Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sweet Jesus and hypocrisy

Agent Banana at the Captain's blog

Hypocrisy. Aren't we letting the views of one religious group infringe on our freedom of expression? Not too long ago, some Muslims became outraged about a series of Danish cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed. We were outraged that some Muslims were outraged. Out of safety concerns or pragmatism, most Western media did not republish the images. We screamed that we were letting "others" tell us what to do. They were limiting the principles of freedom of expression, the very principles "we" are fighting for over there (where?). Some media outlets did publish the cartoons, such as the Western Standard. We bought t-shirts and bumper stickers with the images. This was acceptable. How dare they impose their views and tell us what to do.

Now several months later, an art exhibit in a New York Hotel captures the entanglement of commercialization and religious tradition in a chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ. The hotel, citing security concerns, has cancelled the scrumptious display. The gallery director submitted his resignation. This time, there will be no outrage that the religious views of some people are encroaching on civil rights. There will be no t-shirts, no bumper stickers. This time, it's Christians and that makes it okay for them to tell us what to do.

Can you imagine what would have followed if the Danish cartoonist had quit cartooning? It's absolutely acceptable to denounce the Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons because, well, we just don't like Islam that much. The religion is radical, backwards, violent, and savage. We aren't Muslim.

And that is hypocrisy.

The danger of Melanie Phillips

Published in the Jewish Chronicle - by Jonathan Freedland

[any emphasis by me]

It is an unwritten rule of my trade that you do not attack a colleague: dog doesn’t eat dog. We’re meant to show our teeth only to those in power, not humble scribblers like ourselves. But it is a tribute to one of my colleagues that her conviction and energy have made her a figure of genuine influence, one who has — as I shall reveal — moved beyond commentating on public affairs to affecting them. She is now more than a journo, rather a player in the national and, crucially, international conversation.

I am speaking of my fellow resident of this slot, Melanie Phillips. Though I always enjoy her company, I confess that I disagree with Melanie on most things. That’s fine: disagreement is a Jewish sport and we enjoy it. But in recent months, I feel Melanie has crossed a few lines that should not be crossed — and cannot go unchallenged.

First was a piece she wrote on her blog in which she condemned the Independent Jewish Voices group: it was headlined “Jews for genocide”. Now, as it happens, I have multiple criticisms of IJV — most of them amply aired already on these pages. But even their most trenchant opponents must surely blanch at the notion that these critics of Israel and of Anglo-Jewish officialdom are somehow in favour of genocide — literally, eager to see the murder and eradication of the Jewish people. I understand Melanie’s apparent logic — that by criticising Israel, IJV align themselves with a radical Islamism that wants Israel wiped off the map, ergo IJV are pro-genocide — but it is an absurdity, one that drains the word “genocide” of any meaning. For if Mike Leigh and Stephen Fry are for genocide, what word is left to describe, say, the Sudanese regime and their murderous assault on the people of Darfur?

But it was a sentence in Melanie’s January JC column that really got me going. “Individual Palestinians may deserve compassion,” she wrote, “but their cause amounts to Holocaust denial as a national project.” Read that line again. I have, along with the entire piece that preceded it. Think about what it means: that the Palestinian urge for national self-determination — their desire to have what we Jews yearned for so long, a homeland of our own where we might govern ourselves — is nothing more than a collective plot to deny Jewish suffering. So those Palestinians living under curfew and hemmed in by checkpoints aren’t angry about this hardship or desperate to throw off a 40-year occupation. No. Their shared desire, their national project, is to join David Irving in pretending that Hitler did not murder six million Jews. Of course, it follows that such people — a nation of neo-Nazis — deserve nothing, let alone a state of their own.

Some will tell me there is no point getting agitated by such sentiments, that newspaper columns are merely tomorrow’s fish-and-chip wrap. That may be true of what most of us in the column business churn out. But Melanie Phillips is different. She has acquired a particularly devoted audience — far beyond these shores.

In the United States, Melanie has a substantial following, with thousands logging on daily to her website or lining up to hear her lectures — several of the leading lights of American Jewry among them. They snap up copies of her book Londonistan, in which Britain — a rotting, decayed island awash with amorality — is on the brink of an Islamist takeover. Above all, they swallow whole her insistence that Europe is back in the 1930s, and that Britain now seethes with Jew-hatred.

I hear this from several well-placed leaders of Britain’s Jewish organisations, who have had to hose down their American counterparts. “I understand it’s not safe to walk down the street here as a Jew,” one US Jewish bigwig told a British colleague. “From what I hear, you guys are experiencing the kind of pogroms my grandmother lived through,” said another. Both these remarks were offered during recent fact-finding missions to Britain by major American Jewish organisations, here as if visiting a besieged community of Jews in peril.

In response, no less than the Chief Rabbi has had to join other British communal leaders to tell these visiting donors — associated with Aipac and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, among others — that London is not the Warsaw ghetto, that Europe is not an inferno and that there is no need for the big US bodies to come to Anglo-Jewry’s rescue. They have also had to explain that the US method of doing business — offering heavy financial help to pro-Israel MPs, for example — would not play well here.

Of course, it is mad to blame one person for shaping this distorted world view. But when asked where they had picked up this apocalyptic impression of the state of British Jewry, the Americans apparently cited one name again and again. Melanie will doubtless be heartened by that — but it might not be so good for the rest of us.

Call that humiliation?

No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch.

Terry Jones
Saturday March 31, 2007
The Guardian

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.
And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Atheists 1,205 - Godologists 778

Would we be better off without religion? It depends whether the best of humanity is already inside us or whether it needs faith to bring it out (asks a certain James Randerson).

Yeah, it's such a pressing matter, isn't it? Where would we be without superstition, huh? Without the Catechism, without the Qu'ran, without Protestants v. Catholics, without religious nutcase zealots like bin Laden, without Jewish religious settlers in Judea Samaria, without Jihadists, without Taliban,
without etc etc etc etc etc. It would be such a bad, bad place, this old world.

James Randerson - Guardian CiF

Religion belongs to "the abject childhood of our species", Christopher Hitchens told an audience at Westminster Hall in London last night. The author and journalist condemned the "medieval barbarism" of religious conflicts the world over and urged those listening to oppose the religious impulse whenever it shows itself. "It shows very well that religion is created ... by a species half a chromosome away from a chimpanzee," he spat.

He was defending the motion that "This house believes we'd be better off without religion", and he had some formidable artillery on his side - the philosopher Professor AC Grayling and the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, to whom Mr Hitchens referred tongue-in-cheekly as a "spokesman for the moderate wing" of the atheist movement.

First to pick up the gauntlet was Dr Nigel Spivey who teaches classical art and archaeology at Cambridge University. "When I'm asked to imagine a world without religion is ends up looking like the suburbs of Swindon," he lamented, after painting a picture of a grey and featureless world lacking religious inspiration. Erase King's College chapel, the Parthenon, the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal and you get the picture.

And for Dr Spivey's collaborators - the philosopher Professor Roger Scruton and Baroness Julia Neuberger - the benefits of religion went beyond great art. Baroness Neuberger said her opponents missed the profound inspiration that motivates many people of faith to do good in the world. "It was the strong religious sensibilities of Wilberforce and his contemporaries that brought an end to the slave trade," she said, "In my view if we didn't have religion, we would be more selfish, self interested, certain and cruel."

