In defence of Prince Charles

Right, to lay out my position on the Royals. I’m pretty much neutral. I won’t be bending the knee anytime soon, but I’m not calling for us to wheel out the guillotine. I think they seem nice enough people, if odd, and do some good work for the country, through charity and tourism, but I just think the millions we spend on them could be put to better use somewher else.

One thing I don’t get is the rabid enthusiasm and obsession some people have with them. They’re just another group of celebrities, so why all the fuss?

And speaking of fuss…

This month marks 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As such the press has been going nuts about it, catering to a seemingly bottomless reserve of national obsession and voyeurism.

There are TV shows, magazines, newspaper features and the re-emergence of various parasitic people who have exploited their connection with Diana for fame or wealth.

While some seems to have been handled with delicacy, particularly an interview with her sons on ITV. However, depressingly an old, familiar story is being told, that of Diana as a near saint and the villain of the piece being played by her ex, Prince Charles.

I’m not going to say that Chuck was guilt free in their trainwreck marriage, but it seems like there was fault on both sides and other factors at work. Charles’ relationship with Camilla has been tainted for some by the fact that it was going on behind Di’a back. But more on that later.

As all this stuff gets raked up over and over the more tactful at least think how it effects William and Harry, but as his failed marriage is disected once again nobody gives a damn about Charles’ feelings. Or if they do it’s in stupid ways:

In answer, no. No, he won’t. Because I’m assuming he’s not a massive bellend and appreciates that his sons will miss their mum, and that their love for her doesn’t mean they don’t love him.

One of the most controversial things in this prolonged and ugly time of “tribute” was the Channel 4 documentary. This featured tapes of Diana talking candidly about her marriage and divorce, possibly because she felt it was private.

So complete is Diana’s ascension to secular saint status that everything she said was received as gospel. 

Look, we’ve all had mates who have gone through break ups. They come over and they get it all off their chest. You offer sympathy, you take their side but you take it with a pinch of a salt. You’re getting one, highly biased, version of events. It’s heavily edited highlights.

Of course, your buddy’s ex can fight their corner and this is the part that sucks for Charles. He can’t.

First of all, he’s been raised to be King. A King doesn’t go running his mouth to the press, he has to keep his personal feelings hidden, maintain a regal persona.

Secondly, even if he could he’d be bad mouthing the dead and the public would go nuts over it.

And most importantly, Charles probably doesn’t want to go and drag Diana’s name through the mud. Because he knows that it would hurt his boys.

Which means he has to keep quiet as he is turned into the villain. The hatred of Charles has ebbed and flowed over the years, but with the 20th anniversary madness it’s all been stirred up again.

Recent polls have shown that people want William to be King next, showing a startling lack of knowledge of how monarchies work. You don’t pick. It’s whoever is next in line and that is Charles.

If you want a daft, old fashioned system you have to follow the rules or else it may as well just be an open public vote for the next monarch. And if the field is open we could have someone more fun than William.

Charles and Diana probably should never have married. But they did, and it went wrong. As with many things it’s not a black and white situation.

The thing is that I find silly is that people regard Charles’ divorce as grounds for him being unsuitable for the big chair. This is stupid because (a) other monarchs have got divorced and (b) it’s 2017. Attitudes towards divorce have changed, thankfully and there are no other jobs where having divorced would cost you the gig.

I’ve always felt in a perfect world Charlie would have just married Camilla right away and Diana could have had a longer, more peaceful life away from the press.

I find it hard to understand why anyone begrudges Charles for having gone on to find happiness with Camilla and remarry. They seem to have real affection and connection, and it seems unfair that she should get blasted along with him for that. 

Charles and Camilla loving life. Of course they are, they’re with Brian Blessed!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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15 Minutes #GE2017: Who to vote for?

The general election is fast approaching, and I thought I’d write about it on my blog. However, to stop it just turning into a massive rant I’m keeping it simple and to a 15 minute timer. So here we go.

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Ever since Theresa May announced the snap election a few weeks back the British press has been working itself up. The parties have been scrutinised, they’ve made announcements and they’ve started pitching their manifestos.

