My Incapacity Benefit petition…

What about a campaign for an extra day’s benefit every leap year? Why not; if the government feels free to screw us at every opportunity, why shouldn’t we return the compliment?

On a more pragmatic level, we get a £10 bonus at Christmas – welcome, but no-one, surely, thinks that a tenner makes any sort of a dent in Christmas? On the other hand, an extra, unbudgeted-for day every four years will make a dent in our income.

It makes economic sense, every 4 years our benefits have to stretch to encompass an extra day’s lighting, heating and food – that’s got to be worth at least a tenner… Yeah, OK, those who are able to work will say it applies to them, too, and they can’t have an extra day’s pay, but wages, even the minimum wage, are so much higher than benefits that the argument doesn’t hold water and, of course, at work their employer foots the bill for their lighting and heating during the day – those of us who are housebound have to find the money ourselves.

I’ve created a petition here . Your support would be appreciated and, of course, should it come to fruition, those of you on Incapacity Benefit will, er, benefit too. Feel free to pass it on to anyone you feel is appropriate – the wider the distribution, the better.

Plastic carrier bags… is the end in sight?

There’s no doubt that plastic carrier bags are a planet-wide blight – the buggers are everywhere, choking turtles and dolphins in the oceans (and just who are the witless trolls who think the ocean is a good place to discard plastic anything? It floats, you pillocks!), festooning trees and hedgerows everywhere (and thank you, dog walkers, for adding to this by leaving little plastic bags of shit in your wake wherever you go – take the fuckers home!).

Now then, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to claim that plastic carriers are virtually indestructible, and they’ll linger in landfill and hedges for hundreds of years. However, I have several Tesco bags, full of bits and bobs, scattered around my flat, and one of these has spontaneously degraded and reduced itself to small, friable, fragments. Why? I’ve no idea, it’s just a standard bag, and there are half a dozen other just like it that have conspicuously failed to degrade, so presumably something – or a combination of things – that I’d stashed in it has triggered this breakdown. If I can stumble upon this quite by accident, surely researchers should be able to come up with an answer? There clearly is one. So, scientists, I have the fragments of this degraded bag – would you like them?

M&S are about to introduce a 5p per bag “tax” on carriers, in an attempt to encourage people to go back to using traditional, infinitely reusable shopping, bags (note to M&S – selling reusable bags might be an idea, if you don’t already), and – insanely – they’re getting a huge amount of flack, instead of the praise they deserve. The hard-of-thinking (and, Jesus, don’t we have a lot of them in this country!), see it as a fee for a carrier bag, not as the incentive not to use the things that it is in reality. And, really, we just don’t need carrier bags, though I’m as guilty as anyone else, as they’re so handy, though for many years, before my disability became too severe, I used a rucksack to carry my shopping – much better than carrier bags, or even normal shopping bags, enabling far more to be carried in greater comfort (a rucksack, for example, doesn’t try and cut you fingers off if you carry it for more than a few minutes, like plastic does). For larger shopping expeditions I’d use a backpack – carrying 30lbs or so of shopping that way is a breeze. And no, I’m not some muscle-bound, hairy-arsed backpacker (though I used to be), I’m just a disabled guy who walks with the aid of crutches.

About five years ago I bought a large shopping bag, around £4, from Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available!), made from plastic impregnated fabric – it appears to be indestructible and is still in daily use. It’s so useful that you might think that Sainsbury’s would still sell them, but no.

When I emailed Sainsbury’s head office last year, and asked, given the uproar over plastic bags (it seems to happen once a year), why they didn’t still sell such bags, or re-introduce them, I got a torrent of marketing-speak which, boiled down, amounted to “Because we don’t,”.

If stores sold sensibly robust, re-usable, bags, people would buy and use (and re-use), them, but they don’t so we can’t. At least I don’t know of anyone who does (does anybody out there know?), and I don’t mean the 40p heavy-duty plastic bags that, while better than disposables, aren’t the real answer – and am I the only one to have sustained paper-style cuts from this material?

