Archive for Politics

The Thought Box

Posted in craft, Craft Post, My So-Called Life, My Thoughts on X Thing, Politics, Thought Box with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/11/2009 by phyrbyrd

Another ‘it’s been a while’ post – apologies, it has been a while. There are a couple of reasons for this – one is that my life has been rather hectic lately, the other is that I’ve honestly been trying to get together a good coherent post but really my thoughts are too fragmented at the moment to do so – this happens to me a lot, so I’m just going to give you the fragmented thoughts in the hope that you find those interesting.

First of all, I had two of my wisdom teeth out a few days ago. The operation itself was a snap – they put me under, and afterwards I came round with a minimum amount of wooziness, was chatty and chirpy within a couple of hours and after a night’s observation,* was sent home. However, now the right side of my face is all swollen, eating a meal is a chore and sleeping is increasingly broken, and after being informed that this isn’t actually all that normal, I’m going to the dentist to check that I don’t have an abcess. IT NEVER ENDS.

I had no idea people normally get sent home with antibiotics after a wisdom-tooth-ectomy or whatever they call it, but I’m not surprised I didn’t. The hospital I went to had to phone out to check whether the stitches would dissolve, and couldn’t tell me how to clean my teeth post-operation. I’m not saying they were incompetent – I’m saying they were hideously underfunded. The nurses were lovely, sweet and friendly,** but the beds had very, very minimal bedding and what blankets there were were mostly fraying. The NHS is one of the most underfunded things this country has; it’s also one of the most precious things we have. It should at least be able to afford a whole blanket for every hospital bed.

And across the pond, America is on its way to getting government health care. This is a good thing. I can’t understand why a lot of Americans seem to think it’s a bad thing – I guess the freedom to go bankrupt because you fell ill is a basic human right? So Obama’s having to fight every step of the way to get this through. And one of the things that’s happened is that the Stupak Amendment has passed. Basically, if you’re an American woman, and you’re not rich, abortion is now illegal. This is hideous, and I can only hope on behalf of my American friends that Obama fixes it quickly.

Obama, of course, can’t fix everything – that’s been one of his big problems, lately. Everyone expected that he would fix everything, clean up the mess Dubya left behind – but he is, after all, only human, and America has a senate, not a monarchy. Obama cannot just say ‘do this’ and have it be done – there is a hell of a lot of due process first. There is a lot he has not yet delivered, but at the end of his first year, I actually think he’s done pretty well, considering. Apart from the Stupak thing.

On a different note, I spent a while today with my stepfather, hereafter known as the Mad Scientist, and his best friend the Hardened Cynic. I was at the Mad Scientist’s house, where I spend a lot of time, and it’s a nice, relaxing place to be – Mad Scientist is free with tea, coffee and conversation, and so a lot of people come and go. At one point Mad Scientist’s brother, Crazy Artist, turned up, and, as is his wont, started to rant. Now, the people around this house generally have at least one pet theory or another, they’re usually very intelligent people*** and I have reason to respect a lot of them, if not to take them seriously all the time. Most of them have known me at least since I was in high school and so it’s taken a little while to pluck up enough confidence in my own intelligence and research skills to be able to offer my own input. And normally it is taken on board and given as much airtime as anyone’s – except by Crazy Artist.

Crazy Artist is a ranter. He talks down to me, will not let me finish and assumes I know nothing. Apparently he does this to everyone and I take it too personally – maybe I do, but talking to him always ends in me seething. I have been told that Hardened Cynic is also a ranter who talks down to people as though they were ten – but Hardened Cynic offers me respect. He allows me to finish my sentences. More than that, Hardened Cynic is one of my dearest friends – he was one of the people who was there every day when I was seriously ill, he has seen me at my lowest. He offers me criticism that I can take gladly, because it feels honest, and he also tells me when I do well. Crazy Artist has an art degree, and I don’t show him my work anymore because his attitude is always, ‘Meh, it’s OK – and this is what’s wrong with it.’

