The View from Number 80

 

 

 

Backwards Glances Index 2010 part 1

 

A word of warning - owing to the Weekly Glance's attempted topicality some of the links below may be even more ephemeral than usual.

(Tip - a search for cached versions of missing sites is often productive using either Google or The Internet Archive Way Back Machine.)

 

 

January 1st 2010  Freedom To Blaspheme

January 4th 2010  Cartoon Crap

January 6th 2010  Faith-Heads

January 11th 2010  Hypocritical Homophobic Hibernian Harpy

January 20th 2010  A Question Of Loyalties

January 21st 2010  Who Needs A Million Bucks?

January 24th 2010  Sick Role Model

January 28th 2010  Are You A British Taxpayer?

February 4th 2010  Religion Roundup

February 10th 2010  Pig In A Poke

February 13th 2010  Blood Libel Redux

February 15th 2010  Amnesty Are The Good Guys, Right?

February 18th 2010  Call Of The Wild

February 23rd 2010  The Ethical Islamist

March 1st 2010  Plant Puzzle

March 8th 2010  Recipe For Trouble

March 14th 2010  Dhimmwits and Whiners

March 17th 2010  Irony-Free Zone

March 22nd 2010  Interfering Charlie

March 28th 2010  Ratzinger Is The Perfect Pope

April 4th 2010  Here's How

April 11th 2010  Pope Busters

April 17th 2010  Well Hung?

April 24th 2010 The Right Idea

April 29th 2010  Veiled Threat

 

 

January 1st 2010

Freedom To Blaspheme - in a challenge to the nonsensical and backward blasphemy law now on the books in Ireland a campaign has begun for its repeal. The first salvo from Atheist Ireland (AI) is a list of quotes that qualify as blasphemous. Some names are predictable, such as Richard Dawkins and his excellent description of the Old Testament god, "... arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Others among the usual suspects are P Z Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie but some names are less often associated with blasphemy, including Jesus, Mohammed and the old pedophile shifter himself, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. It is an interesting and often hilarious collection. No doubt AI will have the Religious Police banging on their door anytime now. The court case will likely prove a spectacle, but there are ramifications outside Eire because of this law, as AI makes clear, "The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted. This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level."

The Plot Thickens? - see here for the latest twist in the Raphael Gold/Dead Sea Scrolls case in which 80 was (very) peripherally involved. It would seem Golb's father, the respected scholar Norman Golb may have played a larger role in Golb Jr's internet sock puppetry than was first realized. For background to this strange story see The Man Who Wasn't There and Who Is Charles Gadda?. Also check out Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls? which also comments on the Golb affair.

Free Speech - The same right to free speech that allows the Islamist group Islam4UK, a platform for the Al-Muhajiroun gang, to parade through Wootton Bassett also allows 80 to call them a bunch of ignorant gobshites. Wootton Bassett is the small English town by RAF Lyneham whose inhabitants line the street in tribute to the dead servicemen whose coffins pass through. If the turnout for the idiot Islamist march matches that for their pro-sharia law demo then expect to hear no more until their next press release. The group’s leader Anjem Choudary is accurately described by Pat Condell as an Islamist Dickhead. Update - Surprise, surprise the march has been cancelled.

Out Campaign Scarlet A

Papal Prattle - Pope Ratzinger in his first address of the new year called for an end to discrimination against "those who are different". He went on to say "Peace begins with a look of respect that recognises in another man's face a person, regardless of the colour of his skin, nationality, language or religion." How about respect for people of a different sexual orientation other than that recognized by his church? Not a bloody word. How much respect did he and his church accord the children raped by his priests in the US and Eire? None, instead they became the subject of a cover-up and the blame for this goes right to the top. It is proof of this vile old man's towering hypocrisy that he can stand up on his hind legs and talk about respect while such subjects remain unaddressed.

An Imaginary Friend - is still an imaginary friend, no matter what you call it. In Malaysia a government ban on Christians using the word Allah for their god has been overturned - perhaps the Muslim majority thought the infidels were trying to steal it/him. Maybe they should compromise and call it Google, which at least has the benefit of actually existing. In other daft religious news Israel's two chief rabbis claim "The high number of abortions in Israel are delaying the arrival of the Messiah". What nonsense, 80 has it on good authority he has been held up, like everyone else, by airport security. Finally the British priest who encouraged the poor to shoplift has been showered by - not manna, but pasta (actually 30 cans of spaghetti and ravioli with sauce) as a protest over his silly suggestion. The priest evinced surprise "I am startled at how much interest has been generated by my sermon." No he isn't, he attracted just the publicity he so obviously craved. His bosses are less than amused, for we are told "The Church of England spokeswoman said Father Jones was on holiday and unable to comment about the pasta protest." He is probably still trying to get the stuff out of his hair. There is as yet no confirmation the protester was a Pastafarian...
 

Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law - is the name of a faux Ladybird book that looks at the unsubstantiated drivel that is chiroquactic and tells the story of the (ongoing) attempt to gag science writer Simon Singh by recourse to that wonderful general purpose muzzling and bankrupting system otherwise known as an English libel court. It is a lovingly crafted parody of the classic children's books, only this one is from the Quacks and Shysters Series. Many thanks to Crispian Jago for producing this little gem. Meanwhile, prodded by the adverse publicity surrounding several cases we are told "The lord chancellor, Jack Straw, is to order a comprehensive review of Britain's much-criticised libel laws, the Ministry of Justice revealed today. Straw has previously promised to act against libel tourism, fearing Britain's restrictive libel laws are being exploited by plaintiffs with few real links to the UK." Not before time. So-called libel tourism is a mockery of justice, an international embarrassment, and strangles free speech. One particularly egregious example is that of "British consultant cardiologist, Dr Peter Wilmshurst, (who) is being sued by an American company, NMT Medical, for questioning the effectiveness of a new heart implant device. Wilmshurst raised his criticism at an American conference and his comments were posted on a US website for three says, but he is being pursued at the high court because a number of cardiologists read the article in Britain." Another factor that finally forced Straw to act was the report by English PEN and Index on Censorship and the ongoing libel reform campaign, Free Speech Is Not For Sale. Do sign the petition and subscribe to email updates.

The Muslim Council Of Britain's - Christmas shindig is a real eye-opener. Thanks to The Spittoon for the heads up. No video? Click here.

 


January 4th 2010

Cartoon Crap - there is no way to put it nicely, Nancy Graham Holm's Guardian article on the Danish Mohammed cartoons, Prejudiced Danes provoke fanaticism, is complete and utter apologist crap. The same could be said of most other accounts that state the cartoons were a deliberate provocation to Muslims - they were not a provocation until months after publication when Danish mullahs touted them around Muslim countries, having added some really offensive drawings filched from elsewhere in order to maximize the outrage. Graham Holm is supposed to be a journalist but not so much of one that she would bother to actually research a story before churning out garbage. See below a couple of pieces by 80, one from October 2006 and the other from February 2007. This first one shows that the Motoons were published with little or no reaction in an Egyptian newspaper in October 2005, during Ramadan. So why do Graham Holm and other such "useful idiots" keep whining about how offended Muslims were by the cartoons?

October 2006 No Freedom At All - radical Islamists have a knack for creating a row even when no "offence" has been caused. The Mohammed cartoons had been published for months (in Denmark and believe it or not, Egypt) before certain Danish imams hawked them around various Muslim countries bent on fomenting outrage. Even then the imams had to spice things up by adding cartoons to the original set that were cruder and if possible less amusing than the originals. This practice is known as shit-stirring and it seems to be catching on.

February 2007 Just the Facts - here is a report from the Guardian on the court case involving a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which re-published the "blasphemous" Mohammed cartoons. The Union of French Islamic Organisations, the World Islamic League and the Grand Mosque of Paris brought the case in an action typical of religionists who insist on their right to be offensive to women or gays but then get themselves all in a lather over some not particularly amusing cartoons. And even they wouldn't have been so upset without some busy shit-stirring by Danish imams. The writer of the short Guardian piece, Kim Willsher, displays a worrying willingness in the last paragraph to parrot Islamist nonsense about the cartoons  that is a) lazy and b) completely inaccurate. "The cartoons were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and were later reproduced in other European publications. They provoked violent demonstrations around the world by Muslims who judged them blasphemous and racist." True, the first publication was in Denmark in September 2005, but they were also published in Egypt* in October of that same year with no outcry. When Danish radical imams saw no outrage they hawked the cartoons around Muslim countries stoking things up - but just to make sure, they added some more cartoons of their choosing. Of these, unlike the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, at least one was genuinely offensive. (*Thanks to Rantings of a Sandmonkey)

So, it was only after such belated prodding that we saw "spontaneous" rioting and flag-burning on our TV screens. (As 80 wondered at the time, where did these protesters suddenly get hold of so many Danish flags to burn? Perhaps the incendiary imams should be asked whether they hold shares in any flag companies.) The Muslims (surely not all of them?) may well have judged the daubings to be "blasphemous and racist" but there is no reason for Willsher to repeat this without at least some qualification. To draw or publish such a cartoon may be blasphemous, but only for Muslims (including those perhaps that have depicted their prophet over the centuries with no accompanying outcry?). A point often made by Muslims is that Mohammed was a man, not a god like the Christian Jesus. Which leads one to ask, is it blasphemous to draw someone who was merely human, prophet or not? As for the claim, again unchallenged by Willsher, that the cartoons were racist, 80 suggests that a look at the latest cartoon from Jesus and Mo will help clarify matters. To nitpick thus may seem somewhat petty, pulling apart a minor news item, but Willsher's uncritical repetition of errors and distortions deserves to be condemned. If enough reporters and other commentators, through ignorance, laziness, sloppiness or multicultural political correctness repeat this sort of garbage often enough it will become accepted "common knowledge" and another little piece of truth will have been lost.

An Informal With The Infernal - Mark Morford, Olympic class syntax-mangler, interviews the Devil and gets his opinion of Obama, Limbaugh, über-harpy Ann Coulter and those "New Atheists".  

The Bush-Blair Legacy - "Unfortunately, the democratic system in Iraq has led to the rise of undemocratic parties and movements that don't believe in the concept of human rights or personal freedoms. These parties are trying to leave an impression among the uneducated and the simple-minded people that they are the guardians of religion and proper behavior, and conversely, that secular parties are the ones promoting alcohol consumption and the opening of nightclubs, and thus are un-Islamic." Mithal Alousi, a secular Sunni lawmaker quoted in the Washington Post. Also this, from the Telegraph "The sweeping sectarian violence of Iraq is well documented, though the suffering of its once million-strong Christian community has been less prominently recorded. As many 600,000 have fled abroad since 2003, while hundreds of thousands more have moved to safer areas in the north, abandoning once thriving Christian communities in Mosul, Baghdad and the southern Iraqi city of Basra."  Mission accomplished boys! I mean, this was what you guys planned, right? Guys? You know, when you were in the sandpit together, plotting war and talking to Jesus?

Pots, Kettles - the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols is quoted as saying on BBC Radio 4 "A secularist is just as dogmatic as the worst religious believer and sometime they are more stridently so."  Leaving aside the supreme irony of a Catholic cleric complaining about dogmatism, this fellow is obviously unaware that one can be both religious and support secularity. In fact secularity is something that would protect his zombie cult religion and any others by keeping them out of politics and education. This ensures a level playing field for all religions and effectively protects them from persecution. This is why the Church of England bishops (26 of them) should not be sitting in the British upper house, the House of Lords. No religion should be allied with government and faith should be a private matter. It would seem that Nichols, in common with many other people, is confusing secularism with atheism (perhaps deliberately) and the stridency he refers to is in fact atheists speaking up for themselves these days and not automatically deferring to those who think their supernatural beliefs earn them some kind of respect.  In the same interview the archbishop  talks of the shame felt over the systematic rape (not his term, obviously) of children by his colleagues in Eire but naturally does not mention the cover-up by the church hierarchy of this disgusting cruelty and betrayal of trust. He also said "... something positive could be drawn from the latest events in Ireland, where four bishops resigned over their failure to deal with allegations in the archdiocese of Dublin."  The phrase "failure to deal" is nothing more than a weaselism for "cover-up at all costs". It would be a much more positive outcome if the same bishops were charged with obstructing justice for their obfuscation when the abuses came to light.

At least Nichols appears to be marginally less repulsive than his predecessor, although that doesn't mean much. That was Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who moved a known pedophile from one parish to another thereby enabling him to strike again. This did not seem to bother the church as O'Connor was subsequently promoted. He also gained notoriety for his outrageous claim last year that atheists were not fully human. Nichols himself had a foot-in-mouth moment last year when commenting on the Irish priestly child-rapers "...I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past, which instinctively and quite naturally they'd rather not look at. That takes courage. And also we shouldn't forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did." Admiring and attempting to excuse in some way these heartless bastards is despicable - but then that's the Catholic church for you - preservation of its reputation trumps justice every time. In Eire the cover-up was enabled by the secular authorities' misplaced deference to the church. This is what happens when a religion is permitted to influence the powers that be. It is as good example of the need for secularity as any. Sadly, it is obvious Nichols learned nothing from this ghastly episode whatsoever. (Jesus and Mo have something to say about secular fundamentalists)


January 6th 2010

Faith-heads - some religionists are offended by this term and feel it to be derogatory but the crop of religionists that form the British government's new "faith advisers" are just that. This bunch, we are told, "...will act as a 'sounding board' to advise on effective engagement with faith communities, and the impact of Communities and Local Government policy on faith communities."  Making up the group are two Muslims (one an Islamist), seven protestant Christians, a Hindu, a Sikh and a brace of Jews. Humanists, Roman Catholics and Jedi are conspicuous by their absence. The Heresiarch has done a fine job of compiling a short biography of each of them and the one thing they have in common is an apparent willingness to be defined by their faith - hence faith-heads. Apart from their myriad other skills it is the fact that they are prepared to believe in something without any evidence that qualifies them to be government advisers - none of the rest of their CV/resume is of any interest to Labour unless they possess that all important commitment to irrationality - and obviously share the government's view on faith matters - we must have cohesion at all costs.

One thing that was not required apparently was that these unelected faith-heads even remotely resemble typical members of the population of this increasingly secular country. Not one them represents the "reality-based community". Communities Secretary John Denham (even his job title is irritating) who announced this new flying circus is on record as saying "It would be wrong to suggest that faith organisations alone are responsible for defining, shaping and transmitting values. It is not necessary to have faith to be deeply, morally and profoundly altruistic." This view does not seem to have been applied during the election process but then Denham is a little split on the subject. Elsewhere he has said "Anyone wanting to build a more progressive society would ignore the powerful role of faith at their peril." Yes, we have seen what faith can do - it flies airplanes into skyscrapers. 80 has quoted this statement by Barack Obama before and makes no apology for doing so again for it encapsulates the rules that should apply to giving faith-heads a role advising government. "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."  For more on John Denham see Abject Stupidity Or Wilful Ignorance? and see what Harry's Place has to say about one of Denham's advisers, Wakkas Khan.

Quote - "There's been a lot said over the last few weeks about how Islam is a peaceful religion. Obviously that is true. But, also Islam is seen as a passive religion. We wanted to show that Islam does actively stand for certain things, Islam breeds peace by its nature." Wakkas Khan, Government Faith Adviser, demonstrating in 2001 his poor grasp of reality - or is that his better grasp of duplicity? See the Harry's Place link above.

Jesus and Mo - have a slight communications breakdown over the attempted murder of elderly Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard by an axe-wielding Islamist nutjob. Talking of cartoonists, as part of its contribution to the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression, the Council for Secular Humanism is sponsoring a Free Expression Cartoon Contest. The Council—publisher of Free Inquiry, the first major U. S. publication to republish a selection of the Danish cartoons—invites professional and amateur artists to submit their sharpest, cleverest, and most ingenious creations touching on that most sensitive subject: religion.

When Scary Jesus Makes The News - is the title of the latest column from Mark Morford. "Will it be drugs? Will it be gays? Will it be an unwieldy sex scandal featuring seedy hotels, bad cologne and grossly detailed text messages you never want to read? How about another "family values"' congressman busted for cruising gay chat rooms or hitting on young male pages in the congressional bathroom? That's always heartwarming. Or maybe it will be another enchanting case of sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Catholic Church! What, too 2001? Fine, how about six decades of child rape and beatings at the hands of countless nuns and priests in Irish Catholic orphanages? Oh right, that was last year."  Read on...

Good Things - here is part one of an interview with Christopher Hitchens conducted by Michael J Totten about, among other subjects, the homicidal attack on Kurt Westergaard and the absurd Irish blasphemy law. 80 had not come across Totten's site before (thanks, Nick) but it will become a regular port of call. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine) has made available a compendium of pieces by and about the greatly missed Carl Sagan, including Sagan's tribute to Isaac Asimov and his 1996 piece called Does Truth Matter? Science, Pseudoscience and Civilization. Finally here is a short article by Austin Cline entitled Christian Cultural Resentment - Cultural Resentment as Religious Force. Also the National Secular Society's Newsline newsletter returns after the festive break.