Now, I think voting is something everyone should do but I can understand people’s hesitation and doubts over our current system. I’m living in a different constituency at the moment, one currently held by the Conservatives and it leaves me in an odd position of not knowing who to vote for.

Under a proportional representation system it would be simple enough, and I would just pick the party I agree with the most. However, the first past the post measure that we employ in the UK means that there has to be some tactical voting, which sucks as it means voting against someone instead of for.

I’m currently inclined to vote for Plaid Cymru, as I respect their leader, agree with their policies and as we blunder into Brexit talks, would like someone to speak up for Wales in a way that I don’t think the other parties will.

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However, Plaid aren’t much of a force in the Vale of Glamorgan and so it’s likely to come down to Labour vs the Tories.

The Tories are right out of course. Their austerity push has just caused people to suffer and there is a startling lack of empathy about them. Witness how the NHS is doing in England under Tory rule. I also don’t like the “no deal is better than a bad deal” argument and the bullishness approaching Brexit.

And frankly, I don’t trust the Tories to serve the public properly. And I don’t want to see the NHS slowly fall apart until they can justify scrapping it. Look at healthcare in the States, and you realise that for all it’s flaws, the NHS is a brilliant creation and something we should be proud of.

So, to stop them do I vote for Plaid and hope they have an upswing in support? Or do I vote for Labour, a party I don’t have much warmth for.

Here’s the thing, I regard Labour as better than the Tories, but that’s taken a beating in my lifetime. It was a Labour government that lied to the public and entered an illegal war which has caused far more problems than any it solved.

And the party hasn’t helped itself over the last year or so with some monumental gaffes, infighting and by failing to stage a meaningful opposition to the Tories. Theresa May isn’t a strong PM, but she’s never really had to look like one because Corbyn has been so ineffectual on the opposite side of the house.

He seems a decent bloke, and some of his ideas are sound, but I can’t see him as a leader and I think Labour are so fractured that they would struggle to hold it together. May might have pushed the “strong and stable” line to hard, but at least the Tories all seem capable of falling in line behind a leader. Labour seem to have split, and there’s a nastiness to both factions. They’ve made it alarmingly easy for the Tories, by looking massively incompetent and disorganised in opposition.

Worse yet, Corbyn has announced that he won’t make a coalition with other parties, which seems foolhardy. If both of the parties fail to secure a majority he’ll be in an impossible position, either holding to his position and allowing the Tories to form a coalition and retain power, or else go back on his word and catch hell for it.

No, I think as a party leader you have to acknowledge that if you don’t get a majority you’ll do your best for the public and form a coalition with like minded parties.

As for the other parties? Well, there’s not much there:

  • The Lib Dems- They have a few decent policies and have cleverly set themselves up as the anti-Brexit party after Labour put up very little resistence to May’s plans. But the sting of 2010 still lingers and they don’t seem to have much of a chance.
  • The Greens- I admire the Greens for their enthusiasm, and they have some decent policies, but they haven’t got a hope, have they?
  • UKIP- Never.
  • Independents- They may be well meaning but I can’t think of one who actually made it to Westminster, and once there they are a lone voice. That being said, with the right manifesto and the right candidate it’s a possibility.

I guess I still have some thinking to do on this before I go to the polls.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


#FreeKesha: What about the men?

Earlier this week pop star Kesha was in court trying to get released from her contract with Sony and Kemosabe. The situation is horribly ugly for the singer, who finds herself trapped in a deal and obligated to record six more albums with a man who has abused her, producer DJ Luke.

I’ll make no bones about it, I believe and support Kesha and feel the position she finds herself in is disgraceful.

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Kesha

Before anyone cries “innocent until proven guilty”, I understand the concept but in cases of rape it’s a tricky one to apply. Because in presuming the accused innocent we are suggesting that the victim is lying.

Our culture has some serious issues with rape and one major problem is that victims are often placed under the microscope in ways that are grossly unfair, and their accusation is suspected and questioned.

Regardless of dress, lifestyle or profession, rape is rape. Yet, we get comments on how much women have drunk, what they wore or where they went. It all seems to suggest that in some way the victim was “asking for it”. No woman is asking for it.

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Personally, I think the victim should be believed and protected. That should be the starting point and investigation can come later.

