Friday, February 29, 2008
The introduction of a compulsory national DNA database has been ruled out on ethical and legal grounds, the Home Office said today.
Oh, thank fuck for that. The Brits can't hang onto anything private any better than a gossipy neighbour on truth serum in a confessional hooked to a polygraph.
Britain already has, per capita, the largest forensic DNA database in the world. Approximately 4m samples, or 6% of the population are registered on it.
I have a real problem with the whole brown-people paranoia thing running rampant. Half of the immigration issue in the States, I am convinced, stems from the fact that Southerners can't tell the difference between May-hi-cans and teh Mooslems cause their necks ain't red enough.
I don't know if you've noticed, but I have mentioned in my own teeny voice, in just a teeny little way, what I might consider to be a small and creeping little tendency in the UK towards mildly encroaching surveillance. Maybe you noticed. Dunno. Easy to miss.
An anti-terrorism campaign by London’s police forces is exploiting the public’s paranoia in the hope of catching would-be terrorists in the act. It will also have the effect of making life even harder for press photographers. But maybe the erosion of press freedom might be seen as a bonus by the Metropolitan Police.
Yeah, that's good.
Read the article. It's good and I have little if anything to add.
Tom Harpur is an Anglican priest in Canada. His book The Pagan Christ came out maybe two years ago. At the time it was fairly controversial, though it's main thesis, that the supernatural aspects of Jesus were drawn out of other Mediterranean traditions, wasn't super offputting to me the idea that there therefore was no historical Jesus may be a bit of overreach. I've gone back and forth over the years, from accepting that there was indeed a man named Jesus of Nazareth to accepting the opposite and then, currently back to the fence. (A really, really good summary is here. The Evangelical Atheist is using his iPod to download the exact same stuff from iTunesU that I am).
Harpur may have a bit of overreach at times but certainly an important point is that there are similar traditions and stories of virgin births, demi-god births, resurrection, et cetera. Embellishment of someone's life would certainly draw on native traditions, undercutting the idea that Jews wouldn't create this or that story as it wasn't part of their tradition. As a people on the Mediterranean there's no end of these stories that Jews and pagans who begin to follow Christ would have been able to bring into the tradition. Keep in mind that the oldest copies of the New Testament were written in Greek, guaranteeing some exposure to other traditions. (You try learning a language without any refernce to the culture it comes out of)
Anyway, though I think there's something there, I wouldn't necessarily follow all the way to the complete mythicist position.
CBC Link here.
Video as she was found at Altoona Atheist.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Somebody who clearly doesn't actually read this blog but has it half ignored in his RSS reader has given me a rating.Hunh. What do you know?
In the interest of paying it forward, I must pass this on to people I read on a regular basis that meet the criterion of excellence-ish-ness.
There's no point in nominating Pharygula or Dispatches from the Culture Wars or the Bad Astronomer or... you get the point. My 7 1/2 readers will definitely have noticed them long before ending up wondering what I've got to say about anything.
So, I've fallen back on blogs that I think have either a great take on things (like old judo compatriot Barry) or charm (Nicest Girl) or the guts to bluntly say that which needs saying (Pooflingers)Oh: Save Ferris.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Torture and human rights abuse. Lovely. Glad I've had my morning coffee already.
The Attorney-General was urged yesterday to call in Scotland Yard to investigate allegations that British troops tortured and killed a number of Iraqi civilians seized after an ambush at a checkpoint in southern Iraq in May 2004.
Two British lawyers, Phil Shiner and Martyn Day, said there was evidence from Iraqi doctors’ certificates, following examination of 20 bodies, that bodies had been mutilated and that there were signs of torture having taken place. They cited two cases where Iraqis had an eye “gouged out” or “pulled out”, and another where a penis had been severed.
The two lawyers, who are acting for five Iraqis who were detained by soldiers and held in a military camp at Abu Naji, provided details of their witness statements for the first time yesterday. The Iraqis said they were labourers working in the fields who had been “swept up” in a three-hour battle after a British convoy was ambushed by the Shia al-Mahdi army at the Danny Boy checkpoint, near the town of Majar al-Kabir.
Via Crooks and Liars
They claimed that they were beaten and abused and that they heard screaming throughout the night of May 14 and 15 and shots that they believed were the sounds of Iraqis being tortured and killed.
