The View from Number 80




Backwards Glances Index 2011 part 3


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.)


June 2nd 2011  Sympathy For A Devil?

June 5th 2011  Not Newsworthy?

June 10th Curbing Sharia Courts

June 16th 2011  Why Waste A Monkey?

June 26th 2011  UFOs Spotted Over London?

June 29th 2011  Tract And Friction

July 1st 2011  The Guardian: Fuelling Denials Of Anti-Semitism

July 5th 2011  Atheists And Morality

July 7th 2011  Rangel's Angle

July 15th 2011  Church Arrogance

July 21st 2011  One-Way Street

July 30th 2011  The Stench Of Extremism

August 3rd 2011  Biblical Cherry-picking

August 5th 2011  Not The Solution

August 15th 2011  No Choice?

August 22nd 2011  Why Is The Guardian Endorsing A Racist Cartoonist?

August 23rd 2011  Science And Superstition

August 31st 2011  Nadine's Nadir?



June 2nd 2011

Sympathy For A Devil? - we learn as part of preparations for negotiation with Afghanistan's Taleban that sanctions, on Mohammed Qalamuddin, former deputy head of the infamous religious police, may be lifted. The sanctions prevent him from travelling or holding a bank account. In their heyday Qalamuddin and his 30,000 brave policemen from the Vice and Virtue Ministry beat women they deemed improperly dressed, "...shopkeepers were forced to close during prayer time, video and cassette tapes were banned, television and kite-flying were outlawed." Today, what has changed? The Taleban are still killing school teachers for the heinous crime of educating girls - but Qalamuddin says things have changed. How so? "Girls have had acid thrown in their faces by hardline Islamists while walking to school and schools have been set on fire...."

It sounds like business as usual for these misogynist bastards, but, we are told Qalamuddin is "rehabilitated". "Captured in 2003, two years after the extremists' regime collapsed, and freed in 2005, the 60-year-old cleric has since been rehabilitated. Appointed to the High Peace Council, a 70-member body created last year to oversee the process of "reconciliation" with the insurgents in Afghanistan..."  Yet poor, hard done by Qalamuddin is snivelling about his lot. "I have a right to live like other people...This has become painful to me."  Not as painful as having acid thrown in your face - and he talks about rights? The idea that so many lives have been lost just so this repulsive creature can crawl out from under his rock is not one that 80 can stomach. There should be no sympathy for this devil or any of his fellow fanatics. (Also see With A Very Long Spoon.)

Quote - "If there is a deal with the Taliban and people like him [Qalamuddin] come back to power it will all go back to being like before and we will lose all our freedoms." Monisa, a 24-year-old female NGO worker in Kabul, quoted in the Guardian.


The Point Being? - We learn that "...the director general of CERN, the organisation behind the Large Hadron Collider, met with the Pope to discuss his experiments to find the ‘ God particle’." In one short report the writer, Louise Gray, manages to use the silly and irritating term " God particle" 3 times and  Higgs boson just once. A minimal amount of effort would have told her the original description for this elusive beast was " Goddamned particle". Apparently the papal meeting was positive and "As a consequence, the Vatican Academy, also known as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a non-sectarian group within the Holy See, is also looking at the controversial research."  How can any Vatican-run group really be "non-sectarian"? And is the search for the Higgs really controversial? No, except possibly among scientifically illiterate loons wearing tin foil hats.  Anyway, in the final analysis, who really gives a monkey's monocle what Ratzinger and his minions think about the LHC research?


Which Is Worse For Your Brain, Religion or Cellphones? - Scientific American has a report of a study called “Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life” by researchers at Duke University. We are told this "...represents an important advance in our growing understanding of the relationship between the brain and religion. The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression." Intriguingly "The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again."  80 is reminded of the bumper sticker that says "I guess it's easier to be born again than to grow up, right? "

One possible hypothesis for the shrinkage is that the atrophy is triggered by stress, of which one cause could be fear of divine punishment. It cannot be easy living your life as though under constant supernatural surveillance from a being that has the power to punish you - forever - not even death is an escape. Apparently "Perceived religious transgressions can cause emotional and psychological anguish." How valid the findings are is open to debate given the small sample size - 268 men and women. Also other studies have found religious faith to be potentially beneficial "...on brain function, anxiety, and depression." This demonstrates there is a lot more to learn in this area and larger studies will be needed.

It is, of course, purely coincidental that the World Health Organisation has just released a report on a major review of the effects of electromagnetic waves on human health and, no doubt as part of an arse-covering exercise, has classified cellphones as a "possible cancer risk". This is stretching things somewhat as cellphones emit no ionising radiation of the kind that could cause cancer. No major studies, and there have been quite a few, show any danger from these phones. As well as the formerly mentioned bureaucratic arse-covering exercise there could be another factor. Perhaps the warning of possible cancer risk is partly fuelled by a feeling akin to religious guilt - the cellphone is so massively convenient and useful therefore there must be a downside? There are around 5 billion cellphone subscriptions globally and these remarkable devices have been in use for a couple of decades. Perhaps 80 is missing something here but given those figures surely we would have seen a worldwide brain cancer epidemic by now? Oh, to answer the question posed at the beginning  - neither, both are soundly trumped by reality TV. (80 highly recommends The bride of the son of the revenge of cell phones and cancer rises from the grave...again from Orac at the Respectful Insolence blog)

Phone Phact - "By now everyone has heard the news frenzy over Ronald Herberman, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, advising faculty and staff to limit cell phone use because there is no proof that it's not a cancer risk. Nonsense! All cancer agents act by disrupting chemical bonds. In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones can't cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone radiation is 10,000 times weaker. " Robert Park, What's New, July 2008.

Independence Day - 80 has mentioned the debunking exploits of aerospace writer Dwayne A Day before - see Spaceballs and Modern Myths. Now in the latest edition of The Space Review he excels himself. His latest target is the absurd book, Area 51, that 80 mentioned recently - see Stalin and the Aliens - in which author Annie Jacobsen tells of a plot by Stalin to destabilize the USA involving a Nazi flying wing aircraft, children surgically altered by Angel of Death Dr Joseph Mengele, and the tired old Roswell saucer crash myth. This farrago of nonsense is claimed by Jacobsen as true, as told to her by an unnamed informant from, you guessed it, Area 51. Day has another, better idea - that the plot elements of Jacobsen's story bear a remarkable similarity to those in a short story, written  by vintage science fiction author James Blish which appeared in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1956. Coincidence? Read Day's Roswell that ends well - it's certainly more believable than Jacobsen's story. (The Space Review, by the way, is an online publication devoted to in-depth articles, commentary, and reviews regarding all aspects of space exploration: science, technology, policy, business, and more - and is highly recommended)

June 5th 2011

Not Newsworthy? - the mainstream media were quick enough to cover the story of the protestors on the Syrian border clashing with the Israeli army, but they don't seem to want to know about the aftermath. This is from, "Palestinian security guards reportedly killed 14 Palestinians Monday in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. According to witnesses, an angry crowd of mourners began to charge toward leaders of Palestinian factions, prompting their security guards to open fire. The mourners accused the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of endangering their lives during Sunday's protest on Israel's border, by encouraging them to put themselves in the line of fire." This story was also reported by the Lebanese Daily Star with different casualty numbers. Why is there no wider exposure? Some people may go so far as to suggest the BBC, the Guardian, and others aren't exactly impartial purveyors of news where Israel is concerned, but 80 couldn't possibly comment.....  Also see this report from Just Journalism. Update - Carmel Gould, Editorial Manager of Just Journalism, has an opinion piece in the Guardian on the skewed, disproportionate coverage of Israel by that paper. The Guardian is to commended for publishing this but, as one commenter says, it is unlikely this will happen again. It's up to the Guardian to prove that prediction wrong. Also see Gaza Flotilla.

Watching The Watchers - 80 has recommended the Libertyphile before as a useful resource. It "... brings together in a convenient form news and analysis about Islam and the issues it creates in modern secular democracies." Now it has been joined by a sister site, Not the APPG on Islamophobia. The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia  was set up last November - APPGs are "...informal cross-party groups that have no official status within the UK Parliament. They are not like Select Committees though they can hold an inquiry along the lines of a Select Committee." There is an element of begging the question in setting up this APPG in that it assumes something called Islamophobia exists and can be defined. 80 has found it to be a catch-all term, adhering to Humpty Dumpty's maxim "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

The parliamentary group, by using the word, displays a worrying acceptance that such a thing exists. So, who is going to watch these watchers? Not the APPG on Islamophobia for one. This site brings together information about the uncertain and rocky beginnings of the parliamentary group, including its unhealthy links with anti-Zionist group Engage, a connection which has led the Chair and Vice-chair to resign. Anti-Zionist, by the way, in this context is indistinguishable from anti-Semite.  The new site's aims are to "(1) provide convenient summaries of pertinent information. (2) ask important questions (and give some answers) which the APPG may ignore. The causes of Islamophobia are not mentioned (other than the implication that misrepresentation of Islam is a cause). What are the causes and how should they be addressed? If Islam is misrepresented who or what represents the correct Islam? "

That last question is the kicker. How much violence and hatred toward Muslims actually comes from Muslims of a different sect? Sunnis hate Shias hate Sunnis and they both hate the Ahmadis. Is this also Islamophobia? There is no single "Muslim community" with which to engage. Is Islam represented by so-called moderates or frothing-mouthed loons such as Anjem Choudary or Abu Hamza? If Islam is supposedly misrepresented who decides?  It seems there is no universally accepted authority. Is the APPG's tacit acceptance of Islamophobia a threat to free speech? Will outspoken critics of Islam be admonished?  Not the APPG on Islamophobia is destined to be regular port of call for 80 and will prove, like Libertyphile, a valuable resource. The site now has a permanent link in the sidebar of this page. (80's latest musings on Islamophobia are here.)

June 10th 2011

Curbing Sharia Courts - A parliamentary Bill has been tabled in the House of Lords that would stop sharia courts in this country claiming that they have legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law. At meetings launching the Bill to the press and for peers, the Baroness tabling it was joined on platform by Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society (NSS) who also spoke. This demonstrated the broad base of support for the Bill, which included religious and women's groups. The One Law for All group was represented and copies of their publication One Law for All was distributed to participants. Both meetings were lively and constructive.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, was introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox (independent). Its intention is to tackle the discrimination suffered by Muslim women within the Sharia court system. The Bill, which applies to all arbitration tribunals, will firmly outlaw the practice of giving women's testimony half the weight of men's. The Bill addresses human rights issues and does not mention Islam. Read the rest here in the NSS free weekly email newsletter, Newsline. Also see Muslim Women Lose Human Rights.

"Equality under the law is a core value of British justice. My Bill seeks to preserve that standard. I have no desire to interfere in the internal theological affairs of religious groups, and my Bill does not do that. My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or 'quasi-legal', systems taking root in our nation. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone." Baroness Caroline Cox

"We welcome any Bill that can halt the advancement of sharia courts and religious tribunals in Britain and promote equal rights. It is particularly important that women are informed of their rights under British law, and that domestic violence or other family or criminal law matters are not dealt with by sharia-based bodies – these put women at a grave disadvantage and treat children as the property of their fathers."  Anne Marie Waters of One Law for All

Prevent Special Edition - LibertyPhile has posted a Prevent “Special Edition”, consisting of 15 extracts and links to articles reporting on the UK Government’s new Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and its approach to Islamic extremism. See it here. Also see The Revised Prevent Strategy and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies which clearly exposes the complacency and denial in the latter over Islamic extremism in UK universities. Plus Police 'covered up' violent campaign to turn London area 'Islamic' by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph about the deeply worrying situation in a part of the nation's capital. Are the police really helpless because of fears that they will be labelled "Islamophobic"? 80 has heard just about enough of this bloody nonsense word. If you believe in the law of the land, if you believe women are fully the equal of men, if you think no one should be persecuted for being homosexual then apparently you are Islamophobic. Join the club.

