In defence of Jeremy’s 9/11 tweet

It seems that everyday the papers are filled with an “Outrage”. Since it’s September it’s the beginning of the “Ban the poppy/Christmas” outrage bus, but it’s now at the point where an “outrage” is simply something as innocuous as a tweet*.

Take for example the “outrage” over a tweet Owen Smith sent back in April:

Yea it’s not exactly up there in terms of funny but at the beginning of September the Corbyn supporters found it and latched onto it as an example of how sexist and misogynistic Owen is. The Gobstopper is obviously a reference to shutting Sturgeon up especially since it was the campaigning for the local elections (one Labour did exceptionally well to avoid a total collapse/ won more than anyone ever has hail Corbyn!) so in context it’s hardly up there with something like this, which by the way is a perfect example of being a sexist waste of skin:

Now for something I never thought I’d do with less than a week until the election results are due, I’m about to defend Jeremy Corbyn.

I’m not a fan or Jeremy anymore and my reasons are scattered throughout this blog and twitter. It all started on Sunday, a day when campaigning across the board ceased to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Amongst the posts from politicians expressing sorrow and remembrance was this from Jeremy:

It’s an inevitability that anything Jeremy was going to post that day was going to be leapt upon his past associations and comments, not to mention his Director of Communications being the person who immediately blamed the US and once said the murder of Lee Rigby wasn’t terrorism because he was a soldier (then there’s the praising Stalin stuff) meant that it was going to be open season. Naturally a lot of people were annoyed that he had shoehorned some anti western sentiment into a sombre moment or that he was using it to score cheap political points (the irony of then using Jeremy scoring cheap points, to score cheap points was immediately lost)

But here’s the thing.

Is it really *THAT* offensive or outrageous?**

Many think that it simply wasn’t the right time to mention the aftermath of 9/11 but then they can never answer the question “then when is?” without giving the same answer “anyday but this”. The problem is I fundamentally disagree. In the 15 years since 9/11 we’ve went to war in Afghanistan, thrown lives and resources trying to bring order to a land that proved the downfall of the greatest empires in history, we’ve left behind a broken country in Iraq, where lawlessness, sectarianism, and now ISIS which rose from the ashes of the insurgency in Iraq controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. There’s been attacks in London, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Tunisia, Bali, Baghdad, Mosul, Moscow, Kenya, Texas, Boston, Cologne, and many of which have their origins in the aftermath of 9/11.

Then there’s the argument of “Think about their families” well what about the Familiy of 13 year old Mohammed Tuaimanor the families of those killed in Yemen when a drone strike hit a wedding ceremony?

I think the issue is this has resulted in a war that hasn’t ended. In 3 months when people stop to remember the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor people will be thinking about the attack, the loss of life and some will think about what happened after, the remembering the victims in the aftermath comes in May and August with VE and VJ day. A day when we stop, fall silent and remember those who died in the battles that followed (for Americans at least.) There’s no single moment in the War on Terror where we can stop and think of everything that has happened after, there’s no VGWOT day.

I think it’s also important that we do remember the aftermath, how as a people once the dust settled we began to fight back, badly. 15 years and the only notable victory was the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan is slowly falling back into the hands of the Taliban, Syria and Iraq are on fire, Libya is a mess, Egypt is in the middle of a brutal crackdown. If we don’t stop to remember what happened and what came next we’re bound to make the same mistakes, we relegate the “War on Terror” as a separate beast to 9/11 and disassociate what we’ve done after as a response to it. We doom ourselves to forget the lessons and if it were to happen again we’re bound to make them again.

As James Joyce wrote in ‘Ulysses’ “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

At the end of the day Jeremy is vehemently anti-war, he was well within his rights to highlight what came next, we should never forget 9/11, the peaceful bright morning shattered by the sound of jet engines.

*As a caveat I’m not saying that all tweets aren’t worthy of outrage, I mean Donald Trump’s feed is testament to just how awful it can get and the less said about Katie Hopkins the better.

** It’s not like he wished his enemies a happy 9/11, I mean you’d have to be a grade A asshole to do tha- DAMMIT DONALD!



REPOST: NASA’s $349 million monument to its drift

GULFPORT, Miss. — In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space.

Then, NASA did something odd.

As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially “mothballed” — closed up and left empty — without ever being used.

“You lock the door, so nobody gets in and hurts themselves,” said Daniel Dumbacher, a former NASA official who oversaw the project.

The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse.

The empty tower in Mississippi is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve. In the Space Race days of the 1960s, the agency was given a clear, galvanizing mission: reach the moon within the decade. In less than seven, NASA got it done.

