Monday, 24 December 2012

Cognitive dissonance: always in fashion

A random and entirely non-seasonal observation: when did models stop being exploited, objectified victims of the patriarchy and become feminist icons?

A happy and peaceful Christmas to anyone who should happen along. No promises, but I might manage a more substantial slab or two of curmudgeonliness before 2013's wage slavery gets under way.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cute foster kids you've got there... a shame if anything happened to them.

Not, I grant, the exact words used by Cameroonian posh boy Matthew d'Ancona to warn us off overmuch involvement with Ukip. But the bottom line is unmistakeable.

Voters of Rotherham, may I respectfully suggest that a lost deposit would send a salutary message to Mr d'Ancona and his ilk?

Monday, 29 October 2012

A papal knighthood

'The papal knighthood given to Jimmy Savile "should not have been bestowed", a Vatican spokesman has told the BBC.'

No. it should not, though no blame attaches to its award unless the Vatican was better informed than his colleagues and bosses at the BBC will admit to being.
'The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales confirmed it has written to the Holy See to ask if the honour can be posthumously removed.'
No, it cannot. He held it while he lived, and death removed it from him. There's no more to be said. Unless we want to go the whole hog by exhuming his corpse so that we can put it on trial. Let the secular world wallow in post-Christian superstition; Archbishop Nichols ought to know better. One appreciates that for painfully obvious reasons he feels the need to be seen to be doing something, but this is simply the wrong thing.

The penalties now faced by Jimmy Savile are not a matter for the Church or any other human agency. A papal knighthood is just part of the worldly pomp which we will all be stripped of when we go to meet our Maker. It's not for us to judge how repentant he was, or far his many good works were done for good motives. Those of us who are conscious of having done a lot less good and no little harm in the course of our lives would do well to pray for his soul.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Set my people free

Much rejoicing at the Curmudgeon's Arms last night, following the annoucement that live live music licences are to be thrown onto the bonfire of red tape. A veritable cultural renaissance is in prospect. We've already booked up-and-coming local tribute band Puppy Riot.

The neighbours? Oh, no doubt they will get used to it in time.

One or two of our regulars got so carried away that they were on the verge of lighting a celebratory fag. Luckily, however, they were reminded just in time that the law requires good citizenship and consideration for others.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mars, the bringer of flab

I'm sure I'm one of many who have been beguiled by the BBC headline "People can be fat yet fit, research suggests". In fact the piece would be more accurately titled "Being fat is only bad for you when it makes you ill". So it seems those deep-fried Mars bars should remain off-limits.

Though I haven't eaten a Mars bar in years, there was a time when I considered a coffee and a Mars an entirely satisfactory substitute for breakfast.

Not, however, deep-fried. Does anyone really eat them that way, or is that just a viciously Scotophobic urban myth? This settles the question in a somewhat curious manner. "Dispel" as a synonym for "prove to be entirely true" is a new one on me.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Getting it into proportion

This, you might think, is ipso facto a hate crime. Not so in the eyes of the law. And since it is not, it is perfectly reasonable that it should be only one-sixth as awful as this.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Not alone

Has any expression been coined for the opposite of "going viral"? I mean, where something is studiously ignored as a prelude to a determined forgetting that there was ever anything to ignore.

Whatever it is called, that is what happened to the trial of the Derby Three. Comment is Free? No comment. Daily Telegraph blogs? Nothing. Harry's Place. scourge of homophobes? Nada. And so on. It got so little prominence on the news pages that possibly some of the commentariat never knew about it - but dammit, if I could manage to spot it...

A few pages into a Google search I came across an interesting comment posted on a Muslim news site (can't find it now, unfortunately), criticizing the Three on two not entirely compatible grounds. The first was that the they had taken too little account of the mercy of God - for which sentiment may the writer be richly blessed. The second, not quite so reassuring, was, in effect, that it was impolitic for British Muslims to frighten the horses.

And that was all. Now, however, I've come across this piece by "an insomniac Scots Calvinist", who earns a place of honour on a sort-of-Scots Piskie-turned-Catholic's blogroll. This is the gist of it:-

If someone hands you an offensive leaflet calling for the death penalty for homosexuals and you find it repellent do what grown ups do with election material from the Lib Dems, put it in the bin.
Precisely - problem solved with significantly less trouble than if a wannabe punk band is chanting obscenities in front of the altar in the church where you are trying to pray (and our friend has some thoughts on that affair in his latest post).

