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.)





Why does the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference hate freedom?

17 03 2009

I think gambling is a complete and utter waste of time and money. I have never enjoyed visiting the casino with my friends, and when I did, I never placed a bet, considering the practice the equivalent of emptying the contents of my wallet into the toilet.

But hey, that’s me. Many others, for reasons I personally cannot fathom, enjoy gambling. As long as their activities don’t harm others, who am I to stand in their way?

Who am I? I’m not a Catholic bishop, that’s who.

When you’re a Catholic bishop, you believe not only that you are, by virtue of the notion that you are the representative of a deity, able to deliberate authoritatively to the wretched paeons and sinners on how they ought to conduct their lives. You also believe that the law of the state should coerce people to conduct themselves in accordance with your dogmas, regardless of whether they belong to your religion.

You are, in effect, an enemy of liberal democracy. You are an enemy of religious freedom, and the separation of church and state, because for all your bluster about being God’s representatives on earth, about serving a higher power than any that humankind can devise, either the God you claim to represent is utterly weak, or your powers of reason and persuasion are so pathetically handicapped, that you need the earthly powers of the state to force people to do what you want them to do. You have always needed this.

It’s simple, really. Don’t like gambling, drinking or shopping on one of your “sacred” holidays? Then don’t do it. Don’t like others gambling, drinking or shopping on one of your “sacred” holidays? Then make an argument, convince them that they shouldn’t.

Or else prepare to be mocked for your obscene presumptuousness in dictating to the rest of us how we should live our lives. That mockery is a sign that human society is liberating itself from the superstitious and unnecessary fear and awe of old male virgins wearing funny robes. History is pwning you. And that’s a good thing.





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.”





Think of the children

18 01 2009

Three girls in Pennsylvania ranging in age from 14 to 15 took nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves with their mobile phones, and sent them to three of their teenaged friends. All six have been brought up on child pornography charges.

In the Pennsylvania case, a school official seized the phone of one of the boys after he was caught using it during school hours in violation of a school rule, according to local police Capt. George Seranko. The official found the picture on the phone, and after some interrogation, discovered that two other girls had also e-mailed photos of themselves in the nude to friends. That’s when the school called police, who obtained search warrants to seize the phones and examine them. Police showed the images to the local district attorney, who recommended they bring charges.Seranko said the images “weren’t just breasts; they showed [gasp] female anatomy.” Read the rest of this entry »





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.





Religious misanthropy and the case of the Muslim-only housing development

7 01 2009

OzAtheist posted recently on a Muslim-only housing development and recreation centre planned for the Perth suburb of Rivervale:

Islamic Council of WA spokesman Rahim Ghauri said the group had an architect-designed concept plan for a six-storey housing development, an underground carpark and a hall for weddings, conferences and religious and recreational activities.

Mr Ghauri rejected claims the housing would further isolate sectors of the Muslim community from mainstream society, claiming the venue would be used to teach Islamic youth how to become good Australian citizens.

The West Australian did not report Ghauri’s explanation of how Islamic youth the children of Muslim parents might learn how to become good Australian citizens by hermetically sealing them off from Australian society—you know, where Australian citizens live. In a sign that the Islamic Council of WA ought to consider firing whoever is in charge of their PR, the organisation’s religious spokesperson offered the following apologia: Read the rest of this entry »





Unintentional irony of the week

22 12 2008

From USA TODAY:

“I just hate being pigeonholed as a hate monger or bigot,” says Robert Hoehn, who contributed $25,000 to the campaign for Prop 8, which amended California’s Constitution to exclude same-sex marriage.








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