False rape claims are rare and a woman has very little to gain from lying, as mentioned it places them under scrutiny and especially in Kesha’s case it doesn’t make sense.

If it was just a case of the relationship being strained she could have merely gritted her teeth and ground out six albums as quickly as possible. If Fleetwood Mac could make Rumours while the members were breaking up, then a personality clash would be easily overcome.

The news that a judge refused her appeals to be released is so infuriating and upsetting, as were images of Kesha reduced to tears in court. A young woman is being forced to make a horrible choice- give up the career she has built and loves, or go and work with a man who was physically and emotionally abusive to her.

Nobody should be forced to interact with their abuser and the judge’s ruling seemed more about business than the issues involved.

Really dropping the ball are Sony, who look terrible on this whole thing. Firstly, they seem to be siding with DJ Luke, which is not cool and secondly they appear to be putting profit over Kesha’s wellbeing. Sony could have handled it a lot better. They could have just let Kesha go and cut losses, or else worked something out where Kesha stayed with them but the link to DJ Luke was severed and he would not be involved or profit from her work.

Either option would have left them looking a damn sight better than they do now.

Thankfully there is some support for Kesha, with the #freekesha hashtag spreading online as people call for Sony to let her go and support her in what is a difficult time. She herself has thanked and acknowledged the help of her fans, but for it to really take effect she needs her fellow pop stars to help too.

This unfortunately has thrown up a new issue, one which highlights a clear failing in how we discuss rape. Several female celebrities came out in support including Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen, Lorde and Arianna Grande.

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While this is heartening to see, it turned a bit sour as Demi Lovato used it to apparently snipe at Taylor Swift for doing nothing. Petty point scoring was not a good thing to see.

The question that comes up here is, where are the men?

We expect the other female stars to rally, because of “sisterhood” but yet we let male stars off the book. Why haven’t Kesha’s former collaborators Pitbull and Flo Rida shown their support?

Rape and abuse our uncomfortable subjects, and ones that men have trouble engaging with. It’s not something we have to fear as much, and fear of saying the wrong thing lurks at the back of your mind. But we have to speak out, we need to show Kesha that we support her too, that we condemn the actions of DJ Luke and men like him.

We need to show that we believe those who come forward with allegations of abuse, that we believe they should be heard and the guilty punished. We need to show that we agree that rape is wrong and there are no excuses.

If more men were out there voicing this then perhaps our attitudes towards rape will change. That the discussion will change so that we focus on the issues that lead some men to feel they are entitled to a woman’s body no matter what and not what the woman could/should have done differently.

The victim is never responsible, the one responsible is the person doing the abuse.

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Kesha is in a position many victims of abuse aren’t: she’s rich, successful and has a platform to voice what happened to her. Despite all these advantages the system has failed her and she is still expected to work and make money for her abuser.

I hope that things change, I hope that there is a happy ending for Kesha. I hope that her courage in speaking out helps other victims to do the same and I hope that it can help our society adopt a better and more supportive attitude towards victims.

We need to change. And men need to take part in that. Nobody is saying it’s all men, but it’s too many men and they don’t get made in a vacuum, we need to understand why these men think and act the way they do and what we can do to make sure less of them do.

I stand with Kesha #freekesha

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Bulletproof Monk?: The Dalai Lama slips up

Very few famous people enjoy a position free from criticism, which is good in many ways, the public can criticise their leaders in a way that previously they couldn’t. And leaves them accountable for what they say and do. The days of Teflon figures are gone, with even Big Liz catching flak on occasion.
One of the few folks to avoid getting pulled up for his mistakes is His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This is understandable as we’re talking about a dude who had to flee his homeland after the Chinese invaded and who preaches love, compassion and peace. It’s hard to hate on a guy saying all that, regardless of your beliefs.

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So it’s surprising to see him get called up for recent comments.
Surprising but deserved as it turns out.
Discussing the possibility that his successor might be female HHDL dropped two clangers. The first was a bit of classic sexist stereotyping as he stated that women are “biologically has more potential to show affection and compassion”.
Really? Is that actually true? Does femininity really bring compassion? Isn’t that a universal quality that both genders can possess?
Some women are more compassionate, but others won’t be. Attributing qualities to an entire gender is sexist, but pales next to what he went on to say. He stated that back in an old interview he was asked the same question and answered that if it was a woman “her face should be very attractive, otherwise not much use”.
Because HHDL is such an Adonis.