And there's lots more well worth a read. So there are two of us united in the belief that speech in the UK ought to be freer than in Putin's Russia (where, by the way, the much maligned Orthodox Church has actually done the Christian thing and called for clemency for Pussy Riot - Ben Summerskill please note). Who will join us?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The BBC's way with words

At least 48 people have been killed in ethnic clashes in south-eastern Kenya, police say.
The clashes in Tana River district, Coast Province, took place late on Tuesday between the Orma and Pokomo groups, the region's police chief said.

Most of the dead were women and children, many of whom were hacked to death with machetes, he said.

The clash is the worst single incident since violence rocked the country after disputed polls four years ago.

Regional deputy police chief Joseph Kitur told AFP news agency that those killed were either hacked to death or burned alive when their huts were set alight.
If only those women and children would stop clashing. They're as bad as Egyptian Christians.

Is "massacre" reserved for the actions of colonialists?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells speaks out

Those Swedish rape laws, eh? Political correctness gone mad, if you ask me.

Droit de seigneur: alive and well and living in the celebrocrat Left. Cf. Roman Polanski's apologists.

What GG says would not be unreasonable in itself were it not transparently special pleading for his crony. Say what you like about the Catholic abuse scandal, but the Church hasn't reacted by demanding that the age of consent be lowered.

The fault line between the man-hating Left and the Neocon/Zionist-hating Left is laid bare, and it's not hard to guess which faction is in the ascendent. History teaches that hatred is most profitably directed at minorities.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pussy Riot and the Derby Three

Very mixed feelings about Pussy Riot. I admire the thumbing of the nose at Putin, but not the calculated act of blasphemy aimed at the Orthodox faithful. And I'm nauseated at seeing them become pin-up girls for all the people who hit the panic button the moment some poor bloody infantryman in Afghanistan innocently throws a used Koran on the bonfire.

And lest there be any smugness among Brits regarding freedom of speech, allow me to remind you of the diligently forgotten case of the Derby Three. Seven years, possibly, for profaning a cathedral, two years for distributing leaflets that blaspheme against secular orthodoxy. Are we that much freer than the Russkies?

Update: so they've got two years, precisely the same as Ihjaz Ali got for "stirring up hatred" with his anti-gay leaflets. My question is answered.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What's in a name?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a jobbing journalist at a loss for a topic now the Olympics are over must be in want of the annual baby names survey. This year your licence fee has helped fund a truly outstanding specimen...
But parents choosing a name for aspirational reasons need to think about how it will go down in the playground, says Scarlet Brady, editor of the modern parenting magazine Gurgle.
"You can wrap up all your hopes and dreams in a name but have to be careful that you don't put all of that on your child's shoulders."
How a name rolls off the tongue is an often overlooked reason for why names have changed. Today's more tolerant society seems to prefer "softer sounds" like Charlie and Maisie over harsher sounding names like Reginald and Gertrude.
The Reverend Rosie Harper, vicar of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, says parents look for different qualities in boys' and girls' names.
Parents still like Bible names for boys - there are five in the top 12 - Thomas, James, Joshua, Jacob and Samuel. But the highest-placed girl's Biblical name is Hannah at number 41.
"The Biblical names for boys are macho warrior blokes. They all have gravitas. Whereas what's chosen for girls tends to be Victorian names linked to image. They're not empowering, they're pretty names like Isabel and Olivia."
The disappearance of Mary is part of this trend. It is perhaps too associated with Catholicism and the Virgin Mary for many parents in England and Wales.
There's some wonderful cognitive dissonance here. We are a "more tolerant society"... but be careful not to give your sprog too outlandish a name, lest he/she be given hell in the playground. And we draw the line at tolerating Catholicism, it seems.

But let me draw your attention especially to the Reverend Rosie Harper and her contention that "[t]he Biblical names for boys are macho warrior blokes". Hmmm. By my reckoning we have one patriarch (whose machismo was of a more procreative than martial character, apart from his wrestling bout with the angel), one prophet, two entirely non-violent Apostles and just one authentic macho warrior bloke. A score of 20% would suggest that Ms Harper might usefully spend a little more time with her Bible.

