Too busy to be sick

I’ve got a big weekend planned. Well, it’s probably not that big a deal for most people, but for me it’s way more than I should be doing. Starting tonight I am heading to Brighton where I will meet lots of people that I have been talking to on twitter and then we are planning to spend a day discussing politics, political engagement and other quite interesting things.

It doesn’t seem like much effort, does it. But Ihave to carefully plan how this will work. To start with, I have all my preparations. I will spend this afternoon collecting medicine from the pharmacy to make sure I don’t run out, packing all the equipment that I need to fit on my bike, re-wiring the satnav power connector on my bike, finding time to squeeze in a shower, draining in itself, and fitting in a visit to the doctor which has been planned for weeks. After all that, I am going to spend three hours riding my motorbike to Brighton. I will be fine on the motorbike as it isn’t that tiring at the time. That pain will come later, which is why I am travelling today – so that I can spend Friday recovering from the preperations and travelling. Fortunately I have somewhere to stay and rest. (Thanks @QOFE!)

Then I’m hoping to meet some twitter friends on Friday afternoon / evening, and get an early night (Hah!) before spending Saturday and Sunday with interesting people and discussions.  I suspect that I will end up travelling home on Monday because I will have run out of energy by the end of the weekend.

After all of that, I am fairly sure that I will not be moving much from my bed for a few days afterwards. I know this because after ten years of illness I can judge how much energy I can expend without going too far. As I explained in my page about M.E, there is a vastly disproportionate payback for any energy that I do use, and I am certain that I am going to use way more energy than is sensible this weekend. This is my choice – for the sake of joining in with others and having just a little bit of a normal life, I am making a deliberate choice to overdo it and to crash next week. This is what people don’t see when they say stupid things like “but you don’t look sick!” or “You’re looking well.” This is what the DWP, ATOS and the work capability assesments don’t take into account. Yes, I can look normal, for a little while. I can do some normal things, to some extent. But afterwards I will pay. I will pay a lot more than any healthy person might expect. Imagine if every time you went away for a weekend, you have a week off work with the flu, so severe that you are rendered helpless, and you might start to understand just a little bit. I don’t have to do this, of course. I could stay here, split my time between resting in bed and sitting in a chair, maybe a small trip to the shops. I could choose not to see any friends, and preserve the tiny bit of energy that I have.

This is my choice – I will push myself for the next four days. I will damage myself and I will be helpless and in pain afterwards. But I happen to think that it will be worth it.

Do you know what Chiropractic really is?

Do you know what chiropractic is? Most people that have heard of it will generally hazard a guess that it is something to do with bad backs. They are sort of right. Chiropractors do manipulate the spine, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. But they do it in the belief that some or all other medical problems are a result of problems with the spine, and can be fixed through manipulating the spine.

Daniel David Palmer invented the theory of chiropractic in 1895. He decided that all living things have vital energy called Innate Intelligence. Innate Intelligence supposedly flows out of the brain and through the spine to the organs. According to Palmer, misaligned vertebrae block the flow of Innate Intelligence, and that is the cause of all other illness. Palmer also rejected the idea of germs and of vaccination because he thought that all illness is caused by this blockage.

These ideas, of course, have no basis in science at all, and there is no evidence that things work this way. In 2008 the British Chiropractic Association launched a libel case against science writer Simon Singh over an article that he wrote in The Guardian. I have reproduced the relevant part here. See the rest, with notes in this article: The libellous Simon Singh article on chiropractors.

First, you might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that, “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

This lawsuit caused uproar in the scientific world because the BCA was effectively using libel law to silence scientific opinion. Simon Singh’s defence effectively put the efficacy of chiropractic on trial. The BCA dropped their case in April 2010. The idea that chiropractic can be used to treat colic, habits, ear infections and asthma is not only without scientific basis, but also dangerous. Someone seeking treatment for these things will not get the real effective treatment that they need. Promoting the use of chiropractic to treat babies for these things is just cruel. The lack of proper treatment will lead to suffering for the baby, and the chiropractic treatment can itself cause injury and prolonged pain.