GRAPHIC: NASA’s mothballed test towers

Now, NASA has become a symbol of something else: what happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade.

In the past few years, presidents have repeatedly scrubbed and rewritten NASA’s goals. The moon was in. The moon was out. Mars was in. Now, Mars looks like a stretch. Today, the first goal is to visit an asteroid.

Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space.

In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift.

The useless tower was repeatedly approved by people who, in essence, argued that the American space program had nothing better to do.

“What the hell are they doing? I mean, that’s a lot of people’s hard-earned money,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. Like other workmen, he had taken pride in this massive, complicated project — only to learn that it was in mothballs.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.”

“It’s heartbreaking to know that … you thought you’d done something good,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.” (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Creating a vacuum

Seven years ago, when the tower still seemed like a useful idea, the governor came to the groundbreaking. So did a congressman. Two senators. On a hot morning in August 2007, next to a canal full of alligators, somebody laid down AstroTurf and clean dirt over the sandy Mississippi soil. The dignitaries stood on the fake grass. They stuck gold-painted   shovels into the fake earth.

They said they were starting one of the greatest journeys in human history.

Right here — at a 30-story tower rising out of the woods — NASA would test the rockets that would take Americans back to the moon. And then even farther, on to Mars.

“You who live in Mississippi and who work at this space center will see that frontier opening,” said Shana Dale, who was then NASA’s second-in-command. “You’ll hear it, too: the rumble of moon-bound rockets being tested here. The thunder of possibility; the roar of freedom.”

This tower was intended to test a rocket engine called the J-2X. The plan was for a spacecraft to carry this engine, un-lit, up out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Then the engine would ignite and propel the spacecraft toward the moon.

But, before NASA stuck an astronaut on top of that idea, it wanted to test the engine. In the near-vacuum at the edge of space, would the whole thing vibrate, crack or blow apart?

There was only one way to know.

“You have to fake the vacuum,” said Dumbacher, the former NASA official.

To do that, NASA had to create a giant pressure cooker on stilts. Workers would build a sealed metal container, big enough to hold a school bus. Then they would install it in the middle of a 300-foot-tall steel tower, reinforced to resist 1 million pounds of upward thrust from a rocket.

Then, they would put the rocket engine in the container. Seal the door. Suck out the air. And light the fire.

At the very beginning, NASA projected that the tower would cost $119 million. It was supposed to be finished by late 2010.

Giving up on the moon

Back in Washington, it wasn’t long after the groundbreaking that NASA officials began to hear about problems with the project.

For one thing, the estimated cost increased to $163 million. To $185 million. Then beyond that. NASA’s inspector general said the main contractor, Jacobs Engineering Group, blamed changes in the design, plus unforeseen increases in the cost of labor and steel.

NASA paid the higher price. The builders kept building.

“I don’t think the contractors were attempting a scam. I think, in all honesty, that they did not understand the magnitude of the job,” said one former senior NASA official who was familiar with the project. “I know people involved as human beings. I do not think they were trying to take advantage” of NASA, the former official said.

Jacobs declined to comment.

At NASA, as at other large government agencies, this was an old institutional vice: making a big purchase, then letting the cost get bigger and bigger. Studies had found that when NASA projects ran way late or way over budget, the agency rarely took the hard step of killing them.

It kept paying

“The [International] Space Station was sold as an $8 billion program. It ended up costing $100 billion. The Webb telescope was sold as a $1 billion program. It’s now up to $8 billion,” said Lori Garver, who served as the number two official at NASA from 2009 until last year. “It usually works out for them,” she said, meaning the contractors get paid, even when they raise the price.

Decision-making about NASA was twisted, she said, because of a mismatch between its huge funding and its muddled sense of purpose. “There’s no ‘why’ ” in NASA anymore, Garver said.

Instead, she said, there was only a “how,” a sense that something big still needed to be done. “And the ‘how’ is all about the [construction] contracts and the members of Congress.”

At the same time that the test stand was busting its budget, NASA  had a much bigger problem to deal with. The whole effort to return to the moon — a suite of projects called “Constellation,” which included the A-3 tower and the engines it was meant to test — was falling deeply behind.

That program had begun in 2004, with a call from President George W. Bush. “We will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015,” Bush said then.

But its funding never matched its ambitions. The nation’s ETA on the moon was repeatedly pushed back. By 2009, a study commissioned by President Obama found that — at its current budget — NASA might not get a man back to the moon until the 2030s.

