Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Julian Pepe - The Bravest Person in the world

BBC News - Uganda fear over gay death penalty plans

See the video attached to this BBC story.

This woman - Julian Pepe - must be the bravest person in the world. She is an openly Lesbian woman in Uganda and was prepared to speak about it on the BBC.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Who is to Blame in the Israel Palestine Debate

My friend Richard Landes takes one view -Augean Stables : News Media, Arab Honor-Shame, and Operation Cast Lead: The Failures of Cognitive Egocentrism

Richard it is entirely impossible to avoid the provocation and sheer bad faith showed by every Israeli government since 1987 on land transfers etc. These in my opinion have produced the actions which Israel is now reaping. To say that is not to justify Hamas actions, but say Israel is an unfair actor also.

In Northern Ireland before 1969 the UK sat back and allowed the landed Protestant elite along with a majority Protestant urban-work force (which excluded Catholic workers from decent jobs) to establish a Protestant state, which limited Catholic but not Protestant votes to householders only; gerrymandered any still possible seat with a Catholic majority; set up a almost exclusively Protestant police force; established segregated housing and had para-National organizations and newspapers which engaged in continual efforts designed to belittle and the Catholics. [For example efforts to ban Catholic symbols, but to aggressively assert Orange symbols, such as the July marches past Catholic churches.]

Did any of this justify the 1969 Catholic Civil Rights uprising, or the response of the IRA when the British troops sent it to Ulster fired on Catholic marchers? Yes to the Civil Rights marches but no to the terrorism. The IRA had no right to bomb the center of my home city (Manchester), shoot soldiers in British pubs, or set off bombs in Ireland. But the reaction by elements in the Catholic Community can be explained - Protestant Ulster and the larger United Kingdom truly reaped what they sowed. I see precise analogies to Israel and its treatment of Palestinians here.

I would prefer a one-state solution in the area as I think states should recognize all their citizens equally. Clearly that is not desired by almost anyone there (there are too many hatreds), so a just two-state solution is the one which good people need to work for. I oppose efforts by Hamas to oppose this, and regret the collapse of Fatah. I oppose all violence by such groups. But I also think Israeli efforts to usurp West Bank land is the primary driver of the efforts of the resistance.

Israel has had the upper hand since 1967. It has been, under all parties in government, consistent in attempting to grab more and more parts of the West Bank.

It is true it has a free press, a court system, and a vital internal debate. But that internal debate is very narrow, and seems to have become much darker due to the growth of Haredi politics, religious Zionism, and the peculiarly selfish politics of the Russian immigrants.

Of course Hmas firing rockets at Sderot was wrong; of course the use of suicide bombers was wrong; but the seething violence of Palestinian politics is above all a reaction to Israeli oppression.

From my view it is Israel that is the *defining* actor and other countries and the USA need to pressure it to act better.

[Most typos corrected, I hope.]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rick Warren - Letter to the Pastors of Uganda

Let's give Rick Warren credit here.

He is an evangelical US preacher. He has spoke out against the Ugandan bill as strongly as he can.

Unreservedly - Good on Rick Warren!!

Why can't Rowan Williams and Benedict XVI speak out?

Some commentators have been slightly reserved about supporting Warren.

I simply felt a flood of grace. I am usually anti-Protestant but here in the UK we have been discussing whether the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams *should* make a statement because of fear of seeming imperialist.

It is shameful for Catholics that noone has even suggested that Benedict XVI would intervene.

Rick Warren has, I think, single handedly won a victory for both freedom and grace on this subject.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Climate Change

Climate change it is not a big issue for me (I don't have any kids after all), and I have been quite open to the idea there might be a random climate fluctuation, something to do with sunspot activity (which seems asynchronous over record observation, although that must be too short an era to mean anything).

But here in the UK all parties seemed to accept there was a problem, including Mrs Thatcher and the current Tory leadership. (Not true of Tory bloggers btw.)

So my main issue concern was when it became a huge *political issue* on the right, seemingly to defend aspects of the oil industry.

As far as I am concerned, this effort to stop human CO2 emissions should be seen as a *prudential choice*. [I realise I have not always such choices in my own life, ahem.] Also, quite apart from climate change, I have as long as I can recall been aware of and opposed to environmental pollution. I would oppose pollution even if humans were not causing climate change.]

OTOH, although I am no abstinent, I have never really prioritised material consumption. [And I have never suspected such of other well intentioned people either.]

I believe we need a spiritually richer world in which more and more humans can realise a divine intellectual/artistic/spiritual potential than I do in ever escalating material satisfactions.

The Art of Consultation

Iain Dale's Diary: Book of the Day: The Art of Consultation

Consultations as they stand are a sham.

Here in Manchester the local HIV services group - GHT - last year hosted a "consultation" with the local PCT about whether HIV patients would be forced to go through local GPs.

While some African patients liked the idea, virtually all the British gay men (who have different issues of course) opposed it. Apart from anything else, HIV is in fact sufficiently rare that the average GP (mine for example) has no real understanding.

After the event it became clear it was all a stitch up. The PCT went ahead with the policy in any case. [I gather the same thing happened in London - where you simply could not get any non-HIV meds (but still necessary) from a clinic but had to reveal your situation to a GP.]

Plus the PCT announced on posters in clinics that they had consulted with GHT.

The f**kers knew exactly what they were doing to begin with. It was all about cost shifting in the NHS and nothing to do with those consulted. Or even end costs.

[After all, if people avoid HIV treatment for years because they won't go to a GP, they will get ill, but it will not count in any "rational" cost assessment.]

Now, I am a big fan of state-provided services. But that does not mean we should not allow the nasty state employees in the NHS and elsewhere any lee-way.

They all seem to act like shits.

Saving Uganda's Gays

Everyone needs to try to raise the alarm over the Uganda effort to enact the death penalty for homosexuality. See The Guardian

Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality bill currently before Uganda's parliament. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a "person of authority" over the other partner, or if the "victim" is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.

Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police with 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail – a scenario that human rights campaigners say will result in a witchhunt. Ugandans breaking the new law abroad will be subject to extradition requests.

Ruth Gledhill has just posted in The Times

This gay blogger from Uganda's post today is just heart rending.

This is a former colony, with a UK system (sort of), and homosexuality
there is illegal to begin with because of our imperial legacy.

What can we do?

We need to pressure Uganda's government.

One Third of Uganda's budget comes from foreign aid. This may change in the future, but it is the case now and will be for a a number of years. Meanwhile oil companies are beginning to locate and exploit oil there.

The UK gay movement needs to gear up for this now.

But in Britain we should all be able to unite in protest on this. Labour, Liberal Demoocrat, Tory, SNP, PC, UKIP - all officially oppose this kind of hatred.

LabourList is the most public forum I, at least, can access.

This issue must come into focus now, and the UK must act.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tory Class Warfare Again

Iain Dale's Diary: What About the Planet?

As preparations mount for the Copenhagen summit, which will be attended by more than 15,000 delegates and diplomats, The Independent reports that up to 30,000 environmental activists will be going along for ride too. The hypocrisy is astonishing. [sticks tongue in cheek] Do they not care about the planet? Do they not think about their carbon footprint? Clearly not. And they have the cheek to lecture the rest of us about how we should cut down on the number of flights we take.

Iain's posts seem to be getting more and more obtuse.

Quite apart from the fact that at any conference, people nearby (i.e. via train) can attend in greater numbers, he willfully misstates the matter in terms of individual events.

The size of the earth's atmosphere is affected by human activity, but any single human activity is more or less irrelevant.