Chiropractic does seem to fill a gap in health services. I have spoken to several people in both the UK and the USA who have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and visit chiropractors. The problem seems to be that physiotherapists and other  specialists within the NHS and conventional healthcare don’t seem to have the knowledge or the time necessary to deal with problems caused by hypermobility. Chiropractors appear to know the musculoskelatal system and especially the spine in a lot more detail, and are willing to help reset subluxations. (Partial dislocations) Chiropractors also take the time to listen to their patients. This could be because they are generally seen privately and so have more incentive to earn their fee.

Unfortunately despite them offering useful help with back and joint problems, I think any good in Chiropractic is negated by the rest of what they believe. For a start, there is room for confusion because chiropractors use the term subluxation in a different sense to the medical profession – they believe that there are dysfunctional segments of the spine that block innate energy, and they call this a subluxation too. Chiropractors believe that these vertebral subluxations (which aren’t subluxations in the normal sense) block innate intelligence and prevent if from reaching the rest of the body. They think that this is the cause of infections and illness. I think possibly the worst thing that chiropractors do is to advise people not to get their vaccinations. I have said before when talking about homeopathy that we all rely on “Herd Immunity” for vaccines to work, and telling people not to have them in the hope that chiropracty or homeopathy will prevent viral infections is not only obscenely stupid, it’s a danger to the whole of society.

Some people will argue that it is acceptable to use a Chiropractor if they stick to actual physical problems and avoid other issues, but in my opinion this is that this gives them some respect in the mind of the public and opens the way for people to fall for the rest of what they say. Ultimately, if a person is spending their own money, and receives some benefit from chiropractic treatment for physical problems, it isn’t my place to tell them to stop seeing a chiropractor. I do think that they are making a mistake though, and I really hope that no one else will see it as a reason to trust a chiropractor for anything else.

 

More Information

UK Skeptics – Chiropractic

The libellous Simon Singh article on chiropractors

On Putting Chiropractic On Trial – Simon Singh’s Defence

Simon Singh libel case dropped

My experience of the police

I have just been unfriended on Facebook and, I suspect in real life as well, because of what I said about the police. Here’s what my former friend said:

“I trust then you are going to call the local station and ask to be removed from their protection? And refuse to call them when involved in a serious RTA, even if they get there first and could provide life-saving first response to you or a loved one? Your comment is ignorant at best, and slanderous at worst. I cannot, with clear conscience associate with such venomous, negativity, and thus have unfriended.”

So let me talk about my experiences with the police.

When I was in an serious motorbike accident, a police officer barged into the ambulance while the paramedics were trying to treat me. He started demanding information even though I was in no state to give it, and on hearing me tell the paramedics that I was a diabetic he started demanding to know why I had not informed the DVLA. (I was a tablet controlled type-2 diabetic at the time, none of the DVLA’s business.) He fixated on it, trying to get me to accept responsibility for an accident where a car ploughed into me from behind at a roundabout at 60 or so miles per hour. Eventually the paramedics forced him out of the ambulance.

When I was a victim of hundreds of pounds of fraud over an eBay sale, the police refused to help. I had all the evidence necessary for the police to arrest the fraudster, his home address, details of exactly how he had defrauded me. The police refused to even take my report and insisted that I could go to eBay for help. When I went back to the police and told them that eBay and Paypal would not co-operate, the police told me there was nothing that they could do.

When my motorbike was stolen, they came round, took a report, then said there was nothing they could do. Six months later, the police sent us a letter. Apparently my bike had been found burnt out in a known criminals garden while arresting him for something else. Did they prosecute him for theft? No. They tried to bill me for disposal of the bike.

When the motorbike loaned to me by my insurance company suffered a spate of parts being stolen from it, the police took a report, but never got back to me. There were potential suspects, but the police didn’t follow anything up. Some of those parts (the mirrors, for one) had serial numbers on and could have been used as evidence. I lost quite a lot of money replacing those parts and fixing the damage.