But Professor Grayling would not let that pass unchallenged. "You don't need supernatural agencies ... to see that human beings are capable of good," he said. This was a theme he developed in an interview with the Guardian this week that is available as a podcast. (As well as his views on God and religion he discusses Intelligent Design, stem cells, climate change and the seductive power of pseudo-science). "People think that unless you have a faith of some kind or unless there is a God then there cannot be a moral law. That's a terrible mistake, a very very deep mistake," he told the Guardian's Science Weekly team. Most people do not act based on whether they believe they will be punished or rewarded, "[They] do it out of respect for their fellow men and in many ways are more admirable as moral agents than people who are doing it because they think they have been commanded."

Professor Dawkins was offended by the notion that we need religion for great art. Michelangelo was simply forced to work for whoever had the money, and when he painted the Sistine Chapel, power and wealth were firmly in the hands of the Catholic church. How sweet, he wondered, would Haydn's Evolution Oratorio or Beethoven's Mesozoic Symphony have sounded?

Besides, said Mr Hitchens, there is ample beauty in nature without the need to believe in myth. "Take a look through the Hubble telescope and look at the beauty and majesty of what you will see," he said, "And you want to exchange that for the burning bush?"

For what it's worth, the atheists won the day with 1,205 votes for the motion and 778 against. And although many of the arguments marshalled on both sides were as old as religion itself, the debate ended up hinging on surprising territory. Both sides tried to lay claim to the virtues of doubt and to the idea that theirs was the more optimistic view of human nature.

Mr Hitchens wanted to defend society against "those who know they are right", while Baroness Neuberger said she did not recognise that picture of religion. The nice cuddly liberal Jews whom she knew were very able and willing to embrace doubt. "Belief matters a good deal less than how you live your life," she said - begging the question of why bother with the belief.

The real question is whether the best of humanity is already inside us or whether it needs faith to bring it out. For Mr Hitchens it is possible to have the good without the faith (and hence also without the interfaith wars in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and the rest). "It's called culture."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This 'commemoration' farce

Sunny Hundal - Guardian CiF

The real heroes were the slaves who rebelled and fought back and tried to bring some dignity to their people.

At the slavery abolition bicentenary yesterday, Toyin Agbetu from Ligali disrupted the proceedings by striding into the middle of the event and shouting for the Queen to apologise properly. The Guardian
has an account here.

The Archbishop had just delivered his main address and the service had moved on to "confession and absolution". But the reading was stopped in its tracks by Mr Agbetu's outburst: "You should be ashamed. We should not be here. This is an insult to us. I want all the Christians who are Africans to walk out of here with me!"

... After what seemed an eternity, Mr Agbetu was shuffled towards the quire, in the direction of the exit. But he pointed at the Queen and yelled: "You, the Queen, should be ashamed!" The monarch did her national duty by remaining icy calm. Mr Agbetu was now directly beneath the prime minister.

He turned to face him and Mr Blair glared back. The thousands of guests watched in hushed anticipation, wondering what would come next, wondering if Mr Agbetu might even leap on him. Instead the protester screamed: "You should say sorry!"

I've had my run-ins with Ligali before, when I accused them of stoking up tension over the Lozells riots by asking for a boycott of Asian businesses. So I'm not necessarily a fan, shall we say.

But in this case I think his sentiments and actions were justified. This so-called commemoration of 200 years since the abolition of slavery has been a farce for two reasons.

Firstly, over the word "sorry". It is completely right to point out that while the current generation of Britons had nothing to do with slavery. But the monarchy, as an institution, did so directly. The parliament did so too directly, until someone could not face their conscience and decided to ban it despite lots of opposition.

Pointing out that "lots of others did it too", as Simon Jenkins and Melanie Phillips have done over the past week, is a playground argument. The fact that some Arabs and Africans were also involved does not negate the facts: that it was overwhelmingly practised by whites in America and western Europe; and that it was driven by deep-seated racism that saw Africans as sub-human primates that could be used and abused at will.

Instead, we get people trying to take the moral high ground by pointing fingers at others in an effort to undermine British complicity. It's pathetically tragic. I expect that from Melanie Phillips but not Simon Jenkins, whom I hold in high regard.

The "commemorations" are also a farce because they seem to be more about canonising William Wilberforce than actually remembering the horrors of what happened.

Frankly, I couldn't give a rat's arse about Wilberforce. The real heroes of ridding the world of slavery were the slaves who rebelled and fought back and tried to bring some dignity to their people. You know, the people who actually died trying to change the course of history ... remember them?

Lester Holloway has written a spot-on sarcastic editorial asking why a film about slavery, Amazing Grace, can only stomach one black man in the cast.

It is like making a film about the German Holocaust and only showing good Germans, while excluding any images of the Nazis, or of Jews suffering in concentration camps. The story of Anne Frank told a story from the personal viewpoint of a Jewish victim, and Steven Spielberg's Schindlers' List did not flinch from exposing the frightening realities of the Nazi campaign of genocide.

The poster for Amazing Grace reads: "One Voice Changed the Lives of Millions." Perhaps one day we will get a flick told from the point of slaves themselves, called Amazing Resistance. We won't hold our breath.

I'm not surprised many British African-Caribbeans are annoyed. Yeah, I get it, white people don't want to watch a film where whites are the baddies.

But this absurd obsession with Wilberforce only points to one thing: the establishment is still having trouble dealing with the horrors of slavery. This whole state of affairs has been a complete farce and I, for one, am glad Ligali showed it for what it was.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ricky Gervais on Genesis

From his brilliant stand-up show Animals, here's Gervais on Genesis. If you haven't already, watch this, it's hilarious!

Part1: God makes light...

Part 2: the talking snake ruins everything...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Interconnectivity of Science Visualised...

One of the central belief systems of the Young Earth Creationists (YECs) is that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, in line with the Biblical version of Creation according to which the Earth was created just over 4,000 years BC (note: the bible doesn't actually say this but YECs arrive at this age by means of 'Biblical genealogy') Some YEC 'scientists' go further and are seeking confirmation of this fallacy by means of experimental evidence.

But there's a problem for these wannabe scientists. Not only has radioisotope dating painstakingly but conclusively shown the Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old, this result is also directly in accordance with Big Bang theory, which estimates the universe to be about 13.5 billion years old but also predicts successfully the elemental abundances of all
the building blocks of nature by means of nucleosynthesis. The true age of the Earth is also confirmed by other scientific paradigms, archaelogy for instance shows many historical sites to be older than 6,000 years.

It is this interconnectivity between multiple, related scientific paradigms that really poses the greatest problem for the Biblical literalists to find confirmation of their belief system by scientific means. Poking holes in existing evidence is their favourite pastime (and they're really pretty crap at it) but to really refute the existing theory one needs to come up with an entirely new, interconnected body of empirical evidence.

SeedMagazine has reported on a map that illustrates this awesome interrelation between the various scientific disciplines (click on the image to enlarge it).
This map was constructed by sorting roughly 800,000 published papers into 776 different scientific paradigms (shown as pale circular nodes) based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers. Links (curved black lines) were made between the paradigms that shared papers, then treated as rubber bands, holding similar paradigms nearer one another when a physical simulation forced every paradigm to repel every other; thus the layout derives directly from the data. Larger paradigms have more papers; node proximity and darker links indicate how many papers are shared between two paradigms. Flowing labels list common words unique to each paradigm, large labels general areas of scientific inquiry.

