Rain, Rain, Go Away

There is really only one news story today. The Shire is surrounded by disaster areas. While we are not as badly affected here, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have seen the worst flooding in at least 150 years – and it’s getting worse. The River Severn hasn’t just breached its banks. In places it is five or six times wider than it was last week.

Over 150,000 of homes are without water because the water treatment plant has been flooded. An electrical substation has been shut down, cutting off power to 43,000 homes. The military has been called in stop another substation from flooding, as it would cut off as many as a further 500,000 homes.

The eastern part of the the Shire has been similarly affected, with a pumping station flooded and water cut off since midday yesterday. There is more water coming down the Wye and the rain continues. The worst affected may be the soft fruit farmers, with the polytunnels flooded it could ruin the late summer crops. Parts of Hooterville that have never flooded in living memory have been covered with water. Even though we live much closer to the river, we have not been affected so far.

No Forwarding Address

I seem to have a lot of emails that have just disappeared into the ether between the earth and the moon (a location frequently referenced by my Evidence professor in law school).

I bought some genuine web hosting a couple of days ago (not for this blog, but for some other stuff) and decided to point my holford.org.uk domain at it to restore the old HolfordWeb site. Bad move. When I changed name servers, I lost the MX records where the domain is hosted here. This is bad because the web hosting can’t provide mail service just by me changing name servers on a domain.

So I brought the domain back over and pointed it back to this blog (go ahead, try it) and confirmed all of the mail forwarding. Now sending test emails they don’t kick back as errors, but neither do they forward through. I tried to ring my domain host, but they have been shut for two days because of the flooding, as they are located next to the River Severn.

So I’m stuck in email limbo. The only good thing is that I have been getting a lot less spam.

Giant Role Model

Ever-perceptive, the Grit explains why Homer Simpson is a better fertility symbol than the Cerne Abbas Giant, despite the fact that Pagans are upset Homer has moved in next door.

That’s Entertainment

I don’t live anywhere near London, but I’ve found a political race I can really enjoy. Boris Johnson is running for mayor of the captial city.

London has only had a mayor since 2000 (not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, a ceremonial office held by one of the aldermen of the Square Mile), a position held since that time by Ken Livingstone. Red Ken, as he is affectionately known due to his extremely leftist views, is still the mayor despite his promise to only serve one term. Of course that was after he went back on his promise that he would not run if he wasn’t chosen as the official Labour candidate.

Ken has a reputation for shooting off his mouth and getting himself into hot water. He compared a Jewish reporter working for the Evening Standard to a concentration camp guard and then said the paper was “a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.” When the US Embassy refused to pay the London Congestion Charge because it is a tax and not a charge for a service, he called the US Ambassador a “chiselling little crook.” He invited Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London to speak on schoolgirls wearing the hijab, despite al-Qaradawi’s support for suicide bombers in Palestine.  The list goes on and on, really.

Boris has the larger-than-life personality that can take on Ken. He’s a Tory front-bench spokesman, former magazine editor, columnist for the Daily Telegraph, popular TV personality, and extremely prone to gaffes.  As the Wikipedia article about him accurately describes, “Johnson has an image as a self deprecating, straw-haired eccentric, disorganised and scatty (he once explained the lateness of his work by claiming that, “Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power”).”

He’s had two high-profile extra-marital affairs (in the aftermath of the first one, he was locked out of his house in front of reporters), called the Papua New Guineans cannibals, said Liverpudlians have a “deeply unattractive psyche”, and said Portsmouth is “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs”.  Despite all this and more, he is a very popular character. It is just very difficult not to like Boris.

Yes, if there is anyone who can go toe to toe with Ken Livingstone, it is Boris Johnson. It will be fun to watch.

Five-Minute Education and Five-Day Indoctrination

Any hopes that a Brown Government would stop fiddling with the education system have quickly been deflated. It just gets crazier. Perhaps its down the new departments – with the higher education and adult education split off from schools, the schools minister needs to find things to do with his extra time. So how many ways can he make a bad thing worse?

From yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:

Secondary school pupils will be taught in lessons lasting just five minutes under a radical shake-up of the curriculum that introduces a raft of subjects including Mandarin Chinese and lessons on debt management, it was announced yesterday.

