Thursday, May 29, 2008

Writing the wrongs

I've been away for a few days in Edinburgh and it looks like I've missed all the fun on Curly's blog, where I've become an opprobrium magnet for daring to criticise a spook book written by Mike Hallowell and Darren Ritson. Presumably the posters are the book's authors Hallowell and Ritson, or maybe it's a mischievous poltergeist. You never know on t'internet.

I could respond on Curly's blog, but I don't want to further damage my welcome there - and I wish to avoid being slapped with another 'use your own blog' yellow card.

However, I wasn't sure how to respond, or if I should. Would a response feed their apparent self-righteous indignation or would a challenge provide them with a sense of credibility they don't deserve? Or both?

The whole episode is a bit odd. A couple of short tongue-in-cheek critical comments lit the touch-paper and attracted such fury and lengthy, pained replies. Imagine the phone call between the "two battle-hardened paranormal investigators" (seriously, that's what they call themselves):

"Darren? Yeah, it's Mike. We got trouble on the internet."

"What's up Mike?"

"Some guy has posted on Curly's Corner Shop. He says our book is shit."

"He did? Let's get spooky on his ass. I'll post with awful grammar just so no one thinks I'm a poltergeist."

"Good stuff Darren. I'll try and look outraged, and I'll rope Dave in to blow off his usual anti-blogger angst."

"What about BA Baracus?"

"He won't let no fool get him on no plane."

"Pity. But it's still a good plan."

"Go team paranormal!"

I know I should have gone for a Scooby/Shaggy thing, but the A-Team is way cooler.

Anyhow, I resolved I shouldn't go for a full blow by blow response to their desperate attempts to avoid looking like complete tits, and decided to just concentrate on one whopping howler. Ritson provided a classic and quaintly amusing example of fatuous ignorance in this misconception:
"Did’nt [sic] people once mock and ridicule Christopher Columbus after telling people the world was in fact round and not flat?"
No Darren, they didn't, but chances are that if there were such people, those doing the mocking would have believed in the supernatural too.

However, a conscientious and objective researcher (or a history head like me) would know that during Columbus' time most scholars and navigators worked on the basis that the world was spherical. It wasn't a new concept: the ancient Greeks had provided observational and mathematical proofs and even local boy Bede described the characteristics of a spherical world at least 750 years before Columbus. The main contention with Columbus' adventure was over his estimation of the planet's circumference, and over that, Columbus was wrong. This isn't to take anything from Columbus' achievements: history is made by such risk-takers.

Even without referencing Ritson's historical inaccuracy, his argument is based on a creaking non sequitur fallacy - mockery or ridicule has no value in establishing the truth or otherwise of the statements being mocked. And yes, I am aware of the faint irony.

Fair due to Ritson, the 'Columbus was mocked' assertion is a common misconception, fed by reliance on poor source material. Perhaps next time though, before accusing someone of knowing nothing, Ritson could employ some intellectual rigour first and check his facts before making himself look like a complete numb-nuts.

Columbus should have texted to put him straight.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sanity prevails

For once, but it highlights the ludicrous legal situation where a respect for a religion has outweighed free speech.

In the Guardian Marina Hyde treats the issue, and Scientology, with the contempt it deserves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Silly cults

The next time the police moan about red tape and endless form filling sucking the life out of their jobs, I'll remember this episode of our brave boys and girls in blue in action and ignore their whinging for the bollocks it is.

The City of London police, members of which have in the past benefited from church of Scientology's largesse, went to great lengths to hand a prosecution notice to a protester who refused to stop displaying a placard describing Scientology as a 'cult' at a demonstration outside the cult's London headquarters. What a pointless waste of time.

Even if we ignore the barmy interpretation of a dodgy law, teenagers are the victims of shootings and stabbings all over London, and some are found carrying weapons in public. Yet the police went to the bother of checking with the CPS before handing the summons over to a teenager who had did nothing worse than express, in a public place, his opinion about a club whose members believe in an imaginary premise.

The police interpreted the use of the word 'cult' as "abusive and insulting". Abusive and insulting pretty much describes the police's attitude to free speech.

Hopefully the judge hearing this case will recognise what a time wasting piece of bullshit policing this is and throw it straight out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ethical bombs

A morally vacant cockweasel. It reminds me of BAE Systems' press release last year about lead-free bullets and low emissions grenades.

Whilst MPs publicly wring their hands over the ethical dilemmas in abortion and human genetic research, these same MPs let loons like Codner casually walk the corridors of government, lobbying for the arms industry - with nary a blink.

Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband, who has managed to avoid showing his colours at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill votes, has a chance to stake out the ethical high ground at the Dublin conference.

Will he be listening to arms establishment goons like Codner, or to the 30,000 people who signed up to stop the UK using cluster bombs?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

United in chauvinism

I hadn't planned to post today because I'm feeling shit (I'm currently drinking a Lemsip, and feeling that someone has taken blowtorches to the back of my eyes), but the loons are outdoing themselves so I couldn't avoid a couple of quick comments.