“They were trying to do more work than they had money to do. And they tried to make it up by slipping” the due date further and further into the future, said Norman R. Augustine, a former chief executive of Lockheed Martin, who led the study.

What was left was a choice, he said.

“We have to decide in this country whether we want a jobs program,” he said, “or a space program.”

Finally, in early 2010, Obama made a stunning announcement.

He wanted to give up on the moon. In fact, he wanted to scrap the entire Constellation program, including the rocket engines that the Mississippi tower was meant to test.

At that point, NASA officials said, about $200 million in federal money had been committed to the Mississippi project. But the thing was still nowhere near done. In fact, officials said, it might need another year and a half of work.

What was left was a choice.

“If it didn’t look like we were going to use it again, I would have stopped it right there. Just to save the money,” said Douglas Cooke, the NASA official who was tasked with making that decision. He was a lifer, 35 years in.

In the spring of 2010, Cooke was not ready to kill the tower.

After all, Obama had only proposed killing the Constellation program. Congress hadn’t signed off. In fact, lawmakers already were howling, outraged that home-district projects might be cut. So what if lawmakers decided to save that rocket engine that fired in space after all?

Just to be safe, Cooke kept it going.

“If we just stopped work on it, in the middle, it was going to be a pretty high recovery cost, to go back and restart it,” he said. “So we just decided to go ahead.”

Keeping eyes on the prize

In Mississippi, construction continued without a break. To the workers on the ground, the test stand was looking like a major achievement — a demonstration of what NASA and America and they were capable of.

Steam billows from the A-3 test stand during a preliminary test of one system at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (NASA)

First, they put up the steel. There was 4 million pounds of it, with holes for 450,000 bolts — a thicket of metal so dense that workers joked about a “bird test.” Any bird that tried to fly straight through it would conk into a beam.

For workers, the job was hard because the structure was naked. No ladders. No railings. No floors. To build it, they had to stand on the bare skeleton itself, high enough in the air that the swinging steel blended in with the passing clouds.

“You’re standing on a steel beam 100 feet in the air,” said James Blackburn, whose company, then called Lafayette Steel Erector, worked on this phase of the project. “The crane is swinging, one of these large steel members is coming toward you. . . . As the clouds are moving by, this piece is moving at you, your brain easily gets confused.”

After the steel went up, the workers attached the sealed metal container. The hardest part to build was the 120,000-pound door. It had to swing open to let the rocket engine in, then swing shut and hold up under 40 pounds per square inch of pressure from the atmosphere outside.

“You stop and realize 40 psi is — what’s 40 times 144?” Jasper Reaves asked aloud at American Tank & Vessel, in the basement of a grand mansion in Mobile, Ala.

“Five thousand two hundred sixty pounds” per square inch, said William Cutts, the company’s chief executive, working the calculator.

“ . . . per square foot,” Reaves, the chief engineer, finished the sentence. “That’s a hell of a lot of pressure on this thing.” Reaves gestured toward a photo of the door, crosshatched with a grid of steel bars. It looked like the door to a super-villain’s jail cell. “So that’s all to make the door keep its shape.”

Just the paint job was enormous. It took two days for a man hanging in a “spider basket” to paint one wide stripe from bottom to top. Then he moved  over a few feet, and started at the bottom of another section.

But the payoff would be enormous, too.

Years later, they would have touched the thing that touched the thing that put humans on another planet.

“I mean, you talk about something neat,” said Brent Anthony, who spent days inspecting the stand, hanging in a basket that swung unnervingly in the breeze. “You’re talking about building something that’s going to help us go to Mars.”

In the final years of the project, however, word began to filter out on the jobsite. The thing they were working on might not be needed after all. Not for Mars. Not for anything.

“Yeah, yeah. It was a pretty strange feeling. To know that we were working on a project that, you know, seemed like that was just the local politician’s pet project but didn’t necessarily fit into the national scheme. Well, I don’t think the rank and file really had a morale issue with that. You know, to them, it was another construction project,” said Joel Ellis, a contractor who helped install the pipes on the stand.

For Ellis personally, the key was to take pride in the work, even if the work wasn’t ever used. “There’s no sense in dwelling on it,” he said.

Sealing tower’s fate

In the summer of 2010, Congress saved the tower in Mississippi for good.

It happened without anybody mentioning the project’s name aloud.

“This is a big day for America,” said then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), as it was about to happen. Hutchison was speaking in July 2010 at a meeting of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“We’re doing the right thing for America. For our economy. For our creativity,” she said. “For our science. And for our security.”