Fear and Censorship - is an excellent piece on "censorship-by-prediction-of-violence" in the Guardian written by Ophelia Benson. Her site Butterflies and Wheels is permanently linked in the sidebar of this page. She is also the co-author (with Jeremy Stangroom) of Why Truth Matters and Does God Hate Women?. Both are highly recommended. There is a school of thought that claims she is the original of the sage barmaid in the Jesus and Mo cartoons. Also see Killing freedom and cartoonists

"Sense About Science has produced a guide (PDF) to help people to query the status of science and research reported in the media. Get the guide by clicking the e-button above. Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation. We work with scientists and civic groups to promote evidence and scientific reasoning in public discussion."

A Rich Kid Speaks - having read his way through a column of crud in the Guardian that mounts an ineffectual, ill-informed and incoherent attack on Sense About Science one question occurred to 80. Just what exactly is the point of Zac Goldsmith? Apart from his obvious ability to talk out of his arse, that is. It is particularly worrying that this clod will have the ear of the likely next UK government. At least he receives the drubbing he so richly deserves in the comments, some of which are hilarious. New Scientist has a piece on Sense About Science's Celebrities and Science 2009 review (PDF) "People in the public eye are often drawn to promoting theories, therapies and campaigns that make no scientific sense. Sense About Science keeps a case file of examples of celebrity statements sent in by scientists and members of the public. Every year we review celebrities’ dodgy science claims - from special diets and ‘miracle’ cures to chemicals, vaccines and evolution - and ask scientists what they should have said instead."  This is what seems to have rattled young Goldsmith's cage - perhaps he thought he was featured.

Quote - "It wasn't a mistake that the caricatures of Muhammed were printed, and in any case it doesn't justify violence. Muslims have just a great interest in protecting freedom of expression as all others. Therefore Muslims should also support Kurt Westergaard," writer Shakil Rehman of the liberal Muslim network LIM (Equality, integration, multiculturalism) Taken from the Islam In Europe blog - thanks to MediaWatchWatch for the heads-up.


January 11th 2010

Hypocritical Homophobic Hibernian Harridan Homily - in view of the latest news that disgraced MP Iris Robinson was undergoing "acute psychiatric treatment" 80 wondered whether the alliterative intro to this piece was insensitive, but a look at this woman's history dispels any such qualms. She has joined the long list of apparently puritanical bible-bashers who were actually having a bit on the side. In this case the 60 year-old Robinson "...had an affair with a toyboy lover young enough to be her grandson." This is hardly news except that she chose to project herself as a righteous Christian, one of those righteous Christians who think, on no factual basis whatsoever, that homosexuality is an aberration, a life-style choice that can be "turned around" by counselling. In fact this charming woman is on record stating that homosexuality was "viler" than child abuse. Her affair came to her husband's notice he claims, after a attempted suicide brought on by her remorse. This cannot have lasted too long as she now claims to be forgiven by her friend Jesus - that handy get out for Christian hypocrites. Things might have eventually quietened down but then there was fresh news about a loan made to her toyboy of a trifling £50,000 ($80,639). This now sets up her Northern Ireland First Minister husband's political career to follow hers down the toilet with a disastrous effect on the fragile state of Northern Ireland politics. As if all this wasn't bad enough, stories are now surfacing of other affairs involving this Christian paragon - plus the unexpected and delicious twist that her ex-lover has become a gay pinup. As The Freethinker has it Where is the Rev Ian Paisley when you most need a good belly laugh? Update - "The extramarital affair conducted by Iris Robinson, the wife of Northern Ireland's First Minister, has inspired an Internet campaign to push "Mrs Robinson," the song from the film "The Graduate," to the top of the pop charts."

 

In God's Name - in following the Malaysian "Allah" controversy there are a couple of points that caught 80's attention. It seems the use of the Arabic name for god by Christians in that multicultural country has some local Muslims up in arms - or to be more accurate, busy burning churches. So far, according to the BBC, nine have been attacked. These burnings were apparently triggered "...by a High Court ruling last month that overturned a government ban on non-Muslims using the word "Allah". The government is appealing against the decision." The first point arising is why on earth do the Christians want to use an Arabic word for god? Arab Christians, an endangered species, do so, but then their native tongue actually is Arabic. The main languages in use in Malaysia are Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi and Thai, and so using Allah in a context outside that of Islam is odd, to say the least.*

Despite claims to universality, Islam is very much an Arab religion and its sacred texts are claimed to be only fully understandable in that language. The second point illustrates just how unsure Islam is about itself, always ready to be offended all around the globe. As Pat Condell says, Islam seems to have a chip on its shoulder the size of a mosque. The breakdown of religions in Malaysia is Muslim 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%. This surely makes a nonsense of the Muslim claim "...that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts." Do they think the people cannot distinguish between the two religions and the use of this single word would be enough to ensnare them for Jesus? It seems that the followers of Islam, in this case and others, are far too swift in perceiving offense and that the most common reaction to this perception is violence. It is depressing that an absurd row over a single word is jeopardizing the political stability of Malaysia with the concomitant effect of scaring off foreign investment. Update - now the Sikhs have become a target for Muslim violence in Malaysia. What a great ad for the "religion of peace".

*An interesting aside - 80 has just learned that that "...the Maltese word for ‘God’ is ‘Alla’. Maltese is a dialect of Maghrebi Arabic (with an awful lot of Italian, French and English thrown in for good measure) and is the only dialect of Arabic to be written in a western alphabet. The Maltese, of course, are 99% good Roman Catholics (and fairly intolerant of Islam) but nevertheless perfectly happy to pray to ‘Alla’ in church." Thanks, Keith

 

Booting Homeopathy - out of Boots. The UK's largest and best known High Street pharmacists are promoting and selling homeopathy "medication". That in itself is not dangerous as all the customers are buying is water, usually dropped on a sugar pill. In fact the best it can do is no better than a placebo effect. However, the worst it can do is to cause someone who is seriously ill to forgo evidence-based, real medicine in favor of a homeopathic remedy, and possibly even endanger their health by doing so. Note that I said seriously ill, for homeopathy, like many other so-called Complementary Alternative Medicines (sCAM), excels at treating things that going to get better in a few days anyway. If you think Boots is harming its reputation as a purveyor of medicine by dealing in quackery and may inadvertently cause someone serious harm by doing so, please sign the open letter here. For more on homeopathy see Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake by Stephen Barrett, M.D. and check out Homeowatch. Also see Faith-Based Medicine and this item on the things that are taught on a homeopathy ‘degree’ course. 80's attention was drawn to the Boots letter by The Association for Skeptical Enquiry (ASKE)


January 20th 2010

A Question Of Loyalties - the Telegraph tells us "The National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) claimed that ministers were wrong to blame Islam for being the “driver” behind recent terrorist attacks. Far-Right extremists were a more dangerous threat to national security, it said."  Then don't bother to call this lot to investigate any crime, particularly terrorism - it is obvious they couldn't find their arse with both hands. Perhaps they are unaware of these figures quoted by Nile Gardiner, "According to Home Office statistics published in May 2009, a staggering 91 percent of terrorist prisoners detained in England and Wales classified themselves as Muslim." The NAMP also mutters darkly about "racism" - a transparent ploy to stifle criticism. Islam is not a race -it has claims to universalism. But are the NAMP quite what they appear? Are there other motives behind their criticism? The NAMP wouldn't be employing a little taqiyya here? Surely not. Over at Harry's Place there is an article about how the NAMP web site links to "...the Khomeinist front organisation, the so-called ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’." (See The Wrong Rights?) 80 is very uncomfortable with the thought of British police officers espousing such nonsense.

The NAMP web site mentions among the key objectives of the group "Raising Islamic Awareness and dealing with Equality issues such as Islamophobia."  Neither Islamic Awareness (why the random capitals?) and Islamophobia are defined. In 80's view a noun + phobia means the fear of or aversion to something, in this case Islam. Given the Home Office statistics mentioned above, this phobia, far from being irrational as the word usually implies, makes sense. It would appear to mean something else entirely to the NAMP. Are these people policeman and policewomen first and Muslims second or is it the other way round? Once again we run into the problem of loyalties. In a religion so all pervasive in a believer's life as Islam it is well nigh impossible to maintain the secular stance required of modern policing. Quite why the police have been allowed to form various sectarian organizations is a puzzle - until you realize that this is a result of Britain's absurd multiculturalism. Far from uniting people this breaks them down into smaller and smaller groups, all ready to take offence at the slightest provocation. The fact that the NAMP has links with the sick joke that is the Islamic Human Rights Commission is deeply worrying and calls into question the impartiality of its members. Currently there are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Sikh police associations in the UK. No atheists so far - perhaps they are content to be just policemen and policewoman. (80 recommends the Heresiarch's look at the document that started the story. He finds it appalling - and that's just the grammar.)

Our Place In Space - see The Known Universe and have your mind boggled in this video from the American Museum of Natural History. It rather puts things into perspective.

Wilders In Court - Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been charged with inciting hatred of Muslims. His crime was to produce a rather boring little film that quoted from the Quran, accurately it would appear, as no one seems to have accused him of misquotation, and showed some events such as the 9/11 atrocity. Surely no one is denying the nineteen Islamist murderers were inspired to commit their crime by the Quran? And yet Wilders is in the dock for pointing out what is to very many people something quite obvious. The report tells us Wilders' "Freedom Party is leading the opinion polls in the Netherlands and came second in European elections last June."  Wilders is too right-wing for 80's blood but not that right-wing, for in condemning the Quran he compares it to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Department Of The Bleeding Obvious - "Reports of racial and religiously motivated crime rose following the election of British National party councillors in several far- right strongholds, police statistics have revealed." Oooh - do you possibly think there might be some sort of connection here?

Non-Aligned - back in September last 80 took a rather scathing look at the theory of Tom Brooks as put forward in his modestly titled book Prehistoric Geometry in Britain: the Discoveries of Tom Brooks. See Imposed Patterns. Now Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre makes much the same point in Did aliens help to line up Woolworths stores? drawing on work by Matt Parker, from the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London. From ley lines onward people have "discovered" alignments of all sorts of things. In a landscape such as Britain's there are any number of ancient sites from which the eye of faith can wring alignments - it doesn't mean that they are really there. See the excellent Bad Archaeology on ley lines.

2010: A Time for Reflection - is the title of a piece by Robert T. Carroll, creator of the excellent Skeptic's Dictionary web site, (and book) an indispensable resource which " ...features definitions, arguments, and essays on topics ranging from acupuncture to zombies, and provides a lively, commonsense trove of detailed information on things supernatural, paranormal, and pseudoscientific." In this short essay he looks at the origins of the modern skeptical movement and how it may develop in the future.

Populist Palin - "Sarah Palin is the latest in a line of populists, but she's very different in one way. Populists historically have pretended not to know anything. They've actually been part of a fairly intellectual group of people. But she really doesn't know anything. And it's in God's plan apparently that she [won't] learn anything." Margaret Carlson as quoted by Leslie Savan in an article for The Nation about Palin's new gig with Faux Fox News.

Guru Redefined - the Times tells us of "Residents of Tel Aviv’s quiet Hatikva neighbourhood were shocked to discover a self-styled Jewish sage living in their midst, with a harem of 30 women kept as "slaves" in a series of squalid apartments. Goel Ratzon, a 60-year-old guru with flowing white hair and beard, is accused of fathering 37 children since 1993 with his “wives” and his own daughters. " This must be one of those occasions when the word guru actually means perverted old weirdo.

Haiti - post-earthquake relief donations please click here.

Short Shrift - "It never ceases to amaze, that in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid. But it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, speaking about Pat Robertson's latest idiocy.

Prat Robertson - always ready to jump on the bandwagon following a natural disaster the caring and compassionate Christian Pat Robertson knows why Haiti was hit by an earthquake killing tens of thousands of people. It seems it was the Haitians own fault - or rather their ancestors - for making a pact with the devil. Or as the great televangelist put it in an interview "...a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’". There is of course no evidence for such a deranged idea which Robertson just blew out of his ass. Much as he did over 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Can we say vile old creep? Yes, we can. Much like his vengeful god, which, to his way of thinking has just righteously murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children. Update - Fat creep Rush Limbaugh is obnoxious as ever as he competes with Robertson for the callous shit of the month award. He is telling people not to contribute to the Haitian disaster fund - because Obama might steal it. Limbaugh is beneath contempt. Update - an article on "...how crazed the US right has become" in "..the race to say something stupid about the tragedy in Haiti"

Thank God for Andy Choudary - is the latest video from Pat Condell in which he thanks Choudary for the (unintended) consequences of his big mouth. If you see no video below click here.

 

A Call For Ridicule - "I have today laid an order which will proscribe al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by. Other names are Call to Submission, Islamic Path and London School of Sharia. The group is already proscribed under two other names – al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect or the Saviour Sect." Alan Johnson, UK Home Secretary reported in the Guardian. What took so long? Expect these Islamist jerks to pop up again under another name. As these tossers themselves put it "...another platform with a new name will arise to continue to fulfil these divine objections until the sharia has been implemented". (Shouldn't that be "divine objectives"?) Which of course raises the same old question - if they cannot stand the UK (apart from the free social services and healthcare obviously) and want sharia why don't they sod off? I am sure the rest of the country would have a whip-round for the tickets - its has to be cheaper than the taxpayer-funded benefits they now enjoy. Let's hope Johnson's move heralds less tolerance of extremists everywhere, such as the ones that are invited to speak in so many mosques and universities. The UK, and London in particular, has a poor reputation worldwide (Londonistan, anyone?) for allowing too much free rein to Islamist groups. If "multiculturalism" means allowing vipers to be nourished in the country's collective bosom the sooner it is done away with the better. Most of the UK's Muslims must cringe in disgust at the shit-stirrers like Islam4UK and the coverage they get from the tabloids. Now just wait for the useful idiots of the far left  to start whining about Johnson's belated action. They, and their beloved Islamists need, in 80's view, a sight more ridicule than they have hitherto received. If they are treated as the right bunch of charlies that they so patently are, maybe proscription of this kind would become unnecessary. Ab absurdo.

Laugh - with the Spittoon. This quite made my morning. Or it did until I remembered what Bunglawala is all about.


January 21st 2010

Who Needs A Million Bucks? - back in October 2008 and again in November 2009 James Randi challenged the manufacturer of a bomb detector to prove that the device worked. "Okay. Here’s a simple statement from the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). It’s in clear, basic English, plain language, direct and unequivocal. It’s directed to any of the manufacturers, distributors, vendors, advertisers, or retailers of the ADE651® device ... This Foundation will give you our million-dollar prize upon the successful testing of the ADE651® device. Such test can be performed by anyone, anywhere, under your conditions, by you or by any appointed person or persons, in direct satisfaction of any or all of the provisions laid out above by you." Did JREF hear from anyone? Of course not. Why? "...because the ADE651® is a useless, quack, device which cannot perform any other function than separating naïve persons from their money. It’s a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. The manufacturers, distributors, vendors, advertisers, and retailers of the ADE651® device are criminals, liars, and thieves who will ignore this challenge because they know the device, the theory, the described principles of operation, and the technical descriptions given, are nonsense, lies, and fraudulent." So even if the sellers of this device didn't want Randi's money you'd think they would respond and defend the effectiveness of the detector - especially after a broadside like that. They didn't. Can anyone detect the powerful odor of rat? Randi repeated his challenge upon hearing the very worrying news that the Iraqi government has purchased a large number of these worse than useless gadgets - at $40000 each.

That figure comes from a BBC Newsnight investigation which has had experts examine the card at the heart of the ADE651, one of whom is Dr Markus Kuhn of Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory. His findings are damning - "Dr Kuhn said it was "impossible" that it could detect anything at all and that the card had "absolutely nothing to do with the detection of TNT"." Step forward explosives expert Sidney Alford, who said "...the sale of the ADE-651 was "absolutely immoral. This type of equipment does not work, I wouldn't mind betting that lives have been lost as a consequence." They are handing these useless gadgets to the poor bastards manning checkpoints in Baghdad. What does that say about the morals of the firm that produces this piece of crap? Jim McCormick, who sells these things, has described it in terms that would set off alarm bells for any skeptic used to hearing such bollocks on a regular basis. He told the BBC in a previous interview that "...the theory behind dowsing and the theory behind how we actually detect explosives is very similar". He says that the key to it is the black box connected to the aerial into which you put "programmed substance detection cards", each "designed to tune into" the frequency of a particular explosive or other substance named on the card. He claims that in ideal conditions you can detect explosives from a range of up to 1km. The training manual for the device says it can even, with the right card, detect elephants, humans and 100 dollar bills." At least we now know there are two reasons why McCormick and his firm have not responded to Randi's challenge. Firstly the ADE651 is useless for its described task and secondly, if you can sell thousands of them for $40000 each why would you need a piffling million bucks? Watch Caroline Hawley's full report on Newsnight on Friday 22 January 2010 at 10.30pm then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.

Update - to the above. The Guardian informs us "The managing director of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today. At the same time, the British government announced that it was imposing a ban on the export of the ADE-651 detectors because it was concerned they could put the lives of British forces or other friendly forces at risk."

