Saturday, November 01, 2008

More disgust at non-existent BBC standards

There is immense respect for the Queen in Britain but among Leftists, not so much

While fury against the BBC over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross was at its peak, the corporation brazenly aired a highly offensive remark about the Queen. During the comedy show Mock The Week on Wednesday evening, Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle made a 'disgracefully foul' so-called joke. Asked to think of something the Queen would not say in her Christmas speech, he put on a high voice and said: 'I have had a few medical issues this year - I'm now so old that my p**** is haunted.'

The decision to allow the 'joke' to be aired on the show at 10pm, hours after Brand resigned, has led to renewed anger among viewers. Boyle's 'gag', in a Mock The Week repeat, is just one example of the depths to which the BBC has fallen. The Daily Mail has uncovered further examples of bad language and degrading remarks given airtime by the corporation.

John Beyer, of Mediawatch UK, said of the Mock The Week remark: 'It is very offensive and should not have been broadcast. It is indicative of the sloppy way in which this kind of thing gets on air. 'There is a great deal of respect for the Queen and people do feel very strongly about any kind of disrespectful comments about her. It compounds what is going on at the moment.

'One has to acknowledge that the BBC is in the frontline of producing really excellent material, but when it comes to lapses of judgment like this you really have to look at the way things go on air. 'Clearly, there needs to be an assessment as to whether the chain of command that has been referred to time and again over the Ross and Brand affair is actually functioning.'

David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, urged BBC viewers who were offended to hold off from paying their licence fee until the last possible moment in protest. 'If the BBC wishes to continue to take taxpayers' money it is going to have to become accountable to the people it serves,' he said. 'Ordinary, decent people who are struggling to pay their mortgages must wonder why overpaid buffoons are being rewarded for making foul comments about elderly people who have always behaved with the utmost decorum. 'It was a disgracefully foul comment to make about any lady. 'Just because the Queen is the Queen, it doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings, and she should not be subjected to that kind of comment on a national TV programme.'


British planning laws: When a shed is not a shed (but a shedload of confusion)

James Dedman's battle with the planning laws highlights their absurdity

It has taken over a year for James Dedman to resolve his planning dispute with East Hampshire District Council, involving many hours talking with planners, planning inspectors and consultants. Perhaps what he most needed, however, was a team of philosophers to answer the question: has a building ceased to exist when it is temporarily missing three walls during reconstruction?

In August 2006, James gained planning permission to convert a redundant cart shed in the village of Froxfield into holiday accommodation. Given that the building was in a conservation area, he was under no illusions about the sensitivity required. Indeed, the planning application stated: "The external materials to be used shall match, as closely as possible, in type, colour and texture those of the existing building." But this was not a problem: he is a specialist builder in the renovation of old buildings and had worked on such projects many times before.

One thing he has learned over the years is that you cannot always convert an old farm building directly into a modern home and obey all building regulations. Sure enough, when he started working on the cart shed it became clear that the walls and roof were in such a poor condition that they would never get past a building inspector. The walls, built without modern foundations, had to be underpinned, and the rotten roof timbers had to be replaced. "So I carefully took down three of the walls, storing all the materials so that they could be reused, and took the opportunity to clear off some modern cement, which should never have been used on the building," he says.

Before James could rebuild the walls, however, an anonymous villager complained to East Hampshire District Council that the building had been demolished. The council sent out a compliance officer to investigate, and, in August 2007, sent James a letter, stating: "I must advise that as the cart shed has had almost all of the structure apart from one wall either demolished or removed, there is no cart shed left to convert, and therefore the current planning permission cannot now be implemented." The letter went on to say that Mr Dedman was welcome to submit a new application for the construction of a new building - but added that it was highly unlikely permission would be granted because "there is a presumption against any new buildings in the countryside''.

Between the lines of bureaucrat-speak exists a fascinating philosophical question: if you take something apart and put it back together again, is it the same or does it become different? Indeed, are the millions who pay to go to see Stonehenge each year being sold a pup because the structure, as it exists, is largely the work of Victorian reconstruction?

Fascinating as it was to ponder this, James would rather have got on with his building project. "It put me out of business for six months and was a very long and expensive process," he says. "But finally, I have won the case on appeal and rebuilding work will with luck be starting in six months' time."

Asked to comment on losing the case, East Hampshire District Council has replied with an anodyne statement: "Whilst ultimately deciding that the new building was acceptable, the secretary of state has put on the appropriate conditions to safeguard the area from inappropriate development." In fact, the original planning permission already provided this - stating that the original materials must be retained.

