Friday, January 29, 2010

so why was she in court?

"If you have a body...then it has to be tested in court."

That's what Anne Widdecombe said on TV earlier this week on another subject, but it provides a perfect answer to the question Caroline Gammell posed in the Telegraph: Why was Kay Gilderdale in court charged with attempted murder?

A month after the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines on assisted suicide that SPUC said "legally downgrade the right to life of disabled or terminally-ill people", Kay Gilderdaleread why protection against assisted suicide must stay on John Smreaton's blog's daughter Lynn - who had chronic myalgic encepalopathy (ME or chronic fatigue syndrome - took an overdose of her prescribed morphine, at which point Gilderdale mater then fed her sleeping-pills and antidepressants and injected air into her veins. She was cleared by a jury on Monday 25 January.

My first reaction to the headline was to wonder why the woman might not be in court for attempted murder at least, but it was interesting to read on and find out that a spokesman for another mother who had killed her child shortly beforehand commented: "Frances’s conviction and sentence were wrong and for this lady it seems they have got it right".

The lady in question is Frances Inglis, who is also referenced in the Guardian's treatment of the Mrs Gildpolice pic of Frances Inglis - click to read how jurors were heckled in courterdale, where we learn that Mrs Inglis bought two grams of heroin from dealers and injected her son with it.

The Disability Matters blog, however, fleshes out some details about what happened after Inglis' son, became brain-damaged after either falling out of or jumping from the ambulance that had come for him after he'd been in a fight:
Frances Inglis...immediately became obsessed with ending his life, repeatedly making the case to anyone who would listen that she did not think any treatment was in her son's best interest. She visited her son almost constantly and was described by Thomas’ brother, Alexander, as "obsessive and negative."

Only 10 days after the accident, Inglis decided that she had to “put her son out of his misery.” So she injected him with a lethal dose of morphine. While Thomas was successfully resuscitated, he had been without oxygen long enough that his brain damage was much worse...Out on bail, a condition of which was that she go nowhere near Thomas, she disguised herself as Thomas' aunt, fooled the nurses, and injected Thomas with a fatal dose of heroin.
Two grams of heroin is a prodigious amount but, even if only a quarter-pure, it would be a massive overdose. One only hopes that the material with which the heroin was "cut" - and cut it certainly was, as she bought it from dealers - wasn't medically active click here if you're having problems with heroinand didn't cause any seizures as the boy passed away.

Pro-euthanasia campaigners would reply that if physician-assisted suicide were legal, Thomas would have been given pharmaceutical diamorphine (heroin), but, given the material above, it's by no means certain that a doctor would have considered Thomas eligible - although in a chilling caveat, Richard Normington quotes Dr Reginaclick to read Doctors who Kill by Regina Dwyer on the New York Times site Dwyer's conclusion to a New York Times article on doctors who kill:
In the end, we doctors are no different than the rest of you. We probably turn killer less often than most other occupations. But our ranks have and will always include the deeply flawed, the greedy, the delusional, bunglers, rationalizers and just plain sociopaths - like every other population.
But the issue isn't doctor-assisted suicide, as opposed as I am to that. It's how we prevent, in some cases, abuse of the effective power that members of the above categories have to kill the sick relative of their choice, and in others - given assisted-suicide supporter Jamie Dettmer's assertion that Mrs. Gilderdale had sought to dissuade her bedridden daughter, Lynn, from wanting to end [her] life - people wracked by pain and despair and in crisis from unintentionally applying emotional blackmail upon their loved ones to act with lethal effect upon them.

James Stewart as Buttons: click for an analysis of the sad clown in cultureI'm sure Kay Gilderdale and Frances Inglis are, possibly in different ways, occupying somewhere resembling hell right now. Cecil B De Mille, for example, in his 1952 The Greatest Show on Earth, presented a visual interpretation of a self-assumed mark of Cain in Buttons the Clown's smiley face perpetually masking the lugubrious demeanour of somebody who has "killed the thing he loved".

That's why killing sick or disabled people, although it has always happened, has always been fenced in by a taboo which the Establishment is dismantling to all of our peril.

