Friday, 28 January 2011

A Gender Setting Agenda Setting

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Assistant ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Sian Massey has been withdrawn from this weekend's game at Corby Town in the Blue Square League.

This is through no fault of her own, but due to the massive media attention brought on by Andy Gray's and Richard Key's ignorant and prejudiced comments on her abilities as an official in a football match. Rather brilliantly, she showed herself to be very good at the job, although even if she had made errors that wouldn't justify the sexism displayed by Gray and Keys; she's allowed to be human.

A major part of the problem here is that their comments come as no surprise to me; I play football regularly and if I pulled up every player who made non politically correct remarks I'd have no time to play any football. Sexism is rife in the game, and probably many other sports. It's good that these two have become high profile victims of their own prejudices, to highlight this endemic problem. I'm not entirely sure one instance of casual sexism is sufficient to warrant summary sacking, but this incident, and this, show that these are not aberrations; it reflects their normal behaviour. And while that can be allowed in the private sphere, in the public sphere, including the workplace, it's completely unacceptable. I don't believe for a second that these are the first such incidents in the last 20 years of Sky football broadcasting. Why has it taken this long to come to light? Richard Keys suggested there were dark forces at work, possibly alluding to the phone hacking scandal - Andy Gray is suing the News of the World for breach of privacy. But such prehistoric attitudes must have been condoned, or overlooked, for decades, so one cannot be hopeful that sexism can be rooted out just by sacking these two offenders.

Which brings me back to poor Sian Massey, a blameless individual who doesn't have the benefit of years of fat salary cheques to fall back on, and whose career has been temporarily blighted by this controversy. Here's hoping she can be given full support to return to her duties. How wonderful if she could progress and referee the World Cup Final eventually? Good luck to her.
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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Morecambe & Wise Can Stay in Hotel, Court Rules

The welcome news that a gay couple have won their case for unfair discrimination against the Bulls, of the Chymorvah Hotel, near Penzance, who refused to let them share a double bed, has provoked predictably hysterical responses from Christians. This case was brought under the Equality Act 2010, which consolidated Britain's previously diverse laws on discrimination, and looks to ensure that Morecambe and Wise, and Laurel and Hardy, as well as civil partners, can seek accommodation (and engage with other businesses) without fear of censure, humiliation and no roof over their heads. In fact, in my youth, penury drove me to share double beds with my mates on occasion, for anything but carnal purposes.

One of the problems with this whole area is the equivocation between discrimination and unfair discrimination - 'discrimination' is often used as a shortened version for the unfair one. And the Act doesn't help too much; the preamble includes: reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics...
Clearly there is a presumption that discrimination based on personal characteristics is unfair. The judgement stated the law as it stands:
For the purposes of these Regulations, a person (“A”) discriminates against another (“B”) if, on the grounds of the sexual orientation of B or any other person except A, A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat others (in cases where there is no material difference in the relevant circumstances) .
And hear the unfairness is made as clear as it ever is ('unfair' doesn't feature in the Act); to treat someone less favourably because of x, where x is a personal characteristic.

The relevant protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. So, conversely, a gay couple running a hotel couldn't refuse entry to Christians because of their homophobic beliefs; more debatable, this, I think, since beliefs are far more variable and self determining than sexual orientation. But, on balance, I'd rather err on the liberal side on that one, and agree with the Act.

Anglican blogger Cranmer brings up an interesting conundrum; how can we tell if the Bulls are prejudiced? It's plain we cannot tell exactly, and as long as we resist the thought police, we never shall. But laws must operate on actions, and the actions of the Bulls were unfairly discriminating, so the law can conclude that their actions were prejudicial. If the Bulls maintain they love all things homosexual or, more reasonably, are indifferent to them, fair enough. But the law cannot act on that.

Christians disingenuously point out that unmarried heterosexuals are also banned, so the ruling should not apply. But that is a bogus argument; Christian disqualification of gay marriage ensures the effect is discriminatory. The Act explicitly equates marriage and civil partnership in any case, making the legal case invalid too.

Cranmer objects to (Director of Stonewall) Ben Summerskill's words:
Religious freedom shouldn't be used as a cloak for prejudice.
Why would anyone think that religious freedom was being used as a cloak for prejudice?

Here are a few of the comments:

Rebel Saint says:
The gay mafia are well organised and have lots of friends in high places due to their over representation in the media. However the feeling amongst the population at large - particularly the C2DE's - is still disgust and antipathy (go read the comments on the Sky News website for example). Alas, they can't be bothered to vote so the gay mafia win.
Bred in the Bone says:
They should inform all guest both hetro and homo that buggery is unacceptable on these premises without discriminating.
Then when guests check just ask them do they like it up the arse.
Oswin said:
Bred in the bone
Tee hee ... harrumphs! :o)
And in a subsequent post, English Viking said:
Homosexualists are perfectly capable of getting married, and having children for that matter.
They have exactly the same choice as a normal person; marry a nice lass.
PS Don't call me a bigot for the use of the word 'normal'. It won't work.
No, I can't imagine what gives people the idea that religious freedom is being used as a cover for prejudice.

Finally, Commenter Anabaptist makes clear again the theist obsession with theocracy, just as Catholics and Muslims all too often do:
Christians need to continue to act according to their faith, neither expecting nor demanding privileged treatment by the state, and taking the consequences as did Jesus and Paul. 'We should obey God rather than men,' is the principle that was applied by the apostles, and it needs to be ours.
If anyone honestly believes this, then it renders them a fifth columnist in their own country, prepared to usurp its properly made laws in favour of a barbarous tradition. It's the same madness that drives Catholics to protect paedophiles and Islamists to blow up innocent commuters.

