How Idiots Think Facebook Works

Just another little example that provides some insight into the ridiculous mentality of humans…

The Imaginary Friends: President Obama and Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood made the news on Friday after speaking to his “Imaginary Friend” at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, US. It almost made me question if Mr Eastwood should perhaps be sectioned (“Baker Acted”, as it’s apparently called in the US) for an involuntary mental examination under section 394.463 of the 1971 Florida Mental Health Act!


So, how thoroughly heart warming(!) it is to see the President harbouring no grudge against Clint Eastwood’s attack on him during the Republican National Convention, in this subsequent picture…


Joking aside. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama diplomatically referred to the aging Hollywood star as a “great actor, and an even better director”, and claims to be a “huge Clint Eastwood fan”.

If anything, I would imagine Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech may have actually had the reverse effect to that intended, and if anything may have increased Obama’s following, particularly after the President’s Twitter response to the actor became the most popular tweet related to the Convention last week.

The tweet  from Obama’s account reads “This seat’s taken,” and includes a picture of the back of Obama’s head in a chair marked “The President.”


I will continue to watch the progress of the US election campaigns with interest.

Our personal data does not always need to be deleted by companies to comply with Data Protection Rules.

This week I am delighted to be a guest blogger for the Political Idealist website, which covers political, news and current affairs both in the U.K. and around the world. The Political Idealist is a website maintained by the talented Jack H. G. Darrant, who has keen interests in British democracy and environmentalism, regularly writes for The Independent newspaper, in addition to his weekly contributions in the ever popular ShoutOut blog. If you would like to know more, or enjoy this article, check-out the Political Idealist.

Many have questioned the safety of our personal data.  Now it appears that a loophole in the law could result in organisations holding personal data records, even when the information is no longer necessary for processing purposes.

Recent data protection guidance published by The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that organisations that are unable to justify the storage of personal data they had been previously processing, may not have to delete the information immediately, despite the fifth principle of the Data Protection Act 1998, which states that organisations are not permitted to store personal data processed beyond what is “necessary” for the “purpose” or “purposes” of that processing.

However, the ICO has stated in their new guidance, that recognised challenges can be faced by organisations during the process of deleting personal data. Thus, the ICO has stated that it would generally accept those “challenges”, provided that organisations put unjustifiably held information “beyond use”. The guidance states that:

“The ICO will be satisfied that information has been ‘put beyond use’, if not actually deleted, provided that the data controller holding it: is not able, or will not attempt, to use the personal data to inform any decision in respect of any individual or in a manner that affects the individual in any way; does not give any other organisation access to the personal data; surrounds the personal data with appropriate technical and organisational security; and commits to permanent deletion of the information if, or when, this becomes possible. We will not require data controllers to grant individuals subject access to the personal data provided that all four safeguards above are in place[…] Nor will we take any action over compliance with the fifth data protection principle. It is, however, important to note that where data put beyond use is still held it might need to be provided in response to a court order. Therefore data controllers should work towards technical solutions to prevent deletion problems recurring in the future”

The ICO  have also stated that organisational and technical safeguards will be necessary, yet  they have failed to provide any guidance as to the procedure of how organisations should implement the safeguards required, to ensure that organisations will not attempt to use personal data after it is no longer required. Furthermore, the ICO guidance stated that companies are allowed to retain personal data that is no longer justifiable in keeping, if they are unable to detach the information from other data contained in a legitimately stored “batch”, if the result of a “technical reason”. “In cases like this the organisation holding the information may be prohibited by law from using it in the same way that it might use live information,” the ICO said.

An example provided by the ICO is where: ” a court has ordered the deletion of information relating to a particular individual but this cannot be done without deleting information about other individuals held in the same batch.”

However, the ICO added that the permanent deletion of electronically stored information from the “ether” was not something that organisations would have to ensure. Thus, “the ICO will adopt a realistic approach in terms of recognising that deleting information from a system is not always a straightforward matter and that it is possible to put information ‘beyond use’, and for data protection compliance issues to be ‘suspended’ provided certain safeguards are in place“.

It would appear that the general view of acceptance by the ICO is that if personal data has been deleted with no intention to use or access this again, but still exists in the electronic ether, then data protection compliance is no longer applicable, because the data is no longer live. A potential problem could arise when the computers are later discarded, as there appears to be no guidance as to how to discard the equipment in a manner that would prevent access to the computer’s ether by a third party.

