Things they would have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City XXXI

9 04 2009

The week in whackaloonery:

1. A Catholic priest in the UK is shocked SHOCKED at the notion that the primary function of a hospital is the provision of medical care, and claims that if taxpayers don’t continue to foot the bill for “spiritual care” (chaplains, organ players and such), “hospitals could be reduced to mere workshops where you get your biological parts fixed.” Fancy that. (The Freethinker)]

2. The New Zealand Family First organisation is crying foul over a very funny billboard ad depicting a woman who, it is intimated, is privately deriving pleasure from anal beads during a church service. Given that “the church setting simply adds to the offensive nature by offending a sector of our community who would find the ad in particularly bad taste,” and given that said sector of the community has a right not to be offended, and given that nobody is thinking of teh children, NZ Family First has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. (The Freethinker)

3. In the recently fundy-ised Swat Valley region of Pakistan, a 17-year-old girl was publicly flogged by the Taliban. Swat was once a haven for tourists and was known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” until the Taliban took control in late 2008, torching schools and banning female education. (AsiaNews)

4. In Nepal, a woman accused of witchcraft was forced to eat human excreta by a primary school principal. (MYREPUBLICA)

5. Unfortunate article heading of the week from New Vision Online: “Catholic Church probes gay priests.” Homosexuality is teh evil, according to Ugandan Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, because “homosexuality is a sin,” and because “God created a woman for Adam, to be his helper.”

6. In liberated Iraq, in the wake of anti-homosexual sermons by clerics in Sadr city, six gay men have been murdered, their bodies discovered bearing a sign reading “pervert” in Arabic on their chests. (Reuters)





Liberal Party member Chris Abood on the internet blacklist

23 03 2009

From his recent Online Opinion piece:

So how does one get blacklisted?

Quite easily.

There are two ways to end up on the blacklist, either through direct channels or inadvertently. Currently, if I come across a website that I do not approve of either because I believe it is illegal or does not suit my ideological bent, I can make a complaint to the ACMA. In order to make a complaint, I must be an Australian resident or a company that carries on activities in Australia, provide the internet address and/or sufficient access details to enable ACMA to access the online content and provide reasons as to why I believe the online content is prohibited. The ACMA will then make a determination as to whether that site is added to the blacklist. It is not clear how the ACMA makes this determination. It has also been reported that other bodies such as filter software companies can also add websites to the blacklist. It is not clear how this is policed.

So how does one inadvertently end up on the list? Imagine that Big Buba from the Buba crime syndicate published a websites called FriendlyTours.com. However this is a front for an illegal website publishing unsavoury pictures. The site is found, a complaint made to ACMA and rightly added to the blacklist. A few weeks later, Big Buba closes down the site and moves to a new domain called BubaTours.com to try and keep ahead of the authorities. This site is also added to the blacklist and a few weeks later the site moves again and again.

Meanwhile, Jan who has been working for a large multi-national for 20 years is called into her manager’s office and told that she is being made redundant. With her large redundancy cheque, she decides to pursue her dream of running a tour business. She calls her business Friendly Tours and finds that the domain name is available. She registers the domain name and has a nice website built.

Jim, a dentist, decides to have a website built for his practice. His Internet Service Provider assigns his domain JimsDentistry.com to an IP address that was previously occupied by BubaTours.com. Both Jim and Jan are friends of mine. I offer to help them increase their Google rankings by linking to their sites through my website, my blog and my Facebook page.

A few weeks go by and Jim and Jan start getting emails from people saying they cannot access their websites. They don’t know why. They try to contact me for an explanation but cannot get hold of me. That is because I am in court being fined $11,000 a day for linking to a banned site. The people who emailed Jim and Jan are also in court facing jail terms of ten years for trying to access a site contained on the blacklist.

This blacklist is to form the backbone of the government’s mandatory filtering regime. The leaked list apparently contains 2,395 websites. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy wants to expand this to 10,000 websites. Will the ACMA be under pressure to find sites, any sites, to reach this number? The legitimacy of the blacklist will always be in question while owners of websites on the blacklist have no means of recourse especially if that site is legitimate.

