Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hamas Quagmire...

The international community yesterday called on Hamas to recognise Israel and renounce violence in the wake of the militant Islamic group's electoral victory last week, or face a reduction in funding for the Palestinians.

On the face this appears a fairly balanced trade-off: of course Hamas must recognise the right of Israel to exist. For one, it would be impossible to continue a peace process in which one of the partners doesn't recognise the right to existence of the other.

But look a little below the surface and it becomes clear that cutting funding may well make matters worse. Firstly, from a humanitarian point of view, this kind of sanctions is likely to hit the already worst hit worst: the estimated 1.2 million Palestinian refugees, living in camps in Palestine as well as neighbouring states.

Secondly, the PA is virtually bankrupt as it is. It's hard to tell what exactly cutting funds will achieve but a further radicalisation of the Hamas group in particular and the Palestinians in general is a likely and dangerous outcome.

Thirdly, it's almost certain that if the EU and the US cut funds to the Palestinians, others sympathetic to their cause, in particular Iran and possibly Syria, will step in to make up the balance. That too, presents the danger of further radicalisation of Hamas and complete breakdown of the Roadmap project.

I maintain that the Hamas victory presents
an opportunity to engage this group in politics and diplomacy and defuse the more radical side of its ideology. Today's revolutionaries invariably end up as tomorrow's political leaders.

So before we start cutting funds and make the situation worse, much diplomacy is needed. Hamas will have to be convinced that at least moderating its stance on Israel's existence is a sine qua non for progress of the peace process.

I wonder what Sharon would have made of all of this...

And how will this situation affect the planned evacuation of the Amona West Bank settlements?

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

George Galloway's alive and well...

Despite Gorgeous George's eviction from the Big Brother house and meeting a clearly mixed reaction (he wasn't the only one either), I'm convinced Galloway's career is far, far from over. Politicians are tough cookies and this one is one of the steeliest amongst them. Expect a serious fight...

Galloway is a figure most people either love or hate, although I seem to be somewhat the exception here: I do both.

What is it exactly that so riles a lot of people? I find it hard to define because it seems to be very much at the emotive level. Some will invoke Galloway's alleged ties to the Hussein regime but that's spurious reasoning: Galloway wasn't a Saddam stooge, as he's convincingly proven himself. The fraud allegations? We've heard a lot of these recently including a £150,000 libel case which Galloway convincingly won and a crushing victory in the US Senate against similar allegations. We'll have to see how the recent SFO affair pans out but I'm not too worried for George and promise to eat my hat if I'm proven wrong. And the gutter press, usually rather unperturbed about what goes on outside the self-tittilating celebrity bubble, are all of a sudden quick to rehash old pics of Galloway meeting Hussein: devoid of context, it only serves to sell more bogpaper, of course...

Was Galloway wrong to participate in "da house"? Only in the sense that shows like BB are amongst the stupidest things ever published, bar perhaps
The X-Factor. Or aren't these things quite as stupid as I'd like to them make out to be? Perhaps it's me that's being stupid? You could easily argue that, in the sense that Endemol UK have created a licence to print money from thin air. Mercilessly exploiting and adding to our already celeb obsessed "culture", however, poses in the long run rather a threat to what society stands for: trivialising the serious and making the serious a trivial matter, to be confined to late night spots for "boffins and geeks", can do us no good. It's a scorched-earth tactic: grab it while you can! A world for juveniles only...

Besides, anyone who opens a sentence with: "I'm a great person and I've a lot of love in my heart" deserves shooting at dawn, unreservedly. Effing egotrippers! "Chantelle" may be a "nice person", I don't know, but does that deserve celebrity status?

The "cat incident" merely showed that all participants were able to make complete idiots of themselves in equal measure, it rather seems to be the object of the show, apart of course from trying to catch a couple whilst having "nookie" and chicken feeding the string'm up press with big bucks non-stories.

Then there was the general condemnation from the political world that merely shows that many there are prejudiced and have ulterior motives. The consensus seemed to be that Galloway was now effectively politically dead. They wish...

Galloway's MP salary was suspended during his stay and that means he was on holiday, during which period he's entitled to do as he pleases.

For any Lib Dems involved in the "cry wolf" game, I'd rather shut up if I was them right now since as they've shown themselves to be a rather internecine, drinking, lying and whoring bunch. Effectively politically dead are the words that spring to mind. And I actually gave you my vote a couple of times, you mingers. Who'll be devouring most of the corpse, the Brairites or the Cameblairons?

So what do I like about Galloway?

His unrelenting and articulate opposition to the Iraq war for one. Whenever New Right Labour has to defend their Iraq policy, they roll out some young Turk who then gets invariably and indelibly mauled by George.

A dissident who got evicted from New Labour, started his own party and led it to considerable election success is another.

He'll be back, I'm sure of it and he's got my support. Hasta la vista, George...

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Aliens Abducted Saddam's WMD with Syrian Compliance!

In a blogpost by Timmer, he refers to a book by General Sada in which our military man and publicist, posits the theory that Saddam dispatched his infamous WMD to "their ally" Syria, in the period when the attack on Iraq was imminent. The book, rather predictably, is called "Saddam's Secrets".

Timmer gets his common wisdom on this invaluably comical information from
an article in the New York Sun (why do all wacky newspapers the world over have the word "sun" in their title?) The article also sports an advert for "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World": well, look no further.