There are numerous methods in which third party sales companies and rogues can attain our information, ranging from companies selling our information onto third parties, unshreaded documents left lying around in an outside bin, the internet, public electoral roll records, or even the telephone directory. Perhaps this latest loophole discovery also answers the question as to where some international companies may be attaining our supposedly private information from.

This matter links in with the view of The Working Party, a committee made up of representatives from each of the EU national data protection authorities (DPAs), who have recommended that individuals should generally not be identifiable when their personal data is being processed. They recommend that organisations should be required to “anonymise or pseudonymise” personal data when processing the information if it is “feasible and proportionate”, as recommended as part of a published opinion on the European Commission’s proposed General Data Protection Regulation.

I am sure most of us will be in accord with The Working Party’s recommendation that:
 “The concept of pseudonymisation should be introduced more explicitly in the instrument (for example by including a definition on pseudonymised data, consistent with the definition of personal data), as it can help to achieve better data protection, for example, in the context of data protection by design and default.”

Perhaps “pseudonymised data”, if possible, is one way to prevent the possibility of potential abuse of data retrieval, should companies be negligent in their methods of discarding of any obsolete computer equipment during future system upgrades.

“Get outta m’ house!” New Law Criminalises Squatting

This week I am delighted to be a guest blogger for the Political Idealist website, which covers political, news and current affairs both in the U.K. and around the world. The Political Idealist is a website maintained by the talented Jack H. G. Darrant, who has keen interests in British democracy and environmentalism, regularly writes for The Independent newspaper, in addition to his weekly contributions in the ever popular ShoutOut blog. If you would like to know more, or enjoy this article, check out the Political Idealist.

September is now upon us, and at a time when an increasing number of people are falling into redundancies, unable to find employment, unable to pay their rent, and ending up without housing; the new squatting law comes into force as of today. This new piece of legislation now makes squatting a criminal offence in England and Wales. However, squatting in commercial premises will remain a civil matter.

The new offence, introduced by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, will be punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a maximum £5,000 fine, or both. Under this new law, the Police will now be able to assist landlords in evicting squatters from their property.

This change in the law has been described as ‘a tax subsidy’ for landlords, with the Chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, Giles Peaker, stating that:

‘ [Landlords] will no longer have to pay to get people evicted; it will be the police’s job to do it, paid for out of the public purse’.

Right-wing homeowners are delighted; whilst left-wingers such as lawyer and journalist, David Allen Green stated on Twitter:

“Bit by bit, the British state is shifting property rights from a civil law to a criminal law basis. Both misconceived and highly illiberal.”

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘Residential occupiers are already adequately protected from trespass under the Criminal Law Act 1977, and for that reason we, along with the Metropolitan Police, the Magistrates’ Association and many others, did not see the need for the introduction of a new criminal offence for squatting.’

Campaigners have warned that criminalising squatting in residential buildings would lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough. Furthermore, once a person is confined to a life on the street, it is very difficult to find a way out. Employment is unavailable to those without a fixed address, leaving a large number of people destined to life of homelessness for as long as they are unable to squat or have their name listed on a very long waiting list for council accommodation – provided they have a disability or dependents. As the homeless charity, Crisis, has stated, the new law will now criminalise vulnerable people who are just trying to find a place off the streets, leaving them in prison or facing a fine that they are unable to pay.

Ultimately the Government needs to tackle the reasons as to why homeless people squat in the first place by helping, not punishing them. “It also misses the point,” Leslie Morphy, the chief executive of Crisis, said. “There was already legal provision that police and councils could, and should, have used to remove individuals in the rare instances of squatting in someone’s home.”

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt also added: “For too long, squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. Not any more. Hard-working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting.”

Certainly, one advantage to the new law is that having the police involved in removing squatters is surely more preferable to an unscrupulous landlord “sending the boys round”, which might also put innocent tenants at risk in a case where a home has been sublet without the landlord’s permission, unbeknown to the innocent subtenant.


Whilst the right-wingers and homeowners may continue to cheer as they read these words, I raise the question as to whether the police will have the resources to enforce this new offence, given their previous unwillingness to act with the previous law outlined by section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Not to mention that the new law is poorly drafted. Unlike section 7 of the 1977 Act, which previously protected homeowners by making it a criminal offence for a squatter to remain in a property after being ordered to leave by the owner; the new law does not cover gardens. Therefore, a person squatting in someone’s garden shed will, technically speaking, not be covered by the new law. Thus, we might now discover some truth in the fairytale phrase “pixies at the bottom of garden”…


On that note, I wish you all a nice weekend.