Mass Overdose! - the 10.23 Group, the bunch who organized an open letter to Boots, the high street pharmacists, asking them not to sell quack homeopathy products is hoping to garner more publicity by an overdose stunt. Over 300 sceptics and consumer rights activists nationwide will at 10:23am on January 30th "...publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic 'pillules' to demonstrate that these 'remedies', prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills." Of course everyone will be fine because homeopathic "medicines" contain no active ingredients. This kind of display has been done before, by James Randi who survived quite nicely thank you. Also must be included Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of singer Billy, who took six tablets of Traumeel, a homeopathic "anti-inflammatory" when she was "...distraught over the ending of a recent relationship." Panicked by what she had done she called 911 - but she was fine, as the pills do nothing, nada, zip, bugger all. If you would like to take part in the mass overdose check out your nearest Skeptics in the Pub group. Also see Homeopathy by the (mind-boggling) numbers, an excellent article by Matt Parker.

The Idiot's Tale - following the Haiti quake there was the usual question, how could a loving god let this happen? Jerks like Pat Robertson blamed the people of Haiti, or rather their ancestors, who had made a pact with the devil. Others tied themselves in metaphorical knots and babbled like idiots. One such is the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who managed to sound even more of a fool than he did hitherto, which is quite an achievement. To save you trawling through the audio of his cringe-inducing BBC interview the kindly James Randi has posted a transcript. Remember, Sentamu is one of the best the Church of England has on the team. No wonder it is fast becoming an irrelevance.

An Asshole Speaks - "Why is all this happening down in Haiti, a very poor country? The country's been shaken. Probably some of you are aware that Haiti is infamous for its voodoo, its spiritual darkness, bleakness. You know, I was kind of thinking, maybe God has shaken that place, shaken that, shaken against the kingdom of darkness. And maybe the light of Jesus will shine through, come out of the darkness." Dr. Justin Dennison, Johnston Heights Church as reported here. "He noticed a man getting up and leaving as he spoke. Dennison has since discovered that his remarks were being recorded by the man who left, a first-time visitor to the church. A short segment has been posted online, along with critical comments linking Dennison to right-wing American television evangelist Pat Robertson, who has argued the earthquake occurred because God was punishing Haitians. A horrified Dennison said his remarks have been taken out of context and he does not in any way share Robertson's view."  Yeah, right.

Ship Of Clods - A A Gill, the cold-blooded baboon murderer, has partially redeemed himself in 80's eyes with this piece in Vanity Fair, Roll Over, Charles Darwin!, about Kentucky's $27 million monument to pig ignorance, the Creation Museum. While poking a lot of fun he also shows that he understands what many miss and that is that Creationism is not just anti-evolution but anti-science. "This place doesn’t just take on evolution—it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste. It directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies, including most theology."

UFO Nuts - were all excited by the strange spiral lights in the sky above northern Norway recently. The lights were certainly nothing natural and they carried a message. Not about aliens, but about the parlous state of Russian military rocket research and testing. See Russia's Ailing ICBM Program by ex-space engineer, veteran space commentator and historian James Oberg. Check out his web site, in particular the Space Age Myths and Legends page. Oberg's 1990 documentary Red Star In Orbit revealed for the first time to those outside the intelligence community the story of the Soviet race to the Moon. This has now happily appeared on YouTube.


January 24th 2010

Sick Role Model - here is an interesting piece by Rageh Omar about a character, historical or not, who has had a disastrous influence on human development, Abraham. The patriarch is supposed to be the figure that unites the Peoples of the Book, Jews, Christians and Muslims. In the real world, in today's "Holy Land", as Omar notes, Abraham is very much a figure of division and strife. (In passing it is worth remarking that Omar follows the Bible in claiming Abe's home town was Ur of the Chaldees. In fact the Chaldeans lived much later than the supposed time of Abraham so their Ur was not his - but then the Bible is not a history book.) Omar addresses Abraham's famous attempt to sacrifice Isaac but does not seem to understand the full horror in the tale. It is surely surprising to many modern readers that the story of Abraham, told by his God to murder his own son Isaac, is considered edifying. Think about it, a man hears instructions from a voice in his head to murder his own child. Instead of being revolted he does his best to carry out this hideous task only to be told by God it was a test of his faithfulness. What this says about Abraham is disgusting enough and qualifies him for immediate psychiatric treatment coupled with incarceration but Abraham's God comes out of it even worse. An all-powerful, all-knowing being toys with a lowly creature merely to test its capacity for obedience? This is not a being worthy of worship but a megalomaniac worthy only of contempt. When the ignorant and ill-informed say that the atheist's world is bleak with no God in it they cannot even begin to understand the sheer liberation and joy experienced at realizing this cruel and capricious being does not exist. (See The mystery of the providence of God from Ophelia Benson)

Out Campaign Scarlet A

No Planet Raiders - there has been a rash of stories about aliens in the press over the past few days. They are the fall-out from a 2-day conference at the Royal Society, called Is there anybody out there?  One particularly odd contribution demonstrates that a scientist speaking outside of his or her field is often no better informed than a layperson. Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at Cambridge University, is quoted in the Guardian as saying that extra-terrestrials might not only resemble us but have our foibles, such as greed, violence and a tendency to exploit others' resources, and while aliens could come in peace they are quite as likely to be searching for somewhere to live, and to help themselves to water, minerals and fuel. Just stop for a moment and think about that. Aliens which have such advanced science and technology so as to be capable of interstellar flight, are going to bother to raid a planet for "water, minerals and fuel". This surely shows that Conway Morris has no conception of the energies required for even modest starflight - any beings with such power at their fingertips are most unlikely to be space pirates. Our Solar System, and probably most others, is chock full of raw materials for the taking without planet-raiding - surely a concept from early science fiction, (or sometimes later if you look at the unbelievably crappy Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard). Just because we humans haven't got off our backsides to harvest the resources out there doesn't mean that others are so short-sighted. (The eerie silence: are we alone in the universe? is the subject of a lecture by Prof Paul Davies at the Royal Society which will be available on the web within 48 hrs)

Randi Speaks - about bogus bomb detectors and asks why it took so long for the authorities to act. (no video? click here) Also read Phil Plait's When Antiscience Kills: Dowsing for Bombs. Meanwhile Iraqi MPs are demanding the withdrawal of the detectors from checkpoints.  (Talking of Plait, see here for his choice of good and bad science fiction movies, in terms of faithfulness to the laws of physics.)

 

Neither Needed Nor Wanted - Sharia a threat to Britain's future as 'tolerant' society is a very good piece by Douglas Murray which asks two main questions ‘To what extent is Sharia Law already operating in Britain? To what extent is Sharia Law incompatible with British Law?’ The conclusion is that sharia is utterly incompatible with human rights. While this is nothing strikingly new the piece is well-argued and researched and would make good reading for those useful idiots complacent types who ask, what's the harm? Also of great interest is the section on so-called sharia finance - not some ancient Islamic custom but a fudge invented in 1940s India. Sharia does not belong in Britain which already has a functioning, if imperfect, legal system which is there for everyone regardless of their religion. Also see Muslim Women Lose Human Rights.

NoSharia

Go Glenys! - the New Humanist (NH) blog reports that the British government is taking a firm stand against the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's (OIC) "defamation of religion" resolution at the UN - a transparent ploy to enshrine blasphemy in international law. NH quotes the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness (Glenys) Kinnock, in response to a question about the OIC efforts. "...the Government cannot agree with an approach that promotes the concept of "defamation of religions" as a response. This approach severely risks diminishing the right to freedom of expression. We believe that international human rights law already strikes the right balance between the individual's right to express themselves freely and the need for the state to limit this right in certain circumstances. International human rights law provides that only where advocacy of religious hatred constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should it be prohibited by law. We believe that the concept of "defamation of religions" puts in danger the very openness and tolerance that allows people of different faiths to co-exist and to practise their faith without fear."  Also see Russell Blackford's The idiocy of “defamation of religion”.


January 28th 2010

Are You A British Taxpayer? - if so, are you happy that the government has handed over £10000 to the Christian Police Association (CPA) to publicise its message? And that message is "...that praying can help police to solve crimes, protect officers from injury on duty and reduce anti-social behaviour." according to the Telegraph. Now, compared to the sums pissed away on the banking sector the amount is utterly trivial but to give any group money in order to encourage wishful thinking, ie prayer, is, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody stupid. Now we can only wait for all the other sectarian police associations that have crept into existence during the great failed multicultural experiment to start squealing to get their snouts in the trough. This could be just the thin end of the wedge.

How Police Praying Works - "In one particular area, an officer was investigating an incident but he had not been able to apprehend a suspect. He encouraged a church to pray for him and within days a suspect had been arrested and charged. In another area, an officer encouraged churches to pray about domestic burglary and over the year it came down by 30 per cent. We do not discount good police work, which is why we call it circumstantial evidence." Don Axcell, of the Christian Police Association gives his deeply sad idea of convincing evidence of the power of prayer. Why would a just and omniscient deity have to be prodded into action by prayer? Until the CPA show that this wishful thinking works they shouldn't have a penny. For more on prayer see here.

Prayer, The Truth - "Long time ago god made a divine plan. Gave it a lot of thought. Decided it was a good plan. Put it into practice. And for billion and billions of years the divine plan has been doing just fine. Now you come along and pray for something. Well, suppose the thing you want isn't in god's divine plan. What do you want him to do? Change his plan? Just for you? Doesn't it seem a little arrogant? It's a divine plan. What's the use of being god if every run-down schmuck with a two dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?" George Carlin, devout Frisbeetarianist. See the man in action.

Quote - "Homeopathy does not work beyond placebo, it is a menace to public health and a drain on the limited resource of the NHS. It is an 18th century quack medicine consisting of magical rituals practised by deluded, cargo-cult "doctors" that has no place in government thinking, and it should not be endorsed by the registered pharmacists who are at the frontline of public health in the UK."  Martin Robbins of The Lay Scientist writing in the Guardian on the mass homeopathy overdose.

Good Question - the press has returned to a story that circulated last November about the late Pope Wojtyla and his predilection for a bit of saintly self-harm. The reason for the reprise is to plug a book about the old boy. It also allows Hugh O'Shaughnessy to ask the obvious question, Why would the pope whip himself? Perhaps in remorse at the church's rampant pedophilia? Because such weird habits are an integral part of Roman Catholicism? Mortification of the flesh is still considered an acceptable practice in some quarters - think Opus Dei. Guardian readers have helpfully supplied some possible answers in the comment section, one of the best being "Because bashing the bishop is not allowed?". In O'Shaughnessy's piece he refers to another self-mortifier "Saint Simeon Stylites who lived the majority of his years on the top of a narrow stone column." which brought the comment, "As did our very own Nelson" And another said "At least it's an example for Tony Blair to follow". And this rather practical response, which also sounds a mite too eager, "Where did he get the whip from? Did he make it himself? Did he send someone out to buy it? Is there a shop in Rome specialising in ecclesiastical whips?" More than a few came up with the right answer, that he was a sad, deluded old autocrat.

You Can Tell A Lot - about a man by the company he keeps. The Guardian has an article about a Polish politician who belongs to the European Democrats Group, along with David "Call me Dave" Cameron and his Tories. We are told "One of David Cameron's rightwing allies in eastern Europe was embroiled in controversy today at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg after being allowed to open the assembly's session despite a record of belittling the Holocaust. Ryszard Bender, a hard-right Polish senator and historian from the rightwing Law and Justice party, has defended a convicted Holocaust denier in Poland, described Auschwitz as "not a death camp, but a labour camp", and campaigned against Polish apologies for the slaughter of Jews at Jedwabne in 1941."  Law and Justice is the party of the deeply unattractive Potato Twins, of whom 80 has written before.

In Poland there is a worrying connection between the right-wing and that old friend of fascists, the Vatican. So powerful is the Catholic influence on that country that you are unlikely to see the sort of child abuse report that came out of Dublin any time soon. Yet the same ingredients are there as in Eire - a large celibate clergy and an absurd deference to priestly authority by politicians and the police - but Poland has something extra - a vile anti-semitic streak to add to the mix (see here). With a general election not far away and the UK voters sick of Brown's Labour party the question has to be asked why is Cameron, considered by many to be the prime minister-in-waiting, palling around with Bender and his ilk? Last year Cameron's Tories left the center right and Christian Democrats grouping in the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, moved further to the right and is now enjoying the company of those who apparently think coded anti-semitism is acceptable. Is this a foretaste of the way he would like to take the UK? Cameron should be called on this association at every opportunity. (Also see Eyes To The Right and this on Cameron's other new chums. Check out Airbrushed For Change )


February 4th 2010

Religion Round-up - poor Archbishop of York, lamenting the exclusion of religion from public life in an increasingly secular country. He doesn't seem to find it paradoxical that he has a full page in a major national newspaper to showcase his whining. Also it must have completely slipped his mind that he is one of 26 bishops that sit in the British upper house, the House of Lords, who recently had a success in weakening proposed legislation on equality. Just what would the poor lamb do if he wasn't so terribly marginalized? One shudders to think.

Meanwhile Mrs Blair, wearing her judges wig, allows a violent thug to go free after fracturing some poor bugger's jaw. Why? "I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. 'You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour." Which of course implies that non-religious people don't know what is acceptable behavior. The National Secular Society (NSS) has quite rightly complained to the Judicial Complaints Office. We are told that the assailant "...Miah left prayers at his East Ham mosque to a bank when he became involved in an argument with Mohammed Furcan. Furious Miah grabbed Mr Furcan before and punched him in the face. The thug ran outside but Mr Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck. Miah punched him again - knocking him to the ground and breaking his jaw." Obviously his prayers did not bring him serenity but violent rage. (Best headline comes from the NSS - Has Mrs Blair been practising 'Cheria law'?)

The Roman Catholic church once again shows its unhealthy preoccupation with pain and suffering or, as the Telegraph puts it "Heavy sedation of patients in their final days prevents them from the opportunity of having a “good death” according to the Roman Catholic church" Why should anyone be subjected to unnecessary pain because of another person's supernatural beliefs? If followers of Ratzinger's zombie death cult want a painful death they are entirely welcome to do so - but they shouldn't try and impose one on those that do not share their delusions. (80 was amused to note his spellchecker wants to render the pope's name as "Rat Zinger" which sounds like a deeply unattractive fast food.)

Also in the Telegraph philosopher Roger Scruton suggests Muslim fundamentalists should "learn how to drink wine" because it would make them more tolerant. Philosopher or not, Scruton really hasn't thought this through. If these nitwits have to force women to cover up because they cannot control their lust, what does he think they would be like with a few drinks under their belt?
 

NoSharia

Dhimmwits - "Britain and France appear to be in a race to corner the sharia-compliant Islamic finance market. Both countries are rushing into law new regulations that will make the operation of sharia finance easier and facilitate the issuance of corporate sukuk. Sukuk are a broad class of financial instruments designed to replicate the economic function of bonds, but with a structure which complies with Islamic principles." the National Secular Society informs us. Far from being an ancient idea, sharia finance was mainly the idea of an Islamist intellectual, Abul-Ala Mawdudi, in the 1940s. It is also a method of introducing sharia to the UK by the back door, along with the 85 sharia courts already operating in the country. This is sharia in action in Iran - don't be put off by the dhimmis and "useful idiots"- sharia is barbaric and cruel. (Also see Sharia Finance Watch)

One Law For All - Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell and Terry Sanderson, among others will be speaking on February 14th at the “London for a Secular Europe” march which will be held in conjunction with a similar event in Rome (”No Vatican”), where secular Italians are protesting against the political power and influence of the Vatican, and its anti-human rights agenda in Italy, Europe and worldwide. Details of the route and the start and end meeting points are here. It is also tied-in as Darwin Day event (properly Feb 12th). Oh and the 14th is also Valentine's Day....


February 10th 2010

Pig In A Poke - this old English expression can certainly be applied to the problem of courting a woman wearing an Islamic veil face mask. The BBC tells us of "An Arab country's ambassador to Dubai has had his marriage contract annulled after discovering the bride was cross-eyed and had facial hair. The woman had worn an Islamic veil, known as the niqab, on the few occasions the couple had met. The envoy, who has not been identified, told a Sharia court her mother had tricked him by showing him pictures of the bride's sister..." It appears "He only discovered the deception when he lifted the woman's veil to kiss her." This apparently trivial story points up the problem of people wearing face masks in public. In modern western culture only two groups do this, superheroes and crooks. In fact there have been several instances of criminals employing Islamic women's clothing for nefarious purposes such as this incident in 2009, "Dressed from head to toe in a traditional Muslim woman's burkha, this is the moment a robber raided a travel agent. Brandishing a knife, he threatens the two women staff before making off with an undisclosed amount of cash." Here is an armed robbery by a burka-clad bandit brandishing a pistol, captured by CCTV footage. This sort of thing is not solely a British phenomenon. Here is an incident involving  Islamic-masked crooks robbing a post office in France. Far more serious is the use of this tent-like clothing to conceal Islamic suicide-murderers in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan with devastating results. The debate over the wearing of Islamic masks in France and elsewhere is not "Islamophobia" but a very necessary focussing on threats to the public from crooks and bombers.