It might, among other things, help her out with one or two "empowering" names for girls. There are plenty of Judiths in my pre-feminist generation, a fact which doesn't altogether square with her thesis, but there can be little hope of the name returning to favour within the next 50 years. Nevertheless, there is still scope for her to promote empowerment of a no less radical kind. Jael Harper has a certain ring to it. A somewhat chavvy ring, admittedly (and let's face it, the Book of Judges contains pretty chavvy stuff), but surely that will not deter such a determinedly trendy and right-on vicar.

Seriously though, what a perfect vignette of what Andrew Marr has acknowledged to be the BBC's "cultural liberal bias". A candyfloss piece needs filling out with a quote from a vicar. Who gets the call? A Home Counties feminist whose time at theological college seems to have taught her more about empowerment than about the contents of the Bible.

Or am I being unfair to the BBC? Is Ms Harper by now an entirely typical specimen of the Anglican clergy?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


M& S hit by weak clothing sales

- thus the Beeb's link to this.

Well, goodness me. I can't quite make out whether it is Marks or the competition who are flogging weak clothing. If the former, and we can no longer even trust our undergarments to take the strain, we can surely wave goodbye to civilization.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

So sorry

It has just come to my notice that my predecessor but one inadvertently flooded the country with a load of foreign Johnnies who don't really count for diversity purposes being pallid and blonde (and probably a bunch of fascists if truth be told) and can't even vote for me. I would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused by his carelessness. Please be assured that your votes are important to me. Thank you and good night.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Gay marriage: a hypothetical

[This post is one that I never got round to finishing it, but I hope there is enough of it to make its point - and to serve as a reminder that today is the last day for submissions to the Government's consultation on redefining marriage (which can be entered here).]

Imagine that human beings reproduced asexually. That each of us was able to produce offspring at will without involving a second party. And that we could trace our lineage all the way back to the origins of life through a succession of asexually reproducing species.

To forestall an obvious objection to the point I am making, I will allow my asexual humans to have a capacity for pleasurable mutual stimulation, but this serves no reproductive purpose whatsoever.

Do you think that under these circumstances the institution of marriage would have evolved?

If you can see any compelling reason to expect that it would have done, let me know. I can't.

More than likely people would set up households consisting of more than one adult with their respective children. But there would be nothing special about the number two. It could be three parents with their kids, or ten. And there would be absolutely no reason why the parents should not be siblings - indeed it's very likely that they would be.

If reproductive arrangements provide no basis for anything resembling marriage, what about that pleasurable mutual stimulation? Would it give rise to the expectation of an exclusive partnership? Would there be the further expectation, or at least aspiration, that such a partnership should be lifelong? And would it, still further, be the business of state and religious authorities to affirm that aspiration by bestowing official recognition on it?

Well, why on earth should it? I enjoy playing chess with Mr Happy, indeed he is my favourite opponent, but that doesn't mean I want to agree with him that we will both forsake all other players till death us do part. And naturally the state doesn't give two hoots either way. So why would the stimulation thing be any different?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Gawd bless yer, ma'am, and all that

Frances Crook must have been spokespersoning for the Howard League for Penal Reform for nearly as long as the Queen has been queening. Things won't be quite the same after she's handed the reins over to Mr Modelcitizen.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Was that really what you wanted to happen?

Who is this about?
[He] reminded the audience about last year’s events in Great Britain “when it all came to mass riots, torched cars and robbed stores”. “As the society guarantees the right to express their opinion, including by street events, to some of the citizens, it must protect other citizens and the society as a whole from radicalism,” he said.
Answer: Vladimir Putin, announcing that he has granted himself swingeing powers to arrest and fine anti-government protesters.

So all the people who tried to portray the riots as some kind of political protest have helped hand Putin a useful argument for more repression. The blurring of distinctions always cuts both ways.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

BBC stands corrected (a small victory)

Sent to the BBC on Tuesday:-

{Complaint title:} BPAS's vested interest in abortion not flagged

{Complaint:} This news item on abortion statistics includes quotations
from spokespersons for Life and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
Life is correctly described as an "anti-abortion charity". The BPAS is
referred to only by its name, which conceals the fact that it derives
the bulk of its income not from providing advice but from performing
abortions, and is thus anything but a source of impartial comment.
Readers should be enabled to put the BPAS's views in context by some
such description as "leading abortion provider the British Pregnancy
Advisory Service".