Do “Too Many Tweets Make A Tw*t”?

Public opinion of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just about reached an all-time low, but it appears that our dear Mr CamWrong may have been “right” about one thing …


During an interview on Absolute Radio, back in 2009, David Cameron was asked by presenter Christian O’Connell whether he used Twitter.

“Politicians do have to think about what we say,” Mr Cameron stated, seemingly without irony, before bestowing the following howler upon us: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

Despite the absurd irony of Mr Cameron’s ineptness, his statement is made all the more ironic by the fact the Conservative Party had a twitter account, and not to mention that Mr Cameron now also has a Twitter account for No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, it would seem that one “twit” in particular, really can “make a tw*t”.

As a user of Twitter, my opinion about the site is somewhat mixed. I am often bemused by the sheer ludicrousness that some people manage to incorporate into just 140 characters. Because of the 140 character limit, one can often be subjected to a long list of multiple tweets from the same person(s); full of ridiculously abbreviated words, and depending on who one is following, may result in a trail of absolute nonsense trawling up the newsfeed.

Whilst I like to think I am a little more selective about who I follow, one does come across some real “gems” retweeted by others, sometimes retweeted purely for comedy value.

Just take a look at some of these examples:

Let us not forget the way Twitter was used to incite the London Riots, whilst bystanders tweeted their riot “observations”, or riot warnings to others. Quite often, it emerged that a ridiculous number of tweets provided nothing other than false information. Yet, the false information spread like wildfire, such as rumours about the streets of a West London borough apparently being set in flames, only for nervous residents to later discover that the worst event to have actually occurred in that particular area, was a brick thrown through a shop window! What a kick in the teeth to the people who genuinely were affected by the Riots, and who lost their homes in the fires in Croydon, Tottenham, Hackney, etc. However, it must also be pointed out that Twitter also played an important role in the post-riots clean-up, which gave the police a means of tracing those who incited and recruited other rioters.

One disturbing aspect of Twitter is that regulating the site is virtually impossible because of the massive volume of messages and tweets that are sent every second. On the subject of immediacy, as also mentioned by Mr. Cameron, it can only take so much as one misinformed tweet for a false rumour to become a worldwide trend in minutes, as we have seen in the past, ranging from the apparent “death” of a celebrity, down to their so-called sordid affairs. There is a great deal of misinformation and sometimes sheer nastiness. But none of this is a special feature of Twitter, as it is a feature of people generally. Furthermore, it is very difficult to pick up on humour and sarcasm via Twitter (and, indeed, other social media sites), leading to many misunderstandings and quarrels. One careless or false tweet has the potential of giving information capable of ruining lives and relationships. But, on a more positive note, celebrities and high-profile people have utilised  Twitter’s immediacy as a way of “setting the record straight” about a rumour,  and to engage with their fans, and even form more of a following.

I must confess that I do love Twitter as a means of keeping up-to-date with current affairs. Twitter is a fantastic forum for learning of any errors in news reporting and for academics to promote general public understanding of their research. It is also a wonderful forum for lawyers, politicians, and and journalists to share information such as links, viewpoints, and to receive instant feedback. It is now becoming common for interesting legal trials to be live-tweeted and debated by legal scholars, and for the mainstream media to subsequently try and catch-up! Whilst one may have to sift through some rather trivial tweets, there are so many high-profile academics who are happy to share a fresh insight and engage in very interesting topical debates. As a result of instant tweeting and academic blogging, newspaper reports are now becoming old news that contribute little additional value to what one has already learned “straight from the horses’ mouths” on Twitter.

Some university departments are also increasingly using Twitter as a teaching resource, and whilst it may seen that nothing of value could possibly be written in only 140 characters; for all the bizarre tweets full of abbreviations that I sometimes think only the person who tweeted it could possibly understand,  I have also very often been pleasantly surprised. The restriction in communicating with just 140 characters can be a very useful learning method: It teaches one how to be more succinct by forcing one to stick with the facts, and not swaying off topic, which would result in a long series of multiple tweets. That, after all, might lead to a mass exodus of followers, as they become increasingly more frustrated with having to sift through the vast number of irrelevant tweets on their news-feed.