I do realise this may be a hard concept to grasp.

But let me put it another way.

One single Tory MP or PPC avoiding tax is more or less irrelevant to the government's tax take. But the entire tax avoidance efforts of the Tory class is most certainly relevant.

What I find interesting is that, as they sniff a Tory victory (but let's think 1992, 1992, 1992), the ur-colours of the Tories are showing themselves.

Both in the comments of lower middle class Tory oiks like Iain Dale, and in actions of the core-Tory rich you are a running dog for, Toryism is not about politics at all.

It is about preserving the privileges of the already rich and wealthy.

James Merrill - A Different Person

BOMB Magazine: James Merrill by Thomas Bolt

I've been reading James Merrill's memoir A Different Person.

It includes accounts of his relationship with his Jacksonville parents, his early life on West 11th St, New York city, his homosexual life in the early 1950s while on an extended trip to Europe (made possible by his trust fund, since his dad was founder of Merill Lynch), his first encounter with Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna, and his encounters with and thoughts about people as diverse as Alice B Toklas and Greek soldiers. He died of AIDS in 1995.

The book is absolutely fascinating, completely snobbish, intellectually arrogant and orientalist as well. I am finding it absorbing.

But the photograph attached to this article is also very disturbing. In one sense he looks very young for a sixty five year old, but in other ways the ravages of AIDS are scary. His skin is not only wrinkled but bumped with, I think, molluscum contagiosum - one of the more minor but still disfiguring illnesses of the early version of AIDS.

What is most contradictory of all about the man is that he wrote some of the greatest American poetry, with the single biggest block of it being dictated to him from 1953 onwards via the Ouija board.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Save the Church of England

Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: Protest at prelates shun attack on lesbian woman bishop

*We* (and I say "we" because if the ABoC created a pastorate for us Romans who, while not giving up on Rome in the eschaton, are looking for a place where we can pray, say our Aves, and not be expected to vote Tory, we would jump) have rejoiced in the new Stockholm bishop.

Could you find a better Christian?

So here is the question, Rowan (who I am sure reads Ruth's blog), how is this open loving Swedish Church trying to bear witness in a basically materialistic society not like us? Why does the CoE leadership think it has to dance to the tune of semi-literate evangelical churches in Africa (especially in Uganda) which are currently calling for the death penalty for being gay?

Let these nogoodnick-churches go. They can enjoy communion with a bunch of rich right-wing US Episcopalians who would not share a toilet with them.

But do not let them destroy an Church IN England based on true love of God, true Biblical Theology, a Much better ecclesiology than Romanism, and the true intuitions of of our not so bad civilisations best parts.

Ruth Supports Lesbian Bishops

Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: Protest at prelates shun attack on lesbian woman bishop

Ruth is the purest of the pure, and manifestly both a nice and a good person (perhaps a specifically English characteristic).

Her story here is great.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Law That Shames Uganda

Iain Dale's Diary: The Law That Shames Uganda

The anti-homosexual laws now being pushed in countries like Uganda are not something that just happens because they are backward societies.

They exist at all because of the hangover of Victorian legislation created during the period of British rule. The is a very large overlap between where these laws exist and the British Imperial legacy. There is much less of a problem in, for example, former French colonies (homosexual acts ceased to be illegal with the enaction of the code Napoleon).

Second, countries like Ugana have diverse local populations within which homosexuality had a whole series of different social meanings.

But, is in many of these countries a type of no-nothing evangelical Christianity, push originally by British missionaries, now dominates local cultures, and it is this above all which backs up local homophobia, and in this case is actively trying to get the laws passed.

What can we do?

Not much, but we can at least accept our historic part in the situation and give gay and lesbian Ugandans asylum here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Turkey in Europe

Michael Heaver's Blog: Is Turkish EU membership now dead in the water?

I don't really get the objection to Turkey joining, apart from German racism.

Greece supports it, and so do all our major parties.

I agree with some "hold" on Turkish free movement of labour util we have more equal economies, but I see no reason Turks are to be considered lower than the Dutch, Greeks, Italians, Latvians or Romanians (etc).

The territory of Turkey is integral to all European history, and the Ottoman Empire, as the precursor to Ottoman Turkey was a central part of the European power system in the 18th and 19th century.

Plus, Turks are often nice people and have really great food.

Against DNA Databases

The influence of DNA in crime prevention is underestimated - we must stand up for the DNA database | LabourList.org

I find this among the most disturbing articles I have ever read on LabourList.

Government is a function of out lives as people and communities. We do not exist as functions of government.

From the perspective of this contributor there is no conceivable reason why the entire population should not be DNA tested, and totalitarian control imposed.

Here is why that should not happen. Government can be a force for good, but often oppressive people (elected or appointed) gain access to state and/or police power. Those people often (on any fair reading of history) act a forces of oppression.

While we need to advocate for the use of government as a force for good, we need to be aware that government can be oppressive.

Mr. Zarb-Cousin wants to turn us all into a sort of URL for the government to control.

That's dreadful.

It's much better to preserve freedom, even if some crimes go unpunished.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goverment Paid Child Care and a Guaranteed Minimum Income

A good day for parents, for Labour and for Gordon - LabourList.org

The Sunday Times is reporting today that Gordon Brown has decided to change his mind on withdrawing the relief on childcare tax vouchers.

In this case I thought the government's original position that this was not a good targetted use of money made sense.

But what has become clear is that state benefit programs which benefit the middle class as well as the working class (e.g. tThe NHS, child benefit, old age pensions) are virtually untouchable whereas benefit programs which only target the poor (e.g. jobseeker's allowance, housing benefit, income support/ESA) are subject to continual massive hostility from a right-wing driven effort to libel the "undeserving poor."

This echoes experience in the US where non-means tested programmes such as Medicare and Social Security are untouchable, but programmes to help the poor are repeatedly attacked.

I think the solution to this is to moved to a Guaranteed Minimum Income, distributed by the state to all (regardless of wealth). Such a programme would cost a lot in taxes, but since the selfish middle class would get it as well, it would be able to ensure a real safety net for the poor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hate Speech Laws: Not a Good Thing

Paul Waugh | Blogs | Evening Standard

Straw U-turn on gay hatred/free speech bill

Chris Smith won't be happy.

Last night, the former Cabinet minister (and first MP to come out), predicted that there could be more homophobic attacks as a result of the Government defeat on its plans to criminalise 'gay hatred'.
Former Tory Home Secretary Lord Waddington managed to insert an amendment insisting that free speech would be a defence against any such crime - effectively a wrecking amendment.

In the most effective Parliamentary ambush for years, Waddington knew that with one day of the final Parliamentary session today, the Government ran the risk of losing the entire Coroners and Justice Bill if the Lords dug in.

Labour MPs thought they would overturn the Lords defeat today, but now Jack Straw has waved the white flag.
Of course, the Government have tried to slip this out as quietly as possible. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said they were “very disappointed” that the Lords had voted for the free speech amendment.
“It is with considerable disappointment, therefore, that the Government has agreed not to remove the ‘freedom of expression’ section".

Comedians and Christian campaigners, who have lobbied hard against the clause, will see it differently. As will Chris Smith.

I'm not at all sure that Jack Straw has done anything wrong. I accept, but with some unwillingness, the concept of "hate crime", but I think free speech should be protected above all. [Indeed, I would incorporate all of American First Amendment jurisprudence into UK and European law if I could.]

At the moment gay people are pretty well accepted by the establishment, but that could change at a moment. History is very far from a predictable progress to ever greater liberation.