Received yesterday:-
Dear Fred, [Mr Grumpy to you, if you please, but let that pass]

Very important point, we have amended,

Best wishes

BBC Health
And they are as good as their word. So it's worth complaining. The watchwords are concise, factual, rational and don't tell them they're the Devil's spawn (even if you think so). And really they're not; of course the collective bias is left-liberal, but they do have journalistic standards.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Nice to see evidence of Baroness Warsi's commitment to diversity

Lady Warsi, who is a member of the cabinet, has said she made an "appropriate payment" to her friend - now her special adviser - Naweed Khan, who was renting the house in which she stayed.

But the owner of the property in Acton, west London, Dr Wafik Moustafa, says he never received any money from her.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

(Almost) anybody but Ken

Just time to repost the anti-Ken piece I wrote for polling day last year (doh). It's still highly relevant.

Once upon a time there was an exceptionally repellent totalitarian sect called the Workers Revolutionary Party. Being not only exceptionally repellent but also unusually well-funded, it was able to put out a daily paper, the Newsline. Party members were expected to devote 25 hours a day to selling this product. On a good day they would come across somebody prepared to part with money for it.

In the early Eighties it evidently dawned on the WRP that the Newsline was not reaching the masses, so they decided to try to broaden their influence by launching a "Labour" paper. And so the Labour Herald was born, a classic front organization. As well as having "Labour" in its name, it was to be fronted by a Labour editor - and no less a figure than the Leader of the Greater London Council was waiting in the wings.

Here's a sample of the paper's content. Anti-Semitic? I'm sure Ken would no more think so now than he did then.

And now I'll let Keith Dovkants of the Eve Stennit tell the rest of the story:-

'The paper was printed by a firm based in Runcorn, Cheshire, which also printed News Line and publications sponsored by the Libyan government.

'When Private Eye ran a piece claiming Ken Livingstone, then leader of the GLC, was editing a paper financed by the Libyans he successfully sued for libel. It has to be remembered that at that time Gaddafi was encouraging the assassination of his political opponents abroad and wiping them out at home. In 1984 his thugs fired on demonstrators outside the Libyan embassy in St James's Square, killing WPC Yvonne Fletcher.

'Although no one doubts Gaddafi was subsidising News Line and Labour Herald there is absolutely no evidence Ken knew about it. But he did support the WRP when it published an extraordinary anti-Jewish rant in News Line.

'On 20 March 1983, BBC2 ran an investigation on its Money Programme. Its central thesis was that the WRP's newspaper, Ken's Labour Herald and other publications were being funded by Gaddafi. Looking at the transcript today one sees a thorough, rather measured, piece of journalism. The response was quite different.

'Under the heading The Zionist Connection, News Line published an editorial denouncing the Money Programme's investigation. It blamed a "powerful Zionist connection" that ran through the Labour Left, Mrs Thatcher's government, to the BBC. It cited the placing of Stuart Young, a director of the Jewish Chronicle, as chairman of the corporation and the appointment of his brother, David Young, to head the Manpower Services Commission. The Jewish Chronicle, the editorial noted, gave "support and advance publicity" to the Money Programme.

'On the day of its hysterical editorial News Line ran a piece in which Ken suggested the Money Programme report was indeed the work of Zionists. In the same piece he blamed "smears" against him on agents working for Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin's government.'

So when confronted with the facts Ken preferred to endorse the WRP's theory that the Money Programme was in the grip of a Zionist conspiracy (we all know how much Zionists like their money, don't we?) rather than acknowledge that he had unwittingly taken a bloodstained tyrant's money.