Taking the latter into account, maybe too many tweets really do make a “twat”. However, too many tweets might actually rid you of some, too!

Cheerio, chaps!

Have Literacy Standards Taken A Nosedive?

Schools across Britain are reporting that students who sat GCSEs in English have been ‘harshly marked down’, as a result of this year’s GCSE A*-C results falling for the first time in the exam’s history. One headteacher has condemned the GCSE exam board as being ‘unfair’, and claims that her ‘pupils have had their life chances damaged’.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has always alleged that the value of GCSEs and A-levels has been corroded by the “dumbing down” of exams, and the over-generous awarding of grades.

The question is, have standards genuinely fallen, or were this year’s GCSE exams particularly harsh?

There has been much speculation in previous years about exam standards becoming progressively easier. It always seemed difficult to believe that Britain’s teenagers were getting increasingly more intelligent every single year, particularly as there have been conflicting reports suggesting that literacy standards have been falling in Britain since 2005.

Although it is considered “cool” for teenagers to type in “text talk”, what implications might this have upon literacy standards – if at all? Arguably, if one is not reading quality literature, or writing at a high standard on a regular basis, it is very easy to fall into a situation where spelling standards decline, and writing standards do not progress as quickly. I do not suppose the US English spelling, which is so commonplace on the internet, helps terribly much, either.

Furthermore, consider the poor quality of writing in the ‘Twilight’ series of books, which are ever so popular with today’s teenagers. When teenagers are familiarising themselves with the following examples of syntactical car-crashes, colloquialisms, and appalling overuse of adjectives, would it really surprise us if we discovered that English standards are falling?

“He leaned in slowly, the beeping noise accelerated wildly before his lips even touched me. But when they did, though with the most gentle of pressure, the beeping stopped altogether.”

“Time passes. Even when it seems impossible. Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but pass it does. Even for me.”

“He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.”

This bizarre adjective reduplication also takes the cake:

“He was both dazzling and dazzled.”

Perhaps incorporating the study of one of the ‘Twilight’ books into the National Curriculum would not be such a bad idea; not because the books are an example of quality writing, but because they are actually very good examples of a poor writing style that teenagers should be taught not to emulate in their own writing. As some of the more “eloquent” teenagers are already reading the books recreationally, why not use ‘Twilight’ as an opportunity to educate teenagers in what not to do, in a manner that will actually be enjoyable for most of them, and will thus be easier for them to relate with. Moreover, although somewhat off the topic of English studies, the ‘Twilight books might also be a useful learning text for PSE (Personal and Social Education) classes, as the ‘Twilight’ books also send out the wrong message about relationships. For example, the main character, Bella, abandons a number of things (school, her relationships with others) in order to allow her entire existence to be engrossed in her adoration for Edward, resulting in an underlying message that almost makes it seem “cool” for a girl to allow herself to be defined by a boy she obsesses over. Maybe it would be a good idea to let teenagers realise how destructive such a mindset could be.

Back to the topic of English, the following examples discovered on Twitter may just about sum up the general standard of some teenagers’ literacy:


A tweet posted by @AngryBritain, which commented on the TV programme, ‘X-Factor, lead to the angry response of a teenager who, it would appear, was previously uninformed as to the definition of the word “snigger”. She was, therefore, under the false impression that the tweet read the word “nigger”, instead of ‘snigger’.


Something tells me she may have been right about that…

I rest my case.

‘Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’? The Reason Why Text-Type May Be More Scholarly Than You Think.

Just a quick glance at the Facebook page or Twitter feed of today’s modern teenagers gives us an insight into today’s standard of English literacy. “Y do teenz lyk 2 typ lyk dis”? Alas, I do not think the elder generations will ever really understand the trend.

Maybe “dis way of writin” could actually be considered more scholarly than we care to believe. Perhaps the English language is merely reverting back to Old English or Frisian! Fashions do, after all, repeat themselves, and maybe the same is beginning to happen with regards the English language.

Just a moment ago, I was reading an old book that I stumbled across: ‘The Cambridge History of the English Language: (Vol 1): the Beginnings to 1066’ by Richard M. Hogg, and was reminded how Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in the province of Friesland, Netherlands, and parts of northern Germany, is the closest relative of English. In fact, Frisia was once a powerful and independent kingdom from the c.7th century, but lost its independence by the 15th century.