At some stage, gay people, like others, will value an established culture of free speech much more than any transient an largely unenforceable hate crime law.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

East African Homophobia - Uganda and Kenya Go Rogue

RE: Stand up, be counted and go to jail

This article seems to be rather misleading, with its use of "some".

As far as can be seen from the online Kenyan press, very very few Kenyans seem to understand that lesbian and gay rights are basic human rights. In the neighbouring, and in some ways similar, country of Uganda the countries Christian leaders are supporting an effort to impose the death penalty on gay people (See pinknews.co.uk for coverage). In fact they are so extreme that even American Evangelicals such as Rick Warren are rejecting them.

Basically, these countries are undergoing the type of sex panic that swept the US and Britain against gays from the late 1930s until the 1960s.

It's almost impossible to resist such a panic.

We who live in more enlightened places need to accept LGBT Ugandans and Kenyans as refugees and asylees.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Lisbon Treaty Will Go Through: Why The EU is a Good Thing

David Cameron begins to outline new EU policy in light of Czech decision on

Since I am a huge European Union supporter, let me be the first to congratulate the Tories on the new Euro baby!

What is funny is all the people who thought David Cameron ever meant for there to be a referendum.

As far as I'm concerned the EU is the best thing for peace that has ever happened in Europe.

I simply do not understand those in my own country who oppose. We all have complaints about any system we are in, but there has been no general war in Europe since 1945, and the EU provides by far the best framework for dealing with the remaining ethnic/ethno-religious problems.

I do not deny that NATO (AND the Warsaw Pact) had a role in stabilising Europe), but in truth the major conflicts in the past 400 years had all been initiated by France, the biggest German state (based in either Vienna or Berlin) and Spain (which is no longer a threat).

The European Steel and Coal Community led to the EEC to the EC and now to the EU. It has stabilised all of west and west-central Europe, and shows signs of doing so in east-central Europe.

Meanwhile, the EU's support for regionalism within countries is part of what helped calm Ireland down, stopped Catalunya getting violent, and keeps the Basque country OK.

As long as the EU prevails, there will be no irredentist wars over Trieste, the Tyrol, German speaking Belgium, etc. etc.

If the EU had already been able to incorporate Yugoslavia I doubt those criminal idiots Milosevic and Tudjman would have been able to wreak the destruction they did.

UPDATE: The Czech president has now signed the Lisbon Treaty. Hooray.

Friday, October 23, 2009



Duck House

[Via Sully]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daniel Defoe: The True-Born Englishman

In light of the huge row going on today about the appearance of the BNP on the BBC's Question Time this 1703 poem from Daniel Defoe, "The True Born Englishman" was very enjoyable [Via Sully]

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het’rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
Whose gend’ring off-spring quickly learn’d to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infus’d betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Receiv’d all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.
Which medly canton’d in a heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintain’d eternal wars,
And still the ladies lov’d the conquerors.

The western Angles all the rest subdu’d;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
Who by the tenure of the sword possest
One part of Britain, and subdu’d the rest
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu’ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite:
And these the mixture have so close pursu’d,
The very name and memory’s subdu’d:
No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
The silent nations undistinguish’d fall,
And Englishman’s the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e’er they were they’re true-born English now.

The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all wise men deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation,
Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules.
A metaphor invented to express
A man a-kin to all the universe.

For as the Scots, as learned men ha’ said,
Throughout the world their wand’ring seed ha’ spread;
So open-handed England, ’tis believ’d,
Has all the gleanings of the world receiv’d.

Some think of England ’twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

’Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive,
Which does not from some foreigner derive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Pope and Rowan Williams

In my country I see absolute spiritual apathy everywhere.

I think Rowan Williams does as well as he can faced with this. It's like a wasted generation of people without any grasp that life may be more than WHAT IS. I feel more in common with Richard Dawkins than I do with most of my countrymen. He is wrong, but at least he is looking.

Rowan Williams is a truly decent human being (one of my best friends was a close friend of his at Oxford), and did not need to be humiliated like he has been by the pope. Neither Basil Hume nor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor would have allowed it. Abhp Nichols looked liked he wanted to choke.

One the whole this has nothing to do with England. Most "conservatives" in the CoE are Evangelicals. They would never accept Rome. Anglo-Catholicism here is almost uniformally liberal (like Rome) re. biblical interpretation. It's also very gay.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria will not change (nor most in Africa, because they are Evangelical), so this is a sop to a small straight number of churches.

And Rowan was ritually humiliated for this?

It's an outrage.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Karen Armstrong: The Case for God

I finished Karen Armstrong The Case for God last night.

Sure, she gets some things wrong, but she really has read very widely in history, religion, and science and understood what she has read. Her last two chapters kept me up until 1:30am and were enthralling.

While dismissing fundamentalism of all kinds, she totally PWNs Dawkins and co. A quite marvellous book.


I would not usually recommend a book like this to other medievalists, since she is not exactly a historian, but more than half the book is spent discussing medieval apophatic theology, eastern and western Christian, Lurianic, and Sufi, in a way I think would benefit specialists. I have read the authors she cites (and studied under John Meyendorff, the great historian of Byzantine apophaticism), and I still came away with something new.

Update: An Interesting Talk Armstrong gave at TED.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The God Fight Back: Karen Armstrong and Keith Ward

I'm reading Karen Armstrong's The Case for God, and recently finished Keith Ward's Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins

A friend recently put this to me:

The fact is though, that you can't logically prove or disprove the existence of God, at least not in the way that the West accepts logic. In essence, philosophizing ad nauseum about the existence or nonexistence of a deity is useless for that end, and it makes Dawkins and Ward pretty obnoxious.

Keith Ward's book, from last summer, is a a good short book by a professional philosopher and theologian that accepts this basic position (no conclusive proof), but lays out very clearly traditional arguments for theism - his main claim is that theists take mind and not matter as the basis for the universe, and that in doing so they show the weakness of rationalist reductionist materialism.

Ward also discusses the conniptions materialists have got themselves into at the edges of cosmology in order to avoid the design argument.

I have long though think Dawkins and his shoddier co-author, Hitchens, just take cheap shots at religion, about which they know very little, and in fact end up being mirror images of the American Evangelical Christians they take as typical of all.

Karen Armstrong, and I have not been a fan of hers in the past, blasts Dawkins out of the water in her more recent book. She focuses less on specific arguments about God, but looks at what faith and religion have meant in human history. She shows the idea of faith as "assent to propositions" to be far too limiting. So, while Ward takes a traditional philosophical approach, Armstrong takes a broader view of what religious truth means.

In response to my friend above, both Ward and Armstrong would agree that I cannot logically prove the existence of God, just as I cannot prove a mountain view is beautiful, or a poem is great - but they point out that all interesting questions are not answerable by logic.

Ward shows that it can be proven in formal logic, if you accept that God is a possible being, then he must exist. (Anselm's argument as put into modern logic by Richard Swinburne). It is true that this does not affect anyone who denies God is a possible being, but if God is possible, then God must exist.

I think most people would accept God is a possible explanation. What these two books show is that God is both a reasonable explanation.

At least theists don't have to start believing in "multiverses" to have an explanation for why we are, what we are, and why we are.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Urvashi Vaid at National Equality March Rally (Washington DC)

Urvashi Vaid, a long term leader in the US LGBT community, gives a powerful speech at the US March for Equality on Sunday 11 October.

That's the equality we need here, an equality that does not keep saying "sorry", that calls for marriage equality in the UK, and that does not cut off the LGBT movement from other groups (who include some of us) as they also organize for equality.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

You Are (Most Probably) The End of Your Line

Contra Dawkins

Most people in the past do not have descendants.

