Banning the Burkini

The Mayor of the French town of Nice has passed a law banning the Burkini, a full body cover designed for swimming. Quite how you define this is beyond me. I for example am luminously pasty and often cover up on the beach because while I CAN go out in direct sunlight, I don’t like it. I might, wear a rash suit rather than deal with suncream, especially if on my own. Would I be asked to disrobe, and risk sunburn?

There’s the hypocrisy too: Pictures of armed french police demanding a woman disrobe are uncomfortable. I thought we in the west were about female emancipation?

Nuns, bathing in even less revealing clothing inspired ultimately by the same abrahamic exhortation to female modesty, will, I presume remain unmolested.

This isn’t about the Burkini, of course, but about muslim integration. There’s no doubt muslim immigration has unsettled large swaths of the population of Europe. It’s not about terrorism. It’s about feeling a stranger in your own country, surrounded in some areas by people who speak a different language, wear different clothes and do not mix or integrate with the native population, and it’s these feelings that are driving people to le Front National, Brexit, Swedish Democrats and so forth. 
A Burka ban is clearly silly, unenforceable but eye-catching. A symptom of something we have to address. Perhaps Islam IS incompatible with western ideas, especially where the immigrants are poor and in large numbers. But I don’t think this to be the case. The USA, with far fewer, better-educated muslims has done a much better job of integrating than Europe or the UK, where ghettos have been allowed to form, and the 2nd and 3rd generation are, in contrast to previous waves of immigration, no better integrated than their parents and grandparents. If anything in places like Bradford, or the poor areas of Brussels some muslims are becoming increasingly radicalised as immigrant communities and the native population reject each other.
What the people voted for in Austria when they nearly elected Norbert Hoffer, In France when they nearly elected Le Pen, in the UK when they voted for Brexit is an end to immigration, especially of people who don’t share our values. And Muslims far too often don’t share our values (nor, brexiteers, do they come from the EU…).
In wearing a Burkini on the beach, or the Niqab in town, a woman (or her husband…) is visibly making a statement rejecting French culture. A man in a Shalwar Kameez makes the same statement. If he’s in a local majority, these clothes subconsciously say “this place is ours now, not yours” and this can feel profoundly threatening. Especially when combined with a wave of Islamist-inspired terrorist outrages. The difference between me wearing a rash suit on a beach, and a woman wearing a burkini is one of intent. The only statement I am making is “I have very pale skin”.
These feelings are inchoate, but they are real. The rejection of western society represented by the people wearing these clothes is real. I don’t like seeing a woman in Niqab, which makes me profoundly uncomfortable with the alien creed behind that outfit. Clearly I don’t think I should have a right to do anything about it, and the problem is mine more than theirs. The state controlling how people dress is clearly absurd and illiberal. There’s little that can be done beyond an exhortation to the locals to exercise a bit of tolerance, and to the Muslim population of Europe to make an effort to fit in. Blaming “islamophobia” will just make matters worse because radical Islamism as practiced by a small minority is the main terrorist threat and the isolated, unintegrated communities of overwhelmingly decent muslims is the water in which the islamist sharks swim. Fear of unintegrated muslims isn’t irrational. Multiculturalism doesn’t work. We all need to share the same values, and isolated, inward-looking communities which reject mainstream society don’t work for anyone.
Integration is as much about appearance as behaviour. So, yes, in France, ‘making an effort’ probably does mean getting the girls out on the beach. And Muslim chaps: perhaps save the Shalwar Kameez for the Mosque on Friday, try to look like a Frenchman the rest of the time? That way the locals will feel less threatened, and muslims will be less isolated. Ultimately a law banning Burkinis represents a failure of European society to persuade immigrant communities our society is better. Do we even still believe it is? And Finally, les Gendarmes: have a look at the Peelian principles and leave innocent women on the beach alone, whatever they choose to wear. This sort of thing is about persuasion, cultural change and shouldn’t be enforced by men with guns.
Now, where’s my leopard print thong, and the factor 50?

The Al Madinah School “In Chaos”

The first disaster of the Free Schools program is the Al Madinah school in Derby. Of course this doesn’t have the impact the lefties hope it will because it’s a free school. And it’s a Muslim school, that most parents wouldn’t have sent their kids to under any circumstances.