And here's one committed Christian who has contributed significantly to measuring the true age of the Earth, as well as educating people on how these methods actually work, including debunking a number of Christian myths regarding radiometric dating. Dr. Wiens became a Christian at a young age, and has been a member of Mennonite Brethren, General Conference Baptist, and Conservative Congregational, and Vineyard denominations.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Crackpots or cracked pots?

Those who claim that Christians are being discriminated against are wrong, but not mad.

Simon Barrow - Guardian CiF

It's very easy to dismiss those you strongly disagree with as a bit mad. Far too easy, in fact. Take the fulminations of right-wing evangelist Pat Robertson in the USA. Here is a man who apparently holds gays, environmentalists, liberals and a lot of other people he doesn't like as responsible for everything from an impending apocalypse to a broken washing machine. Hard not to detect a screw loose there, surely?

Well, yes, except that he has a clear ideology and procedure for "reading the world" which tells you why he thinks those things, untenable though I would argue they are. It's not an outlook susceptible to what philosophers call reflexivity. But it's amenable to being strongly argued against and shown to be inadequate, whatever the personal foibles (and political machinations) of its purveyor.

In Britain, the National Secular Society, which seeks to stand on the solid bank of rationality, has labelled those Christians who think they are being discriminated against in the UK "crackpots". The backdrop to this is a new BBC survey which claims that up to a third of Christians in Britain believe they have been subject to some kind of unfair prejudice on grounds of their faith - in the workplace, in the way the country is run, in the media and in the street.

Now some of these people may indeed be a bit bonkers. Mental health problems hit an awful lot of us, right across the spectrum. Its no joshing matter. The point is, what do such labels help to achieve or explain in political argument? Very little. They just make their users feel good (apparently) and forestall a reasoned debate. I'm not picking on secularists, either. Religious people certainly do it. Friends of mine do it. I'm sure I've done it.

Personally, I disagree profoundly with those who think that Christians are being picked on in any organised way. I think their selection and estimation of the facts is wrong, and I think their assumptions are incorrect. I find the ways some of them argue (as well as the content of their argument) disturbing. But I recognise that they feel wounded, and I am as concerned to understand why and to seek to address that as I am to put a contrary estimate of the situation.

I think the reason for mostly conservative Christians feeling discriminated against is this. They have grown up accustomed to the idea that Britain is a "Christian country" and that Christian institutions, symbols, representatives and (what they take to be) Christian values have a fixed place at the centre of our national culture.

Others now point out that practising Christianity is a minority pursuit in a multi-conviction society. They say that, in any case, Christians are a mixed bunch who disagree among themselves pretty vociferously. So privileging one outlook (particularly, one faith) is no longer tenable.

This means that Christians no longer automatically set the ground rules. They have to negotiate with others - and their Christian identity is not necessarily the ground on which this will happen. Moreover when churches and faith bodies receive public money and provide public services (as opposed to financing their own activities for an in-group) they are now required to do so on the basis of "comprehensive equalities" - equal access and fair treatment for all.

Irrespective of whether you think such funding is a good idea (I'm among the sceptics), this looks pretty reasonable to many - probably most - people. But to those who have been used to their cherished ideas holding sway in the public square, the removal of the ground from under their feet appears pretty threatening. It is the end of the Christendom era, the lengthy time in European history when the interests of government and church were mutually reinforcing.

Of course, we still live with the legacy of that in some pretty major ways: an established church, blasphemy laws, tax breaks, unelected bishops in a second parliamentary house based on patronage, and exemptions from various bits of legislation. But these things are under pressure too. They will not be sustainable into the next century.

So those who cry in protest have a point. They may be wrong to confuse the removal of power, influence and exemption with being discriminated against - but they are far from mad to see the writing on the wall.

What is needed is a reasoned argument about this, not a bloody row in which people question each others' sanity. We are mostly dealing with cracked pots, not crackpots, and they will not be mended or rendered usable by flinging insults.

For my part, I'd like to argue that Christians are entirely on the wrong track trying to defend the vestiges of a "Christian nation". The gospel message, long submerged by the churches' collusion with the state, is one of radical equality, a reversal of social norms, even. It argues that the first shall be last and the last first.

For this reason, Christians should not be out to defend their institutional privileges, let alone denying equal rights. On the contrary, they have an opportunity to embrace (rather than fear) a new status as a creative minority within a society which, helpfully, tries to offer a place for all. That fairness is something worth arguing for. But it cannot coexist with privilege.

In post-Christendom churches should be free to dissent. I hope they will. There is much to protest - like the appalling mistreatment of asylum seekers, on which the churches' voice has been strong. But in order to do that we Christians need to build something different: a radically welcoming community, and a willingness to put ourselves on the line politically and economically for those pushed to the margins. Now that might be really mad. But usefully so.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Coincidence or Divine Providence?

Following my post on religious homophobia and ensuing debates here and here, someone has shoved a Christian cartoon booklet and survey response card through my letter box (I'm not implying these events are in any way linked).

The booklet titled "WHAT IS YOUR LIFE" is about 2" high by 4" wide and 24 pagelets long and uses rather badly drawn cartoons to tell the story of a sinner and his road to redemption. At first glance, I'd have guessed this was the handiwork of the Jehovah's but the story doesn't entirely fit their particular brand of resurrection and "Paradise on Earth". And the response card says unambiguously "We are not Mormons or Jehovah's Witness's [sic]". They don't really say what Christian fringe group they are but the last page of the booklet does urge me to "Find a church where the King James Bible is taught as the complete Word of God and is the final authority". The
King James version of the Bible is the English translation of the Bible and these guys are thus most likely Protestants of one stripe or another. The response survey card's return address is a Spokane, WA P.O. Box but a UK mobile phone number is also supplied.

In this one-horse-town, with a failing infrastructure, an aging population and hardly any industry left besides a bit of crumbling seaside tourism, there is nonetheless no shortage of churches, old or new. A brand new Church of Christ has just been completed around the corner from where I live and I expect this latest attempt to win my soul originates from there. Not
divine providence after all...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Homophobia Justified...

On the comment section of a devoutly Catholic blogger (who will remain unnamed, I've no interest in starting yet another Internet feud), I found her justification for what is nothing more than plain old gay bashing, feebly disguised as 'facts'.

Here's the
webpage our intrepid Catholic serves up to support her bigoted beliefs aren't only religiously PC but also rooted in 'filthy facts about faggots'. There's really only so much I can stomach, so here are just a few gems. Not for the faint of heart!