General Sada (what's in a name!) is clearly looking to peddle some conspiracy theorist "literature" to that part of the world's population that still believes Saddam did have WMD, "we just didn't find them!", something even Bush or Blair don't believe anymore.

From the article:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

Travelling in style...

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

Yes, the pilots wanted a small cut too!

"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

Sure, sure...

Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada's claim independently will face difficulty.

You don't say...

The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.

Syrian Marxism is really alive and well, isn't it? No, you twits! Mention Marx and it acts like a red flag to a bull...

Without the slightest shimmer of doubt this kind of story will quickly circulate and the rumour will die about as soon as, say, the JFK conspiracy...

No, then I much prefer the good old "T'wos aliens wot did it, wif big, big Uffoos!", with our without Syrian consent...

Sorry Timmer, couldn't help getting in here.

Coming soon in this series:

"Sadder was really the love-child of Bush Sr and Laura B.!"
"Intelligent Gravity: How God refutes Relativity Theory"

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Hamas Election Victory...

What are we to make of Hamas' sweeping election victory?

In my view, the engagement of a terrorist group in the political process in such an important manner, can only be a good thing. History shows that when such groups increasingly politicise, they tend also to progressively demilitarise. Moderate elements from within start to dominate and gain increasing momentum. Sinn Fein is an excellent example.

Hamas has said its year-long ceasefire demonstrates that it is committed to the political path. But last night, Dr Zahar said his organisation reserved the "right to resist" Israeli attacks on its activists and Palestinian territory. "We are under occupation. The Israelis continue aggression against our people: killing, detentions, demolitions. In order to stop this, we are entitled to self-defence by all means including using guns. If the Israelis stop their aggression, we will be committed to the quiet," he said.

Reactions from world leaders didn't vary much:


Mr Bush implicitly acknowledged that it would be difficult to shun a movement that has won a fair election at a time when the west is pressing other Arab countries to democratise. He said the result was a "wake-up call" for the old Palestinian leadership.


Tony Blair said Hamas had won a powerful mandate, but must decide "between a path of democracy or a path of violence".

From Israel, the same old "terrorist rhetoric":

"If a government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a coalition partner is established, the Palestinian Authority will turn into an authority that supports terror," said Mr Olmert. "Israel and the world will ignore it and make it irrelevant."

Via The Guardian.

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Horizon, Dawkins, Attenborough and the War on Science.

Last night's Horizon screened a 50 minute-long look at the phenomenon of Intelligent Design (ID), the proposed alternative "scientific theory" to evolutionary biology, in an edition called "War on Science". The program briefly featured appearances by Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough.

The title itself will have caused irritation with the more legitimate proponents of ID, who maintain their ideas are rational and aren't based on any ulterior motive.
Many in the evolutionary camp claim that the ID movement seeks to sneak religion into the science class, by attempting to prove with pseudo-scientific arguments that life was somehow helped along on its evolutionary path by an Intelligent Designer. For Intelligent Designer, of course, read God.

As regards the arguments for and against evolution/ID, enough said already. Dawkins himself sounded rather fed up with the whole argument and increasingly resorted to dismissing the whole idea of ID as mere junk science. Understandably, as Dawkins et al have spent so much time and energy successfully debunking ID as bogus at best and not science at worst. Dawkins goes further by saying that discussing evolution with Creationists is futile and actually attributes credibility to junk science.

Fairly refreshing perhaps was the appearance of ID's two most prominent proponents, William Dembski and Michael Behe. Listening to these people "in person", it's hard to see how these rather soft-spoken scientists could mount a significant "War on Science" (see Edit below).

But Dembski and Behe are but the tip of the iceberg of the ID movement which in its ranks also counts quite a few religious science workers and a significant slice of Religious Fundamentalists of various stripes, at least in the US. Part of ID's popularity is due to the languid nature of its definition: ID-ers range from rather literal Creationists (although Dembski and Behe distance themselves clearly from this idea), to Young Earthers (ditto), Old Earthers and finally ID proper,
Discovery Institute-style.

Is ID really a movement and does it seek to reassert the role of Religion in education and society at large? It's rather hard to escape this impression.
The Wedge Document, an anonymously released letter of intent by the Discovery Institute doesn't beat around the bush (from Wiki):
This opening paragraph immediately betrays the Discovery Institute's agenda: to establish a perception of western Christianity as the dominant religion in the world - in terms of the creation of democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in science. This is like the statements of faith signed by other creationist organisations: the DI has its conclusions, now it just needs to find the science to fit it.

The statement that western civilisation is built on the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is discussed at...

The Discovery Institute clearly sees the state of the current world order as the result of Scientific Materialism's attack on a more religiously inspired worldview. That in itself is rather hard to argue with. The advance of science as a method of investigation, source of technology and provider of explanations of what is observable in the Universe, has gradually pushed religion to the realm of personal experience and ethical or moral questions.

The Roman Catholic Church has quietly embraced evolutionary biology and big bang theory as valid scientific theories. The late Jean Paul II stated that ID has no place in science classes.

The debate between various forms of Creationism and evolutionary biology is of course nothing new and has been raging for nearly 150 years, since the publication of Darwin's Origin. No doubt this dispute will continue to rage for at least as long as that. Sigh...

