Dystopia, UK

You just try getting to sleep in an undeclared war zone. Given the noise of helicopters and exploding vehicles, I suspect that there must be a film crew remaking Apocalypse Now outside my house.

The UK media has reported the riots with instant guesses about what’s happening and/or repeats of each other’s copy. The posh papers have been full of instant punditry. Online, these stories have been twat magnets for the far right’s minor army of hangers and floggers.

The BBC site provided a selection of UK riot stories from around the globe. Among the quotes, there were quite a few perceptive ones, such as this from the Chinese Renmin Ribao

“The Olympics will be hosted next year; the security situation in London, which has always been a first-choice site for terrorist attacks, will be even grimmer. British police now face two main problems. First, as the government cuts police funding in order to reduce the deficit, British police will carry out massive layoffs. With insufficient manpower and financial resources, they will inevitably be overwhelmed with problems in maintaining social order. Second, after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, the credibility of the British police has declined and there is still a very long way to go in rebuilding the credibility of the police and restoring public support, says Qu Bing, Institute of European Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.”

Obviously, there’s an element of irony there, for anyone who can remember the build up to the Beijing Olympics. But this one from Iran takes the irony biscuit:

Iran called for London police to exercise self-restraint in dealing with protesters in Tottenham, north of London. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast referred to Saturday night’s massive protests in Tottenham, which came following [the killing] of a young black man by Scotland Yard police and called for the UK government to avoid any police’s harsh treatment with protesters.

Bonfire night

Today’s strong contender for the coveted WhyDontYou Cup for Extraordinary Governmental Effort in the Service of Irony* has been spotted by the Guardian

Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ plan will cost as much as it saves
Exclusive: Private papers reveal multi-billion pound bill to close up to 180 quangos – and savings might not be felt for 10 year
….. private papers reveal that in several cases the liabilities from pensions, redundancies and rental contracts could outweigh any of the savings being claimed for up to 10 years.

This would be funny if it wasn’t also tragic. Don’t they teach Remedial Maths at Eton?

The quango bonfire is just the overture before the main cuts action.

The statement came as more details of the job cuts within Whitehall emerged, with departments told to make up to a third of their employees redundant. The education department is understood to be looking for a 30% reduction in staff.

The same mathematics will apply. Massive cuts and no net savings.

There is a little ironic satisfaction in that the Tories’ natural supporters are going to get hammered. And not only in a “we’re all in this together so we’ve got to accept a few minor inconveniences like the loss of our child benefit” way.

What is closer to Middle England’s heart than the belief there is somehow a natural right to get ever richer through the ever-increasing value of houses?

But even the threat of public sector is already having an impact on the housing market. The headlines are:

Housing market crash feared after average house prices take record plunge
Halifax tries to allay fears that prices are poised to nosedive amid impending cuts to public sector jobs

Reality check for Mail readers: The more people are unemployed – whether ex-nurses or ex-teachers or even ex-estate agents – the more tax anyone who still has a wage will have to pay. Where is the money going to come from for the next round of big bank bailouts?

“And so it begins….”, as they used to say on Babylon 5.
—————————
* A new award that we’re working on.
It’s going to be hard to choose a winner, in such a strong field. The smart money would normally be on Boris except that he’s only in local government. A tough act to follow but his crowning ironic achievement** seems amateurish in comparison to the efforts of his Bullingdon Club chums.

** (Londoners elected a man on the basis that they recognised him from his appearances as a rightwing buffoon on a Have I got News for You,)

Please dont label me

As I am sure most of you are aware (I am still catching up from my travels – lots of strange things have happened while I have been away), there is a new poster campaign:

Please dont label me

Please dont label me

The idea behind this comes from Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion (and a zillion places elsewhere):

There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents. … Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder. Everybody’s consciousness should be raised to this level.

This strikes me (obviously) as making complete sense. As the oft-quoted remarks go we wouldnt describe a three year old as a “marxist child” or any other combination of their parents interests, hobbies and beliefs. We find that normal, while ignoring the oddity of treating “Muslim Child” as normal.

Part of this may be to do with the fact parents who have faith in a particular belief system will begin indoctrinating their children at a very early age. So, for example, children from a devout Catholic family will have learned their prayers by the time they can talk. However, this is not the same as making the informed choice to adopt that belief system. It is telling that religious groups put so much effort into catching children when they are young (and more susceptible to crazy stories about invisible people living in the clouds), hoping to force their ideas to such an extent that a minority stray from the fold – notably, most converts from one cult religion to another turn out to hold extreme views as that is what is needed to break the shackles.