Whatever happened to string bags? Very easy to carry, weighing little and taking up very little room but, apparently, gone for ever.

Oh, you can still buy pretend string bags, made from what seems to be string vest fabric (indeed, they actually seem to BE string vests, died green and with the bottom sewn up – thank you, Lakeland!), and after a couple of uses they self-destruct, but what I mean is those bags that were made in the same way as traditional fishing nets – knotted, not knitted.

String bags do have a downside, though – stuff one in a pocket and, when you pull it out, it’ll drag everything else in your pocket out at the same time, so either empty your pocket first, or make sure there’s nothing embarrassing in there…

Almost everyone used them when I was growing up, men and women alike yet, some time in the sixties, they sank without trace and, apart from aberrations like the “vest bag”, show no sign of reappearing. A pity, because this is surely the ideal time for a comeback. Surely there’s somebody in Bridport, that centre of net production, who could knock these out as a sideline?

What about paper? American supermarkets traditionally used robust paper sacks to pack groceries (they may still do so for all I know), and my local organic farm shop uses paper sacks, too, which are more than adequate for transporting to the car and, back home, carrying inside (they don’t fall over in the back of the car, either). And come in very handy when collecting, or even buying, mushrooms – they should never be put in a plastic bag for more than a few minutes. So why can’t we switch from plastic to paper? The vast majority of shoppers at edge-of-town supermarkets seem to be car-borne, so I don’t see a problem (but they’d be a bugger if you had to take them on the bus, though, of course, this is where a rucksack comes into its own), and almost all of them take their shopping to the car in the trolley, so carrying multiple bags across the windy acres of car-park isn’t an issue.

I see, this morning, Gordon Brown has jumped on the bandwagon. I don’t suppose he wanted to, but if he hadn’t the Tories would have been bitching and whining by now (though no doubt some of them will condemn Brown for bandwagon-jumping! Anyway, having – ill-advisedly – chosen the borderline-unhinged Daily Mail as a forum, GB has announced that he wants to see plastic carriers banned.

Fine, I don’t have a problem with that, though it’s a tad simplistic, because a simple ban isn’t adequate – he needs to ensure that a viable alternative is easily available. After all, where does one buy a conventional shopping bag? I don’t know. Maybe he can encourage proper string bag production!

New ME petition…

I emailed my ME contact group with details of this, then promptly forgot to post it here:-

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to protect & help people receiving DLA who are having to reapply due to Government changes in how this benefit is allocated.”

“People who are genuinely chronically ill/disabled & have been receiving DLA/SDA are having to do battle with their local DHS/GP’s etc to reapply/appeal to have their allowances re-instated.This is causing untold stress, distress & adding to their illnesses & no doubt will cause ultimately some poor souls death. HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT INTEND TO LOOK
AFTER THESE VULNERABLE PEOPLE IN OUR SOCIETY??”

Sign the petition here.

I signed it and a few minutes ago got the following from the “office of the Prime Minister”. It is mostly, I’m afraid, mendacious and self-serving bollocks, and completely ignores the points made in the petition:-

There is no established cause of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME). A number of different potential aetiologies including neurological, endocrine, immunological, genetic, psychiatric and infectious have been investigated, but the diverse nature of the symptoms can not yet be fully explained. The World Health Organization classifies CFS/ME as a neurological illness, but we recognise that many others working in the field of CFS/ME believe that until research further identifies its aetiology and pathogenesis, there is a risk of restricting research into the causes, mechanisms and future treatments for CFS/ME. What is important to recognise that CFS/ME is a genuine and disabling illness and health professionals must recognise it as such.

As will all serious illnesses, it is important that patients, their families and the healthcare professionals looking after them have the best scientific information available and the PACE trial has been designed to help them decide for themselves what treatment is likely to be best from them. There is currently very little information about the relative benefits of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and graded exercise treatment and a scientific trial is the only way to find out which is the most effective approach.

