Thursday, June 28, 2007

Silver Pirate Things

Unity over at the Ministry of Truth has an article about how European Law impacts on the Silver Ring Thing court case thing involving Lydia Playfoot thing. Unity has made something of a study of the case in fact.

If I read article 9 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights correctly, my daughter can go to school in full pirate regalia, despite the fact that her school has a fairly strict dress code, because she is (or claims to be) a worshipper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. FSM's worshippers are exhorted to wear this regalia because it will reduce global warming (of course).

Article 9 protects the right of a person to manifest their religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Dressing like a pirate is in fact an act of worship, possibly an example to others (teaching), definitely a religious practice (since it dates from the religions foundation), and an observance. Consequently this is protected by the full force of European law.

All of which goes to show how ridiculous this religious stuff is.

UPDATE: She lost, of course.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen

Do you want to understand global trends for life expectancy, child mortality and poverty rates? Are you rubbish with figures and hate statistics, and thus find the modern world hopelessly confusing?

Notwithstanding the fact that if you're stupid, you're probably too stupid to realise it, of course.

Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen
is a talk by Hans Rosling which is both funny, informative and for me at least, quite surprising. Even better, you can play with the lovely visualisation tool he uses for yourself. A fine way to waste an afternoon in my opinion.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Satanic Knighthoods

Good to see that Salman Rushdie has been given a Knighthood in this years UK Honours list. Good mostly because it has annoyed the Iranian government, who are frankly even more corrupt and useless than our own, and that's saying something.

Even better is that Shami Chakrabati has been given a CBE. She's one of the very few people who have made a principled stand for human rights and personal freedoms during the term of the Labour government, so it's something of a surprise. Shame she didn't turn it down though.

The Honours list is basically just a popularity contest, with anyone who can pay enough, or get enough column inches getting a gong, so it's generally dominated by worthless politicians and sports folk. I wonder if a blogger will ever get one?


Friday, June 15, 2007

The thrill of being forced

In the great game of Dominance & Submission which makes up our human existence (and that of most other pack animals), I like to think of myself as a Dom, a Top, an Alpha. Probably this is to do with the testosterone which courses through my male veins. I like to be in charge, or more specifically, I loathe being ordered about, especially when it's 'for my own good'. This in turn fuels my right-wing libertarian political viewpoint.

However, many people do not share this view, and naturally appreciate the firm smack of authority. It makes them feel secure, wanted and part of something greater than themselves, It also helps diminish death anxiety. The converse is also true. Studies show that people become more authoritarian when they are anxious.

I was reminded of this whilst reading an article on spiked-online, which quotes Al Gore on climate change:

‘The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise…. When we do rise, it will fill out spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope.’

So Big Al enjoys 'the thrill of being forced'. Indeed it fulfils his 'need for transcendence'. It's funny how often those in positions of power often turn out to be subs.
This appeal to authority has other implications for contemporary eco-warriors. In the old days, and particularly during the Christian dark ages, people solved problems about the world through appeals to authority. If it was in the bible, then it was true. If the bible was a bit sketchy, or inconsistent, then further proof would be provided by reference to Plato, or Aristotle. No-one actually checked the information. No-one did rigorous observations of the world. so for hundreds of years people believed that the world was flat, and that geese were born from barnacles.

However, there has been another thread to western civilisation. Since Aristotle first wrote about Empericism some 2300 years ago, through the Muslim polymath Alhacen, via Dr Mirabilis in the West, to Karl Popper in our time, the scientific method has been developed. After the renaissance, scientific thinking became our dominant way of dealing with the world. This fuelled the industrial revolution, and lead us to the world of today, where at least in the West, we are living longer, healthier lives than anyone in the history of Mankind.

But Eco-Masochists like Gore want to turn the clock back. Their science is merely appeals to authority. The IPCC report has lots of scientists contributing so it must be right. George Monbiot writes in the paper, so he must be right.

This world of plenty and change frightens Eco-Masochists. They don't want unlimited horizons and the freedom to achieve our dreams. They want a 'compelling moral purpose', so that they will be able to 'breathe freely' and 'find hope'. They want to be bound by regulations and slapped promptly when they transgress. They want state interference with every aspect of their lives, so that they feel cared for, and less scared.

I think that Bertrand Russell put it best: 'If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing'

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Are you pushing it out... nigger. These were the words that got Emily Parr turfed out of the Big Brother house yesterday. I heard this on Radio 4, shortly before Andy Duncan was castigated by John Humphries for broadcasting it on C4. Double standards ftw, hmm.

Funnily enough, I was working at C4 when I had a similar experience to young Emily. I have some married friends; she's from Grenada, he's from Yorkshire. He calls her 'nig' or 'nigger' all the time.

We were watching some after-dinner porn (as you do) and the thorny question of penis size came up. John Holmes was on screen, and my Yorkshire friend claimed that he was in fact King Dong. 'Nonsense', I replied, 'King Dong is a nigger!' (actually it's a film). All eyes turned to me, and silence reigned for several seconds, broken only by my partner inquiring archly 'what did you say?' 'He's a nigger, you know, a black guy.' I stuttered.

The conversation passed on, but our friendship was never quite as close from that day.

I've blogged about swearing before, and in general I think it's a bit infantile to be offended by rude words, but racially-charged epithets carry a particular connotation, i.e. that the user is themselves a racist. I feel slightly sorry for Emily Parr, as I don't think she meant to be racist, as I did not. I don't think C4 should have thrown her out. Apparently 900 people agree with me, as opposed to 86 that don't.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

UPDATE: spiked online says something sensible about this. Shock. Horror.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Olympic Logo is Arse

I'm not going to comment on the new olympic logo. It's been reviled here, here, here and here. Just about everywhere in fact. There's even a petition to change it.

No, I'm just going to say that the logo absolutely should have been this one.

UPDATE: and it's on the telly too!


Monday, June 04, 2007


Just a quickie, because I'm busy. Compare and contrast two government attitudes to extradition. And there's me thinking we live in the free part of the world. Next thing you'll be telling me there are people watching our every move. Oh wait.

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