Kids were segregated at meal-times because (snork) “the canteen is small”. Female staff were forced to wear the veil. And the teaching was crap. Most parents will see “Muslim school fails” not “free school fails” (hard-core lefties will see the opposite) and everyone will feel their prejudices re-enforced.

It scored the lowest mark, 4, in all the categories measured.

The only problem is in the reporting I have absolutely no way of putting that in context. How many traditional state-schools get put in ‘special measures’ with such a score. Do we not hear about it because it’s relatively common? Google is your friend. Though I cannot find statistics, it’s clear there are plenty of standard state-schools in special measures.

So. How many traditional schools are there? How many are inadequate?
How many free schools and academies are there? How many are inadequate?

Of course, a school has to be good before it was allowed to become an academy, so there’s a selection bias there. None of these issues are addressed by any reporting on the issue. Just a lip-biting insinuation that this Free-school failure is a disaster not just for the kids, teachers and parents of the school, but for the free schools program. Labour say x, but Michael Gove says y. This isn’t balance. This isn’t reporting. This isn’t analysis. The media is failing at its basic task of holding our elected representatives to account.

Labour say this is a disaster for free schools. It’s not. Not any more than the King Charles School in Falmouth or Stimpson Avenue primary in Northampton are disasters for State education. There will be experiments amongst free schools. Some will fail and will be found out quickly. By killing off failed experiments, standards improve. Muslim fanatics trying and failing to set up a decent school and being found out, is a feature, not a bug of the policy.

Of course, the NAS/UWT and NUT are on strike today, partly to make it harder for inadequate teachers to be sacked. The fact this attitude prevails in parts of state education is the real reason for most failure. The school’s relationship with the local authority is probably irrelevant. But I suspect free schools will be more responsive to parents, and less tolerant of bad teaching. Time will tell. But the failure of the odd school here and there is part of making the system as a whole better.

Gay Marriage. A Pyrrhic Victory?

This is only tangentially about the decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the egregious ‘Defense (sic) of Marriage Act’. DOMA was about the rights in tax and inheritance that many gay people in the USA do not yet enjoy.
Gay marriage in the UK was not about rights per-se. Thanks to civil partnerships, British homosexuals already rightly enjoy the legal, tax and inheritance rights of marriage. Having achieved this, none of the Gay people I know were really agitating for ‘marriage’. It was an issue for a fringe, the perma-outraged Peter Tatchell of Stonewall. It seemed mainly, aimed, it seems mainly at hurting the Christianists by parking a pink tank on the Traditionalists’ lawn.
In pushing so hard for this largely symbolic gesture, the unintended consequence is that the British Christian right, for so long quiescent in the Bosom of a moderate Conservative Party, has now unfurled a banner and started to fight.
Gay Marriage was the issue more than anything else which drove right-wing Tories to UKIP, a ‘libertarian’ party which seems now to march to a hang’em and flog’em tune of the reactionary right. UKIP saw the opportunity, and rapidly purged itself of any liberals in order to maximise the Tories’ discomfiture.
Issues of Sexual Morality, long settled on this side of the pond around some broadly liberal consensuses on abortion and Gay rights, are now open for negotiation. The battle lines are drawn. The Christian bigots have
Marched out and declared culture war. And they now have a party, one which is probably going to win the European elections next year.
Of course I think Gay People should be allowed to marry if they wish. I also see the reasons many think they shouldn’t (and I find most of the given reasons risible). What I don’t get is why everyone cares so much. We’ve all had to choose sides, and winding up god-botherers is good sport
But what is the cost of this victory. Is it worth it, if we Brits have to endure the Toxic culture wars which disfigure American Politics. The christianists have long sought to roll back Abortion rights. And now they are unified following their defence of a mere word, ‘marriage’ they may yet be successful in securing a tightening of Abortion laws. Women may lose real freedoms, so Peter Tatchell can hurt some bigots who’d already lost.
We social liberals may yet rue the day we prodded the god-botherers out of their sleepy acquiescence to basic freedoms.
Noisy Christians are now no longer just a problem for the Americans, thanks to tireless single-issue cranks, like Peter Tatchell, and a need of the Conservative party to lay to rest the ghost of section 28 by pandering to them. Every time sex is debated in parliament, badly dressed people will sing hymns of disapproval outside.
Was it worth it?