The impossible situation in which James found himself - damned if he took the building down, damned if he tried to convert it without taking it down - is far from unique. Anyone with experience of building projects, particularly those which involve old buildings, will know of the often contradictory demands of planning departments, listed building officers and building control teams who fail to speak to each other.

Just because one official tells you it is fine to do something doesn't mean that there won't be another ready to pounce on you, fine you - or even clap you in jail, as Ray Kutscher-Byrne recently found to his cost. The soldier- turned-sculptor came across two pearl mussels while undertaking a 20,000 pound project to shore up the bank of the River Doon next to his Ayrshire cottage. Many builders would have tossed the mussels back in the river but, realising that they were a protected species, he put them in a bucket and reported his find to the fisheries board.

When a survey showed no other mussels present he was allowed to continue. Or at least he thought he was, until a few months later a police officer turned up on his doorstep and charged him with disturbing a protected species, an offence which carries a sentence of up to six months in jail. He was later admonished.

"What you often find is that there are two pieces of legislation side by side that are contradictory and neither of which takes precedence over the other," says Matthew Slocombe of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

No one wants to see a situation where developers are allowed to bulldoze old buildings at whim. On the other hand, it would help if the various strands of building legislation were coherent - and the officials employed to uphold them would pick up the phone and speak to each other a little more.


Black British police guilty of embarrassing case of mistaken identity

It was a case of mistaken identity which the National Black Police Association will not repeat in a hurry. Delegates attending the opening day of the organisation's national conference were expecting a keynote speech from David Davis, the ex-shadow Home Secretary and champion of civil liberties. Their star attraction duly took to the stage, but turned out to be the wrong Conservative backbench MP. Even more unexpected was the speech he delivered, which provoked widespread outrage, heckling, slow handclapping and a protest walkout.

Instead of David Davis, the event's organisers had somehow invited David Davies, the little-known Tory member for Monmouth who happens to sit on the Commons home affairs select committee. Mass confusion and no little embarrassment in the ranks turned to astonishment when the 38-year-old MP, elected to Westminster in 2005, began to speak.

Mr Davies, already developing a reputation for his hang 'em and flog 'em approach to law and order, had decided to accuse the National Black Police Association (NBPA) of being racist for denying membership to white officers. "To me, it is a shame that full membership of the BPA is open only to those of black, Asian or Middle Eastern origin," he began. "Tackling racism and unfair treatment of ethnic minorities is something which is taken seriously by members of every race in the police force and yet the clear implication is that white people do not share this concern.

"It could be argued that this policy is explicitly racist, in that it bars white people, and implicitly racist in suggesting that white people care less about racism than people of black, Middle Eastern, Asian or African origin." Warming to his theme, Mr Davies suggested that the NBPA's membership policy "would be unacceptable and probably illegal in virtually any other organisation in this country".

The MP, who serves as a special constable in London, proceeded to offer the association some helpful advice on taking alleged cases of racial discrimination to employment tribunals. It would be a good idea, he suggested, to "try to establish the veracity of claims being made by the applicant before taking matters to the courts".

"It is human nature that if we are denied a promotion, we find it easier to convince ourselves and others that our race, religion, sex or sexual orientation is to blame, rather than our abilities." The most senior Muslim police officer in England, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, is currently pursuing a race discrimination case against the force over, among other issues, its failure to promote him. He had been due to attend yesterday's conference but was unavoidably detained elsewhere. Mr Ghaffur was thus denied Mr Davies's tip that "an organisation which brings forward unfounded or vexatious claims risks its own reputation and its ability to help people who genuinely need it".

However, Ali Dizaei, the Met Commander - currently suspended over misconduct allegations - who is also the BNPA president, was present in the conference hall at York Racecourse to hear Mr Davies's final words of wisdom. They focused on the Metropolitan Black Police Association's recent decision, in response to Mr Dizaei's suspension, to demand that all potential ethnic minority recruits should boycott the force. "As a result... the BPA has become the only publicly-funded organisation to say that the police should be for whites only."

Choosing his words carefully, an NBPA spokesman later described Mr Davies's contribution as "thought-provoking". Association members were, he said, "mature enough to listen to opinions that aren't shared by us".

Some delegates were less sanguine. When Mr Davies faced a question and answer session during the afternoon, he was slow handclapped and half a dozen NBPA members walked out of the hall in protest. Dave Macfarlane, general secretary of the NBPA's London branch, stood up to accuse the MP of being "like the BNP in the 1980s". "I'm sick and tired of white people coming here to insult us," he said.

Another delegate, Vinny Tomlinson, from Merseyside, suggested that Mr Davies had displayed an astonishing "ignorance and immaturity in his lack of understanding of racial issues".

