Electability? There’s only one choice left

Well. That’s that. Thanks to the #LabourPurge there is now only one electable Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone else who wins will have won dirty, and needing egregious and public cheating on your behalf makes you unelectable at the next level up. But even before that Corbyn was the most electable simply because the other candidates were too lightweight to come up with an answer fo him,

Continue reading

Why safe spaces for social awkwardness are worrying

On Facebook, a friend just shared a link about the idea that Geekdom being a place where socially shunned males are free to be themselves is a radical rewriting of history. that erases women. The link is true as far as it goes; there are many many influential female Geeks that Tauriq Moosa missed out including Verity Lambert, Grace Hopper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But there are two other extremely important points I want to make.

Geekdom is thought of by some as the only place where socially shunned males can be safe and be themselves. I am a socially awkward male geek who sometimes has all the tact of a rhino in a china shop (a bull in a china shop turning out not to be that bad). But I don’t want a pure safe space simply because I’m awkward and mess up. When I mess up I want to know about it so I can try to do better next time. I do want somewhere I can share interests and a sense of fun, and that it has its own rules is a good thing. But that’s a different issue.

It’s hugely different because the single easiest way for someone to hide being deliberately harmful is behind a veneer of awkwardness.

Don’t think it could happen in geek circles? We’re going to talk about two alpha-geeks from the 60s. A married couple, in fact. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (OK, who spotted the hook in the first paragraph?) In geek circles, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a famous and prolific SF and fantasy author, ran several fanzines, gave numerous authors their start in her various anthology collections, and much much more. Together they were founders of the Eastern chapter of the SCA – and Walter went on post-divorce to become an extremely influential coin collector. They were both highly influential members of various deep subcultures and put a lot of work in.

Walter Breen died in prison for child abuse. Marion admitted helping him commit and cover up his crimes in court.

***TRIGGER WARNING – child abuse, child rape – the links in the following paragraph are detailed about some aspects of the abuse. I’m going to talk about how and why.***

Continue reading

A guide to tactical voting for pragmatists

“I want to vote Green, but it might let the Tories/Lib Dems in.” – a common refrain for anyone who spends long round the Green Party. I used to hear simmilar round the Liberal Democrats, and I’m sure some UKIP supporters hear the same thing.This is very seldom the case as our First Past the Post system has many issues.

In March 2015, the Electoral Reform Society declared the results of 364 of the 650 (56%) seats being contested. Their equivalent prediction in 2010 was 99.5% accurate (they  can’t predict personal scandals in the run up to the election). It’s unusually low this year due to the unprecidented rise of the SNP.

So where does tactical voting make sense? And in specific where will voting Green give the Tories a chance of getting in? To find out, we’re going to look at the Labour Party’s own numbers, as leaked to Buzzfeed last month. Continue reading

I get by with a little help from my friends

In my last post about healthcare costs I compared the amount spent under the British system to bills from the American system, and it was far my most popular post so far.  One of the most popular questions was about costs by procedure or condition, something which lead me to do a little research as last time I checked the American data simply wasn’t available – it now is.

Continue reading

How much is that cystectomy in the window?

There are regularly stories (either in the news or viral) about how much American healthcare costs.  I’ve blogged in the past about some of the causes.  British healthcare is free at the point of delivery, so the patient doesn’t see the cost and people don’t know how expensive healthcare should be.  But British internal prices are public information, so it’s easy to see approximately how much things cost in a well-run health service.

The prices do, however, need some interpreting and the government’s “simple guide” runs to 72 pages.  I’m going to explain the system in a single (long) blog post.  And then I’m going to take estimates of how much a British hospital bill would get for each of the linked hospital costs.  The current costs are here (next year’s includes a 3.8% “efficiency saving” (read: underfunding)).

Continue reading

The value of a well-fitted suit

No knowledge is useless, and the world is fascinating.  Even knowledge about the most seemingly inconsequential information can be incredibly revealing as I found out recently, and am going to share.  A working knowledge of fashion shows a lot of what was wrong with what looked initially like an incredibly successful, powerful, and effective empire: The Third Reich, and its snappy uniforms.