Okay, folks. Can I call you folks, folks? Good. It's time to start upholding our values again. 'kay?
Torture and beatings are NOT part of this dialogue, 'kay? 24 is a TV show. It's exciting, escapist fantasy for people who want to regain a little control over the madness of the modern world.
So, folks. It's time to start acting like human beings again, 'kay.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
When I got up this morning and was deciding if I was far enough back into my body or not to take out the trash, Mrs Gaijin told me that there was another controversy running around over Barack Obama. Clearly, from the sound of her voice she had dismissed it as a load of crap. Apparently, like every other politician on a state visit, he had dressed in local gear when visiting Kenya a few years back.
This morning I saw the pictures and thought...meh.
This afternoon I saw all the rightwing butterfuckers and whack-a-doodles exploding about how B. Hussein Osama was secretly teh Mooslem.it.
Ehrman has just published a new book on theodicy and is on NPR in this interview promoting it and discussing the theological problems with both the free will or suffer for your sins ideas from the bible. Also, somewhere in the middle he points out the answer is actually in Job, not the prose bits we think of but the poetry in the middle, the bit that everyone forgets is part of Job and is the ultimate cause of this run-on sentence. The answer? "How dare you question me?"
NPR: Bart Ehrman, Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer
Monday, February 25, 2008
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Lohan and Murphy dominate Razzies
Lindsay Lohan and Eddie Murphy have both been crowned the worst actors of 2007 at the Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies, which spoof the Oscars.
They each won three gold spray-painted trophies worth $4.89 (£2.48).
Shorter Live Blogging of the Oscars from Japan:
Where's the fucking coverage. How can you run the red carpet clips for 3 hours then skip directly to the post-Oscars party? Bastards!
This time the ignorant blatherer is from Iraq.
Via One Good Move
Space, goes a half remembered and un-looked up quote from Douglas Adams, is really big. You might think it's a long way down to the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.
The corollary, I would add, is that you might think your paycheck is small, but that's massive to an atom. You know what? I'll leave the pithy quotes to Douglas Adams.
Nikon has put up a great little page demonstrating scale from the atomic to the intergalactic. Take a look here.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
In which I abandon the "In which" headline device and revert to swearing, as so: Oh yeah, that'll fucking help the War on Terror.
So what do we make of this, which purports to be in aid of the WoT:
Crooks and Liars » Air Force Academy Criticized For Hosting “Terrorism Experts” With False Claims
The Air Force Academy was criticized by Muslim and religious freedom organizations for playing host on Wednesday to three speakers who critics say are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.[..]
The three were invited because “they offered a unique perspective from inside terrorism,” Major Ashworth said. The conference is to result in a report on methods to combat terrorism that will be sent to the Pentagon, members of Congress and other influential officials, he added.
Members of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group suing the federal government to combat what it calls creeping evangelism in the armed forces, said it was typical of the Air Force Academy to invite born-again Christians to address cadets on terrorism rather than experts who could teach students about the Middle East.
“This stuff going on at the academy today is part of the endemic evangelical infiltration that continues,” said David Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate and a foundation member.
The three men were invited to talk about being recruited and trained as terrorists, not religion, although one of them, Zak Anani, did tell students that converting to Christianity from Islam saved his life, said John Van Winkle, another spokesman for the academy.
Ah, yes. Christianity leads the way. Certainly we wouldn't need to push forward with ACTUAL facts or experts, would we?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
So much bullshit; so little time.
Everytime I listen to a debate between some theist and Hitchens or Dawkins, this is the basic thing I hear. The theist inevitably says wooly, vacuous nonsense about a source of morality, the ineffable essence of blah-di-blah. The atheist points out that theologians may have wandered down this path, but religious people believe the bigger goat theory of God.
Half the time I'm convinced by the way they talk that people defending religion in these circumstances are either concealing what they truly believe or they're closeted deists. They really seem to lack conviction in the mild, extra milky milquetoast version of religion that they espouse.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Are UFOs using mind control? Alberta oil sands said to be part of plot
UFO sightings in Canada are on the rise and so are the number of organizations springing up, especially in Alberta where the vast oil sands deposits are said to be led by extraterrestrial forces who are using mind control to manipulate Canadians into thinking its ok to develop those resources.(HT to the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe)
WTF? Is this serious?