Edited on 28/01/06:

Turns out that William ("Bill") Dembski isn't perhaps the soft spoken scientist I mistook him to be. A blog dedicated to ID,
Uncommon Descent. The Intelligent Design Weblog of Bill Dembski & Friends practically dominates Technorati listings on keywords like and possibly others like , and . The main contributor appears to be Dave Scot.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Britain's Emerging Police State

Like my fellow blogger Jultra, I have relatively little to say about this observer article by Henry Porter in
The Observer
, except "read it!" and comment below.

In some parts of the British intelligentsia, it's still rather bon-ton to go "tut tut" when you mention Britain's slide downwards towards totalitarian control of its population and the fact that the target isn't just the great unwashed masses either.

In the name of fighting "global terror",
a problem largely of our own making, there is no end to what the current mediocracy, posing as HMG, is willing to introduce to curb dissent, reduce civil liberties, spy on its citizens, stop us from demonstrating and generally give IT and CCTV business a stiff Christmas bonus...

Yet our Great British Public remains largely comatose to all this. The apathy due to a combination of being both overworked and plied with an endless stream of mindless televised "entertainment" makes it rather easy for the Government to erode rights that the Nation has had to struggle for, for hundreds of years.

It is this unwillingness and/or incapacity to see the Government's post 9/11 "security measures" for what they really are, that poses one of the greatest threats of our society. Don't let me have to say "I told you so"...

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Osama bin Laden Offers Truce.

In a new tape, the first in thirteen months, Osama bin Laden explains why no attacks on American soil have been carried out since 9/11 and offers the possibility of a long-term truce (watch part of the tape here, it's worth it).

Some in the West have already suggested the al-Qaeda may in effect be ready to negotiate. A precedent of bin Laden living up to his word exists, as the Spanish withdrawal from the Coalition of the Willing after the Madrid bombing did indeed result in complete cessation of hostilities towards that country.

From the US came the same old and tired rhetoric in response to the offer:
The US quickly rejected the truce offer made on the tape.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

From PM Blair no doubt the same strongman's talk will also follow swiftly. As long as the PM realises that one of the greatest successes of his Government was the signing of the Good Friday agreement, was achieved after years of arduous... negotiations with terrorists... But from this hubris-filled hypocrite nothing good is to be expected. Perhaps Cameblair could see an opportunity? Don't get your hopes up...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stirring Racial Hatred?

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, denies two counts of using words or behaviour intending to stir up racial hatred and two of using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred.

The race-hate charges arise out of speeches featured in an undercover documentary on the party.

I saw the documentary and remember thinking at the time that filming undercover in any old pub would probably have unearthed similar material. Filming undercover, that sounds so glamorous, doesn't it. But it's no more than spying on people, in the case of a journalist, for money...

Do I agree with Griffin's viewpoints? No. But that doesn't mean I believe he should be prosecuted for voicing them. There is such a thing as freedom of speech and it cannot apply only to views that are music to my ears. The argument that freedom of expression cannot be unfettered is a typical fallacy of the not-so-enlightened because it pre-supposes knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not. But to those who agree with this curbing of free speech, what's actually assumed acceptable is often no more than bon-ton tittle-tattle, a rather vacuous defence of democracy by the not-so-democratic. It is those same bird brains that have no qualms about sacryficing our civil liberties in the name of National Security that will support this well meaning folly...

What will be achieved by this prosecution? That depends on the outcome, which is unsure to say the least.

If Griffin and his boffins are acquitted, they will feel vindicated and strengthened to proclaim such views with an even stronger voice. A precedent will have been created and other racists and bigots will feel they too will be able to voice these despicable views with impunity.

Alternatively, if Griffin is convicted there will be (understandable) claims of a political trial and
it will drive him and his ilk further underground, where there views will further fester and rot, and find an even more bigoted and possibly more violent audience. Nice one.

And either way, the BNP is enjoying the free publicity; it will undoubtedly rally many more to their dubious cause. What the BNP craved was attention and that's what we've given them: a smart move indeed...

No, let Griffin et al loudly and proudly proclaim their opinions: those opposed to these views can then openly challenge them. Rest assured: we will...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Richard Dawkins - The Virus of Faith

So Richard Dawkins' The Root of All Evil Part 2 has aired last night. I must say that looking back on both instalments, I expected more than I got but then 2 hours (minus six commercial breaks) doesn't leave all that much room for manoeuvre and at times the programme seemed to suffer a little from overcrowding.

But looking at the blogosphere Richard Dawkins is predictably already being accused of all sorts, simply for speaking his mind on the "sensitive" topic of religion. In my honest opinion, the only really valid point one fellow blogger made was Dawkins' gaffe of stating at one point that "evolution is a FACT", during his confrontation with the Hassidic Rabbi. Apart from the fact that evolutionary biology still has to be considered a theory (albeit one with a phenomenal body of evidence to support it), it is also gefundenes fressen for those who want to brand
evolutionary biology (and with it atheism, just for good measure) as a new religion.