Urban legend says they had great dress sense and it’s a pity they had Hugo Boss working for them, and his sense of style.  (For the record he worked for the Nazi Party, not the Wehrmacht).  Urban legend also says the Germans were great engineers and equipped their troops well early in the War.  Looking at the standard Wehrmacht uniform (the M36 Feldbluse) we’re going to see whether this is true or whether it demonstrates a lot of what was wrong with the Nazi mindset.

Continue reading

Progress through Blood and Fire

It’s December 1.  I’ve just seen my first brass band of the year and seen my first red kettle.  Which means that it’s about time for the annual “Don’t give to the Salvation Army” posts to start appearing.  I wrote up why a couple of years ago.  (There are of course plenty of others around the net).  But this is not that post.  This is instead one to say “We’re winning”. Continue reading

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

The Ferguson Riots are not just about the shooting of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson.  Yes, that particular tragedy is the trigger.  But it’s not the whole cause.  There are two immediate causes; the first being the shooting of an unarmed black man by a cop,  The second being the second.  Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not exactly a new thing.  The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was making darkly funny jokes about it in the early 1990s.  (At the time I, as a middle class WASP living in a country where we seldom armed our cops despite an ongoing terrorism campaign thought the joke was entirely on the overreaction to the presence of the cop; I wish that I’d been right rather than not yet even a teenager and growing up in a family where I’ve heard someone unironically claim “British Police are the best in the world“)

But the cause of the protests and riots were the Grand Jury, after being given all the evidence, proclaiming that there wasn’t a case against Darren Wilson.  Something which sounds reasonable, after all, they were a Grand Jury and they were asked to look at all the evidence.
Continue reading

Communication and Audiences

Communication matters – and if you take text out of context all you have left is a pretext.  Who is speaking to whom and why matters – and there are many words and phrases that mean things other than their literal meaning.  Words have also changed their meaning over the course of history, and a lot of confusion can be created when different cultures meet and use the same words for different contexts.  A good example here of what happens when you take away context would be the apparent anti semitism in the Gospel of John; the author was writing as a Jew mostly to fellow Jews saying “Look what we did.”  Take away that  context and reading it encourages people to write vile documents like Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies.

As an aside, this is one reason I write the way I do – I know that I will never meet the whole audience for this blog and likely not visit all the countries I’ve already had readers from – so I attempt to build a narrative that as many people as possible can read.  It may make my writing discursive and prone to rambling so I hope you’ll all bear with me.
Continue reading

The Corral: Medical Practice

This is the first post in the Corral – the space for my thoughts on certain matters that go round in circles, are related to ethics, and are not ultimately going to go anywhere, but may be useful.

There is a medical procedure that I find revolting to even think about.  It is one I can’t see why anyone would actually want, but some do and others even go so far as to fetishise.  It is regrettably medically necessary and even life saving for some, but commonly leads to depression in those who have it.  And I would expect almost all decent people to agree with me that we should work together to try to wipe it out.  Unfortunately if we try to ban it, those who desperately need it will perform it on themselves.

I refer, of course, to limb amputation.  What did you think I was talking about?

The parallels to abortion are close.  Abortion is a procedure that is medically necessary and that I find squicky.  It is also a procedure that the poor unfortunate women who need will give themselves if they find it necessary.  Like the trap mentioned that would force someone to cut their own arm off, there are two jaws: Unwanted Pregnancy and Impossible Circumstances.

Unwanted Pregnancy

Unwanted pregnancy is the obvious factor.  Abstinence only sex education doesn’t work. (That’s studies from six successive years – I can’t be bothered to go back further).  And people aren’t going to stop having sex – before the 20th Century, Foundlings (abandoned babies) were a fact of life – and in its first four years, the Foundling Hospital in London accepted 15,000 foundlings.  There always has been unwanted pregnancy.