Sense About Science - are a charitable trust that equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion. With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, they work in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. Through award-winning public campaigns, they share the tools of scientific thinking and scrutiny. They now have a smart re-vamped web site - check it out and let Sense About Science have your feedback.

Don't Pray For Me - is the latest offering from Pat Condell. He calls to mind a piece of dialogue from the sadly underappreciated movie The Ruling Class "When did you realize that you were  God?" "While praying. I realized I was talking to myself." 

(Can't see the video? Click here)

All In The Mind - a friend passed on this ridiculous video of Saudi cleric Dr. Ali Baqna telling us why Jedda International Airport is really just smut, writ large. "This clip reveals the true story behind the design of the [Jedda] airport. We can see clearly in this picture… This is the head, here is one hand, and here is another hand. This is a leg, and here is the other leg. But what do we have here? This is a women's vagina. And what do we have here? A man's penis. And here we have another vagina. This is a man's penis [coming out] of a vagina, but opposite it, there is a woman lying on the land of the Arabian Peninsula. This pillar represents the penis –  God forbid – in this pagan design, and this represents the female. This is exactly what it represents. It is very clear, Allah be praised."


Do you think this loon has something on his mind? Or does he have just one thing on his mind? This is the sort of weird stuff you can expect from an unhealthy culture of enforced gender segregation. 80 is reminded of the old joke about the guy being given a Rorschach/inkblot test by a psychiatrist, who asks what can he see in the cards held up in front of him. He sees the first one as a naked woman, the second as a pair of breasts, the third as a couple, err, coupling. And so on.. At the end of the series the psych gives his diagnosis to the patient, "It is obvious that you are suffering from an unhealthy obsession with sex". To which the patient replies "Me? You gotta be kidding. You're the one showing me all the filthy pictures."

June 16th 2011

Kavoshgar-5/ Flat Earth 1 ready for lift-off

Why Waste A Monkey? - 80 notes that Iran plans to " send a live monkey into space in the summer, the country's top space official said..." According to Hamid Fazeli, head of Iran's Space Organisation "The Kavoshgar-5 rocket will be launched during the month of Mordad (July 23 to August 23) with a 285-kilogramme capsule carrying a monkey to an altitude of 120 kilometres (74 miles)". A couple of things spring to mind here. Why waste a poor monkey when the country has ayatollahs to spare? Alternatively, the Supreme Leader's theocratic dictator's ongoing row with the vertically-challenged president Ahmadinejad could be solved at a stroke - why not send him? After all, the Poison Dwarf can't weigh much more than a monkey -  although of course they'll have to simplify any button-pushing tasks. It seems this mission will be a sub-orbital lob and not a fully orbiting flight. The far more demanding task of orbiting a spacecraft is not only technically challenging but also theologically. The irrefutable and unchallengeable Quran clearly states that the Earth is flat, reflecting the early medieval world view of its author/s, so how can it be orbited by a satellite? 80 has addressed this ticklish subject before when writing of the problems for Muslim astronauts trying to pray facing Mecca while orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes - see Which Way to Mecca?

Ahmadinejad             Space Monkey

Islamic Cultural Terrorism - Pat Condell latest looks at, among other things, how fear of being labelled "Islamophobic" has restrained police in acting on intimidation by Islamists. Check out Andrew Gilligan's blog for the story of the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets, the Gay-Free Zone, and the pathetic response from the police and courts. From vibrant London borough to festering sore - courtesy of militant Islam.

(Can't see the video? Click here)

The Fallacy Of Fine-tuning - is the latest book by particle physicist Victor Stenger in which he dismantles arguments that the laws of physics in our universe were "fine-tuned" to foster life. Here is a short review by Marcus Chown in New Scientist from which the following quote is representative "In recent years many such examples of how the laws of physics have been "fine-tuned" for us to be here have been reported. Some religious people claim these "cosmic coincidences" are evidence of a grand design by a Supreme Being. In The Fallacy of Fine-tuning, physicist Victor Stenger makes a devastating demolition of such arguments." Another one for 80's wish list. Stenger's web site is here - it is well worth a visit. His blog is is probably the only readable section in the otherwise execrable, woo-infested Huffington Post. (Update - a longer version of Chown's review is now available here)

On the subject of book reviews in New Scientist comes Sheldrake book: Did we really say that? It seems a new edition of a 1988 book by Rupert "Morphic Resonance" Sheldrake is short of blurb so the publishers, Icon, mined a quote from a 23 year-old review of the original edition from NS. The deputy editor opines "Today, attitudes have hardened and Sheldrake is seen as standing firmly on the wilder shores of science. I think it is fair to say that if we were to review the new edition, Icon wouldn't be mining it for promotional purposes."

Not Cleaning Up - the BBC tells us "An "image of Jesus" seen in dripped wax by worshippers at a church in Wiltshire has been removed by a cleaner. The face was first spotted by a church warden at the parish church of Ogbourne St George at Easter. The image, described as a a man with a long beard, was formed by candle wax dripping from the church's pulpit. Created over a four-month period, the wax image was apparently removed by a diligent cleaner last week, although nobody has owned up." The church warden that first imagined spotted it said, "I felt really disappointed actually and I wished I'd done more about preserving it. The Church of England is not very good at this sort of thing and if I'd done something sooner it could have been a bit of a money spinner." If only it had been a Roman Catholic church - they'd have cleaned up.

June 26th 2011

UFOs Spotted Over London? - asks the Telegraph, showing a video of some white objects seemingly flying across a cloudy London sky. Then it effectively answers its own question noting "A separate video posted by the same user, alymc01, is believed to have been shot from inside the offices of a visual effects company called The Mill. The firm creates special effects for the film industry." In other words, no need to call the Men In Black. Far more intriguing is this spherical flash in the sky, observed from Mauna Kea Observatory on the morning of March 22nd. 80's money is on a fuel dump from an orbiting spacecraft but nevertheless it looks pretty cool. The clip shown on the linked page is jerky but a little further down is an mp4 video link of much better quality. Update - read Benjamin Radford's take on the London video.

Name The Poison - more from Pat Condell on how Islam degrades and debases women. Perhaps Baroness Warsi should watch this. She claims "Pakistan is failing to live up to one of the tenets of Islam which guarantees rights to all women..."  It does, but not the same rights as men. Women in Islam are second-class, despite Warsi's delusional beliefs. She is of course right when she criticizes Pakistan for its treatment of women but wrong when she seeks the authority of the Quran. Maybe she hasn't read these passages. Over the course of six years, more than 4,000 women died as victims of honour killings in Pakistan from 1999 to 2004. Little has changed since.

(Can't see the video? Click here) 


(Courtesy of xkcd)

Quote Of The Week - "It was like discussing the rules of quidditch with people who believe Harry Potter was a documentary."  Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland on the anger of Irish Roman Catholics over a "blasphemous" depiction of  God's one night stand, the Virgin Mary.

Vatican promises report following pressure from NSS Executive Director - "The Vatican has at last given an indication that it will submit a report to the United Nations this autumn on its treatment of children.

The "Holy See's" envoy in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said on Monday "From what I'm able to say it's that (in) September or October it will be presented."

The Holy See has been challenged on two occasions at the United Nations Human Rights Council by NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood about its failure to produce the report. Now his goading appears to have paid off – even though the report is 14 years overdue and has been promised before and not materialised.

The report was originally due to be submitted to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1997, but failed to appear year after year without explanation. Under pressure from Keith — acting as a spokesperson for the International Humanist and Ethical Union — Tomasi said last year that the report's release was imminent. But he arrogantly told reporters in Geneva on Monday that "imminent, in the tradition of the Church, it's a very long time."

Human rights groups have urged the Vatican to explain in the report its role in the cover-up of child abuse committed by Catholic clergy."
Read the rest of this story and more in Newsline, the National Secular Society's free weekly newsletter on the web or delivered to your inbox.

Good Call - Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been cleared in a trial that should never have taken place.  "A Dutch court has acquitted rightwing politician Geert Wilders of hate charges, saying his anti-Islam statements, while offensive to many Muslims, fell within the bounds of legitimate political debate." See Netherlands On Trial and How To Make A Martyr.

Quote - "The good news is it's legal to be critical about Islam, and this is something that we need, because the Islamisation of our societies is a major problem and a threat to our freedom. And I'm allowed to say so."  Geert Wilders

Quote - "He should not create hate and that's what he's doing. He's creating hate against Islam."  Zenap al-Garboni, a Dutch Moroccan. No, Islam is managing to do that by itself, it doesn't need any help from Wilders. The violence, misogyny, homophobia and racism are self-evident.

Spirits And Souls - are put into perspective over at Calamities of Nature.

Roswell That Ends Well, Part 2 - here is the second part of Dwayne Day's review of the book Area 51, courtesy of The Space Review. Part one is here. Also see Independence Day.

June 29th 2011

Tract and Friction - we learn from the BBC "The owner of a witchcraft shop in Devon said she had been targeted by "religious" literature. Nikki Kitchen, who practises witchcraft and runs White Trinity Witch in Plymouth, said Pro-Christian leaflets were pushed through the door. Anonymous handwritten notes have also been delivered to the shop. Ms Kitchen previously had to stop running a stall in Plymouth's indoor market because of abusive comments. Ms Kitchen said: "Churchgoers think we're the spawn of Satan". This story is interesting not for what it says about Ms Kitchen and her beliefs, to which of course she is perfectly entitled, but for the attitude of a Christian, Dr Theodore Danson-Smith who runs the company which distributes leaflets like those Ms Kitchen received. So blinkered is he by his faith he is incapable of seeing things from any other point of view - or even that other points of view exist, apart from those of evil intent.

Here are some of his statements from a local radio interview. "We don't sell any hate mail whatsoever. It's not hate mail, it's telling the way of salvation." Yes, Mr Danson-Smith, (can we call you Theodore? After all, it is your Christian name) but can you possibly see that others that do not share your faith might find such leaflets offensive? You may well think that your superstitions will lead to heavenly bliss but there is no reason for anyone else to think so. To an outside observer, Theo, (Theodore seems so formal) your religion is no more or less authentic than Ms Kitchen's - although your dumb, whiny proselytising is arguably far more annoying. "Any witchcraft shop is working for Satan not for  God." Really, is that so? Do you have evidence for this statement? Apart from referring to the bible, that is. Christians, particularly of your type, Ted, love to quote the good book as evidence, blithely unaware of the circularity in their thinking - we were going to write reasoning, but reason doesn't really enter into it. Who is this Satan, anyway? If your  God created everything then he must have created Satan as well. But then, Theo, Christians have been fruitlessly chewing away at the so-called problem of evil for centuries, apparently unaware that it is a problem they brought upon themselves with their fatuous and insupportable claims of a "loving" God. Genocidal, weird, cruel, jealous (he said so himself) but loving? Not so much.