And, for all the guidelines revolving around assisted suicide and living wills, that's why Kay Gilderdale was in court charged with attempted murder.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

...all change?

thanks to Cambridge Cycling Campaign for the pic - click to go to websiteI had to attend a course on databases yesterday - sometimes my life just gets too exciting! After cycling into town I got onto the bus, asking the Eastern European driver where exactly the stop in the Flat Old Fen was. I know I've got a Scottish accent, but being married to an Englishwoman for nearly two decades - much of that time spent living in the Fens - has blunted it somewhat. Nevertheless, I had to sit down as wise as when I'd got on, which at that time in the morning isn't very wise at all. I wasn't as unlucky as the next chap, though - like the driver, English was his second language and he was gesticulating at a map trying to ask something. The two men found commclick to go to a review of this book about a Glesga clippieunication impossible, and the would-be voyager alighted.

What a change from the old days, I thought. We used to have an inspector on each bus who was, in Scotland, known as a clippie and - usually a woman - spoke the lingua franca, enjoining people to "come oan - get aff!" when the value of their ticket had expired and if asked, for example, if a bus went to the cemetery would reply "naw, it's afraid o' the ghosts!" You can make up your own replies for all sorts of situations, but the clippies kept it clean.

Still, I shouldn't complain in the light of what's happened in the Cambridgeshire town of Manea where a Nigerian-born German doctor who barely spoke English overestimated the amount of diamorphine (known as heroin on the streets) to give to 70-year-old David Gray by a factor of ten, killing him. The Cambridge News reveals that the company who employed Daniel Ubani as a locum had circulated an alert on the drug after two patients had placed in respiratory arrest after being prescribed overdoses - thank Heaven, they were resuscitated.

clcik to read Stephen Adams' article on Martin Amis and euthanasiaLife and death featured in the Telegraph, with Stephen Adams reporting on Martin Amis' remarks that we need euthanasia booths on street corners to cope with the "silver tsunami". It's ironic to see the man who accused US novelist Jacop Epstein of plagiarism himself stealing the idea of suicide booths first floated by sci-fi writer Robert Sheckley in his 1959 Immortality, Inc.; one wonders at what point the author, now 60, will see himself as part of the silver tsunami? Plus ça change...

I got to the Flat Old Fen, where the course went well, delivered by a team representing various Home Office initiatives who knew what they were talking about. But I wonder if one of them said more than he'd meant to when he said everything was "expected to change in two months when we get a change of government"?

Having gotten back to Cambridge in time for the evening rush-hour, I found myself sometimes going faclick to read more about the SPECS3 speed cameraster than the cars as I cycled up the city's Mill Road. So it was initially surprising to get back to work and read Chris Havergal's article for the Cambridge News speaking of a 20mph speed-limit for the thoroughfare, as I don't think any of the cars I passed managed to get up to that speed. I guess there's a problem with speeding as night draws on, but that's down to problems getting drivers to respect the present 30mph limit. There have been threats of 20mph zones for some time, but they were meaningless until the start of the year when speed cameras that can detect velocities slower than 30mph came onto the market.

tower at nightI had one stop before getting home, meeting Constanter to discuss an article he's thinking of writing for the mag over a pint at the Tintinnabula. After warming ourselves at the fire we looked out of the window at St Gallicus' tower illuminated by spotlights: symbol of the centuries-long process - whereby everything flows but slowly and organically - that builds a village like the Draughty Old Fen, it's the sort of sight that makes a long day worth it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

it begins

American Life League: click to read moreI hadn't intended to blog right now, as this is the time of the month I'm editing a local magazine; I'd included everybody's articles and been seen generally as a good egg, only to find that I'd used the wrong template, and will have to cut several pages. Boy, am I going to be popular...

Then I heard, from the American Life League, that the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), descended from the organisation founded by egregious racist Margaret Sanger in 1916, is rising to the crisis. At a time when medical charities are appealing for antiobiotics, painkillers, antiseptics, dressings, cast-material, clean injecting equipment and vitamins, IPPF is appealing for money for condoms.

As if to add insult to injury, the IPPF shows its hand in a 2007 article stating that a key HIV strain came from Haiti. Had they done any research, they would have found that HIV-1 did not come from Haiti but passed through it: as in so many other areas, the island was more sinned against than sinning.