So, that said, it is obvious why the BHA (et al) want a campaign like this, and obvious why religious groups are opposed to it (as always). The idea that children are given a free choice is comical at the best of times – atheist parents will try to leave their children to make up their own minds, while religious groups (under state sponsorship in the UK*) will try to convert them; meanwhile religious parents will continue to indoctrinate. What this poster campaign does, however, is educate adults. It brings the double standards we practice in daily life into public view. Painful it maybe, but this is a good thing.

With that background out of the way, there is an interesting post on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, on TimesOnline:

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.
With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.
Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.
Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.

I am not sure, exactly, what the motivation behind this item was, but it seems to be massively missing the point while proving the whole reason behind the campaign. It is hard, to work out where to begin with this, it all just seems a bit misguided.

First off: The pictures are from a stock photo gallery. When they were chosen there was no “background check” (despite how much we get off on that sort of thing in the UK) carried out and nor should there be. Can you imagine if iStockPhoto (or the like) demanded to know the religious background of any of its models. Rightfully, newspapers like the times would be outraged.

Secondly: Some minor “celeb” (dont make me laugh) drummer for a (ahem) popular Christian musician does not make them “one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.” That is just meaningless words where Ruth has lowered herself to a tabloid standard while trying to mock the post campaign. Its comically pointless.

Thirdly: This underscores the need for the campaign. These children are aged 8 and 7. They are too young to vote, drink alcohol, drive, own a gun, smoke, etc. They are below the age of criminal responsibility so they cant, legally, be held accountable for their actions. They can not, in any way, have made the concious, informed decision to commit to a religion. They are not “Christian Children” but “Children of Christian Parents.” Ruth seems to massively miss this point, but it not her worst blunder here.

Lastly: Where does it say they are, or should be, atheist children? The idea is not that only atheist children are happy, it is not that all children are atheists (although they are born that way), it is that we should stop labelling them. There is nothing wrong with having “children of Christian parents” on the campaign poster. This is a campaign that, should, be equally supported by every religion. It gives a greater chance for Christians to “save” children from Muslim, Hindu or Jewish families – sadly for them the opposite is true.

All Ruth has done with her post is show how quickly we fall into the trap of labelling children based on what ever ideas their parents have. No mention is made of the children being interviewed, just their father who appears to be speaking on their behalf.

Obviously you can be too young to think for yourself, but not too young to believe…….

I have missed this level of irony during my travels.

[EDITED TO ADD]

It seems great minds think alike 🙂 and The Freethinker has taken the times to task over this madness.

[END EDIT]

* yes, I know you can ask for your child to be excluded from communal prayer and other religious based teachings, but Religious Education is still mandatory and, in reality, who would want their child to be singled out for the dreaded “special treatment” in front of their school mates. It must be torture. On the positive side, mandatory RE / prayer never managed to even come close to convincing me, or anyone I went to school with, that God exists….

The nature of evil

I know, I know. Mocking the people who post on Rapture Ready feels like hanging round the special needs kids and laughing at them.

But still. This is the most comically ironic thread that I’ve followed to its source, from the reliably hilarious Fundies Say the Darnedest Things, for – well – a few days at least.

There’s a Rapture Ready thread on the topic Are Skull Shirts Evil?

Evil? Can clothes be intrinsically evil? This could explain several of life’s mysteries.

Why, for instance, do the top buttons on the most expensive blouse I’ve ever owned pop open whenever I’m in a public place? Why does one in every pair of socks disappear in the washing machine. How can labels scratch weals in your skin, despite feeling as soft as toilet paper when you touch them? How can things that looked stunning on a hanger in the store make the wearer look like a dumpier and more taste-challenged version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Realising that evil may indeed live in the hearts of garments can explain so much. I had previously had to rely on the working assumption that some clothes were under an RPG curse. But now, I’ve seen the truth. They are just innately bad. Probably manifestations of lesser demons or something.

However, reading Rapture Ready with attention, it seems that it’s not clothes in general, just clothes with skull motifs, that are evil. Regular member scapegoat says

It’s part of the “Culture of Death” our world is embracing. Homosexuality, abortion, etc….

RDY4HIM says:

…. From what I can tell, it is directly associated with the kids embracing the spirit of death. They obsess over it. Some are actually suicidal, some practice self-injury, but most are extremely depressed. They see death as a way out and look forward to it because they have no hope. These are the kids that I minister to on-line through Facebook.
….. there is a really cool line of clothing out at Mardel’s and maybe other Christian stores called NOTW (Not of this World). The look is very similar to the skulls and crossbones attire but with crosses instead. They have hoodies, t-shirts, shoes, jewelry, you name it. Very cool, and an awesome way for our kids ti witness. My daughter will definitely be getting some for her b-day.