There is no evidence that you or your pals pushed leaflets through Ms Kitchen's door but your weaselly answer regarding responsibility does you no credit. "I don't know who they are but  God bless them, they're wanting to save her from going to a lost eternity."  Do you know the perpetrators? If not, why claim that you know their intentions? They might be posting the leaflets out of a wish not to save her soul but to harass, distress or otherwise discommode Ms Kitchen. Just out of interest what does a "lost eternity" mean? Ah yes, you're talking about Hell, aren't you? Your kind believe that those who do not share your religious beliefs are going to suffer perpetual torment, and deservedly so. It's funny, many people, 80 included, point out the  God-ordained cruelty, racism and violence in the Christian Old Testament. This leaves the impression that the New Testament is somehow less so - yet it is the NT that introduces the idea of perpetual, post-mortem torture for so-called sinners. In the OT at least death was the end - in the NT your vindictive  God pursues the dead even beyond the grave in order to punish them - for ever. Now that's just sick.

Danson-Smith may well peddle Christian leaflets and comics of his own devising but he certainly sells tracts from Jack Chick - the self-styled World's Greatest Missionary. Better known in the US than the UK, Chick has been churning out waste paper for many years. Rational Wiki gives an insight into his deranged world view "His claims about the Jesuits, for instance, include that they were responsible for the creation of the Qur'an, they tutored Karl Marx, started the Soviet Union and even got the Tsar's gold as a reward. Jesuits controlled the Gestapo and were responsible for the holocaust, and that all this is being deliberately withheld from the American people because of the influence of the Catholic Church on the media" Got that? Can we say barking? We rather think we can.

This 1996 page from Chick's web site features none other than Danson-Smith as the brave bookshop owner whose shop "..serves as a central distribution point for other bookstores throughout the United Kingdom." (A bit like a pustule infecting the surrounding follicles) Brave? Read the headline "Homosexuals and Lesbians Mount Assault on Chick's UK Distributor". That must have been quite a sight. But still Danson-Smith survives to soldier on and peddle more simplistic crap to frighten and confuse the gullible. "I am not spreading hate. I am working to tell people how to get saved. We hope homosexuals, Catholics and Muslims see they need Christ as their personal Saviour."  How sweet, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. In contrast have a look at Doom Town the Chick tract (actually comic book) from his shop that so upset the gays of Edinburgh. And no, before you ask, this is not a parody, it really is that poorly-conceived and executed. It tells the edifying story of how the biblical character Lot handed over his daughters to a mob of rapists rather than hand over a couple of angels. The lesson to take away from this homily is that  God was so weak he could not protect his own angels or Lot's unfortunate daughters. Later on though he is suddenly strong enough to flatten whole cities. Perhaps he can only do the big picture and can't do the nuanced stuff. Meanwhile, Danson-Smith is welcome to his God - it's just a shame he feels a perverse need to inflict this nasty, vindictive creature on other people.

Spiteful, Sanctimonious, Ignorant - welcome to the world of Michele Bachmann, the next President of the USA. Only joking - not even the GOP would go that far, would they?

Here she is on evolution,"Where do we say that a cell became a blade of grass, which became a starfish, which became a cat, which became a donkey, which became a human being? There’s a real lack of evidence from change from actual species to a different type of species. That's where it's difficult to prove." 

On the minimum wage, "Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."  Does she know Tory twit Philip Davies?

Her grasp of her country's history, "We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

No American Girl - we learn "Tom Petty has told US presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to stop using one of his songs as part of her campaign, insisting he did not give the rightwing politician permission. Within 24 hours of the televised launch of Bachmann's 2012 campaign, Petty's lawyers reportedly pounced on the press-conference soundtrack, which used the song American Girl as exit music." It seems Petty, a longtime favorite of 80's, doesn't like her politics.

Quote - "A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable." Carl Sagan

In Vino Veritas - deploying what could be called the "Mel Gibson defence" scruffy fashion designer John Galliano "...told a Paris court that his drug and alcohol addictions were to blame for his alleged anti-Semitic outbursts."  The BBC informs us "The designer, who was fired by the Dior fashion house over the allegations, said he had no recollection of the events and denied being racist." How very convenient. Alcoholic over-consumption can result in some pretty vile behavior and language but for this to take the particular form of anti-Semitism strongly implies that such racism was already there in the drunk's head, if suppressed. It is hard to believe that someone who was not already an anti-Semite would suddenly turn into one under the influence of alcohol.

Galliano also claimed to have a drug problem which contributed to his behavior - but the same argument applies. Islamists however, Jew-haters to a man, can't even fall back on the dodgy "drink drove me to it" excuse for their po-faced religion denies them alcohol although, ironically, the word alcohol itself is likely of Arabic origin. Their anti-Semitism, which has been there from the beginning (and long before modern Israel ever existed) perhaps derives from an inferiority complex brought about by Islam's plagiarism. Now Europe, a continent with its own dark history of Catholic and Nazi persecution of Jews, is experiencing a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes fuelled by the influx of Muslim immigrants who have been fed with this poison all their lives. They even get some sympathy and support from left-wing useful idiots blinded by their hatred of Israel.

80 highly recommends Christopher Hitchens' piece on Gibson from 2006 Mel Gibson's Meltdown which looks at the actor's racism and homophobia. Hitchens mentions "... his twistedly homoerotic spank-movie The Passion of the Christ"  which is chock-full of Jewish stereotypes on a par with Bosch at his worst. 80 has long believed the virulently homophobic are so because they they are highly repressed homosexuals themselves, something Hitchens thinks could apply to Gibson. This has some backing from science - and also from the homo-hating American preachers who have been caught succumbing to their hidden desires. Here is a small collection of the wit and wisdom of Gibson. Meanwhile Galliano's court case continues. If he's clever he'll drop the drink/drugs excuse and blame the Jews - after all they are behind everything else.

July 1st 2011

The Guardian: Fuelling Denials of Antisemitism - "Today’s Guardian editorial, concerning the detention by UK Border Agency of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, typifies the bias with which most Israel-related antisemitism is treated by large swathes of the liberal-left and far-left. It is no surprise: after all, the Guardian is the single most influential purveyor and reflector of such attitudes." Read the rest of this piece by Mark Gardner at Harry's Place. The Guardian, with this editorial, sinks even further after publishing a comment piece two days ago by Haneen Zoabi, defending Salah and his record. This is all of a piece with the Guardian's obsessive negative coverage of Israel which is entirely out of proportion and shows an unhealthy lack of balance. The only point that really matters here is that Salah should not even be in this country as he is the subject of a government ban - it's as simple as that. He only got in because of a cock-up. Send him back to where he came from. He was here at the behest of Labour MPs, which speaks volumes about them.

"The decision to ban the Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah from entering Britain, and then to arrest him, was transparently not based on any serious examination of his political activities. It was an ugly kneejerk response to the growing hostility of the Israeli establishment and its supporters abroad towards anyone opposing its racist policies – and a rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe." according to Zoabi. Islamophobia - that nonsense word designed to choke off any criticism of Islam - pops up in the first paragraph. It is an indicator that what follows is, not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks. Zoabi is in fact a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which makes her accusations of so-called racism ring somewhat hollow. Her assertion that the UK government is told what to do by Israel is paranoid crap - the same tired old drivel that the evil Jews run everything. The UK has, depressingly, plenty of its own homegrown Islamists - it doesn't need one more, not even for a few days. He should be sent on his way with all due dispatch. Also see this piece by Andrew Gilligan on the man hilariously called the "Ghandi of Palestine"

Dutch Sense - "The Dutch parliament on Tuesday voted to ban ritual slaughter in landmark animal rights legislation that has been compared to Nazi persecution of the Jews by the country's Chief Rabbi." The last person you would think to make a remark trivialising the Holocaust would be a Chief Rabbi. The Telegraph reports "The legislation was tabled by the tiny Animal Rights Party but it quickly won cross-party support in a country where traditional religion, especially Islam, has been accused of being out of step with liberal Dutch values. "This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited," said Marianne Thieme, the party's leader. "For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins." Damn' right - it's about time other countries in the EU that claim to care about animal welfare followed suit. There should be no religious exemptions, as is currently the case. 80 noted a while back (see Stunning Study) research that concluded "Brain signals have shown that calves do appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law, strengthening the case for adapting the practices to make them more humane." Also see Cruel Meat and Fleshly Thoughts. The RSPCA page on slaughter welfare is here.

Mo Doc - "Iran's minister of cultural and Islamic guidance has attacked an upcoming BBC2 documentary series on the life of the founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammad, saying the "enemy" was attempting to "ruin Muslims' sanctity". In 80's view it's an unfortunate choice of subject (the money would be better spent on a remake of Blake's 7) but if it pisses off Iran it must be doing something right.  How will the "prophet" be portrayed? Not at all, apparently, far too contentious. Let's face it, these people are making a TV show not looking to be murdered.  Also one has to wonder quite how the Beeb will present the child bride episode... (see here for more controversy over the show)

Quote Of The Week - "'Triumph of the Will' remade by monkeys"  Human Boeing commenting on  Sarah Palin's biopic The Undefeated in the Guardian.

July 5th 2011

Atheists and Morality - We learn, "A Royal Navy medical assistant submariner, Michael Lyons, has been sentenced to seven months' detention for refusing rifle training prior to deployment in Afghanistan after developing moral objections, following revelations made by WikiLeaks." The rights or wrongs of the medic's decision to refuse training are not 80's concern here but the way he was treated definitely is. The article goes on to quote a letter to the Guardian from Lyon's wife that raises concerns about the Navy's apparent views on morality and how the defendant's lack of religion may have had a bearing on his treatment. Lillian Lyons wrote "The navy denied his claim that he was objecting to the war on grounds of conscience, and gave no reason why. He was ordered to see a chaplain, even though Michael is an atheist, and the chaplin's (sic) statement implied Michael had a slight political reservation, not a moral objection. If Michael had been dishonest and said he was a committed Christian, and because of his faith he could not be part of war on moral grounds, perhaps this would have been over in an instant. So is the navy saying you cannot have a conscience if you are secular?"

This sounds very much like an instance of the old accusation that atheists have no morals as morals are only god-given. Don't believe in God and you are automatically treated as immoral or amoral - you are considered capable of anything. The absurd consequence of this point of view is that religionists themselves are only constrained from rape, theft, murder and other crimes by their belief in divine punishment. If so, it doesn't work very well  according to a study on the levels of crime among believers - see Faith's Fatal Forfeit. What happened to Lyons seems to be that the chaplain considered his moral objections were of less worth for being arrived at by thinking for himself, rather than handed down by God. This conflation of ethics and religion has to be one of the greatest con-tricks ever. Just because religionists repeatedly claim the high moral ground does not make it a fact.

The high moral ground does not belong to religionists - their morality has been handed to them by divine fiat as opposed to being arrived at rationally - or instinctively. Religious morality can be loaded with misogyny, homophobia and other irrational prejudices that are themselves immoral. Whatever the merits of medical assistant submariner Michael Lyons' reasons for his conscientious objections he would seem to have been treated differently because he made up his own mind and did not play the religion card. His honesty in this regard has earned him seven month's detention. Quite why he joined the service in the first place is a whole other matter. It's not as though he was conscripted.  Also see Godless Moral Values: Can Godless Atheists Have Moral Values? and Myth: Atheists Have No Reason to be Moral, No Basis for Morality by Austin Cline.

The International Day Against Stoning - is on July 11th. "As you know Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still languishing in prison. The authorities recently mentioned her case saying that no final decision had yet been reached on her stoning sentence and that Sakineh must remain in prison. Falsely accused of murdering her husband, her only crime is that she is a woman in Iran. Her lawyer, Sajjad Houtan Kian, also remains in prison for having had the courage to defend her and other women with stoning sentences in Tabriz prison; he has been sentenced to four years imprisonment, been put under a lot of pressure and lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) as a result.

