Friday, October 05, 2007
W.T.F.? ! ! !
Science education in the U.S. is currently being hamstrung by extreme right-wing religious fundamentalist nutters trying to foist creationism - nattily dressed up as 'Intelligent Design' - on unsuspecting American pupils.
As if that isn't bad enough, we seem to have acquired our own home-grown anti-science nutcase who wants to drag creationism (which Spellchecker wants to replace with 'cretinism,' by the way) kicking and screaming into British schools' science labs! 8-0
'Discuss' Judaeo-Christian myths in R.I. lessons, by all means, but...
THEY HAVE NO PLACE IN SCHOOL SCIENCE LABS!
With reference to religion, this nutjob states, "I'd like science lessons to be places where teachers take the views that students come in with seriously"
Come on! Seriously? Seriously?! No science teacher can discuss non-scientific ideas, which have no basis in fact, in science lessons without seriously compromising his or her scientific credentials. Seriously...
Creationism (no matter how you dress it up) and science (evidence-based, tried, tested and peer-reviewed) are mutually exclusive. There is NO common ground.
It's not that science rules out the existence of a divine power. It just says, find me some evidence that can be evaluated scientifically and then get back to me. Till then, leave it to the priests and R.I. teachers. PLEASE ! ! !
Friday, September 07, 2007
Freedom of Speech - is the end in sight?
BUSH'S POLICE BREAK UP ANTI-WAR MEETING IN WASHINGTON
National Park Service Police turned a September 15 Press Conference, held in front of the White House, into a chaotic scene. On the pretext that there was no permit for a three foot long folding table that the media placed their microphones on, the police intervened in the middle of the press conference to announce that it was an unpermitted activity.
Mounted police charged in to break up the outdoor press conference and demonstration against the Iraq war in Washington on Thursday, and arrested three organizers, Adam Kokesh, an Iraq war veteran; Tina Richards of Grassroots America; and Ian Thompson an ANSWER Coalition organizer who are being held in jail.
An AFP reporter said:
"The police suppressed the press conference. In the middle of the speeches, they grabbed the podium erected in a park in front of the White House for the small gathering. Then, mounted police charged the media present to disperse them" said Brian Becker, national organizer of the ANSWER anti-war coalition.
"The charge caused a peaceful crowd of some 20 journalists and four or five protestors to scatter in terror," said an AFP correspondent at the event in Lafayette Square.
The ANSWER coalition is trying to rally support for an anti-war demonstration in Washington that is due to take place on September 15. Washington city authorities have said the posters had to come down because they were stuck on with adhesive that did not meet city regulations.
"At our demonstration today we were showing the media that the paste we use conforms to the rules," Becker said. "This strategy of suppression has not worked. We expect many tens of thousands of people in Washington for the September 15 anti-war demonstration, he said.
The march has been timed to coincide with the release of a report by the US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and will be part of a week of protests led by veterans of the Iraq war.
A petition calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, allegedly carrying one million signatures and endorsed by former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, will also be submitted to officials during the week's activities.
Hell, our mounted police in the U.K. are used to break up riots, not disperse a small handful of peaceful protesters and reporters.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Let's get one thing straight before we go any further; there is nothing in Islamic texts or teaching that encourages or condones 'honour killings.' It's a cultural thing. Having said that, well...
I did a little more research on the 'Net and made some horrific discoveries, like:
"It is unknown how many women are maimed or disfigured for life in attacks that fall short of murder. Pamela Constable (Gendercide Watch) describes one such case:
"Zahida Perveen's head is shrouded in a white cotton veil, which she self-consciously tightens every few moments. But when she reaches down to her baby daughter, the veil falls away to reveal the face of one of Pakistan's most horrific social ills, broadly known as 'honour' crimes. Perveen's eyes are empty sockets of unseeing flesh, her earlobes have been sliced off, and her nose is a gaping, reddened stump of bone."