Lucky, lucky girl…. What an awesome b-day that will be. (It’s not as if a cross has anything to do with death or anything.)

Lucky suicidal kids who get ministered to on Facebook, too. (Yet another reason for avoiding facebook like a biblical plague of boils.)

Some posters say it’s just a fashion, even “cute” in pink (Is there anything on earth that some people don’t think is cute in pink?) But most are predictably aghast – satan’s trickery, EMO death cult and all the rest of it.

Culture of Death, indeed. Let me get this straight:

Rapture enthusiasts = people for whom mass human extinction can’t come soon enough. I think that defines a death cult.

These are the members of a death cult, who see some clothes as evil because – wait for it – their decoration represents a death cult.

So they suggest that their fellow Rapture Xians replace death symbol A (skull) with death symbol B (a cross)

I bet that is sooo cuuuute in pink

The Irony, It burns…

Don’t you just love “Have Your Say“? What a wonderful place for those without any education, or any concept of the society they live in, to get burning issues off their chest without any fear of being punched in the face.

One of today’s topics is “Should witnesses have the right to anonymity” (link may be dead by the time you read this but it lives in the BBC archives). In a nutshell, the Law Lords upheld a long standing British legal tradition that says you have the right to face your accuser, and now the moaning-right want to abolish it. Ostensibly this is to allow people to give evidence without fear of criminal retribution (which, incidentally already happens and has happened for many, many years).

I think removing this right would be insane. It wouldn’t really help the police as they can already protect a witness under threat, but would allow people to lie without having to suffer the consequences. This is, IMHO, a very bad thing.

Anyway, on HYS there is a healthy mix of reactions. This is good as it means there are sane people out there. Ironically, the pro-anonymity argument seems to wrap itself up in contradictions…

Take this tirade against the law lords for their ruling:

The government is supposed to make the laws in this country, not a bunch of sad, senile old freaks. It’s patently obvious to anyone with an IQ greater than that of a prune that witnesses should be allowed anonymity, otherwise no one in their right mind would ever give evidence against criminal gangs. These idiots should not be allowed to make any more decisions of this kind.

Wow. The elected government (so often the brunt of right-wingers ire) is better a the law than the Law lords? Hmm. I disagree but that is not the issue. From this madness we get on to how the quality of the witness will be determined if the accussed can not challenge them:

The quality of the evidence will be taken into consideration by the judge during the trial. This will determine the validity and the Jury will be directed accordingly.

Wow. Ironic, isn’t it?

Obama speaks simple truth – gets hammered

The irony. Barrack Obama makes some honest and intelligent observations and he’s treated as if he has personally cursed the voters as morons. The offending quote:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” he said.
“And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” he added.

This is not just unarguably correct but shows that he has some political and social awareness. Obviously the last qualities that you want from a President…..

The irony is the condescension of Hillary Clinton’s attack:

Mrs Clinton said her rival’s comments had been condescending and suggested voters in Pennsylvania did not “need a president who looks down on them”.
“I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America,” she said on Saturday.
“Senator Obama’s remarks are elitist and are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans, certainly not the Americans that I know.”

So, it’s demeaning to the voters to understand what motivates them but not to flatter them? Obama is elitist? She hangs around depressed small-towns around America with the long-term unemployed. She props up the Sports Bar or eats in Hooters or hangs round the gun club, then?

McCain obviously jumped on the populist “Obama is elitist bandwagon”

An adviser to Mr McCain, Steve Schmidt, said his candidate believed the statement was “nothing short of breathtaking”, and that it was “hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans”.

No, “breathtaking” is when you realise the contempt that political candidates really do have for the voters. Politicians who treat voters as pawns to be manipulated for their votes, to get the big bucks their backers will pull in after the election – while assuring them they really love and respect them – are acting in a way that would be seen as “gold-digging” in the private sphere.

Poor Obama has had to rephrase his speech but he does seems to have stood by its content. I doubt that “regime change” will make much difference to the US. Still, I’m increasingly daring to hope that Obama could actually achieve something.

Upgrade Stalled

It looks like not enough people made the correct devotions to Hermes and now we are not going to try and upgrade the blog this weekend. Heather has been sidelined by a cold and a fair amount of work and my internet access time is approaching the bare minimum. When we have more time we will look at what is required with the upgrade and give it ago. Please, keep making sacrifices to Ukko though.