It is simply evil.
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Friday, 7 January 2011

Government cares more for Tiddles than for You

Physician treating a patient. Red-figure Attic...Image via Wikipedia

A little while back I published some correspondence with Francis Maude, my MP and now Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, discussing the report on homeopathy by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. I urged him to back their conclusions and to stop allowing public money to be spent on a treatment that hasn't been shown to work. In his reply he said:
Where a doctor and a patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient, I believe doctors should be free to prescribe that medicine. All therapies should be considered equally, and decisions on whether or not to provide them on the NHS should be evidence-based, as is the case with all other conventional medicines and treatments.
He took the approach that patient choice was an important aspect in the provision of homeopathy. One wonders, if someone requested hoodoo, or sexual healing, would he be so keen to support patient choice? I wrote back to him pointing out this paragraph from the report:
The Government’s position on homeopathy is confused. On the one hand, it accepts that homeopathy is a placebo treatment. This is an evidence-based view. On the other hand, it funds homeopathy on the NHS without taking a view on the ethics of providing placebo treatments. We argue that this undermines the relationship between NHS doctors and their patients, reduces real patient choice and puts patients’ health at risk. The Government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.
...noting that the Committee's position was that homeopathy reduced patient choice. He replied:
I think this argument you refer to is flawed. The argument goes that patient choice is meaningless when patients are not properly informed about the implications of the treatments they are selecting, and thus diminishes "real" patient choice.
In arguing this, the Select Committee pass judgement on homeopathic treatments, labelling them a "phoney" or "fake" choice. I am not a medical expert, and would not like to make judgements of this kind in the place of experienced medical professionals. GPs rightly should provide information to patients about different treatments, and must be held to account for the decisions they and their patients make under their advisement. I would not seek to undermine this critically important relationship in this way.
It is difficult to see how taking this choice away from GPs and patients could constitute an increase in choice; in my opinion this is simply taking choice away.
Should patients also be supported by the NHS if they choose urine therapy too? Or would that be taking the piss? Of course, the major flaw here is that GPs are in no position to judge the efficacy of any particular treatment either; that is determined by peer-reviewed clinical trials. Despite not being a medical expert himself, and apparently unacquainted with the science, he still sees fit to support public funding of a treatment that hasn't been shown to work. So far, so inconsistent.

But now the government has decided to add another layer of inconsistency on top of this watered down approach. DEFRA have clamped down on the use of homeopathic remedies for animals:
Some herbal and homeopathic products are claiming medicinal benefits without scientific proof, meaning they may not properly treat or prevent serious diseases, leaving pets at risk.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s (VMD) Director of Operations, John FitzGerald, said:
“Some of these products are claiming to be effective and safe when no scientific evidence has been presented to us to show they are.
“Animal owners have a right to know if a product does what it claims. The products claim to treat diseases which can cause serious welfare problems and in some circumstances kill animals if not properly treated. So in some cases owners are giving remedies to their pets which don’t treat the problem.”

Bizarre; so these are the Government's current recommendations:

  • Animal owners cannot choose a homeopathic remedy in conjunction with their vet, because no scientific evidence has been presented to show they are effective and safe, but...
  • Patients can choose a homeopathic remedy in conjunction with their doctor, even though no scientific evidence has been presented to show they are effective and safe.

The government clearly doesn't care about our welfare as much as our pets'.

And note that they even allow us the freedom of choice to catch malaria; oh, sweet liberty!

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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Catholic FAQ

(Laminate and issue to all Catholic congregations)

If I fall pregnant and suffer a life threatening illness that requires an abortion to save me, can I secure that life-saving treatment?
  • There's good news and bad news. The good news is that an indirect abortion, whereby treatment of the illness has the double effect of aborting the baby*, is allowed. The bad news is that if the only treatment available requires a direct abortion, involving an action to end the life of the baby*, that is not allowed. You, and your baby*, must die, which is the greater good.

If I'm serving the community and advising on such abortions, what will happen to me if I approve an abortion that the Church considers direct?
  • You will be summarily excommunicated, which is the greater good.

If a priest abuses children in his care, what will happen to him?
  • He will be given pastoral care and help to re-integrate into the community. Well, a nearby community, anyway, which is the greater good.

If I discover that a priest is abusing children in his care, what will happen if I inform the local authorities?
  • You will be summarily excommunicated, which is the greater good.

If I'm married and my spouse contracts HIV, can I wear a condom to prevent catching the fatal disease?
  • There's good news and bad news. The good news is that you could become a prostitute and your spouse could then procure your services for sex, in which case condom use would be seen as a step on the road to a greater morality. The bad news is that if you simply want to have a loving conjugal relationship, condom use is a mortal sin, so you must risk contracting the fatal disease, which is the greater good.

    I've got five children already and cannot afford any more, but I still want to enjoy full conjugal relations; can I use artificial contraceptives to avoid falling pregnant?
    • No; you may use hit and miss methods, such as the rhythm method, or refrain from sexual relations altogether, which is the greater good.

    If I contract a terminal illness that removes all vestiges of humanity and dignity from my dying days, can I take charge of my life and end my inhumane and undignified existence?
    • This is all bad news, I'm afraid, which we like to call 'good news'. The answer is No, which is the greater good.

    I'm a homosexual. Can I...?
    • Stop there. No, which is the greater good.

    *We mean foetus.
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