But most other criticisms tell more about the criticasters than their subject:

1. Dawkins' programme was a frontal assault, atheist propaganda: coming from the religious camp, it shows most theists still feel all should tip-toe around subjects like the existence of God and some of the central tenets of both Testaments. No doubt some will pray for us...
2. Dawkins spent too much time on fundamentalists and too little on the liberal side: in the programme itself he shows why; liberals have a pick-and-mix attitude to their faith which simply isn't representative of the core values of their faith. They end up sitting on the fence between science and religion without wholly embracing either. Is it necessary to make this choice? If you want too be logical about things then yes. But being logical is not a legal requirement... The fact that I'd rather sit down to dinner with a moderate believer than a fundamentalist, doesn't change much at all.
3. Dawkins wasn't being scientific. Well, this wasn't a science programme and to expect anyone to make a comprehensive, scientifically supported case for evolutionary biology and against superstition within the framework of a 2 hour TV show would be entirely unrealistic. And why is it that those who base most of their world view on a faith often require evidence and proof from others?
4. Dawkins is angry, so so angry: plain rubbish, someone who speaks out against religion will always be seen as having a chip on their shoulders by the religious crowd. I'm agnostic and Dawkins didn't come across particularly livid to me.

Nearly 150 years after publication of Origins, Darwin's big idea continues to be dangerous...

Some of Dawkins' programme had more of an anecdotal quality: the so-called "Hell Houses" weren't that important in arguing Dawkins' case but it was revealing to see to what lengths some evangelists will go to in order to strike the fear of God into children as young as 12 years of age.

It's a pity Channel 4 hadn't decided to make more room for this kind of programme.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

I Spy...

With my little eye a nation that's locking itself into a database and slavery grid, largely thanks to our megalomaniac President, Herr Bliar. There really doesn't seem to be an end to our puppetmaster's ability to come up with ideas to further erode what was once one of our most appreciated qualities of our nation: the upholding of freedom and civil liberties.

Last week it was the introduction (if you can call it that) of an old hat, reheated "package" of "measures" to combat anti-social behaviour, with the very old summary justice idea of on-the-spot fining and more ASBOs.

The ringmaster's latest proposal? To spy on our elected representatives!

Tony Blair is preparing to scrap a 40-year ban on tapping MPs' telephones, despite fierce Cabinet opposition, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

He is expected to formally announce to the Commons within weeks that MPs can no longer be sure that the security services and others will not intercept their communications.

The article speaks for itself, there's little I can add to it.

Gordon Brown announced plans to introduce a Britain Day and undersigned fool gave him a hesitant thumbs up. What was I on, I wonder with hindsight? Before we celebrate Britishness, there is much, much that needs addressing on these isles.

Perhaps Extreme Unction has something to teach us here:

To go further, the irony is delicious. Brown envies the American celebration of Independence from Britain. So there's the answer! Slaughter the Royal Family, burn down Parliament, and declare a new nation to be formed. We can then have a patriotism day each year to commemorate it. Sadly, it won't be the Union flag people are waving, and Brown will be too busy swinging from the gallows to enjoy it, but hey, I'm up for it!

Hat tip to Extreme Unction.

Tony Blair is a liar (Chicken Yoghurt).

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Safety First, Scottish style...

This, strictly speaking, is the first use of a speed camera as a CCTV device:

A UK court on Monday severely penalized a motorist for the crime of showing disrespect to a mobile speed camera van. The device had photographed Sean Toehill, 21, driving at 22 MPH in a 40 MPH zone on July 29, 2005 but police became enraged when they noticed he had given the camera a "V-sign."

At the time, the road was otherwise empty and police admitted there was no sign that Toehill's silver VW Polo was out of control or had ever drifted off-course. Officers nonetheless were dispatched to his home two days later to charge him with "dangerous driving."

The Cupar Sheriff Court in Fife, Scotland upheld the charge claiming even a momentary removal of hands from the wheel to make a gesture was dangerous (
see full image). Sheriff George Evans suspended Toehill's right to drive for a year and imposed a £90 (US $160) fine. Toehill plans to appeal the ruling.

Only in the Blighted Kingdom...

Bill Peschel, from thenewspaper.com.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

This Green and Pleasant Land.

Gordon Brown hasn't got a lot going for him anymore. Once the bright technocrat that made a reasonable Chancellor, he's now been waiting in the wings as the Successor for what feels like an eternity, but the PM seems to have no intentions of quitting whilst he's possibly still ahead.

By the time Our Tone has finished with it, chances are that New Labour will be in serious disarray. And Gordon stands to inherit the mess in Iraq, a fate I wouldn't really wish upon my worst enemy. No, I don't envy his position...

Now he's had the not so bright idea of installing a
Britain Day. Is this really such a bad idea? Possibly not actually, although I do have some reservations about it.

Firstly, do we need more flag waving and patriotism? Personally I feel we have rather a lot of this already and Nationalism and patriotism are in themselves rarely conducive to tolerance and dialogue. But in a multicultural society like the UK celebrating Britain should be about the successful diversity and inclusiveness of this country and it does appear this is something Gordon wants to emphasise.

Secondly, celebrating Britain would mean trying to define Britishness, at least to some extent. And we all know how difficult that is, apart from a few blinkered little Englanders to whom their way of life defines the whole concept. You could say beauty and Britishness have this in common: you recognise it when you come across it but it's hard to define. Not bad company to be in...

Here's a few attributes that could be considered British and the problems associated with them, arranged in no particular order, I hasten to add:

1. Roast beef dinners and fish and chips: definitely very British but also rather outdated.
2. The Monarchy: the least said, the better in my opinion.
3. Multiculturalism: hardly exclusively British but definitely one to include.
4. Binge drinking: something Britain Day will contribute to.
5. Sense of humour: rather a human than a British characteristic but we can't deny being at the forefront of the worldwide comedy industry.
6. Nanny-stateism: over-regulation and over-legislation could be useful to highlight in order to combat it.
7. Beautiful country and seaside: could bring back some British tourism to the green and pleasant land?
8. Cricket: not my cup of tea.
9. Cup of tea: not my cup of tea.
10. Scientific heritage: being an engineer by trade I've always been astonished how little the common gardener seems to know about the incredible impact British science has had on worldwide scientific thinking. One to celebrate, I feel.