On 11 July 2011, the International Day against Stoning, let’s once again step up the pressure to demand Sakineh’s immediate release and an end to stoning. Join us by either standing in a city square with a photo or poster of Sakineh, tweeting, or by organising an act of solidarity or a flash mob to raise awareness and attention. On 11 July, in 100 cities worldwide, let us once again raise the banner of humanity against one of the barbarisms of our time." 
See the International Committee Against Stoning

Boat People - Christopher Hitchens has some questions for the "activists" aboard the Gaza flotilla. Awkward and embarrassing questions that the media should ask but inexplicably haven't. Also see An Illiberal Consensus below.

Not The Point - we learn "Israel and Egypt have reached an understanding that the ships taking part in the Gaza flotilla will be allowed to unload their cargo in the Egyptian port of El-Arish, where it will be checked and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land, Israel Radio reported on Monday. " This seems like a sane and sound solution - or it would be if the sole purpose of the flotilla is delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Somehow 80 suspects another confrontation will be sought - after all, the previous flotilla was great publicity even if it was of zero practical use to the people of Gaza. Also see Gaza flotilla 2011: Key organiser is alleged Hamas operative. Update - Hamas Cruises open for business. Or maybe not, as Greece intervenes.

An Illiberal Consensus - Pat Condell gives the BBC and the Guardian newspaper a richly-deserved kicking.

(Can't see the video? Click here

Holy Kudzu! - we learn "Many Christians believe Jesus can be found anywhere. In southern Lenoir County, he may be found on a utility pole. The pole, about a mile south of Kinston, has attracted attention of some area residents. Some say the kudzu-covered post bears a striking resemblance to Jesus’ crucifixion." 80 thought it looked more like Spartacus until a look at the Gospel of John 15:1 where Jesus proclaims "I am the true vine..."  That surely clinches it. (Hat tip to Respectful Insolence)

Vatican Launches Home Exorcism Kit - "Pope Benedict XVI has given his seal of approval for a special self-exorcism kit that members of the general public can use to tackle their own personal demons." Read the whole story at NewsBiscuit.

Sacks' Appeal - the UK's Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has jumped on the persecution bandwagon saying in the Telegraph “I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organisations is an erosion of religious liberty. We are beginning to move back to where we came in in the 17th century - a whole lot of people on the Mayflower leaving to find religious freedom elsewhere.” This is utter rubbish - the religious liberty he refers to is quite safe - except where it breaks the equality laws.  He thinks, as do many religionists, that his beliefs trump the law of the land. His time would be better spent asking the Guardian why it is backing an Islamist anti-Semite who entered the UK illegally. Sacks' comments are used by the Telegraph to revisit various cases where religionists have tried to claim unearned privileges, not available to anyone else. Naturally, the strangely ineffective, whiny Christian Legal Center are also consulted about how the poor Christians are so hard done by in modern Britain. This in a country with an established church and unelected bishops sitting in the upper chamber of government - 26 of them. A country where 546 schools and and 42 academies are church-run.

Sacks Rebutted - the Chief Rabbi's remarks are given a robust rebuttal by Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, "Lord Sacks’ remarks are fatuous in the extreme. If by religious freedom the chief rabbi means religious privilege, it is clear that he would be happier in some kind of theocracy. But, of course, it would have to be the right kind of theocracy – one where Jews weren’t persecuted. And there aren’t many of them. Rather than fleeing this country, he should thank his God that he lives here and knows that he and his people are safe and free to practice their religion within the law. Religious freedom to him seems to mean the freedom to discriminate against and persecute others. Well, in a plural society we all have rights, not just religious people. Lord Sacks should retract this foolish statement and apologise to the people of Britain for suggesting that his religion is not respected and permitted to flourish here. He should also remember that those who sailed on the Mayflower were escaping persecution by people of their own faith, not secularists."

July 7th 2011

Rangel's Angle - American congressman Charles Rangel , D-NY is, to put it bluntly, an idiot. He thinks that religious documents written 1900 years ago will help in dealing with the current debt crisis. The reason for this belief is that "It is a moral question. So I am surprised that we don't hear from the rabbis and the priests and the ministers and the imams. This is their business, not just politicians'" He has, like so many, fallen for the old line given out by religions that they hold the high moral ground - they don't - and the only reason anybody thinks they do is that they keep repeating the claim over and over. There is no evidence that belief in a deity makes for a more moral person. (see Atheists and Morality) If someone only behaves well toward his fellows because of the threat of eternal damnation then, in 80's view, that person should be trusted about as far as one can spit a grand piano. It is perfectly possible to lead a moral life without recourse to any religion whatsoever. The Cynics of  ancient Greece showed that this was possible 500 years before the supposed time of Christ. In fact many wisdom sayings of the Cynics were recycled and attributed to Jesus.

But back to Rangel. Following his remarks he "...held a news conference where he asked "What would Jesus do" about the debt problem". Not that he actually bothered to read the New Testament to see what Jesus is supposed to have said on the subject of money, wealth and riches. When questioned he merely said ""I don't know what Jesus or Moses or anyone would say. But, the issues are so morally clear...we are our brothers keepers. You know all of this is biblical... If you read your bibles and you read the spiritual scriptures you will see that clearly that Jesus would have something to say about this debate." This seems to be a serious case of the Congressman opening his mouth before engaging his brain.

Perhaps Rangel would like to follow Jesus' advice (Luke 18:22) to a young man seeking eternal life "Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The man left, very sad, for he was rich and obviously didn't much fancy pauperization as the price of eternal life. Seeing this, Jesus said "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!"  This seems to be a part of the New Testament missed by those pushers of prosperity theology so popular in the US. As for Matthew 25:14, here Jesus seems quite the capitalist telling the parable of the talents. When a master goes away he leaves his servants various sums of money. Upon his return he rewards those that had increased their sums but the guy who had been given the least amount merely buried it in the ground and came off very badly. "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury."  His money is given to one of the others and the master says "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:29,30) It seems therefore that Jesus has completely contradictory views on the subject of money and would be of little help to our dim Congressman.

In passing it is worth noting that the Jesus character says many things that seem contradictory or says the same things in totally different contexts - which is exactly what one would expect if a list of pre-existing wisdom sayings were separately put into his mouth by the gospel writers we call Luke and Matthew.

Clueless In Gaza - We learn from Al Jazeera that "Nearly 100 French activists en route to Israel have been stopped from boarding their flights by French authorities in Paris. Stranded at Charles De Gaulle Airport, the activists have staged a protest denouncing the French authorities' action." How unfair, maybe they only wanted to hunt for bargains in Gaza Mall, that "...fully air-conditioned, modern, indoor shopping venue in the upscale Rimal neighborhood of Gaza  (which) extends over 19,000 sq. ft. on two floors, the second floor forms a balcony around a spacious atrium." The same mall, no doubt, that the activists in the failed "peace flotilla" were hoping to re-stock. The only jailer in Gaza is Hamas.

Also To Blame - amid all the (justified) clamor about a contemptible foreign press baron, a flame-haired harpy, and unscrupulous journalists from the (now defunct) News of the World one other factor is missing - the mobile phone companies. Between them the companies' practically non-existent mailbox security systems and those clueless naive users who leave their mailbox ID PIN  set to the default have contributed greatly to this whole sorry, sleazy, sordid mess. See this from Paul Ockenden at PC Pro on how easy this so-called "hacking" is. Still, to look on the bright side, anything that causes grief to éminence grise Rupert Murdoch can't be all bad news, can it? Also see David Cameron is in the sewer because of his News International friends. As the saying goes, you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps...

According To Plan? - from the BBC "This morning, as more advertisers pulled out, it became clear many people did not want to be associated with the News of the World. But no one foresaw that James Murdoch would close it altogether. .. But on reflection, the decision may not have been as difficult as it first appears. There is already a substitute Sunday paper waiting in the wings. Earlier this month, News International announced a management restructure, making it easier for its papers to move to seven-day working. How long will it be before the Sun is published on Sundays?"  The domain was registered last Tuesday. Prescient domain squatter or News International, incognito? Update - from The Register "News International bought the and domain names late last week, after they had originally been grabbed by unknown individuals as the phone-hacking scandal engulfed the News of the World Sunday tabloid."

July 15th 2011

Church Arrogance - in the latest row over the rape of children in their care by Roman Catholic clerics and its subsequent cover-up by church authorities the sheer bloody arrogance shown by the church beggars belief. At last the Irish government has become disgusted enough to do something about it. We learn "In his first comment on the Cloyne Report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was "disgraceful" that the Vatican ignored child protection safeguards agreed by the Irish bishops. Mr Kenny's criticism was a prelude to the Papal Nuncio being summoned to Iveagh House, where Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore demanded an explanation for Rome's "inappropriate" intervention in Irish affairs." One finding of the report was that Bishop John Magee falsely told the Irish government he was reporting all abuse allegations to the authorities. In other words he lied about the rape and abuse of children. It also "...found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspecting of abusing a child, one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files."  A BBC summary of the Cloyne Report is here.

So where is Magee and why has he not been arrested? It seems this vile individual has gone to ground and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Astoundingly a church spokesman had the unmitigated gall to say "Bishop Magee is a retired bishop and is accountable only to the Pope." The church still doesn't get it - against the rape of children and the collusion to conceal it the whole Roman Catholic Church, its history, its clerics, its claims to spiritual power, the secrecy of the confessional don't mean a damned thing. The Irish foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore said "There's one law in this country. Everybody is going to have to learn to comply with it. The Vatican will have to comply with the laws of this country." Of that there should have been no doubt - it shouldn't even need saying. New legislation will now make sure that no one can avoid their obligation to report the rape of children to the civil authorities. There has yet been no response from the Vatican. (Also see State must take over as Church watchdog) Update - it seems that the Pope can move swiftly against wrongdoers - but only those guilty of the serious stuff, the important stuff, unlike the rape of children by his staff.

Insulting Religion - a phrase that can be read two ways. In this case it is also the latest video from the estimable Pat Condell.


(Can't see the video? Click here)

Quote - "Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. It therefore has no reality check. And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self- correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality... and extreme, grotesque immorality." Greta Christina, responding to this nonsense. Read the whole piece here. Christina's blog is here and in the sidebar.



Holy (Cash) Cow - "The Church of England is to retain its £9 million investment in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the hope that the share price will rise again if all his British newspapers are sold or closed. " according to the Telegraph. The Church, which has a £5.3 billion investments portfolio, seems little bothered by the words attributed to Jesus "Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The church estates commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, had other things on his mind when "...he suggested that selling the Church’s £3.8 million of shares in News Corp and £5.3 million invested in BSkyB, which is part-owned by Mr Murdoch, could waste an opportunity to make money." Many clergy have protested over the continued investment but ethics obviously count for little when there's a few quid to be made. Update - tagged onto a piece bemoaning the demise of the Church of England within 20 years is this "Maths lessons are too “capitalist” and should be reformed to promote Christian values, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, told Synod. The meeting heard that teachers should not illustrate lessons with examples of “profit and loss”. Perhaps someone should tell Whittam Smith.

Transatlantic Blight - with Rupert Murdoch, his media empire and its operating procedures very much in the spotlight in the UK here are a couple of interesting articles from AlterNet. They demonstrate that Murdoch's malign influence is not confined to one side of the Atlantic. The first, entitled Why Rupert Murdoch Love$ God: World's Biggest Sleaze Mogul Also Getting Rich from Christian Moralizers informs us "In addition to being a phone-hacking Darth Vader, Rupert Murdoch is also one of the leading religion publishers in the world. Rupert Murdoch is one of America’s number one publishers of evangelical and other religious books, including the 33-million seller Purpose Driven Life by mega pastor and anti-gay activist Rick Warren. Rick Warren, Rob Bell and company helped Murdoch fund his tabloid-topless-women-on-page-3 empire, phone hacking of murdered teens and Fox News' spreading "birther" and "death panel" lies about the president. They helped Murdoch by enriching him. And these weren’t unknown authors just lucky to get published anywhere, they could have picked anybody to sell their books."