And it seems that there is a sizeable number of young women - children even - in this country that go in fear of their lives for wanting things that the rest of our young people take for granted, like choosing one's own friends, deciding whom to marry - or not, choosing one's own clothes, wearing make-up...
But little things like these can get you killed or maimed. By your father, your brother, your uncle or your cousin, either individually or together.
These are the very people you should be able to turn to for protection - for loving kindness - for compassion if you make mistakes, as we all do from time to time, especially when we're young.
So I have set up a little memorial on my site to some of those who have paid the ultimate price for not being perfect, like one who was hacked to death with four knives, her throat slit in three places while her two daughters, aged 2 and 4 stood by screaming and being splattered with her blood.
It seems the least I can do, having no power to do more. I feel, in a way, that it is none of my business, that it isn't my fight. Sadly, in the past at least, that attitude seems to have pervaded the police forces in this country.
I can only quote in profound sadness Edmund Burke:
"The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing."
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Sceptics? Or Unbelievers?
This is not scepticism. True scepticism is listening to all sides of an argument and suspending judgement until such time as incontrovertible evidence is produced. It is not pre-judging an issue in the absence of said incontrovertible evidence.
Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence; it's absence of evidence. Just that. Nothing more, nothing less.
So what is the cause of this particular outburst? A recent headline in The Register declared:
UK airline pilots spot giant UFO
This records that two commercial airline pilots independently reported an object that they could not identify over the Channel Islands. It was stationary at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Both pilots, one on each side of the object, reported this to Air Traffic Control at around the same time. It did not show up on the A.T.C. radar, which was not considered unusual since this is set to record moving objects.
Captain Ray Bowyer, aged 50, described it thus:
"It was a very sharp, thin yellow object with a green area. It was 2,000ft up and stationary. I thought it was about 10 miles away, although I later realised it was approximately 40 miles from us. At first, I thought it was the size of a [Boeing] 737. But it must have been much bigger because of how far away it was. It could have been as much as a mile wide."
Now there is (almost) certainly a perfectly rational, scientific explanation for this, in the same way that we now understand such previously mystical phenomena as will o' the wisps and St. Elmo's fire.
The fact that such things as are classified as U.F.O.s - that is, airborne objects which we cannot, at the present time, identify - does not mean that they should be dismissed out of hand as fanciful or fraudulent. They may be, but we don't have any evidence that says so. They may be alien spacecraft flown by little grey men with big black eyes, but we don't, so far as I'm aware, have any evidence for that either...
What really niggled me about this whole thing was not the report itself, but the number of pseudo-sceptical comments that followed on:
"The Channel Island [sic] are nigh on impossible to get to even by air."
So, like Svarlbard near the North Pole then? This writer was therefore Sceptical that there would be more than one plane in that air space and ergo, "Someone is telling porkys."
Another wrote: "This sounds like a bunch of hocus-pocus to me. These boy wonder pilots should stop wasting people's time and get a real job instead of trying to flummox gullible people with a load of old hoaxes."
Boy wonder pilots? Somehow, I have great difficulty on conflating a fifty year old commercial pilot with Dan Dare, the Red Baron or Charles Lindbergh. Wonder what he calls 'a real job' too?
Someone suggested that both pilots visit specsavers.
Like commercial airlines employ blind pilots? Okay, there really are a number of blind pilots around, but not, I think, flying passenger planes.
Yet another suggested: "Sounds like a lenticular cloud to me."
A lenticular cloud? Formed at high altitude? So not at a mere 2,000 feet then? Not to mention that lenticular clouds look like... CLOUDS!
Over the past fifty years and more, there have been hundreds of thousands of reports, worldwide, of 'Unidentified Flying Objects' - airborne objects that the observer couldn't identify, yadda, yadda.