The Statistics on Homosexuality and its Effects (Catholic Apologetics International)

October 2005

Some statistics about the Homosexual lifestyle:

Many homosexual sexual encounters occur while drunk, high on drugs, or in an orgy setting (7)

This is true of a lot of people and hardly typical of gays.
Homosexuals got homosexuality removed from the list of mental illnesses in the early 70s by storming the annual American Psychiatric Association (APA) conference on successive years. "Guerrilla theater tactics and more straight-forward shouting matches characterized their presence" (2). Since homosexuality has been removed from the APA list of mental illnesses, so has pedophilia (except when the adult feels "subjective distress") (27)

That's right, homosexuals managed to get their sexual orientation declassified as a 'disorder', simply by bullying the establishment...
73% of psychiatrists say homosexuals are less happy than the average person, and of those psychiatrists, 70% say that the unhappiness is NOT due to social stigmatization (13)

What to say? I'll leave it gays to comment on this.
25-33% of homosexuals and lesbians are alcoholics (11)

Judge John Martaugh, chief magistrate of the New York City Criminal Court has said, "Homosexuals account for half the murders in large cities" (10)

Did he keep his job, despite such utter nonsense?
It takes approximately $300,000 to take care of each AIDS victim, so thanks to the promiscuous lifestyle of homosexuals, medical insurance rates have been skyrocketing for all of us(10)

Hurray, an explanation for high US medical insurance rates: t'was gays wot did it!
Homosexuals were responsible for spreading AIDS in the United States, and then raised up violent groups like Act Up and Ground Zero to complain about it. Even today, homosexuals account for well over 50% of the AIDS cases in the United States, which is quite a large number considering that they account for only 1-2% of the population.

Bigoted nonsense not worth rebutting.
The median age of death of homosexuals is 42 (only 9% live past age 65). This drops to 39 if the cause of death is AIDS. The median age of death of a married heterosexual man is 75 (8)
The median age of death of lesbians is 45 (only 24% live past age 65). The median age of death of a married heterosexual woman is 79 (8)

Whoooaaahh!!! The bloody 'faggots' pay with their lives. There is justice after all...
Homosexuals are 100 times more likely to be murdered (usually by another homosexual) than the average person, 25 times more likely to commit suicide, and 19 times more likely to die in a traffic accident (8)

The Law of unintended consequences? Nah, just plain old BS.
About 50% of the women on death row are lesbians (12).

Sure, sure... (sigh)
Because homosexuals can't reproduce naturally, they resort to recruiting children. Homosexuals can be heard chanting "TEN PERCENT IS NOT ENOUGH, RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT" in their homosexual parades. A group called the "Lesbian Avengers" prides itself on trying to recruit young girls. They print "WE RECRUIT" on their literature. Some other homosexuals aren't as overt about this, but rather try to infiltrate society and get into positions where they will have access to the malleable minds of young children (e.g., the clergy, teachers, Boy Scout leaders, etc.) (8). See the DC Lesbian Avengers web page, and DC Lesbian Avengers Press Release, where they threaten to recruit little boys and girls. Also, see AFA Action Alert.

If you play homosexual recorded voices backwards you can hear Satan too...
Part of the homosexual agenda is to get the public to affirm their filthy lifestyle, as one homosexual admitted in the October 1987 homosexual rally on Washington: "We are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a protection from wrong. We also have a right -- as heterosexual Americans already have -- to see government and society affirm our lives" (27)

Finally, the author's objectivity shines through. About time too...
Part of the homosexual agenda is to turn people from Christianity: "The teaching that only male-female sexual activity within the bounds and constraints of marriage is the only acceptable form should be reason enough for any homosexual to denounce the Christian religion" (1)

More plots against the Church! But with defenders like this one on their side, their battle will inevitably be lost - good!
Homosexuals aren't discriminated against in employment, so why should they be a protected class?

They're good enough to go to the workplace so they should just shup up. Pesky things...
The average yearly income of a homosexual is $55,430.00 (most of which is disposable because no children to take care of!). The average of the general population is $32,144.00. The average of blacks is $12,166.00 (24)

Damn it! No children, so they end up with more disposable income. Maybe we need to introduce a 'gay tax'...
A phrase that has come up recently in this earth is "sexual orientation." This is a phrase made up by homosexuals to try to make themselves look less filthy than they really are. The purpose of the phrase is to take the spotlight from what these perverts do, and put it on the notion that they are just poor, mistreated people, who simply are attracted to members of the same sex - as if they aren't engaging in activity forbidden by God Almighty. "Sexual orientation," as used today, has nothing to do with sexual activity (yeah, right), but only refers to who or what a particular person is attracted to. If you think that people of other "sexual orientations" are just fine, let's see what other "sexual orientations" you would necessarily have to accept as wholesome and pure. If you're not going to discriminate based on "sexual orientation", then you must not discriminate against any of the following. Bestiality, pedophile, necrophilia., exhibitionism, fetishism, frotteurism, masochism, sadism, transvestitism, voyeurism. If you discriminate against any of these, you're a hypocrite. These "sexual orientations" are generally known as "paraphilias", and are mental disorders - just like homosexuality used to be (29)

Perverts, bestiality, pedophile, necrophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism, frotteurism [huh??? Is this sex with lattes or something?], masochism, sadism, transvestitism, voyeurism...

Yep, it's all there.

Don't take my word for it, here's the entire piece. Fully referenced, dear reader... but most referenced papers are nearly 20 years old.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle: Was Wunsch Swindled?

Here's is Professor Carl Wunsch again in a response to the C4 film "Swindle": from; Swindled: Carl Wunsch responds (snipped).
I am on record in a number of places complaining about the over-dramatization and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could "shut off" or that with global warming Britain would go into a "new ice age" are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality [i.e. see this previous RC post]. They also are huge distractions from more immediate and realistic threats. I've paid more attention to the extreme claims in the literature warning of coming catastrophe, both because I regard the scientists there as more serious, and because I am very sympathetic to the goals of my colleagues who sometimes seem, however, to be confusing their specific scientific knowledge with their worries about the future.

When approached by WAGTV, on behalf of Channel 4, known to me as one of the main UK independent broadcasters, I was led to believe that I would be given an opportunity to explain why I, like some others, find the statements at both extremes of the global change debate distasteful. I am, after all a teacher, and this seemed like a good opportunity to explain why, for example, I thought more attention should be paid to sea level rise, which is ongoing and unstoppable and carries a real threat of acceleration, than to the unsupportable claims that the ocean circulation was undergoing shutdown (Nature, December 2005).

I wanted to explain why observing the ocean was so difficult, and why it is so tricky to predict with any degree of confidence such important climate elements as its heat and carbon storage and transports in 10 or 100 years. I am distrustful of prediction scenarios for details of the ocean circulation that rely on extremely complicated coupled models that run out for decades to thousands of years. The science is not sufficiently mature to say which of the many complex elements of such forecasts are skillful. Nonetheless, and contrary to the impression given in the film, I firmly believe there is a great deal to be learned from models. With effort, all of this is explicable in terms the public can understand.

In the part of the "Swindle" film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous---because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important --- diametrically opposite to the point I was making --- which is that global warming is both real and threatening in many different ways, some unexpected.

Many of us feel an obligation to talk to the media---it's part of our role as scientists, citizens, and educators. The subjects are complicated, and it is easy to be misquoted or quoted out context. My experience in the past is that these things do happen, but usually inadvertently --- most reporters really do want to get it right.

Channel 4 now says they were making a film in a series of "polemics". There is nothing in the communication we had (much of it on the telephone or with the film crew on the day they were in Boston) that suggested they were making a film that was one-sided, anti-educational, and misleading. I took them at face value---clearly a great error. I knew I had no control over the actual content, but it never occurred to me that I was dealing with people who already had a reputation for distortion and exaggeration.

Related posts here, here and here.

The Great Global Warming Storm in a Teacup...