Others may want to add countless other traits they perceive as rather typically British and make up their own Britishness, pick-and-mix style.

Ah, the power of reflection: Gordon, for now I'll endorse the idea and see how it pans out...

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UN Secretary Tony Bliar.

Now, contrary to some others on the left, I never saw Bill Clinton as a great President. Compared to what went before and what came after, sure, Clint was refreshing but that's hardly an accolade of achievement. But his sexual antics ("To stain or not to stain") were worth a few chuckles.

But Clinton doesn't forget his pals.

When asked on BBC2's Newsnight if Mr Blair should run for UN secretary general [my emphasis], Mr Clinton responded: "That would suit me. He would be a good one."

I didn't see this particular edition of Newsnight and don't know who posed the question and in what context but it would have been surprising if Fellatio Bill had answered truthfully: "NO, NO, NO. Tony Blair is a lying, right-wing authoritarian who clearly wouldn't be suited for the job of UN secretary general. Although Mad King George would be absolutely chuffed if his closest chum got the post..."

the BBC

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Impeach Blair?

In previous posts I've elaborated on my viewpoint that the reasons for Britain to follow the US into war in Iraq were all wrong. I saw it that way before the invasion and with the power of hindsight my misgivings about WMD, the 45 minute threat, Saddam's involvement in 9/11 and his role in "Global Terrorism" have been strongly vindicated.

In the light of this and with logical consistency I've called the prime architect of this debacle, PM Tony Blair, a liar and a war criminal and have called for his resignation and even impeachment.

Bizarrely and unexpectedly, calls for the impeachment of the PM have now come from the most unlikely of quarters imaginable: that most revered of establishments; the British Army.
The ex-UN commander in Bosnia General Sir Michael Rose said Mr Blair had to take responsibility for his actions. I'm not really going to comment on Sir Michael's statements as they speak for themselves and instead want concentrate on other aspects of calls for holding Mr Blair to account.

Calls for the impeachment of both Blair and Bush aren't new of course and Sir Michael doesn't stand exactly alone in his cause.

But would impeaching Blair actually achieve anything? Well, if somehow we expect Blair to be convicted and sentenced, then I'm convinced we are deluding ourselves: technically I don't think we stand a chance of achieving that goal. Whilst Blair has lied, told half-truths, cherry-picked "intel" and presented information in such a way that the general public could only misconstrue it, all this manipulation was carried out skilfully, and in such a way that would make a making a legal case that would not only stand up in court but also yield a reasonable chance of conviction rather difficult.

Others point to the danger of criminalising the political process, US style, and I find that a fair point.

Nonetheless, there is a point of principle to be observed here. In a country that is frankly obsessed with accountability and will make its citizens pay for even the smallest of misdemeanours, leaders who commit some of the greatest blunders in the last fifty years of British Foreign policy should not be allowed to walk away scot-free.

In a country obsessed with safety and National Security, leaders which put the country in great peril to implement policies that have been justified only on the back of a pack of lies, should be held accountable.

So, yes, please, let's see if we can let the PM have his day in court. He too can then defend his actions and we might actually learn something about Blair's real motives for supporting the catastrophe that Iraq has turned out to be...

We must however remain aware that impeachment is a political gamble: if the case is lost, the Blairites and New Labour will feel their past actions have been justified by the legal ruling. Imagine the damage it would do to our cause. Both Labour and the Tories would probably feel they had carte blanche for just about anything...

Hat tip to This Old Brit.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

The typical Evolution Apologist

I, Evolution Apologist.

That is what David Carlisle calls me in a post in response to
my entry on Dawkins' TV series Root of all Evil and the Intelligent Design issue. Yes, it's official, if you accept that evolutionary biology is a valid scientific theory, then in the eyes of Carlisle, you're an Evolution Apologist... You'll find the entire text here.

What Carlisle has to say about ID.

His [my] post essentially adds nothing of substance to the Evolution – ID debate and is a complete waste of time to read.

Carlisle's blog makes exactly three (3) references to ID: Carter's neism, to which I commented, A Contrary Notion - Evolution, in which our bigot calls evolution a superstition and then there's the entry which I mentioned above. We aren't presented with what ID actually constitutes, not even by means of references to authenticated documents or hyperlinks.

Minimizing past catholic suppression of dissent.

He [me] begins his article by demonizing the catholic church for reasons I don’t understand. Anyway he writes:

Catholicism for example hardly has been particularly tolerant of free-thinking people. It burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for promoting the heliocentric solar system, made Galileo recant these same ideas and confined him to house arrest and he died shortly after the trial. There are many other cases of religious and merciless persecution of heretics.

For reasons Carlisle doesn't understand... From the early days of Christianity, this faith has done much to suppress dissent and in particular scientific discovery that wasn't in accordance with the Bible's teachings. What's there to understand? Perhaps he's a revisionist? And why is this relevant to me? Because the Creationist/ID school is once again trying prove science is a man-made myth and not in accordance with the scriptures. Things do always come full circle.