The political parties in Northern Ireland have finally agreed on something. That they are all cockweasels. The DUP, Sinn Féin, the UUP and the SDLP have united to declare that women are second class citizens who shouldn't have the right to decide what happens to their bodies.

A member of the Northern Ireland Assembly's 'pro-life' group (oh yes, the sweet irony that former murdering bastards in Sinn Féin are somehow pro-life) played the jurisdiction card:
"The issue of abortion is a matter that should be left to the assembly itself."
Perhaps it would be better to let any such amendment pass and leave "the issue of abortion" for women to decide for themselves.

Liberating Iraq

Is this really what we invaded Iraq for?

"I know God is blessing me for what I did"
I suppose that's what people of faith do: let an imaginary being take responsibility for their brutal behaviour.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Creepy Cardinal

Mad Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is at it again. Whinging about how folk don't take enough notice of his barmy rantings and choose to walk away from his criminally insane church. He manages to confuse the meaning of the terms 'atheist' and 'secular', just to show how those pesky atheists and secular folk are a bad lot.

Frankly, who cares? Well, Cormac for one. It's an odd target for him to choose: it's not as if atheism is a movement, has a defining ideology or set of policies like those religions competing with Cormac's. But for some reason, this absence of belief in the supernatural terrifies the religious. It's as if blind faith is a virtue and rational questioning a sin. Indeed, Cormac even suggested that the reason so many people turned away from god is because they were thinking too much about it:
"We spoke too easily about God, we spoke perhaps in the wrong way and we treated God as an idea rather than a living mystery to be approached in silence and prayer rather than in the arguments of the mind."
He also had a go at secularism (just like his chum the Archbish of Canterbury), presumably because he thinks the religious should have more say on what goes on in society (just like his chum the Archbish of Canterbury). As if a church that condemns people to slow deaths knows better.

But it wasn't all bad news for the non religious. To show us just how 'moderate' he really is, Cormac said:
"I want to encourage people of faith to regard those without faith with deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives as well as in the lives of those who believe."
This is despite according to his religion non religious folk will be cast into a fiery pit or be forced to watch Big Brother for eternity.

Bless. Patronising bastard.


Just came across this wisdom from kooky Cormac:
"Danger because, if you go just by reason, I think, without faith, without belief in God, you can imagine, for instance in the last century, some of the faith(less), or supposedly faithless societies - people, whether it's like Hitler or Stalin, bringing up - having a country in which, if you like, a God free zone, a dictatorship ruled by reason, and where does it lead? To terror and oppression"
Let me get this right Cormac - you think reason leads to terror and oppression?

What a fucktard.

Less well off language

An issue which almost slipped under the radar on David Miliband's 'keep the poor making the rich richer' Gazette article was his use of language.

Poverty is bad news, and the Labour spinners know it. So discussions of poverty have become clouded by obscurantist language. The phrase "less well off" is a classic example of an Orwellian euphemism, recognising that terms like "poor" or "low income" are taboo words which don't score enough happy voter points on the spin-o-meter. Grinding poverty gets a kind of 'glass half full' re-branding exercise.

It's all very doubleplusungood.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Renewables nuked

Micheal Meacher provides a calm and sober assessment for the future of nuclear energy policy. Nuke fails on several criteria - fuel supply, energy security, economics, waste management and sustainability.

Despite all this, the Labour government is pushing it's nuke dreams (blessed by the Tories), whilst at the same time quietly planning to water down our EU renewables obligations, nicely removing a low carbon competitor for nuclear.

It makes you wonder who is running our energy policy. At the moment it looks like the nuclear industry.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Desperate cries of a dinosaur

This Guardian interview with former chancellor Nigel Lawson revealed a man riling against climate change, but without a rational or coherent argument. Relying on the clichéd accusation of climate change as a religion (but presumably the only religion based on science) and portraying sceptics as martyrs, Lawson attempts to paint the issue as taking place in an Inquisitorial environment.

He seems to be running a multi-tiered denial strategy: it isn't happening; it is but it's not as bad as everyone says it is; it's too late to stop it. I wouldn't be surprised if this attitude was buried deep in the dark hearts of both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Even taking into account the possibility of the Guardian presenting a hostile case, a most revealing indicator of Lawson's moral attitude to the effects of climate change is revealed in the article:
"He is very drawn to what he says is the underrated upside of climate change. In his book, he says the hot summer of 2003, which killed 15,000 elderly people in France, was "perfectly tolerable" at his own house in Armagnac."
Qu'ils mangent de la brioche, I suppose.

No doubt Lawson does make some valid comments on the cynical politics of climate change being employed by the main political parties, but anyone who dares to disagree with Lawson's view, like NASA or the Met Office Hadley Centre, are accused of being cheats. This has all the hallmarks of an almost religious paranoia.

Poor bloke.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Greens now the opposition!

Nope, not in South Tyneside, where the results were very disappointing, but in Norwich. Well done!