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Dalai Lama, what a looker

It’s a terrible thing to say, that a woman’s value is determined by her looks even in the context of a religious. It’s also sad to see someone like HHDL say it. All that talk of equality and love, and then he spills something you could imagine someone like Jim Davidson coming out with.
Also, what does it matter to a monk?! Should he even be judging on appearance?
The interviewer thought he was joking and laughed awkwardly, probably not sure what the form is for calling out a major religious figure on being out of line.
Will this hurt HHDL? Probably not, I mean, I can’t think of another time he’s slipped up and I’ve heard worse. Still it’s disappointing. (Story)
It must be worse for those who really revere him, to find his feet of clay under those robes. But it does prove that despite our holiness score we’re all still human and capable of being wrong and that we all have flaws.
Personally I kind of knew he had a flaw having briefly following him on Twitter. That flaw being repetitive and a bit boring.
He’d tweet these little messages about compassion and kindness which were nice, but rather dull after a while. I know he’s got an image to stick to but still, he could join in the joke hashtags or something. Or live tweet as he watched The Great British Bake Off.
What made it worse is that every tweet seemed to be a retread of what Bill and Ted had managed to convey a lot more concisely and memorably;

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Why we need a new anthem

Despite having been written off as a no hoper in the next general election, new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is clearly worrying the Tories given David Cameron’s recent hyperbolic scaremongering and the rather desperate attempts of the press to find something to smear him.
Earlier this week Corbyn didn’t sing the national anthem at something remembering the Battle of Britain. Cue a meltdown, particularly from the right wing media.
How very dare he?! He’s dishonouring the memories. He’s snubbing Big Liz, blah, blah, blah.

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All this conveniently went down just as the House of Commons passed new cuts. Hmm.
Anyway, I feel all the fuss ignored the more important question- isn’t it about time we dropped “God Save The Queen” as our anthem?
There are many reasons it causes problems for different people and adding them all together it makes a convincing argument for a new tune.
Firstly, it’s not exactly cool that it’s a religious song, or more accurately a Christian song. Britain isn’t exclusively Christian anymore and it seems unfair that the anthem we have to sing or will have played when we win a medal doesn’t reflect our views. Why not just have a song about how great the UK is, that everyone, regardless of belief can get behind?
The second reason is similar. Not every Brit supports the monarchy, in fact many want it abolished. So, while they don’t wish the Queen harm, they’re probably not all that fussed on a song about her. Probably why Corbyn wasn’t singing.
Incidentally, you can love Britain without loving the Royals.
So, essentially we have an anthem which is rather divisive, which is the opposite of the idea.
The third reason is that “God Save The Queen” doesn’t represent the UK, because England lack the imagination to have come up with their own.
I’ve touched on this before but for Welsh people (and, as we’ll see, the Scots) “God Save The Queen” causes problems. In matches against the English we’re expected to sing respectfully to a second anthem because it’s “ours” while English fans can just boo, whistle and jeer throughout “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. I’m not saying this always happens but I have observed it.
Welsh fans tend to respect “GSTQ”, but I doubt many feel it represents them. And if it did wouldn’t that be worse? That our opponent is using something which should be for all of us?
It also means that should there be any negative response by other home nations to “GSTQ” it’s viewed not only as poor form but stupidity. We’re booing ourselves, in essence.
Witness the grief Scotland got for booing the anthem compared to the lack of fuss when English fans do the same to other home nations. I think those Scottish fans were in the wrong, and deserved censure. Booing an anthem is disrespectful and not really fair. Even if you object to that nation politically the eleven or fifteen players on the field are no more responsible for that, just as we wouldn’t like to be held accountable for all of Britain’s wrongdoings and mistakes.
The Scots who booed were wrong, but doesn’t it show that “GSTQ” should go? It clearly meant nothing to those fans, just as it doesn’t mean much to many Brits.
In fact some English fans want a change, because they see being English as distinct from being British. Which it is. They want a new anthem for England, I suggest we get a new British one first and then focus on England’s themetune
When a Welsh athlete wins an Olympic medal they have to stand and listen to it. A song that represents one part of this United Kingdom, not all of it.
You can argue that it’s the anthem for the UK, but for me it doesn’t feel like that. It’s the anthem of another country, a country who is often our opposition on the field.
When “GSTQ” plays I feel nothing.
There is no stirring of patriotic feeling, no desire to sing along. It’s a song aimed at a deity I don’t believe in to protect a ruler I’m ambivalent about and a song I normally associate with a country who are our sporting rivals.