The vast majority of these can, and have been, explained, or the reports are deemed unreliable. For instance, there is not a lot of point in investigating reports from, for instance:
- people who were drunk or on drugs at the time
- an individual's sighting, i.e. with no corroboration
- people who have already compared notes and then come up with the same description
- people with some sort of vested interest
- people who do not have the educational background to rule out obvious explanations like planets, planes, the International Space Station and such like
- observations made in poor visibility
There will still be rational and scientific explanations for this smaller collection of reports; we just don't know what they are.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Where torture is okay, but criticism isn't...?
Sometimes, I think we don't appreciate how lucky we are in living in a civilized and secular country. Certain things we take for granted, like freedom of speech, could land us in jail in other countries.
In the U.K., freedom of speech is regarded as a right. Of course, with rights come responsibilities, like not abusing that right by shouting "Fire!" in a crowded cinema, for instance, or inciting violence or hatred.
But otherwise, I am free to express my opinions no matter how critical I am of The Wankers in Charge.
Egyptian blogger, Karim Amer is not so lucky. He's in jail. For four years! Just for criticizing the political and religious authorities in Egypt.
This is seen to be a dire warning to any other bloggers - Egyptian bloggers, that is - who have the temerity to criticize their government.
This is possibly because Egyptian bloggers have been putting the boot in of late about human rights abuses in their country. Don't about the rest of you, but I call jailing a blogger for speaking his mind - blowing the whistle, whatever - an abuse of his human rights.
Hm, didn't I read somewhere that Egypt was (is?) involved in those 'extraordinary rendition' cases? You know extraordinary rendition? That euphemism for what others have called "the outsourcing of torture" and "torture by proxy?"
It seems that, while torture is perfectly okay with the Egyptian government, blogging about that torture is not. To the tune of four fucking years in jail!
And you can bet your bottom dollar that Karim Amer will not be spending those four years in a prison with all mod. cons. and a T.V. set in every cell...
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I hope this organization gets the signatures it needs!
If you believe in peace and freedom and haven't already signed it, please do.
Friday, October 13, 2006
What have they got to hide?
Apparently, the American Powers That Be do not like unilateral journalists. I understand that this is because, unlike embedded journalists, they have no control over where they go, what they find out and, more importantly, what they write.
One is forced to ask the question, was this independence-aversion in some way involved in the "unlawful killing," or as I prefer to call it, murder, of I.T.N. reporter, Terry Lloyd? Coroner Andrew Walker made it clear at the inquest that his death did not come about through negligence or foolhardiness.
I think there is a case to answer, yet, according to Paul McLaughlin of the N.U.J., the U.S. authorities not only failed to co-operate with the inquest but actually obstructed it, adding that, "they have not sent anyone to appear at the inquest and have shown complete contempt for the British legal system and it makes a mockery of the so-called 'special relationship.' "
Moreover, Major Kay Roberts, of the Royal Military Police, told the inquest that fifteen minutes of footage - including the moment of his death - appeared to be missing from a film of the incident which was supplied by the US military. Furthermore, it had not been handed over by the American authorities until some months after the incident.
Regarding the circumstances surrounding Terry Lloyd's death, as I understand it, he, two cameramen and an interpreter were effectively kidnapped by armed Iraqis shortly before encountering American tanks. He and his crew were caught in cross-fire and three of the four received survivable injuries. No blame attaches to the U.S. military for that as they were in a 'hot' situation.
The injured crew members were then transferred to a makeshift ambulance. This was stationary while the injured were being transferred into it. Furthermore, it was facing away from the American forces and clearly presented no threat to them.
It was at this point that Terry Lloyd was fatally shot in the head by an American bullet. Evidence strongly suggests that whoever opened fire on Mr Lloyd did so with the intention of "killing him or causing really serious injury."
In response, an anonymous 'Pentagon spokesman' said that their own investigation into the incident had determined that U.S. forces had followed normal rules of engagement, saying that, "The Department of Defence has never deliberately targeted non-combatants, including journalists. We have always gone to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage."
::cough::choke::splutter::wheeze::yeah right ! ! !Was this a deliberate act to silence an independent reporter? I think we should be told.