The second article is about Murdoch's Fox News (the misinformation station) and asks the question "Is Fox News Scared? Desperate Attacks on Watchdog Group Media Matters Suggest Yes" We are told "In the untamed jungle that is cable news, there is a ferocious and predatory beast stalking the terrain. Anyone who has encountered Fox News in the wild can attest to the spine-chilling threat imposed by the pseudo-news network. And now Fox News has the scent of new game. The Fox News pack is on the warpath against the media watchdog group, Media Matters. In the past two weeks it has featured over 30 stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist." It seems dirty tricks and lies are part and parcel of Murdoch's media empire in the USA. In the case of Media Matters the weapon of choice is unfounded allegations that the watchdog has violated its tax deductible status. It is alleged Fox has even encouraged viewers to file complaints with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) encouraging them to lie. "The instruction to check the boxes for political campaigning and lobbying activities amounts to falsifying the form because there is no evidence Media Matters has done any of that. If these complaint forms required the complainant to sign under oath, then Fox would be guilty of suborning perjury."  Media Matters web site is here and is well worth checking out.

Unintended Consequences - we learn that "The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family..." Did these clods think this through? This is from the BBC in 2004 "The global campaign to eradicate polio by 2005 is being threatened by the resurgence of the disease in the far north of Nigeria. Despite this, an immunisation programme has been put on hold because of claims by Muslim clerics that the vaccine is being deliberately contaminated as part of a western plot. In the predominantly Muslim region where anti-American sentiments often run high, the idea that the polio vaccine is part of a US plot to render women in the developing world infertile quickly took hold."  It looks like the CIA has just handed the clerics another reason to be suspicious of vaccination schemes. Well done, guys. Countries where polio remains endemic include Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. (Ooh look, the Guardian has cottoned on at last)

July 21st 2011

One-Way Street - The Independent carried a story a few days ago about the number of converts to Islam in Britain. Leaving aside the question as to why anyone, particularly women, would want to submit themselves to such a belief system, the numbers, if accurate, are surprisingly high. One wonders how many of these converts have considered what happens if they should transgress the rules or even, heaven forfend, change their minds about their new faith. It is commonly believed that apostasy in Islam is punished by death - this is not necessarily true - Islam has no central authority so the response depends upon different interpretations. These range from death to a punishment in the afterlife. There is even an extremist idea that Islam is the natural state of human beings, so one does not convert, one "reverts". The arrogance of this stance is obvious - as is its stupidity. The upshot is that when anyone joins any other religion they are in fact already rejecting Islam. To "revert" and then apostasize is therefore a double offence. Moderate or extreme, the view is definitely that to leave Islam is a crime whether it is punished here and now or in some imagined hereafter.

When one joins a club it makes sense to appraise oneself of the rules - most people know that in Islam the eating of pork is forbidden, as is the drinking of alcohol. Breaking these rules may attract no opprobrium or bring a drastic response as an Australian man found out recently. We learn he "...was allegedly held down on his bed by three men and lashed by another with an electric cable at 1am on Sunday. The victim reportedly told police he recognised the men as Wahabi Muslims from his local mosque. He claims he was being punished for having a few drinks with friends." Wahabi is a particularly austere and  puritanical sect within Islam. It is reported that "Sydney’s Muslim community has condemned the alleged attack, saying it was illegal under Islamic law." Once again the lack of a central authority means this moderate view has no more validity than that held by the floggers. The story illustrates that conversion to Islam places a person under sharia law, a primitive and capricious "legal" system, and that a convert should be fully aware of the  dangers involved. Also see the Council of ex-Muslims of Britain.

Still on the subject of Islam, AP reports "Attitudes toward Muslims have become slightly more positive in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Russia compared with five years ago, though negative views between Muslim countries and the West persist on both sides, a Pew Center survey found." This is a surprise given the amount of media coverage on the violence of Islamists the world over. Hardly a day goes by without such stories in which the victims are often themselves Muslims, as in the repeated indiscriminate bombings in Pakistan. Furthermore "The survey, by Pew's Global Attitudes Project, found majorities of Muslims surveyed in five of six Muslim-dominant countries and the Palestinian territories described non-Muslim Westerners as selfish and greedy. In all of the six Western countries surveyed, less than 30 percent of non-Muslims said they consider Muslims respectful of women." Selfish and greedy? Nonsense - see this diagram, from the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2011 which tells the truth. Incidentally here is another diagram from the same source showing how well Palestinians do out of their victim status - one wonders how much of this money ends up in Hamas the jailer's coffers. Islam is the religion of resentment and blame but these two diagrams give the lie to the Muslims' "selfish and greedy" accusation. Just how much Islamists really care for their fellow Muslims is borne out by this report "Somalia's al-Shabab Islamists have denied lifting their ban on some Western aid agencies and say UN reports of famine are "sheer propaganda". The UN on Wednesday said that parts of Somalia were suffering a famine after the worst drought in 60 years."

The "religion of peace" has a well-earned  reputation for violence which can result in some distortions and travesties of historical truth by those anxious to avoid offence. The Heresiarch gives the BBC a good drubbing for such unethical and craven behavior in The BBC: falsifying art and history in the name of respect. The documentary series currently airing about Islam's inventor, Mohammed, is the culprit. Whether it is prompted by an exaggerated and unearned respect, fear of violence, or a possible impact on potential sales to Muslim countries the BBC has only further damaged its reputation as an honest, trustworthy organization. On a related note it looks like the coalition government was considering legalising  multiple Islamic marriages (AKA polygamy) in the UK. This idiotic idea was dumped when the paper containing the proposal, "Creating the conditions for integration" was fortuitously leaked. Integration? More like ingratiation. The official line is now “The Government has ruled out the registration of Islamic marriages. Polygamy is illegal in Britain and will remain so" )

Unbalanced - on a somewhat related note the BBC has also been accused of poor science coverage with its politically correct and irresponsible policy of allowing fringe and unsubstantiated views on subjects such as global climate change, MMR vaccines and GM crops more airtime than they merit, thereby creating an appearance of a genuine "controversy". "The review comprised an independent report by Professor Steve Jones, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, and an in-depth analysis by researchers at Imperial College London of science coverage across the BBC in May, June and July of 2009 and 2010."  No doubt the loonies will claim this is some scientific cabal formed to stifle dissent - one more idea to add to the conspiracy theories. (Here is an interesting report from Professor David Nutt  who has been subjected to the BBC's idea of "balanced" coverage.)  

Best Comment So Far - on the whole stinking, sordid News International circus comes from Guardian commenter MawalTrees -

David Cameron didn't know
Rupert Murdoch didn't know
Jamie Murdoch didn't know
John Yates didn't know
Rebekah Brooks didn't know
Sir Paul Stephenson didn't know
Paul Coulson didn't know

Guess they must have been discussing Corrie at all those dinner parties.

Focus On Reality - some very intelligent (and not so intelligent) people, mainly on the left, have a strange blind spot about Israel in relation to the countries surrounding it. Perhaps anti-Semitism is a description too far, but in their case not by very much. (This group does not include Muslims, who imbibe Jew hatred with their mother's milk) 80 is no kneejerk defender of Israel, as evidenced elsewhere on this site, but this article by Kevin Myers is the best thing on the subject for a very long time. Probably not since this piece by Nick Cohen. (Meanwhile in the Gaza prison camp another new supermarket blooms)

Arse Elbow Confusion Syndrome* - also from Newsline is a welcome piece on the confused and confusing utterances of the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips. Phillips "...has been giving out mixed messages about the present campaign by extremist Christians to undermine the equality legislation. A couple of weeks ago he issued a report saying that on the one hand Christians were finding their rights restricted by “too narrow” an interpretation of the law. On the other hand there were Christian activists who were bringing these cases not to gain justice but to obtain political influence. And on yet another hand, he didn’t want to see the rights of gay people trampled by the granting of special legal privileges and exemptions to religious people. So, out of that mish-mash of contradiction, we have to make some kind of sense." Read the rest here and you can wonder, like 80, just exactly what is Phillips blathering on about - and why is he paid £112,000 a year for working a three-and-a-half-day week? *also known as Shit Shinola Confusion Syndrome.

Papal Recognition - the latest edition of the National Secular Society's free email newsletter, Newsline, has an interesting piece on Rupert Murdoch. We learn "There has been some debate among Catholics as to whether Rupert Murdoch should be asked by the Vatican to return the papal medal he was awarded in 1998. He was recommended for the medal after he gave large amounts to a Catholic “education” fund. After he was “knighted” by the pope, the media tycoon then donated another $10 million to help build a cathedral." 80's grasshopper mind leapt into action upon reading this and recalled Spike Milligan's novel, Puckoon, and one character's Herculean, nay, Augean struggle with constipation. He had constructed an elaborate commode,"..the whole Easance was mounted on ball-bearings. A control valve shaped like the crown of Hungary would release steam power that would revolve the commode. There had been a time when the Count had aborted revolving at sixty miles an hour and had been given a medal by the Pope"  The Count was rewarded for ejecting shit - whereas the Digger was rewarded for packaging and selling it. (Also see Holy (Cash) Cow on the dilemma facing the Church of England and its £9 million investment in Murdoch's empire)

Lutheran Church's Closet Skeleton - the Washington Post has an article about Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party's darling, which is of interest for a couple of reasons. "The Lutheran denomination that GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann quit in June sought to explain its belief that the papacy is the anti-Christ after reports questioned whether Bachmann is anti-Catholic." Bachmann is apparently cleaning things up so as to be able to appeal to Catholics and obviously a church that calls the Pope an anti-Christ is somewhat of an embarrassment. When asked about this the pastor of Salem Lutheran Church (part of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) weaselled his way around answering, saying his denomination “...primarily views the office of the papacy as the anti-Christ, not the individual popes themselves.’’ So that's alright then. Now they need to be asked about their founder, Martin Luther's, well-documented anti-Semitism. Do they think Luther was wrong? Do they share Luther's prejudice? Have they read his book "The Jews and their lies" and if so, what do they make of it? See Straining For Faith and Martin Luther's dirty little book for more on the constipated ex-monk's contemptible views.

Quote - "The law of the land should not be stopped by crosier, or by collar." Enda Kenny, Irish prime minister.

July 30th 2011

The Stench Of Extremism - in light of the recent horrific events in Norway it is important to point out that genuine concerns over the Islamization of Europe should not be ignored or belittled. Islam, as it is now, is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and human rights. However, a Muslim enlightenment is unlikely to happen any time soon. Some commentators such as Seumas Milne have tried to tar all of those expressing alarm at militant Islam and the erosion of human rights by sharia courts with the same brush. The shock of the Norway atrocity and the purported links between the murderer Breivik and the English Defence League have led to cries for a ban on a march by the EDL through Tower Hamlets in east London at the beginning of next month. This may well be prudent for the hooliganism and violent behavior of the EDL is totally unacceptable in a civilized society. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, thugs and racists.