To summarise, Old English and Frisian were, at one time, mutually intelligible. After the Battle of Hastings, English became influenced by Norman French, whilst Frisian became influenced more by the Dutch language. Frisian is similar to English in that both languages are rich in vowels, diphthongs and triphthong; but unlike Germanic languages, have nasal vowels, similar to Afrikaans. The Frisian “r” is similar to the English alveolar “r”, as opposed to an uvular sound in German or Dutch.

An extract from ‘Beowulf’, a poem written in Old English.

I was interested to hear the languages spoken, and a search on YouTube led me to a rather interesting documentary presented by Eddie Izzard, that was previously part of a series called ‘Mongrel Nation’, once featured on The Discovery Channel. In one of episode, Eddie Izzard learnt a few Old English phrases, and subsequently took a trip to Friesland to meet a local Frisian-speaking farmer. Interestingly, Izzard asked the farmer if he could buy a cow, speaking in Old English, and the farmer understood most of the conversation. An excerpt from the series can be found here.

To understand my observation about teenagers’ “text talk” being similar to Old English or Frisian, just observe the following example:

Frisian: Ik wolde net lyk it te rein oer de neist wyk.
English: I would not like it to rain over the next week.

Notice any similarities there? (“lyk” = “like”, etc.)

Also, notice how in spoken English, certain regional dialect tends to be a little sloppy by dropping letters from the ends of words. Thus, observe the following:

Frisian: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk
English: Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good Frisian

I am sure if teenagers realised that their style of writing/speaking  is scholarly enough to be comparable to Old English or Frisian, the latest trend of “text talk” would soon appear less “cool”, and perhaps we might gradually see it begin to fizzle out.

I am sure that would come as a relief to some of us.

If the English language is reverting back to Old English, perhaps Old English fashion will also repeat itself? Who reckons we’ll be seeing this example of 11th century “chic” worn by today’s teenagers…? … Maybe not.

Filthy Shades Of Dismay

Every other day, there is yet another story in The Guardian surrounding the controversy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. It would appear the world is obsessed by the book. The latest news report is about a women’s refuge, which has deemed the bestselling ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy as “an instruction manual for an abusive individual to sexually torture a vulnerable young woman”. The erotic novel is claimed to “normalise abuse, degrade women and encourage sexual violence”, according to Clare Phillipson, who is the director of Wearside Women In Need. So passionate is her belief, she is urging people to burn their copies of the book on a bonfire, stating that, “Some of what happens in the book, Fred West did to victims in his cellar.”

And what if one owns the Kindle Edition? – Should one also throw their Kindle onto the bonfire?

With all the hype and controversy surrounding the book, I finally succumbed to speed-reading it. I was, after all, the only woman my age I know personally, who had categorically refused to read the book – based purely upon my passionate dislike of smutty “romance” novels, not to mention a book where the “heroine” is portrayed as weak. However, I realised that I was shunning a novel without having actually read it. Thus, it was only fair that I read the book before judging it, even though I had no real interest in reading the book.

And my verdict after reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’…? – I only wish I could unread it!

E. L. James’ book depicts the sexual relationship between the virginal college student, Anastasia Steele, and her obsessive love and sexual submission to Christian Grey, a handsome billionaire with a predilection for bondage and domination. He is a man whom she scarcely knows, and who briskly introduces her to his sexual fetishes and the contents of his “Red Room of Pain”.

The prose, to be quite frank, is shocking. For example:

“Now I know what all the fuss is about. Two orgasms… coming apart at the seams like the spin cycle of a washing machine, wow.

Right… And how exactly does a washing machine come ‘apart at the seams’? In fact, how is an orgasm anything like the spin cycle of a washing machine? Yet, two ‘spin cycle’ orgasms are not enough, as Ana wants more. Grey has a really radical idea of how to spice things up…

‘”I’m going to take you from behind, Anastasia”, he murmurs…’

Fabulous…  And, the “poetic” writing does not stop there:

“I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the meringue with some salsa moves.”

After yet another a sadomasochistic romp, I started to wonder if maybe the book should be renamed “Fifty Lays Per Day”.  Naturally, the author had to bestow this additional literary nugget upon us:

“We lie there, panting together, waiting for our breathing to slow. He gently strokes my hair … Boy … I Survived. That wasn’t so bad. I’m more stoic than I thought. My inner goddess is prostrate … well, at least she’s quiet.”