It seems Channel 4's documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle has hit a raw nerve on both sides of the pond. And so, for one momentito we'll have some more debate on the actual causes of global warming. But not for long. Rightly or wrongly, going by the general public and politicians worldwide, the jury is in and the carbon guys have won.

Zoe Williams in The Guardian's Art blog clearly didn't like the program too much, or as she put it: "The Great Global Warming Swindle is sceptical of climate change. I'm sceptical of this kind of TV." A few snippets:
"We're heretics! I'm a heretic. The makers of this programme are heretics." Nigel Calder is explaining how the world sees scientists who deny global warming. Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle made one interesting point - that scientists are not unanimous in their assessment of the connection between global warming and CO2. Most say the second causes the first; a few say the first causes the second. Interesting, huh? Academics in not-all-thinking-exactly-the-same-thing shock. The amazing thing about global warming is not that someone from Winnipeg University disagrees (if you've ever been to Winnipeg, you will know what it means to be forced by your academic qualifications to live there); it's how many people don't disagree.

Sorry, I am just rolling over and handing the refuseniks a piece of their most powerful weaponry - when everyone agrees, why, that's like when we thought the world was flat! Only a few brave voices stood up, and they were ridiculed! I actually had this argument on the Daily Politics with Peter Hitchens. "You can't seriously be contending," said I, "that just because all scientists say you're talking rubbish, that de facto turns you into the brave, lone voice of truth?" (I am buffing my prose a bit, I admit.) "That's the trouble with you Guardian journalists! You only talk to each other!" he retorted.

I know Channel 4 has a new remit of its own devising, to make trouble and stir up hornets' nests and all that, but what this amounts to is not mischievous subversion, it's just more of that age-old Fox News formula: take a surprising fact that might make people think, but won't make a programme on its own; gather together some bouncy commentators, stick a snooty voice over the top, create a sense of conflict without properly interrogating the positions taken within it, and aah, Bisto!, you have successfully brought to the world the smell of confusion.

And the plot thickens some more. Programme contributor Professor Carl Wunsch (Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society) is quoted in this article titled Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4:
Professor Wunsch said: "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on [my bold]. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."

When told what the commission had found, he said: "That is what happened to me." He said he believes it is "an almost inescapable conclusion" that "if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm".

He went on: "The movie was terrible propaganda. It is characteristic of propaganda that you take an area where there is legitimate dispute and you claim straight out that people who disagree with you are swindlers. That is what the film does in any area where some things are subject to argument."

Mr Durkin last night said that Professor Wunsch was "most certainly not duped into appearing into the programme" and that it "had not in any way misrepresented what he said".

On climate change Wunsch wrote in March 2006:
…it is very difficult to separate human induced change from natural change, certainly not with the confidence we all seek. In these circumstances, it is essential to remember that the inability to prove human-induced change is not the same thing as a demonstration of its absence. It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever. Public policy has to be made on the basis of probabilities, not firm proof.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Revitalising Zionism

Israel under Olmert has stagnated into political apathy. The best thing he could do is go, and let the people decide their future in fresh elections.

Alex Stein (from, in Comment is Free)

The greatest mistake Israel's critics make is to believe that its problems stem from an excess of ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth. The country, which was forged in the irons of Zionism, is now shrouded under the dark cloud of apathy. This phenomenon was already noticeable during the later Oslo years, before giving way to the cohesion that was necessitated by the Second Intifada. Ariel Sharon tried to blow the apathy it away, but was laid low by a coma before he was able to complete the job. And now, under Ehud Olmert, the situation is worse than ever.

How would Israelis vote if elections were called tomorrow? For the last year, the polls have been suggesting triumph for Netanyahu. Faced with this awful prospect, my own answer to this question has always been a tactical vote for Kadima. I had always assumed that a period of inertia is better than rule by the far right. But I'm no longer so sure. Anything but Olmert is now preferable. Anything, whether left or right, that will shake Israel out of its lethargy.

I am a particularly obsessive follower of the Israeli political scene. I read anything I can get my hands on, and like to think I have a reasonable grasp of the plans and motives of the leading players. But, beyond desperately clinging to power, I couldn't tell you what Olmert's current agenda is. Disengagement has long been swatted from the table. The possibility of peace talks with Syria has been repeatedly dismissed out of hand. The idea of finally creating a constitution seems to have vanished; reform of the electoral system is now the exclusive preserve of the Putinesque Avigdor Lieberman. There seems to be no plan.

This week, Yediot Ahranot reported that the weekly cabinet meeting had to be briefly suspended after it almost descended into fisticuffs between Olmert and Peretz. What were they discussing that was so important anyway? Where does Olmert want to take Israel? He once said that he wanted to make her a fun country again, but never elaborated beyond the sloganeering. Where are the ideas? Where is the vision?
Read on...

Global Warming: a Summary of the Arguments

In this previous post I commented on a documentary that refutes the now 'common wisdom' of man-made climate change, caused by carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.

Here's a short summary of the scientific arguments in favour of an alternative explanation of the observed global warming, which essentially correlates climate change with solar activity (from Channel 4).

The Arguments

Earth's 4.5 billion year history is one long story of
climate change. This fact is pretty much accepted by those who think global warming is a natural process, and those who think it's caused by man.

In more recent history there has been: a mini ice age in the seventeenth century when the Thames froze so solidly that fairs could regularly be held on the ice; a Medieval Warm Period, even balmier than today; and sunnier still was the so-called Holocene Maximum, which was the warmest period in the last 10,000 years.

Those who think global warming is a natural process point to the fact that in the last 10,000 years, the warmest periods have happened well before humans started to produce large amounts of carbon dioxide.

A detailed look at recent climate change reveals that the temperature rose prior to 1940 but unexpectedly dropped in the post-war economic boom, when carbon dioxide emissions rose dramatically.

There is some evidence to suggest that the rise in carbon dioxide lags behind the temperature rise by 800 years and therefore can't be the cause of it. [editor:
here's an article refuting the 800 year lag]

In the greenhouse model of global warming, heat from the sun's rays is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If it weren't for these gases, Earth would be too cold for life.

Greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun within the earth's atmosphere. This is the greenhouse effect. Traditional models predict that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases lead to runaway heating.

If greenhouse warming were happening, then scientists predict that the troposphere (the layer of the earth's atmosphere roughly 10-15km above us) should heat up faster than the surface of the planet, but data collected from satellites and weather balloons doesn't seem to support this.

Those who think global warming is a natural process say that the troposphere is not heating up because man-made greenhouse gases are not causing the planet to heat up.

For some people, the final nail in the coffin of human-produced
greenhouse gas theories is the fact that carbon dioxide is produced in far larger quantities by many natural means: human emissions are miniscule in comparison. Volcanic emissions and carbon dioxide from animals, bacteria, decaying vegetation and the ocean outweigh our own production several times over.

Others would argue that carbon dioxide isn't the only greenhouse gas and that human emissions could tip up a finely balanced system.

New evidence shows that that as the radiation coming from the sun varies (and sun-spot activity is one way of monitoring this) the earth seems to heat up or cool down. Solar activity very precisely matches the plot of temperature change over the last 100 years. It correlates well with the anomalous post-war temperature dip, when global carbon dioxide levels were rising.

In fact, what is known of solar activity over the last several hundred years correlates very well with temperature. This is what some scientists are beginning to believe causes climate change. Others feel that solar activity only explains the fine details of temperature change.