In a known case, less than 15% of French people alive in 1789 have living descendants.

If evolution is about the winners, then I am on the side of the losers.

A Party of Royal Bastards' Descendants and Baronets

David Cameron is a descendant of King William IV (via a "natural" child"). He is a relative of the Queen.

Boris Johnson is a descendant of King George II (via a "natural" child"). He also is a relative of the Queen.

George Osborne is heir to the title 18th Baronet Osborne.

"Dave" Cameron had calls from the Palace to advance his career at Conservative Central office when he left Oxford.

Is electing this trash what modern Britain has come to?

In fact the Tories have not been this retrograde on a class basis since Macmillan.

Heath (lower middle class), Thatcher (lower middle class), Major (working class), Hague (Yorkshire middle class), Ian Duncan Smith (posh but Catholic), Michael Howard (from Jewish Romanian stock) - all of these were outside the networked top public-school elite.

Among these people Osborne is looked down on because he is "only" the heir to a baronetcy.

It's true, possibly, that these old Tories might show a noblesse oblige that the nouveau riche conservatives since Macmillan have not shown. [Macmillan built 300,000 decent (with some exceptions) council houses a year while PM].

The real problem here is the complete and utter fuck up by New Labour.

I will vote Labour, but my favoured outcome would be one in which no party got a majority, and Labour could form a small minority govt with SNP, Plaid Cymru, Irish SDLP, support, and Brown was ousted.

Alternatively, I hope for a Tory victory of around 10 MPs, which collapses quickly but gives time for real Labour to reform.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Boycotting Iain Dale's Conservative Gay Pride Event

Gay rights campaigner boycotts Tory fringe at the last minute | LabourList.org 2.0 | LabourList.org

Ben Sumerskill, the head of gay rights group Stonewall has pulled out of speaking at the Tories' first ever Pride event - due to be held on Canal Street tonight - as a result of Michal Kaminsky's appearance at Conservative conference.

Summerskill told Channel 4 News:

"There is no doubt the progress that has been made in the last couple of years has genuinely been historic. It would churlish of anyone not to welcome the apology a couple of months ago over Section 28. But the event tonight has been overshadowed by the presence, not just at conference but on the same platform as some senior members of the party, of people of such extreme and offensive views. And certainly there are people I've spoken to at the conference today, not just gay people but Jewish delegates as well, who share that viewpoint."

I'm not sure that this was an especially useful action by Ben Summerskill.

Clearly many LGBT people are going to vote Tory, and it is in the interests of everyone that the Tories' mind remains changed on LGBT issues.

It's very hard to see what more legislative action *for* lesbians and gays could be take, apart from equalising access to marriage. But it is important to be able to stop certain usual Tory laws that would affect many gay people -for instance laws on prostitution, saunas and pornography could all be tightened.

I do, as a long time gay activist, regret the Quangoisation of LGBT politics, and would not particularly object to a gradual state withdrawal from this area. Peter Tatchell is a much better model of a gay activist as far as I am concerned.

For more info see Pink News

Monday, October 05, 2009

Tory Class Warfare

The welfare policy announced at the Tory conference this week is just open class warfare by the Tories.

The problem is that, after James Purnell adopted the same pogram against the poor from the same advisor (David Freud), Labour has little to say on this issue.

I am not really interested in what the usual Tory trolls say here.

Cameronism, the policies from David Cameron, a man with inherited wealth, and who owns £1000 dining room chairs, amounts to trying to take £25 a week from people trying to live on £89 per week. Why? To deal with a fiscal deficit created by bankers?

Toryism is not stupid (like the right in the US), but constitutes a pure and evil class-based attack on the poorest.

The deficit has been caused by the bankers' depression. The most this pogram is meant to get back is £1 billion, yet the annual government spend is £600 billion. So 1/6th of 1% will not help at all. But it will make the poor poorer and terrify even those like me, where the medical evdience is, shall we say, overwhelming.

Meanwhile Tory and Labour donors avoid tax to £12-15 billion in UK run tax havens like Bermuda or the Cayman islands.

It is just sick to blame and attack the poor for the failure of capitalism.

I wish Labour could motivate the vote of welfare recipients and public employees just to save themselves from the coming onslaught. But the fact is that traitors like Purnell have made that all but impossible.

I have never felt more depressed.

The Pogram Against Gay Men in Iraq

How a Few New Yorkers Are Trying to Save the Hunted Gay Men of Iraq -- New York Magazine

From Baghdad—frightening reports of gay pogroms, where homosexual men are targeted, tortured, slayed.

More than disturbing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The New Staffordhshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard

BBC Report

It's a pretty fantastic day to be a medievalist here (70 years after Sutton Hoo). Byzantinists may be interested because this hoard included Byzantine objects. 5 kilograms of the objects were in gold.

Me and my dad discuss all sorts of things all the time, and he listend to me talking about medieval and Byzantine topics all the time, but today we spent 30 minutes
on the law of treasure trove, why there might be Byzantine gold work with Ceylonese jewels found a hundred miles from us (here in south Lancashire), and all because it was in the news.

This is wow wow wow.

See the Official Site

See FlickrPhotos



THERE was anger last night as European bureaucrats threatened to outlaw classic British puddings such as freckled ball bag and boiled arseholes.

Wanky shit pudding with a strawberry bell-end
A new Brussels directive will seek to end the UK's exemption from dirty cake name laws, leaving establishments advertising old-fashioned favourites, including wanky shit pudding, open to prosecution.

Cafe owner Eve Evans said: 'It's political correctness gone mad. I raised my kids on things like wanky shit pudding, chocolate hard-ons and fuck-me-tarts, they're great British treats.'

She added: 'At the end of the day, a wanky shit pudding is basically a chocolate brownie with a blob of double cream on it. What do you think that looks like? Exactly - a shit that someone's done a wank on. It's plain common sense.'

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Puff the Magic Dragon (live)

This was my favourite song as a kid. Mary Travers died to day. May her soul Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

British Politics Now - Mid September 2009

We clearly are living with the embers of a dying regime.

The best we on the left can hope for is to limit Tory advances, perhaps even produce a lame Tory-Lib Dem coalition, and a short Tory interlude.

Labour's efforts should be all on a) making the poorest safe, b) ring fencing the NHS, c) explaining to public sector and the manufacturing/construction sector (still a big section of the economy) that Labour is best for them, d) repelling all claims that a public sector worker is not an economic contributor while a private sector work is, e) getting benefit recipients out to vote.

Above all, it's important to get the Lisbon treaty approved as this will do more to help the poor than anything else.

The Irish will vote for it this time. And it will go through.

Then Gordon Brown should be made to resign, and whoever is best to deal with opposition should take over for the necessary election.

My heart goes to Cruddas and Harman. Sense tells me Alan Johnson would be the best caretaker.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Easy Way to Solve Fiscal Deficits

For the UK and the US. The best solution to both fiscal deficits is to raise income tax, progressively, to the levels required to cover problems.

Perhaps also we should have a 1/20th take on all fixed wealth over the median+20% of house prices. [The ...US could also do with a national VAT and gas/petrol tax.]

The basic rule is this. 2-3% of the population own 90% of the wealth.


[The picture is of the great Labour politician who used this phrase in an election *that Labour won* in 1973].

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Modesty and Islam

In response to Ruth Gledhill's post

Are Muslim men modest? Is all that preening, showing off of arses just nothing? Are tight jeans Islamic?