Hutchison was announcing a new compromise with the White House, which would finally settle the fight over Constellation. Constellation was dead. Instead, the senators were telling NASA to build something that they had just made up: a “Space Launch System” (jokers at NASA call it the “Senate Launch System”).

The new plan for NASA was, as usual, long on “how” and short on “why.”

The senators were clear about what they wanted NASA to do: keep some Constellation-era projects going, with all their salaries and spending, and try to integrate them into a new system.

But what was the goal of all that? The moon was off the table. Instead, NASA is now focused on a less impressive rock: an asteroid. Sometime in the 2020s, NASA wants to capture one about the size of a house, and then have astronauts zoom up and examine it. This was not a mission chosen to captivate the world’s imagination. It was a mission chosen to use the leftovers that Congress had told NASA to reheat. (Mars still remains a distant goal: At the earliest, NASA might get there in the 2030s.)

At first, the Senate’s new plan looked bad for the tower in Mississippi. At best, it now would be a project built on spec: erected in the hope that someday NASA might return to the idea of a giant rocket engine that fired in a vacuum.

But, in the committee room, Hutchison was still talking.

“I move that the following amendments to the NASA reauthorization bill be adopted,” she was saying. “Wicker Two, as modified. Wicker Three, . . .and Wicker Four,” Hutchison said.

“All those in favor?” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee chairman.

Everybody said aye.


Nobody said anything.

“It does appear to the chair that the ayes have it,” Rockefeller said.

“Sherlock Holmes, you are,” Hutchison said.

And that was it. “Wicker Three” was an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). His amendment said NASA “shall complete construction and activation of the A-3 test stand with a completion goal of September 30, 2013.”

That language was included in the bill that passed the committee. Then the Senate, then the House. In October 2010, Obama signed it into law.

“Administrations come and go. I think it makes sense not to leave a partially constructed asset sitting there,” Wicker said this month, in an interview in a hall outside the Senate chamber. “I do believe, a decade from now, we’ll look back and see that it has been used in a very positive way.” He did not name a specific NASA program that he believed would use it.

In a separate interview this year, Hutchison — who is now retired — had said she couldn’t remember how Wicker managed to get his amendment included in that compromise.

So how did he do it?

In the Capitol hall, the senator burst out laughing.

“Just talented legislating,” he said, and then walked away.

William Cutts, left, chief executive of American Tank & Vessel in Mobile, Ala., and Jasper Reaves, the company’s chief engineer, look at photographs of the A-3 test stand. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Test stand, at a standstill

Work on the tower finally concluded this past summer. By then, the project had cost $349 million, which was nearly three times the original NASA estimate. It had lasted almost seven years, which was 3 1 /2 years longer than first expected.

But at last, the A-3 test stand was done.

Or, mostly done.

“A-3 could not be used for testing right now, if we wanted to,” said Dumbacher, the NASA official, who left in July to become a professor at Purdue University. He said instruments still needed to be installed, and the pressure vessel needed to be tested to see if it would hold a vacuum. How much work would it take to get it ready?

“Probably another two to three years, I would guess,” Dumbacher said. (A current NASA spokesman gave a slightly shorter time frame, saying that “probably less than two years would be required.”) But, he said, Congress had assured NASA behind the scenes that this stage of completion would be enough to satisfy them. So construction work ended on June 27, and workers began the job of mothballing the stand.

The dignitaries did not come back to see that.

“There was no ceremony,” a NASA spokesman said.

The revelation that the tower was going to be mothballed was revealed in an inspector general’s report in January.

For now, the stand does not seem likely to be needed anytime soon. NASA says it has no rockets, even in development, that would require the kind of test this tower does.

So the tower stand has taken its place on NASA’s long list of living dead. Last year, the agency’s inspector general found six other test stands that were either in “mothball” status, or about to be. Some hadn’t been used since the 1990s. Together, those seven cost NASA more than $100,000 a year to maintain.

Forshee, the pipefitting foreman, had no idea. He had left the tower job years ago, had gone to work in Montana, and then had come back to Mississippi to build a firehouse. But he had kept a jacket with the NASA logo, which he had been given on the tower project. He savored the idea that his kids might one day see an American walk on Mars, and know their father helped make it possible.

Then, in July, Forshee got an odd job offer. Could he come to Stennis Space Center to work on a new rocket test stand?

Forshee was confused. Didn’t he just build one of those?

“They told me, “Hey, you know, they mothballed A-3.’ I said, ‘What?’ ” he said, in an interview at the bar at a Hooters restaurant in this industrial city of Gulfport. “And they said, ‘Yeah, they’re gonna do this one’ ” instead, he said.