Schools are being encouraged to tear up their timetables and introduce new ways of teaching such as quick bursts of mental arithmetic or spelling and topic-based teaching lasting up to a week. There will be an emphasis on British identity, citizenship and challenges facing the world, such as global warming.

That’s right – five minute lessons. Though still a stretch for the attention span of some, I have to wonder how this will work. So it takes five minutes for them to get to a lesson on the other side of school, five minutes to get them settled, then – oops, lesson over – five minutes to get to the next lesson.

So we have five minutes of mental arithmetic, a bit of Mandarin, and a week of global warming. Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts?

We did a topic-based week last month while the Year 10s were on work experience. In line with the spirit of the age, it was on the environment with enough carbon footprints and anthropogenic global warming to make Al Gore proud. With 2/5 of the school out and only three years of timetable to tear up, it was incredibly difficult, taking hours of cross departmental planning. And that was just for one week.

But that’s what the Government wants. It is much easier to indoctrinate children to a particular agenda if the entire school is tell them the same thing at the same time.

The positive thing about all this is that the Celtic Fringe should be spared. Because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a lot of control over their own education systems, it will probably only apply to England.

Rotherwas Ribbon E-Petition

If you are a UK citizen or resident, you can sign the 10 Downing Street E-Petition to save the Rotherwas Ribbon.

Go on then!

Summer Saturday

It was starting to look a lot like there would be no summer in Britain this year. The last time I was out on a bright and sunny Saturday, I was watching parachutists jump onto the fields outside Sainte-Mère-Église at the beginning of June.

I enjoy going to the city centre on sunny summer Saturdays. We used to always eat sandwiches out in front of Marks and Spencer until Subway arrived and then that became a tradition for awhile. Today we ate at Subway again.

In WH Smith I found the sequel to the book I’m reading. I almost bought it since I haven’t been able to find it at Tesco, but I decided to look on Amazon. I can get the hardcover for £5.15 (including postage) or the paperback for £5.14. That’s nearly £2 cheaper than in the store and I don’t have to go back into town to get it.

After we got back from visiting friends in a nearby village, and the kids had their dinner, bath, and were off to bed, I sat outside in the waning sunlight to read more of my book. I looked up from time to time to see over the river to the cathedral, where the scaffolding has finally been removed. The newly cleaned spires on the four corners of the tower glowed in the evening light. Groups of teenagers sat on the playing fields and a dad was kicking the ball around with a couple of boys who would be too old for that sort of thing too soon.

There are worse places in the world.

I tried not to look at the chain linked fencing that cuts across the ancient meadow, blocking off a large portion occupied on the weekdays by workmen as they prepare to destroy the beauty with unnecessary flood defences. But Asda gave them money build concrete walls and huge earthen mounds to push the water downstream into the houses that have never flooded before and that’s what they are going to do. This is probably the last summer I’ll have the view that came with my mortgage.

Summer or not, being Britain after sunset, the chill in the air got me before the light faded. I found my bookmark and put Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 on hold. Now that I’ve made a cheesecake (from a box, of course) and I’m waiting for that to set, I’ll get back to the story.

I’ll pick up from the line: “I’ll stay sober, sir, I promise,” for he had a whore to bury and general to see.

One day I’ll write stuff like that.

More on Rotherwas

Apologies to anyone who commented on or linked to yesterday’s post about the Rotherwas Ribbon. It was rather hastily deleted rather than edited, as my tagline says, I don’t change things nisi sponsa dissentit.

I can still update things and whilst not mentioning some sensitive things, there is more information in the public domain. As usual we find the local council talking out of both sides of their mouth.

They had announced that there would be special viewing today of the heretofore secret location, but it would limited to 200 people. This was in the local paper which comes out on the Thursday, but which we didn’t get until Friday. By then all the tickets were gone.

Despite news of the Rotherwas Ribbon even reaching my parents’ local newspaper, they have tried to keep this extraordinary discovery very low key. They have been determined not to let this stand in the way of the Rotherwas relief road, a £12 million spur to the local industrial estate that has been built against the wishes of, and without any funding from, central government. The council are already being sued in the High Court because they are building through one of the villages.