When there are so many fine writers, and interesting books and articles out there, one grudges wasting time reading such poorly written prose. As a result of reading this book, my “inner goddess” (to quote Ana’s words) was not so quiet, and did the “meringue” all the way to the metaphorical toilet! I subsequently decided that it is perhaps best if I give the rest of the trilogy a miss.

Despite my initial reluctance to read the book, and my subsequent distaste, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is the fastest selling book since records began, and is the first ebook to sell more than one million copies. It makes me question if the female population have gone mad, or whether it is perhaps I who is the weird one for not succumbing to the latest hype. On the contrary, it would appear I’m not the only one.

A number of feminists have slammed the book, and yesterday’s news article in The Guardian summarised the book as being about:

 ‘A domestic violence perpetrator, taking someone who is less powerful, inexperienced, not entirely confident about the area of life she is being led into, and then spinning her a yarn. Then he starts doing absolutely horrific sexual things to her … He gradually moves her boundaries, normalising the violence against her. It’s the whole mythology that women want to be hurt’. In fact, the head of domestic violence charity, believes the book to be ‘a misogynistic handbook that peddles a dangerous message.’

However, what if the roles were reversed, and the heroine were a dominatrix, and Christian Grey were a sub? It makes me wonder if there would be the same level of controversy surrounding the topic of a sadomasochistic relationship raised by the book. I sometimes wonder if some women almost want to be victims. From a young age, girls are warned to “never talk to “strangers” – “strangers” usually meaning men who are unfamiliar to them. Thus, from a young age, females are almost brainwashed into feeling fearful of potentially being abused by men. It would appear that women almost subconsciously believe it is normal to be sexually inferior to men, and it is as though it almost becomes normal to complain about “subliminal messages” of abuse, or even go as far as being the victims of abuse. As a result, a number of innocent men can sometimes be deemed to be potential abusers, thus also making them just as much a victim of society as women. Ironically, research has shown that women can be just as, if not more violent, than men. Nevertheless, it is still a worry that this book may appeal to the inherent maternal instincts of certain young women, who may subconsciously, and naively believe the message portrayed in ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’; a message that suggests that if one loves a “broken man” enough, he will recover from his psychopathic tendencies. Sadly, it takes more than love to change a person’s psychology.

Despite the traditional theories of Krafft-Ebing and Freud, et al., it is important to understand that sadomasochistic relationships are not necessarily related to psychopathic tendencies. Although Christian Grey is depicted as a man with a troubled past, which has taken a toll on his mental state; in reality, research suggests there is no difference in mental health difficulties between those who practice BDSM, and the rest of the population. In fact, the findings of two studies at the Northern Illinois University into hormonal changes associated with Sadomasochistic activities suggest that it has the potential to bring consenting couples closer together, when combined with displays of caring and affection. (Brad Sagarin et al (2009)), and

A study undertaken in 2006 by Cross and Matheson found no support for the traditional theories by Krafft-Ebing and Freud that sadomasochism is a mental illness. However, the study found that SM participants were overall more likely than non-SM respondents to report bisexual/homosexual orientations. Furthermore, sadomasochists were relatively more likely to be in ongoing relationships than the comparison group.(Patricia A. Cross PhD and Kim Matheson PhD in the book “Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures” (2006), published simultaneously as the Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 50, Nos. 2/3.)

Results from a research project by Dr. Pamela Connolly, et al., also reported that:

‘no evidence was found to support the notion that clinical disorders – including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsion – are more prevalent among the sample of individuals with BDSM interests than among members of the general population. Moreover, this sample did not show evidence of widespread PTSD, trauma-related phenomena, personality disturbances, psychological sadism or psychological masochism”, disorders in which the sufferer either derives pleasure out of genuine cruelty (not the play-acting kind) or compulsively seeks out harmful levels of pain. ”Similarly, no prominent themes were found in a series of profile analyses.’


‘There were, however, some exceptions to this general pattern, most notably the higher-than-average levels of nonspecific dissociative symptoms and narcissism in this sample. That said, this body of findings suggests that, contrary to longstanding assumptions in the psychoanalytic literature, there is very little support for the view that psychopathology underlies behavior.’

Incidentally, Arrow, the publisher of ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, has also defended the trilogy, describing it as “a work of romantic fiction which explores a consensual relationship between two willing adult participants”.