It turned out that the engines required for the new Space Launch System needed a new test stand, with no vacuum involved. So NASA is renovating another stand just a short distance away from the A-3, called the B-2. That project is supposed to cost $134 million.

Forshee is a tea party supporter, somebody who hates for government money to be misspent. And here, he sees, it was misspent on him. After his interview at Hooters, he called a reporter back to be sure he had it right.

“They’re just saying they spent $350 million for no reason?” he asked.

Yes, he was told.

“Well,” he said. “Nice.” (He took the job at the new test stand anyway, to be sure the work stayed with his union local: “If we don’t do this work, then they’re going to give it to Local 60 out of New Orleans.”)

NASA would not allow a reporter to visit the disused tower up close. The only way to see it at all was to pay $10 at the visitor center and take the official Stennis Space Center bus tour.

On the tour, the guide drove by several test stands left over from the glory days of the 1960s, and recounted how exhaust billowed, and the earth shook. The bus drove by the B-2 stand, now under construction.

Then the bus passed a skeletal, white-painted tower, alone in the distance.

“The one to the left there is called the A-3,” the guide said.

So what does that one do?

“It actually does not have a customer,” the guide said. “So it’s just kind of hanging out right now.”

Washington Post online

David A. Fahrenthold

Published on December 15, 2014

Anti-vaxxers play the Trump card *Boom* Autism!


America has a problem and that problem is celebrity. We live in a world where morons like Trump can spout this drivel and people will believe it. There is a massive issue over there with the topic of vaccinations. In 1998 a group of Doctors published a paper in the Lancet. In it, the authors claimed to have identified a new syndrome, autistic enterocolitis, raising the possibility of a link between a novel form of bowel disease, autism, and the MMR vaccine. The authors noted that the parents of eight of the twelve children linked what were described as “behavioural symptoms” with MMR, and reported that the onset of these symptoms began within two weeks of MMR vaccination.

Now the paper did state there was a link with Autism and the gastronomical problems. However it did not show a link between the MMR vaccine . This wasn’t good enough for the papers lead Dr Andrew Wakefield who decided in a press conference that there was a link and that the MMR vaccine should be dropped. Cue a massive media panic and fewer and fewer parents giving their children the MMR vaccine, or worse, just not getting their children vaccinated.

This wasn’t much of a problem at the time however there was a big Measles outbreak in Swansea in 2013 linked to the decline caused by the MMR controversy.

Eventually though the truth got out that Wakefield was a fraud, he received payments from groups who were trying to bring down the MMR and the companies that produced it, had filed patents for a rival single jab vaccine and had falsified the data. The paper was retracted and Wakefield barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Eventually we realised as a nation we were duped and began vaccinating children.

In the US however the problem is the findings and the belief that vaccinations cause autism gained traction and became a personal interest of “celebrity” Jenny McCarthy.

McCarthy’s son has autism (although further research using information available suggests a mis-diagnosis) although at first she didn’t mention a link between vaccines and Autism however she then decided it did and cited Wakefields paper as exhibit A (Wakefield also wrote the foreword to her book.) Reaction to this was not that kind with many outraged at her claims and her defending Wakefield following his outing as a fraud.

The anti-vaccination movement is still strong in America and very Vocal, even though New York is in the middle of a measles outbreak there hasn’t been a significant drop in the rates of people being vaccinated. However enough have refused it to cause a disease once thought eradicated in the US to come back with a vengeance.

The Centre for Disease control recently published a new report with revised higher estimates of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. This prompted Wig-wearing-bigoted-loudmouth-Scottish-natural-beauty-hater Donald Trump to take to Twitter

Reaction was, well it’s the Internet and Trump is a prat so you work it out. However he is a believer in the idea that if you give a child 3 vaccinations their immune system gets all screwed up and Autism happens. You would think there would be lots of science done over this with charts and case studies, there is, and there’s absolutely no truth in this idea whatsoever.

What may be true thanks to a study at the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine is that Autism may begin before the vaccines, and before the child is born. If this is proven then you would think the Anti-vaxxers would call it a day. But since they’ve continuously ignored any scientific research with vaccines and autism in general it’s unlikely this is far from over.

Meanwhile the world is beginning to represent the map in the Pandemic game, all because celebrities know how to get the public to believe them, that governments are too slow and useless to put out the correct information and state their case clearly and because we trust the word of a washed up “celeb” over experts.