Something I am curious about is whether this policy is unanimously supported or even popular among members of the ALP. If not, what are dissenting ALP members doing about it?





March in March

20 03 2009

I will be here in spirit:

WHAT

March in March is an upbeat event to give people an opportunity stand up, be heard, and hold the government accountable for their plans of forcing mandatory censorship on a very unwilling public.

With a mix of live entertainment of bands and DJs, speakers from all sides of the political spectrum and other special guests, the day will be topped off with the annual Canberran Skyfire Festival, just for us … okay, maybe not. [. . .]

WHERE

Parliament House side of Federation Mall, Canberra

WHEN

1:00 PM 21st of March, 2009

(Press conference at 11:00 AM)

WHY

The DLC have been organising rallies in capital cities for the past three months raising awareness as to the governments plans to censor the internet and the negative impact involved.

This is only the tip of the wedge of censorship being driven into our society by a vocal minority, as they say, the best time to defend your freedom is while you still have it.

While Senators change their minds daily, and the media report that the filter will go ahead, or won’t go ahead almost as regularly–the fact remains–this issue will not be put to bed unless Australians defend their democracy against the very ideology of censorship culture.

I’m not comfortable with the use of the sneer term “vocal minority.” For one thing, it misses the point: the clean feed is a bad thing regardless of whether it is advocated by a minority or a majority. But it also reeks of the kind of demagoguery that Conroy wields against those who oppose mandatory filtering: “If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree.” (In other words, if you oppose the Government’s plan, you must love watching kiddie porn.) We are all minorities, insofar as we are all individuals, whose rights and interests (including freedom of speech) are supposed to be defended against majoritarian tyranny—that is what has hitherto defined us as a robust liberal democracy.

And it comes down to this. In one of the world’s so-called robust liberal democracies, the Government equates free speech advocacy with pederasty. That is—and should be—nothing short of alarming.





Meet the world’s most influential witchdoctor

18 03 2009

From The Guardian:

The Pope today reignited the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa.

The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

The timing of his remarks outraged health agencies trying to halt the spread of HIV and Aids in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 22 million people are infected.

The Roman Catholic church encourages sexual abstinence and fidelity to prevent the disease from spreading, but it is a policy that has divided some clergy working with Aids patients.

The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that if the Pope was serious about preventing new HIV infections he would focus on promoting wider access to condoms and spreading information about how best to use them.

Hodes, the director of policy, communication and research for the campaign group, added: “Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

Millions of lives are at stake owing to the sad fact that this man’s ill-informed and anti-scientific utterances are taken seriously. (That, compounded with the—hopefully diminishing—human desire to flush one’s brain down the toilet, ignore reality and prostrate oneself before dogma and self-appointed authority.)





Great Moments in the History of “Christian Love” (TM): How Religious Fascism Poisoned Little Axe

28 02 2009

A recent episode of Ed Brayton’s Declaring Independence podcast (Feb 5th 2009) featured an interview with Joann Bell, one of the plaintiffs in a 1980s suit against the school district of Little Axe, Oklahoma. In 1981, the town’s elementary school was allowing a “voluntary” teacher-sponsored student prayer group called the Son Shine Club to operate on school grounds before classes began. The school buses used to drop students off in front of the school 30 minutes before classes began, and since school rules dictated that no student was allowed inside the building without permission before the first class, students had to choose between standing outside in the rain or cold, and joining the prayer meeting inside the school. Eventually, peer-pressure forced more students to attend Son Shine Club meetings, which would sometimes run over into the first class.

Bell, who belonged to a different denomination than the Baptist Son Shine Club, brought up the issue with the school board, where she was told to take it up with the ACLU. When she along with other parents brought a lawsuit against the school district (which the plaintiffs won on appeal), that’s when all hell broke loose: including death threats, assaults on herself and her children, and eventually the firebombing of her family home, forcing the family to move away from the town.

More details are available at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, where we also learn the school superintendent’s response to his community’s loving Christian treatment of the plaintiffs: “The only people who have been hurt by this thing are the Bells and McCords. The school goes on. They chose to create their own hell on earth.”





Meanwhile . . .