Our local paper carried the full front page headline “Rotherwas find as old as Stonehenge – but . . . The road will go on”. The county archaeologist, who clearly knows who writes his cheque supported the covering it over with sand and a membrane before the tarmac is poured and hundreds of heavy goods vehicles drive over it daily for the foreseeable future. The person who just days ago said this was an extraordinary find unique in all of Europe modified his views saying, “We live on a crowded island, with and extraordinarily rich and lengthy history and the landscape is littered with these remains, but we cannot move everything around to avoid them.”

English Heritage, who advise the Government on scheduling monuments, are to view the site Monday. I have no doubt the local council will be with them every step of the way, lobbying against it.

Last night, the Council issued a press release indicating that due to public pressure they will be allowing for more viewings, to be booked through a special hotline number that will be announced next week. They are still determined, however, to “preserve” it in such a way that nobody alive today will be able to see it again.

It is true that the Rotherwas Ribbon might not have been discovered but for the relief road construction. However, the Council have have been just a little disingenuous about the value of their “preservation” plan: “In many ways we’re lucky to discover this before the bulldozers moved in – it was not far below the surface and had we not uncovered it as part of the archaeological work associated with the new access road, the strong possibility is that at least part of it might have been destroyed through ongoing farming practices.” The farming practices have been ongoing for just about all of the several thousand years this thing has previously been covered.

What is also clear now is that the original 60 metres uncovered is only an indeterminate portion of the overall serpent. At least 75 metres has been uncovered extending beyond the original roadway area and there is no indication of where it might end on either side.

There is now a website for the local campaign to properly save the this ancient landmark.

Catholic Church Favours Birthing Hybrid Humanoids

I don’t know how I missed this when it was announced, but the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said women should be allowed to give birth to human-animal hybrids created in the laboratory. The bishops said this in a submission related to the Draft Tissue and Embryos Bill, which overhauls the law regulating fertility treatment and embryo research.

The bishops have said there should be no ban on implanting hybrid embryos in the womb of the woman who supplied the egg. According to their statement: “Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”

This is not to say that the bishops are in favour of hybrids. They oppose creating them, but say if hybrids (or chimera, as they are called) are allowed to be created then they have to be allowed to live. The Church had to make this distinction because one aspect of the legislation that is not up for change is the requirement that any embryos that undergo experimentation must be destroyed within 14 days of fertilisation.

Chimera are not true hybrids of the sperm of one species with the egg of another. This would still not be allowed under the draft legislation. The proposal allows for the introduction of non-human DNA, but the embryo would still be 99.9% human. Perhaps when they are allowed to be 1% non-human and then 5% non-human and then whatever percent can be technologically managed, the Church will have to modify its position. Or not. The current position of the bishops is based upon the view that “At very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.” So a 50.01% human should still be carried to term.

The full response to the draft bill can be downloaded from here.

Twice a Victim

Jacob Smith was a victim of crime and as a result was made a victim of the justice system.

From The Times today:

A shopkeeper has been fined £250 and given a criminal record because he fought back when he was attacked by shoplifters.

Jacob Smyth chased three youths out of his hardware shop in Penzance, Cornwall, when he was set upon. When he was kicked in the groin by one of the hooded youths who had stolen cans of spray paint Mr Smyth hit back.

Police issued fixed penalty tickets to the shoplifters but charged Mr Smyth and a colleague with assault.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to assault at Truro Magistrates’ Court. He claimed after the hearing that he had been advised to plead guilty because otherwise he could have faced a six month prison sentence.

The court was told that Mr Smyth, a father of three, caught the youths stealing the spray cans in October last year. Two of them turned on him and he was kicked in his groin just weeks after a vasectomy operation. He retaliated and punched 18-year-old Craig Spiller to the ground.

So if you are ever attacked two-on-one and kicked in the groin, you must turn the other testicle. Do not defend yourself, or you will face a criminal record.

Teens, Sex, and Consequences

I’m sure it is coincidental that these stories appeared on consecutive days. Yesterday, we learned that teenagers have pushed the abortion rate to a record high in this country and are having a record number of abortions. Today, Department of Health said it had agreed “in principle” that Gardasil should be given to all girls in the first year of secondary school. Most readers will be aware that this is the vaccine against human papilloma virus.