The aim behind CBT is to support a sustainable improvement in functioning and adaption to illness, via gradual steps that are mutually agreed and regularly reviewed by patient and clinician. Applied appropriately, CBT can help the patient cope confidently with their illness and help them adjust to some of the consequences of being unwell and to feel more in control of their illness. In common with other illnesses such as cancer where it has been successfully used, its use does not imply that the cause of the illness is psychological.
As with any treatment, an explanation of the benefits and possible harmful effects of CBT should always be provided before decisions are made to offer and accept the treatment. It is important that health professionals recognise that people can vary in response to the treatments available and that it is appropriate to review therapy if symptoms appear to worsen as a result.

The Medical Research Council’s support for the PACE trial does not mean that money is not available for biomedical research and the Council remains committed to funding scientific research in all aspects of CFS/ME. Nevertheless it is important to maintain high standards in funding decisions and the MRC maintains a rigorous a decision making process, only funding research that is likely to make a significant contribution to knowledge and is a good use of tax payers’ money. The decision to reject proposals is taken on the grounds of scientific quality and whether the research proposed would be likely to inform the knowledge base.

This is my reply:-

Sirs,

(As the email to which I am responding is rather discourteously anonymous, I have no idea what the appropriate salutation might be – this will have to suffice.)

Very interesting – the first rapid-response I’ve had to a petition. I wonder why – I surely didn’t get one to the last ME petition I signed which, apparently, sank without any official comment at all.

However, you completely fail to address the issues raised by the petitioner and, sorry, but simply re-stating the NICE/DWP party line is insulting to every member of the ME community, among whom I number myself. Now, do you think you can do us all the courtesy of giving some thought to the points raised in the petition, and responding rather more appropriately? Thank you.

Regards,

Ron Graves.

If you, too, got this crapulous reply from the government, which is, after all, elected to look after our interests (ha!), then do, please, reply to it (if you want to copy mine, you can, gladly) – don’t let them get away with just brushing us off.

Update: In creating my own petition (see Short changed?), I accessed the petition website using the link to this petition and, while I was there, I had a look at the list of signatories – MY NAME HAS BEEN DELETED!! Somehow, I doubt that this blatant act of censorship is entirely unrelated to my challenging their egregious reply.

More Comment is Free…

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian online gave blog space to the spectacularly talentless son of one of their contributors, so he could keep us all enraptured reporting his travels in India.

Readers swiftly caught on to the shameless nepotism, and the lack of talent (and what a tit he really was – every word he wrote screamed it), and as a result the bozo got a spectacular, and richly-deserved, kicking. By now he’s in India, licking his wounds and possibly contracting some colourful and interesting diseases (painful, maybe, too), to tell us about in his blog.

Oh – wait – the Guardian, not having the courage of their convictions, have binned the idea, because readers were nasty to the poor soul. They seem surprised by the ferocity of the response – I can’t think why, as it was fully justified, in my view. I mean, they gave space to a self-promoting oik, just because daddy works at the Guardian, who was about to do something many thousands, possibly millions, of others have done, and who was proposing to bore us witless with regular, ill-written, blog posts. I’m just sorry I missed it at the time, otherwise I could have been deleted by the moderators/censors, too!

Read it all here and, check out how many times the fuckwit moderators interfere with freedom of speech. I just don’t believe that all the posts they censor are libellous (and that, in my view, is the only valid reason).

You can’t actually post comments any longer, and I’m not sure how long that link will remain active but, for now, enjoy – shadenfreude really is fun…

Prozac…

One piece of recently-published research suggests Prozac may not work, and everybody jumps on the bandwagon. Almost any research of this sort, though, is pretty worthless unless its results can be independently replicated (so it’s too soon to write off Prozac), but I do have to wonder if they may be on the right track (though I think saying Prozac doesn’t work for some would be rather more honest that simply claiming that placebos are as good).