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Clearly it means nothing to Giggs wither

Also, an anthem is meant to be constant (unless a regime falls or the country changes) but this is one that will have to change. In fact, the Battle of Britain heroes that Corbyn “dishonoured” never heard “GSTQ”, for them the song was “God Save The King”. The anthem he refused to sing wasn’t even the same one they would have sung.
Yes, it’s time for a change. Get a new anthem, one that celebrates Britain and it’s people, not just one of our richer citizens.
Get one that acknowledges that we are a country of different faiths, beliefs and ideas.
Get one that is actually for Britain, not just the English one extended for the rest of us. Britain is not England and sidekicks, it’s a joining of three distinct countries, each with their own cultures and histories. Each one has its anthem, so let the shared one be distinct and illustrative of this different entity.
If England want to keep it, they can. The UK can have a different one, a better one.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Crew cuts for all

As we sat watching Ghost Rider the other night MWF was on Facebook when she exclaimed “You’re gonna flip!”
She then preceded to show me a story, or rather comments on a story that had annoyed her and she guessed would push my buttons. She knows me so well.
The story was about a 13 year old girl who was sent home from school because her hair didn’t fit school rules on uniform (here). The girl had got leopard print dye on her hair and on her first day she was sent home.
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Now, first of all I don’t think your school has any right to tell you to wear your hair. As a teenager I has long, scruffy hair and I think had my school told me to cut it I think I would have told them “hell no”. Bad enough they made me wear a tie every day and an itchy jumper, but that was their call. My hair? That’s mine and I have that all the time, outside of school as well, so frankly the school has no right to dictate how I wore it.
MWF agrees, being someone who dyes her hair regularly and believing in the basic principles of choice, individuality and self-expression. The school has over stepped and let’s face it can a haircut really stop you (or others) from working and succeeding?
What MWF knew would really work me up were majority ents from various Facebook users.
Good grief.
What an outpouring of vile, narrow minded drivel that was.
The vast majority seemed to think that the school was right and didn’t hold back from attacking the girl or her mother. Yes, they went in hard on a 13 year old girl, insulting her, calling her ugly and even trotting a bit of homophobia for good measure. Classy folks.
Here’s a selection:
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A quick response to these two. First commenter, is it really the responsibility of a kid to be an example to other kids? Shouldn’t parents be setting the example, in which case I hope you don’t have kids as you’re teaching them to blindly follow pointless rules and that it’s okay to insult a random stranger based on looks. Stay classy.
Commenter two, wow what a an inspiring story, but I put it to you that just because you were a spineless little wimp who cracked at the first sign of disapproval doesn’t mean everyone is.
It seemed that a school stripping their students of any individuality was fine by them. Perhaps they fancy a system in the style of North Korea where there’s an approved list of hairstyles and you have to pick from that list.
Or maybe that’s still too much freedom of choice and room to be different, let’s just shave everybody’s heads.
What these people failed to grasp that the school was punishing a student for being different, for trying something out. She’s thirteen for crying out loud! Let her try out a different look, what harm does it do anyone else?
I feel the school was heavy handed and in the wrong and I firmly believe that no organisation should be able to dictate how you choose to look. It’s an infringement of personal freedom and the ability to be yourself, and I can’t help feel that most of the people posting comments would kick up if their boss announced that it was skinheads all around one Monday morning. Unless they’re in the military, in which case they’ve already surrendered quite a bit of their individuality.
Even at a basic level the lack of sympathy shown for a young girl who was clearly upset by events was grim reading. What is it about keyboards or screens that makes some folks turn into callous, mean spirited little twerps?
Rant over, I’ll let you get back to whatever you’re up to and may your hair grow free, in the style you want. Unless you’re rocking a man-bun in which case, cut it off, you’re only gonna regret the photos in a few years time.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Campaign name inspired by whaling? Yeah, you’re probably in the wrong: Thoughts on Project Harpoon