Save The Children & Child Poverty in the UK.

Thanks to the Unique way the BBC is funded, Save the Children got a free advert courtesy of BBC R4’s thought for the day this morning. Akhandadhi Das contrasted Save the Children’s first ever campaign about poverty in the UK with the charitable status of independent schools, explicitly suggesting the “need of independent schools to fill their places” was less worthy than Save the Children stepping way outside its remit and embarking on a party-political crusade. Let’s leave aside the left-wing obsession with private schools, and deal directly with Thought for the day acting as a party-political broadcast for the Labour party.

Child poverty in the UK is NOT caused by a lack of resources. Every child has access to the NHS, free education and the parent receives £20.30 per week for the first child and £13.40 for each subsequent one in child benefit, no questions asked. If there is no job in the household, the family will be housed at public expense, and they will be eligible for income support, a benefit rarely mentioned by welfare campaigners because it’s calculated as “the difference between the claimant’s net weekly income and the amount required to meet his or her needs”. Worklessness in the UK does NOT result in kids starving, or being unclothed, or not being able to get to school, or even being homeless, unless there is contributory negligence by the child’s parents. Yes, it’s true those kids are unlikely to have access to the latest fashions, and may not be able to afford every school trip, but the poverty is only relative to others whose parents work.
Work, of course is the route out of poverty. The state cannot and should not simply give the poor money, as this creates a moral hazard. Unfortunately, in taking up low-paid work many poor people face the loss of benefits and face a marginal effective tax rate over 100%, mainly thanks to Gordon Brown’s working & child tax-credit system. Furthermore, the Benefits system with it’s 72 separate bureaucracies makes reclaiming benefits should a job be lost an absurdly onerous process resulting in a massive disincentive to take on the low-paid, insecure “starter” job. And the low-skilled are, of course, banned from ever selling their labour at their real marginal rate of production, thanks to the Minimum wage, and will therefore never get any job and hope of improving their skills .When you factor in the cost of travel and things like work-clothes and sustenance, it simply doesn’t pay to try to get off benefits.
This is the poverty trap, Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre For Social Justice has identified and is seeking to remedy, in part through a universal credit, simplifying the benefits system.
This has not prevented the left from blaming child poverty on “the cuts”, and describing Iain Duncan Smith as a monster, intent on putting a boot on the face of the poor. Every change to the benefits system has been opposed tooth and nail by the unions, who will lose valuable jobs in the bureaucracy, and by the Labour stay-behind OPs in the Quangocracy for whom “poverty” is a meal-ticket. Poverty is being openly blamed on a recession caused by Government policy, and on “the cuts”. This simply isn’t true. Most child poverty in the UK is in the 20% or so of households where no-one works. Many of these are Multi-Generational welfare families, who are absolutely immune from the business cycle. This is also the reason it’s very hard to see correlation in crime numbers with the business cycle.
Save the Children is not an impartial organisation. It is run by a former Blair and Brown number 10 staffer, Justin Forsyth, and Brendan Cox, Director of Policy and Advocacy was a SpAd to Gordon Brown. Amongst the Trustees are a number of Labour quangocrats, including a director of “Labour’s greatest success”, SureStart, Naomi Eisenstadt. The Coalition are not convinced SureStart is worth the money. This campaign, the first by Save the Children concerning poverty in the UK – they werre silent during the winter of discontent, or during the massive rise in youth unemployment under Blair and Brown, is aimed squarely at the coalition government by a nakedly partisan, left-wing organisation.
It is Save the Children who should have its charitable status revoked, not Eton.

This time of year…

Christmas, winterval, yule, Hanuka, Saturnalia, whatever.

We should all be celebrating today. For today is the Solstice. The longest night and the beginning of winter, The days will get longer from now until the Summer solstice in June. All the festivals we celebrate around this time are lunarised bastardisations of our much more ancient solar festivals.