I’m prone to drug-induced depression – one of my meds, Aminophylline, causes a deficiency of vitamin B6, which is involved in maintaining stable serotonin levels, and a deficiency causes depression. I have taken Prozac several times and, the first time, it worked fine, until the horrendous side-effects kicked in- it made me cough uncontrollably, until my lungs haemorrhaged – and caused me to stop taking it after a couple of months. Subsequent courses did nothing for me at all, causing me to think that the initial benefits were nothing more than the placebo effect.

I now take a B6 supplement (100 mg daily), which has stabilised my serotonin levels and I’m no longer depressed – last Christmas was the first in nearly 20 years that I haven’t felt almost suicidally depressed.

Could that be the placebo effect, though? No, I don’t believe so, as I have a lot of experience with that. I have ME, as you may know, for which there is no treatment (note for NICE – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy are unproven and dangerous for those with ME), so like many in the ME community, I put my faith in supplements to try and ease my symptoms. Some of these work fine the first time, but subsequent batches do pretty much nothing at all – these are the ones I put down to the placebo effect and stop buying them. Oddly, it seems to be the more expensive and heavily hyped supplements that this happens with.

I have a hard-core range of supplements, which are cheap, and have proven to be effective over many years. For me there is one proof of efficacy for a supplement – do I deteriorate without it, and improve with it. In the case of my current range, this has been demonstrated repeatedly over a long period. They are, in no particular order:-

Zinc, 30mg

Magnesium, 300mg

Vitamin B6, 100mg

Soluble Vitamin C, 1000mg

Vitamin E, 400mg

Ginseng, 500mg

A multi-vitamin and mineral supplement

That’s my standard daily intake. If I feel the need for a boost, I’ll add a Mega B-complex supplement (which turns pee an alarming shade of yellow!). And a note about ginseng – for years I insisted on the genuine article, Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), however, the cost prompted me to try Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), and I found it to be just as effective, so I stuck with it. It’s about 50% cheaper than Korean ginseng.

Note re vitamin C. If you take 1000mg all at once, your body will take what it needs at that point and promptly excrete the rest. There are two ways around this – slow-release tabs/caps, which are expensive, or you can use a 250ml water bottle, fill it with water, and dissolve the C in it (leave the cap off!). Once it’s dissolved, you can cap it, stick it in the fridge and drink it throughout the day. Oh, and don’t cut costs by using ascorbic acid powder. True, it’s still vitamin C, but it’s entirely without any of the buffering agents that stop the soluble versions irritating the hell out of your stomach. The cheapest source is Tesco or Sainsbury’s – or you can buy Redoxon from the chemist at twice the price.

Given my success with B6, I would have no reservations about suggesting that anyone who is depressed gives it a try, as it’s very cheap and, even if it does no good, it’ll do no harm either. After all, if you present to your GP with depression, he won’t order a blood test to check for B6 deficiency, he’ll just scribble a scrip for happy pills which, in the process of fixing your depression, have a very good chance of fucking you up in so many ways.

I buy my C at the supermarket, but all the rest I get here. I buy the PowerHealth brand, which is at the cheap end of the market – why pay maybe 4 or 5 times the price for, say, the Solgar brand, which is ferociously expensive and no more effective than the cheaper ones (I’ve tried them to be sure)?

Footnote:- one of the search criteria that brought people to this post today was “vitamin C as good as Prozack (sic)”. Let me state, categorically, that there is not the slightest evidence that vitamin C does anything for any mental illness. It provides a boost to the immune system (though even that’s controversial), and, of course, stops you getting scurvy, and that’s pretty much it.

Oh, you can Google it ’til you go blind, and you’ll find a wide and varied selection of fruitcakes telling you C is good for almost every conceivable illness – there are even some 24-carat psychos who insist it’ll cure AIDS and cancer – no it bloody won’t!