Also, the constant proselytising by faiths of all kinds of denominations has in the past led to many crusades and will continue to be the cause of extensive bloodletting in the foreseeable future. Despite the willingness to debate, the dogmatic nature of religion can only lead to more irreconcilable differences between factions, over issues believers simply have to accept unquestioningly.
Using regrettable periods in the Catholic Church’s history to characterize the modern debate over the validity of ID marks his [mine] the first step in assembling his straw man argument against ID. Using this line of reasoning one could stigmatize scientists that support evolution by associating them with the horrific human suffering caused the scientists that developed the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or, perhaps the scientists responsible for the chemical weapons unleashed in WW1 and more recently in Iran and Iraq are representative of the modern evolutionist. This is a ludicrous argument that only attempts to deflect his audience away from the substantive challenges that ID makes against his sacred Naturalism.

This is just plain wrong: scientists simply aren't responsible for what others do with their discoveries. Fission was always there, it isn't man-made: man simply discovered it. The use of the first WMD was a political decision which I support.

Simply put, the inventor of the hammer is not responsible for bloody murders committed with hammers, nor is the manufacturer of kitchen knives responsible for stabbings committed with these utensils.

No politics please, we're American.
He [me] goes on to characterize the ID debate thusly:

This debate is almost exclusive to the US because it is fuelled by the Religious Right, a group that has gained significant importance to the point where it has almost certainly had a decisive impact of the outcome of the last two Presidential elections.

Where is his evidence that ID is fueled by the Religious Right? Once again he is parroting tired allegations that have become the accepted science, so to speak, among evolution reactionaries. If he means that the religious right intellectually finds common ground with a movement within the scientific community that is somewhat congruent with its ideology, then he is correct. For the Religious Right not to support ID would be news. But, what he misses is that the Religious Right is not altogether happy with the whole of ID because it does not exclude things like the old earth view of life’s origins – a bit of information he is either ignorant of or conveniently omits. But to insinuate that the Religious Right is the source and sustenance of ID with the end being to “sneak religious faith into the science class” is to demonstrate his ignorance of the subject matter. Once again it is merely a deflecting tactic.

The Religious Right may wish ID went even further than it does but on the whole they're as happy as Larry with this newfound ally. They really aren't as picky as Carlisle makes them out to be. Also, there are plenty of variants of ID to choose from.

You should know better than to ally yourself with people whose motives are almost purely political.

On science.

Then, he [me] teases the reader with the statement that “…it’s important to reiterate what exactly constitutes science.” To that I say, “Yes, let’s do!” That would be a welcomed break from his inept discourse. Would that be Popper’s definition, with a little Bayesian thrown in for good measure. Or, have you elected to adhere some other definition that countless others before you have been unable nail down? I read further hoping that he would at last resolve this debate that scientific philosophers have been unable to accomplish for decades. But, alas he doesn’t because any definition that he could offer is but one of many differing interpretations of what constitutes science.

Elsewhere on his blog Carlisle tells us he's no scientist yet goes on to inform us that the scientific method is basically wrong. His motives for this absolutely absurd assertion aren't hard to fathom. What really riles people like Carlisle is that evolutionary biology shows that Man ascended ultimately from the primordial soup (like all other life forms) and therefore is not God's Creation. Anathema! So, using a little Popper and a dash of Bayes, Carlisle claims single-handedly to see off scientific theory. Now evolution is no longer a scientific, therefore it must be false. Et voila, problem solved.

Not quite. Enter ID. But what is it? I've seen accounts of ID that range from ideas that sail very closely to the creationist wind, to ideas which seem largely to accept evolution but want to explain certain aspects by divine intervention. But according to Carlisle it clearly cannot be scientific theory, or else it would befall the same fate as evolution. I believe to woolly thinkers like Carlisle it can be what they want it to be. To me it remains quatsch, until further notice at least.

In my comment I asked Carlisle what he thought of the other great scientific theories, like quantum mechanics, chemistry, cosmology etc. I didn't get an answer. Presumably these contitute the child that is to be thrown away with the bathwater, to accommodate the mystical (and rather mysterious) ID.

Let me quote from Carlisle's blogpost on Carter's neism:
Just imagine the impact on the evolution vs. ID debate if evolutionists would finally agree on a unified definition of what science is and what can be classified as scientific evidence. It would be a tremendous gift to the creationists who would finally have a static principle against which they could make their arguments. I believe the result would be that evolution would collapse under its own weight. But don’t hold your breath. Evolutionists aren’t foolish, and if neism is as organized as Carter claims it is they are not likely to make any hasty moves that would jeopardize their hold on public opinion.

Clearly, to Carlisle, evolutionary biology is essentially an opinion and one that has a great hold on public opinion. And if it wasn't for the latter, Creationism would rise to victory.

Evolution is wrong.

Evolutionary biology is one of the many success stories of science because it explains perfectly and with an overwhelming body of evidence how life evolved from the primordial soup to the higher animals (and all other current terrestrial life forms) including humans over a period of about 2 billion years. The theory elegantly and compellingly explains the very, very gradual emergence of increasingly complex living systems.