So how does the sun affect the earth's temperature? The process scientists suggest is that as earth moves through space, the atmosphere is constantly bombarded by ever-present cosmic rays. As these particles hit water vapour evaporating from the oceans, clouds form in the atmosphere. Clouds shield Earth from some of the sun's radiation and have a cooling effect. [editor:
here's a study refuting the cosmic ray theory in pdf format]

When solar activity is high, there is an increase in solar wind and this has the effect of reducing the amount of cosmic radiation which reaches Earth.

When less cosmic radiation reaches Earth, fewer clouds form and the full effects of the sun's radiation heats the planet.

But is the effect of solar activity really enough to explain away global warming caused by the greenhouse effect? This is still a moot point.

So, am I really any the wiser yet?
Here's one science blogger who classes the documentary as septic tripe, but doesn't in my view present much by way of interesting counter-arguments.

And here's one that
also refutes the 800 year lag, this time quite convincingly in my view. The comments are also interesting, as well as some of the links.

This Yorkshire blogpost is interesting and debunks some parts of the documentary.

Is it safe to say the jury is still out? Many proponents of man-made climate change will argue that the debate is over but others claim it has only just begun. Me and my co-editor Stripy (he's told me this blogging lark is 'a real dog's dinner!') are getting a pointy head from all this argumentation and it appears more digging will be needed to get to the bottom of it. Assuming there is a bottom of course...

Here's the entire documentary via Google video.

And here's Timothy Ball making a fool of himself by blaming it on the US's most imaginary foe,,, the UN! (YouTube).

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Global Warming Swindle?

Yesterday Channel 4 broadcast a documentary titled The Great Global Warming Swindle. Fully expecting to see a number of marginal and rather nutty people come up with alternative explanations for the current trend in global warming, the film turned out to be quite a bit of an eye-opener.

I'm a chemist but not a meteorologist or climatologist and so, 10 to 15 years ago, when the first correlations between carbon dioxide and the globe's temperature started to appear I was naturally very sceptic. At first I was even quite doubtful about the actual reported temperature increases and it did indeed take some time to get the science right and the figures corroborated.

But gradually the body of evidence linking carbon dioxide emissions to the green house effect and the trend of increased temperatures augmented and I became less sceptical and more accepting. I would say that up to yesterday I was a 'believer'. I use the term 'believer' because although well versed in the physical sciences, climate change is definitely not my field of expertise and I therefore have no choice but to accept more or less on trust what the experts tell me.

I won't therefore really try and analyse the documentary on its scientific merits either but rather comment on some other observations.

In essence the scientists who refute the role of carbon emissions in the current rise in global temperature attribute the changes in temperature past and present to the activity of the sun and the clouds and claim to be able to predict climate changes much more accurately that the carbon-based model does. Many convincing arguments were put forward by clearly well-qualified and highly independent scientists with whom personally I wouldn't really like to argue the points.

However, the documentary makers made some other, perhaps more important points in particular regarding the rise of the carbon theory and how unassailable it has become and why. I found these arguments to be very persuasive, partly because strong parallels with other such 'movements' exist.

There is no doubt in my mind that carbon-based global warming has indeed become a movement, an ideology as it were, with adherents from all quarters and that this actually stands in the way of independent scrutiny.

The science of global climate change, the documentary asserts, has become an entire industry upon which many jobs now depend and which receives gargantuan amounts of research funds. And scientists, like everyone else, follow the money. As a result far more effort, time and money is spent on confirming the theory than is on researching alternative explanations. And not being part of the accepting scientific community can actually lead to dissident scientists being ostracised.

The role of the media is also clear and similar to the part they play in other areas of reporting: climate change reporting has become financially very rewarding and scare mongering sells vast amounts of copy. Most media outlets now also sport 'environmental journalists', often scientically unqualified, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to come up with juicy, but often inaccurate, global climate change stories. A picture of a crumbling bloc of arctic ice has nothing to do with climate change, yet sells well and easily to a trusting general public. It's become bon ton to attribute every bit of freak weather to global warming, even though the scientists themselves are much more cautious in using such spurious 'one-data-point-correlations'.

Finally, the debate, or rather what little is left of it, has become politicised to the point where it has been hijacked by point-scoring politicians and even global 'anti-capitalists' and romantic New Agers, the latter dreaming of a return to a non-industrial, agrarian utopia.

So, have I now become an overnight 'non-believer' (or more ominously put, a 'climate change denier')? I wouldn't go as far as that but this documentary has given me food for thought, much, much food for thought. I will definitely be exploring the alternative explanations further and will occasionally report on any findings. Stay tuned...

Update: I've been looking for the actual video but it may just be a little too early. Here's Channel 4's own plug of the documentary.

Update 2: Here are some parts of the film.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Petraeus gets it...

The Times

No military solution to Iraq, warns new US commander

It seems that no matter whom the Bush administration appoints as US commander in Iraq, sooner or later they all start asserting the same thing and Petraeus is no different. I've always believed that in a liberal democracy the executive should have a firm grip over the military and not the other way around but here I get the distinct feeling Bush should listen more and better to the guys 'out there'. These top brass aren't stupid...
The new US commander in Iraq has admitted that insurgents have intensified their attacks during the security crackdown in Baghdad, as he warned that there was no military solution to the nation’s bloody conflict.

General David Petraeus, appointed last month to oversee the White House’s fresh plan for Iraq, said that his troops were limited in what they alone could achieve and that some of the militant groups causing violence in the country would have to be engaged in political discussions.

The latest security sweep would take months, during which “sensational attacks” would continue, he said, but there had already been encouraging signs of improvement including a fall in sectarian killings.

In his first press conference since taking command, the General added he saw no immediate need to call for yet more US troops, but that the reinforcements already requested were likely to stay well past the summer months, and would be sent to areas outside Baghdad where militants were regrouping. The new US commander in Iraq has admitted that insurgents have intensified their attacks during the security crackdown in Baghdad, as he warned that there was no military solution to the nation’s bloody conflict.

No military solution, d'ya hear George? Force alone cannot achieve much more in Iraq.
Essential to ending the conflict, General Petraeus insisted, was identifying militant groups who were “reconcilable” and to bring them into the political process. “Putting Iraq above personal and sectarian agendas will be critical,” he said, warning that such negotiations would “determine in the long run the success of this effort.

“There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq. Military action is necessary to help improve security... but it is not sufficient. There needs to be a political aspect.”

... to help improve security. Sure, but are we really doing that? Is, despite considerable manpower and awesome firepower, our presence actually improving the situation at all? This is not such an easy question to answer. I'm not in favour of a precipitous withdrawal (and I was against the war right from the day the war drums started to sound) but I really wonder whether we're making things better or actually exacerbating the situation. No-one really wants to leave the Iraqi people to their own devices but isn't that what in the end what we'll simply have to do?

The comments followed three days of unrelenting violence, in which attacks by Sunni insurgents on Shia pilgrims left more than 150 dead and dramatically increased political tensions.

Speaking inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, General Petraeus acknowledged that the nation had witnessed a particularly bloody period of insurgent attacks since coalition and Iraqi forces began their much-vaunted security sweep three weeks ago.

