Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sorry my son - no dick munchers in the church please.

Another example of the stupidity of the Catholic Church has been revealed with the issuing of a statement on homosexuals and the priesthood, affirming that those with gay "tendencies" should not be ordained. Although the document also bans supporters of "gay culture" from entering the priesthood it says that men who have "overcome" their homosexuality for at least three years would be accepted as priests.

The document doesn't really define how someone proves they have overcome these tendencies. I would like to think that any potential candidates are locked in a room with a hundred horny sailor-suited studs all with their dicks at full mast. Each potential candidate would be monitored to assess levels of arousal, interest or delight. Equally, it seems silly to say that overcoming these tendencies for 3 years is some sort of guarantee. Why not 2 years, 5 or 10? If you have resisted or managed these evil urges for three years have you proved your asexual celibacy?

The Vatican is confirming, by release of the document the Catholic church's view that deep-seated homosexual tendencies are "objectively disordered" and "grave sins". It also says heads of seminaries have a serious duty to see to it that candidates for the priesthood do not "present disturbances of a sexual nature which are incompatible with the priesthood".

Considering so many priests are gay this seems like a sure fire way to significantly limit your future workforce. I could understand that you may exclude anyone demonstrating racist "tendencies"; an "unholy love" for money; clear contempt for the poor and deprived; or lacking the ability to remain unjudgemental from the priesthood. This is another example of rightwing pressure to create a fictitious world of white, middle-class, straight men who remain untainted by the "evils" around them. It is echoed in the debates against gay marriage in the states and shows how far we still need to move to achieve fully inclusive and loving societies.
You would hope that the church would be the one place that welcomed everyone and campaigned against any form of discrimination and prejudice, but yet again some selective interpretation of a few mouldy old scrolls dictates the way the world works!

What a crazy bunch of dick weeds.

Pope Benedetto XVI asks another candidate to take the sailor swinging dick test before allowing him to enter the priesthood.

I don't want to outstay my welcome but...

I was really pleased to be having my brother, his partner and their baby staying over the weekend. My niece is crawling now and needs to be watched constantly as she is off and away as soon as you turn your back. Nothing is safe, although I was more worried about her pulling something on top of her or finding lots of dangerous things hidden under sofas etc. We had just had an old marble fireplace delivered for fitting in the living room and I was paranoid she would bang her head on it. In reality it held little interest and we had a big rug on the floor to offer a suitable playground. As with all babies she was fine and it was great to see her developing more as an independent person with her own likes and dislikes. She is still the spitting image of my brother, although he cannot see that. She was a bit grouchy form the journey, but soon settled and was gurgling and laughing as she tore several magazines into tiny pieces.

We spent most of the time inside as they were looking for a relaxing weekend and we were trying to clear the furniture out of the living room to make way for the fireplace to be fitted. This was all going well as I had thought they were leaving on Sunday afternoon. It became apparent as the day wore on that they weren't making any moves to pack bags or get ready for the journey. So, I tentatively asked when they were going. It turned out they had changed their plans to leave on Monday morning instead of the Sunday. My brother had told me, but that was at the end of a wine tasting last Sunday, when I had sampled about 60 different wines, champagnes and ports. Unsurprisingly, this hadn't sunk in. It wasn't a problem, but then I felt embarrassed that they would feel they were over staying their welcome and it looked like we were trying to get rid of them. Equally, we had to quickly rustle up an evening meal that we hadn't planned for. It all turned out Ok, but it meant I was up for work way too early yesterday to say goodbye.

At the same time my partner was off work to supervise the fitting of the fire – it looks great and we are really pleased to restore an original feature to the house. We still have the original sash windows, ceiling roses and cornicing – the fire is an added bonus. We cannot use it for a day or two until the plaster sets, but I am looking forward to cosy evenings in front of the fire. It would have been especially welcome yesterday when we had our first snow!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Economical decison making

I haven’t had time for posting much lately. I have been off work with some kind of virus for a couple of days and back to Birmingham for my MSc. I met with my supervisor and actually have a clearer picture of how my dissertation could proceed. I will be exploring how well managers in the NHS understand the terminology of health economics, and whether this kind of information is considered in allocating resources. Simply, do they undertake and kind of economic analysis of the clinical and cost effectiveness of different treatments before deciding how to spend the limited money available.

Probably a little dry for general reading but an issue close to my heart. I have worked in the NHS and local government for over ten years and still do not see evidence of economic appraisals being used to consider resource allocation. Public expectations, local demand, epidemiology etc should all be considered, but health economics offers valuable tools in helping managers make more pragmatic decisions. Unfortunately, political factors and financial pressures do not allow this kind of decision making to take place. This is not helped by annual planning cycles as a good economic analysis can take months to complete.

I hope to find evidence that there is an increasing awareness of the terminology and tools that health economists use, but a lack of people who understand how to use and interpret economic analysis. All well and good, but now the work starts with the literature review and qualitative interviews. I cannot wait until it is finished and I can spend my free time in other ways!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Are you OK buddy?

Sadly, we will be attending the funeral of a friend’s mother tomorrow. It is one of those occasions were the usual platitudes just don’t cut it. I have no idea how to express my sympathy for him and his family. I cannot begin to imagine how I would feel in his position. It must equally as strange for people who are grieving as they are now in the position of trying to deal with all these emotions and play host to family, friends and in some cases complete strangers.

