Blue passports, really? Sigh.

The way that the gutter press try to manipulate the real world sometimes makes me very cross.

Take passports for example, certain sections of the press and politicians have been making an enormous song and dance about the colour of the cover on British passports and have consistently blamed the EU for the change from navy blue to burgundy. This is of course in line with their general antagonism about the EU and their vehement attacks on anyone who suggest that leaving the EU is not a good idea.

Lets get one thing straight here: the referendum result which led to starting the process of leaving Europe is firstly, not democratic and secondly, about the worst decision that the UK government have ever made and will inevitably lead to a decline in the British economy.

Anyway, back to passports: one of the things that the likes of the Sun or the Daily Fail neglect to mention, for some reason, is that the colour of the passport is not set by the EU – shock horror! In fact the colour can be chosen by the country concerned -almost all European passports are the same burgundy but there is no directive which says that they have to be that colour; Croatia’s for example, are blue. As it happens, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the ISO issues standards for passport design, and they don’t stipulate a colour.

You know, there are many more important issues relating to Brexit that could do with some sensible discussion in the press, but let’s face it, large parts of the mainstream media care far more about profits than they do about accurate and sensible reporting.

So all the squealing about EU overreach and the recent political posturing by Theresa May with her press release on how British passports will change colour on leaving the EU is, like much of the rest of the shouting by Brexiteers, based on lies. 

Drinking limits – how many units do you drink?

So, it looks like Dame Sally and Public Health England have been playing fast and loose with the facts about safe drinking levels, according to reports about different versions of the stats used to justify the lowering of the limits, as well as accusations of PHE applying pressure to the research group to change the results to suit the PHE’s desired outcome.

It’s not a surprise if you read a bit of background at the time the limits were changed, as they made no sense and were out of step with limits and information from other places around the world. Other research did not back up the claims by PHE and showed much less harm and in fact a hint of benefits from very low levels of drinking, which made claims that “there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption” look completely out of step.

The Sheffield research group behind all this do not seem to be held in high regard by other researchers amid claims of poor quality research and inaccurate reporting and there is definitely a feeling of a prohibitionist mindset in the group’s output.

Letter to America

[Yep, I know what you’re thinking, starts a blog then doesn’t update it for yonks, guilty as charged. It’s not like I’m short of opinions but somehow time slips by and before you know it, it’s been months.]

So what’s been going on? 

First of all: America, what have you done? Normal people, at least those out here in the civilised world, cannot believe that you have been so stupid as to elect Donald Trump as your president! Blimey! I know it has been quite a few months now so I’m sure the guilt has been settling in to many of those who voted for him. On the positive side, the chances of him making it through 4 whole years look pretty small. If the Russian involvement doesn’t lead to impeachment, maybe the racist, white power supporting twitter outbursts will help you get rid of him.

The sensible element in America must be absolutely mortified by now, not to mention ashamed of the way your country has been damaged by the Donald’s childish tantrums. Paris Agreement anyone? North Korea? Many sports have a disciplinary position for “bringing [insert activity here] into disrepute”. Well, let’s face it, Donald the Dotard has been doing that in spades, and the reputation, not to mention the credit rating, of the USA has suffered tremendously. In fact, it’s not too strong a position to say that America has become a laughing stock. 

You haven’t helped yourselves with that affront to Democracy known as the Electoral College. Come on people, try and become a proper democracy and get rid of it before your next election, otherwise who knows what will happen.

Of course he’s not acting on his own, because you poor saps have a full on racist, homophobic, bigoted party mostly running American politic Yes, it’s the Republican party, a collection of rich white businessmen whose only aim is to make themselves and their businesses richer, however badly it harms the less well off segment of society. Look at the desperate way they want to get rid of Obamacare – no, they don’t have a sensible alternative to offer and yes, it will result in millions of citizens being without healthcare, many of whom will die as a result, but hey, it was installed by a black man so let’s get rid of it. 

Anyway, once again religion is behind a lot of it, because these rich white guys are also Christians™ which means that despite your constitution forbidding religious interference in Federal affairs, their belief means that anything they do to impose their stone age philosophy on everybody else, believers or not, is justified. Gott mit uns!

Here in more civilised places, more and more, religion is assuming its proper place in society, that is being largly ignored and definitely not being allowed to affect laws intended for all citizens, religious or not. It’s way past the time that religious nutters, (because religious belief is a mental health issue) can impose their antiquated and intolerant beliefs on a population that mostly no longer believe.

“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

Denis Diderot*”

That’s all for now folks, cheers!


[* Yes, I know that quote is probably apocryphal, but it does summarise his position nicely and besides, it’s too good a sentiment not to use]



UK drinking limits

The new recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the UK have proved contentious. Dame Sally Davies, the UK Chief Medical Officer has come out with some new much lower limits and included a few things which don’t add up. For example, the UK is now the only country in the world which recommends the same limits for both men & women. Apparently her motivation is that drinking is so dangerous that men should be pushed to reduce their intake to the same as women even though there is no medical reason for it!

She also managed to severely damage her credibility when during the launch of the new limits she told the assembled press that there was no medical benefit to drinking small amounts of alcohol and that the idea was an urban myth. Very interesting statement to come from a scientist who you would expect to be up to date with the literature on the subject as several good quality studies do actually show such an effect. You can read the Spectator Health article on this as a quick source.

Frankly her pronouncements about the dangers of the demon drink have become increasingly deranged and she has certainly seriously exaggerated the risks. All in all she gives a good impression that she is part of the prohibitionist lobby, like Alcohol Concern, and she won’t be happy until alcohol is banned completely. That’s been tried before somewhere hasn’t it, and that didn’t turn out well either!

Jeremy Hunt and the NHS

I was quite appalled to read today that Jeremy Hunt has imposed a contract on the NHS despite vocal opposition from the 55,000 doctors involved. Apart from the bullying, it raises many questions about his motives for doing so. Let’s face it, he’s made no secret of the fact that he would like to see our NHS changed from a national service to one based on individual insurance policies. This really has to make him the most unsuitable person to be in charge of the NHS. He claims that it will benefit patients but his arguments so far don’t bear scrutiny – you can’t increase the amount of cover provided without also increasing the resources and so far his strategy for that seems to be “work the doctors harder!”.

Certainly my feeling is that I will believe 55,000 doctors before I believe Jeremy Hunt. Reminds me about the old joke:

Q: How do you when a politician is lying?

A: His mouth is moving!

You only have to look at the USA, which already uses this unfair system, to see the results: a country with the most advanced medical care in the world but where regular access to that care is only available to the rich! It’s almost unbelievable that in the richest country in the world people die from preventable and treatable medical conditions just because they are poor. I’m sure that most developing countries manage to do better. It certainly makes you wonder how much money Hunt is getting from the private health care sector to promote this system.