Calling it an "an apparent manipulative extraterrestrial virtual reality illusion" (there's a mouthful), a story in Canada's socialist newspaper, The Canadian, which recently launched as a 'socially progressive and cross-cultural' publication, absurdly published this story about UFO mind control that thumbs its nose at the Harper government for permitting what it called "an inorganic cyborg-like "artificial intelligence" that has sought to use its 'mechanical consciousness' to warp the quality-of-survival instincts of humanity."VR alien experiment. That would explain the surreal feeling I got at the Calgary Stampede a few years back. (Nope. Nothing brokeback here.)
But if you want real authentication of AlbertaOh, I remember that. That's about when I thought Hellyer's lost his fucking mind.
Canada UFO sightings, look no further than Canada's own Paul Hellyer,
who was Defense Minister from 1963-67 under Prime Minister Lester
Pearson who said, "UFOs are as real as the airplanes that fly over your
head." This Canadian politician also said at the time there was a U.S.
plot to develop weapons that could be used against the
extraterrestrials visiting our planet. "I'm so
concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an
intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something," Hellyer
quipped. And say something he did, in a speech at the University of Toronto in September, 2005 which brought international media attention.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I'm gonna fall back on Dennis Miller here (back when he was either insightful or funny; nowadays he's neither). It's a country where being called a bit of an Einstein is considered an insult.
Hand-wringing About American Culture - Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? - New York Times
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Oh fuck, I have no idea but it's bad. Make something up and, if it's really good, tell people I said it.
Channel 4 - News - Bush: We hold the moral high ground
US President George Bush has insisted America occupied the "moral high ground" in the face of international pressure over measures used in the war on terror.
He said he was "comfortable" with decisions he had made over holding suspects at Guantanamo Bay and backed the controversial use of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic.
The President also said he was "pleased" with progress in Iraq but spoke of the difficulty he faced when he decided to commit more troops as part of the surge strategy.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
It's just so sad watching conservatives and religious whack-a-doodles try to be funny or use satire.
Guys, it takes some level of accuracy to be satirical. Put the gags down before you hurt yourself.
Statement Of Faith
We believe Natural Selection is a God to many, with the power of chance to form all things. This unseen, unknown force is the power for those who truly believe they have ascended from lower animals.
We believe Charles Darwin is the prophet of Natural Selection. Having been chosen by Natural Selection, he has evolved to the most high prophet, having visualized through imagination the formation of all living things.
The belief in positive mutation of living things which have descended from a common ancester, through millions of years in time and gazillions of transitions is a matter of faith.
THE SACRED WRITINGS
We believe that each of the written words of the Prophet Charles Darwin are as holy scripture among those who by faith believe they have evolved from lower animals.
CHANGE OF SPECIES
We believe change above or below species such as frog to dog, pig or monkey to man is a matter of unquestionable faith.
WE BELIEVE IT TAKES FAITH TO BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION
-- From: The Eternal Gaijin Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan "Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Exorcism undergoes a revival across Europe
Umm, what? Sorry, I must have accidentally read the headline with the wrong glasses. You know the ones from the 14th century.
Jeebus, what the hell is wrong with people? I half expect this stuff from Pope Benedict and his various cardinals; Pope Benny and his Jets seem pretty credulous from the get go but how do you get others to follow it?
Without Catholicism how could you get people to say something this mindbogglingly stupid?
Sure. What the fuck? Why not?
"My remedy is based on spiritual means, which cannot be replaced by any pharmaceutical remedies," said Trojanowski, the priest who is overseeing plans for the new exorcism center. "I do not stop at the level of just treating symptoms. I'm very much interested in the soul of a person. As a priest, I keep asking questions a doctor will never ask."
How about this?
Jankowski cited the case of a woman who asked for a divorce days after renewing her wedding vows as part of a marriage counseling program. What was suspicious, he said, was how the wife suddenly developed a passionate hatred for her husband.
"According to what I could perceive, the devil was present and acting in an obvious way," he said. "How else can you explain how a wife, in the space of a couple of weeks, could come to hate her own husband, a man who is a good person?"
Jankowski said that an archbishop granted him the authority last October to perform exorcisms and that he's been busy ever since. As for the afflicted wife? "We're still working with her," he said.