Has Ken ever retracted this position? His Wikipedia entry passes over this strand of his career in silence. It wouldn't be the only case where "Sorry" has been the hardest word for him. Employing Lee Jasper still isn't a cause for regret, it seems. Sorry, but Ken's not fit to be Mayor.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sing if you're Glad to be Post-Gay (but only in private)

The last time I used the Tube (which, I'm pleased to report, was some months ago) I was none too pleased to find myself running the gauntlet of escalator-side adverts for boob jobs. I'm relieved to discover that these must have been a shortlived aberration - for what could be more plainly offensive than the suggestion that you can't be a proper woman until you've let yourself be cut open and had a pair of foreign bodies inserted?

So of course the ads will long since have been banned.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Four weeks are a long time...

The Guardian has a reaction to the apotheosis of Mr Galloway from one Lanre Bakare, a young columnist who hails, appropriately, from Bradford. No triumphalism here, and I can't argue with this:-
Galloway's brand of politics seeks to play on tensions which exist in this type of community and it's doubtful his presence will do much to help the city rid itself of the tag "most segregated in the UK".
But can this be the same Lanre Bakare who, when Channel 4 screened "Make Bradford British", was wheeled out to protest against the reinforcing of racial stereotypes?
Bradford does have problems and a racial divide is one of them. But there are other issues we risk not seeing until a flash point forces people to stop viewing Bradford as a single-issue city.
I fear Mr Bakare has just been outvoted - and knows it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Egg? What egg?

What kind of person thinks that Muslims shouldn't serve in an army that's fighting the Taliban, and that Jews shouldn't be permitted to reproduce - and makes both points with a revolver?

It's hardly a question to baffle a Clouseau, never mind a Maigret. Once it became clear that Toulouse wasn't hosting a gunmen's convention, I'd have said "neo-Nazi" was a 50-to-1 shot, and "apolitical nut job" more like 200-to-1.

Of course it's always a good idea to wait until you have some facts before rushing to judgment, otherwise you could end up looking extremely silly. Not, however, that this fate could overtake anyone delivering an ex cathedra verdict on behalf of the World's Most Righteous Newspaper: Fiachra Gibbons said Sarkozy was to blame, and you can be sure that he feels amply vindicated.

I see that last year "Turkey specialist" Gibbons offered the Guardian a piece on "10 of the best films set in Istanbul". Apparently none of them deal with the city's synagogues. Quelle surprise.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Is the BBC losing its touch?

Could this "baby seal" story (©Dumb Jon) do for educational anarchy what this one did for the benefit culture?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Shahbaz Bhatti, martyr

I've just watched and now  recommend watching the video here on the life and death of Shahbaz Bhatti here - melodramatic, but why shouldn't it be?

Yesterday Mass at a church in Jos, Nigeria, was interrupted by a suicide bomber. At least ten are dead.

Not killing people - it's just so twentieth century

"It's no longer acceptable for 21st Century medicine to be governed by 20th Century attitudes to death."
I don't want to get at the speaker of these words, Mrs Jane Nicklinson, whose situation is certainly not easy. But they will be echoed by lobbiests and applauded by commentators and commenters. For in post-Christian Britain this is where we are at in the matter of ethics. It's just a little unusual to see ethical progressivism summed up in such a lapidary manner.

Globally speaking, the twentieth century was not actually marked by a great aversion to killing people, but let that pass. The real point is that a morality with a sell-by date is no morality at all. This is Why I Am A Catholic in a nutshell. Ethical progressivism abounds in the Church of England, all the way up to the top. Beware particularly of those who announce that they have the support of the Holy Spirit. It has plenty of devotees in the Catholic church too, but they don't get to vote on the Magisterium - and the Pope is an impassioned enemy of relativism.

This morning the link from the BBC home page referred, give or take a word or two, to Mr Nicklinson as "a man who is so paralysed that he wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life". There's the measure of how far down the slippery slope we've gone. If A, then B. If you're sufficiently incapacitated, naturally you'll want your life ended. These things are never just private lifestyle choices. Once we have accepted it as a valid choice, imperceptibly we slip into the expectation that others in the same situation will make the same choice, and we become a little less interested in finding ways in which such a life can be made more bearable.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Unsung heroes

So much to blog about, so little time. Yesterday we saw "after-birth abortion" endorsed in a mainstream medical journal. Elsewhere a committee of experts told us that it's a good thing if nurses care about their patients. I'm sure we're all glad to have that point cleared up. And linking those two themes together, a Glasgow maternity hospital is leading the way in teaching compassion to its staff - by forcing then to attend abortions.

