Monday, June 30, 2008

Meet the FOCAs

You couldn't make it up. A group of religious fanatics came up with a name for themselves. No-one in said group thought it would be a good idea to check with the Ministry for Silly Acronyms just in case the name came up a bit, well, asshatish. Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. FOCA.

It just invites crude and childish mockery from the likes of me. Excellent.

I'm mystified about this "militant secularism" thing. It seems to be one of these buzz phrases used by religious at the moment, along with "militant atheist". There must be some naming convention: Bad Things must be prefixed with the title 'militant'. It's not as if we have legions of suicide atheists or a secular paramilitary wing of the Richard Dawkins Foundation stirring up all kinds of trouble. The phrase is slightly ridiculous, and utterly dishonest. Propaganda.

If there is a whiff of militancy, it's from these very separatist fundamentalist nut jobs, who are miffed at not being as authoritarian as Muslims, even emulating the Muslim propagation structure by planning to set up their own Madrasa style theological schools, thrashing out their own extremist views of Christianity.

Normally, as a non believer, I wouldn't care less about an ideological schism in the Anglican church. Get on with it. But this new cult of intolerance and bigotry with its missionary zeal will try to take its (largely homophobic) message far and wide, and will, like the Catholic Church, try to trespass into secular life and the business of the state, championing Iron Age supernatural myths as a basis for a moral philosophy.

Hopefully it won't get that bad. Perhaps they'll implode under the critical mass of their own hate.

Silly FOCAs.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deja vu

The previous post stirred some memories...

Dead-end legal action; scrounging to pay the costs; petition padding.

It sounds all so familiar...

Breaking voice

After trying to crush free speech and losing, religious fundamentalist blowhard Stephen Green has announced that he doesn't have the money to put where his mouth is and is threatening to declare himself bankrupt to avoid paying the £90,000 costs awarded to Mark Thompson and Jonathan Thoday during the frivolous 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' legal action.

Graciously asking for the costs to be dropped, Green said:

"For these rich, powerful men to pursue me into the bankruptcy courts over money I don't have would be vindictive."

Bless his magnanimous humbleness.

Green and Christian Voice have also put their faith in an online petition to try and gain support for their cause. Apart from the hilarity of some of the petition comments, the carbon copy nature of a number of them suggests some petition padding.

So far he's collected 451 online signatures. By my reckoning if these deeply religious folk really back Green, they could chip in £200 each, save their souls and Green from martyrdom.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Voting away democracy

Another step towards a Britain not in the hands of it's citizens, but in the hands of big money. It's a return to feudalism in all but name.  

Whilst the government justifies the gutting of the planning laws on the basis of planning for climate change, the new system will not recognise climate change, the environment or people.  It will, however, recognise what's good for the CBI and its chums.

This move has put planning firmly into the hands of a free market economic fundamentalism that subordinates our society to the demands of big business. Gordon Brown has managed to smash our right to speak out against developments, and turn into another one of his pet pfi projects. Privatising democracy.

And who did this?

The very fuckers we voted for.

Want to stop a nuclear power station on your doorstep? An incinerator next to your kids' school? What about your house being demolished for that new motorway?

Now citizen, there's fuck all you can do about it, and you can thank your MP for that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keep thy religion to thyself

George Carlin. Another loss. Fiercely intelligent and challenging. Mercilessly funny. An irreverent foul mouthed funny man, who in the US was also the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine. And he was Rufus in the Bill and Ted movies. Cool.

Here's his breakdown of the Ten Commandments.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sad news

Of the death of Norman Fay Snr over the weekend in a terrible road accident. He was just 72 so it's come as a real shock.

Norman had a well deserved reputation for fine craftsmanship and engineering, and had an infectious love of all things cycling. His bikes have been many people's introduction to cycling and his experimentation with different cycle forms appealed to hard core enthusiasts and occasional riders alike. I've been the lucky owner of a couple of his bikes, one of which I bought when I was 18 and I still have but is sadly gathering dust in the hut.

Both Norman and his late wife Marion were both founding members of South Tyneside Friends of the Earth.

Whilst he died relatively young in modern terms, his continued cycling proved that you're never to old to get on your bike. Maybe it's time I dusted off mine.