"You invited me to come here. If you wanted someone just to turn up and give the same old speech, you should have picked somebody else," was the MP's response. Next year, they will.


Political Predictions and Nationalism

An excerpt from George Orwell -- writing in the Partisan Review, Winter, 1945

So far as I can see, all political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. For example, right up to May of this year the more disaffected English intellectuals refused to believe that a Second Front would be opened. They went on refusing while, bang in front of their faces, the endless convoys of guns and landing-craft rumbled through London on their way to the coast. One could point to countless other instances of people hugging quite manifest delusions because the truth would be wounding to their pride. Hence the absence of reliable political prediction.

To name just one easily isolated example: who foresaw the Russo-German pact of 1939? A few pessimistic Conservatives foretold an agreement between Germany and Russia, but the wrong kind of agreement, and for the wrong reasons. So far as I am aware, no intellectual of the Left, whether russophile or russophobe, foresaw anything of the kind.

For that matter, the Left as a whole failed to foresee the rise of Fascism and failed to grasp that the Nazis were dangerous even when they were on the verge of seizing power. To appreciate the danger of Fascism the Left would have had to admit its own shortcomings, which was too painful; so the whole phenomenon was ignored or misinterpreted, with disastrous results.

The most one can say is that people can be fairly good prophets when their wishes are realizable. But a truly objective approach is almost impossible, because in one form or another almost everyone is a nationalist... The most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, of evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified. All these mental vices spring ultimately from the nationalistic habit of mind, which is itself, I suppose, the product of fear and of the ghastly emptiness of machine civilization....

I believe that it is possible to be more objective than most of us are, but that it involves a moral effort.

[note* once you accept the immoral act as moral, you no longer have the morality to tell anymore. So once you accept that it's a moral goodness to steal from some by force for the crime of working harder and doing better, you no longer have a working moral compass to find any other moral direction. All morals then can be twisted to say what you WANT rather than what you need to know. if your compass doesn't point true north anymore, then you cant use it to get home]

One cannot get away from one's own subjective feelings, but at least one can know what they are and make allowance for them.


Must NOT laugh at minority group members

That viewers of the comedy were laughing at particular people rather than at groups was too simple for these know-alls.
"Hit British TV comedy Little Britain has been accused of promoting prejudice and hatred. A study by a London School of Economics academic says many of the show's characters - from teenage mum Vicky Pollard to proud gay Daffyd - are stereotypes based on people's dislike of others of a different class, sexuality, race or gender.

Researcher Deborah Finding branded the show as "the comedy equivalent of junk food''. "It is clear that when 'we', the audience, are invited to laugh at 'them', the characters - we are laughing not only at the figures on screen but at entire groups of people whom they come to represent,'' she said.

"Little Britain does far more to promote racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and classism than it does to satirise them - though it does do that from time to time....

"Even Daffyd, the self-proclaimed only gay in the village, is a character who connects the idea of being homosexual with being ridiculous and therefore relies on mainstream fears about gayness, despite the fact that Daffyd is the creation of comedian Matt Lucas - who is himself gay,'' she said


For some more level-headed comments on the academic hate-mongers above, see Andrew Bolt.

Licence scheme for foreign students in Britain

Universities and colleges will need a licence to enrol foreign students as part of plans to clamp down on illegal migration, the Home Office said. Students from outside Europe will require sponsorship from licensed institutions before they can enter the country. The measures will come in to effect in March with licences given out by the UK Border Agency. Ministers hope they will cut the number of bogus colleges set up to allow foreigners to live and work in the UK. From March students will also have to prove they have the money and qualifications to take their course under the new points-based system.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas said: "International students contribute 2.5bn pounds to the UK economy in tuition fees alone. The student tier of the points system means Britain can continue to recruit good students from outside Europe. "Those who come to Britain must play by the rules and benefit the country. This new route for students will ensure we know exactly who is coming here to study and stamp out the bogus colleges which facilitate lawbreakers."

Universities warned the information was being released too late to be included in this year's prospectus. Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK said she was "very concerned" about Home Office IT system that will run with the new system. [I would be concerned too. The British government and computers don't seem to get along well at all] She said: "We remain very concerned about the IT system that will support the new arrangements. Sufficient time needs to be allowed to enable universities to provide input to the IT specification and for testing to take place, both in the UK and overseas. "Students have a short period of time in which to make their visa applications and if the IT system does not work during this window, students will miss the start of their programmes and may decide not to come to the UK."

The Liberal Democrats said the system wouldn't work unless students were counted on their way out of the country. Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Without exit checks it is impossible to know who was here, who should be here or who actually is here. Unless they are reintroduced, any changes to the immigration system will be purely cosmetic."