7 01 2009

This is the kind of story they didn’t want you to hear about during the Howard years:

One is a successful artist who works in robotics and the other is a former kung fu champion on the verge of a promising film career.

But just a few short years ago, Adam Janali and Hussain Sadiqi were refugees locked in immigration detention centres as part of the former Howard government’s tough line on boat people and people smuggling.

Compelled to speak out after reports about the latest wave of asylum seekers which Mr Janali claims “inflame hatred through creating an image of wealthy queue jumpers”, the Afghan men said refugees went on to become hard-working and contributing citizens.

Mr Janali, 31, of North Perth, spent three years in detention after using a network of people smugglers to get out of Afghanistan because of Taliban persecution.

In 2001, the Taliban shot his brother (who had lost a leg in a landmine blast) because he was “of no use to anyone”, so Mr Janali’s parents paid people smugglers to send him “anywhere”. He has not heard from his parents since.

He came to Australia via Iran and Indonesia and said he taught himself to draw and paint while detained in a bid to “keep sane”. He held his first exhibition in 2006, two years after his release. Before coming to Australia he had no English and a solely religious and philosophical education, but now worked both as an artist and a robotics expert in the mining industry.

Now married to a local woman, Mr Janali said he felt Australia was his country too and was concerned about the “exaggerations” surrounding the experiences of the latest wave of refugees, who would also become contributing citizens if given the chance. (The West Australian)

I know Mr Janali, and his wife is a friend who emailed me this story. And I congratulate him and his friend Mr Sadiqi on being able to share their stories.

UPDATE (OF SORTS): Here is an interview with Adam Janali from 2006.





Now this is magical thinking I can respect!

7 12 2007

Indigenous Australians pay their respects to the former member for Bennelong. (Via Oz Atheist)


Howard vs. Aboriginal Australians





The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Joseph Massad

21 10 2007

Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, has published a book in which he argues that

there are no homosexuals in the entire Arab world, except for a few who have been brainwashed into believing they have a homosexual identity by an aggressive Western homosexual missionizing movement he calls “Gay International.” [. . .] According to the author, “It is the very discourse of the Gay International which produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist” (emphasis added).

The claim is advanced in the third chapter of Desiring Arabs, based upon an earlier paper of his (“Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World”).

TEH GAY AGENDA is a familiar Christian Right meme, and
the idea that gays and lesbians do not exist in the Middle East has most recently been put by one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Massad simply presents the homophobic ravings of Christian and Muslim fundies and expresses them in the idiom of postcolonial studies. As former Guardian Middle East correspondent Brian Whitaker observes in a review of Desiring Arabs,

Massad talks of a “missionary” campaign orchestrated by what he calls the “Gay International”. Its inspiration, he says, came partly from “the white western women’s movement, which had sought to universalise its issues through imposing its own colonial feminism on the women’s movements in the non-western world”, but he also links its origins to the Carter administration’s use of human rights to “campaign against the Soviet Union and Third World enemies”.

Like the major US- and European-based human rights organisations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) and following the line taken up by white western women’s organisations and publications, the Gay International was to reserve a special place for the Muslim countries in its discourse as well as its advocacy. The orientalist impulse … continues to guide all branches of the human rights community. (p 161)

Oddly, since this is central to his argument, Massad offers no evidence to substantiate his claim. There are plenty of reasons other than an “orientalist impulse” why gay rights activists might justifiably pay attention to Muslim countries (punishments for same-sex acts, for instance, tend to be heavier there, on paper if not always in practice, and the only countries in the world where the death penalty for sodomy still applies justify it on the basis of Islamic law) but that is not the same as reserving “a special place” for them in the discourse.