A true local hero.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

With knobs on

The Rev Martin Dudley said:
"Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."
That's the Church's problem with gay marriage - too many knobs.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Men of honour

Perhaps I was a bit hasty this morning in targeting Murdoch alone for his attempts to manipulate UK politics by media proxy. He's been doing it for years, with impunity.

If MacKenzie did stand, and win, he would merely join a long line of MPs who have received earnings from external employment in addition to their MP salary or enjoyed the the attentions of corporate lobby groups. Possibly the difference with MacKenzie is that he is being honest about who is giving him the instructions.


The news that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie may stand against David Davis should cause great concern. In a by-election which looks like it's going to be fought over a principle of civil liberties, another ethical issue which must come under examination is the media power which can be wielded by one of the possible candidates.

If MacKenzie stands, it will be for the Sun, and ultimately the Rupert Murdoch party.

As we've seen in the past, the Murdoch empire will swing into action in support of its chosen candidate. Such a cheapening of our electoral system, bankrolled by a foreign media mogul, leaves a bad taste and is incredibly worrying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Make your bloody mind up!

Is the Alliance a political party or not? Curly's covered the Alliance's shenanigans several times in the past, and he returns to mystery of the real status of the Alliance in his coverage of the departure of councillor Tom Defty. It seems the Alliance don't know what they are either.

Ahmed Khan said:
"Comparing us to the Labour party is a nonsense. We're not a party, and any attempts to make us into one are swiftly quashed."
Nonsense eh? We'll ignore the number of old Labour bodies in the Alliance, but the term "swiftly quashed" sounds oddly like a whip.

Jane Branley said:
"Everyone's got to find an excuse to leave a political party, and it seems that Coun Defty has found his."
What? Khan just said you're not a party! Someone's out of the loop here.

To add to the confusion, the Gazette has referred to the Alliance as a party several times, even giving their 'party leader' Jane Branley the opportunity to voice her party's position before the last election in an on-line video broadcast. In her on-line pre-election address, she said that she was:
"leader of the largest minority party which are the independents on South Tyneside Council"
Uh-oh, there goes the P-word again. But hold on, the Alliance website says in big red letters:
So there we have it. They are a political party, and they're not a political party. I hope that's cleared things up.

The Alliance piously made a lot of capital out of the peculiarities of last year's Beacon and Bents voting, so it seems a tad hypocritical that they don't apply the same rigorous electoral expectations to themselves.

As Curly pointed out, to all intents and purposes the Alliance is a party. Why don't they stop hiding behind ambiguous electoral rules and do the right thing and register as one?
I've complained in the past about Labour members having lost a sense of principle after their party's warmongering and steady walk towards a police state. However, some of them still have the moral courage to stand by their principles.

Brown's desperate attempt to bolster his leadership, embodied in raising the pre-charge detention limit for terrorism suspects to 42 days, rallied most of the pliant troops who put party politics before the protection of our civil liberties. But not without some last minute horse-trading.

I've never often had an occasion to agree with Diane Abbott, but she rightly accused the government of:
"trading ancient civil liberties in a grubby bazaar"
Every concession Brown gave the wavering backbenchers was bought with another scrap of our freedom.

Kudos to Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) and Chris Mullin (Sunderland South), the only Tyne/Wear Labour MPs with the cojones to stand up against Brown. Respect to all who voted against this disgusting charade.

PS - the Unionists where whores under the Tories. They're still on their back - but taking Brown's shilling.

Monday, June 09, 2008

DUP d'oh!

Free speech is great. It lets you know who the bigoted asshats are. Like the DUP's Iris Robinson, who has suggested that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder and that gays should seek counselling. And yes, you guessed it, religion has something to do with it.

What a complete fruit loop. Perhaps someone should offer counselling to the bigoted dysfunctional shit shower that is the DUP.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Goodbye Tesco

MPs flocked to vote to stop toffs fox-hunting, but turn a blind eye to the daily poor treatment of millions of chickens in the UK.