However, just because right-wing extremism is utterly vile it doesn't automatically mean that the Islamists trying to turn Tower Hamlets into a Muslim ghetto are the good guys. Far from it. They are trying to introduce the standards of early medieval religious barbarism to Britain's capital. This is unacceptable and must be dealt with by the forces of law and order. In particular the police's oversensitivity to accusations of Islamophobia needs to be addressed. This nonsense word, often used to imply racism, is a ploy used to stifle criticism. There should be no place for Islam's inherent misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism in a modern European country. Extremism of any kind must be implacably opposed and the fascists on the right are well-matched by the Islamofascists so popular with far-left accommodationists. These "useful idiots" seem to think that because the far right are violent, despicable scum this somehow vindicates those that are trying to Islamize areas of Britain. In 80's view the stench of the far-right and that of Islamofascists and their far-left enablers is equally putrid. A plague on both their houses.

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God - is a stellar compilation which includes Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker, Richard Feynman, Sir Bertrand Russell, Steven Weinberg, Carl Sagan, Brian Cox, and Sir David Attenborough. Fascinating stuff compiled by Jonathan Pararajasingham. (Headphone listeners - beware of abrupt changes in sound level)


(Can't see the video? Click here)

Faith No More - is a collection of short, some very short, answers atheists gave when asked why they don't believe in gods. Andrew Zak Williams in the New Statesman put the question to such luminaries as Maryam Namazie, A C Grayling and Philip Pullman, among others. The assemblage is, in 80's view, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Violence Is Not The Answer - an impassioned condemnation of violence from Pat Condell following the senseless slaughter in Norway.


(Can't see the video? Click here)

Children vs Church - the ripples spreading outward from Ireland's new found disgust and anger over the concealment of child rape by the hierarchy of the Roman church have reached Australia. Senator Nick Xenophon has a plan that all admissions of child abuse in the confessional must be reported to the civil authorities. The Age quotes Xenophon thus, "No church should be complicit in the cover-up of child abuse just so some paedophile can try and clear their conscience. The laws of the land should always trump religious practices. The protection of children should come before any other consideration. Freedom of religion is one thing, but it shouldn't mean anyone is free to ignore their obligations to report this most serious of crimes.'' The Age reports that "The church rubbished the senator's move, saying it would do nothing to help victims of child abuse."

Meanwhile in Ireland we learn "The Vatican has recalled its special envoy in Ireland after a damning report on the Catholic Church's handling of child abuse by priests. Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza has been called back to Rome to discuss the impact of the recent Cloyne Report." The Vatican press office said the recall "...denotes the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See's desire to face it objectively and determinately. Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions." Excessive reactions? These people raped children in their care and then concealed the crimes - what sort of bloody reaction do they expect, kneeling and asking forgiveness for raising a difficult subject? As the Irish prime minister said last week "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'"  Update - "In another sign of worsening relations between Ireland and the Vatican a member of the ruling Fine Gael party has called for the postponement of an international Catholic conference in Dublin next year." the Guardian reports.

Senator Cáit Keane said the Eucharistic Congress, which is scheduled to be held in the capital's Phoenix Park in June, to be put off in the light of the row over the Vatican's attitude to clerical child sex abuse inquiries in the republic.

A Ridiculous Rapid Response - Christopher Hitchens asks why did so many "experts" declare the Oslo attacks to be the work of Islamic terrorists?

Norway - after the horrific murders in Norway the killer's links with right-wing, anti-Muslim groups will now be put under the microscope. The lone, deranged bomber/gunman theory may well be correct but until his contacts are put under scrutiny this assessment cannot be accepted. David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University is quoted in the Guardian, "If I were speculating, I would guess he was annoyed because of the Christian fundamentalism far-right idea that Norway's accessible open culture was being undermined by immigration". (In the circumstances "annoyed" is hardly adequate) Many people in Europe are deeply concerned by Muslim immigration and the failure of multiculturalism, 80 included, but they do not subscribe to violence as a solution in any way, shape or form. The murderer Breivik is an extreme example of those who do react violently to such concerns. That he claims to have been in touch with the English Defence League is worrying and any such links, if true, need to be examined closely. Another of Breivik's supposed links, Stop the Islamisation of Europe has disappeared with the message "The authors have deleted this blog." Whether this is a recent development is not known. A correspondent (thanks Peter) recently sent 80 a link to a site which opposed what it called jihad in all its forms but "...without racism or hatred". The site itself did not seem extreme but it does in fact harbor some worrying links. When looking at a site always check where its links go - it can be most enlightening - as they say, you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. The piece below was written before the events in Norway.

August 3rd 2011

Biblical Cherry-picking - the Telegraph reports of another whiny Christian refusing to conform to a dress code at work. We learn "A Christian midwife is suing a hospital for making her wear trousers in the operating theatre – because she claims the Bible forbids women from putting on men’s clothing." She cites the Book of Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God." One has to ask does she follow the other laws in the Deuteronomic Code? Has she ever invested money and gained interest? Does she wear clothes of two different materials? How about stoning adulterers - does she go along with that? If a man rapes a woman does the victim then have to marry him? Does she agree that bastards cannot join the Lord's congregation? Does she think that when a married man dies and the marriage is childless the widow should then marry his brother?

One could go on but that short list shows that this woman is cherry-picking which part of God's rules that she will obey. Does she know better than her God? All one asks from people like her is a little consistency. She says “Reading the Bible has always given me strength. I believe that the Bible is truth and that its words should be followed wholeheartedly.” She told the tribunal that she considers wearing dresses rather than trousers “...a mandatory requirement in order to adhere to the scriptures”. And all those other rules are what - optional? Where did she get that idea? Not from her precious bible, that's for sure. Deuteronomy 26:16 clearly states "This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul."  Devout and wronged believer or publicity-seeking hypocrite with her eyes on monetary compensation? Wow, that's a tough one to call. Update - in answer to those who have asked "What about the Muslim hospital staff, they are allowed to have sleeves and wear head scarves?"  Such whataboutery is a complete waste of time - surely anyone with half a brain understands any compromising of hospital clothing standards is unacceptable? Hygiene and safety should trump supernatural guff and hurt feelings every time. (Also see Equality Commission determined to push religion up the hierarchy of rights)

Poetry Corner - courtesy of the New Humanist blog comes this amusing little item, "...performance poet Jamie DeWolf puts the boot into the legacy of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard – his great-grandfather – in a piece for US radio show Snap Judgement."  For more on Hubbard and his get rich scam religion, his lies and his fantasies see Bare-Faced Messiah.

Sharia Poster Boy - Pat Condell returns to the subject of publicity-craving, cartoon jihadi  Anjem Choudary (80's spellchecker renamed him Anne Cougar) and his coterie of plump, bearded buffoons.


(Can't see the video? Click here)

August 5th 2011

Not The Solution -  the Guardian has a Comment is free piece by Donald Reeves called Europe needs a grassroots movement to tackle the threat of Islamophobia. He does not help his argument, such as it is, by failing to define the word Islamophobia, or even stating what he thinks it means. 80 has shown elsewhere that Islamophobia does not have a standard definition. One of its most common uses is as a synonym for racism, employed purely to shut down debate. This is a nonsense in that Islam is a religion with claims to universality and not a racial group. Reeves opens his piece by referring to the recent Norwegian murders, saying "...there have been ample expressions of outrage, analysis and commentary, but little indication as to what must to be done to prevent Islamophobia spreading." Here he is deliberately conflating Breivik's horrific one-man campaign of death with a widespread concern that Muslim immigration is not good for Europe, especially the widely-held perception that the immigrants create their own enclaves and are not at all keen to assimilate. Here, and throughout the article, we run into the problem stated above - just what does Reeves mean by Islamophobia? Is it confined to the violent, often Christian right-wingers or do left-wing libertarian*, non-violent atheists like 80 get to be included? We are not told.

The closest thing to a definition is provided by this paragraph, "Expressions of outrage are no longer enough. There needs to be a grassroots movement across Europe to stand up to those who peddle bogus religious justifications, resurrecting memories of the Crusades; to expose the racist ideology drawn from nazism, in which Muslims have now become the new Jews of Europe; and to tackle the myth of "Islamification" and those who claim to be defending western civilisation, Christian and secular, from conquest by Muslim immigration and the spread of sharia law."

Again Reeves, intentionally or not, confuses justifiable concern with far-right hatred. His crusades reference appears to be based on Breivik's paranoid scribblings about "Templars" and other nonsense. In the next sentence Reeves reveals what can only described as his wilful ignorance. The Muslims are not the "new Jews of Europe" assailed by "racist ideology drawn from nazism". (They are also certainly not the "new Jews" in contributions to science and the arts) Anti-Semitism has not somehow morphed into anti-Muslim sentiment. Reeves has it arse about face. In fact anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe because it is, in part fuelled by Muslim immigrants, who absorb its poison early in life from the pages of their inerrant "holy" book, the Quran. Holocaust denial among them is also common - as is acceptance of the czarist lies in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They are supported in this racism by those on the far left who appear to blame all Jews for the actions of the Israeli government.

The Quran itself is a barrier to any true integration with European culture, for example, "Sura 5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.”  Not exactly a recipe for harmony, is it? Such an attitude would seem to justify, nay mandate, Muslim-only districts and ghettoes - a process that some see already at work in various areas of Britain, for instance. The Quran holds a much higher place in Islam than the Bible does in (most) Christianity and therefore plays a much greater part in forming beliefs and social attitudes. Perhaps Reeves could explain his theory of the "myth of Islamification" to the inhabitants of Tower Hamlets in east London or apply it to the existence of more than 80 sharia courts operating in the UK.

The best that could be said of Reeves is that he means well but his methods of addressing social conflict are rooted in the fact that he is an Anglican priest, information omitted from his Guardian profile but freely available elsewhere. This perhaps explains his wish to employ "vicars, imams and rabbis" to speak up for other "communities" that are perceived to be attacked or under threat. It also highlights a problem with his mission - that of defining people by the religious community to which they are deemed to belong. The less people are defined by their religion and more by their common humanity the better. Religions are inherently divisive as they all claim sole access to the "truth" and, surprise, surprise, they cannot all be right. A truly level playing field has to be a secular one.

Both the Christian New Testament and the Quran are clearly in conflict with each other. One has Jesus as a deity in his own right, part of a distinctly non-monotheistic Trinity, the other has strict monotheism with Jesus as one of a series of "prophets" and not even the ultimate one, that honor being reserved for Mohammed. The only thing the "vicars, imams and rabbis" have in common is a belief in the supernatural, which is not much a basis for unity. Instead, European governments must be more selective over who they allow to immigrate - although this is unpopular, as shown by the whining over British government's insistence that immigrants should be able to speak English, surely a vital requirement. Immigrants should make more efforts to assimilate - enough of multiculturalism and monocultural ghettoes. One cannot set up a miniature version of one's country of origin complete with Sharia law and all that entails for human, particularly women's, rights. The social services and healthcare in Western Europe are the result of modern democracy and to avail oneself of such benefits of the system without participating is not acceptable. This is not "Islamophobic", this is not racist, it is just plain common sense that should apply to all immigrants. (For more on Islam and Europe see the LibertyPhile. Oh, by the way, how Islamophobic are you?) Update - also see Can’t see the trees for the wood a review of the book Islamophobia by Dr Chris Allen.

Quote - "One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian." Mortimer J Adler The same would apply to their 21st century counterparts - if they knew any history.