By this time I started wondering which moon he has been living on for the last 20 years. Actually evolution does no such thing and is far from perfect. For instance, evolution has no explanation for modern discoveries in microbiology such as how molecular machines, which are the very basis of life, developed from the primordial ooze. Perhaps he has one that he can provide, because evolutionary biology is stunningly silent on this foundational element of its sacred theory. This is one of many obstacles that this “perfect” explanation has yet address. His claim that evolutionary biology is a perfect explanation to the origins of life is neither intellectually honest nor is it scientifically accurate.

The fact that science in general and evolutionary biology as a specific case hasn't yet got an explanation for everything (and may never have a complete explanation), doesn't in any way constitute proof that the theory so far isn't correct. The use of the word "perfect" was meant as an adjective, much like Carlisle uses the ridiculous "sacred".

And the assertion that science has nothing to say as yet about molecular machines is just plain bullshit. Again, it shows lack of understanding of how science works and how much microbiology has progressed.


It would be refreshing if Blogfast [me] would slow down and do a bit of research before he blogs fast and shows just how uninformed he is on the subject matter on which he is writing. My advice is for him to stick to internet marketing.

It would be refreshing if Carlisle would try and understand what science actually does and how it works, rather than just illustrating how uninformed he is on the subject matter on which he is writing. My advice is for him to stick to prayer-consultancy.

Personally, I'm a qualified chemical engineer with some fifteen years of experience in applied research. I started Internet marketing as a means of working for myself.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

More Intelligent Design prattle...

Now I'm usually extremely tolerant of any belief system, religious or other and a great believer in freedom of religion. But this particular piece of piss really went down the wrong hole with me. In a typical "Christian plotter's" way, David Carlisle sets about singing the praises of another blogpost
by Joe Carter
(who?) on the merits of ID and the alleged birth of a new religion, "neism". Another blogger referred to "neism" jokingly as "the Teachings of the Knights of Neh", the funny shrubbery-seekers in Monty Python's The Holy Grail, but neism isn't about that (unfortunately).

No, instead, neism, is supposed to be a new religion based on Darwinism (these religious types have "isms" oozing out from all pores). In Carter's own words:
...evolutionary biology has even birthed a new religion, a blend of naturalism and deism that I refer to as "neism.” In May 2004, I claimed that the problem with neism was that it was a “theology without a theologian” but that the time was ripe for ripe for a brilliant expositor who possesses the courage to reinterpret every religious impulse through a neistic framework...

Yeah, that's really going to go down well in the scientific community, even a nitwit like Carlisle sees no great danger to Christianity:
But, his [Carter's] concern about the rise of naturalistic deism is somewhat puzzling to me.

These people would do anything to avoid debate (I'm still waiting for a response to my comment on Carlisle's blog) but when they do, you can bet it's about as interesting as a discussion on the gender of the angels.

Also, these fun-loving Christians are so tolerant, aren't they? No, they aren't. A few quotes from the despicable article:
It would require a complex belief system to spontaneously generate from the disorder and chaos that exists in the discipline of scientific philosophy and thereby demonstrate that this evolutionary poppycock has indeed grown legs.

Evolutionary poppycock...
Most scientists are linked by a two common threads. First, they seldom agree on anything. They can’t even agree on what science is. A debate is raging within the scientific community over the fundamental issue of what is meant by the notion of a scientific method and what qualifies as scientific evidence. It has been raging for decades and doesn’t show any signs of cooling in the near future.

Scientists engage in meaningful debate, that's part of science. Christians burn non-believers at the stake and will simply kill others that don't believe in the ancient mutterings of a few long-gone fools or don't want to live under the yoke of a theocracy. See also suicide bombers...
In addition there is such a strong anti-religion undercurrent in scientific thought that anything resembling a religious movement within science is unlikely. I fail to see what would entice the average scientist to embrace Carter’s neism.

Let me see, I wonder where the undercurrent comes from (it's by no means widespread, let me assure you of that)? Religious persecution of sceptics and scientists alike perhaps?
So when the scientific evidence is questionable, evolutionists have the luxury of changing the definition of scientific evidence they use to support their assertions based on the philosophy that best fits their needs.

Evolutionists aren’t foolish, and if neism is as organized as Carter claims it is they are not likely to make any hasty moves that would jeopardize their hold on public opinion.

"Evolutionists", "Communists", "Sodomists", "Atheists": bad, bad people... Let's... burn'em!

Historical crimes against humanity committed by various Christian denominations are about as bad as, say the Nazi Holocaust and Nazi War crimes in WWII. Let's not forget that world domination was once a goal they successfully achieved. These people are outright dangerous. Evil, one might say, and I don't use that word often.

Thankfully, the navel-staring kind that Carlisle and Carter are, aren't likely to make up a great danger to our way of life and put ID in any positive spotlight. Keep praying, lads...

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Root of All Evil...

is the title of Richard Dawkins' Channel Four series on religion, much anticipated by many, already pre-emptively vilified by others. Dawkins is one of the leading evolutionary biologists of these times and author of several books on the subject of evolutionary biology (evolution, for short), perhaps most notably The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable.

My first impression, in the run-up to the actual programme and judging by the trailer, was that Dawkins was threading on thin ice. This kind of subject matter tends to add fuel to the fire of religious polarization. But why should Dawkins feel obliged to observe the sensitivity of religions to questioning and criticism? Catholicism for example hardly has been particularly tolerant of free-thinking people. It burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for promoting the heliocentric solar system, made Galileo recant these same ideas and confined him to house arrest and he died shortly after the trial. There are many other cases of religious and merciless persecution of heretics.