When I worked at a timber company with a fleet of lorries, one of the lorry drivers there was a special constable with Essex Police. He boasted about how he liked to get called in at big events, how he liked the power, how he loved going on raids and roughing people up. He had a very cavalier attitude to rules of the road, and when I pulled up relevant laws about when someone was allowed to stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway or use a mobile phone while moving, he shrugged it off and said he would keep doing it and the police would never do anything as he was a special constable.

This is my experience of the police. And now, many people I talk to tell me how the police physically attack them and people around them. I get eyewitness accounts of police attacking bystanders. I watch live video from scenes of the police taking on whole neighbourhoods. I see obvious lies coming from the police about why they get violent. “Policemen dragged from their horses and beaten” – repeated by the prime minister, no less, completely refuted in my video here – when the damage was probably done by his own horse and his colleagues dragging him away. Claims of petrol bombs as justification for attacking at Stokes Croft appear to have been fabricated as an excuse. Statements giving justification for police actions are released before the events even happen. They discharge CS spray without reason. They abuse the legal process by threatening arrest for refusing to give ID, then using de-arrest afterwards to pretend it never happened. They photograph and build databases on protesters and pretend that the databases don’t exist. They enter places where they have no legal right to enter. They fabricate flimsy justifications when no crimes exist. The whole institution of the police takes that attitude that the police are right, if only due process didn’t get in the way. They abuse stop and search powers given under anti-terrorism bills.

This is why I’m pissed off with the police. Can you blame me?

Freedom to be offended

Freedom of speech. An absolutely essential human right, and yet it seems to be such a difficult concept for many to grasp. People think free speech applies to themselves and no one else. Anyone that opposes them is fair game to be silenced.

To paraphrase Morbo the news monster, “Censorship does not work like that!”

According to reports, yesterday Facebook removed the EDL’s page. The EDL Facebook page had been “Liked” by some 80,000 people, and was frequently home to comments showing racist, bigoted views and discussing some quite disgusting concepts and behaviour. Even so, I cannot celebrate its removal. How is it right that people on the left complain when Facebook pages for anti-cuts protests and events are removed, yet celebrate when the same thing happens to the EDL?

In discussions about this some people have pointed out that the EDL page hosted discussions of illegal behaviour. It might have done. “Hate speech” is now illegal in the UK. Beating up people and harassment are illegal too. But is it right to shut down discussions, even of illegal behaviour? That sounds like thought crime to me. We have a right to freedom of association, to freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. By extension, we have a right to hold whatever opinions we want, even if they are repellent to most people. Surely freedom to associate with whoever we like must mean that we have freedom to discuss whatever we like? How can discussion of a crime be a crime? Even if someone is discussing plans for a crime, they have not actually done anything, and I believe they should not be arrested until they show that they are about to commit those actions and not just fantasise about them.

I must also point out that the various Facebook pages set up to organise anti-cuts protests have also sometimes discussed illegal behaviour. Civil disobedience in various forms often means breaking the law – by definition illegal! Yet people rail against the removal of these pages by Facebook but demand the removal of the EDL page. It does not work like that!

The issue of government censorship versus private censorship is a problem. Facebook is a privately owned platform and many people are quick to point out that freedom of speech does not apply as everyone that uses it had in theory to agree to the terms and conditions. This is true, but while in law obligations to facilitate free speech usually only apply to government, I think when a service becomes as large as Facebook and a de-facto standard, different rules must apply. While we have private services that host so much public discourse, this is something that we must address. I suspect that censorship on private services happens as much out of a fear of being sued as of a desire to shut down opposing views.

I worry that here in the UK we are losing our freedom of speech. We have the European Convention of Human Rights, but right-wing politicians like to blame it for all our ills and demand that we scrap it. Now we have laws against hate speech, and I can see the reasons for preventing harassment and bullying, but if those are already crimes, why do we need laws to make it illegal to voice disagreement with someone?