Cops And Psychics - the author of the Skeptic's Dictionary (SD), Robert T Carroll, has an interesting article in the What's The Harm section of his web site. The subject is the recent absurd story of the Texas police running around looking for a mass grave on a tip from a self-proclaimed psychic. The combination of gullible police and irresponsible media  led to a ridiculous wild goose chase. The former are really the villains of the piece and are to blame for the absurd fiasco - to quote Carroll "The harm here is not that some mentally disturbed person thinks spirits exist and talk to her. The harm isn't that she called the police. The harm is that there are law enforcement officers who act on such flimsy evidence to justify kicking in the door of honest, law-abiding citizens."  While on the SD web site take a look around - it is great source of information and contains much more than the dictionary - which, by the way, is also available as a large format paperback. See also the dictionary entry on so-called psychic detectives. For a good skeptical investigation of psychic claims of a serious crime take a look at Did a medium identify a murderer? by Tony Youens and Adrian Shaw

Quote - "It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama."  Richard Feynman - see here for the full version of BBC Horizon: Richard Feynman - No Ordinary Genius.

August 15th 2011

No Choice? - with the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination frequently in the news, wearing their religion on their sleeves, the question arises are there any Republican atheists and/or gays and how can they choose between these bible-bashing, anti-science demagogues? All seem determined to dismantle the wall between church and state - church being the appropriate word as all are Christians of various types. Texas governor Rick Perry recently held a prayer gathering which attracted a crowd of 30,000. This Alternet report examines some of Perry's more extreme supporters such as the New Apostolic Reformation NAR. This bunch have a 50-state "prayer warrior" network. NAR is " A religious-political movement whose leaders call themselves apostles and prophets, NAR shares its agenda for control of society and government with other “dominionists,”..." Dominionists, according to this Wikipedia entry, are a faction whose "...goal is either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law."

Another Republican luminary is Michelle Bachman. As this New Yorker article says, she " an ideologue of the Christian-conservative movement. Her appeal, along with her rapid ascent in the polls, is based on a collection of right-wing convictions, beliefs, and resentments...." Furthermore "Bachmann belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians. Her campaign is going to be a conversation about a set of beliefs more extreme than those of any American politician of her stature..." Naturally, along with her rivals, she is anti-gay. Being gay, according to this diminutive monster is “personal enslavement,” and that, if same-sex marriage were legalized, “...little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it.” It is noteworthy that she and her husband run a clinic claiming to "cure" homosexuals, who are encouraged to "pray the gay away".

Bachmann is all for small government and yet the " has collected over $137,000 in annual Medicaid payments for the treatment of patients since 2005..." She is a hypocrite but then that has never been a bar to high office - just look around you. Neither she or Perry accept anthropogenic global warming (AGW) - the latter having said that AGW is "...all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.". Bachmann is also unconcerned, apparently everything will be OK as this retort to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shows "[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she’s just trying to save the planet. … We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet — we didn’t need Nancy Pelosi to do that." Also demonstrated is Bachmann's idiosyncratic use of English, - she makes it sound as if there were several saviors.

Both are, inevitably, deniers of evolution by means of natural selection. Here Perry uses the wonderful brain God gave him to effectively deny all of science "There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn't happen by accident and a creator put this in place. Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I'm not going to tell you that I've got the answers to that. I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there's enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory." How very articulate. The Young Earth creationism that he espouses pretty much ignores all we have learned about the world in the last 300 years. Bachmann, intellectual giant that she is "...believes that evolution is a theory that has “never been proven,” and that intelligent design should be taught in schools." She asserts "...there is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact ... hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design."  Bet she can't name them.

Quite what a conservative intellectual Republican with a rational, science-based view of the world makes of creatures like Bachmann and Perry is not known - perhaps all principles go out of the window when political power beckons. How must the Log Cabin Republicans feel when listening to Bachmann's ignorant gay-bashing? The "Log Cabin Republicans is the only Republican organization dedicated to representing the interests of gay and lesbian Americans and their allies. The 30-year old organization has state and local chapters nationwide, a full-time office in Washington, DC, a federal political action committee and state political action committees." It goes without saying that they are no friends of Bachmann but the more the crazies' influence spreads the less room the Log Cabin folk will have in their chosen party.

Austin Cline, asks the question "Should atheists vote for Republican candidates?" Some of his reasons for deciding no are Republican support for legislation that would -

Undermine the teaching of evolution and promote the teaching of creationism
Criminalize abortion in as many cases as possible, if not in all cases
Provide funding to religious groups that discriminate on the basis of religion
Establish prison rehabilitation programs that emphasize fundamentalist Christianity
Have the government endorse the Ten Commandments
Use government power to give a privileged status to Christianity and Christian beliefs

And this would only be the beginning. If you are the above-mentioned hypothetical conservative intellectual Republican with a rational, science-based view of the world and a visceral dislike of the Democrats it is beginning to look like there's no place you can call home. The Republican party of  Dwight D Eisenhower has fallen a very long way indeed.

There is one ray of hope, but not for the upcoming election or the next. This Alternet piece tells us a change is coming, a change "...confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it's begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining."

George Carlin On Prayer - "Trillions and trillions of prayers every day asking and begging and pleading for favors. 'Do this' 'Gimme that' 'I want a new car' 'I want a better job'. And most of this praying takes place on Sunday. And I say fine, pray for anything you want. Pray for anything. But...what about the divine plan? Remember that? The divine plan. 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? And here's something else, another problem you might have; suppose your prayers aren't answered. What do you say? 'Well it's god's will. God's will be done.' Fine, but if it gods will and he's going to do whatever he wants to anyway; why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me. Couldn't you just skip the praying part and get right to his will?"  The late, great George Carlin from You Are All Diseased. This expletive-laden rant needed re-visiting as a counter to Texas Governor Rick Perry's nauseating prayer fest.

Poor Effort - further to the Iranian foreign ministry's tame media's pathetic efforts to portray the recent rioting in Britain as poor oppressed "protestors" rising up against the monarchy (see Unbloodybelievable) this clumsy attempt at propaganda stands revealed as a totally bungled exercise. The Guardian notes that images of this "revolt" were mostly "... published by the semi-official Fars news agency, whose paymasters are the elite revolutionary guards, and Keyhan newspaper, which is under the direct control of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei". The images in fact range not only over several years but also several geographical locations. One originated from the UK 1984 miner's strike, another from a 2009 protest in Washington DC, yet another apparently from Chile and one from a London carnival in 2008. These pictures were tracked down to their original source by the diligent efforts of an Iranian blogger, Gomnamian - click here for a Google translation. The whole exercise would seem to be an effort to counter to Britain's criticism of human rights in Iran. All these clowns have succeeded in doing is demonstrating their ineptitude.

All In The Past - In an article about Muslim TV channels going into overdrive with Ramadan fund-raising 80's beady eye was caught by this comment "We want to be enlightened at this time of year with lively debate and discussion or a simple message of how Islam has benefitted (sic) the world." How Islam has benefited the world? That would be one very short show unless you go all the way back to the flowering of science in the Middle Ages. Since then? Not so much.

Enemies Not Allies: The Far-Right - is a new report from One Law For All which "... explores how the far-Right has attempted to hijack opposition to Islamism for its own ends. It focuses on the British National Party, the English Defence League and Stop Islamisation of Europe/America, and exposes how their activities, associations, opinions and intentions reveal a racist and inhuman worldview, which must be resisted and criticised with as much vigilance as Islamism itself."  Download the report in PDF format here. Also see the Stench Of Extremism.

Quote - “My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or quasi-legal, systems taking root in our nation. There is widespread concern that some tribunals applying Sharia are going well beyond their legal remit, and some rulings are being misrepresented as having the force of UK law. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for the English courts alone. I hope the Bill gets through, as I believe it is vital for securing the rights of women in this country.” Baroness Cox speaking to the Telegraph in an article about the spread of sharia tribunals. A foreign, religious, capricious legal system that reduces women's and girl's human rights has no place in Britain - or in any civilized country.

Unbloodybelievable - we learn "Iran has called on the British government to "restrain" the police and stop the "violent treatment" of rioters. The foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said dialogue would calm the situation, and urged the UK to respond to the demands of the "protesters"." That's very rich coming from a country that still has, and often uses, the death penalty. Britain has nothing to learn from this Grima Wormtongue, or his master. Iran hangs children in the public square for the crime of being gay. Peaceful protesters are snatched off the streets and subjected to torture and rape in Iran's prisons. A vile regime led by a theocratic dictator and they offer advice to the British authorities? Pass the sick bag.

Quote - "Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense." Carl Sagan

August 22nd 2011


Why Is The Guardian Endorsing A Racist Cartoonist? - oh, he's only anti-Semitic so that's OK then. The cartoonist Carlos Latuff was winner of the second prize in the Poison Dwarf Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial competition, something the Guardian fails to mention even though the information is on Wikipedia. In the article Latuff makes an excuse for his anti-Semitism, which he rebuts but does not refute. He says of course he is attacking Israel and not Jews - which is not borne out by his participation in the above-mentioned denial competition. There were no Israelis in the death camps. 80 has searched in vain for any cartoons of his mocking Hamas, the terrorist gang which runs Gaza - so Latuff doesn't do balance. For more of Latuff's "anti-Israeli" cartoons see here. Update - here is a good look at Latuff's hilarious cartoons - you can judge his "anti-Israeli" excuse. He is a racist and the Guardian and BBC can't/won't see it. The comments posted are almost entirely critical of reporter Jack Shenker and the Guardian for publishing this poorly-researched article.

Censored - 80 posted a version of the above paragraph on the Guardian site - it has been removed by a moderator. This a first for 80 so scrutiny of the rules was in order. The enlightenment attained therein has now given rise to a new posting as below.

"It would appear in writing about the racist cartoonist Carlos Latuff I inadvertently referred to President Ahmadinejad of Iran as a poison dwarf. It seems I had transgressed and the  comment was removed and I apologize for my lack of taste. He is, of course, a poison person of restricted height."

This went up at 20:32 London time. Will it last better than the previous comment?

What's In A Name? - "Palestinian militants terrorists and Israeli forces traded rockets and missiles on Friday in a cycle of attack and counter-attack, as funerals took place in both Israel and Gaza following the bloodshed a day earlier." Just helping the Guardian with respect to accurate reporting. Firing rockets into residential areas is an act of terrorism. See this from Harry's Place and this from Honest Reporting. As regular readers will know 80 finds plenty of fault with Israel but much of the media coverage is less than balanced.

On A Screen Near You - the Campaign For A Secular Europe now has its own YouTube channel. Contributors include Richard Dawkins, Philip Pullman and Polly Toynbee.



While He's At It - the Telegraph informs us "Pope Benedict XVI denounced economic structures that put "profit ahead of people" as he arrived in crisis-torn Spain where the cost of his visit has sparked violent protests."  While Ratzinger is in denouncing mode how about denouncing an organisation that puts itself ahead of abused children?