I’m not some neo-pagan, dressing up like a character from Lord of the Rings to perform some farcical ceremony at Stonehenge. But these festivals are based in something real, the seasons, which give a natural rhythm to our lives, and have always done. The light has shone through that same gap, at the same point every year for about 4,500 years. This natural rhythm, combined with a human need to mark the passage of time, is why Atheists celebrate Christmas: you don’t need a God to tell you to celebrate the return of the sun.

Norwegians can be Proud of their Country Today.

Anders Behring Breivik. This is why racial profiling doesn’t work.

Needless to say the killing of nearly 100 people, probably by a right-wing Christian extremist called Anders Behring Breivik in by bomb in Oslo and by shooting on a nearby island youth camp yesterday is a terrible crime. A spokesman for the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labour party said

“We meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance…”

I can’t help thinking that if Bush or Blair had said something similar in the wake of 9/11 or 7/7, Britons or Americans would not be living in the unpleasant police-states in which they now find themselves.

The winter solstice

The winter solstice is the shortest day, or more accurately the moment at which the sun at its lowest zenith in the year. Northern societies have calculated day lengh accurately for millenia – stonehenge and Newgrange were built for this purpose.

For weeks now, I’ve been going to work in the morning and coming home again in the dark, though not for much longer. By mid january we will be enjoying significantly more daylight so today is the ending of the dying of the light, and the rebirth of the sun, which is why ancient cultures celebrate it. Yule, Saturnalia and others. All religions, ancient and modern have a festival around this time, and often the theme is rebirth. The idea we’re celebrating the birth of a 2,000 year-old levantine carpenter is risible. The ancient church simply co-opted existing festivals.

I’ll be raising a glass to the coming spring this evening, because although I give the impression of being a right-wing capitalist beast, there is a mile-wide streak of hippy in there.

Gay Sex and free speech

In yesterday’s telegraph, Charles Moore described Peter Tatchell as an “energetic crank whose life’s work is to reduce all human history to the question of gay sex”. Naturally the po-faced prigs over at Liberal Conspiracy were quick on the draw with their perpetual bleat of “homophobia“. Tatchell himself is pretty robust on free speech. The likes of Charles Moore, Jan Moir on the other hand are always bleating on about Christian Cranks who seem obsessed with the issue too, who are now discriminated against for “experssing their beliefs”. Examples like the firemen who were sent on diversity courses following their refusal to hand out leaflets at a Gay Pride march form the punctuations on the narrative that “christians are now discriminated against”.

Now I was serving in the Military when it became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. We were formed up in platoons and every Colour Serjeant read a statement to the effect that it was all OK in this man’s Army now. Some went further, ordering their men to number off, odd numbers to turn to their left, even to their right, and give the man next to you a nice big kiss. I remeber being against homosexuals serving at the time, but seeing as it’s caused precisely no problems, I now realise I was wrong. The truth is the only reason a Fireman, Police offcier or Solider would refuse to attend a recruiting event at Gay Pride is if not active homophobia then a certain distaste towards Gay men. They should cover that up and do their duty as ordered, whatever their personal beliefs.

idiots, not criminals

Whilst I am a firm believer in free speech, I cannot get worked up about the rights of people to display discriminatory prejudice when there’s ludicrous libel laws to get worked up about instead. “they’re there to fight fires?” Maybe, but they’re also there to spread fire-safety messages and recruit, and these “outreach” functions are just as important as fighting fires. Likewise, whilst I am certainly no advocate of hate-speech legislation, I find it difficult to get worked up when some placard-waving loony is harrassed by the police for displaying a sign that “Homosexuals should go to hell” or something at Gay Pride events. After all, the job description of the police is not to “enforce the law” but to keep the peace. The kind of purse-lipped puritain who seek out things to be outraged about, and then goes out of their way to be offensive to people deserves little sympathy.