Ultimately, freedom of speech applies to all or it applies to no one. There is no middle ground. If someone decides to censor what some people say, then there is no guarantee that anything at all can be said. Someone somewhere has to make the decision on what to censor, and that decision will be shaped by their own opinions and political views. The alternative to freedom of speech is suppression of dissenting views by whoever is the most powerful. If you have a view that the establishment doesn’t like, you cannot celebrate censorship without endangering your own cause.

Spam Spam Spam

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE&w=510]

 

Spam spam spam spam beans spam and spam!

BUT I DON’T. LIKE. SPAM!

You don’t like spam? Well that’s tough, because spam makes up a huge portion of emails sent and of internet traffic in general. I say spam, I mean Unsolicited Commercial Emails and similar messages, but everyone calls them spam because, well, watch the video above and you will know why.

Screenshot of GMail spam folder
Screenshot of my GMail spam folder

For me, the problem of spam email is largely forgotten because I use Google Mail and it has excellent spam filters. Although the unwanted email hardly ever gets through, it is still there, taking up space on servers, and using bandwidth that could have been used to send more interesting things. I also receive spam at my business email account, although not very much at the moment, and I don’t want to filter that in case the filter wrongly identifies a new customer as spam and I never see it. I go through my twitter followers every so often to block the spammers from following me. When I did so today, I hadn’t checked for three days and so I had to block twenty-five spammers in one go. That represents more than half of my new followers, and it’s a regular occurrence. They are getting much harder to spot, too, because the spammers are copying other user’s whole bio, and copying random tweets from other people so that it is difficult to differentiate their spam links from other tweets. On twitter there are certain words which people do not dare to put in a tweet because it will attract the attention of spam bots. Spam bots wait for someone to say “iPad” or “diet” or “Facebook” and then immediately send a tweet back by reply with an unwanted link. It’s extremely annoying.

Example of a CAPTCHA
Example of a CAPTCHA

Then there are the forum spammers. I sometimes spend as much as fifteen minutes deleting spam posts and removing spammers accounts from forums that I manage, every day. There are systems in place to try to stop spammers. My forums use a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) to weed out automated sign-ups by asking the person to read obscured text that is very difficult for a computer to recognise. It isn’t having much effect now because it turns out to be cheaper to pay people in developing countries to create accounts than it is to teach a computer to get past a CAPTCHA. On a forum that I use for testing new software I recently found over three hundred spam accounts and uncountable spam posts. While cleaning up the mess I accidentally deleted some genuine user accounts as well. Spammers have not only wasted my time, but also been the root cause of damage. So spammers are active, extremely annoying, and are using up our time and resources and costing us real money. They do it in the hope that just one person out of thousands will respond and purchase their products, or visit a hacked website and get infected by their virus. These people are beyond annoying; they are criminals. In my opinion they are the lowest of the low, and I’m not alone in thinking that. In 2002 prolific spammer Alan Ralsky had his home address published, and he received a vast amount of physical junk mail in retaliation for what he had done.

He gained much of his notoriety following a December 2002 interview with The Detroit News. The article was soon posted to Slashdot and the address of his newly built home was posted to Slashdot not long after that. Hundreds of Slashdot readers then searched the Internet for advertising mailing lists and free catalogs and signed him up for them. As a result, he was flooded with junk mail. In a Detroit Free Press article on December 6, 2002, he is quoted as saying “They’ve signed me up for every advertising campaign and mailing list there is. These people are out of their minds. They’re harassing me” (From Wikipedia)

Funny how someone can harass hundreds of millions of people without a second thought, getting rich in the process, but be surprised that a few thousand people might not like him very much. He eventually spent four years in prison for fraud. Oh how I wish all spammers and their employees would end up in prison.