The main thing known to lower the rate of unwanted pregnancy, the simplest, and the most effective is contraception.  Preferably free contraception.  (Banning abortion has no effect on the abortion rate).  And almost all contraceptive methods that say may prevent implantation say so on the “may contain nuts” principle.  They might but no mechanism has been proven that they do and the known methods account for what happens.

Yes, that includes the Combined Pill (which inhibits ovulation and thickens the lining of the mucus – this being sufficient to account for all the effectiveness of The Pill), the IUD/Copper Coil (which makes the environment toxic for both sperm and egg), the hormonal coil (which is just the Pill delivered another way), and even Plan B/Levonorgestrol (the “Morning After Pill” prevents ovulation which is why it isn’t always reliable) and Ella/Ulipristal Acetate (prevents both ovulation and when that fails prevents the egg opening to receive the sperm for five days – long enough for the sperm to die off which is why it’s more effective than Plan B but also makes the person who took it fertile late in the cycle).  The only method that actually prevents implantation is the copper coil used as emergency contraception after the fertilisation has already occurred.

So to prevent the jaw of Unwanted Pregnancy being closed, the method is obvious.  Contraception for all, free at point of delivery.  (And that includes the Morning After Pill and Ella).  But this brings us to the other jaw.

Impossible Circumstances

As a man, I’m glad I will never be pregnant.  Something growing inside me for nine months, using my bodily resources, upsetting my balance and everything else, and then coming out in a painful way, stretching parts of my anatomy to the limit in an intense physical process that as often as not requires a hospital stay (I may work in a hospital but that doesn’t mean I want to be a patient!)

The most obvious impossible circumstance to carry a pregnancy to term is when it would kill the mother – even Roman Catholic doctrine says to abort in this case.  Yes, I know the official reasoning is that you can remove the fallopian tube and the baby is only incidentally aborted.  And?  It’s still an abortion; this justification is obvious sophistry.

The next most obvious is economic circumstances.  Even if the baby is given up for adoption, a pregnancy is expensive – and physically constraining.  (For all I’m saying about the Roman Catholic Church, I’ll give credit where it’s due on this point ).  Most women who seek abortions do so because they do not believe they can afford to keep the baby – a fact born out by over three quarters of those refused abortions being on the dole a year later as against under half of those who have abortions, despite initially similar circumstances.

Further, social circumstances are also a tie; having to look after someone dependent on you makes you more likely to be dependent on someone else, and gives other people a hold over you, making you more likely to stay in an abusive relationship.  The above links all are empirical findings on what actually happens with a sample of a thousand, comparing those accepted and denied abortions.

To open this jaw of the trap and prevent the poor woman cutting off her arm to save herself, the answer should be obvious.  Better protection and provision for the poor and the abused.  Social justice all the way actually lowers the abortion rate.

The Elephant in the Room

We’ve already been through the fact that banning abortion doesn’t actually lower the abortion rate.  We’ve been through the fact that contraception and real (i.e. not “abstinence only”) sex education works. We’ve been through that social justice works to lower the demand.

But the opposition to abortion comes from one claimed source.  Opposition to killing babies.  Unfortunately this doesn’t stack up – there appears to (as Fred Clark pointed out) be literally no attempt to save the foetuses that would spontaneously abort.  It’s likely that 75% of all pregnancies miscarry which makes this far and away the greatest killer the world has ever seen.  Cancer?  Nothing.  Small pox?  Small change, more like (even if it wasn’t the one disease we’d cured).    AIDS?  Only a little help.

Far and away the largest killer in the world if you believe that a foetus is a baby.  If life begins at conception, flood the research labs with money to cure this killer.  And support contraception – it divides the death rate by forty when used – or could prevent more than two thirds of worldwide deaths.

But this doesn’t happen. Those “pro-life” don’t seem to care for what they claim are babies at all – they merely focus on one very minor cause of death.  As the opposition to abortion therefore can’t be about saving babies lives, the reason must be something else.

Edit: Apparently British pharmacists can deny emergency contraception.  Because they labour under the belief it’s abortion.  (via)