Mother-of-three dies from brain haemorrhage after 'NHS sent her home with headache pills'

Despite repeated approaches

A mother died from a brain haemorrhage just days after being sent home from hospital with headache pills, it has emerged. Lorraine King, 44, was told twice she had whiplash from a recent minor road accident in which her car was rammed by a scrap metal lorry. Miss King walked away from the crash without a scratch, wrongly believing she had not been hurt.

But she developed persistent headaches and within days she saw her GP, who apparently told her to take paracetamol and get some rest. By September 3, nearly three weeks after the crash, she grew so drowsy that she could barely move, and her eldest daughter Hannah called 999. Paramedics who visited her at home reportedly said she was suffering from whiplash and dehydration, and prescribed painkillers.

Her condition deteriorated further and she went to A&E, where she was again diagnosed with whiplash. On September 9, her partner Tim Brooks took her back to the GP who sent her to Barnet Hospital for tests. An MRI scan revealed a blood vessel was bleeding into her brain and within 24 hours she slipped into a coma - before surgeons could operate. She was declared brain-dead the following day.

Miss King, of North Finchley, North London, was a single mother and her death leaves Hannah, 18, to raise her autistic brother Adam, 16, and her younger half- sister, Terri, 14. Hannah said: 'If doctors had taken her seriously and admitted her to hospital straight away I'm sure she would be with us now. 'I don't understand how so many trained professionals can apparently miss obvious signs of a serious trauma to the head.'

A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as a brain haemorrhage, which it is understood was caused by the car accident. Hannah, who was close to completing a childcare course, has now postponed her studies. She said: 'I've vowed to care for Adam for as long as there is breath in my body and for Terri until she leaves the nest. But it's not easy. 'Adam doesn't sleep well. He doesn't know mum is dead yet. 'His teachers say he needs to be told in a certain way.'

She is now considering legal action against Barnet Hospital and the London Ambulance Service. A spokesman for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust declined to comment on the case. The Metropolitan Police are trying to track down the driver of the lorry which collided with Lorraine.


HRT increases the chance of needing joint replacement, researchers claim

How delightful! Alternative explanations for an epidemiological finding are explored for once below

Women taking HRT are more likely to need joint surgery, claim researchers. They had a 58 per cent extra risk of requiring a new knee than those who had never used the therapy. And their chances of needing a hip replacement were 38 per cent higher if they were taking hormone replacement therapy, which is used to treat symptoms of the menopause

The findings may surprise users as the therapy is well-known as a preventative for osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. Researchers at Oxford University admit they are baffled by the findings. They said they may be due to the effect of the oestrogen in HRT on the joints. Other experts challenged the verdict, however, pointing out that separate research on HRT shows it improves the elasticity of joints. They believe the likeliest explanation is that HRT enables women to stay fitter for longer, which results in greater demand for joint replacements compared with more sedentary counterparts.

The latest findings, published today in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, come from a survey of 1.3million middle-aged British women. Researchers asked women how old they were when they had their first and last periods, how many children they had given birth to, and whether they had used oral contraceptives and HRT. On average, they were monitored for six years, to see whether they were admitted to hospital for a knee or hip replacement for the joint disease osteoarthritis. During this period, more than 12,000 needed a hip replacement and just under 10,000 a knee replacement.

Mothers with a lot of children and women who went through puberty early also had a higher chance of needing a knee or hip replacement. Starting menstruation at or before the age of 11 boosted the probability of both types of surgery by between 9 per cent and 15 per cent. Every birth also increased the risk of a hip replacement by 2 per cent and that of a knee replacement by 8 per cent. Previous-use of oral contraceptivesdid not affect the risk of joint surgery, even though it supplies extra oestrogen.

Researcher Dr Bette Liu said: 'These findings, along with other evidence, strongly suggest that the female sex hormone oestrogen plays a role in the development of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee and the subsequent need for joint replacement.' However, as women taking HRT are better off and better educated they could be getting joint replacements because they make more use of health services. Dr Liu added: 'There is not enough evidence to recommend women change their use of HRT because they may be worried about developing osteoarthritis or having a joint replacement.'

Dr John Stevenson, chairman of the charity Women's Health Concern, said previous studies using MRI scans found HRT users had more cartilage in knee joints than non-users, which would help prevent osteoarthritis. 'There is no plausible biological reason for this finding when we know oestrogen protects bones,' he said. 'If it's correct then it may demonstrate that women on HRT who tend to be more active may eventually need a replacement as a result of more wear and tear, especially as they tend to live longer than women not taking HRT.'


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