Flatulent Goats and Flowery Twats

  It’s a relatively crass name for a post and now the actual blog, so what the hell is going on?

It all started yesterday, but first we need to go back a bit. Unless you live in a cave or just  use Facebook for Candy crush and writing about how much you heart  celebrities you will  be aware of a page called “I fucking Love science.” It’s kind of a big deal with a website and  soon a TV show.

There’s a few critics of it, some (well 6,000) have complained that the many images on the  page have been used without the original owners permission. Others dislike how many people on it don’t actually “fucking love science” and just like pretty and often wrong pictures and Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes and it’s more a pack mentality.

Either way I casually pay attention to it but really I can get the information in text form and actually understand the subject in more depth. It’s not to say I don’t like it, on the contrary. If it reaches one person and encourages them to read a bit more or even become more interested in Science so they truly fucking love it, then it’s served its purpose.

What I do prefer more is the profile of the actual creator of IFLS Elise Andrews. A woman who got the worst of the internet when those people who fucking love science only love it when it’s not been done by women. Now since I only follow it I just get the public posts. But these in itself deserve its own page. Peoples opinions online are like arseholes, everyone has one and they’re usually full of it. She must get an awful lot of abuse not just from genuine haters but also what appears to be an army of trolls. Most are the usual “God will send you to hell” but occasionally you do get a corker:
Now obviously we just mock these people, but what about the ones who are civil and not foaming? now the chances are you’re not going to change their minds. If that was the case Ken Ham would be the New Dawkins and not just a nutjob who doesn’t believe in evolution but thinks as a species we’re getting dumber, which would be a sign of evolution in itself.

I’ve been looking at creationists recently, mainly due to their vocal opposition and general butt hurt over the new ‘Cosmos’ and there was a “debate” of sorts with Professor Alice Roberts and a creationism over evolution. The poor soul must be smarting today because every argument about an intelligent designer was shot down, mainly by Professor Roberts showing elements of our physiology that was designed by an idiot, not someone intelligent. However both sides stopped and no-one has changes, Professor Roberts isn’t wearing sandals and condemning us to hell and “Christ21Cent” (Rather cheap for a messiah) isn’t in a lab coat preaching evolution.

This raises the question, what’s the point in rising to a challenge? Bill Nye and Ken Ham debated evolution and all that happened was Ham got more publicity and more donations. No-one changed their minds. This is the main problem.

If you hold a belief so strong that fact based evidence isn’t going to change your mind then you’re not going to be convinced by anyone, not even a world authority on the subject. You can try to change their mind but it will leave you exhausted and annoyed.

But in honour of these cranks, I’m pleased to reveal Blog 2.0 the awesomely named FLATULENT EXPRESSION OF TORTOISES!

A tomb, a tomb, my kingdom for a tomb.

The saga or what to do with the remains of Richard III have taken yet another twist. Firstly was the granting of a judicial review into the final burial location of the king by a group called the Plantagenet alliance.
The Alliance are rivaling the Richard III society for “steady on a bit” around the King. They claim to be the “only ones who can speak for him¹” the reason for this claim is down to the fact they are non direct descendents of the King their membership which the BBC states is around a dozen or so think that because they’re related indirectly to Richard then this gives them the right to speak for him. However this standpoint is easily refuted by the annoying fact that non direct descendents of Richard quite possibly number the millions. What it has done though it throw all the preparation into chaos. While I don’t for a minute think they will get their wish to see Richard Buried in York which was allegedly his wish but i can’t abide by the argument that Leicester only want the remains for tourism.

This argument isn’t really that good, yes having the tomb would generate more tourism for the cathedral but Leicester already has an attachment to Richard, he spent his last night in the city and it was Leicester where his body was placed. There are already plans to create a museum to Richard and the task to find his remains and if he were in Leicester it would be free to see the tomb and not cost 10-15 pounds to see. It also flies against statements made by York Minster that they don’t want the remains and would rather see them in Leicester per the terms of the original exhumation license. Other arguments from the alliance aren’t worth mentioning more than once since they really are grasping at straws (for the record they’re here)

Now the design for the tomb has been unveiled this has added another layer of controversy on an already confusing story. The tomb is a large limestone block with the cross carved rather deep into it. The block is placed on the white rose of York and in the black border is Richard’s name, dates and motto. The head of the Richard III society has called it inspiring but Phillipa Langley has come out against it and announced £40,000 of funding from the society has been withdrawn. Which is odd since the Cathedral wasn’t asking for the money in the first place.