Quote - "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Stephen Weinberg, physicist and Nobel laureate.

New Pope Petition - the National Secular Society's protest at British taxpayers funding Ratzinger's jaunt in September is garnering signatures at a good rate - it has topped 20,500 as of February 11th. Now a new petition has been launched by that doughty defender of human rights, Peter Tatchell, which takes a wider view "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to disassociate the British government from the Pope's intolerant views ahead of the Papal visit to Britain in September 2010. We urge the Prime Minister to make it clear that his government disagrees with the Pope's opposition to women's reproductive rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. We ask the Prime Minister to express his disagreement with the Pope’s role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, his rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and his decree paving the way for the beatification and sainthood of the war-time Pope, Pius XII, who stands accused of failing to speak out against the Holocaust. We also request the Prime Minister to assure us that the Pope’s visit will not be financed by the British taxpayer."  Please sign here to let the Prime Minister know the strength of feeling over this papal jamboree.
 

makethepopepaypetition

Butt Out! - Joseph Ratzinger, the head of a foreign state, is criticising proposed equality legislation in the UK. In his own words he says equality is "unjust" and “actually violates natural law”. He wants members of his particular sect to be allowed to discriminate against other UK citizens. Just because an autocratic old man cannot tolerate equality doesn't mean anyone actually has to listen to him. Ratzinger should put his own house in order. Instead of gracing England and Wales with his musty presence he should go to Ireland and humbly apologize for the years of systematic child-rape by his minions and for his own collusion in the subsequent cover-up. He shouldn't expect an easy ride on his visit - he won't get one. Sign a petition to Make The Pope Pay for his own trip instead of  British taxpayers. They must have better things to do with £20 million than subsidise a bigot's junket. (The Roman Catholic church is appealing an £8 million compensation award for 142 alleged victims of sexual and physical abuse from St William’s Community Home, in Market Weighton, near York. The Northern Echo tells us "The appeal was made after a judge ruled that Middlesbrough Diocese was liable for running a former children’s home at the centre of an abuse scandal spanning 30 years". You can bet Market Weighton won't be on Ratzinger's itinerary)

The Crooked Judges Of Amsterdam - is the latest salvo from that beacon of sanity, Pat Condell, on the absurd trial in the Netherlands of "right-wing" politician Geert Wilders. It seems he committed the heinous crime of telling the truth. (If you don't see the video click here)

Thick As A Brick - Britain's best advertisement for republicanism opened his mouth recently (after removing the silver spoon) and came out with his usual wishy-washy New Age pablum. One new ingredient was that Charlie Wingnut has built himself a strawman which he was keen to show to the grown-ups. “We cannot go on like this, just imagining that the principles of the Enlightenment still apply now. I don’t believe they do. But if you challenge people who hold the Enlightenment as the ultimate answer to everything, you do really upset them.” he whined. Hold on, just who is saying that the Enlightenment is the ultimate answer to everything? Perhaps this scion of the House of Windsor could point to the basis for that statement to edify us commoners who don't have his advantages? In fact it is this upper-class twit that seems to be the one with a panacea in his princely pocket. “I believe it is of crucial importance to work with, in harmony with nature, to rediscover how it is necessary to work with the grain of nature, as it is necessary to work with the grain of our humanity. What is the point of all this clever technology if at the end of the day we lose our souls, and the soul of nature of which we are a part?”  If we followed the clown prince's prescription billions would starve - the real world needs modern agriculture - it is all very well for him to produce expensive food from his organic farm but his little hobby is not the answer to world food shortages. So, Charles doesn't like the Enlightenment and wants to turn back the clock. He'll be lecturing everyone about the Divine Right of Kings next. He is an atavistic ignoramus. (Also see Charlie drop his energy ball in his latest dalliance with gobbledegook)

Clueless Kindness - Oh look, it's Nancy Graham Holm back with some more pearls of wisdom. It seems her previous piece (now amended, as her research was as poor then as it is now) in Comment Is Free (Cif) about how the poor Islamists were provoked by those wicked Danish cartoons earned her much richly-deserved criticism and more than a little invective. Good. For anyone to pontificate on that subject and not mention the way a non-event was stoked up into the usual Muslim tantrums by a mad mullah (with the aid of additional images he added to spice things up a bit) is either lazy or ignorant - or both. The truth about the Motoons is out there for anyone who can be bothered to look. (see Cartoon Crap) In her defence she claims part of her original piece was edited for the sake of brevity - which just happened to be the part where she said the attempt to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was a "tragedy". A tragedy? A murderous religious fanatic, brandishing an axe and a knife and screaming curses chasing a 74 year-old man is not a tragedy  - it's a bloody outrage. It's attempted murder. There can be no excusing it.

Graham Holm, having already got off on the wrong foot, then mentions as sources for "...creating conditions in which civilised dialogue can develop." with Islamists, Karen Armstrong and Tariq Ramadan. Armstrong is an apologist for religion, particularly Islam, but the god she describes would not be recognized by the fundamentalists, for their god is a violent, proscriptive and cruel deity not the ineffable, transcendent being that Armstrong writes about. (Also see Karen Armstrong: The Coherence of Her Incoherence) As for Ramadan, he is so reasonable he cannot even condemn stoning and merely calls for a moratorium, not a ban, on this vile and primitive practice. Graham Holm may not know Ramadan's background but before citing him as an example it would have been a good idea to check. Ramadan very much tailors his material to whatever audience he is addressing. (Also see Tariq Ramadan Has An Identity Issue).

It would seem that instead of explaining and clarifying the position laid out in her  ridiculous first Cif article all she has done is make things worse. The idea that fanatical Islamists are going to pay any attention to a woman (a woman!) who wishes to bring "kindness and compassion" to the debate is laughable in its naivety. According to the Guardian profile Graham Holm has had a distinguished career but as with many left-leaning intellectuals she cannot seem to get into her head that the highest status she and other proponents of this kindness and compassion strategy is that of "useful idiot" in the eyes of the Islamists. (Here is a comment by a Guardian reader on Graham Holm's piece that is, in 80's view, well worth reading, whether you agree with it or not.)


February 13th 2010

Blood Libel Redux - LibDem leader Nick Clegg seems incapable of smelling the stench of anti-semitism coming from Liberal peer Baroness Tonge, who is busy resurrecting and updating the medieval Jewish blood libel. Her modern version is that the Israelis are in Haiti harvesting quake victims' organs. This mad old bat is demanding the Israeli government investigate such "allegations". Why? So she and her fellow nutjobs can claim there's no smoke without fire? Clegg insists Tonge's accusations are "ludicrous" but not racist. What part of the "Jews are stealing organs" story does he not consider racist? The only thing harvested from anybody recently would seem to be Clegg's backbone. Update - the Guardian tells us "The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has sacked his health spokeswoman in the Lords after she called for an inquiry into allegations that Israeli soldiers were involved in organ trafficking in Haiti."  Better late than never. The paper also notes that "It is the second time Tonge has been fired as a Liberal Democrat frontbencher for making controversial comments about Israel."

Crucifix Flaunter Loses - but sadly she is to appeal. Self-anointed victim of religious persecution Nadia Eweida has lost "...her appeal today against a ruling that cleared British Airways of discrimination by stopping her wearing a cross visibly at work." The coverage in the Guardian sadly misses the background of this case and of the irritating Eweida - happily that same paper published the needed information in a piece by Terry Sanderson back in January 2008. The story was old even then and now Eweida plans to appeal yet again. The cost of this stupidity must by now be enormous. Her MP, the usually sensible Vince Cable is supporting her, as is, less surprisingly, Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury. The woman was at work, not at home or in her church. The regulations that governed everyone else apparently did not apply to her because of her supernatural beliefs. The original employment tribunal had this to say about this poor persecuted Christian - she "... generally lacked empathy for the perspective of others ... her own overwhelming commitment to her faith led her at times to be both naive and uncompromising in her dealings with those who did not share her faith." In other words a fanatic. Such ostentatious declarations of faith or "witnessing" were in fact frowned upon by the Jesus character in the Gospel tales - see Matthew 6:2-6. In fact one interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11 would seem to require Eweida to shut up, not that there is much chance of that happening - she is making the most of her little bit of notoriety. Not so much a martyr, more a pain in the arse. Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia, a Christian thinktank, said of the case 2 years ago, "Like many of the other claims of discrimination being made by Christians, this has turned out to be false. People should be aware that behind many such cases there are groups whose interests are served by stirring up feelings of discrimination of marginalisation amongst Christians. What can appear to be a case of discrimination at first glance is often nothing of the sort. It is often more about Christians attempting to gain special privileges and exemptions."

 

Vote to change politics. For good.

POWER2010 - "is a unique campaign to give everyone the chance to have a say in how our democracy works for us. What is different about POWER2010 is that you're in the driving seat. We're not asking you to back our goals. We're asking you to help create them. At the next election we will work to ensure every candidate commits to the reforms you most want to see as part of a nation-wide campaign to reinvigorate our democracy from the bottom up."  Take a look at some of the options - in 80's view nearly all of them are common sense. Sick of the status quo in British politics? Then vote at Power2010. Will it really change anything? Probably not, but you will only have wasted a moment of your time - and you never know...

Quote - "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."  H L Mencken

Final Destination - 80 was saddened to see that the inventor of the frisbee, Walter Fredrick Morrison, has died. The question is, will his soul end up on the roof?

The Multicultural Defence - Imam Gulan Hussain thought it was acceptable that he "...repeatedly punched and kicked (a) boy before beating him with the bamboo cane...". This was after Hussain "...had previously been cautioned for actual bodily harm against an 11 year old in 2005". Let's get this straight, a 44-year old man attacked a boy of nine on two separate occasions. Initially he "...punched the boy on the shoulder and kicked him on the leg with the flat of his foot." In the second attack he "...took a bamboo stick and told (the boy) to sit on the floor, then he hit his bare feet several times causing reddening on the feet, which made it painful to walk." His justification for this vile behavior? Cultural differences, "...the Imam said that "cultural differences" meant he didn't realise that attacking the small boy in front of other youngsters was wrong." His defence offered this wholly inadequate explanation "He believed that by having his father's permission made it acceptable. Clearly it doesn't and he realises that now. She continued: "The offence originated out of cultural difference - a misunderstanding of what he could do with the permission of a parent." Any culture that condones such actions is not a culture but barbarism. It does not belong in Britain- or anywhere else. It is amazing that such a defence was even offered considering Hussain had already been cautioned in 2005. Perhaps his "culture" also condones selective amnesia when violence against children is involved. (Imams seem to be in the news this week - "The imam of a Stoke-on-Trent mosque has appeared before a court accused of committing serious sexual offences with two young boys. The defendant is accused of the attempted rape and sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy in Meir last year. He is further accused of three counts of rape on a boy under the age of 13 last year in Tunstall."  Cultural differences or just keeping up with the Catholics?)


February 15th 2010

Amnesty Are The Good Guys - Right? - Not when it is Amnesty itself under scrutiny. Gita Sahgal, head of Amnesty’s gender unit, raised concerns about the cosiness of the organization with a group that espouses jihad. The Times tells us "Sahgal felt the closeness of the relationship between Amnesty and Cageprisoners — which appears to give succour to those who believe in global jihad — was a threat to Amnesty’s integrity. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment,” she wrote to Amnesty’s leaders." After apparently receiving no response Sahgal went public. As the Times puts it so well she "...touched that raw nerve, the naivety of white middle-class liberals in dealing with Islamic radicals." She was suspended from her job. The Times article goes on to examine the background of Moazzam Begg, head of Cageprisoners, which makes for interesting reading (As does this). Begg, obviously stung by Sahgal's whistleblowing took the offensive against her, but instead shot himself in the foot with this strange comment “She advocates the government shouldn’t even be engaging with the Muslim Council of Britain. It’s not a normal position.” Oh yes it is - the British government's unhealthy cultivation of this unrepresentative, closet-Islamist organization, now on the up again after the Hazel Blears incident, is to be deplored. That Begg thinks his comment somehow damages Sahgal's credibility talks volumes. Will Amnesty distance itself from Begg and his group? Don't hold your breath. Update - Also see this from Harry's Place and Christopher Hitchens' Suspension of Conscience)

dancing jesus

Ratzi Rocks...Or Not - in what would appear to be an attempt to be hip, the Vatican's  mouthpiece, L'Osservatore Romano, has published a "semi-serious" top ten albums, with old rockers such as The Beatles, Oasis, Pink Floyd and David Crosby featured. Given the age of the artists the hip is likely to be somewhat arthritic. The paper's editorial said "...in addition to having put up with the rigours of winter, we have to endure a rising tide of musical festivals. So as not to be totally overwhelmed, and to remember that an alternative exists, our modest guide can point you on the road to good music." One can be pretty sure that this idea did not come from the top, as the pontiff is on record with his view of rock music. "Benedict particularly dislikes rock music, which he denounced at an international conference in 1986 when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, as a "vehicle of anti-religion." In 2000, he slammed rock music as "the expression of elemental passions" which "assumes a cultic character, a form of worship in opposition to Christian worship" at rock concerts. "People are released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects." It is indeed hard to imagine those little red shoes tapping along with the beat. And we certainly can't have people being "...released from themselves.." can we? That would never do.

Quote - “I’m not trying to out-conservative anyone. I think the state board of education has lost its way, and the social-studies thing is a prime example. They keep wanting to talk about this being a Christian nation. My attitude is this country was founded by a group of men who were Christians but who didn’t want the government dictating religion, and that’s exactly what Mc Leroy and his colleagues are trying to do.” Thomas Ratliff, on the scandal that is the Texas State Board of Education and its malign influence on American education.

The Department Of The Bleeding Obvious - this Telegraph article tells us that a report published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences has concluded,"People who have no religion know right from wrong just as well as regular worshippers" . It goes on to say "...people who did not have a religious background still appeared to have intuitive judgments of right and wrong in common with believers, according to the findings, published.." (Has anyone told Cherie Blair?) Dr Marc Hauser, from Harvard University, one of the co-authors said "The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments....It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualising moral intuitions,” he said. "Although, as we discuss in our paper, this link is not a necessary one, many people have become so accustomed to using it, that criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence."  This is particularly in evidence in the USA where atheists are one of the most reviled groups, according to research from the University of Minnesota. (Also see this from the National Secular Society)

A Religious But Not Righteous Judge: Cherie Blair - is the title of an excellent piece by A C Grayling on Blair's capricious "justice", in which he also examines the typically idiotic response of Guardian religious affairs blogger Andrew Brown. Also well worth reading is the Heresiarch on Mrs Blair, religion and a punch in the mouth.

Out Campaign Scarlet A

Quote - "And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence."  Bertrand Russell

Today is Darwin Day - look for events near you.

Muslim police? Christian doctors? Sikh judges? - What happened to neutrality in the delivery of public services? This is the question asked in this piece by Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society (NSS). The toxic combination of religion and multiculturalism threatens the even-handed dispensing of public services in the UK. The NSS challenges religious privilege and its work is more vital now than ever. You can join here.

Quote - "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."  Isaac Asimov


February 18th 2010

Call Of The Wild - From the Guardian we learn about a Ugandan pastor "...who screened same-sex pornography in a church to try to bolster support for proposed anti-homosexuality legislation...". With all the material drawn from his own extensive collection, no doubt. That is not quite as crazy as it sounds. There is convincing evidence from this 1996 study that all may not be quite as it seems. Two groups of men, homophobic and non-homophobic "... were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies." This is called doing a "Haggard". Do bear this study in mind when you next see or hear some bigot sounding off about the gay threat to society - all that bluster and rage could be a cry for help from someone who, deep down, would really like a walk on the wild side. For more on the study see Single, Angry, Straight Male... Seeks Same? For more on Uganda's proposed anti-gay legislation see Religious Colonialism.

Quote - "Fanaticism in religion is the alliance of the passions she condemns with the dogmas she professes."   Lord Acton
 

nazi ufo

Obama And The Space Nazis - Want to know the real reason why the President cancelled the return to the Moon? Was it because the project was way behind schedule and underfunded? No, that's just the cover story - it was the Space Nazis that told Obama to back off in order to protect their secret base on Lunar Farside. Dwayne Day, of whom 80 has written before, has been listening to the ravings of Richard Hoagland, conspiracy theorist extraordinare, about the Space Nazi connection. Hoagland is the guy that through his Enterprise Mission web site claimed the death of the Apollo 1 astronauts Grissom, White and Chafee in a pad fire was in fact murder (scroll down) carried out by NASA in collusion with the Freemasons at a predetermined astronomically  auspicious time. He also believes in the Face On Mars and that the Moon's surface hosts invisible structures. In other words he is barking mad - or is he? He seems to have made a living out of peddling this absurd crap and has more than a few supporters. In an article for The Space Review, Day tells us that, according to Hoagland, at the end of WWII Nazi flying saucers took off for the Moon, to build “a secret off-world civilization.”. This silly story is in fact not dreamed up by Hoagland but has been drifting around for some time. Long enough for what promises to be an excellent amateur movie on the subject to be made, Iron Sky. This Finnish production is as yet uncompleted but the makers are pitching as a comedy. After all what else could it be? You can see the impressive teaser footage here. You can read more on Hoagland in The Face Behind the "Face" on Mars: A Skeptical Look at Richard C. Hoagland by Gary Posner and 80's own Aliens About Face and Hoagland's Fantasy Factory. Also see Richard Hoagland's Nonsense courtesy of Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy.