Despite a drop in the number of bodies found shot and dumped around the capital - from around 40 to 50 a day to single digits on some days – there are few signs of a let-up in bombings, with recent attacks including a suicide bombing at a mainly Shia university and an assassination attempt against one of Iraq’s vice presidents.

Well, call me thick-as-two-short-planks but game theory would definitely suggest that reducing violence in the Baghdad theatre will simply drive the insurgents to other areas, presumably South, where the British are slowly starting to withdraw.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Ali has Landed...

...firmly on her two feet. I'm talking of course about the human chameleon, liar and former illegal immigrant Ayaan Hirsi Ali (or should I say Ayaan Hirsi Magan) who's now managed to seamlessly make the transition from the Dutch right to the American right.

It's quite hypocritical how the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank with undoubtedly strong views on immigration, embraces someone who not only once was an illegal immigrant but also used these lies to gain access to the Dutch corridors of power (she became a Dutch conservative MP). And like all people with lots of media coverage, when landed in a spot of bother, she has claimed there is a smear campaign against her person. Attack being the best defence and all that...

Ayaan's discourse hasn't changed much although it seems to have become even more simplistic and she now sprinkles it with Americanisms like "Islam is not a religion of peace" and of course has started talking increasingly about Israel (previously Israel rarely featured in what she said).

Below is footage of Ayaan's appearance on Bill Maher. Her opening remark is priceless (paraphrasing): "most of the 9/11 bombers were Saudi and instead we went to Afghanistan. We should take on Saudi Arabia". You're right, Ayaan, we should take on all those damn Muslim countries, whether they be Sunni or Shia (or other), Arab, Persian or Asian and, please, let's not distinguish between Islam and Radical Islamist Jihadists; it would only confuse the general public...

This woman is a self-serving opportunist flip-flopper if I've ever seen one.
Here is some fact and fiction regarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali-Magan (scroll down a little if needed).

No doubt a stellar career in American Neoconservative circles is only just round the corner for her.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Satan's Child: The BBC or Israel?

Let me state first off that I don't believe either Israel, the BBC or Iran for that matter, are the evil spawn of Satan. But if I'm to believe Bradley Burston, the BBC does indeed believe Israel is the worst kid on the bloc. Allow me to debunk.

Burston's latest piece in Ha'aretz is titled
The BBC poll - Israel as Satan's bastard child and here are a few excerpts:
A BBC World Service-commissioned poll released this week proves, if nothing else, that the nature of the question pollsters ask will determine the answers they receive.

Sure, so far so good. You can evaluate the methodology of the BBC poll here. The questions asked are indeed so broad that no insight into the respondents' motives or understanding can be gained. But as far as survey questions go, these are fairly neutral and will give an overall picture of what the respondents believe (albeit not why they do so).
It also suggested, without having to say so explicitly, that Israel is the bastard child of Satan, the troublemaking twin of its arch-nemesis Iran.

The poll, a survey of more than 28,000 people in 27 countries, asked respondents to rate 12 countries - Britain, Canada, China, France, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Russia, the USA, Venezuela, and the European Union - as having a positive or negative influence.

Who, in other words, is a bad influence? Who's the kid down the block you want your kids to play with, and who's the one - for whatever reason, behavior, stigma, cooties - you want your precious one to avoid.

Significantly, the poll was taken beginning in November, when the memory of the second Lebanon war, bitter, bloody, and high in civilian casualties, was fresh.

According to the BBC, the survey "gave respondents a list of 12 countries and asked whether they had a 'mostly positive or mostly negative influence in the world.
"The country with the highest number of mostly negative responses overall is Israel (56% negative, 17% positive), followed by Iran (54% negative 18% positive), the United States (51% negative, 30% positive), and North Korea (48% negative, 19% positive)."

Wait, there's more.

"Israel also stands out for having the largest number of countries (23 of 27) viewing it negatively. Iran is regarded unfavorably in 21 countries, the United States and North Korea in 20."

At this point I'm getting a little confused here. Wasn't the title of Bradley's piece The BBC poll - Israel as Satan's bastard child? But doesn't this survey show that in terms of how badly Israel and Iran are viewed, there's hardly a cigarette paper between them? The poll doesn't mention a margin of error (or I didn't find it) but it's reasonable to expect that even a small statistical margin of error would indicate that the miniscule differences in perception of both countries is indeed not statistically significant and due only to inevitable measuring error.

He goes on:
One suspects that somewhere in the BBC's august headquarters in London, the poll elicited more than one thin smile of satisfaction.

After all, this is the same news organization accused by an internal inquiry less than a year ago of painting too rosy a picture of Israel.

No further inquiry needed.

One suspects... No further inquiry needed... Blahdiblah...

When it comes to Israel, it's a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't for the BBC. It isn't that long ago that Bradley Burston berated Danny Seaman, Israel's press something, who once infamously claimed:
The way the BBC is trying to portray Israel competes with the worst of Nazi propaganda.

Bradley, I'm thoroughly confused...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Conservapedia: Fun for All the Family...

Yes, folks, it's official: the Conservative/Christian/Creationist "equivalent" to the popular cyber-encyclopaedia Wikipedia is out and it's called (drum roll!)... Conservapedia.

So far, all indications are that the main object of this new fountain of wisdom is to conserve stupidity. Lemmesee, a new encyclopaedia that aims to provide an alternative to the "liberal bias" in Wikipedia and calls itself Conservapedia: if ever there was a declaration of bias this must qualify as one of the most blatant cases.

Conservapedia has also chosen to shamelessly mimic Wikipedia in everything from layout (identical to Wiki's) to structure, except for content which in many cases will be a sort of "anti-Wikipedia".

Currently Conservapedia is still in its infancy and entries remain few and far between. But they've got one for
Kangaroo. So, according to Stupidopedia, the origins of Kangaroos are as follows:
According to the origins model used by creation scientists, modern kangaroos, like all modern animals, originated in the Middle East[1] and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined by baraminologists whether kangaroos form a holobaramin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.

Also according to creation science, after the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land[2] -- as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart[3] -- or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters[2].

If you're not amused enough, do check out the entry's references...

But Conservapedia, like Wikipedia, is supposed to be a source of wisdom for the people and by the people and so, in that spirit, fellow blogger
Bacon Eating Atheist Jew tried to edit the entry with a plausible Young Earth Creationist style amendment:
Kangaroos could have floated on the back of crocodiles from the Middle East to Australia. Since there was plenty of fresh dead people and animals in the water, and crocodiles live in the water, they were full, and had plenty of leftover food. So they didn't have to eat living animals, and even thought ahead (probably God inspired), to bring living animals with them to Australia so that crocodiles in the future would have something to eat. [my italics]

It seems that for the time being, Stupidopedia's doors are somewhat closed to the general public as our intrepid editor's efforts were in vain. No doubt hordes of pranksters will try and post entries and amendments but I wouldn't recommend it. Firstly, let the Conservapedists make fools of themselves on their own accord: they really don't need our help. Secondly, they'll only try and do the same to Wikipedia, resulting in the "pedia-wars" (am I coining a phrase or am I coining a phrase?)

And after all, aren't those people entitled to their opinions? Of course, 100%, no less. But something in all this does trouble me: no doubt some in the rising tide of
conservative home-schoolers will use Conservapedia as an on-line source of "didactical material", to ensure their kids grow up thoroughly stupid and ignorant but uncontaminated by "liberal bias". It might not hail the coming of a New Dark Age just yet but it doesn't bode too well...