Sometimes it’s really hard to maintain my cheerful, “people are basically good” attitude. Most folks are just trying to get through their day to day and not harm or bother anyone if they can help it.
But often you get these outbursts of nastiness and cruelty. This happens on a large scale and in smaller, petty ways, and both get to me.
I just wish more people paused before acting and followed the golden rule (treat others as you want to be treated).
The internet, which can be used for great things, is often a breeding ground for petty cruelty. The latest online unpleasantness is an odious campaign called “Project Harpoon”.
Like many campaigns it targets women, particularly the larger ladies. Hence it’s nasty name, the kind of thing a particularly obnoxious teenage boy would find hilarious.
The whole campaign, hiding behind the banner of “skinny acceptance” sees photos of plumper women photoshopped to make them thinner. This has been done to celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and Meghan Trainor (see below), but more distressingly to regular women who post pictures of themselves and online.
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Some of these women post their pictures as part of their process of becoming comfortable with their bodies and expressing themselves. A process helps the viewers as well, inspiring women to realize that people of the same size can be attractive.
That these pictures are being used in this hateful campaign is cruel, these women have found the confidence to put themselves out there, often after years of the media telling them that sexy means skinny. Just as they gain confidence it is attacked and undermined.
This is fat shaming and bullying, with nothing to do with “skinny acceptance” if that’s what you want, post pictures of skinny women or leave positive comments on the pictures that are already out there.
We don’t need fat or skinny acceptance, we need acceptance of the variety that exists in human appearance and that beauty doesn’t have anything to do with clothes size or weight.
You hope these idiots grow out of it, and in years to come look back in shame at their actions. It’s just not cool, and I’d hazard a guess that we’re not dealing with ideal specimens here, and they would not appreciate someone retouching and being sarky about them, especially in photos they were happy and proud of.
Project Harpoon represents the worse kind of petty cruelty and thoughtlessness we are capable of. I pray the women who fall victim to it rise above and realize that these sad losers are the minority and that all body shapes can be beautiful. And what matters most is how they feel about their body. Love yourself folks.
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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gone to Pot: Legalising Cannabis

Disclaimer: My medical knowledge is shaky and I haven’t done tons of background reading, this is just my opinion. You’re free to reply and disagree, but keep it civil.
Recently three English police forces have announced that they won’t be going after people who grow cannabis for their own use. Predictably certain elements of the press were up in arms, angry that the cops would be allowing these marijuana friends to run free. And that it’s legislation by the back door.
It highlighted the problem with the drug debate because both sides are a little ridiculous. The pro-legalization lot are let down by dopey stoners who talk about weed in hyperbolic terms overplaying the benefits and its effects and putting off the “straights”, while the anti group seem OTT in their response, calling to mind Reefer Madness.
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I would say I’m pro, but as my pot smoking days are behind me, don’t worry about me raving about the miracle weed. MWG, who’s never touched it (the square!) agrees that it should be legalised, arguing that it leads to unnecessary imprisonments which puts a strain on the system and that it has good medicinal qualities.
I think the police could dedicate their efforts towards more serious crimes and that if someone wants to get high they should be left alone, as its not really harming anyone else.
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Letting folks grow their own is actually pretty smart, if the criminal element is making cash or using weed to aid their other more evil schemes, then surely this will help stop them. If you’re not going to get pinched you’re probably going to prefer a bit of gardening to having to go through a dealer.
Now, I know some will be saying ” But Chris, what about the connection between cannabis and mental health conditions?”
For me that connection is shaky. My view is that one thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that the stoners who develop issues later may very well have had or been prone to those psychological problems anyway. If you’re someone who suffers anxiety, or paranoia, a drug known to chill you out would be appealing, as a form of self medication (having worked in mental health I observed self medication with nicotine, caffeine and even alcohol), so it may be that rather than the cannabis.
The only way to definitively prove it either way would be to assess a group of people, looking for genetic markers for mental health issues or family history (or whatever), having folks smoke weed for a few years and then seeing how many developed issues. If its just the ones predisposed to mental health issues then it ain’t the weed.
Of course such a study would be difficult, because of ethics (if you find genetic markers for mental health issues, should you tell them? Or would that influence their experience with the drug?) As well as just being very complicated, not to mention that other factors might have played a part.
The thing is if that’s enough to keep it illegal then booze, which can cause dementia, physical illness and could be argued to be more dangerous, is on shaky ground.
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Personally, I think legalise weed, issue licences for UK based farms, put a tax on it and leave it alone. It would stop criminals from profiting, free up the police and courts for more serious offences and allow the effects to be better understood.
Jobs, less police spending and easing prison overcrowding.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Who watches the Watchman? Not I

