself but where can I go?”

That is a quote by a young person in the report. To which the only response is "Holy Shit! Your Mum has a problem". But it is not the kind of behaviour that is associated with three glasses of wine once in a while.

Either they should give honest statistics for the number of problem drinkers or illustrate the issue with examples that are more likely among "binge drinking" parents. But quotes like:

"Some times my Dad comes home with a takeaway before falling asleep for half an hour in the arm chair" 

 Would not generate much interest.

I'm Back

Well that was a nice break.