But the thing that has annoyed me the most recently (as much as the forum spammers!) is deliberate spamming from friends. Now, I know that advertising is  necessary evil that pays for many of our services. I even have a little advertising on this blog, with an ad for a kindle and an affiliate link for Amazon in my sidebar. But friends posting adverts in tweets? I’m not standing for that. Twitter is a social network. I’m there to socialise. You don’t meet friends in the pub and then find them saying “Could you get cheaper car insurance?” and handing you a flyer. Why should that be acceptable on twitter? And yet, here are some examples I have seen recently.

Ad: Wish U had someone to do your laundry? “Like” their Facebook page or RT 4 a chance to win free laundry for a year! [Link deleted]

Ad: 53% Off Unlocked E71 GSM Nokia 3G Smartphone – Was $364.99, $169.99 W/ Free Shipping! [Link deleted] Amazing#DealTaker Deal!

Best designer jewelry, 50% off for short time. Kate Bosworth’s site brings you “effortless beauty”. Use MINT4 Code [Link deleted] – ad

I no longer follow either of the people that tweeted these ads at me, which is a shame because I enjoyed their other tweets. Someone did point out to me that people do not have much money at the moment and need to pay for their internet connection and so on, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. On a web page, or in a magazine, it’s advertising. In my conversation, it’s spam. I have no problem with people tweeting links to their own work, many of us do that and other people want to see it. And many of us tweet links to things we found interesting. But we don’t do that for commission. That would change the nature of the tweet from a recommendation to a sales tactic.

Panic!

I had a panic attack this morning. I don’t make a habit of them, this was only my second ever. The first one happened a few years ago when I had been given amitriptyline to try and reduce the pain I was in. The first day after I had taken it, I ended up in a complete panic, hyperventilating, scared and twitchy. I didn’t know what the hell was going on and so I called 999 to ask. They sent me an ambulance, and a wonderful paramedic who spent an hour holding my hand and calming me down while they took me to hospital. I’m slightly ashamed of tying up those services for a mere panic attack, but like I say I had no idea what was going on and I simply called for help from the only place I could think of.

Today’s attack then. I had gone to bed early so that I could sleep before Portal 2 was released early this morning. Amazingly, I had actually slept, although two hours after going to bed. I woke up with my normal selection of pain and inability to move much, took my painkillers and waited to feel better. While I waited I looked at twitter, and I quickly noticed that I was very irritable and confrontational. I took offence at several messages that weren’t even aimed at me, had a rant and started an argument.

And then as I decided to get away from the internet before I lost all my friends, I felt my mood dropping . A bit like when I hit the low points of depression but even more sudden than that. Then I was crying. The hyperventilating started. Feelings of despair mixed with sheer panic. Why? I have no idea. All I wanted to do before that was wait for the painkillers to work and then play Portal 2. What I had actually done was annoy lots of people then fall apart mentally.

Fortunately my wife came home at that point and a thirty minute hug managed to calm me down. She read out the messages that my friends on twitter had sent me (I had mentioned that my mood was dropping before I became frozen by the panic) and told them that I was all right. Finally I was stable enough for her to go and make me a cup of tea.

That was all a couple of hours ago. Now, I’m exhausted, shaken, in pain because the stress aggravated everything, and still irritable. I’m ranting here because quite honestly, it helps even if no one reads it. If you’ve got this far, thank you for sticking with it.

A kind friend sent me this while I was panicking, it helped. http://www.mindfields.org.uk/blog/?p=174

MPs and iPads

Over at Political Scrapbook there’s a headline or “Tory MP too busy to answer emails buys £750 iPad on expenses.

Outrageous! Shocking! String him up!

George Freeman
George Freeman MP

Except… what has he done wrong? Well, refuse to answer emails, obviously. Except he hasn’t refused, he’s just replied en-mass with a statement. Not the best manners, but justifiable if his workload is high.

What has that got to do with his iPad? Nothing, actually. This headline is bad journalism. There are two separate issues here, one is whether he fulfills his duties in communicating with constituents, and the other is whether or not this expense is justifiable.

So, is his expense justifiable?

First of all, realise that MPs expenses are supposed to cover the running of their offices and administration. That includes purchasing computer equipment for that purpose.