Today saw the publication of Go Set A Watchman, the second novel by Harper Lee. It’s a sequel to her 1960 classic To Kill A Mockingbird.
Mockingbird is one of my favourite books of all time. I studied it for my English Literature GCSE, and it utterly captivated me.
Studying a book can kill it for you, at A Level I did Dickens’ Great Expectations, and to this day it remains one of my least favourite books of all time and I have never had the slightest urge to read Dickens again.
So it’s a testament to Lee’s writing that even after numerous reads, endless discussion and note taking I still love the novel. It’s moving, charming and Lee juggles different themes expertly. It’s about childhood, outsiders and race.
Lee’s towering creation is the narrator’s father, Atticus Finch. The small town lawyer who takes on the case of a black man accused of rape. It’s a case that in ’30s Alabama will be a tough job, regardless of what he does. Eloquent, principled and a “how to” for fatherhood and generally being a decent person.

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Gregory Peck as Atticus on screen,capturing the character's quiet heroism, dignity and nobility

Finch raises his kids and argues the case, standing as a hero who fights for what’s right and teaches his kids the importance of compassion and kindness.
So a sequel to the book should fill me with excitement, right? Well, not exactly.
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I have three problems with it.
First of all, put simply it’s unnecessary. Lee crafted a classic novel that stands by itself perfectly well. She may have written this other book but she didn’t publish it, or trumpet it’s existence. Possibly because Lee realised that her legacy didn’t need it and that what followed wasn’t needed.
Or maybe she just decided that she didn’t want it to be published.
Which brings us to point two; is this what Lee actually wants or is this a decision made by others, for mercenary reasons?
Lee is getting on in years, and is this decision made with her informed consent? Has she been influenced into publishing it?
We don’t know. An investigation says there’s no “elder abuse” going on, but we don’t know the whole story of what’s going on behind the scenes. And it’s a bit hinky that after over 50 years the book is being released. Why not sooner?
The third reason is probably the most personal, coming mainly from my position as a fan of the books.
I don’t want the original book to be tarnished by an inferior sequel. This can happen and while you can try to forget the rubbish follow ups, they still lurk in your memory, souring the original a little (e.g. The Matrix)
These fears weren’t helped by reports that Watchman presents us a very different Atticus 20 years on. He’s apparently shown to express or share bigoted views.
A book about someone returning home and finding that they may have sanitised or idealised their parents and childhood is one thing, and might make for a good book, but when that parent is a character as beloved and iconic as Atticus Finch then it causes problems.
Atticus is one of the best heroes of the 20th century, and one who has inspired and been taken into the hearts of countless readers. His words of wisdom still carry weight today.
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So, it’s a shame if this book does tear that down. If it sours people’s memory and affection for the original. Especially if it destroys Atticus Finch as the noble, kind hero Lee created back then.
The author might make the character, but once they’re out there the audience owns them too, and a lot of us have taken possession of Atticus Finch. We treasure him, and quote him, and try to be more like the example he set. It’s sad that, for some, they will lose that. Because the fictional characters we meet and embrace can influence us and mean as much as the real ones we meet.
For me, it won’t be an issue. I’ll leave it at Mockingbird and keep my view of Atticus and Lee’s writing as the one I love and keep hold of.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


The New Josie? I don’t think so

So way back in December I made an unofficial resolution that I would no longer mention tabloid regular Josie Cunningham on this blog. I felt that Josie and her family would be better served if she slipped out of the limelight, and that any comment on her would be contributing to keeping her in the public eye.