Without a shadow of doubt Dawkins' decision to so transparently address the subject of how destructive organised religion can actually be, is inspired by the current debate (if you can all it that) between the Intelligent Design (ID) people and mainstream evolutionary biologists. This debate is almost exclusive to the US because it is fuelled by the Religious Right, a group that has gained significant importance to the point where it has almost certainly had a decisive impact of the outcome of the last two Presidential elections.

ID is nothing more than a thinly disguised form of Creationism, the story of how God created the World and everything in it in six days, according to the Book of Genesis. ID concocts an unholy cocktail of evolution with a guiding hand of God thrown in. The Religious Right and its evangelists want Creationism to be taught in science classes, alongside evolutionary biology, as an equivalent and valid scientific theory and ID is the Trojan horse that would sneak religious faith into the science class through the back door.

But ID is not a scientific theory.

Firstly it's important to reiterate what exactly constitutes science. Let's start by showing what it is not: a Truth Machine. Science cannot establish absolute truths, it does not attempt to do so, and rather it does the opposite. Instead scientists put forward hypotheses regarding the World and then attempt to put together a body of evidence that supports these hypotheses, much in the same way as a prosecutor tries to put together a case that can prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Theories that have behind them a sufficiently large and convincing body of evidence and have shown to have strong predictive power (the power to predict the outcome of experiments) become "established" but that does not make them absolute truths. Very often the theory will later be shown to incomplete or (wholly or partly) incorrect and will require replacing or refining. Science is therefore an ongoing and iterative process. It cannot establish truth with absolute certainty. But the theories it has developed, honed and polished in a long, arduous and sometimes painful process have an impressive power to predict the future (in terms of future observations).

Evolutionary biology is one of the many success stories of science because it explains perfectly and with an overwhelming body of evidence how life evolved from the primordial soup to the higher animals (and all other current terrestrial life forms) including humans over a period of about 2 billion years. The theory elegantly and compellingly explains the very, very gradual emergence of increasingly complex living systems.

Religion and with it ID/Creationism, is an entirely different way of thinking (some, like Dawkins, provocatively call it "unthinking"). Of the believer is asked that he or she accepts without questioning, doubt or skepticism, principles that have been outlined centuries ago, as absolute, unshakable, immutable, eternal truths, decreed by God. This is faith: blind acceptance without requiring or requesting any form of proof or evidence.

ID in a half-hearted way accepts the theory of evolution, and then tries to undermine it by stating that the complexity of life cannot have arisen without the guiding hand of an omnipotent God. To those who understand evolutionary biology this is of course all very tiring: the theory set out to demonstrate exactly how the complexity of life gradually arose over the eons of time and it succeeded brilliantly. No need for a Meddler in the Skies, but thanks all the same. ID is nothing but a half-way house: evolution in moderation with a good dollop of God mixed in. Proponents of ID present precious little arguments for their "theory", other than the old and tired "life's too complex for evolution to suffice".

As regards God, there are no direct or indirect manifestations of the Great Bureaucrat in the Skies, and therefore we cannot say a great deal of meaningful things about Him, other than discuss His existence/non-existence.
For a discussion on this topic see this discussion forum, where blogfast is my nom de plume.

So, what did I think of Dawkins' programme? I though it was a brave attempt at debunking some of the myths that surround both science and religion and look forward to watching the next instalment. And Dawkins can no doubt expect bags full of hate mail and death threats: so loving and tolerant remain those blinded by religious faiths... Perhaps he can redirect some of it to me because although I'm convinced that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, including their religious beliefs, mainstream religion is really nothing more than superstition and the cause of many serious problems, past present and future. In the name of religion (of whatever denomination), an imaginary entity and His decrees, brutal wars have been fought and innocent but skeptical people have been persecuted and murdered. Today is no different and in the name of Religion we may face the largest conflict in human history yet. Not much reason to rejoice, in my humble opinion...

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sharon is Dead...

No, he's not, in fact it seems he's getting better. But politically speaking he almost certainly is, few will now invest their vote in a leader who's suffered two successive strokes.

To Sharon's detractors both in the Palestinian camp and on the right hand side of Kadima, this may seem good news, at least at first sight. Many Palestinians have never forgotten
Sabra and Shatila and the Temple Mount incident, the latter which sparked off the second Intifada. And to gangster politicians like Netanyahu, it will seem like a golden occasion to see Kadim off.

And we mustn't forget some of this man's
previous utterances and the fact that he made the use of the words "terror" and "terrorist" in conjunction with every time he used the word "Palestinian(s)" his trademark. As a result of this constant indoctrination, the average conservative American is convinced that the Palestinian people are nothing but a bunch of terrorists, who've called the current state of affairs entirely upon themselves.

But in particular the Palestinians should realise that Sharon was paradoxically perhaps their best chance to a lasting solution in the form of a two state solution. Sharon formed Kadima in response to Likud's increasing fossilisation and complete intransigence regarding attempts to bring progress to the peace process.

Sharon's actual plans for Kadima in terms of concrete policy weren't known at the time of the second stroke and now we may well never know. It's more than probable that the eternal political survivor would have made policy regarding Israel/Palestine on the hoof anyway. Sharon would almost certainly have been capable of forging the solid beginning of a lasting peace, had he so wished to do so.

To Kadima may fall the spoils of a sympathy victory vote. But will they be able to turn this into real political progress? Wait and see...

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