Secondly, just because an iPad is a toy for many people, that does not preclude its use as a tool for work and productivity. In fact many journalists, writers, and others make very effective use of an iPad to carry out their work. An iPad can be used for searching the internet, reading documents, taking notes, replying to emails (!) and much more.

Thirdly, why an iPad when he could have had a cheaper tablet, or a netbook? How can he justify paying for Apple? Well, love or hate Apple, their products are the slickest, most effective, and simplest on the market. People that are terrified of computers can use an iPad. Everything is locked down and checked by Apple, so a virus is unlikely. Apps just work. The interface is simple. Yes, there are tablets running Android or Windows. None of them are anything like as simple or reliable as an iPad, and I say that as a fan of Android and I’m not particularly enamoured of Apple since they started being so ruthless and nasty while locking down their products. And anyway, if the cost of Apple can’t be justified, neither can the cost of Microsoft Windows. Could he use a netbook? Of course. But tablets have an extra edge, an extra simplicity, ease of access, that netbooks don’t have.

iPadI’ve seen bargain basement Android tablets. They’re pathetic. Sub-par construction, broken interfaces, and missing the Android Marketplace (app store equivalent) because the manufacturers haven’t licensed it from Google. People who buy these cheap tablets get very annoyed when they can’t find any of the apps that they expected to use. Many return the product in frustration.

So, then, I conclude that George Freeman is quite within his rights to purchase an iPad as a work tool, even if he happens to play a game on it one day. He recieves money to spend on computer equipment, and he has done so. I have no problem with his choice of product, I think it is right for the job and will boost his productivity.

None of that stops me being annoyed that he is a Tory, disagreeing with his views, or thinking perhaps he should pay more attention to his constituent’s complaints.

Meh to AV?

“I don’t vote, there’s no point.”

“Voting never changes anything”

“The same bastards always get in”

Does that all sound familiar? It does to me. I know a lot of people with the view that voting is pointless and changes nothing. I believe this view is extremely common. But why do they think this? What is the problem really?

Why do people feel that they cannot vote for the main parties? Well as I explained recently, Labour and the Conservatives are actually very close together on the political spectrum. Although claiming to be centre-left and centre-right respectively, I think both are really quite right-wing in their views. Both share the same urge to transfer most public services into the private sector, either through direct privatisation, or through contracts such as private finance initiative. (PFI) Even voting LibDem will not fix this, as economically the LibDems are actually very similar to the Conservatives. As such, their coalition makes a lot more sense when you realise this. (The LibDems are at least different to the others in their policies on the social spectrum, even if no different economically.) These three parties all seem to want to make public services make a profit for private investors, despite the fact that a public service exists to benefit the public, not investors. They also are very biased towards the banks and the financial sector, allowing them to gamble with and profit from our economy without contributing much back through taxes or through providing help to people at the bottom of the pile.

Government economic policy seems geared towards maintaining high house prices to keep middle-class home owners happy. Many people are finding themselves unable to afford their own accommodation as a result, often living with their parents into their 30s. Even after moving out, they are finding that they rely on support from their parents. When a reasonable house costs £150k and up, and a mortgage requires a 30% deposit, what chance has a 20 – 30 year old got of owning one? Younger generations are being told that the money is all gone, (Much of it spent on keeping banks going) and that jobs must be cut, services privatised or cut, the NHS destroyed, education priced out of range, pensions reduced, and retirement age pushed back so far it might as well not happen. Meanwhile, older generations have their houses, their pensions and their early retirements. Pensions and retirements that the young are expected to pay for, despite the fact that there are no jobs. It seems no surprise to me that older generations tend towards voting conservative, they have a lot to lose.

Given that many people would like a change from these main parties, why are they still in power? Here in England our voting system for general elections is a first past the post system. Historically we have only really had two parties vying for power, with a third peripheral party. It may surprise you to know that the two top parties were once the Conservatives and the Liberals, but the Labour party was formed in the 1920s and displaced the Liberals, who later merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Liberal Democrats. Although we have a number of other parties, such as the Green party, they are often ignored because the voters know that one of the main parties will win, and they want to make sure that the winner is the least-worst option for them. Such “tactical voting” perpetuates the situation where the two main parties maintain most of the power.