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Josie Cunningham, back again

It’s been challenging at times not to weigh in. There was her TV documentary and then her arrest for revenge porn, but I kept quiet. But this week I’ve decided to talk about her again?
So what has Josie done?
Well, nothing actually.
What has happened is another young woman has been splashed over the tabloids and her story has made some think of Josie, and blame her for this other woman’s actions.
The other woman is Naica Gibson, who was The Sun’s lead story a few days ago (I glimpsed the headline in a shop). Gibson revealed that she had been saving for a boob job, putting £100 away a week. The problem was that Gibson wasn’t working and so the money was coming out of the benefits she and her four kids receive. The hyperbolic headline stated that she let her kids “go hungry”. And they had to go round to granny’s near the end of the month as the cupboards were bare.
Gibson diligently saved her money, eager to enhance her breasts. Having done her research she discovered it was cheaper to fly to Poland for the op as opposed to getting it done in the UK.

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Naica Gibson

The op done she flew home, however, since then the site has become infected, leaving her scarred and swollen. She requires corrective surgery and the implants replaced, all of which would cost £5K. Gibson has stated that she wants the NHS to pay for this, and that events have caused her distress.
Benefits, boob jobs and the NHS footing the bill, it’s not hard to see why people have connected the two, but how similar are Josie and Naica really?
Josie’s original operation was funded by the NHS as she had an extremely flat chest and it effected her self esteem and emotional health. Naica’s was to reduce sagging, part of aging. While Naica may have felt negatively about her body it doesn’t appear to have effected her that much and this was just a decision she made, as do many other women.
The decision was fine, it’s an option for women who feel they want to enhance their body/figure (I know a woman who had a similar procedure for her own self confidence), the saving up for one would have been okay, if done more sensibly.
And let’s face it, what she chooses to spend her money on is her business, regardless of whether it’s benefits. The public shouldn’t judge what benefit recipients get with the money, its their money. How many of us would like if our bosses sat there criticising what our wages were used for?
With more patience she could have put less aside a week, getting there eventually and not impacting on her kids well-being as much.
The difference I see is the attitude towards their kids, and while Josie’s actions are questionable, she has never negatively impacted on her kids (with the possible exception of her decision to seek fame). Naica’s actions, although most likely exaggerated by the press, do seem selfish and uncaring.
Of course, it could turn out that the kids are alright and Naica spun this version to gain more heat in the papers.
The main similarity? The explosion of negativity and self-righteous fury that has spewed forth, people furious with their taxes going on
It’s this instance that Josie’s name comes up, with her getting blamed for Naica wanting a second operation on the NHS.

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Here’s the thing, should Naica get this operation on the NHS?
Yes.
She’s a UK citizen who’s health is at risk. She has a post-operative infection and it needs treating. The NHS helped the women effected by the PIP implants a few years ago, and this is a similar case.
Ignore the tabloid sensationalism and review the simple facts- woman has operation, operation causes complications and needs further treatment.
As for the “that money could go to saving lives” argument, it’s not that simple. I suspect each department has their own budget and decides based on this, its not a case of someone’s cancer treatment being cancelled because of Naica’s boob job.
Did Naica act badly? Yes. Could she have gone about things in a better way? Undoubtedly.
Do either of those mean she should be made to suffer and put at risk? Hell no!
The NHS is there to care for us all, and to provide holistic care (addressing physical, mental and emotional needs, hence why Josie qualified for an NHS boob job). It doesn’t pass judgement on how you got ill, it just treats you, which is the way it should be.
And if anyone is still angry about their taxes going on these two women I’d say to put it in perspective:
Both of these women’s operations cost less than £10,000 combined, and improved two people’s quality of life. Now compare that to the £100Bn we’re dropping on Trident, which we’ll never use and if we did would kill millions. Personally, I’m more annoyed at the thought of my taxes going towards that.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.