I have no idea how to say “Please tell me what you are feeling right now, I have never been through something like this and can only imagine.” The most important thing is to show respect for our friend and his family and make sure he knows we are there for whatever support we can provide.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blair out of touch?

On Wednesday the House of Commons defeated the Government’s amendment to detain individuals for 90 days without trial. I have been shocked at the vehement support by the cabinet for extending the detention period for terror suspects to 90 days.

I have been so angry about the arrogance of the Government in trying to push this through that I have written to my MP, Jim Cousins. He voted against the 90 days, but I wanted to ensure he knew that some people supported his position. The full text of my letter is below. It will be interesting to see what response I receive.

Dear Mr Cousins,

As a member of the Labour Party and a local constituent I would like to express my support for your position on the recently debated anti-terror laws. I was very pleased to see that you had voted against 90 day detentions for terror suspects.

I can appreciate that there may be the need to detain individuals suspected of terrorist activities to prevent such attacks occurring, but a civilised democracy should require that the facts are presented before the courts in order to assure the country that our democratic rights are not being compromised. I am not aware of any direct evidence in support of the 90 days. If Mr Blair and the cabinet are so convinced of the arguments why did they not provide details of any cases where the police have previously not had long enough with a suspect?

Hansard notes Mr Blair as saying, "Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing." Taken in context I find this a very telling statement. The implication is that MPs who vote against the Bill are doing so purely to 'win' or prove a point, not because they have legitimate concerns about the civil rights of their constituents and the potential abuses that could occur if the Bill were enacted. It appears to suggest that it is more important to be seen to supporting the fight against terrorism than to be seen to be defending civil liberties. This worries me considerably as the implication from this debate is that I cannot be a public spirited citizen who is concerned for law and order if I do not support this Bill. Mr Blair has wrongly taken comments in the tabloid press as a mandate for change.

I also understand that Mr Blair has accused some MPs of being out of touch with the public and of failing to face the terror threat. This has been supported by Charles Clarke who has been quoted as saying, "I thought it was important that MPs talk to their constituents over the weekend. That is what I think should happen. And we will have the discussions and we will come forward with detailed proposals early next week."

In reply to his suggestion I would like to confirm as a constituent I am opposed to supporting this measure. I am happy for it to be reconsidered, but with appropriate evidence of why 90 days is required as opposed to 28, 35 or 48 days. I am also concerned that there are all sorts of reasons the police might suspect an innocent person of being a terrorist. For example, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being a work colleague or friend of another suspect etc. Bills such as this do little to reassure me that a balance can be achieved between preventing serious terrorist acts and maintaining a democratic society with protection of civil liberties and freedoms.

Additionally, I am concerned that the proposals to create new offences of encouragement of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications are extremely broadly drafted. They do not require any intention to incite others to commit criminal acts.

I am aware that Liberty has developed suggestions for measures to help address some of the concerns in detaining terror suspects and I encourage you to promote these options as a solution to the current debates. Liberty's proposals include:

• Reviewing the way in which people that have already been charged can be re-interviewed and recharged as further evidence is uncovered. This will allow for a charge to be replaced at a later stage of proceedings with a more appropriate offence.

• A civil court can currently make an order requiring an encryption key to be handed over. Anyone failing to comply with such an order will be in contempt of court and can be detained in custody for a fixed period. This means they do not have to be under arrest with the custody clock running.

• Section 47 of PACE allows for people to be bailed to reappear back at a police station while the police continue investigations. Attaching bail conditions such as curfew, reporting, or the surrender of a passport to Section 47 could enable these powers to apply to terrorism cases.

I urge you to continue voting against a 90 day detention periods unless there is compelling evidence that this is in the public interest or the Government can demonstrate that any suspects will have the opportunity for the case against them to be presented and supported in the courts before any extensions are granted.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tears for Tivo

It was a sad day yesterday as we bid farewell to Tivo. He has been a loyal friend for a few years now but he simply cannot compete with the new boys in town. Yes, he can pinpoint just the kind of programmes he thinks we like, introducing us to The Mighty Boosh, Come Dine With Me, The Thick of It and endless World War 2 documentaries.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with Tivo. The control has got a little clunky and he is quick to delete programmes if not saved straight away, but really the fault lies with the digi-box. We have worked our way through two old on-digital boxes and the time for a new Freeview tuner arose. After weeks of looking the Digifusion twin tuner won out with the added convenience of a built in hard drive. It was not a great deal more than a good quality twin tuner and we weren't sure that Tivo would be able to handle both channels.

If another Tivo machine with twin tuners and slimmed down had been available had we may have been able to update the reliable old friend, but sadly his little antennae won’t be seen waggling again. The new machine has pretty good features but is a more sterile influence, even Tivo’s chirpy little acknowledgments of your commands has vanished.

TVo halved its prices in the US to just $100 (£54), as part of a $50m plan to increase user numbers in August last year. The company wanted to attract 10 million users by 2008. It would be a real shame if they vanished as more rival systems come onto the market. If only they had licensed the interface years ago he may have been around for a few more years to come.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Harry's hot hug!

Time for another picture in the recurring series of Prince Harry. Someone sent me this and I have lost their email – so thanks whoever it was! Another great short of Harry at a polo match. He is obviously pleased with his somewhat aloof team mate. Not as obviously horny as the last one, but very cute.