Should we therefore take the book as being nothing but a fictional account of an erotic love story? After all, women have the right to their personal fantasies and choice of erotic fiction, and if it opens doors to new arousal templates, helps people feel less judgmental of others, or helps women feel more secure about their secret sexual desires, then surely that is great. Or is it? – How does this effect men? Conversely, the book is not about sex; it is about power.

If “everyone is reading it”, what is it about the book that is so appealing? It would appear that its power lies in the way the book relates with the fantasies of women readers who secretly relish the opportunity to embody the role of the book’s protagonist, Ana, and her ability to surrender her will to her dominant lover. In submitting to her lover, Ana actually finds both love and happiness; and isn’t love and happiness the two things that every woman wants? Furthermore, the  power often lies with the submissive partner. It would appear that most women like the idea of a dominant man who will be the one responsible for matters. One glance at the real world indicates that dominant men are not quite so powerful after all. I don’t suppose anybody’s safe-word is “banker”!

However, the underlying problem is what this book may have led men to believe about what women really want from their lover, especially as many men already feel uncertain as to what their role in society should be. There is now the issue of  some men perhaps believing that they should behave like sadists, thinking that is what all women secretly fantasise about. I am sure the book has become mens’ idea of ‘Fifty Shades of Fear’. After all, if women want “equality”, only to suddenly want submission, then does that mean women have now changed their minds about wanting equality? Have they repealed what the feminists fought for, or does “equality” now mean men should also behave submissively when they spontaneously feel like it, or when a woman thinks a man should, or should men be “strong and dominant” at all times?  It would appear that there is some confusion amongst the male population. I even witnessed the chap next to me reading the following article on the train: ‘So Do Women Really Want Us All To Be Sadists Now?’


Sadly, human beings really are like a herd of sheep. If something is popular, or in fashion, then everyone else will follow suit, even pretending to like something, rather than feel isolated for being the odd one out. So, fear not chaps, as not all women will genuinely want a sadist. At least you have it on good authority that the author of the article you are currently reading, most certainly does not!

More to the point, perhaps people should communicate more, and maybe if people tried behaving like decent human beings who treat others with respect, perhaps many of our insecurities and uncertainties about what our partners want, would diminish. As long as BDSM is a purely consensual act between a couple who both genuinely wish to engage in the act, and have mutually decided who will take on the role of dominant/submissive, and how far to take the act, then it is nobody else’s business to judge.

Why A Nurse Led “Accident Centre” Defies Common Sense.

On 6th August, 2012, Hywel Dda Health Board published the outcome of their 12- week consultation, for the future plans for A&E department at Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital. It has been proposed that the department should become a special “accident centre staffed by nurses”.

In the latest development of the future of Prince Philip Hospital’s A&E, it has been reported that the proposed plans are now in the preparation stages for further review by independent management consultants, who specialise in NHS services.

Llanelli Rural Council has reportedly written to the health board Chief Executive, Mr Trevor Purt, to seek further information over its plans for hospital services.

Council Leader, Cllr Bill Thomas, stated: “The Council will need to spend some time carefully analysing the consultation documentation, particularly ‘Technical Document 5 – Emergency and Urgent Care’. This is an important document which purports the notion of Prince Phillip Hospital having a nurse led Local Accident Centre instead of a doctor led A & E service, unlike the other three hospital sites under the umbrella of the health board, where effectively no change to A & E service is being advocated. We fully intend to scrutinise the supporting evidence to ensure there are no gaps or omissions which might prevent us from potentially proceeding with drawing up our own options for A & E services at Prince Phillip Hospital”.

This statement comes amid reports revealing how Hywel Dda NHS Trust’s medical negligence payout figures have risen sharply from £1,645,000 in 2010, to £4,682,746 in 2012. This has raised some public concerns as to whether a nurse led accident centre in Llanelli could result in the burden of even more future negligence costs on Hywel Dda NHS Trust, resulting from delays in future emergency treatment.

Not only has this emerged during the revelation of medical negligence costs, but during the recent report of how patients needing emergency, or unplanned medical care in the relatively near county of Neath Port Talbot, will no longer be able to receive A&E treatment at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, due to a shortage of doctors. Instead, patients will be will be admitted to neighbouring hospitals, possibly resulting in overcrowding, as four-in-five of the Neath Port Talbot A&E admissions will be transferred to Swansea, with the rest admitted to the Princess of Wales Hospital, in Bridgend.