There is a spectrum of views upon the part condoms - and other genuine means of contraception (ie not abortifacients) - can play in relationships, and views on all points thereof are carefully and cerebrally defended. However, what the IPPF is saying with its appeal has no place on that spectrum. It is saying that, to put it bluntly, victims of the Haitian earthquake are too many, too poor and too black. If the IPPF or any analogous organisation is allowed a foothold on the island, doctors and nurses who need vaccines, painkillers, clean injecting equipment etc will find the same that too many workers have found in Africa: that the cupboards are full of virtually nothing but condoms. Please do not donate to this racist organisation and its fellow-travellers.

On the plus side, Pam from Texas has kindly given me details of two organisations in addition to the many which are genuinely trying to help Haiti. Firstly, there's Catholic Relief Services, and also Mercy Corps, which for the present has an anonymous donor matching other donations up to $250,000. So who's that? God knows.

click to go to the Catholic Relief Services website

click here to go to Mercy Corps

click to read updates about Haiti

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

top tips for Tuesday

top tips for Tuesday
click to go to the site of the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer

This is a general link to the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer blog in Port au Prince, Haiti, where managing director Ian Raswon is keeping the world posted of the sometimes grim progress and where you can donate to the effort.
the IDF Search and Rescue Force works in Haiti - click to read moreAt Media Backspin, we hear that Venezualan president Hugo Chavez is accusing the US of using the quake as a pretext to occupy Haiti - a charge that French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet is repeating. So, we're asked, what is the role of the media in this and can media offering a partisan perspective be said to be neutral observers?
clieck to rad more about the Vatican's online Chinese Bible

Elsewhere, the Catholic News Service announces that the Vatican is now offering the Bible online in Chinese...
click to read Josephine McDermott's blog at Chelsea Girl in China

...while in the country itself, Telegraph blogger Josephine McDermott - Chelsea Girl in China - wonders how the stand-off between Google and China will play out.
clcik to read more about the RockYou scandalIn the context of news that the British Government - unlike that of France and Germany - isn't warning its citizens off Internet Explorer after serious security weaknesses were uncovered, Richard Hollis reports on the breaching of 32 million accounts on the social networking site RockYou, exposed by the hacker responsible after the site issued denials.
click to read more about the real story of the Pope's visit to the Rome Synagogue

Fr Tim Finigan posts on Pope Benedict's visit to the Rome Synagogue and, tellingly, quotes Mordechai Lewy, Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See, as saying taht there was a certain disappointment in some parts of the press when a crisis failed to emerge.
Beth Kanter: click to read more about Social Media and Haiti

Beth Kanter, who blogs on using social media for non-profit, is based in the US, but many of her ideas could be applicable anywhere. Here she looks at some ways to help Haiti.
click to read more at the site for the study of Anti-Americanism

Last November, Conservative leader David Cameron launched, the online presence of the London Centre for the Study of Anti-Americanism. Here, Paul Goodman meditates on how, when it comes to major disasters, the US is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.
trial without jury?  Click to read more at Richard Taylor's blog

Things to come? Richard Taylor on the first trial without a jury in modern times on British soil.
click to read more on the dereliction of duty of many science journalists

And finally, Catholic Herald editor Luke Coppen on how many science journalists are passive consumers of scientific stories - for example during the passage of the egregious Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - and have forgotten how to investigate.

help Haiti

When I sat down to try to write something about Haiti, I realised with a sinking heart as further news about social breakdown came through the radio that this is not the time to say anything but: help them. Thank God, the Israel Defense Force Field Hospital has been set up in Poat-au-Prince (click for map), hopefully other countries' will follow soon. For those of us unable to be among the brave souls helping in person, here's some links.

click to go to Haiti's Albert Schweitzer Hospital

click to go to the American Jewish World Service

click to go to the CAFOD appeal

click to go to the Caritas website

click to go to the Disasters Emergency Committee website

click to go to the International Red Cross Website

click to go to the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund

Friday, January 15, 2010

not in my name

Alexander the Great on his deatrhbedAlexander the Great's death in 323BC has been attributed to different causes like poisoning, pancreatitis or typhoid, but what seems to have hastened his demise was an extended drinking session, part of which may have been a celebration in honour of Dyonysus, the god of (among other things) wine. If so, he was by no means its last casualty.

The earliest alcoholic drinks seem to have been fermented independently from rice in China, and from both barley and (of course) grapes in the Middle East, around the seventh millennium BC. Mesopotamian clay-tablet art shows people drinking from vats with straws,mesopotamians drinking wine with straws and beer was so important to the pharoahs that jars of it would be interred with them.