The campaign for improved poultry welfare has been picked up by the likes of Compassion in World Farming and various celebs, as unfortunately we are dependent on retailers and the ethical concerns of consumers to drive a humane farming policy which should really be addressed by Government.

The MPs who voted for their furry fox friends aren't the only hypocrites.

I've shopped at Tesco. It was a poor compromise of sorts - they led the way in organic food in terms of supermarket retailing, but I was unsettled by their sharp approach to planning and crushing local competition, known as 'Tescopoly'. The fact that their type of business is dependent on, and encourages, growth in burning fossil fuels, burns too.

Pushing the trolley around their stores, it's hard to reconcile the comfort of the nice shiny clean surroundings with the ethical dilemmas inherent in the business models of the big food retailers.

I'm aware that there's constant compromise with any purchase choice, but sometimes, enough is enough.

I can't stomach Tesco's behaviour any more: their refusal to recognise the impact of the type of chicken farming they profit from and dirty tricks they're using to keep it that way.

If Tesco took steps to take their chicken supply to a higher standard of animal welfare like the RSPCA Freedom Food standard it would be a start, and the rest of the retail grocery sector would follow.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Green weekend

This year's Newcastle Green Festival takes place tomorrow and Sunday at Leazes Park in Newcastle Upon Tyne. The free festival's Saturday event is a great day out for the family, whilst Sunday is aimed more at the adults (although not exclusively) with great live music (powered by chip fat!) and beer tents.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tee shirts in disguise

Terrorists must be pissing themselves with laughter at how scared we are of our own shadows. And tee shirts. Perhaps the stoopids at Heathrow would be better spending their time looking for real guns?

Fortunately El Reg was on the spot to get a photo of the incident.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We went to war on lies

If there's anyone due for eternity with a rectally administered red hot poker it's Iraq war cheerleader John Bolton. Even though Monbiot's attempted arrest was a doomed stunt, it's important to continue to provoke debate, and never let those who backed this war think it's been forgotten about. That includes our local MP, David Miliband.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Clerical error?

Usually I radge against the clergy when they put their foot in it. In this case, my initial radge-o-meter was turned down to 'mildly irritated' by the furore that the comments of Gordon Mursell, the Bishop of Stafford, has caused. True, the comments don't really help things, with tenuous comparisons of our society's relative inaction over global heating with Austrian nutter Josef Fritzl, but Mursell has unintentionally highlighted the barely rational belief structures of climate change denial.

Whilst those in denial over climate change either choose not to follow the science or cherry-pick their sources, it seems that many have taken his comments very much to heart as a personal attack on their denial ideology. The Bish's language and his position as a cleric confirms the tin-foil hat delusions of many deniers who like to portray climate change as some kind of new age religion, some even going so far as to proudly proclaim themselves as 'heretics'. The comments on the Telegraph thread are clear evidence of this group-think.

Perhaps using such language makes for some fiery pulpit bashing, but using monster รก la mode Fritzl just seems like Mursell's trying too hard to stimulate debate. Well, it worked, but I don't think Mursell expected such a Pavlovian response.

If any comparison of deniers or those opposed to action is to be made, the most valid is to the supporters of appeasement before the Second World War. They didn't want to believe the evidence before their eyes, and weren't stirred into action until the bombs started falling.

We have faced similar challenges. Acid rain, ozone layer depletion and particulate emissions. We came up with solutions to them all through agreement and policy, despite opposition. We can do it again, although with climate change, it needs to be a response on a much bigger scale.

Back to the war analogy. Since tackling climate change now needs a war footing response, I wonder if our children and grand children will ask us in the future "What did you do in the war against climate change?"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pizza cone!

When I was visiting Edinburgh, I stayed in a caravan park in the village of Coldingham near St Abbs for a couple of days. It was an ideal location - 45 minutes from Edinburgh and 5 minutes walk from the local pub.

This poster was on the window of the caravan park's chippy.

Pizza Cone is new to me. Since the chippy was never open whilst I was there I didn't get a chance to sample this delicacy, which if in the Scottish style I guess would be deep-fried.

How long before this hits the streets of South Tyneside, vying for fast food supremacy with the artery destroyer the Geordie Special*?

* Note: Geordie Special = pizza with kebab meat