Langley has claimed it’s because the tomb is aimed at a Cathedral and not a Medieval warrior king. Which is correct since a tomb reminiscent of the period would look out of place in what is a Victorian Cathedral which looks more like a large parish church than a Cathedral.

In all this you can’t help but think those that want to do their best for Richard are infact doing the polar opposite. Let Richard rest in peace, and let the rest of us enjoy his legacy and learn more about him, without hysterics from more vested interests.

In which the Ricardians re-enact ‘Life of Brian’

My feelings for the Richard III society are well known, while they do some excellent research into the life of Richard and his time, it is also filled with absolute fanatics. People who genuinely come across as having some sort of romantic feelings towards him and refute any criticism of Richard as “Tudor propaganda”

So imagine my surprise that another group of Ricardians have pushed for a judicial review into the reburial of the remains. The Plantagenet Alliance (The Judean peoples front to the RIII Society’s Peoples front of Judea) are pushing for a judicial review so the remains are transferred to York. Now that isn’t unusual, it was a certainty that someone would issue a challenge, however the Judean Plantagenet alliance are doing so under the Human rights Act claiming that -as relatives- they were not consulted.

Here’s where the lunacy of this challenge starts. The official statement from Leicester University (one I imagine was done behind tears of laughter) states that consent isn’t needed if the remains are over 100 years old as there won’t be anyone with a personal relationship to the deceased. That is is best practice to inter the remains in the nearest consecrated ground  and -and here’s the kicker- that since Richard died childless there are no direct descendants, and thanks to 400 years, there are thousands of descendants who also don’t need consulting.

The basis for a burial at York is on shaky ground as is. The Ricardians claim that as a member of the House of York he should be buried there and the Plantagenet alliance also cite him being “Richard of York.” Here’s the thing. Richard of York is only used in that Mnemic device for remembering the rainbow and isn’t about Richard III. The Duke of York was Richards father who after his defeat in battle (gave battle in vain) had his head placed on a spike IN YORK.

Richard was Duke of Gloucester, had extensive lands in Yorkshire (another reason so say the Ricardians) but also holdings in Wales and East Anglia. This “Judicial review” won’t pass. I suspect it may literally be laughed out of court.

And as a final reminder, York Minster issued a statement saying they weren’t interested. It’s time for the Ricardians to abandon this romanticised image of Richard and look at the cold evidence.

Terry Deary’s Horrible Literacy

On wednesday the Guardian ran a story about author Terry Deary and his views on Libraries. In it he called them ” a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go.” Deary of course does speak some sense. Libraries can and should change, most are just places to pick up the latest best seller, a place to drop into on the way home.

What prompted Deary was the decision by Sunderland Council to make savings in the budget by closing a number of their libraries. Now Durham scaled their libraries back, reducing the opening times but maintaining somewhat decent coverage. Newcastle on the other hand has been nationally lambasted for imposing draconian cuts on Arts and leisure in what is an obvious attempt at playing politics.

Deary is right that they need to adapt, rather than just a room with a few books and a few computers, Libraries should become a focus point for the community. A place where people can meet up, read a good book and maybe even have a chat and a cuppa. Some of the smaller libraries stock mainly pulp fiction and celebrity autobiographies and that’s it.

Newcastle’s central library is a good example of what a library can be I can’t see a problem with them offering more than just a book collection service, why can’t they offer something else, maybe exhibitions? For example Chester-le-street used to have a cabinet with Roman artefacts from the fort, Sacriston has paintings by the local art club and the downstairs of Sunderland Library always has displays. How about coffee? what’s to stop a coffee shop opening inside libraries so you can read the book, over a drink? the money raised from the drinks could go back into the library system so we may finally have books that aren’t out of date?

I’m disappointed with Deary, he managed to raise valid points but coated them in self interest, complaining that he gets around £6000 a year from Libraries lending his books out some 500,000 times but 30p a book from a sale makes him sound bitter and in it for the money. Deary seems to think that users of Libraries are middle class “looters”. I’d love to know which Library he’s been to because it doesn’t sound like any I’ve been in.

Richard III Society

If the events of the last week have proven anything it’s that Richard III’s followers, the Richard III Society are somewhat vocal in their admiration.

The society aims to “encourage and promote a more balanced view” of Richard. From it’s origins in 1924 as “the Fellowship of the Wild boar” to the current society who contributed funding to Leicester University’s archaeological dig.