I've got a bit of a diagnosis: Fucked someone else. That would explain all the symptoms. Except maybe the bit about being a good person that the priest mentioned. Adapted diagnosis: Fucked someone else but Jankowski didn't hear about it. Now we've covered all the symptoms.
Here's a possible treatment.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
'Feb 12th: Happy Darwin Day!' by RichardDawkins.net - RichardDawkins.net
Powered by ScribeFire.
In 1996 I went to Cambodia and visited Tuol Sleng museum. It was a harrowing, harrowing experience. You'll be able to see several places on the floor where there are still stains from the old days.
The centre piece of creepy is the map of Cambodia made out of human skulls. (I believe that it's been removed and the skulls cremated in accordance with Buddhist tradition).
Visit it for a preview of what the legacy of secret prisons, black sites and Guantanamo Bay will look like.
Waterboarding in Cambodia - Boing Boing
waterboarding.org | "His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown." -Lt. Grover Flint, Philippine-American War
Powered by ScribeFire.
The Barrie Examiner - Ontario, CA
"But now people like Ken Ham are tearing evolution to pieces."(HT to Greg Laden)
See? Did I lie? Nope. Never do. Except maybe that last sentence.
But, I digress.
It is still a bit distressing to see the rampant ignorance catching on in my beloved UK. When I say beloved I don't particularly mean it, if only because I'm not a citizen and I'm not that fond of rain. Although my wife, who is beloved, is from a Limey and beloves the place.
But, I digress.
The rest of the short article tells a bit about how a British branch of Answers in Genesis is sending people out to schools to question evolution and show how (Actual quote) "the true history of Earth is told in the Bible, not Darwin's The Origin of Species." For some reason unknown to these simple truth seekers, those ivory tower hugging scientists are narked off by all this.
(Hunh, looks like the Bad Astronomer just got there, too. Yeah Twitter!)
Oh, and read this, Ken Ham.
Now where's the second article and how is it connected? I'll let you decide, but I'm saying there may be a connection:
The Galloping Beaver: Would you like to ask the same question here?
Britons, it appears, are letting their own history slip through their fingers. Or go in one ear and out the other.Original article here.
So, Brits have an equal chance of thinking that out of Churchill and Holmes, Churchill is the fictional character.
And the connection might be?
Powered by ScribeFire.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Think Progress » White House: We ‘Definitely Want To Consider’ Using Waterboarding Again
Think Progress » Hayden: waterboarding may be illegal.
Think Progress » FBI And Pentagon: We Stand By Our Decision Not To Waterboard
Think Progress » Mukasey won’t pursue waterboarding inquiry.
Think Progress » McConnell: When I Said Waterboarding Is ‘Torture,’ I Meant I Personally Don’t Like ‘Water Up My Nose’
Think Progress » Secret camp inside Gitmo confirmed.
Oh, fuck it. I'm too depressed.
Powered by ScribeFire.
BBC NEWS | Americas | CIA admits waterboarding inmates
CIA head Michael Hayden told Congress it had only been used on three people, and not for the past five years.
He said the technique had been used on high-profile al-Qaeda detainees including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
After all the talk about waterboarding over the last few years, you'd think that they'd been doing it on Pay-Per-View. But there is an interesting quote buried in the middle of the article (oh, and I claim the emphasis)
He told Congress: "We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time.Did you see that last sentence? Let me pull it out for you: Those two realities (belief that additional attacks were inevitable and limited knowledge about al-Qaeda) have changed.
"There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al-Qaeda and its workings.
"Those two realities have changed."
Really, when did the inevitability of attacks against the fatherland change? You'd think that al-Qaeda had a base camp in Massachusetts to listen to the Rightwingosphere.
A further take:
Crooks and Liars » CIA Chief Officially Admits Use Of Torture, Names Detainees
Powered by ScribeFire.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Thank you folks. See you at the next performance.
Crooks and Liars » Ted Haggard Premature Ejection From “Restoration Therapy”
Powered by ScribeFire.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
So, my wife comes home the other day and gives me a little green, brown and black paper bag. "I have a gift for you."
"OOO...a paper bag." The classics. Can't resist 'em.
"The contents." Never has she had that much patience with my antics.
So I take out a small box.
So what was it? Well, I felt a bit slow not recognizing the latin name. But there was a reminder inside.