Perhaps the Hywel Dda Health Board will observe the potential problems faced by Swansea, as extra ‘999’ admissions are referred to them from Neath Port Talbot. Problems, which it is feared, will be mirrored at Prince Philip Hospital and Carmarthen General Hospital, if the decision to make it a nurse led centre is upheld. As one protester, Samantha Jones*, stated: “It is all well and good having a 24-hr centre for a nurse to bandage a patient’s grazed knee, or to remove a splinter, or to advise a patient with tonsillitis to remain well hydrated and gargle their throat with Difflam; but for the patients experiencing a major heart attack or a haemorrhage, and in need of urgent and immediate medical attention, a nurse led centre just does not fit the bill.”

Only one week ago, the waiting time to see an A&E practitioner at Carmarthen General Hospital was 7+ hours. If Prince Philip Hospital were to become only a nurse staffed centre, how much longer might the waiting times to see an A&E doctor be in Carmarthen be, if the influx of what would have been Prince Philip Hospital patients, are taken to Carmarthen?

Locals have observed how the road from Llanelli to Carmarthen General Hospital is less than smooth. Not only will the extra driving time cost lives, but as Llanelli resident, Julie Thomas, has commented, “the rutted, potholed, country roads, are less than acceptable conditions for a patient with a severe head and spinal injury, to be transported in the back of a bouncing ambulance, for a 20-mile ride from Llanelli.”

Hywel Dda Health Board is reported to have said its proposals would see Prince Philip Hospital become a specialist centre for orthopaedic and dementia care. Protester John Hughes commented, “Whilst these proposals may, indeed, be very welcome, it does not distract from the issue that Llanelli, and its mix of both young and aging population, desperately need an A&E department offering full emergency medical care, with a team of doctors on board.”

To ensure the Hywel Dda Health Board are in no doubt about the public outcry, Saturday 18th August saw approximately 80 locals combine a rally commemorating the shooting of two workers 101-year demonstration, with a march in support of Llanelli’s Prince Phillip Hospital.

Labour AM Keith Davies has stated that the board “must listen to the public”, but also noted that if there is no choice but to downgrade, doctors should be in charge rather than nurses.

Ironically, it was not so long ago that we witnessed the NHS portrayed as a good news story, when it featured as part of a grand display in the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony’s showcase of  ‘Best of British’. Let us hope that Prince Philip Hospital A&E department will remain as such, and that Hywel Dda Health Board will take note.


Current average waiting time to see an A&E practitioner at Carmarthen General Hospital is 7+ Hours

Fashion Trumps Functionality

Last week, I came across a news article in the Huffington Post about the All Round Women’s Gymnastics Olympics Champion, Gabby Douglas. Apparently there has been some criticism about her hair!

Such articles really make one question the mentality of modern society. Not only is Douglas the first American female to win the title, but she is also the first African-American Olympic gymnast. Despite this wonderful historical achievement, it would appear that society places greater importance on fashion and beauty.


What is particularly strange, is that Douglas wears her hair in the exact same style as all the other gymnasts, so what is there to debate?

Perhaps there are a number of people who are (a) jealous (b) resent that a black athlete is the first to become the US ladies gymnastics champion in a predominantly Caucasian or Asian sport, and (c) there is perhaps some kind of concealed racism behind it. Or, perhaps the media are so obsessed with how women look, that they choose to ignore a person’s achievements? However, as long as the media have a market to sell stories to, they will continue to sell on demand. Should we perhaps, then, blame the public? For as long as the public buy into fashion trends, the media will focus on selling features based on fashion.

Gymnasts, no matter what their colour, nationality, etc., need to wear their hair off their face, otherwise it will fall into their eyes, and affect their performance. Yet, it would appear that obsession with beauty has made the public ignorant to the importance of functionality over fashion. The same could be said about physique. An athlete will develop a certain physique as a result of specialised training, so that they have the correct muscle formation for their particular sport. A marathon runner will naturally develop a very slender physique, which they need in order to be light enough to move swiftly and use less energy. A female weightlifter will need to be more “top-heavy”, just like a man, in order to have the strength to lift heavy weights. Yet, society will judge those athletes for looking emaciated or too masculine, respectively.

The sooner people stopped judging upon appearances and appreciated a person for their minds, personality, and achievements, the better. Alas, a preoccupation with beauty has been a feature of society for many centuries (one need only take a look at the numerous great works of art, and painted portraits that have been painted throughout history), and thus is unlikely to change any time soon.