 

 

Religious Colonialism - American evangelists, unable to have gays judicially murdered in the USA, had a brilliant idea, why not kill them by proxy in Uganda? It's still doing the Lord's work, by exporting it. The flaw in this cunning plan is that the world is now joined up and decent people in the US and elsewhere have become aware of the machinations of this holier-than-thou scum. The bastards that exported this hate, which admittedly plays to existing prejudices in Uganda, are now being challenged at home over their vile behavior and they are backpedalling like crazy. Their justification would appear to be that after their crusading tours of Uganda, damning gays left right and center, they are now surprised and shocked that people actually took them at their word.

Three names in particular have become associated with this gay persecution, all Americans, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer, who were in Uganda, the Times informs us, just before a member of parliament introduced an anti-homosexuality bill. "Lively, the president of Defend the Family International, told Ugandans that legalising homosexuality would mean legalising “the molestation of children and having sex with animals”. This charming individual also claimed "...that the genocide in Rwanda was carried out by gays, that Aids is a just punishment for homosexuality and that foreigners are trying to promote homosexuality in Uganda." Of course the three "...have distanced themselves from the proposed law and say they never encouraged punishment for gays." Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? If you can stand watching Lively's lies they are documented on YouTube.

These "men of God" must be called to account for their murderous influence which now stretches beyond Uganda. Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said of the situation "We are deeply concerned about this spate of homophobia across the continent. It's very well calculated. It's exploding at the moment but it's been happening for a year and a half. We have proof of American evangelical churches driving the religious fundamentalism in Uganda." This is a form of religious colonialism where the evangelists are exporting their hatred of gays that they can no longer voice so bluntly at home. It is a great help to them that African churches are already deeply homophobic - these evangelicals just need to pump things up. (Also see Investigation exposes influence of Religious Right on homophobia in Africa from Ekklesia, a Christian thinktank. (In case anyone thinks only American preachers love judicial murder of gays, take a look at this bearded nonentity)  

Human Rights For All - is the place to go to find out the latest on Gita Sahgal and Amnesty. Also see Amnesty Are The Good Guys - Right?

Quote - "Once you accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy"   Albert Einstein

Cui Bono? - "Senior staff running a faith charity set up by Tony Blair are being rewarded with salaries of up to £120,000." the Telegraph says. The article goes on to compare the wages on Blair's gravy train compared to real established charities. The comparison is not flattering. All of Blair's finances and taxes should be subjected to scrutiny - after all that's how they caught Al Capone - although of course Capone destroyed fewer lives. This Guardian article from December asked "Since Tony Blair stepped down, he has received millions of pounds from an unusual mixture of income streams. His financial affairs have been described as 'Byzantine' and 'opaque'. Can you shed any light on them?" The answer to the question was yes - as Richard Murphy, "..a crusading accountant from Tax Research UK." stepped forward. But only a qualified yes, as "A little-known loophole in UK company law is being used by Tony Blair to keep his finances secret, the Guardian can disclose. Blair would normally have to publish company accounts detailing the millions flowing into his various commercial ventures since he stepped down from office in 2007. But he has set up a complicated artificial structure which avoids the normal rule. In effect, he is getting the benefits of running a British company without the drawbacks of unwelcome publicity." Once again Teflon Tony evades the shit - for now.


February 23rd 2010

The Ethical Islamist - here is a piece by Tariq Ramadan, in the Guardian (where else?) entitled Islam's role in an ethical society. 80's first reaction is there isn't one - no religion is entitled to a role in society and religion is not necessarily ethical, despite adherents repeatedly saying so. The opening sentence begins "Let us agree on this: we live in pluralistic societies and pluralism is an unavoidable fact. We are equal citizens, but with different cultural and religious backgrounds." In Islam we are not all equal citizens as a Muslim is automatically considered better than people of other faiths and none and as for women, they are of less worth than a man. It is rife with intolerance. Even referring to Islam as some kind of monolithic entity is inaccurate - Islam has its own sects who look down on each other as heretical and often use this as an excuse for murderous violence.

Having got off to a very poor start Ramadan, in his second sentence, does little better, "So, how can we, instead of being obsessed with potential "conflicts of identity" within communities, change that viewpoint to define and promote a common ethical framework, nurtured by the richness of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds?" While people continue to define themselves by their religion "conflicts of identity" are inevitable. Given that many religions, or their sects thereof, believe that they are sole custodians of the truth, religion is a poor basis for any talk of equality. True equality is only possible in a secular society with religion a purely private matter. He goes on to say "For while we agree that no one has the right to impose their beliefs on another, we also understand that our common life should be defined in such a way that it includes the contributions of all the religious and philosophical traditions within it. Further, the way to bring about such inclusion is through critical debate." One wonders quite who is this "we" that Ramadan refers to? 80 is not part of a "we" that includes those who cannot condemn the stoning of woman for supposed adultery but would (how reasonable) accept a moratorium - like Ramadan himself. Anyway, "we" agree "...no one has the right to impose their beliefs on another..." Any religions/sects that emphasise proselytism, and there are plenty, would not agree with this. Also look at the riots over cartoons and stage plays, novels and films; the demands to be allowed to wear religious symbols; the demands to have prayer rooms; to be allowed to discriminate against those of a different sexuality; and the right to water down equality legislation - these examples show that Ramadan makes little sense, but that may not be his point.

As for "Further, the way to bring about such inclusion is through critical debate." sounds reasonable, but try this out for yourself by questioning the Bible's literal truth in the company of fundamentalist Christians or doing the same with the Quran and fundamentalist Muslims. How long would such a debate last before threats would emerge over the perceived insult to a holy book, and by extension, God himself? Whether Ramadan acknowledges this or not is unclear but he does say such a "...debate is hard to achieve." Somewhat of an understatement as you can also end up maimed or dead. Why is textual criticism of the Quran usually published pseudonymously? Because if you don't conceal your identity you will be a target for threats or actual violence.

Now Ramadan approaches the meat of the matter, Islam and western society. He says "Islam is perceived as a "problem", never as a gift in our quest for a rich and stimulating diversity. And that's a mistake. Islam has much to offer – not least when considering how individuals in politics and business have recently been behaving, within the limits of the law, but with a clear lack of ethics." Islam is perceived as a problem because it is - the aforementioned attitude to women is an obvious example. Islam has a problem with the concept of Universal Human Rights as evidenced by the attempts to promote so-called Islamic Human Rights. To have Ramadan offering Islam as an answer to "...how individuals in politics and business have recently been behaving" is laughable. Just look at the corruption and capricious legal systems in the countries that comprise the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the bunch that came up with those oxymoronic Islamic Human Rights. These countries have nothing to teach the West about ethics, equality or fair governance.

As Ramadan's article continues it moves further and further away from anything approaching reality. He tells us the Muslim presence "...is not undermining the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian ethical and cultural roots of Europe. Neither is it introducing dogmatism into the debate, as if spiritual and religious traditions automatically draw on authoritarian sources." Now he is just being silly - of course religious traditions automatically draw on authoritarian sources - what does he think the holy books with all the rules and regulations of human conduct are, if they are not authoritarian sources? To claim otherwise is to insult the reader's intelligence. One wonders quite what audience this piece is written for - most likely the useful idiots and dhimmwits who think Ramadan sounds so reasonable compared to frothing-mouthed mullahs. When it comes down to it you would be hard pushed to slip a cigarette paper between them. Ramadan is to be trusted no further than you could comfortably spit a grand piano - if one word could describe him it is disingenuous. When he says "Contemporary crises within societies, and at the international level, remind us we need more ethics in our public life, not merely more efficiency." it sounds unobjectionable - but the ethics he is talking of are those of a particular religion and rest on religious authority and therefore are entirely unsuitable for universal application. No matter how you cut it, religious belief systems  as a basis for modern ethics are not fit for purpose. Humankind, at least in the West, has moved on from that, although not far or fast enough in 80's view. Islam, Christianity or any other supernatural belief system is totally unsuited to the fair management of a modern, industrialized plural society. After all, if Islam brings such clear ethical benefits as Ramadan seems to think, why are there any Muslim immigrants to Europe at all? Why on earth would anyone leave the perfect garden of Islam to live in our materialist, "broken" society? (For some more on Ramadan see Deconstructing an Islamist and The State Dept Was Right) Update - also well worth a look is The LibertyPhile's analysis of readers' comments on Ramadan's article. The LibertyPhile now has a permanent link in the sidebar of this page.

Human Ouija Board - well the press and media have finally got the picture - Facilitated Communication (FC) is hokum and akin to ouija board trickery. Last November the world was astounded by news of a Belgian patient, Rom Houben, who had apparently been conscious trapped inside an unresponsive body for 23 years following a car crash, who was suddenly able to communicate via a practitioner of FC. This was reported almost everywhere as a miracle, but those who could remember the scandal of FC and severely autistic people in the '90s could smell a rat - see This Cruel Farce Has To Stop. Also, it was surprising how articulate Houben appeared to be after 23 years trapped inside his own head. Had any member of the media bothered to do a minimal search on the web they would soon have found this treatment to a sham - or should it be scam?

It is possible that some FC practitioners manage to fool themselves that the slight hand movements they detect are in fact attempts to reach a keyboard placed before a subject - after all plenty of people think that dowsing rods move in their hands although it is the ideomotor effect. The facilitator who worked with Houben however, was different, and this raises several questions about that facilitator - and the doctor in charge. The most basic test of the technique is to ask the patient something unknown to the facilitator - which seems simple and obvious but was not done for some time in Houben's case and then only at the prompting of a Belgian skeptic group.

The first question then is why the doctor in charge, Dr Steven Laureys, did not immediately and rigorously test whether Houben was really communicating? This may be because the patient's family believed he was "talking" to them and had invested huge emotional capital in his recovery. But such a factor should not have swayed a medical professional - but it seems Dr. Laureys was himself something of a believer in FC (and still is). As for the facilitator, it needs to be asked was this person engaged by the family or the hospital? Because whoever was paying for this FC was being conned. The communication was not, as might be expected of a man with brain damage emerging from 23 years of isolation, halting - it was articulate and fast. This should have ring alarm bells. The facilitator was allowed to operate without any real testing for 3 months, using this helpless man as some kind of sick puppet. One of the reasons for this is that "Houben" refused to take part in tests - in other words the facilitator was boxing clever. In fact the the facilitator wanted to protect his/her investment for Houben was "writing" a book - which is likely to have been a best-seller had the doctor in charge not finally wised up.

Had the doctor been sufficiently motivated there have been plenty of tests performed which could have been referenced, such as a 1995 study in which the subjects included 18 preschool through secondary students diagnosed with autism. "Several students demonstrated the ability to correctly respond to requests and questions when the facilitator knew the answer. When the facilitator did not know the correct answer, however, none of the students were able to respond correctly." Such a test isn't rocket science so why wasn't it applied for months in Houben's case? Given that the facilitator didn't just provide answers to questions posed but dodged tests and claimed Houben was writing a book this has every appearance of fraud. Has anything actually been learned from this sad story? Given the media's moronic fixation with sensational breakthroughs, miracle cures etc. expect no lasting change but let's hope the medical staff at least will take some of this on board. If something sounds too good to be true it is probably neither. Poor Houben may really be conscious but nonsense like Facilitated Communication isn't going to give him a voice. Update - see here a very interesting piece by Prof Dr Willem Betz of the Belgian skeptics, who were instrumental in bringing this whole FC sham to light.

Utter Balls - according to the Guardian, schools secretary "Ed Balls today denied offering faith schools an opt-out from new rules forcing teachers to address issues such as homosexual equality and contraception in sex education lessons." Yet the National Secular Society tells us  "The Catholic Education Service (CES) was quick to claim the credit for the Government’s apparent U-turn. A statement on its website claimed the amendment was tabled following a period of extensive lobbying by the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales." Balls? More like bollocks.

Thankless Task - It is well-known how little attention is given to the laws of physics in Hollywood movies. Now Sidney Perkowitz, a professor of physics at Emory University in Atlanta, says "...science fiction movies should be allowed only one major transgression of the laws of physics..."  One of his examples of such a transgression is the giant insects in Starship Troopers, although the ants in Them! would do just as well. If a creature is the mass of an elephant then its legs need to be as sturdy as those of an elephant to avoid crumpling under the creature's own weight. Another widespread example is a spacecraft not only making a noise in a vacuum, but flying and banking like an airplane in that same vacuum. Take a look at footage of the first true spacecraft, the Apollo Lunar Module, to see how vehicles should move in space. Or see 2001: A Space Odyssey which got it right well before the Moon landings (as did Destination Moon). Perkowitz is a member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange (SEE), the aim of which is is to "...get better science into film while still making them interesting." Good luck with that. He says of poor movie science "The chances are that the public will pick it up and that is what matters to Hollywood. The Core did not make money because people understood the science was so out to lunch." He is overestimating the scientific knowledge of a movie audience - The Core did poorly because it was a crap film. Talking of which, 80 has just watched Transformers 2 (don't bother if you haven't) which is a fine example of how SEE is going to have an uphill struggle. Also see Movie Non-science. Update - Adam Rutherford is not impressed with SEE's plans)


March 1st 2010

Plant Puzzle - 80's attention was drawn to an item in the Telegraph this morning which demonstrates that newspaper's sad decline. The headline reads Rare Buddhist flower found under nun's washing machine. It is claimed "A rarely seen Buddhist flower, which blossoms every 3,000 years, has been discovered under a nun's washing machine". The flower, we are told by the anonymous reporter "The Udumbara flower was found in the home of a Chinese nun in Lushan Mountain, Jiangxi province, China. The rare Youtan Poluo or Udumbara flower, which, according to Buddhist legend, only blooms every 3,000 years, measures just 1mm in diametre (sic)". Rarely seen? Somewhat of an understatement. So the last time this one bloomed the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, Babylon and Assyria were great powers, Greece was in a post-Mycenean "Dark Age" and China was still hundreds of small kingdoms under the rule of the Zhou emperor. That nun must own the world's first washing machine. We are often told how inventive the ancient Chinese were with gunpowder, paper currency, fine ceramics, seismographs etc. but a washing machine is truly impressive. Ah well, enough funning, it is only a legend and not real - but then this so-called plant isn't a plant.

The writer or editor of the Telegraph piece was apparently too lazy to find out more, but a moment's search found this informative page from Environmental Graffiti, titled In Search of the Flower that Blooms Every 3,000 Years. Here we learn of another discovery of the legendary bloom, growing on a steel pipe owned by a Mr Ding of Liaoning, China. The report says "That well publicized discovery in 2007 triggered many more in Taiwan, Korea, the US and Germany. Since then, some of the mysterious flowers have been identified as the eggs of lacewings – whose females lay their eggs on threadlike stalks, similar to human hairs, to keep them apart and thus prevent cannibalism among the aggressive young after hatching." The photos accompanying the lacewing explanation certainly match that shown in the Telegraph but Environmental Graffiti has more "Because some of the flowers like the ones below could not be identified as lacewing eggs. They have a stem with branches and emit a distinct smell of sandalwood – and these indeed have been identified as the Udumbara flower of the Ficus racemosa tree. Because the flower is not very big and therefore difficult to see, a legend developed over the years to explain the absence or supposed rarity of the flower – namely that the Udumbara flower is said to bloom only once every 3,000 years, which meant it came to symbolize rarely occurring events such as the sighting of a Buddha." (Thanks to Deborah for the heads-up and to the fascinating Environmental Graffiti for the information. 80 has written about the Telegraph's sinking standards before - see Trivial Telegraph and Telegraph Turns Tabloid)

Sky's the Limit - the BBC has recently announced cuts to its services, including news, which will result in a greatly downsized organisation. It is doing so one step ahead of the politicians, particularly the Tories, who are now in bed with the main beneficiary of any diminution of the Beeb, one Rupert Murdoch and his Sky TV. It is true that in some areas the corporation has lost its way, by grossly overpaying oafs such as Jonathan Ross, spawning a proliferation of irrelevant web sites and allowing news programs to include inappropriate editorialising. Any editorial comment in a news program should be clearly flagged as such. That said, anything that benefits Murdoch's empire, and the BBC cuts most assuredly would, is a bad thing. That this is the case was made blindingly obvious by Murdoch's son, James, in a comment piece for the Guardian in August last year - see Pass The Sick Bag #2 . If you are concerned over this state of affairs please sign this petition from Avaaz which states "The BBC should serve the public, not corporate media barons. We oppose the slashing of the BBC's web, radio, and TV programmes in order to encourage competition by Murdoch and others, and we call on the BBC to strengthen and improve instead of cutting back." The target is 100,000 signatures before the petition is handed to the BBC Trust. (Also see this from Jonathan Freedland on the Cameron/Murdoch axis)

Sunday Sacrilege: Flaunting our disobedience - good stuff from P Z Myers at Pharyngula.