I will do my very best not to rise to Crazy Artist’s bait next time – even Mad Scientist is saying maybe I should slap him.

Anyway, I leave you with, at the bottom of the post, one of the things I’m most proud of – a clothespin doll I made in 2007. This one was actually the second stop on a process that started with me wondering how elaborate I could make a peg doll – the first one was made in 2006, and I shall show her to you another day. This one was made a year later to check how far my skills had evolved. I think I might make one of these every now and again just as a periodic skill check.

* – Due to my epilepsy and possible effects post-general anaesthetic, they wanted to keep me in for a night under observation.

** – When I was in for three weeks in 2006 with pneumonia, I passed the time mostly by complaining – I consider NHS nurses to be absolute saints.

*** – Although occasionally inclined to tinfoil-hattery.

Autumn Angel - November 2007

Autumn Angel - November 2007


The Return of Me – and why I’m not buying a poppy this year

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing, Politics with tags , , , , , , on 28/10/2009 by phyrbyrd

Well, here I am back again, fully installed, or very nearly so, in my very own Tower of Solitude – or, me plus the cat.

The Fuzzbutt herself

Say hello, Bizkit.

All is peachy, or will be when I get these wisdom teeth out next week and can stop chewing garlic and clove oil (yech) to take the pain away.

So, humourous cat pictures aside, I did actually have a decently serious subject today. Y’see, soon it’s going to be Remembrance Day.  A bunch of you guys overseas* have this too, you might call it Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day or something else. Here, pretty much everyone goes around for a while beforehand with a paper poppy in their lapel, and they keep the silence at eleven in the morning on that day.

Which I will not be doing this year.

There are several reasons for this, some of them fairly petty, but they’re just add-ons to the real reasons. So we’ll start with the petty reasons first, get them out of the way, shall we?

First of all, a paper flower on my coat is not going to last five seconds, because I wear a large bag on a long strap, with the strap across my body to stop it falling off. I used to put my poppy on my hat instead, but this year’s autumn hat is one of those black fleece ones with the devil horns so it’d just fall off really fast. Second, I’m not likely to be awake at eleven AM on any given day, especially a Sunday. I normally miss the silence anyway, even if I do buy a poppy. OK, petty enough? Good, let’s move on.

Right, it’s not that I do not give a damn about the soldiers and the things they are suffering. I know that Remembrance Day is in remembrance of war dead since World War I, and the proceeds go towards helping old and injured soldiers. But they shouldn’t need it. And the war we are in now? We shouldn’t be there. Who is going to remember all the civilian dead in the Afghan and Iraq wars? Their dead and injured dwarfs ours. And why are we there? It used to be because we were looking for a terrorist, now it’s something nebulous about ‘it’s too complicated to leave now’.**

But this isn’t an Afghanistan rant, it’s a Poppy Day rant. Remember I said veterans shouldn’t need Poppy Day funds for their care? They shouldn’t. They should be cared for by the state, the government which sent them to risk their lives in service of this country. They shouldn’t be treated like old dishragscast aside once they’re no longer useful.

I will not wear a poppy this year because the poppy has ceased to mean anything much. It’s just a paper flower. There are a few stories about the World Wars attached to it, but unless it brings any benefit to the people it was created to represent, I will never wear one again.

* – This is me pretending I have masses of international readers at this point. A girl can dream.

**- It’s about oil.

Vetting and Barring: Is Hypothetical Woman a Pedophile?

Posted in Children, Politics with tags , , , on 15/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

So from October 2009 – next month, for Uncle Doctor and the rest of you clam-examiners – the British government will implement, through an Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) something it calls the Vetting and Barring Scheme. According to the Telegraph, the new law  requires everyone who has regular contact with children, as a result of an association with some form of organisation other than their family, to be approved by the Government after registering on a state-run database. This will cost the person being approved £64 – a one-off fee that is waived for volunteers – and the fine for not getting checked is £5000.