Many of the people that don’t vote are apathetic about politics and will largely ignore what happens in elections and government except to complain when they are directly affected. Some of the non-voters are of the opinion that since voting is pointless, the answer is to protest instead. Of course politicians ignore the protests as unrepresentative of voters views because these people didn’t vote! This seems to be a never ending circle. There is a good argument that if people really feel that none of the parties can represent them, or that their party has no chance, they should spoil their ballot paper instead. Although I don’t think spoilt ballots are counted at a national level, the numbers are announced with the results in each constituency. It is possible that if a large number of people spoiled their ballot, it might draw enough attention to these problems.

I think it is obvious that we need a change to our voting system in order to boot out the entrenched political views, and equally obvious that the established parties would not want this change as it would threaten their power. These figures showing share of vote vs share of seats show the problem.

  • Conservative share of vote: 36.48% Share of seats: 47.2%
  • Labour share of vote: 28.99% Share of seats: 39.7%
  • Liberal Democrats share of vote: 23.03% Share of seats: 8.8%

There is clearly something wrong when receiving 23% of the votes means getting only 8.8% of the seats. The problem is really much worse than this since many of the votes for Labour and the Conservatives would have been tactical votes which might not happen if the system adequately represented people.

One of the solutions, and the one many people talk about, is Proportional Representation. PR would change the make-up of Parliament to represent the votes more directly. One of the downsides is that it would break the direct link that we have between MP and constituency. At the moment MPs are an essential last resort for people encountering problems with government and elsewhere. I have personally seen my MP intervene in a situation on two occasions and be very helpful, even though his political views are the opposite of mine. If we were to adopt PR I think we would need to think of some system to replace this very useful feature of our system.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives are absolutely opposed to PR and so offered Alternative Vote (AV) as a compromise to the LibDems when forming the coalition. AV is not nearly as good as PR at evening out the balance of power in parliament, but I believe it is a step forward from FPTP. AV allows the voter to specify a second choice, and more if they wish. Note that it does not force a second choice to be made, and voters are free to only vote for one candidate if they wish. But AV will allow all those people that currently vote tactically to specify their preferred party as their first choice, and their least-worst party as their second choice. Because of the nature of first past the post voting, England contains a number of “Safe Seats” where the MP is virtually guaranteed to always be from the same party. The main parties can for the most part ignore these areas when campaigning. People with opposing views in safe seats feel that their vote is pointless if there is no chance of their preferred candidate winning, and many don’t vote as a result. AV will to some extent address the problem of safe seats by making them require a much larger majority.

I believe that AV will encourage a great many more people to vote since it can potentially add a lot more weight to their votes. In the end, I don’t think it even matter whether AV is really better than FPTP or not. If introducing AV encourages more people to vote, I don’t see how it could be worse than FPTP. I’ll be voting Yes to AV.

What’s wrong with the BNP?

Please don’t shoot me for that title just yet!

I recently discovered that one of the people that I frequently play computer games with online is a BNP voter. Now, I have known this person for more than a year. He’s good fun to game against and to talk to, he’s a reasonable guy and he is not stupid. So rather than start a fight and then never speak again, I asked him to write down his reasons for voting BNP. I had every intention of going through them myself and giving my counter-reasons where appropriate, but I haven’t got the energy to do so. Instead, I am presenting his arguments here and I would like all you clever people to give your reasons for or against his reasons in the comments.

To keep this a debate and not a fight, any personal insults will be deleted. No nasty names or insulting his character please.

why do is support the BNP? simply because, there is no other political party ,that will acknowledge the fact we have a huge problem with mass immigration, and enforced multiculturalism.

do I want to see the UKs  green belt concreted over, to facilitate the deliberate power breeding of the Islamic  community?

nope!

do I want to be force fed halal food by stealth? no! if halal slaughter is such a kind and humane practice, then I suggest vets start slitting our pets throats ,when they are put down. and muttering a few words to Allah

do I want to see some one get a job over another person ,because they are the wrong color ( white being the wrong color) ?  even if they are less qualified? NOPE!