Then again, I suppose the demand that extraordinary claims of the kind Massad advances be supported by empirical evidence may be written off as another manifestation of Western imperialism. It gets worse:

State repression against gay people happens on a frequent basis across the Middle East. Massad, however, who claims to be a supporter of sexual freedom per se, is oddly impassive when confronted with the vast catalogue of anti-gay state violence in the Muslim world. Massad, unlike Ahmadinejad, does acknowledge that “gay-identified” people exist in the Middle East, but he views them with derision. Take, for instance, his description of the Queen Boat victims as “westernized, Egyptian, gay-identified men” who consort with European and American tourists. A simple “gay” would have sufficed. He smears efforts to free the men by writing of the “openly gay and anti-Palestinian Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank” and the “anti-Arab and anti-Egyptian [Congressman] Tom Lantos” who circulated a petition amongst their colleagues to cut off U.S. funding to Egypt unless the men were released. He then goes onto belittle not just gay activists (one of whom, a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society, referred to the Queen Boat affair as “our own Stonewall,” in reference to the 1969 Stonewall riot when a group of patrons at a New York City gay bar resisted arrest, a moment credited with sparking the American gay rights movement) but the persecuted men themselves. The Queen Boat cannot be Stonewall, Massad insists, because the “drag Queens at the Stonewall bar” embraced their homosexual identity, whereas the Egyptian men “not only” did “not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny.” Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced. “These are hardly manifestations of gay pride or gay liberation,” Massad sneers.

Joseph Massad: you are a disgrace to academia. Your brand of unscholarly and unsubstantiated rubbish feeds the hysterical paranoiac fantasies of the Horowitz crowd and their puppets in the Republican party–people who seek to restrict academic freedom and stifle the views of those with whom they disagree, and are just salivating for a cause celebre like yourself. Furthermore, it gives a free pass to the persecution of gays and lesbians in the Arab world, by coding any criticism of such persecution as “Western imperialism.” Lift your game.





The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXVII

5 10 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. Texas law, with the Orwellian title “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,” allows evangelical students to proselytise to captive audiences at public school assemblies. (Alternet)
  2. Fundies–of both the Protestant and Catholic varieties–call for the shutting down of a San Francisco gay and lesbian festival and for the boycott of sponsor Miller’s. (As one liberal pastor observes, a conservative Christian boycott of alcohol–isn’t that a little like Hindus boycotting beef?) (The Bay Area Reporter)
  3. Archbishop declares he would refuse communion to Rudy Giuliani. (via Morons.org)
  4. The Red Mass: where Catholic archbishops have the annual opportunity to instruct the members of the US Supreme Court on how to vote on constitutional matters. (via TheocracyWatch)
  5. God-fearing evangelical Christians–default moral exemplars to us all–gay-bash an Indian man to death in Sacramento. Apparently “God has ‘made an injection’ of high numbers of anti-gay Slavic evangelicals into traditionally liberal West Coast cities,” according to the host of a Russian-language anti-gay radio show in Sacramento. “‘In those places where the disease is progressing, God made a divine penicillin,'” he said. The murderers belong to a Latvian Pentecostal church linked to anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who in the 90s wrote a book comparing gay rights activists to Nazis. (Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)
  6. William Dembski: evil atheist materialist scientists unfairly try to rationalise away the existence of angels (which Dembski insists are as real as rocks and plants and animals) with reason and science and whatnot. Evil atheist materialist scientists!


Religion as Child Abuse





Shutting the door on darkies: it’s what Jesus would do.

4 10 2007
Image via the Jim Crow Museum

When he isn’t bearing false witness on his CV, right-wing Catholic Federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews is declaring no more room at the inn for Sudanese refugees–you know, those people who are fleeing from a situation in which they run the constant risk of being raped or murdered by Janjaweed and Sudanese government forces–because he thinks they “have been slow to integrate with the wider community.” The evidence for this claim–evidence that African refugees are less able to “integrate” (whatever that means anyway) into the Australian community than refugees from the Middle East or Asia–is for Cabinet’s eyes only, so you’ll just have to trust him. The Victorian police say he’s spouting nonsense: “young African men accounted for less than 1per cent of the state’s crime statistics and did not present a major difficulty for law enforcement,” according to the Police Commissioner. But they’re just “in denial,” retorts Kev, who claims “anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise.” Anecdotal evidence, you see, trumps statistical evidence. Textbook magical thinking. Kev missed his calling in life: instead of falsely claiming to co-author other people’s books, he could be making a fortune writing his own books on Christian apologetics.

As even the folks at the Government Gazette are forced to conclude . . . Dog: meet whistle.

More at Mikey‘s.
Andrews on Mohammed Haneef








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