A lot of people are citing the Soham murders – they do this every time children at risk are mentioned, since it’s a high-profile case like Baby P and Madeleine McCann. But the Vetting and Barring scheme likely wouldn’t have done a damn thing in the Soham case – Ian Huntley slipped through the net because his criminal records were destroyed by the police. No scheme is perfect.

But people already have to be checked.  The subject was brought up and discussed extensively this week on BBC4’s Any Questions, and the armed forces minister, Bill Rammell MP, when asked whether we would now need a government check to take a neighbour’s kids to football, had this to say:

Bill Rammell MP: “My clear understanding is that if it is a personal arrangement with friends, with neighbours (…) if it is an agreement with those two families, then that will not, er, the Barring and Vetting scheme (sic) will not apply. If it is a voluntary activity, with a voluntary organization, I think parents would expect that organization to have carried out some checks, and that’s what this is all about.”

Jonathan Dimbleby: “Can’t they – forgive me – we’ve got the Criminal Records Bureau checks already there that they can utilize if they wish to, and most do?”

Well, Mr. Dimbleby has a point – he usually has rather a lot, come to that. And the Vetting and Barring scheme doesn’t make the CRB checks obsolete. Any Questions is usually better for a laugh than anything else, but in the session relating to this particular programme, one of the callers was a piano teacher who said that she had three seperate CRB checks and had friends with six, even thirteen, since a different check is needed for every school or group. They cost £36 each, which the schools pay – money which could, on the whole, be used for things like computer labs and playing fields. Don’t people communicate anymore? Can’t this just be put on a record that they could take with them? Are these checks nailed to the school walls?

I personally do not have children and do not intend to have children – this kind of thing is one of the many, many reasons why not*. The only kid I regularly come into contact with is the daughter of one of my mother’s friends, who I am giving sewing lessons to once a week because she wants to learn and comes up to my standards of ‘people I can stand to be in my space’. I’m given to understand from Bill Rammell’s statement above that I don’t need to be vetted to continue giving free sewing lessons to Kid Stitchy, as she will henceforth be known, but if I’m wrong? I’m on benefits, where the hell am I gonna get £5000?

But this is not my major beef with this. Let’s say hello to Hypothetical Woman (hi, Hypothetical Woman!). Hypothetical Woman not only has a sidekick – her daughter, Concept Girl – she teaches at the Abstract School for Potential Superheroes, as a volunteer. She has her CRB check, and when the Vetting and Barring scheme comes in she’ll be checked by them too – all good superheroines abide by the law, after all.

But Concept Girl is wary of her. She’s wary, in fact, of every adult in the world, and refuses to allow Hypothetical Woman to hug her goodbye when she goes to class – Hypothetical Woman’s co-worker, Random Guy, glares at her when he sees her trying and demands she gets her CRB check renewed. All parents are checked, all contact with children is viewed as bad and everyone is seen as a potential pedophile.

Finally, Dr. X. Ample takes over the country and passes a new law, demanding that all children be brought up by the state unless the parents can pass a vigorous test that proves they are fit to raise their children in the sterile, unfeeling way the government demands.

Yes, this is an extreme image. But instead of being innocent until proven guilty, this law assumes that everyone is a pedophile and so must prove that they are not. SERIOUSLY, the problem is NOT as widespread as the papers would have us believe. I got through childhood without being molested, so did my five siblings and all my friends. If I were to believe the media, statistically speaking at least me or one of my siblings should have been abused in childhood. Not every corner has a pedophile on it, and – especially this – not all men are kiddyfiddlers. Seriously, is anybody surprised at the decline in Scout leaders when every Scout leader is painted as abusing the boys in their charge? It’s become almost as bad a stereotype as the Catholic priesthood, with not nearly as much justification.

But I’m ranting. I started college this morning, I’m quite tired and this issue makes me quite angry.

* – Childfree post likely coming eventually.

REFERENCES: (programme may become unavailable)