Here’s a tip – ask these people in which journal their research was published and peer-reviewed, and watch them slink back under their stones. Quacks don’t publish, because their deranged theories will be kicked to death by people far more qualified than they are – they depend entirely on the gullible not asking too many questions. Sadly, the ME community is beset by legions of these vultures, who, for reasons that elude me, find rich pickings.

OK, people with ME are, almost without exception, desperate for a cure, and many can’t get their heads around the cast-iron fact that there isn’t one, nor is there going to be until someone finds a definitive cause. Many, also, will seize upon any “remedy” offered and, to them I will say just this – check it out by all means, but, for pity’s sake, don’t leave your brains at the door!

I seem to have digressed, but there is zero evidence that vitamin C cures anything at all, though it does make my bread rise nicely!

Muslims offended – shock, horror!

The Islamic world, or at least a vociferous part of it, is up in arms because Wikipedia has posted images of Mohammed.

“Why are wikipedia admins insisting on inflicting pain and hatred upon muslims?” asks one complainant, completely missing the point that Wikipedia is not inflicting anything on anybody – any pain and hatred resides entirely within the Muslim psyche.

The solution, though, is simple; if your religion has so slender a hold upon you that you fear these images will nudge you down the slippery slope to idolatry, then don’t look at them. That’s your right, just as it’s my right not to visit Islamic websites, because I know that they will piss me off monumentally. I don’t bitch and whine because they’re there, and demand they be censored. Muslims can surely do the same with Wikipedia – it’s their right to stay away from it, it’s sure as hell NOT their right to censor it.

Wikipedia didn’t create the images just to wind up Muslims (though god knows, it doesn’t take much!), they have existed in the real world for many centuries (almost as long as Islam in some cases), but I don’t hear anyone suggesting that the original paintings be destroyed because they depict the prophet (though I’m pretty sure fruitcake will have) – their existence has conspicuously not caused the Islamic world to descend into idolatry as a result, and the images on Wikipedia – which must remain in a sane world – are surely not going to change that.

It seems to me that Muslims all too often deliberately go out of their way to be “offended” – teddy-bear, anyone, or fake “Danish” cartoons cobbled up by an Imam to ramp up the savagery? – and this is just the latest example. Stick around, there’ll surely be something else along soon.

You’ll enjoy this if you’re not easily offended, or Muslim…

 

Brit School…

What is it with alumni of the Brit School (Kate Nash, Lily Allen et al)? Their music’s OK (for a given value of OK), but almost without exception, the buggers can’t speak English.

Listening to Kate Nash at The Brits last night (and, god, wasn’t it an evening absolutely littered with dog-rough women – make an effort, girls, please; and will someone please buy Amy Winehouse a comb – or does she keep her stash in that hair?), she might well have been speaking Tagalog, so infested was her speech with glottal stops. In fact, it wasn’t that it was barely English, it was barely language – I really had to work hard to understand what she was saying. Shame it wasn’t worth the effort…

I’m all in favour of regional dialects – I was born in Manchester (long before the current nasal, whiny accent developed), although, having grown up in Liverpool, I now have a generic northern accent with no particular regional influences – but the hopelessly corrupted version of estuary English, as spoken by Nash and company isn’t a dialect, it’s simply a slovenly mode of speech.

If present trends continue (why is it, do you think, that migrants from mainland Europe and India take the trouble to learn English properly, yet native-born people are happy to wreak havoc on it?), the language we now know will have ceased to exist except among a well-educated elite, and in America.

American English, as spoken by educated Americans, particularly in those areas least influenced by immigration, like New England, is purer than the language spoken by the majority of people in the UK. Send Kate Nash to New Hampshire, and her speech would be as unintelligible as Swahili! And the really scary thing is that, even here in the north, the kids are starting to ape estuary English as spoken by Nash and Allen, probably because it even affects their music – in both cases they sing the same way they speak – appallingly badly. I don’t mean bad musically, but linguistically – listen for yourself. The only people I know whose dialects come through strongly in their songs are the Proclaimers (and I suspect that’s deliberate), and, yep, you’ve guessed…

Comment is Free…

The Guardian online has a blog segment called Comment is Free, whereby contributors write articles, and the great unwashed get to comment on them. I spend a lot of time there – it’s interesting – and I occasionally post comments myself.