Quote - "How could you be an atheist in this world? How can you survive emotionally being an atheist – you could lose your job, your house – you could die from anxiety." So says the obviously insecure Rabbi Mendy Cohen of Chabad, Sacramento who cannot face the idea of dealing with the world without his god. What prompted his deeply sad comment was the news that 10 new billboards have gone up in the Sacramento area bearing messages from atheist groups saying dreadful, wicked things like "Are you good without God? Millions are." Cohen reminded 80 of a quote from the late Isaac Asimov on pseudoscience, which has much in common with supernatural beliefs, "Inspect every piece of pseudoscience and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck on, a skirt to hold. What have we to offer in exchange? Uncertainty! Insecurity!"

Quick Route To Hatred - If you associate with venomous animals you must be prepared for them to turn around and bite you. So why are UK universities playing such a dangerous game? So many of them give a platform to racists and bigots - so long as they are Islamists. Try and do the same with their equivalent, neo-Nazis, and you would be able to hear the squealing a continent away. Here is an example from King's College which will be hosting an individual, Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, who is on record as being in favor of death for gays, and who called Jews "filth".

What possible excuse can there be for indulging this vile individual? Freedom of speech? Not when it is racist and not when it is an incitement to violence. Peter Tatchell, as often, is bang on target “King's College would not host a white supremacist who advocated racism or death to black people… King's College has an equal opportunities policy that prohibits the promotion of hatred against minorities, but it is not enforcing it. The university is not a safe place for Jewish and gay students when it facilitates a vicious homophobe and anti-Semite like Sheikh Abdullah Quick.”

It is announced that he won't be spreading lies and hatred this time but talking on “environmental problems, Islamic solutions”. Just what the hell are "Islamic solutions"? Environmental problems require engineering solutions not supernatural ones. Maybe Quick has a special slant on this. Flooding? Instead of sandbags why not stack up Jews and gays in a flood barrier. After all Jews are filth and gays should be murdered so what's the difference. The sooner the British authorities get a grip on whom various societies can invite to speak the better. It was the University of London Union Islamic Society who invited Quick. These groups should be more tightly regulated - surely their purpose is not to provide a conduit for creatures like Quick to spew their hate? If it is, their very existence should be questioned. A further thought - compare Quick's ease of entry into Britain to that of elected European parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

Quote -"All religions make claims to truth, even when they disavow the use of coercion or force to bring others to those truths. Truth claims by their nature necessitate disagreement." Austin Dacey, Center for Inquiry (CFI) main representative at the UN, New York addressing the UN Human Rights Commission.


March 8th 2010

Recipe For Trouble - an article in the Guardian by Gerard Russell asks the question Does foreign policy need religion? 80's immediate reaction was "No" but after some thought this changed to "Hell, no". Russell was prompted by a report from an American thinktank, the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, which sounds rather risqué. Upon clicking the link provided you are actually taken to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs which leaves one wondering how reliable is the rest of the piece if the name of the principal player is misreported? Pedantry aside, the question asked should be more accurately stated as "does foreign policy need the Abrahamic religions?" as these seem to be the only ones discussed.

The first thing to realise is that these Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity make irreconcilable truth claims rendering dialogue difficult, if not impossible. This is without considering that the three faiths are not monolithic but include myriad sects and splinter groups, all with their own truth claims. What merit could there possibly be in adding such a mishmash into foreign policy, which is already complicated enough? By all means learn all you can about others' beliefs and the consequent worldview - this is only common sense - but allowing religion into discussions is a recipe for disaster. For example, a Muslim negotiator in dealing with Christians and Jews cannot help but be influenced by his holy book, the actual word of god, which tells him that those two groups are nothing but liars and bound for hell. Making this explicit is not going to aid dialogue.

There are signs that the thinktank itself is allowing itself some wishful thinking as it suggests religion is a global force for good. This is shown to be fallacious by looking at the headlines day by day that show the link between the Abrahamic religions and cruelty, violence and bigotry (see Faith-Based News). The only way for countries and people to meet is in a secular space, the only level playing field possible for those of different religions and of none. Even Russell concedes "...categorising people by their religious belief can be dangerously divisive..." but still clings to the need for religious involvement in foreign policy in the face of the evidence. Foreign policy is already an area fraught with dangers - religion, especially the Abrahamic type, would only make things worse. (Here is an interesting piece on whether the Establishment Clause in the Constitution would forbid American negotiators introducing religion in discussions as this would breach the wall between religion and the state)
 

Out Campaign Scarlet A

Mark Morford - from his latest column "It doesn't take much blasphemy to note how all religions are, across the board, brazen, synthetic freakshows, far stranger and more surreal in their oddball accumulation of fetishes and rituals than anything your average agnostic, atheist or Burning Man devotee could come up with in her happiest LSD-soaked dreamgasm. You ever been to a Catholic mass? A Mormon temple? A mosque? Disneyland on acid, people. And not in the good way."

Quote - "Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature." Caesar and Cleopatra Act II by George Bernard Shaw.

And Now The Happy News - "As the British Chiropractic Association's battle with Simon Singh continues to work its way through the legal system, chiropractors are counting the financial costs of a major backlash resulting from a libel action that has left the Lord Chief Justice "baffled". What was originally a dispute between the BCA and one science writer over free speech has become a brutally effective campaign to reform an entire industry. A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council."  Read on...  (So far it hasn't been a good year for the two most well-known types of quackery)

Quote - Said a clever quack to an educated physician: "How many of the passing multitude, do you suppose, appreciate the value of science, or understand the impositions of quackery?" "Not more than one in ten," was the answer. "Well," said the quack, "you may have that one, and I'll have the other nine."  Source unknown

Jesus and Mo' - are giving and taking offence.

Return Of Bad Memories - some types of nonsense are thoroughly debunked and fade away only to rise again years later, vampire-like, to cause more pain and confusion. The resurrection is often by those too ignorant or lazy or both to carry out any research. Resurrection is the word as it is the Church of England (CofE) that has dragged the "repressed memory" crap back into the light of day. This Guardian article tells us "Psychiatrists and psychologists have asked the archbishop of Canterbury to withdraw Church of England support for a self-help book aimed at victims of child sexual abuse, claiming it contains "misleading" and "potentially harmful" information. The book, which is promoted in the church's child protection policy, could lead readers to suspect they were sexually abused as children when they were not, the scientists warn." These idiots, and there is no better word, in the "...latest edition of the Church of England's child protection policy, Protecting All God's Children..." recommend "...a 1988 version of a book The Courage to Heal by two US writers, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis." The book, and repressed memories, are a total crock - how come the CofE didn't check before plugging such irresponsible nonsense? There is a wealth of information on the web such as Elizabeth Loftus' September 1997 article in Scientific American Creating False Memories and her article in Skeptical Inquirer, Remembering Dangerously. Also two entries in the invaluable Skeptic's Dictionary, one on Repressed Memory and the other on Repressed Memory Therapy. (Loftus, from the Department of Psychology, University of Washington is also author of The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse. )

Was it beyond the wit of those who produced the Church of England's child protection policy, Protecting All God's Children (PDF), to have checked whether this material was actually helpful - instead of false, cruel and divisive? The church's advisor on child protection, Rev Pearl Luxon, has yet to be convinced that repressed memories are false. Based upon her record quite why this person is in such a position  is worrying. Is the CofE so bereft of talent that Luxon is the best they have got. Read here about her performance over the case of a pedophile choirmaster. Could she not be given a job where she can't cause harm, like laying out the prayer books or flower arranging? Christopher French, a professor of psychology and scientific adviser to the British False Memory Society told the paper "Saying there is no such thing as a false memory is an extremely dangerous idea to be put around. Some therapists suggest half of us were abused in childhood but that we suppress the memory. These are wild, gross generalisations that do not add up. There are still families living with the consequences of the first wave of this problem and there are still new cases coming to light. A lot of those families will never be put back together again and that is a tragedy."  More from French on this subject can be found here.


March 14th 2010

NoSharia

Dhimmwits and Whiners - the Guardian has an article about the creeping influence in Britain of a foreign, capricious, misogynist, religious legal system - sharia. No country should have parallel legal systems - and that goes for all religious tribunals. As Maryam Namazie of One Law For All points out "We have a petition signed by more than 22,000 people saying that all religious tribunals should be prevented from operating within or outside the legal system. I have spoken to women who are losing custody of their children in the sharia councils – under sharia law custody of a child goes to the husband after a certain age, irrespective of the welfare of the child. There are cases of domestic violence where women have dropped criminal charges and the sharia councils have sent the husbands on anger-management courses. That is just not how we deal with domestic violence in this country." The article notes that "Many Muslim lawyers have challenged criticism of sharia law in Britain as "islamophobic..." These lawyers should take the trouble to find out that One Law For All means what it says - the law of the land is the only law necessary for everyone - if that is "islamophobic" then so be it. The moment someone employs that nonsense word you know that rational discussion has just gone out of the window and that the speaker has no coherent arguments to offer and so plays the victim card. By wanting special consideration, and the government pandering to same, Muslims set themselves up for resentment from the rest of the population.

A recent instance of this is the squabbling over the funding of reliously-based police associations. (Also see Muslim police? Christian doctors? Sikh judges?). The Express tells us "Home Office chiefs were last night accused of pandering to Islam after it was revealed that they handed out a staggering 15 times more funding to a Muslim police support group than to its Christian equivalent." We further learn "A furious backlash followed revelations that the Christian Police Association received just £15,000 over the past five years while the National Association of Muslim Police was paid £90,000 in the past two years alone." Perhaps the money is to enable these Muslim plods to get an education - the Heresiarch pointed out some time ago what an educationally-challenged bunch they are, see Send For The Grammar Police. On top of this the National Association of Muslim Police is riddled with Islamist denial and propaganda - making them pretty much useless for anti-terrorism work. Not that the Christians are any better, whining about discrimination. The Express quotes Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance, who said the move was “yet another sign of discrimination” against Christian groups in the UK. He goes on to snivel “Christians are constantly marginalised and discriminated against by the Government, who are ignoring one of this country’s principal faiths."  What utter nonsense. This is the poor marginalised group that has 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords and has managed to scare the supine government into watering down equality legislation. The question should not be about how much money these police faith groups are given but why are they given any of our bloody taxes in the first place?

The Great Catholic Cover-Up - is the latest broadside from Christopher Hitchens. "The pope's entire career has the stench of evil about it."  Read on...

 

"I know nothing–NOTHING!"

Bookmaker slashes odds on Pope's resignation - "Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said Friday it had cut the odds on Pope Benedict XVI resigning after allegations of child abuse by priests in Germany gripped the Roman Catholic Church."  Reuters Perhaps there's an opening for Roman Catholic and war criminal Tony Blair - when he is finished palling around with bigots. The swivel-eyed creep has announced a "faith offensive" across the USA over the next year with allies like Rick Warren - at least the "offensive" part is accurate. Assuming Ratzinger has beaten the odds and will still be in the job come September, here is a preview of his trip to Britain, courtesy of the Heresiarch. Lucky Britain.

Culprits Galore - "There is certainly the suspicion that there are some out there out to damage the church and the pope." An anonymous Vatican spokesman speaking about the latest abuse scandals rocking the Roman Catholic church. As ever, the church is trying to play the victim but this time it won't wash. Those "some out there" are in reality the hundreds of priests that have raped and otherwise abused untold numbers of children and the scum that colluded in the cover-up of these crimes, more concerned over the image of the church than the young lives damaged forever. This cover-up goes right to the top. More revelations can be expected from those countries where the authority of the church still holds sway. Here's a relevant quote from the Jesus character in the Gospel stories, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."


March 17th 2010

Irony-Free Zone - “A defining feature of Pope Benedict's teaching has been to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture and to give us guidance on the great moral issues of our day and it is my hope that we all open our hearts to his words.” Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on the threatened visit to Britain of Joseph "I know nothing" Ratzinger. Would O'Brien consider the widespread rape of children and subsequent cover-up by his church to be one of the great moral issues of our day? Terry Sanderson of the National Skeptical Society (NSS) takes a very different view. "At a time when the Pope is swirling in a very unpleasant scandal of his own making, the Government chooses to announce that it is to spend a huge amount of money on lauding him. To do this now makes it appear that we don't care about the Vatican's crimes against children. The Church over which the Pope is presiding is embroiled internationally in a series of revelations that show it to be institutionally corrupt. It has systematically covered up the horrendous abuse of children by its priests, protecting its own interests at the cost of the health and well-being of thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of vulnerable children.” The pressure from the NSS continued at the UN where Keith Porteous Wood, speaking to the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), said: “Billions of dollars - and euros - have already been paid out in respect of thousands of victims in the USA and Ireland. News of further abuse has since appeared in Austria, the Netherlands and now Germany – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence of children’s suffering at the hands of the Church will the UN and the international community tolerate before fulfilling their responsibility to those children to hold the Vatican to account?" Read the rest here. Also see this from The Freethinker. Be warned, the cartoon illustrating the piece is deeply offensive to cats.
 

Freedom's Fires - desperate to avoid any events that could act as a focus for dissent the Supreme Leader Theocratic Dictator of Iran has effectively issued a fatwa against the celebration of Charshanbeh Suri (Red Wednesday). This lighting of bonfires and setting off of firecrackers has him rattled. The vile old man said the festivity "...has no Sharia basis and causes much harm and corruption and should be avoided altogether." While it is fear of the opposition in Iran that obviously prompted this ban he is right in that there is no sharia basis. How could there be? Charshanbeh Suri predates the invention of Mohammedanism by over a thousand years, and harks back to Zoroastrian times. Compared to this ancient religion Islam is just a johnny-come-lately. The bonfire festival has been compared to Halloween, which itself has deep pagan roots in the festival of Samhain. Interestingly, Charshanbeh Suri also has a tradition of children dressing up and going around knocking on doors for treats. Although celebrated at different times of the year it is possible there is some linkage between the two. To keep up with events in Iran do take a look at the Iranians' Blogs web site. These people have real guts and determination opposing the Theocratic Dictator and his Poison Dwarf Ahmadinejad. Also check out Maryam Namazie's web site and Iran Solidarity.

Quote - "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." Charles Darwin


March 22nd 2010

The Face of Alternative Medicine

Interfering Charlie - the Telegraph tells us Charles Windsor, known for his badgering of government departments, will be enabled to do so without outside scrutiny. Justice secretary, Jack Straw "...has tabled an amendment to a Bill currently going through parliament which would ban public bodies from disclosing information about members of the Royal family. " The sole reason for this would appear to be Windsor, who although unelected, obviously feels he has a right to interfere with matters involving architecture and, far more worryingly, medicine. Charles is a well-known devotee and promoter of various forms of quackery, apparently unpersuaded by the lack of evidence for their efficacy. On this subject, the Charity Commission is investigating claims that the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH), a charity which promotes "alternative" medicine, is pursuing a vendetta against "...Edzard Ernst, the professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, who has branded Prince’s views “strange and anti-scientific”. Republic, an anti-monarchy group has made the complaint that Windsor is using the charity to promote his own views. It also claimed "...the charity has “seriously risked its reputation” by pursuing a “vendetta” against Prof Ernst, citing an article written for the medical website Pulse by Dr Michael Dixon, a trustee of the charity, in which he accused the academic of wanting to make patients “slaves” to “statistical totalitarianism”. Ernst has studied "alternative" therapies and found little evidence in their favor. He is also co-author with Simon Singh of Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine On Trial.

The Telegraph says with a straight face that Windsor's foundation was set up to "...to explore how safe, proven complementary therapies can work in conjunction with mainstream medicine." As there has yet to be a proven complementary medicine, ie one that passes the same tests as evidence-based medicine, the foundation should be pleased that Ernst has been subjecting them to scientific scrutiny. As is often the case if science doesn't give the answer sought by "complimentary" practitioners they apparently want to shoot the messenger. Hiding Windsor's ignorant and often petulant attempts to interfere in the work of government departments must not be allowed to happen. Feeble excuses about enforcing privacy for the Royal Family do not apply. If Windsor wishes to influence events on the public stage then the public have a right to know about it. Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: “We could have a situation where the Prince of Wales makes a decisive intervention in a matter of national importance and we would have no right to know about that. We would argue that the current rule should remain as it is, meaning that government departments can disclose the existence of correspondence if there is sufficient public interest.”  Also see Complementary Charlie, Foolish Meddling, Charlie and the Nonsense Factory and Riding The Royal Hobbyhorse for more of this King wannabe and quackery.

Quote - "I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people." Katherine Hepburn

He's Not The Messiah - he is a desperately sad little man called Stephen Green of Christian Voice and he's not happy at all with Eric Idle or Classic FM. See The Freethinker. But now see this update. Green claims to have made Classic FM drop the promotion of a musical by Idle, based on the Life of Brian - Classic FM denies this, leaving Green a. looking like a liar and b. in the position of having provided cheap publicity for the musical. Not a bad result all round.