I want free university places for our children. free prescriptions. lowering of the retirement age.  I want our  green belt and forests protected. I want our children to be taught English history.

I want to pay less taxes. I want to feel proud of my country. all this and more.

how would the BNP pay for this?

by stopping all illegal wars and invasions  of oil producing countries. bring back all our troops ,

and let them do what they are still going to do ,when we leave Afghanistan, Iraq etc.  we don’t need the army or navy on such a huge scale.

secondly pull us out of the European union. let us produce our own food and set our own laws.

stop all foreign aid.  until we are out of debt.

UK jobs for UK people first

invest in UK science and technology

repel the human rights act.

boot out all bogus asylum seekers.

stop all immigration.

Halt the grooming of white girls by gangs of Asian men for sex slaves.

All in my head

In one of those odd random blips of popularity, my description of M.E. has been circulating around twitter and Facebook today. I found it quite interesting to read the way people described what I had written. People identified with it, and said that I had described the symptoms well. I found that comforting, in a way, because their identification with it means I haven’t imagined everything. When enough people tell you your illness is all in your head, it’s hard not to question if it is. Even to the point of wondering whether I’m saying I need to rest because I really need to, or because I’m lazy.

M.E. has a long history of controversy. Until very recently, no physical markers have been found for it. Diagnosis has been based on description of the symptoms and by ruling out everything else. Because there is no way to be certain of the diagnosis, public attitude to M.E. has been poor. Names such as “Yuppie Flu” are derisive and contribute to the attitude that people with M.E. are simply faking their illness, and are lazy or work-shy.

Many doctors have held the opinion that M.E. is a mental illness. They conclude that the fatigue and the pain are due to depression, and hold the belief that only therapy such as CBT and a slow increase in activity is necessary to cure the patient. In actual fact, the World Health Organisation classifies M.E. as a neurological disorder under Diseases of the Nervous System, G93.3. The Department of Work and Pensions also categorically states the CFS/ME is physical. Despite this classification, many doctors still believe that M.E. is purely a mental illness.

What is the impact of this belief? One of the defining features of M.E. is that fatigue is not explained by exertion, and in fact is out of all proportion to any activity. In my experience, the best management strategy for M.E. is Pacing. It involves making an effort to stick to a timetable of rests and a set level of activity, and working out how much activity can be undertaken and how much rest is necessary by gradually increasing activity until the maximum level is found, and staying at that level. If pushed into too much activity a person with M.E. will “crash” and may be completely incapacitated for a long time. The standard treatment for M.E. as a mental illness is CBT or GET which will push a person far beyond their safe limits.

Treating M.E. as a mental illness also appears to attach a stigma to it that just shouldn’t be there. Suppose for a moment that M.E. actually is a symptom of severe depression. It may change the treatment, but would it change anything else about the abilities of a person suffering from it? Would it mean that it was OK to tell someone “it’s all in your head” and “snap out of it”? Of course it wouldn’t. Depression itself is a real illness, needing treatment and medicine. Someone with depression cannot simply “snap out of it.” There are M.E. sufferers who are also depressed – I am one of them – but it is important to distinguish one from the other. I have had M.E. for ten years, and depression for a few months. It would be surprising if I didn’t get depressed at some point given the situation I am in.

If I could choose to be better, I would. Of course I would. I’m currently useless, stuck at home, in bed most of the time, my business is failing because I can’t work, I can’t even do any housework. I WANT to be well. I want to be rid of the crippling pain, the migraines, the dizziness, the insomnia. I want to be able to walk, to run, to ride my motorbike. So don’t you ever tell me to snap out of it. I might just have to beat you with my walking stick, just as soon as I find the energy.