I happen to find "Mediterranean" men attractive - from Spain to Bangladesh. I think suits are sexy, but I really like a guy with dark hair, dusky complexion, and mournful eyes - dressed in a leather jacket and tight jeans.

And there are a lot of men like me.

And people like me have a lot of fun in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan etc. The code phrase they ask is "are you married?"

But they won't kiss.

In other words, if modesty is an issue, cute Muslim guys need to cover up. Perhaps the men could wear a veil or a Burkha?

Sex segregation, alone with the burkha, niqab, and hijab - all those Muslim sartorial signs that say a woman is "modest" only if she is covered up - amount to a direct claim that women who do not wear them are immodest. There is a similar chain of thought in ultra-orthodox Jewish insistence on married women wearing wigs or other hair covering, and covering all limbs.

Such practices amount to saying western women are sluts. And that is a big problem.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Evolutionary Psychology: Am I Nuts or Is It Nuts?

Men and women? Both from Earth | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

I have been reading quite a bit about Evolutionary Psychology lately, Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and Ian McEwan's Enduring Love in the past week for example.

Like other psychological theories (Freudianism, Behaviourism) is seems to offer some interesting insights.

But its overall tone, as noted elsewhere, is a series of Just so stories that confirm current prejudices. [For Steven Pinker the thoughts and ideals of a Harvard psychology professor in the Late Clinton era represent "Human Nature"...].

More than that, it shares with Freudianism the typical bully stance of "everything you say proves my point." (Pinker specifically approves of Freudianism on this point.)

In fact it is another "scientific theory" built on far too little data and far too much assumption of Divine authority by its writers.

I look forward to its rapid deconstruction.

What are the books doing this now?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Our Soldiers Are Dying For

Iain Dale's Diary: Is This What Our Soldiers Are Dying For?

I just read on Andrew Nutt's blog the following about a new law which has come into force in Afghanistan...

A new law was recently passed that an Afghan husband is allowed to starve his wife if she refuses to have sex with him. A woman must have also her husband’s permission to work. An earlier bill asked Shia women to have sex with their husbands every four days at a minimum. It also removed the need for consent to sex within marriage, effectively condoning rape. This amended version has been published in the official gazette and become law.

Surely this can't be true, I thought. Is this what our armed forces are fighting for? But yes, it is true. HERE's the report from MSNBC.

And there was me thinking we were there to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Aghanistan. How naive."

Our soldiers (my nephew Nick is in the Royal Marines) are fighting so that we can control a cauldron of extremism in the far-middle east.

Most of the people there (male and female) are not in any essential way reachable by any military or diplomatic methods.

The terrorism is fueled by by our dependence on oil, and the power that gives religious elites, both Shia and Sunni, and if not them, thugs like Saddam. We rightly support Israel's right to exist, but its position as a western cipher in the region makes everything else worse.

We need to keep the military lid on the region; decrease our need for oil from the region; and de-toxify the presence of Israel (which is now home to many religious extremists just as gross as the Taliban).

What else can we do?

I mean, seriously this is not even a party issue in the UK.

Barney Frank Confronts Woman At Townhall Comparing Obama To Hitler

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Capping private wealth would be an admission of defeat - Really?

Tom Harris writes:

Capping private wealth would be an admission of defeat | And another thing...:
"This proposal has “securing our core vote” written all over it. Except it wouldn’t, because once you’ve addressed the understandable anger at certain individuals’ exorbitant salaries, pensions and bonuses, you’re left with the principle that a Labour government is setting a ceiling on individuals’ wealth. And that’s not what governments should be doing, because once you’ve established that principle, once you’ve raised a few cheers by ostentatiously depriving some bankers of their bonuses, where do you go next? What do you do when the media get round to identifying the next figures of public hatred? Target them too? How far down the scale do you go? After all, multi-millionaires may not be able to justify their bonuses to the general public, but neither can civil servants earning six figures or MPs earning five justify their incomes to some of those living off benefits."

The working class (or even nowadays the “underclass”as the elite call them) has never really been good at class warfare. Indeed many working class people don’t really think in class terms.

But that insouciance stops once you get to the middle class, and even more the upper middle class (i.e. those with private schools, Oxbridge, daddies who “know someone who can help you”.)

It’s that middle class that wages a ceaseless class warfare to keep its own privilege.

These super high salaries were in no way deserved. They were the salaries of people who had found a way to commit moral fraud and/or engage in asset-stripping.

Tom needs to rethink this.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My New Dog - Chalky

More pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134976&id=697126564&l=1592f7aabe

Chalky is 3 years old, half beagle/half schnauzer, but pretty much all terrier. He is committed to appearing committed, likes to toss his food bowl, chase cats, but does not pull too hard on his leash. With any luck he will force me to loose 25lbs.

His birthday from now on is 17 August.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

UK vs. US Healthcare

I was born in the UK in 1960. I lived in the US from 1987-2007 - and always had good insurance. I paid taxes, etc, in both countries. And I NOW LIVE WITH AIDS, as I have since 1990. So I know what good healthcare means.

Even if, as I did, you have the best possible US insurance plans, you still face massive co-payments for meds (max. required in the UK is £102/$172 per year, for anyone, on any income). But for any procedure in the US you got co-payment bills from 2-3-4-5 participants. If any single thing was mistaken, you faced weeks of paperwork.

The doctors and nurses are fine in the US - they are not all profit-driven nuts. But the paperwork you deal with is incredible.

Here in the UK, I get healthcare which is just as good, or in some respects better. And face no paperwork at all.

Who was paying for all that paperwork in the US? Who was wasting time processing it? Here in the UK we save money simply by treating people as needed.

When is it OK for Americans to Support Terrorism?

Answer: When it targets British soldiers.

See this recent nostalgic "anecdote" by Victor Navsky about IZL(Irgun)-funder Sidney Zion in Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life:

Sidney, who kept track of these things, reminded me that after A Flag is Born closed, Hecht had used his own proceeds from the play to take out an ad in The New York Herald Tribune congratulating the Irgun on blowing up British trains, robbing British banks, killing British Tommies.

It's not like British soldiers had anything to do with fighting Germany, eh?

[BTW: This idea works for *some* Irish-Americans as well as *some* Jewish Americans.]

Thursday, August 06, 2009

On Harry Patch' Funeral: Baez and Dietrich

A chorister today sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone? at Harry Patch' funeral (the last Uk survivor of the Western Front). I have been listening/watching the song on YouTube.

I present two versions. One by Joan Baez (to me the person whose music has meant more to me than any other) and then by Marlene Dietrich. Marlene sang the song in both English and German, but I give the German version. A salute to Harry Patch who hated all war.

JOAN BAEZ - Where have all the Flowers Gone?

MARLENE DIETRICH - Sag mir wo die Blumen sind? {It was written by Pete Seeger, but made a worldwide hit by Marlene)


Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
wo sind sie geblieben?
Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
was ist geschehn?
Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
Mädchen pflückten sie geschwind.

Wann wird man je verstehn,
wann wird man je verstehn?

Sag mir, wo die Mädchen sind
Männer nahmen sie geschwind.

Sag mir, wo die Männer sind
Zogen fort, der Krieg beginnt.

Sag, wo die Soldaten sind
Über Gräbern weht der Wind.

Sag mir, wo die Gräber sind
Blumen blühen im Sommerwind.

Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind
Mädchen pflückten sie geschwind.


Tell me where the flowers are
where have they lived on?
Tell me where the flowers are
what has been done?
Tell me where the flowers are
Tell me where the flowers are
what has been done?
Tell me where the flowers are
Young girls plucked them hastily.