It is not illegal to express your christian beleifs. It may be against your employer’s dress code to display religious symbols. You may not be able to act on your consience on your employer’s time. You may, if in a public-facing role have to deal with Gay people. If you don’t like it, get another job, and don’t open a guest-house. You have a right to be a bigoted, spiteful, purse-lipped bigot, but you don’t have a right to have that bigotry protected in law. On the otherhand, just as religious nutters were beastly when they had the power, the Gays must not swing back and outlaw private consiences of people who wish to get all hot under the collar about what you and your boyfriend do all night long in those |dens of filth nightclubs. Tolerance, people, yea even unto the cranks.

Instead, it seems eveyone is obsessed by Gay sex. Tatchell, well he’s gay, and insofar as we Homo Sapiens are obsessed by sex, that’s perfectly reasonable. Plus he got biffed by Mugabe’s thugs, so he’s both consistent, corageous and can be relied upon to support free speech, he’s OK. The likes of Jan Moir, and on the other side of the divide, Sunny Hundal, who both as far as I know play a straight bat, are likewise obsessed. Moir thinks that Gays are out to destroy the family, and Hundal sees homophobia in everything anyone who has ever even thought of voting conservative has ever said or thought.

The fact is Gay sex is not important. Homosexuals have full rights to form civil partnerships which have all the same legal rights as marriage. If you want to call it “marriage”, surely that’s up to you? Should the state be legislating at all on what is a matter of purely personal consience? So this perpetual bleat of accusations of homophobia, the moment any straight person, especially if consistent with Christian beliefs, or coincident with Conservative membership, is rather wearing. Accept there are Christian cranks who think the matter is important enough to wave placards, do what most people do when they see mono-maniacs with placards: smile at them in a spirit of bemused tolerance. Stop agiating for laws which criminalises the harmless eccentric, for this gives him the power of the Martyr. Stop accusing people who have mere distaste for the Homosexual act of being “homophobic”. That forces them into the arms of the real bigots. And as far as the the Christian nutters go, it’s remarkable how many laws are observed in the Breach: most of Leviticus for example. Why the obsession with a couple of passages from the clearly confused St. Paul’s letters to Timothy (please?…) to give religious weight to what is clearly simple prejudice.

My message to both groups is leave the Gays alone. Gay sex just isn’t important any more, except to Gay people. Stop having opinions on Gay sex, and the people who do it. The battle for equal gay rights in the west has been broadly won. Violent discrimination against homosexuals should be fought where it is a real problem: The muslim world and Africa.

Newman’s Miracles

When I heard that cardinal John Newman, a victorian Brummie who converted to Catholicism, was to be Beatified, or made into a sort-of Local saint, I was curious as to the Miracle he was supposed to have performed. This got me to thinking of the rather lame ones which allowed St. Thomas Aquinas to be Canonised. In the case of Newman, a man whom he had never met, who lived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (ie now) had a back operated on, and it got better.

This is dealt with by the Heresiarch

The question I would direct to my intelligent left-footed friends is this: Do you actually, honestly believe this shit? If so, how and why? Surely it’s clear even the his holiness the Pope is just going through the motions? In any case, I understand, this desire to confim absolutely ANYONE of note in the Catholic faith as a saint is really quite modern. If I am correct, and I really cannot be bothered to do much research on this gibberish, John Paul II Canonised many more people than had been made saints in the previous 500 years.

Surely you don’t want to make it TOO easy for we atheists to ridicule your “faith”?


I was given to thinking about these things when I wrote my refutation of Creation Science. Who needs religion when some sort of respect for Gia will fill your spiritual needs without demanding you reject empirical evidence. Squid, Cuttlefish, Octopus and Nautilus are brilliant.

Architeuthis dux, known as the Giant squid. Big ones are the size of a bus. Surely the source of the Legend of the Kraken. There is a story, probably apocryphal that a large chunk of the budget for the BBC’s lavish documentary series, “the blue planet” was spent trying to get film of these in the wild, alive. They failed, but recently a Japanese crew managed to catch a glimpse…


As always, when you name a species “Giant”, something bigger comes along. Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (collosal squid) has hooks on its suckers, but the one I really want scientists to find is the Collosal Octopus.


Up to 30 metres across, and as yet undescribed.
Given that more people have been to the surface of the moon than down to the deep ocean trenches, there’s a chance that something vast,


mysterious and scary lurks down in the deep places of the world…