Two Bald Men - fighting over a comb are nonplussed when the object of their desire disappears. "For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone. New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said."

Animals 1- Poachers 0 - "A poacher has been eaten by a lion in South Africa's Kruger Park, officials said on Wednesday. Rangers said the man was apparently devoured by the beast after being injured when he was chased by a pack of wild hippos as he tried to illegally hunt wildlife in the world famous reserve. He was reported missing last week by two alleged fellow poachers, who managed to escape the hippos." according to reports. The spokesperson for South African National Parks described the incident rather oddly "What we have heard from those who survived suggests this was a vicious attack by wild animals." A "vicious attack"? These are bloody wild animals we are talking about - only human beings are vicious.
 

Unfit For Caring Consumption

Cruel Meat - just because you hold supernatural beliefs doesn't mean you should be exempt from the rules that govern the rest of society - in this instance the laws against animal cruelty that govern abattoirs - or more accurately slaughterhouses. Just such an exemption has been accorded to Muslims and Jews in Britain (wow, something they can actually agree upon). 80's attention was drawn to this by a mysterious symbol (see above) that appeared on many of the fast food ads that land, unsolicited, on the doormat. It turns out the symbol guarantees that all meat in the pizzas, burgers, whatever is prepared to Muslim religious standards - it is halal. Most non-Muslim consumers won't even notice the symbol and will not realize that the animals providing the meat have been slaughtered in a way that a properly regulated slaughterhouse would be forbidden to use on the grounds of animal cruelty. This article tells us "Halal and shechita (Jewish) are the biggest acts of animal cruelty in this animal-loving country, and yet no one dares say anything. They involve slitting the throats of fully conscious animals so they bleed to death, which can take up to three minutes. Eyewitness accounts of this practice, done behind closed doors, are literally blood-curdling....around 600,000 farm animals are bled to death while conscious. Far from legislating against this industrial-scale cruelty to animals, we have actively legislated for it. By law all animals have to be stunned so they are unconscious at the time of slaughter — unless they are killed by Muslims or Jews, who have a special legal get-out." The author of this piece, Anthony Browne, also says that the practice is more cultural than religious - so it's like wearing a burka or mutilating little girls' genitals - two other idiot practices not mandated by religion.

Many religious authorities now accept stunning before animals' throats are cut but not all Muslim or Jewish slaughterhouses accept this. The difference is that most consumers are unlikely to come across Kosher meat but pressure from Muslim groups has meant that schools serve halal meat to all the kids regardless of their religion or culture - although after protests many have backed down. Whenever you see the halal sign, unless you can ascertain that the animals were stunned before being bled to death don't buy that pizza or burger - not unless you don't give a damn about cruelty to animals. But there is another problem - if meat is not clearly labelled how do you know how an animal was slaughtered? One little sign in Arabic is hardly informative - but often you won't even see that. This article from the Independent informs us "More than 100 million animals a year are killed for kosher and halal meat in Britain. They bleed to death in what government advisers say is "very significant pain". Certain cuts such as the hindquarters of cattle, however, are deemed inedible by religious teachings and are sold back into the general food chain." The obvious answer is for all slaughterhouses to adhere to British animal welfare legislation - with no exceptions for superstition/religion or culture. This was the conclusion of a report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council back in 2003. Did government take any notice - no. With all parties currently chasing the (largely imaginary) "faith vote" don't expect any action soon. Update - KFC diner told 'you can't have bacon in your burger here - we're now halal'

Dear Texas: Please shut up. Sincerely, History - is the title of the latest piece by the syntax-mangling Mark Morford on the attempt to rewrite history by the Texas State Board of Education. This bunch of loons seem to have forgotten that you can have your own opinions but you can't have your own facts - as the great philosopher and pundit Stephen Colbert said “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” But back to Morford "Hey, kids! Here's something I bet you didn't know: Black people? Back in 1800 or whenever? They liked being slaves. True! Many savvy, industrious Negroes actually volunteered for that fine, desirable position. It was a completely balanced, fair, hugely successful system, until those damn liberals came along and ruined everything. I know, right? What a shame." Read the rest here.


March 28th 2010

Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope - "Should Pope Benedict XVI be held responsible for the escalating scandals over clerical sexual abuse in Europe?" is the question asked in a powerful piece by Richard Dawkins in the Washington Post. Highly recommended. Update - a number of the comments on Dawkins' article complained at his blunt language. 80 felt obliged to comment thus "Richard Dawkins is using language appropriate to these disgusting crimes and their subsequent cover-up. It reflects his revulsion at a Pope and Church that still seems more concerned with its own reputation and not the young lives that have been scarred. Anyone who finds Dawkins' remarks offensive does not grasp the enormity of these crimes. Priests were (and no doubt somewhere still are) raping children and the hierarchy was colluding in this by not referring the rapists to a civil court but instead shielding them and often enabling them to rape again. This is indefensible"  If the apologists for Ratzinger were perturbed by Dawkins' language, Pat Condell's video (see above) should have them blowing a gasket. By the way, Jesus and Mo' have been discussing Ratzinger's current conduct and putative visit to Britain with the barmaid. While Ratzinger himself describes the discovery of the widespread rape of children and the subsequent cover-up as "gossip", Christopher Hitchens says The Pope Is Not Above The Law.

Unbelievable - "At last, one of Pope Benedict's closest aides uses the word "conspiracy" in relation to the systematic global cover-up of child abuse by paedophile Catholic priests. Unfortunately, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins believes the conspiracy is against the Catholic church, which is its victim. "We should not be too scandalised if some bishops knew about it but kept it secret," he this week told reporters of the sexual abuse, on the same day the Vatican newspaper opted to blame the media for "ignoring the facts". "This is what happens in every family, you don't wash your dirty laundry in public.""  A family? A celibate family with no children of its own to abuse, so it abuses other peoples'. The rape of children is dirty laundry now, is it? These so-called men of God are beneath contempt. (The quote is from a good article on this filthy mess from Marina Hyde)

How Is Ratzinger Getting Away With It? - by Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society. "People are watching the unfolding Catholic abuse scandal with bewilderment – confused as to how priests who committed the most barbaric and depraved acts against children, often on a huge scale, were just permitted to walk away unpunished. They want to know how top Vatican officials can simply remain silent in the face of accusations about conduct that would get anyone else jailed. The latest and most damning evidence of the Pope’s personal involvement in cover-ups comes from the New York Times which has uncovered documents that show that when the present Pope was plain old Cardinal Ratzinger, Inquisitor-in-Chief at the Vatican, he was repeatedly made aware of the activities of an horrendous serial abuser, Father Lawrence C. Murphy of Wisconsin, and did nothing to stop him." Read on...

Tear Down That Wall - "The Catholic priests who abused children—and the men who covered it up—must be prosecuted."  Christopher Hitchens' latest broadside.

Quote - "Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child."  Robert A Heinlein

Islamophobia is a threat to democracy - the Telegraph reports today on a list of "...the top 20 most influential Islamic blogs" released by the Home Office anti-terror department. The list, which actually dates from 2008, has in the top spot one Ali Eteraz with a note below that speaks volumes, "The blog by Ali Eteraz, the author of the Islamic memoir Children of Dust, no longer appears online. Mr Eteraz now writes for The Guardian." Talking of the Guardian, today it contained a letter from Islamist accommodator Ken Livingstone, titled "Islamophobia is a threat to democracy". At first 80 thought this was a misprint and should have been "Islam is a threat to democracy" but sadly no - not when Livingstone is involved. Livingstone, you will recall, among his many shortcomings, has twice invited Islamist cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to Londonistan. This "scholar" said Allah punished the Asian tsunami victims "...because their countries are centres of perversion." Also, "Among other things, he favours female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty..." For 80 anything Livingstone writes or says is utterly tainted by his espousal of Al-Qaradawi and that goes for this letter. 80 firmly believes that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. While 80 can agree with his abhorrence of thugs like the English Defence League, such abhorrence does not automatically make Islamists and their plans for Britain acceptable. Implying Moseley's blackshirts attacking Jews in the East End of London in the 1930's is equivalent to so-called Islamophobia these days is inaccurate and disgusting. My enemy's enemy is my friend is a stupid and short-sighted philosophy. Livingstone, and those that have signed this letter, are fools to think they would last five minutes in an Islamist state.

This mollycoddling of Islam, a religion and political movement that is currently not compatible with democracy, will bring no good whatsoever. One of the latest incidents involving the "I am offended" industry (perhaps Britain's only growth industry right now) occurred when a Tory politician "...was investigated by police after he called for a ban on Islamic veils during a debate in Parliament. Philip Hollobone had described the face coverings worn by some devout Muslim women as the “religious equivalent of going around with a paper bag over your head with two holes for the eyes”. He defended his comments in a local newspaper and then found that he had been reported to the police for inciting racial hatred, by the head of a taxpayer-funded equality group." Such hoods, masks and shrouds do look bizarre and to say so is not to attack the women wearing them. The whole shroud business is all about control. Control of the women wearing them by the very men who, lacking self control, shrouded the women in the first place. Such idiocy is no part of British society. It is time this multicultural fad is recognized as the divisive farce it really is. Stephen Fry had it right when he said, "Oh you're offended, so fucking what". These people want to get the chip of their shoulders and try and be a part of Britain rather than some Islamist enclave within Britain. It would help if lazy politicians stop referring to "communities" all the damn' time and stop lazily choosing to address not real peoples' problems, but only those brought to their attention by unelected leaders of "communities". Islam, certainly in its current state of development, is not compatible with democracy. Given the level of violence any attempts at reform attract change is not going to happen soon. Instead of acting like dhimmwits British politicians should be lauding British Muslims For Secular Democracy, a group that is on a hiding to nothing while Islamists are uncritically welcomed and defended by useful idiots like Livingston and his co-signatories. Also see "Criticism does not exclude Muslims from the political process" written in response to the Islamophobia hogwash from Livingstone et al.

Quote - "I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment." Steven Weinberg


April 4th 2010

Here's How - poor arguments are made. First set up a category without explicitly stating its parameters, let's call it New Atheism. (Note the capitals for they make it look more impressive). Assign writers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to this category, and crudely caricature them thus "Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens convey the fury of Old Testament prophets, while their opponents struggle in various well-mannered ways to contain theirs." Then pretend to "take stock" of this imaginary category and conclude that "...those with philosophical training are the most irritated by New Atheism..." Quoting Terry Eagleton, claim that Dawkins is philosophically illiterate and accuse him of "...ignorance of centuries of philosophical thought..." while completely missing the point that most of that thought begs the question on the existence of a supernatural deity. If one accepts that the evidence does not support the existence of such a being why retread old ground? Madeleine Bunting, for it is she, once again demonstrates she is clueless and and prone to construct strawmen at the drop of a hat. Here is another example "The great mistake the atheists made is to claim that religion started out as a clumsy stab at science – trying to explain how the world worked – and is now clearly redundant."  Nonsense, religion was an attempt to explain everything - and it still is.

Bunting cannot resist the chance for a little ad hominem spite against Dawkins, tinged with envy. After mentioning a couple of "pro-God" books such as Karen Armstrong's The Case For God* and Charles Taylor's Secular Age she opines "...they don't offer the kind of bestselling strident certainty that brought Dawkins such handsome financial rewards." It doesn't occur to Bunting that Dawkins' books sell well because they are good books, interesting and well-written - and consequently sell well with the concomitant "financial awards". As for the phrase "strident certainty" this reveals that Bunting is ignorant of the scientific method. Every finding is provisional and can be modified or even discarded if a theory doesn't match observations. Those who espouse "strident certainty" are religionists, who claim the existence of a loving God without a shred of evidence. It is noteworthy that when religion makes claims that contradict science, science is invariably the winner. Bunting sums up "The paradox of New Atheism is that in its bid to make religion unacceptable, it has contributed to making it a subject that is considered worth talking about again. " The subject is being talked about alright but not necessarily on religion's terms. The automatic and undeserved deference to others' beliefs that religionists expect no longer applies, which is why words like strident and shrill are used by the likes of Bunting to describe the work of Dawkins and others. More and more people are beginning to realize the emperor has no clothes as a result of the works of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others and no amount of strawman building by religious apologists is going to stop that. The cat is very definitely out of the bag. (*The nebulous "god" that Armstrong finds would be unrecognizable to most believers) 80 has written about Bunting before - see Cry Baby Bunting, Bye Bye Bunting and Defending Is Enabling)

Confused - "I understand the necessity of separating state and religion. Both state power and religious power are huge and, in the same hands, far too much. Religious parties working for sectional interests are a disaster – for the state, and for religion. But I simply don't understand the notion that politics is one thing and religion is another and religion should have no influence or say in the political arena."  Tony Bayfield talking bollocks in the Guardian.

Quote - "Man is certainly stark mad. He can't make a flea, but makes gods by the dozen." Michel de Montaigne

Conspicuous By His Absence -  A regular visitor to BBC Radio 4's Today program is, or rather was, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who always seemed available to put the "moral" point of view. O'Connor is the man who famously claimed that atheists and secularists were not "fully human". With the current furore over the rape of thousands of children by Roman Catholic clergy you would think that he would be an obvious choice for comment. This idea has one flaw however, as O'Connor himself allowed "...a known paedophile to continue working as a priest, despite warnings he would re-offend. " And the priest, Michael Hill, did so, having been moved to a parish with no warning to the congregation. In fact O'Connor encapsulates the church's attitude to the problem (up until now) including thinking that the "...boys abused by the priest should receive compensation, but as part of the settlement they were required not to speak publicly about what happened." We are also told "Documents seen by the BBC suggest the archbishop ignored the advice of doctors and therapists who warned that Hill was likely to re-offend." At the time O'Connor was a mere bishop but was later promoted to archbishop, demonstrating how unconcerned the church under Pope Wojtyla was with his reprehensible behavior.

Quote - " There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. "
 Will Rogers


Scholarly Blasphemers
- here is an interesting piece on a group of scholars at Germany’s Berlin-Brandenberg Academy of Sciences who have been subjecting the Quran to the same sort of textual criticism and analysis as has been applied to the Christian Bible. We are told that the project, Corpus Coranicum, will be "...a central repository of imagery, information, and analysis about the Muslim holy book" and "...will allow users to study for themselves images of thousands of pages of early Korans, texts that differ in small but potentially telling ways from the modern standard version. The project will also link passages in the text to analogous ones in the New Testament and Hebrew Bible, and offer an exhaustive critical commentary on the Koran’s language, structure, themes, and roots. The project’s creators are calling it the world’s first “critical edition” of the Koran, a resource that gathers historical evidence and scholarly literature into one searchable, cross-referenced whole."

The one fly in the ointment is that for Muslims the Quran is the actual word of god, dictated to a camel-driver by an angel - to point out that there are discrepancies or variant readings of the text is tantamount to blasphemy, which under the religion of peace calls for a death sentence. It doesn't help that many passages are obviously derived from the Christian New Testament and the Jewish Torah. Revisionist scholars have been killed for saying as much, but we learn "Some Koranic scholars, both in and out of the Muslim world, emphasize that it’s important not to make too much of these incidents." Murder is hardly an incident. How many Bible scholars from the nineteenth century onwards have been killed because of their work? None. Obviously Islam has a lot of growing-up to do yet. (Here are a couple of book reviews from the Secular Web, The Quest For The Historical Mohammed and The Origins Of The Koran both by Ibn Warraq, which before you ask, is a pseudonym. You don't have to wonder why. Also of interest is The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran which famously replaces the virgins promised to "martyrs" with white grapes. The author's name is Christopher Luxenberg, which is, of course, a pseudonym)

Quote - "How can you compare the collective guilt assigned to the Jews which caused the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people to perpetrators who abuse their faith and their calling by sexually abusing children?"  Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Wanted: New Irony Meter - 80's has just exploded upon reading that "Pope Benedict's personal preacher has compared criticism of the pontiff and Church over child abuse to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews." That's rich coming from a church that for the past two thousand years has perpetuated the view of Jews as deicides and persecuted them as such. The truth is out about priestly child rape and its facilitation by the church hierarchy and these bastards are now clutching at straws. Ratzinger's preacher, Father Cantalamessa, claimed to be quoting a letter from an anonymous "Jewish friend". How remarkably convenient. (Ratzinger himself is keen on Jews - but only as conversion fodder.) The Pope's preacher was so concerned previously that "In 2006 he used a pre-Christmas sermon to urge the pontiff to declare a day of fasting and penitence over child sex abuse by clergy." Boy, that really worked. How dare this idiot compare his cult's predicament with "collective violence" against Jews. Stop and think - is Cantalamessa  really equating the obscenity of genocide with the outrage at the concealment of child abuse?  He, and his master, are beneath contempt. Update - see here a response to Cantalamessa's outrageous comparison from the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) a support group for victims of clerical abuse. Update - Cantalamessa has apologized for his idiotic and offensive comparison.