When will they ever see,
when will they ever see?

Tell me where the young girls are ...
Men they took them hastily.

Tell me where the men all are ...
Moved away, the war begins.

Tell me where the soldiers are ...
Over gravestones wafts the wind.

Tell me where the graves all are ...
Flowers bloom in summer wind.

Tell me where the flowers are ...
Young girls plucked them hastily.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation

This "Sand Animation" won Ukraine's Got Talent. It's completely unexpected - I have never seen anything remotely like it - and completely wonderful.

The experience is like watching Picasso paint Guernica.

Update: from WOSU, an American Public Radio Station:

"This incredible “sand animation” is performed by the 2009 winner of the Ukraine “Got Talent” television series, Kseniya Simonova. Apparently, it is telling the story of life during WWII, which would explain the emotional reactions of some of the audience. The text at the end where they’re staring at the sailor’s ghost says: “You are always nearby”.The 24-yr-old atist’s prize was 1,000,000 Ukrainian hryvnia (April 2009, approximately US $125,000)

"What she depicts is love and war, set amidst the turmoil of The Great Patriotic War, or as we call it in America, WWII. Ukraine was probably the area most devastated in the war, even more than Germany. It was a conflict that saw nearly one in four Ukrainians killed. Ukraine represented almost 20 percent of all the causalities suffered during WWII. The scene ends in 1945, with the death of Hitler and the end of a long war.

Update II

From Random Thoughts blog

"This was a part of the competition Ukraine's Got Talent, and the girl did win the First Place. Her name is Kseniya Simonova, and she is Russian living in Ukraine. The composition she is "performing" is called a "Sand Requiem", and it is a short version of World War II on the territory of Ukraine, or Western Russia, or possibly Bielorussia. You will see that she really strikes a cord with her audience which weeps through a portion of the show. The most emotional place is accompanied by a song "Cranes" which goes something like this: "Sometimes I dream that our soldiers who did not return from the bloody fields, did not lie down into our earth, but turned into white cranes. Since those bygone days until now they have been flying over us and sending us their calls. Could that be the reason why we often get quiet and look up into the sky with sadness?" Her medium is very fine black volcanic sand. Kseniya is married, and has a young son.

Update III

From The Guardian

"Here, she recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the second world war. She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman's face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes - with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene "you are always near."

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Simple Question

Why is there so much advertising for car insurance in Britain?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Letter to My MP on the Purdy Decision

Dear Mr. Lewis,

Although I will vote for you as my Labour candidate, whatever your position on this issue, I want you to know with what joy I heard the decision on the House of Lords on Debbie Purdy's case.

This is a de facto change in the law.

As someone who has lived with knowledge that I am HIV+ since 1990, and a Person with Aids since 2005 (and still healthy) and as someone who has fought and fights to stay alive and healthy, I am delighted with this decision. I will fight for life as long as I can, but now I see that, as a country, we are moving to accept a death with dignity approach.

I don't believe those who are mentally unable, such as those with *advanced* Alzheimers, should be euthanised, but I do believe that those who sign off on taking Nembutal should be able to.

To me this decision means I might avoid supurrating to death like my friend David Bowen, who (to my shame) I avoided helping to die in 1993.

We need a law here, which does not just allow the rich to go to Switzerland, and which protects pressurization of elderly people, but which allows us to know we will not die in distraction.

I respect your views, and that you must vote according to your conscience. I just need to convey that as a person who may face this issue, I feel joy and relief today.

And I still hope to outlive you!

Twenty Five Years of the HIV Test

25 years ago today, on 23rd April 1984, the US Health Secretary, Margaret Heckler, announced the ground breaking discovery that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Ms Heckler also announced on that same day that a blood test had been developed that would prevent infected individuals unwittingly passing on the virus through blood transfusions.

Pink News 30 July 2009

What is wrong in the UK is the amount of stigma directed at HIV+ people by other gay people, and even by other people with HIV.

Well I am HIV+, my family knows, all my friends know, and so do most of my neighbours (and I live on a [very nice] council estate in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester).

I don't think scaring people will work. People just don't died of HIV in a few years. I can tell people, though, that even with a zero viral load, the meds can wear you down, and after many years you just feel so damned tired. (And let's not even mention the bowel problems).

But as long as this stigma remains people will refuse to get tested because they don't want to be a member of a stigmatised group. When such people do get tested, they often seem to hate themselves, and either refuse to tell partners or go into a kind of "shock" and withdraw from the world.

We need a balanced approach. HIV is not the immediate death sentence it once seemed, but it's still something you don't want to have. Until we limit stigma, there is no campaign that will be successful.

I, at least, hope to contribute, by being quite open about it.

David Tennant and John Barrowman Kiss!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fourth Plinth - Naked for HIV

A Man dresses up as Angel of the North, then gets naked (around 47th minute) on the Fourth Plinth to bring attention to HIV issues. Bravo!

See the whole hour at SkyArts: LilacBonzai

Medieval Exhibitions in London (British Museum and Henry VIII/British Library)

Back from London, where I took things slowly.

While there I look for the first time at the new medieval rooms at
British Museum - and to be frank I was not too impressed. I also saw the British Library Henry VIII exhibition.

The new medieval room has some good items, but considering how many interesting medieval buildings there are in England (and the UK generally) this new room at the British Museum does not measure up.

Certainly compared to say the Cloisters in New York or the Musee de Cluny in Paris it is fairly sparse. More than that, I doubt general visitors to the British Museum, with its stunning ancient Greek, Assyrian, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities will be especially impressed by the medieval exhibits.

But it's also the case that items are not presented very well. The BM cannot compete with the architectural possibilities of the Cloisters or Musee de Cluny, but surely it can do more than shove various collections of treasure trove into one case, with few contextual explanations. [Even the Sutton Hoo trove, which is not part of the new room, just sits there dully in a glass case.]

Apart from individual items, the overall labelling is old fashioned and uninteresting. For a visitor to the BM "Anglo-Saxons" simply replaced "Celts" and no explanation is given that DNA evidence simply does not a) support a connection of Insular "Celts" with the middle European La Tene culture, nor that b) "Anglo-Saxons" simply replaced the post-Roman inhabitants. Even if these issues may not be major issues for the waves of non-UK visitors to the BM, surely subjects such as this ("where the modern English came from") should be capable of forming interesting exhibits for the many UK visitors.

Meanwhile, the labels say that England in the middle ages was "feudal." Oy.

As to Henry VIII - he is of course part of the problem: so much English medieval art was destroyed by the monster and his successors that there is so much less to show than in France or Italy. David Starkey, the curator of the British Library exhibition, is desperate to show that the documents and objects he presents ( which are indeed interesting) show a way "into the mind of the King".

The problem is that one ends up with the same impression as before: Henry was an obsessive maniac, whose efforts to have a male heir did nothing other than destroy damn near the totality (OK, 95%) of medieval art in England, all for nought as his male heir was useless, his doubtfully legitimate daughter turned into a great queen, and it was the heirs of his sister Margaret who came to power in the end in any case.

He is quite the nastiest king in English history.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sorry for not Blogging - My Computer Died

Sorry for not blogging. My laptop just died last week - complete circuit board failure. I will be back as soon as the next one arrives.