We have a hint of problematic alcohol use in St Paul's first letter to Timothy, where he cautions that "deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and it's been suggested that as a causative factor in the fall of Rome, as well as a decline in public morals, political corruption and unemployment, alcohol use increased as well adding to the incompetency of the general public.

What I hope is beyond debate is that, while alcohol can be a social lubricant, it has its dangers, and the border between the two is by no means well delineated.

Therefore I'm astounded that it's still possible to buy 500ml cans of 9% lager, when the customer base for this beverage is known to be almost exclusively people who are drinking problematically, and sometimes also using it as an adjunct to prescribed or illicit drugs. For example, even though one such can of Carlsberg Special Brew would put one over the Government's recommended drinking levels for the whole day, the website still maintains that the mixture was concocted in 1950 for Winston Churchill: but I'm not aware of the old warhorse having a taste for paint-stripper in syrup - and that's before one considers "cheap cider...that has never seen an apple".

So I'm not totally surprised that the Tesco store in Cambridge's Mill Road has been refused an alcohol licence - because the thoroughfare has, over the years, accrued a name for alcohol-related problems. The thing is, the problems aren't due to people getting loaded up on Cabernet Sauvignon or some such: those small independent traders lionised by the No Mill Road Tesco campaign that have a licence to sell alcohol sell, without exception, Winston's ruin and cidre sans pommes.

That's not the only problem - I can think of a top-selling beer and an equally popular spirit that, in the substance misuse treatment trade, share the unfortunate epithet "wife-beater juice" because of the interactions between the various higher alcohols and certain personality types. (I say "certain" because many people can have a pint of one with the other as a chaser and remain calm as a cucumber.)

The response of the present Government to all this is to propose measures to enforce a minimum price on alcohol, which is good in the sense that selling booze as a loss-leader is asking for trouble.

But what would complement this, I think, would be an approach in which banning loss-leading alcohol would be one of three branches. Given that strong lagers and ciders are big sellers in deprived areas, councils could be given powers to shut down shops who refuse to reduce the proportion of strong cheap drinks to more conventional alcohol - I have seen shops whose main stock in trade was poor old boys desperate to stop the shakes in the morning.

And lastly, we - whatever our political colour - need to foster a resurgence in responsibility. To get blind drunk every weekend for a prolonged period of time is not unknown to lead to Korsakoff's psychosis; how about raising the price of drinks in supermarkets but allowing it to come down in pubs, where it's in the self-interest of a cadre of social drinkers to tell an individual when he's had enough?

Serial toasts are raised to many things, but I think poor old Dionysus, were he real, would say in the majority of cases, "not in my name".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Tips for Tuesday

Top Tips for Tuesday!

click to go to John Smeaton's siteJohn Smeaton announces the launch of a new short film about abortion, containing interviews with both pro-life and pro-choice activists. Watch that space.

click to go to Addiction TodayAddiction Today, the blog (and magazine) of the Addiction Recovery Foundation, focuses on the closure of an abstinence-based alcohol recovery course which has triggered the threat of a judicial review by activists, in the context of the NHS increasingly withdrawing opportunities for private/third sector companies to apply for tenders relating to addiction recovery services.
click to go to the JIDF articleYou can run...David Appletree of the Jewish Internet Defence Force on the withdrawal from Twitter of an antisemite called Rachel Oetting who works for Walmart - a result from an excellent peice of detective work on his part; her Facebook profile is here, and her Myspace page here. Note to Brits: Walmart owns the Asda chain of stores - perhaps we need to keep an eye on them.
click to go to Republic of Math

Over at Republic of Mathematics, Gary Davis tells us that mathematics is more than a language: does that mean I'm more than illiterate? This article brought back cherished memories of Professor Calculus expatiating on Euler's proof on the relationship between the faces and vertices of a polyhedron.
click to go to Yapping Yousuf's blog

Into the present furore about privacy and organisations' obligations to respect it, Scottish Labour activist Yapping Yousuf throws his opinion on why Labour should retain email addresses of people who contact elected representatives online for the purposes of electoral advertising.
click to go to Terry Mike Jeffrey's post on Suite 101

At Suite 101, singer Terry Mike Jeffrey remembers Elvis upon the release of his fifth album in tribute to the King.