...And In Happy News - "Churches in the US are losing up to 1 million members every year. In Europe, secularization has advanced even further. The number of non-religious people, those who do not believe in God or any higher power, has reached approximately 40 percent in France and about 27 percent in Germany.....numbers of secularists are growing. By now, non-believers have even infiltrated the churches: In a survey conducted by the Protestant Church in Germany, 3 percent of Protestants admitted that they did not believe in God. Church leaders may seek comfort in the idea that skepticism towards God is limited to Western Christian thought. China, South Korea and Japan, however, are commonly counted as being amongst the most secular countries."  Source: Spiegel Online

But wait, there's more. See Atheists, Muslims More Popular Than Tea Party. According to a New York Times polling project, "Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right."  Also see Working-Class Americans Retreating from Church

courtesy Jesus and Mo

Quote - "Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything."  Robert A Heinlein

Ratzinger's Insouciance - we learn "Renova, one of Europe's biggest producers of household paper products, has launched toilet paper in the colours of the Vatican flag in honour of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Spain next week. Each pack contains two perfumed rolls of toilet paper, one yellow and the other white, which the company says on its online store can be used as giant streamers to welcome the 84-year-old pontiff to Madrid." Using it for streamers was the last thing 80 had in mind. Contrast Ratzinger's expensive junket for World Youth Day, financed by a cash-strapped Spain, with the 26 youths in Australia who "...had killed themselves after being abused by priests and brothers...". The pope should be Down Under begging forgiveness and firing the detestable Bishop of Ballarat, Peter Connors, rather than poncing around in Spain in his little red shoes. On top of this more shit is about to hit the fan in Ireland - Ratzinger better have plenty of Vatican toilet roll handy. Update - "Protesters take to Madrid's streets Wednesday to decry the expense of a rock festival-style, million-strong youth party for Pope Benedict XVI at a time of economic crisis. On the eve of the 84-year-old pontiff's arrival in the Spanish capital to celebrate lavish World Youth Day events, more than 100 groups opposed to the visit prepared to march Wednesday evening. The joint protest unites many causes, including groups seeking a change in the Church's attitude to gay rights and those fighting for a clearer separation of Church and state."  via AFP

Quote - "There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites"  Thomas Jefferson, quoted by newspaper columnist William Edelen, "Politics and Religious Illiteracy". Source: The Christian Nation Myth

August 23rd 2011

Not a Druid

Science and Superstition - 80 had a strong feeling of déjà vu reading of the attempt by self-styled druid Arthur Pendragon (YouTube) to hinder the scientific investigation of human remains found at Stonehenge. In the late 90s a skeleton was found at Kennewick, Washington, USA. This near-complete skeleton was estimated to be "...between 5650 and 9510 years old". The discovery triggered a 9-year legal battle between scientists, the government and a tribe of Native Americans who claimed that "Kennewick Man" (KM) was an ancestor of theirs and should be handed over to them. In 2004 a court ruled "...that a cultural link between any of the Native American tribes and the Kennewick Man was not genetically justified, allowing scientific study of the remains to continue." The Native Americans advanced the improbable claim that their oral history went back 10,000 years and furthermore that their people had lived in the area since the "dawn of time". This is nonsense and not borne out by the archaeological record or genetics. The tribe also played their trump card which was that the government's denial of their connection to KM was effectively rejecting their religious beliefs. Given the exaggerated respect for such beliefs in today's culture this was effective in delaying a decision for years. The remains now lie in a museum having yielded important insights into the settlement of prehistoric America.

There are similarities between Pendragon's story and the Kennewick saga that are worth examining. The Native Americans argued for a continuation of culture between themselves and KM. Pendragon, by his use of the word/title Druid is doing much the same thing but with, if anything, even less basis. Little or nothing is known of the historical Druids and what little we have comes from the Romans whose interests were more those of propaganda than history. Anything they say of this group that they hated and feared and ultimately exterminated is highly suspect. Any Druid claims by Pendragon are therefore without merit. Also Stonehenge itself predates the historical Druids by thousands of years and its purpose could well have changed over time. There is no evidence that the Druids were ever connected to Stonehenge - they could perhaps have used the place but no one knows. Tales of sacrifice by Druids among the ancient stones are merely romantic Victorian tosh. Pendragon's claim that the remains of 40 or so 5000-year old skeletons and fragments of skeletons "... were remains of members of the "royal line" or "priest caste" who could have been the "founding fathers of this great nation"" is utter moonshine. He has no credible evidence.

Sheffield University has been given the right to keep the bones until 2015 in order that a thorough modern analysis can be carried out. A spokesperson said "Research on the cremated bones is beginning to yield fascinating insights about the people of Stonehenge....Human remains are an important part of our shared past and they should be treated with respect. The benefit of the research is balanced with any ethical concerns that may be caused by excavations." Naomi Phillips of the British Humanist Association said of the affair "Druids have no more genetic 'claim' over the human remains than anyone else in Western Europe and similarly the remains are not of value exclusively to them. Their unshared beliefs should certainly not trump the wide and clear benefit in not having the remains reburied while they are still of such value."

August 31st 2011

Nadine Dorries

"Nadine, honey is that you? Oh, Nadine, honey is that you? Seems like every time I see you Darling, you got something else to do" Chuck Berry

Nadine's Nadir? - there is welcome news for those that think a woman should be in charge of her own uterus. The Guardian informs us "The government has reversed its position on moves to strip charities and medics of their exclusive responsibility for counselling women seeking an abortion, saying it will now advise MPs to vote against proposals from a Conservative backbencher if they are put before the Commons next week." Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire "...tabled an amendment to the health and social care bill that would mean all women seeking an abortion were offered advice independent of the abortion provider. The government will continue to consult about ways to improve counselling services for women seeking a termination but the results are no longer a foregone conclusion." For some reason whenever they are in power, right-wingers, particularly those with a religious streak, seek to attack women's freedom of choice. It is often implied that having an abortion is undergone casually as a form of birth control. Such an assumption has no supporting evidence and is offensive to women undergoing a stressful and traumatic experience. Note that the government will not vote in favor of Dorries' amendment but still reserves the right to interfere in the future. (But see here) The assumption that abortion providers cannot satisfactorily counsel women seeking an abortion is also without evidence.

As the New Statesman reports "The amendment argues that medics and charities such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service [BPAS] and Marie Stopes should be stripped of their exclusive responsibility for counselling on the basis that they have a financial interest in advising women to have abortions. Dorries claimed for instance, that both are "paid millions by the NHS to carry out terminations - and so profit from the process"". Dorries here is lying factually challenged as the report continues "...both the BPAS and Marie Stopes are not-for-profit registered charities that have no financial stake in encouraging abortions. As the BPAS states: "Any small surplus that we make is ploughed back into providing services." Moreover, as Marie Stopes points out, 20-25 per cent of women that speak to one of their counsellers (sic) choose to continue with their pregnancy." Dorries is attempting to start the UK on the path to the kind of legislation put forward by obnoxious Texas governor Rick Perry whose latest attempt to restrict women's freedom of choice involved legislation which entailed "...penalising physicians who do not display the sonogram images in front of a pregnant woman, or have her listen to the fetus' heartbeat, if the woman declines that information." This and "...a provision that would force women pregnant from rape or incest to certify that in writing if they do not wish to hear a doctor's explanation of the sonogram images." A US federal has now blocked this legislation, albeit temporarily.

The British MP Dorries is no paragon of virtue and has had a somewhat chequered career with her deceit over expenses claims, which led to her having to apologize to her constituents. She has similarly been cavalier with the truth on her blog, as detailed here. These instances have led to accusations that she uses her anti-abortion activism to deflect attention from the controversy over her expenses claims - an allegation which has an element of truth, in 80's opinion. Fitting in with her right-wing agenda is her stated wish to promote abstinence education to schoolgirls. There is no evidence to support the claim that such teaching does anything whatsoever to lower the incidence of teen pregnancies but politicians in general and Dorries' type in particular are not bothered about things like evidence. Ideology trumps fact. This was also the case when Dorries employed an anti-abortion hoax, the "Hand of Hope", which has been doing the rounds on certain Christian web sites in her argument against abortion - as detailed here by Ben Goldacre. Her response to being informed of the nature of the hoax was predictable - denial. Dorries displays many of the characteristics of the American Tea Party loons - perhaps she would like to emigrate. Update - see Nadine Dorries’ abortion proposals – Fact and Fiction from Newsline, the National Secular Society's free weekly email newsletter. You subscribe here. Also see Anti-abortion bid in disarray as critics rally - there is a smell of rat in the air "The campaign to toughen Britain's abortion laws was losing momentum as Tory MPs on Friday backed a rival amendment and questions emerged about links to Christian counselling services that might benefit from the proposed reform."  Dorries is now under pressure to reveal her backers. Update - Cameron's slapdown "Today Cameron turned the mockery treatment on Nadine Dorries, his latest political foe. There is nothing more dangerous in politics than descending into a figure of fun."

Quote - "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."  H. L. Mencken

What's Missing? - the Telegraph features a slideshow on Rioting and looting: Britain's 'moral collapse' in pictures. Understandably there are plenty of shots of hooded looters but where are the post-crash, bonus-laden fat cat bankers and the MPs gorging on fiddled expenses? Missing. So, not really the full picture then.

(courtesy Jesus and Mo)

Hunky Jesus* - "I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who's built like a brick shithouse." Artist Stephen Sawyer "...whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model." It all sounds very camp and Village People-ish. The New Testament Jesus character is inconsistent and contradictory making it easy to cherrypick and make up your own version. For instance here he is on violence, "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" (Gospel of Matthew 10:34) and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Gospel of Matthew 5:9) or “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.” (Gospel of Luke 22:36) and "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Gospel of Matthew 26:52) This "Muscle Mary" Jesus is just another one. *With apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Is God Good For Votes? - you bet. Following Richard Dawkins' welcome attack on the perceived Republican front-runner Rick Perry here is a piece by Christopher Hitchens in which he wonders whether the Texas governor actually believes the religious bullshit he spouts so frequently. On the subject of religious bullshit, although she is now trying to play it down, Michelle Bachmann said of Hurricane Irene and the recent East Coast earthquake "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' " Her spokeswoman now says it was a joke but it didn't play that way for many. God help America if either of these ignoramuses get to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Also see Perry's Polluting Puppetmaster aka "...Harold Simmons, a Dallas mega-billionaire industrialist who has donated well over a million dollars to Perry’s campaign committees recently. With Perry’s eager assistance—and despite warnings from Texas environmental officials—Simmons has gotten approval to build an enormous radioactive waste dump on top of a crucial underground water supply."

Republicans Against Science - is an op-ed by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Scientifically literate politicians are, to use the phrase, as rare as rocking-horse shit. If there are any left in the so-called GOP they must be keeping their heads down.

Chiropractic - a history. The origins of the "therapy" which, along with homeopathy, is one of the most successful types of quackery afflicting people's wallets and purses. Darryl Cunningham illustrates the story of D D Palmer's momentous discovery that bullshit combined with salesmanship can be a licence to print money. Also see Chirobase for more on this bogus treatment and Chiropractic's Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes  (Thanks to Orac for the heads-up)

A Sore For Site Eyes - Why is it that loons think their point is better made by using a multiplicity of fonts in a range of colors and sizes with words inconsistently underlined leading one to mistakenly take them for links plus other, seemingly random passages marked in day-glo yellow, as though with highlighter? This site "The non-moving Earth & anti-evolution web page of The Fair Education Foundation, Inc. Exposing the False Science Idol of Evolutionism, and Proving the Truthfulness of the Bible from Creation to Heaven..."  is a classic of its irrational kind. (Thanks to ASKE for the heads-up)

An Uneducated Fool - and he is far from alone. Richard Dawkins lays into Texas ignoramus Governor Rick Perry and laments, as does does 80, the dumbing down of the Republican party - see No Choice. Here Dawkins is at his withering, waspish best. The anti-science stance of his fellows (and their followers on the Christian right) makes the statement by Republican candidate Jon Huntsman all the more admirable "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy"  It is a sign of the sickness of the Republican party that Huntsman had to put it this way. He has no doubt blown away whatever slim chance he had in the race by merely saying that he prefers the truth over nonsense, no matter how comforting such nonsense may be. (Also see P Z Myers, who is no slouch at putting clods in their place, on Dawkins and the "accommodationists" Note Pharyngula's new home at Free Thought Blogs) Also see Evolution threatens Christianity, a fine article by Paula Kirby. Find more from her here.







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