Fortunately, all my files were backed up!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Commie Pope

Pope Benedict puts God at the heart of globalisation - Catholic Herald Online

Yet the Pope absolutely rejects the notion that 'the market' can be relied upon to correct injustice or fulfil human potential. The problem, as he sharply observes (characteristically eschewing 'inclusive language'), is that 'as society becomes ever more globalised, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers'. Catholic social teaching has not changed its conviction that mankind must correct the malfunctions of the market.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) Embraced by New York Tranny Community

Daniel Radcliffe celebrates Harry Potter graduation by becoming art collector | Film | guardian.co.uk

I've been really good friends with Jim and his best mate, Tim, a photographer. And they are two gay guys, artists, in New York, and they introduced me to these amazing, crazy, mad, weird, extraordinary people. I was immediately embraced by the New York tranny community.'

Ain't that nice!

Something to Make You Happy - Guards Doing Thriller.

Watch royal military band play Thriller to stunned tourists - video exclusive | The Sun |News

MICHAEL Jackson's mega hit Thriller has been given this hilarious revamp by the army's world-famous Band of the Coldstream Guards - just a stones throw from Buckingham Palace.

Hordes of tourists were left open-mouthed as they were treated to the spectacular show on Wednesday by the top military band.

Forty drummers, trumpeters, clarinet and trombone players belted out the song.

I never really liked Michael Jackson's music, and I don't like military band music. Nevertheless, this article in The Sun (with video I cannot embed), is fun.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Liberation of Indian Gay People

Another Huge Step Toward Liberation: The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

India legalizes gay sex. I think that liberates more gay men and women in one fell swoop than ever before in human history. It's not equality, of course. And homophobia is still rife. But it's a big, big deal if you care about human rights and human dignity.

It's worth reading the online versions of the Times of India, and the Pakistani English daily Dawn, and reading the comments, to realise that this legal change may be challenged by legislators.

Confirmed: God is slightly gay

Confirmed: God is slightly gay / Just ask the animals. As soon as they stop having all that homosexual sex

New research is revealing so many creatures and species that exhibit homosexual/bisexual behavior of some kind, scientists are now saying there are actually very few, if any, species in existence that don't exhibit it in some way. It's everywhere: Bison. Giraffes. Ducks. Hyenas. Lions and lambs, lizards and dragonflies, polecats and elephants. Hetero sex. Anal sex. Partner swapping. The works.

Let's flip that around. Here's the shocking new truism: In the wilds of nature, to not have some level of homosexual/bisexual behavior in a given species is turning out to be the exception, not the rule. Would you like to read that statement again? Aloud? Through a megaphone? To the Mormon and Catholic churches? And the rest of them, as well? Repeatedly?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mollie Sugden RIP

Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocumbe in "Are You Being Served") died today. Over my lifetime she provided a lot more entertainment than MJ ever did. RIP.

In the early 1990s Mollie Sugden found herself acquiring "cult" status across the Atlantic – particularly on the San Francisco gay scene – after American television started running repeats of Are You Being Served?. In 1993 she appeared on the San Francisco operatic stage as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a speaking role ("I'm no Pavarotti") in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.
Mollie Sugden and her husband had identical twin sons, born when she was 41.She confessed that when they were very young she had to keep them labelled so that she could tell them apart and that "more than once I bathed the same one twice".

-From The Daily Telegraph's obituary.

The Daily Mail, as usual, has the best pictures.

Guido Fawkes - Homophobe

Brown to do Gay Pride March - Guy Fawkes' blog

Last night Cameron spoke at a Gay Pride fundraiser, though he won’t be on the march itself. Sarah Brown will be marching, though apparently her husband won’t be mincing along.

Forty Years after Stonewall...Pigs still Oink

Forty Years After Stonewall: The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Fort Worth cops raid a gay bar and put one customer in intensive care. Seven men were arrested. The police chief says that the violence of the cops was because - wait for it - the cops were hit on.

Dan Savage has a lot more on this.

One View of America

Building an Asian century | Jamie F Metzl | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

America's legacy of global leadership over the past six decades, warts and all, is unprecedented in its relative benevolence and positive impact. America played the lead in creating the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and international humanitarian and human rights law. It resuscitated its second world war enemies, fostered economic development in countries around the world and established a security umbrella that helped Europe and Asia focus more on diplomacy and economic growth than on military competition. It opened its markets and laid the foundations for globalisation and the information revolution, kept sea lanes open for international trade and catalysed the green revolution. The list goes on.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Free Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff goes down in silence - Telegraph

There are at least 13,500 reasons why Bernie Madoff is staring at a 150-year jail sentence when he appears at Manhattan's federal courthouse later today. That is the estimated number of victims (no one knows for sure) of the 71-year-old fraudster who operated the world's biggest ever Ponzi scheme and who came to personify the crooked face of the credit crunch. Many of his victims lost their entire life savings, placed into Madoff's clutches at the promise of 10 to 12 per cent returns.

I have little sympathy for the "victims". They scrambled to get into a special "club" that promised massive returns on their money for doing nothing. Where was that money coming from? Ultimately is was coming from exploiting the labour of people who were actually working.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Something to Make You Happy - Sniff, Swig, Puff



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Polly Toynbee and the British Conservative Wingnuts

The bile of anti-politics is corroding the zeal for change | Polly Toynbee | The Guardian

Polly Toynbee has posted a reasonable article about the poll-based observation that the vast majority of the people in the UK are happy with their lives as British citizens. She then notes the equally polled observation that few Britons seem to give any credit to the politicians who have actually brought about fairly effective public services. This would include both the Labour government AND the largely Tory controlled local county councils.

In the first 50 comments online (CIF) almost no-one saw even minimal value in what she had written.

The reason is that the Guardian's CIF (Comment is Free) website is now dominated by Libertarian and Tory wingnuts. The kind of people who would watch FOX news in the US.

We in Briton are in fact living in one of the freest, wealthiest, kindest, most artistically productive, technologically innovative countries and periods in history.

Britain in 2009 is a much better place than it was in 1999, 1989, 1979, 1969, 1959 and 1949.

And before the Labour government of that period working people starved, and had no health-care. Kids died of easily treatable diseases.

I'm no fan of new Labour, but we need to address the prominence of wingnuts in Guardian/CIF. Not by banning them in any way, but by posting and supporting comments that come from the progressive political majority in this country.

The Problem of the Magisterium

Catholic Culture : Commentary : Articles : The One and Only Theological Impasse

This is a typically US-centric article, but none the less interesting.

The problem people like Jeff Mirrus face with the "Magisterium" when you train up intelligent people is the same problem Biblical Literalists face whey they try to train up Biblical scholars. I.e. That a massive, probably, majority part of those so intellectually trained will *to be intellectually consistent in their own minds and consciences* reject the proposed "orthodoxy".

Mirrus himself was notable in the early days of the internet for ludicrous efforts in which he took it on himself to list other Catholic as "orthodox" or "heretics." Doubtless he would have been a witch-hunter in the past.

Conservative notions of the "Magisterium" are to educated Catholics what "Biblical Literalism" is to educated Evangelicals - the place where you have to decide between truth and obscurantism.

Something to Make Your Happy - Bear Pole Dance

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Gay Generation Gap, Forty Years After Stonewall

Summer Guide 2009 - The Gay Generation Gap, Forty Years After Stonewall -- New York Magazine

"There’s nothing duller than a young gay man whose curiosity about the world doesn’t appear to extend past his iPod. "

The HIV services group in Manchester - GHT - tried to propose a pride float in which HIV+ people (only those who wanted to) were to ride on top of an open topped bus. This was to be an open challenge to the massive stigma HIV+ men have among other gay people here in the UK. But the "guys" would not do it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Be Blatent not Latent

Gay exorcism: 'Loose your grip, Lucifer!'

Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: Gay exorcism: 'Loose your grip, Lucifer!'

"Gay exorcism: 'Loose your grip, Lucifer!'"

I know a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Benedict Groeschal of New York who attempted this on a friend of mine.

Fortunately my friend later met a nice German boy, and has lived with his husband for years.

Tories and Class War

In response to a comment on Iain Dale's blog about my previous post.

I am old enough to have lived through and remember two periods of Tory rule - under Heath and under Thatcher/Major. Although Heath was, in retrospect, more moderate than Thatcher, the whole attitude of Tory governments is to oppose organized power among the working class (i.e Trade Unions) while to support organized power among elites (e.g. Public and Private companies).

While I think some respects Blair and Brown did do some good things - raise NHS spending, actively conciliate in Northern Ireland, enact partial legal equality for gay people (none of which would have been done under the Tories) - I also think New Labour loved business and markets far to much. This has lead to the refusal to renationalize rail, an obsession with false "internal" markets, and a completely catastrophic growth in unjustified administrative bodies devoted to naff business jargon ("stakeholders"/"evidence based"/"branding") and non-transparent "public consultations".

I detest New Labour.

But even New Labour's command and control administrative centralism has had a basically beneficent view of the poor and dispossessed, even if its solutions ("aspiration") are nonsense.

Tories will just attack, because it is they, much more than the modern Labour Party which wages class warfare.

The basic thing about class war is that the working class have never been very good at it. The financial elite have proved repeatedly they are very good at in indeed.

The Coming Tory Cuts Are Not Necessary

Blogger: Iain Dale's Diary - Post a Comment

On last night's Newsnight I was amused to see Jeremy Paxman's fake shock at the Guardian front page lead story about the Conservative plans to hold a two day Cabinet session to decide how best to cut public spending. From Paxman's reaction, you would have thought it was akin to King Herod wanting to cull the first born.

While I abhor the idea of a Tory government, Paxman was off the wall last night. With a substantial poll lead it would be a massive failure if the Tories were not doing advance planning.

Clearly the government deficit needs to be addressed. But ALL Tory governments tend to do this is ways that hurt the already poor and minimally help the upper middle class, and give away wealth to the financial elite.

There is no reason for Labour not to campaign on this issue. And point out that the deficit can be contained by a combination of some cuts (Trident, ID Cards, ending PFI), actively using public ownership of the banks to frustrate the greed of the rich, and, yes, by raising income taxes.

The Tories, as it is, want to punish the poor for the crisis caused by the rich and upper middle class.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fifty Years After Stonewall - Inside Higher Ed

Views: Fifty Years After Stonewall - Inside Higher Ed

“By the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, what do you think (or hope) might have changed in scholarship on LGBT issues? Please construe this as broadly as you wish. Is there an incipient trend now that will come to fruition over the next few years? Do you see the exhaustion of some topic, or approach, or set of familiar questions? Or is it a matter of a change in the degree of institutional acceptance or normalization of research?”

A really interesting discussion of gay history. I don't agree with all the view expressed, but they are serious positions. Doug Ireland is, as usual, on the money.


I don't really have a lot to add to the online commentary about Iran. I think the Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan and The Guardian are excellent sources.

However, I have changed the colour of the blog to Green to support those fighting theocracy in Iran.

Via Andrew Sullivan

Still Supporting Obama

Op-Ed Columnist - Vice and Spice - NYTimes.com

"“I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not. O.K.?”"

Some gay and lesbian (and bisexual and TG) Americans are getting annoyed with Obama. I can see why.

But he remains the best political leader in my lifetime. Obviously he is not perfect.

But he's doing better than anyone could have hoped.

Something to Make You Happy - Star Trek Meets Monty Python

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Engineering a Snicker's Bar

Well - How the Food Makers Captured Our Brains - NYTimes.com

Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

I don't understand why this is a bad thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Something to Make You Happy

Last update - 21:07 22/06/2009
Gay-lesbian synagogue turns hate rally into fundraising event
By Haaretz Service

When a predominantly gay synagogue in Manhattan learned that a group of ultra-Evangelical Christians were planning a protest outside their building, the congregation decided to turn the hate rally into a fund-raising event.

Parishoners from the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based institution, gathered on Sunday outside Congregation Beth Simchat Torah with signs reading "God hates fags" and "Jews stole the land."

The synagogue heard several days in advance of the church's planned demonstration and decided to counter the protesters' publicity drive with one of their own, rather than pursuing legal action. The congregation encouraged its supporters to donate at least $1 for every six minutes that the demonstration lasted.

Following the 51-minute protest, the synagogue was able to raise more than $10,000 in donations. The congregation, which has been renting the West Village space, hopes to eventually buy a building of its own.

Some 150 people - including members other nearby synagogues and churches - held a counter-demonstration during the fundraising event, where they sang Jewish songs and prayers.

The Westboro Baptist Church is run by Fred Phelps, an outspoken evangelist who claims natural disasters and terrorist attacks are the result of America's "tolerance" of homosexuals. Phelps targeted Congregation Beth Simchat Torah because it works primarily with the Jewish gay and lesbian community.

PS: Back from a week long trip to Aberdeen meeting my oldest and dearest friends from Edinburgh University. Let me just say that an eleven hour trip by coach with a hardly operating toilet is a not-to-be-repeated experience.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

PALO ALTO, CA—A new report published this week by researchers at Stanford University suggests that Americans spend the vast majority of each day staring at, interacting with, and deriving satisfaction from glowing rectangles.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sorry about slow blogging.

I thought a short go slow period might be worthwhile.

But I'll be back soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Catastrophe of the Yesterday TV Channel in the UK

As a "professional historian" I used to really enjoy many of the programs on a channel called UKTV History. The programming was based on the huge archive of BBC history programs.

Since it "rebranded" to Yesterday, it has become a disaster. All we get is crud, apparently scrapped together, that seems dedicated to time-filling. There is often in fact more history on the various Discovery channels. The schedulers do not seem to be aware that there were other events in history than the Second World War, and non-stop series about Hitler's generals.

Plus, if drama is to be shown, there is much better stuff in the BBC archives than long tedious hours of Catherine Cookson serials. What about Fall of Eagles? What about Jane Lapatoire in the Viper's Brood about the Plantagenets? Or Glenda Jackson in Elizabeth R? Or I, Claudius?

Or what about present the great PBS series on American history, e.g. the series on Baseball or the American Civil War?

What about a serious effort to show historical films with a discussion about what they mean? What about showing old Chronicle programs? Or all those well research Open University programs.

And what about having programs on at a regular time so that weekly watching is OK?

The programmers at Yesterday seem to have no imagination, and not to care.

It is a disgrace.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Something to Make You Happy

"I shall pull out your arm socket and hit you with the soggy end!"

Just great.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Labour Party Pratts on BBC News

Hazel Blears, the former local government minister, of whom I am no fan, apologised for her conduct today. I don't really sympathize with Blears, or any other Blairite, minister, but the harpies (Lorraine Davidson) who agreed to go on the BBC tonight to condemn here just looked worse.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weed, Booze, Cocaine

Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School "Medicine" Ads - Pharmacy Technician Schools

Here are some vintage advertisements touting items that we might balk at taking today.

Some over the counter medications available at the moment are just as bad/good as these. In the UK codeine is available OTC with paracetamol and dextromethorphan is widely available as an anti-cough medicine even though taken in sufficiently large doses it is a hallucinogenic.

Via Andrew Sullivan