click to go to the Conservative History Journal

Tory Historian reexamines the works of Agatha Christie.

click to see the wacky ideas on Totally Top Ten

And finally...over on Totally Top Ten, we rediscover that there's one born every day with a list of 10 wacky ideas to save our planet.

breakfast, clarinets and God's jukebox

click to go to Chris Evans' Breakfast Show website
Chris Evans has taken over Terry Wogan's place at the helm of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show slot, and very well he did too on his first day. It was small change that he defied the bookies to start the programme with All You Need is Love, but far more significant that the Moira Stewartshow was preceeded by veteran newsreader Moira Stewart, who had previously been progressively sidelined by the BBC until she left in October 2007 in a row about ageism.

But for me the best part was when the mother of a girl called Emilia Copp texted in to ask for a request for her daughter, who had given up a hired clarinet for a bought one as a birthday present, the delivery having been delayed due to our sudden attack of winter: Evans got her on the phone and arranged for Philip Mercer, accomplished clarinet player and teacher, to play "happy birthday" to her.

Mark Lamarr: click to see more on the Radio 2 siteHowever, Sir Terry's retirement and Evans' occupancy of the keystone breakfast slot has eclipsed an arguably more momentous event: the return of Mark Lamarr.

Perhaps a little recent history is germane here.

In October 2008, unstable shock-jocks Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were due to interview actor Andrew Sachs on the latter's show. When he faileGeorgina Baillie: click to find out mored to answer and an answerphone kicked in, Ross shouted "He's [expletive deleted] your grand-daughter!" and various rephrasings thereof down the phone. (The grandchild in question being Georgina Baillie, a burlesque performer also known as Voluptua.)

Over the next couple of weeks the BBC went into lockdown and even resorted to telling the lie that Sachs had not made a complaint, until Daily Mail coluMelanie Philips: click to read the original article on her websitemnist Melanie Philips penned an explosive article that blew the whole affair open.

Where Lamarr comes in is that when controller Lesley Thomas was fired for giving the pre-recorded Ross-Brand show her approval despite not having listened to it, Bob Shennan - whose strength lay in talk radio - replaced her at the helm of this specialist music station. One of his first acts was to axe the inoffensive Lamarr's three shows, which covered rockabilly, alternative 60's music and a show comprised of his pick of the last 70 years of popular music called God's Jukebox. He is a dedicated hunter-gatherer of the best not-well-known sounds and, as one music blogger says, expends a vast amount of time and effort hunting down music that is not heard anywhere else. The only complaint I ever heard about him was that he played too much reggae.

click to go to the Official Alan Freed PageAnd there's the irony of the diversity-ridden alternative universe in which the BBC lives, moves and has its being. Lamarr, like DJ legend Alan Freed, is a white enthusiast for black musical culture, although unlike Freed his favoured ground is ska/rocksteady/reggae as opposed to rhythm'n'blues. He seems to have come under the same suspicion as Madness, a ska/rocksteady band (and favourite of Maxima's) who were accused of being racists because they were all-white, a charge not levelled at the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Queen, Oasis and all the other white bands who reap fields sown by Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry et al. When Mark Lamarr was sent packing, Radio 2 lost a whole lot of its black music output, probably over American blues legend: Leadbellyhalf, while the chances that you'd get two white blokes talking when tuning into this specialist music station rose exponentially.

Two of those blokes are musician and DJ Mark Radcliffe and music journalist-turned-DJ Stuart Maconie, who jointly present a 2-hour show on four weekday evenings per week. Great things were promised and great things delivered, initially; now, apart from the odd coup like a recent interview with Danny Thompson, bass-player for Nick Drake, they play ping-pong with memories for longer and longer, and one wonders at what point they will find the cupboard empty.

Lamarr is returning, and not a moment too soon, and in another twist of irony is placed as favourite to take over from Jonathan Ross on his Saturday morning talk-show, whose contract involving astronomical amounts of license-payers' money is not being renewed. I wonder if, given Lamarr's already-proven prowess at interviewing (he's covered Ross's absences more than once), Lamarr's departure was insisted on by Ross? It fits the timescale at both ends.

Whatever, I will enjoy listening to Mark Lamarr, and hope that this specialist music station gives us the rest of our music back.

And I also hope that Emilia gets her clarinet.