According the Daily Telegraph:

Despite huge Government spending on contraception education, 19-year-olds are now the most likely of any age group to have an abortion, with 35 in every 1,000 having the procedure, according to Department of Health figures.

A total of 40,244 abortions were carried out on girls aged between 15 and 19 years, and 18,691 on girls aged under 18, including 1,042 on under 15-year-olds, 907 on 14-year-olds and 135 on girls under 14.

In total, 3,990 abortions were carried out on girls aged under 16 – the age of consent – last year.

 There were there were 193,737 abortions in England and Wales last year. This is an increase of nearly 4% over 2005.  And over 21% of these were carried out on babies with mothers 19 and under. (I have to disagree with the language used by the Telegraph – its not the mothers who are aborted.) Teens have now ousted the 20- to 24-year-olds as the biggest age group of aborters.

The Government spent £40 million in tax money on contraception education to bring down the abortion rate. Sadly, the one thing they don’t emphasise is that the only way to avoid pregnancy is to avoid sex. But how can they do that when political representatives are fornicators, teachers are fornicators, parents are fornicators, and the Government pays for entertainment programming on television and radio which openly and aggressively promotes fornication? How is any teenager going to keep their legs closed if everyone they know, see, and respect has theirs splayed open?

Now I am all for preventing cancer. Gardasil works best if it is introduced before girls are sexually active and especially before they are exposed to HPV. It is part of the sad commentary on teen sex that they have to get them at 11 in order to make sure they gotten most of them protected.

And I have to say I’ve no doubt it will serve as another green light to the safeness of sex as a game and a toy. That pubescent boys in an amoral society see it like this is no surprise, but that is exactly how it is viewed by many girls by the time they are even in Year 8 (7th grade).  By Year 10 (when the topics I teach include cohabitation, contraception, and abortion) many of them are aggressive about their sexuality and against any suggestion that there is any reason, moral or otherwise, to curb their appetites. It is truly frightening.

Putting Beliefs into Action

“We were shopping in Tescos, right, and these foreigners, right, got the last Cokes and put ’em in their trolley. My mum, right, took ’em out of their trolley and put ’em in ours. Why should they get everything? It should be English people first and then foreigners can have whatever’s left.”

There was not a single voice of disapproval in the classroom this morning, other than my own.

In the Gutter

Crawley Borough Council wardens are just a tad ticket happy. They recenly fined the grandmother of a two-year-old who dropped a packet of crisps. The bag was retrieved quick enough, but two Quavers fell out of the bag.

Wardens watched in disbelief as Barbara Jubb kicked the crisps into the gutter. Springing into action, they may have even gotten to her before the ephemeral puffed snacks disintegrated into oblivion as a gutter-kicked Quaver would invariably do.

Now let me tell you, there is no Quaver kicking in Crawley. Mrs Jubb was slapped with an £80 fine. Onlookers at a bus stop couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Fortunately, someone a little further up the ladder recognised that this was just a little over the top. A spokesperson said, “We have apologised to the family for being overzealous and are happy to have cancelled the fine.”

Malice Aforethought

There was a police action shooting in London yesterday. 

A statement was released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission: “The Metropolitan Police Service notified the Commission that a man had been shot, following a pre-planned operation.”

Are the Met sending out hit squads now?

The Price of an NICE English Postcode

The postcode lottery strikes again.

One of the advatages of devolution for Scots is that they may no longer be tied to England for the worst cancer survival rates in Western Europe. The approval of drugs available on the NHS is down to the Scottish Medicines Consortium. England and Wales is governed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The Scots have approved the use of cetuximab and docetaxel for head and neck cancer. Drug trials have shown that cetuximab (also know by the brand name Erbitux) plus radiotherapy survive for an average of just over 4 years, compared with less than two and a half years for those treated with radiation alone. Nice says it costs too much for what you get. Tough luck.

As I mentioned back in January, Erbitux has already been rejected by NICE for use in bowel cancer. It seems that Nice and the NHS have found a good way to keep the socialised medicine fiscally viable. All you have to do is let all the cancer patients die off and there are fewer people putting a drain on resources.

When I hear about how much more compassionate enlightened British socialism is when compared with the big bad USA, I just think of all the people here who die due to rationed health care. And if you are in the US, remember that this is what Hillary wants for you, too.