There is, though, a massive problem – a bunch of fascists who call themselves the moderators. They’re not, they’re censors, pure and simple. As far as I can see, they are responsible to no-one, their decisions are entirely arbitrary and, when challenged, they are unable to justify their decisions.

Personally, having had several posts deleted today (in a blog pretty much devoted to kicking Al Fayed), when others saying much the same thing survived intact, I’ve pretty much had it with these clowns (they forget that all the posters contribute free content to their online “paper”), and I’m not prepared to waste any more time helping to fill their space – the more so since, a couple of days ago one guy directly challenged the editor to control the moderators, and was completely ignored. I protested at that, and I was ignored too.

So, until the Guardian finds the balls to impose some constraints on these dimwit censors, and teach them the meaning of free speech, they can get by without me and, judging by comments from other disenchanted people, I doubt I’m alone. Not that, of course, in their arrogance, they will care one iota…

If you’re familiar with CiF, this is my offending post that was deleted:-

@fromtheislands
“Has with Mr Al Fayed broken any UK laws? – not as far I know”  (quoting a previous poster)

Damn right he has – for years this guy has made a career of driving a coach and horses through the UK’s libel and slander laws, no doubt believing that, if challenged, he has enough money to buy “justice”.

To the best of my knowledge, the royal family aren’t allowed to defend themselves at law, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the wealthiest of those he’s libelled and slandered over the last 10 years haven’t sued this clown into oblivion.

It’s perfectly clear from his performance at the inquest, that he hasn’t an iota of proof to support his claims (like that’s a surprise), so WHY has no-one sued? I just don’t understand it. Yes, he’s mentally ill – I don’t think any other conclusion can be drawn from his ravings – but that does NOT give him carte blanche to say whatever he likes about whomsoever he likes. Yet he’s allowed to, time, after time, after time...

And, a few minutes later  there it was – gone – consigned to moderated oblivion. Comment may be free, but speech sure as hell isn’t, not in Guardian-world.

Science at work…

I was mooching idly round the chemist’s today, while they put my prescription together, and I found myself by the baby food shelf, where I was struck by a thought.

How much research, testing and plain, old-fashioned hard graft, I wonder, goes into ensuring that baby food is exactly the same colour and texture at both ends of the baby?

Fruitcake…

I can’t help wondering, as the Princess Diana inquest sinks into Alice-in-Wonderland territory, how much longer Mohamed Al Fayed is going to be allowed to promulgate his insane lies.

Henri Paul was drunk, as a direct result of which he crashed the Merc. Diana and Dodi Al Fayed (and others), died. End of discussion.

Unless, of course, you’re a deranged millionaire, and you think you can say whatever you like about anybody at all, and not have to accept the consequences. This fruitcake accuses the Duke of Edinburgh of murdering Diana, and his son, without the slightest evidence, and goes on to slander Prince Charles and his wife, and pretty much anyone else he can think of – a reporter who tried to ask him a question was yelled at and called an idiot who was a member of MI6.

And if Prince Philip really did have hired assassins at his beck and call, don’t you think that, by now, Al Fayed would have been quietly disposed of? Just a thought…

Personally, I think Prince Charles treated Diana as no more than a brood mare, and his behaviour was deplorable. Maybe Al Fayed thinks that, too, but his own behaviour is beyond the pale.

There is a limit to how much Al Fayed’s behaviour can be excused by grief, and that limit has long since passed. It’s high time that Al Fayed was made to put up or shut up – despite his toxic ranting at the inquest, he produced not the slightest scrap of evidence to support his crackpot theories. The royal family are unable to sue this mad old fuckwit, but by God and sonny Jesus, somebody should.