Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Birmingham City Council - Incompetant or Anti-Atheist?

There's a post up over at the hugely popular american evolution/aethist blog Pharyngula concerning this article on the BBC website about our council here in Brum blocking access to atheist websites while allowing access to religious sites. Most people at Pharyngula seem to be taking this as evidence of someone deliberately trying to impose their faith on council employees, but having probably had more contact with the council than any of the Americans posting there I feel pretty confident in saying this won't turn out to be the case. Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the whole of Europe and by all accounts is a bureucratic nightmare (as anyone who has had to sort out a problem with their council tax knows all too well) so I find it extremely unlikely that anyone went into any sort of detail in checking what was being blocked, and even if they had why would they block atheist sites? Religion just isn't an issue over here in the same way as it is in the US, the number of regular church-goers is completely dwarfed by the number of people who state they have no religion and considering that the company providing the blocking software is American it seems far more likely to have been a default setting which got overlooked. When it comes down to a council employee either being lazy/clueless or deliberately breaking the law to discriminate against atheists I know where my money is.

UPDATE: See, I told you they were fucking incompetant.

Monday, 28 July 2008

(Un)Professional Indemnity

There was an interesting point raised regarding insurance for nutritionists in the comments following Ben Goldacre's latest Bad Science column. I thought it deserved expanding on and as this is actually an area I do know something about its time me to take another random leap into bad science blogging (because music and politics just aren't enough...)

Firstly I want to point out that the victim in this case should be extremely relieved that there was any professional indemnity cover in place at all, shockingly the only people who are required by law to have P.I. cover are lawyers, accountants and financial advisers. It would appear it is a requirement for membership of BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy), but as has been pointed out on Bad Science in the past anyone can call themselves a nutritionist with or without qualifications or memberships of professional bodies. Of course a claim could still have been pursued without there being insurance cover in place but with a claim this size (around £1.5million being claimed) you have no chance of seeing the bulk of the damages unless the person you are claiming from is extremely wealthy. What I am struggling to understand is how nutritionists get P.I. cover in the first place. I have found a standard P.I. policy wording online here, where section 2.1 states:

"Insurers agree, subject to the terms of this policy to indemnify the insured, subject to the indemnity limit for claims, against any claim (including claimant's costs and expenses) in respect of any civil liability which arises out of the conduct of professional business by reason of any negligent act negligent error or negligent omission occurring or committed in good faith by the insured and/or others expressly authorised to act for and/or on behalf of the insured."

From my point of view as a claims handler I would struggle to try and defend any claim arising out of nutritionists advice unless a sound scientific basis could be found (yeah, that's gonna happen...) I can't see how it can possibly not be considered negligent to advise someone to follow dietary advice which has no proof of safety and efficacy.

I am very surprised insurers are willing to grant cover on these terms, I suspect it is mainly down to them not looking at what it is nutritionists do in enough detail, hopefully the massive pay-out in this case will be enough to make them take another look at who it is they're actually providing insurance for and lead to massive premium increases/refusal to place cover when they realise their clients are regularly giving advice which could be actively harmful.

I'd like to try and get hold of a policy specifically written for a nutritionist in order to see if there is any difference in the wording but I suspect with most of them being individual practitioners/small partnerships they wouldn't have individually tailored policies and the one I linked to above is probably pretty much all they get. If this is correct, I would strongly encourage anyone who has suffered any ill-effects (which they weren't warned about) after visiting a nutritionist to contact a good solicitor as I'm confident a case could be made on the basis that their advice goes against medical science.

Friday, 25 July 2008

John Band is my Hero

This needed saying. Also worth reading the comments for the shortest argument in internet history, as it only took 2 comments from John B for QuestionThat to resort to "thats not how the world works" when making (or rather failing to make) an argument about morality.

There's Nothing Not to Like About Goodshank

On the other hand, there's plenty not to like about Brummies. Just about the entire crowd at last night's Toby Goodshank gig appeared to be there to see either the sub-James Blunt tedium of ***** ***** or the soft rock garbage of **** ****. Fuck it, you can find out their names easily enough if you really want but there's no way I'm giving them the slightest acknowledgement here. Not only were they both embarrassingly poor but them and their fans, or rather their gullible mates, seemed to think that standing around chatting really loudly and not even clapping was appropriate behaviour during the other acts. Its annoying at any gig, but when you're trying to watch quiet solo artists, who have come all the way from America and are both spectacularly good maybe, just maybe, you could learn to SHUT THE FUCK UP. The main pub area was practically deserted, if you absolutely desperately needed to talk to the guys you see down the pub every other night of week would it kill you to leave the gig room?

Despite the annoyances it was a great way to kick off my adventures re-discovering the alternative scene in Brum. Both Toby and Isabel were amazing and two of the friendliest people I've met in a long while. Turns out I wasn't the only person there planning to blog about the gig either! Like the pissed twat I usually am by the end of a gig I have completely forgotten the guy's name but his blog, The Hearing Aid, can be found here and it looks like it could be a great source of information to help me get further into alt-Brum. As if that's not quite enough I also met Ben who had arranged the gig and runs Bohemian Jukebox, one of the few local nights I've already been to and which I'm sure to go along to again in the future (well, it is held in my local...)

I realise I've not said that much about the music itself but from the look of his past posts it'll get a better written review than I could manage over at The Hearing Aid, will be interesting to see his take on the local guys...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

This is gonna be easier than I thought

10 minutes looking and I have a list of 7 gigs I want to go to in Brum and 1 in Wolverhampton. I've not even checked half the venues yet...

Quick list for my own reference:

Toby Goodshank - Rainbow - Tomorrow!
Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - Academy 2 - 23rd August
Wedding present - Barfly - 1st September
Thomas Tantrum - Bar Academy - 21st September
Slow Club - Barfly - 24th September (Five quid? Bargain of the year)
Jeremy Warmsley - Bar Academy - 12th October
Spiritualized - Academy - 15th October
Sigur Rós - Wolverhampton Civic - 4th November

Plus there's Stephen Malkmus on 26th August which I already knew about. Summer is looking up again.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Marc Riley

I feel I can't start this blog without a quick nod to the radio show which I suspect is the ultimate cause of everything you read here. I've finally started enjoying new music for the first time since I was in 6th form and it would never have happened without Marc Riley. Its woken me up and made me want to actually go out and take part in life again.