I'll be digging up some entries myself shortly. I tried "primates" but no such luck. I guess primates are still a bit too hot a potato to handle for the thoroughly Conservative/Christian mind...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More Coulterisms...

You gotta give it to the American conservatives: things aren't really going their way. Chaos in Iraq, losing both houses, the creation of the stupidest encyclopaedia in the known universe in their name (more on that in a separate post) and now Miz Coulter's jokes at this year's CPAC. There isn't much I can add to Ann Thrax's antics that hasn't already been covered rather brilliantly by Jon Swift. Read it and weep...

Older Coulterisms here...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Nonsense about Belgium.

In a highly contentious and in many parts plain wrong article titled Belgium Can Teach Us About the Need for National Unity by Paul M. Weyrich (chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation) our American idiot comes up with some crap that would make most Belgians seriously scratch the top of their head. But coming from the eminent "chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation", this kind of nonsense must carry some weight with the most ignorant of Americans. This piece is generally badly written and I'll highlight only the most blatant lies.
Belgium is in many ways an artificial state because it is composed of three distinct groups of people from three different cultures that historically have not always gotten along.

Belgium is as artificial a state as any other modern nation state, including the US. In the latter too, "different cultures [that historically] have not always gotten along".
Since 1993 the French-speaking population, or Walloons, which are primarily Roman Catholic, the tiny German-speaking population and the Flemish-speaking regions each have had their own parliament under a loosely federalized system of government, under the somewhat titular King of the Belgians.

The whole country is primarily Roman Catholic/agnostic, not just the Walloon part.
According to the highly regarded philosopher Roger Scruton, who has written extensively on the issues of multiculturalism in Western Europe, Belgium today is a seething political mess. In the same country where the European Union holds forth on European unity, the most popular political party in the country, now called the Vlaams Belang, has been banned.

Vlaams Belang has not been banned at all: it participates freely (and quite successfully) in all political elections and takes part in public life as any other social group. Weyrich is totally uninformed and unaware of the so-called cordon sanitaire, a non-binding, non-written pact between the major political parties to exclude Vlaams Belang from participating in a coalition government. If Vlaams Belang obtained a majority vote, it would be able to form a majority, non-coalition government. I wouldn't really expect someone who toils under a de facto two party system to understand these finesses.

And Roger Scruton, a highly regarded philosopher? Don't make me laugh... I know more highly regarded Ufologists.
The Vlaams Belang still won 24% of the vote. And so in 2004, the Belgian supreme court in Brussels declared the predecessor of the Vlaams Belang, called the Vlaams Blok, to be a "criminal organization" guilty of racism. Its only crime was success in too many elections on a platform of Flemish nationalism, anti-socialism and against current Belgian immigration policies.

A banned party that won 24% of the vote... Weyrich, that doesn't strike you as an oxymoron? Vlaams Blok (Vlaams Belang's predecessor) was tried in a just court of law and found guilty of breaking the laws on racial discrimination. Should we abolish these laws to accommodate some rightwing racists?
When the Vlaams Belang continued winning elections funds were cut off. This will make it impossible to campaign and, according to the Party's leader in Antwerp, Flip Dewinter, when coupled with the rising number of voting immigrants the de-funding eventually will achieve the Government's goal of completely eliminating its main opposition.

Complete and utter tosh. Vlaams Belang isn't banned or illegal and continues to be funded as any other political party. For the time being no other political parties are willing to enter into a coalition government with Vlaams Belang: it is these political parties' democratic right to choose who to partner up with and who not.
Imagine if this could happen here, if the Democrats could eliminate the Republican Party by labeling it racist and taking away its funding! (Oh, wait. That is what they might like to do, but a lengthier discussion of this subject will have to await another column.)

Seems we have a slightly paranoid "chairman and CEO" on our hands: the Democrats are trying to eliminate the Republican Party "by labeling it racist and taking away its funding"? Weyrich, try to get real and keep it real...
Across most of Western Europe -- but especially in France, Germany and Belgium -- immigrants from the various countries of North Africa as well as Turkey and the Middle East have been steadily arriving since the 1960s.

Immigration numbers of Muslims in Europe are barely higher (about 0.2%) than they are in the US. Surprising in a way considering the historical and geographical ties between Europe and the Arab world. But Weyrich is neither helped nor hindered by any real knowledge of the facts.

Then follows some more drivel not worthy of my attention and time. He concludes:
Disbanding the Vlaams Belang is the equivalent of shooting the messenger who delivers the bad news. Will the Republican Party in the U.S. be next?

Vlaams Belang isn't being disbanded in any way, shape or form. Weyrich, it's official, you're a repetitive moron...

Update: it's well worth reading what Wikipedia lists under Paul M. Weyrich. The man clearly is a loon.

I'm also convinced that Weyrich got most of his erroneous information on the political situation in Belgium from a co-loon, Paul Belien, who is affiliated with Vlaams Belang, although not particularly welcome there. Belien will find himself increasingly welcome only in the bosom of the ultra-conservative American far right, the kind that gladly describe themselves as radicals...

Jowell and Coe have been duped by the biggest overselling scam in history

An unelected clique of high-spenders is breeding a £1bn-a-day London games. Gordon Brown should slam his fist down

Simon Jenkins - Friday March 2, 2007 - The Guardian

Last Wednesday the London Evening Standard carried the headline: Olympics bill soars to £10bn. The figure is rising by roughly a hundred million a month. At this rate a 16-day athletics and minor sports meeting will soon be costing £1bn a day: not £1m a day, that is, or £100m a day, but a thousand million pounds a day. I can only repeat the question that I put at the start of this bizarre affair. Is there literally no figure that Tessa Jowell and Gordon Brown might consider to be too much?

At this level of spending the NHS computer is a bargain, Trident a no-brainer and the Dome petty cash. The new Royal Opera House cost £214m, Tate Modern £134m and Wembley stadium £795m. They seem cheapskate. And they are permanent buildings. The Olympic stadium, needed for under three weeks and for which no further use has yet been found, is already costing £630m. Soccer, rugby and cricket can somehow contrive world championships without such spending. What is it about the Olympics?

While I thought that Britain did not need the Olympics, I shared the city's delight at being selected. I hoped only that its ministers had the clout to call the bluff of the high-spending International Olympic Committee (IOC) and initiate a new generation of dignified, low-cost world sports festivals.

Instead Jowell and Lord Coe have been victims of the biggest overselling scam in history. This week Denis Oswald and Gilbert Felli, two so-called trouble-shooters for Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, flew in to London from their Swiss headquarters, where everything that talks, walks and eats is paid for by someone else, usually under compulsory taxation.

These people are like pre-Reformation cardinals. Since the Olympic pope graciously allowed Britain to sponsor his latest crusade, he has heard nothing but complaints from the peasantry over the cost. It is giving his "brand" a bad name. Why cannot the British behave like the Chinese, who are coughing up $30bn for his ritual in decent silence? How dare they question gilded taps in the Olympic village or teakwood lining to executive boxes, or swansdown seats on the loos? Where is the Olympic ship, promised to carry pilgrim children (I kid you not) from Peking to London? And what of legacy? The IOC likes a legacy or two to gladden its press releases.
Read full article...