However with the controversy over his final resting place brewing the society have become a caricature of themselves. It started with the Channel 4 documentary on Monday which followed Phillipa Langley, the woman who started the project to find Richard following “a feeling” she had in the car park. Opinions on Langley were mixed on social networks in particular Twitter. Opinions varied from her being completely unhinged to being madly in love with him. I prefer to think she’s passionate about Richard, she is after all writing a screenplay about him. However one section in the programme resulted in the presenter of the show – Simon Farnaby from Horrible histories- exchanging conversation with various members.

The questions were the usual “has he been misunderstood” “What about the princes in the tower” now anyone who is a member of a society which aims to present a more unbiased version of events could go into it and say there’s not much evidence to support the idea or dismiss it and it will need more scrutiny. However the members interviewed went into rants that make Alex Jones’ appearance on Piers morgan seem sane. Now I’m not a fan of people who distort history to fit their own views, it’s the same with scientific results or theories. I foolishly thought it was a one off, and that C4 had just picked up the more loopy fringe of the society.

Now before we go any further I should admit that while the Tudors are probably my second favourite historical area of interest (yes I do have a ranking system) I have always had an interest in Richard III, I think given his short reign and the almost damnatio memoriae of him to be a fertile ground for Historical research (quite a lot is done by the Richard III Societies more grounded members)

Wanting to look more at the society and what its members are like I went to the website which seems normal and has quite a lot of information about Richard, and is well worth taking a look at here. However the Facebook page is another matter, on there is a lot of criticism aimed at Leicester University for having the remains at Leicester Cathedral against Richards wishes (although I’ve not seen any evidence that he wanted a burial there other than giving money to the Minster which for the time isn’t unusual.) The Society members then attack the University for being ungrateful for the donations raised by the society to fund the dig, although they weren’t the ones doing the digging.

Other interesting comments centre around this belief that since Richard was given a sloppy burial at Greyfriars then it shows that they didn’t want him, completely ignoring what would have been a pretty hectic and confusing day in Leicester since Richard left the city in the morning and by midday was dead and on his way back. They also ignore the terms of the archaeological exhumation license which stated the remains should be placed either in the Jewry wall Museum, the Cathedral or nearest churchyard by 2014. Some go as far as creating some conspiracy that the Dean of York Minster – Very Reverend Vivienne Faull- who was previously the Dean of Leicester had something to do with it, especially since the Minster issued a statement supporting the internment at Leicester.

Others are annoyed that guides at the Bosworth museum are “Pro Henry” and some have “kicked off” and “educated” them and the others on the tour that Richard was a sweety and Henry a tyrant. It seems to present a non biased view of Richard some members have ignored reality and other historical research. If a society is judged on its members then as the more vocal members seem to be fanatical in their devotion to Richard it isn’t doing the society’s image any good.

This isn’t a situation unique to the Richard III Society and I only highlight them as they are now in the news following the discovery of Richard, but I can’t help but think that the facebook page in particular isn’t going to get them many new members, rather I hope they emphasise their brilliant website and the research carried out behind the shouting mob.

I once toyed with becoming a member, however now I can’t help but think of Groucho Marx and his “PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER” Anecdote.

In Chair we trust

The Republican convention which has just wrapped up in Tampa, Florida will be known for many things. The new policy of getting a constitutional amendment banning abortion in all cases. A Hurricane cancelling the opening day (prompting Blowhole Rush Limbaugh to blame Obama for the Hurricane, which was simply ridiculed by David Letterman commenting that “he (Rush) is back on the Oxycontin”) And Mitt Romney accepting the nomination.

However all that played second fiddle to what was the most bizzare thing ever seen. Clint Eastwood is a pretty vocal supporter of the Republicans, and their members have a certain detachment from reality. But no-one could prepare you for this:

Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.

Todd Akin has 24 hours left.

The controversy over Rep Todd Akin’s remarks yesterday August,20 continues to build as lawmakers from both sides seek to distance themselves over his remarks that Pregnancy due to “legitimate rape” is impossible.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) informed Rep. Todd Akin on Monday that the national GOP will stop funding his election campaign, not only that but Cornyn has given him 24 hours to reconsider his candidacy, remarking that his comments were “wrong, offensive, and indefensible” and ”he risks the party’s chance of a majority.”

President Obama waded into the controversy saying “”Rape is rape and the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”

Akin remains defiant, quoting the founder of the US Navy – and a personal hero of mine- John Paul Jones “I have yet begun to fight”

It is now clear that Akin’s position is untenable. For the good of his Party and the people of Missouri he must stand down. While freedom of speech is sacred, the consequences of someone with his views legislating on issues such as law and order, health and the welfare of 300 million people is a nightmare from which there may be no awaking.