Rare Good News - Simon Singh has won the right to a defence of fair comment in his libel battle with the British Chiroquacktic Association (BCA). It has not been cheap, Singh says "It is extraordinary this action has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a few words." Meanwhile the quacks seem to have shot themselves in the foot by attracting unwelcome scrutiny, "A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council."  Excellent stuff. (Also see here for background) Update - see here for Singh's comments on his case and the need for reform of the libel laws.

MAJOR FAIL - "The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI sees the clerical abuse crisis as a "test for him and the church."" from the Washington Post

Is Satan A Catholic? - is the question posed by Pat Condell in his latest video. (If you can't see the clip below click here.)


April 11th 2010

Pope Busters - the Times tells us that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens "...have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church." We learn that "They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action". Update - the story now looks like the Times journalists have been embroidering things - what a surprise. It looks like Ratzinger's trip to the UK could prove quite exciting. Answering claims that the Bishop of Rome would be immune from prosecution Stephens said “There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring. Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.”

Ratzinger has dodged the legal bullet before back in 2005 in a case in Texas when "Lawyers for Pope Benedict XVI ...asked US President George W. Bush to declare the pontiff immune from liability in a lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys by a seminarian in Texas...". The State Department then ruled that "...the pope already is considered a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity." But now, apart from the Hitchens/Dawkins move, Ratzinger also has a lawsuit against him in Kentucky, where a "...case was filed in 2004 ... by three men who claim they were abused by priests and claim negligence by the Vatican. Their attorney, William McMurry, is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country." In fact there are legal moves being investigated around the world which are likely to stir up a legal storm for pope "With the U.S. scandal reinvigorated by reports of abuse in Europe and scrutiny of Benedict's handling of abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich, the Kentucky case and another in Oregon have taken on greater significance. Lawyers as far away as Australia have said they plan to use similar strategies."

It looks like the pope's claims of immunity are going to be tested again and again. In the Kentucky case, while the pope may get away with it, some lesser lights may yet  be thrown to the wolves. "Plaintiffs in the Kentucky suit argue that U.S. diocesan bishops were employees of the Holy See, and that Rome was therefore responsible for their alleged wrongdoing in failing to report abuse." Just how far up the trail of responsibility investigations are allowed to go remains to be seen. Ratzinger, may you live in interesting times. Update - Another abuse case surfaces in California in which Ratzinger was involved. "The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature".

Best Of A Bad Bunch? - Adam Rutherford is wondering who to vote for from a scientist's point of view in the upcoming general election. Not the Conservatives for a start, for he says the shadow science minister "...is clear that policy on science funding will be deep cuts, precisely the wrong thing to do in a recession. That's fortunate for me, as the day I vote Tory, Satan will need ice cleats." Well how about Labour then? Rutherford sums them up rather neatly "In the reinvention necessary to get themselves elected in 1997 Labour mutated into a confused clusterfuck: ultimately rootless, spineless till-dippers." Not exactly an endorsement, is it? While not declaring his support for the LibDems Rutherford thinks they do have one thing in their favor and that is MP Evan Harris. He possesses something most MPs don't even know they lack - scientific literacy. As Rutherford cautiously puts it "Through Evan Harris, the Lib Dems have so far made the clearest statements on ensuring science is at the heart of governance and education."(Also see this piece by Mark Henderson who asks "Why don’t scientists ditch their political loyalties and vote for parliamentarians who care about science?")


April 17th 2010

Well-Hung? - members of a Catholic congregation are not happy with their church's new crucifix, complaining that they can see Jesus' genitalia. The risen Lord, as it were. In fact some were so offended they no longer attend the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Warr Acres, Oklahoma. The ten-foot tall crucifix is in an iconic style with typical highly stylized musculature and was painted by Janet Jaime, an iconographer from Oklahoma. We are told "Mark Gilmore, a local artist and friend of Janet Jaime, said it appears the iconographer put too much contrast on Jesus’ abdomen, making it appear like a penis rather than an abdomen." You can judge for yourself above - if that is a penis it is in a very odd position. Gilmore further commented in strangely childish language "It was entirely accidental. She is very serious about her religion and wouldn’t in the slightest possibility ever imagine wanting to sneak a pee-pee on to Jesus.” The icon is now to be taken down and the contentious area remodelled. Some American media outlets are blurring out the offending "muscle of love" when showing the crucifix. At least the row took the congregation's minds off other, more disturbing news concerning the Catholic church. Meanwhile, on a trip to Malta Pope Ratzinger listens to Mass with rapt attention.

What I know about Islam - Pat Condell reveals all in his latest video. Highly recommended. (No video? Click here)

 

Result! - the British Chiropractic Association has dropped its libel case against Simon Singh. See here. Also see comment from Jack of Kent and The Heresiarch does his own amusing take on the BCA's statement. Meanwhile the libel law has yet to be changed, Ben Goldacre reminds us, so if you haven't already please sign the petition below.

Dhimmwits - first up is the news that the Metropolitan Police have apparently allowed the throwing of shoes by Muslim protestors. This has come to light during the trials "...of more than 70 mostly Muslim demonstrators who were charged with violent disorder after last year’s Gaza protests outside the Israeli embassy in London." the Times informs us. Apparently "Shoes, and particularly the soles of shoes, are regarded as ritually unclean in the Islamic world." But Great Britain is not in the "Islamic world" no matter how supine the authorities are. In the trial of a student charged for violent disorder the judge, "...agreed that the act of shoe-throwing should not be considered in a charge of violent disorder against the student because it was “a symbolic” political gesture." This is utterly absurd - catching a well-thrown shoe in the face possibly knocking out teeth or breaking a nose is now acceptable, is it? Only when the thrower is a Muslim apparently. Once allowed this is now going to spread and escalate as the report notes "Dozens of ski-boots and clogs were also hurled at the US consulate in Edinburgh in a related protest, in which three policemen sustained minor injuries." What is needed is for non-Muslims to throw shoes in protest and see how the police and courts deal with them. Another little win in the culture wars for the Islamists. If it is permitted to throw shoes at demos perhaps it is also permitted to courteously return the shoe to its owner and shove it down his throat. It is an old Anglo-Saxon custom. While a flung shoe is unlikely to kill, another concession  to Muslims (see below) almost certainly will.

It seems that Muslim doctors and nurses have been allowed to opt out of the hygiene rules introduced to combat so-called hospital superbugs. The rules are that hands and arms are to be scrubbed up to the elbow. This has been objected to on the grounds of "modesty" for Muslim female staff. Do these people think their forearms are so unbelievably sexy that men upon seeing them will lose control? It certainly seems to be what they are claiming. Balancing the risks of men swooning over Muslim forearms and patients dying of infections is obviously enormously tricky. On the one hand dead patient/s and on the other some absurd faith-based false modesty. Are the hospital authorities incapable of seeing this is a false choice? If staff refuse to obey hygiene standards then they should be told to find employment elsewhere. This is no harmless concession, it is playing with patients' lives.

A Muslim group, Bradford Council for Mosques, claims that structures on an army firing range are "mosques" and has asked for them to be removed. Amazingly "The Army has apologised but said it was vital soldiers trained in an environment which replicated where they were deployed." Apologised? What the hell for? Firstly the structures cannot be representing mosques as while they may have a green dome there is not a minaret in sight. Even if they were like mosques, so what? It is well-known that Islamist fighters in Iraq or Afghanistan are not worried about the status of mosques - they often base themselves in such buildings hoping troops will stay their hand because of the bad publicity associated with attacking a "holy" building. Mohammed Saleem Khan, chief executive of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said ''It is clearly very offensive. We feel there should be an apology and they should be removed straight away. If it was a mistake it should be removed straight away.'' Mr Khan doesn't seem to realise that living in a modern liberal society he is going to see things that offend him - just because he is offended doesn't give him the right to dictate what the army can or cannot do on their firing ranges. Anything that helps the troops deal with Mr Khan's violent co-religionists is a good thing and if it takes a mock mosque to do it then that is absolutely fine.

The Pope Should Stand Trial - "Why is anyone surprised, much less shocked, when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope, if he goes ahead with his proposed visit to Britain? The only strange thing about our proposal is that it had to come from us: where have the world's governments been all this time? Where is their moral fibre? Where is their commitment to treating everyone equally under the law?" Richard Dawkins writing in the Guardian.  Also read Christopher Hitchens writing about Ratzinger, the church and the law. George Monbiot weighs in on the subject of international law here.

Quote - "Religion has turned out to be different from what tolerant people of my monocultural childhood understood by it — a system of private belief and devotion that did not intrude into the public space except through charity and uncontroversial good works. Now, by contrast, religion is constantly claiming attention in the public space and demanding special treatment. It is also abused in the name of divisive identity politics. All this makes even the most tolerant liberal think twice about freedom of religious expression."  From a piece by Minette Marrin writing in the Sunday Times


April 24th 2010

The Right Idea - someone in the Foreign Office obviously has his or her head screwed on the right way. A brainstorming session came up with a list of things for Ratzinger to do on his forthcoming state visit to Britain - only instead of the usual mealy-mouthed crap the document produced suggested things that many of the public would agree with. These include the launch of Benedict branded condoms, opening an abortion ward, Vatican sponsorship for AIDS clinics and announcing a whistle-blowing system for child abuse cases. What's not to like? The document containing these suggestions was circulated among top officials who "were infuriated at its content". An investigation found that "One senior official was found responsible (who) has been transferred to other duties." 80 is willing to bet that if a survey was taken of Britons many of  the memo's recommendations would be approved by a large number, and the official responsible would be promoted. Sadly in the real world the "...Foreign Office issued a public apology ... while Francis Campbell, the UK ambassador to the Vatican, met senior officials of the Holy See to express the Government’s regret." What a crying shame. We are told "...Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham, was astonished and angered by the proposals." He said “This is appalling. You don’t invite someone to your country and then disrespect them in this way. It’s outlandish and outrageous to assume that any of the ideas are in any way suitable for the Pope.” Not half as outlandish and outrageous as the concealment of child-rape by the clergy, and then, when exposed, blaming the press, or secular society or sexual liberation or any other handy scapegoat rather than the church's own weird culture. The report in the Telegraph notes "There is understood to be increasing unease at the Vatican over the level of hostility that the Pope is likely to face in Britain, with protests and even threats of arrest from secularists."  To which 80 says, good. (Also see Bring the Pope to Justice by Christopher Hitchens in Newsweek) Update - the headline in the Telegraph screams Pope 'could cancel UK visit' over 'offensive' Foreign Office memo. If so, the writer of the memo, now known to be a Steven Mulvain, should receive the thanks of a grateful nation. Update - the person now fingered for the memo is Anjoum Noorani, leader of the Papal Visit Team.

Would you vote for a potential Prime Minister who doesn't believe in God? - is the question posed to British voters in a poll, with reference to LibDem leader Nick Clegg. Whether you support Clegg and his party or not and acknowledge his chance of achieving that office is near zero (although you never know) this doesn't undermine the principle here. Update - Clegg witters on about "Christian values". Anything for a vote....but his party's manifesto still states “We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith.”

Airbrushing History - on reading a piece by Frank Rich on the highly suspect Confederate History Month launched by the Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, which hardly acknowledges the part slavery played in the Civil War, 80 was reminded of Tom Lehrer's wonderful I Wanna Go Back to Dixie. So here it is.


 

Yet Another Excuse - this time from prominent Mexican Roman Catholic bishop, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi "With so much invasion of eroticism, sometimes it's not easy to stay celibate or to respect children. If on television and on the Internet and in so many media outlets there is pornography, it is very difficult to stay pure and chaste. Obviously when there is generalized sexual freedom it's more likely there could be cases of pedophilia." Its odd that most normal people manage not to succumb to such temptation - even those without a god to hold their hand. The church first blamed secularism, then it was gays and now it is the lascivious media taking the rap for priests raping children in their care. Instead of pushing blame onto external agencies the church should be examining its own weird, internal culture. (see A Church Mary Can Love)


April 29th 2010

Veiled Threat - it would appear that former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is taking a leaf out of the Islamist play book. This followed the excellent judgement by Lord Justice Laws in the case of a Christian marriage guidance counsellor who thought his supernatural beliefs trumped the law, by refusing to give advice to gay couples. Laws said "We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself."

If someone is providing a service to the public, paid for by taxes, whether local or national, he or she cannot decide who to help and who to refuse based upon his or her religious beliefs. This is unacceptable to Carey who chooses to sink to the level of a threat, couched, of course, as a warning. Firstly though he displayed his ignorance as to the meaning of the word "secular" in regard to the state, saying the judgement "...heralded a 'secular' state rather than a 'neutral' one. And while with one hand the ruling seeks to protect the right of religious believers to hold and express their faith, with the other it takes away those same rights. It says that the sacking of religious believers in recent cases was not a denial of their rights even though religious belief cannot be divided from its expression in every area of the believer's life." Secularity is neutral - treating all equally and not favoring any particular religion or cult. How is that not fair? When the expression of religious beliefs leads to homophobic bigotry or any other antisocial behavior then it needs to be reined in, which is exactly what the Lord Justice has done.

Carey is a perfect example of why the House of Lords needs reforming. In a true democracy it should be an elected upper house with no one automatically allocated a seat, as now happens with Church of England bishops. Carey would then have to seek election just like anyone else. To use his unearned position to make what is a thinly veiled threat is reprehensible and shows this old dog is learning new tricks - probably from militant Islam. What other interpretation can be put upon this ""It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians. I believe that further judicial decisions are likely to end up at this point and this is why I believe it is necessary to intervene now." He said the fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other faiths felt compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions and cases "is illuminative of a future civil unrest"". The absurd extrapolation from this case to "...a religious bar to any employment by Christians." is blatant scaremongering nonsense designed to pander to many Christians' burgeoning but unjustified claims of persecution. But far worse, in 80's view, is the reference to "civil unrest" which can only be treated as a threat. It may well be an empty one, but it is still a threat, reminiscent of the tactic used by Lord Ahmed  to bar Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders from entering the UK and is a most unwelcome development.

Quote - "The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land." Thomas Henry Huxley

Happy News - religious bigotry receives a set back. "A Bristol relationships guidance counsellor has lost his bid to appeal against a court decision that he was not discriminated against when he was sacked by Relate for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals. In a powerful High Court dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified. He said it was an irrational idea, “but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”" Read the report at the National Secular Society.

Quote - "Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." H.G. Wells

No Evidence? Try Threats - "Climate scientists, used to dealing with sceptics, are under siege like never before, targeted by hate emails brimming with abuse and accusations of fabricating global warming data. Some emails contain thinly veiled death threats." reports Reuters. 80 was reminded of a character in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Salvor Hardin, who opined that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent". The weight of the evidence shows that human beings are behind the rise in global temperatures and no amount of tantrums or nefarious activity by oil companies is going to change that conclusion.

Dhimmwits? - Here's a little puzzle. We learn from the BBC that "The company which licenses children's TV character Peppa Pig has withdrawn her from a Labour party election event."  Why has the popular porker got the chop? "Peppa Pig is a well known fan of Sure Start children's centres but, in the interests of avoiding any controversy or misunderstanding, we have agreed she should not attend." Controversy or misunderstanding over a character in a British cartoon series which is so successful that it's shown in 180 countries? What could be the problem? Is it political? The news item does not say, but 80 is thinking who would object to a cartoon pig? Here is a possible clue.

Muslim Row - the BBC informs us "A Labour candidate has been suspended after allegedly saying on an internet forum that he would not want any children of his to marry a Muslim." The candidate, John Cowan has not exactly had a squeaky clean record and has a penchant for making stupid remarks, but it seems to be the Muslim comment that that actually triggered his suspension - the Labour party is keen to pursue the so-called Muslim vote and Cowan has rocked the boat. 80 can agree with Cowan partly and doesn't find his comment particularly shocking - if the child in question is female then marrying and converting to Islam would mean she would be giving up some of her human rights. If her husband was devout, or even just strictly observant, she would, in Sharia law, be subservient to him and have less worth than a man. If Cowan was thinking of something like the hypothetical case above he makes sense  - which, looking at his record, would appear to be a first. See Muslim Women Lose Human Rights

Presidential Chats - this article tells us that President Obama "...met and prayed with the Rev. Billy Graham for the first time Sunday - days after his administration dumped the ailing evangelist's son from a national prayer program." We learn "Obama confided, like other Presidents before him, how lonely, demanding and humbling the presidency can be..." Perhaps the ailing Graham thought of happier times, when he met with old pal Richard Nixon and discussed the threat "the Jews" posed for America, although the old bigot later claimed, somewhat conveniently, that he could not recall the conversation. Luckily a record exists thanks to Nixon's paranoid taping habit.

Earth Moving - some daft old Iranian cleric, following in Islam's tradition of belittling and blaming women has declared "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." Inspired by such seismic silliness Jen McCreight, a self-described "...liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist feminist trapped in Indiana." has a plan to put the loony cleric's claim to the test. She is going to launch what she describes as a Boobquake. She says "On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake." Even if it doesn't work it should at least brighten a dull Monday morning. Update - it looks like a win for science over fundamentalist nitwittery.


 

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