Leaving all that aside, I thought this story ought not to pass without comment. It's quite remarkable that there are any journalists in Somalia, let alone enough to form a National Union. 29 have been murdered since 2007. Tributes have deservedly been paid to Marie Colvin; may Abukar Hassan Kadaf not be forgotten.

Requiescat in pace Davy Jones

A little to my surprise, I find I can't watch this today with dry eyes.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"O what a tangled web we weave..."

It didn't take many webby tangles to entrap this lady. Conversing with the dead on Facebook is likely to get you noticed - and particularly by people who have seen you orating about their tragic deaths on the telly.

Don't underestimate her, though.
Ms Gordon is now working on a campaign calling for the government to give more money to community activists who tackle gun and knife crime.
You bet she is. Lacking as her grasp of social media security may be, she seems to have an excellent understanding of the role of moral blackmail in the relationship between what we laughingly call the voluntary sector and the state. There is no problem - what are you thinking of, wash your mouth out, Grumpy, issue - so appalling that a bit of overwrought exaggeration won't help you get your snout ahead in the rush to the trough.

Naturally Big Charity is much more sophisticated than Ms Gordon and woudn't dream of telling porkies; who needs lies when you have statistics? So she has some learning to do, but she is young and will go far.

Afterthought: insofar as her conference speech portrayed "a British city with a death toll of Saving Private Ryan" (to quote the Dumb One), you could pretty much paraphrase it as "Enoch was right". And for this she got a standing ovation from Labour's brightest and best. Funny old world, isn't it?

Monday, 13 February 2012

The sanctimonious Mr Summerskill

"I hope Mr and Mrs Bull will now feel content to go home to do God's good work as Easter approaches, instead of relentlessly pursuing a happy couple through the courts."
- said Ben Summerskill of Stonewall.

The winning combination of oily sanctimoniousness with a barefaced untruth. The Bulls have plainly not pursued anybody. They were taken to court by the happy couple, who are apparently not quite happy enough unless they can get their pound of flesh and make an example of someone.

As I've noted before, if you're a UK taxpayer you make a contribution to Ben Summerskill's salary. Eighty-something thousand in 2010 (see page 21), which is I believe, notwithstanding his total dedication to equality, some way above the average wage.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

If only both sides could lose... Syria.

The march of the religiophobes and the death of British liberty (part 2)

Item the third: the case of Bideford Town Council, of course.

This would seem to tell us just about all we need know about Mr Clive Bone:-
Mr Bone, who ended up leaving the council because of its "refusal to adjust" its prayers policy, said on Friday: "Quite frankly delighted. I'm not surprised, I expected to win.
Yes, he stomped off in a huff, his zeal to serve the folk of Bideford having proved somewhat tepid when it had to compete with the chip on his shoulder. The video clip reveals a stomper off if ever there was one, a true Mr Grumpy whose mission in life is to be a pain in the posterior to those unfairly enjoying more contentment than him.

That clique of "elderly churchgoers" who threaten to monopolize the council: for our Clive this must be a conspiracy. Not just that they constitute Bideford's most civic-minded demographic. And the people he knows - as many as two of them - who decided not to stand for the council because of the prayers: no, they didn't, Clive. Really. Not unless after listening to you they came away with the impression that the prayers take up three quarters of the agenda. They just decided they couldn't be arsed.

Once upon a time we had judges who would have told Mr Bone he was a vexatious litigant who should go away and get a life. Are there any of that breed left?

But small-mindedness is never an impedment to getting the National Secular Society to grind your axe for you. Having to spend a few seconds listening to your colleagues talk to an entity they believe in but you don't: how can any civilized society stand by and permit such a thing?

Behold the nihilism of the NSS. It's not that they want some humanist platitudes mouthed at the start of the council meeting. Their alternative to prayers is just... nothing. And that, surely, is why they never stop going on about the human rights of unbelievers. Just so as to have something to say. So long as believers are stopped from doing what they want to do, something has been accomplished and the nothingness has been kept at bay for a little longer.

For without the human rights talk, what are we left with? Only two possibilities: that we have a Creator, in which case it can't possibly be a bad thing to ask for his blessing on the doings of Bideford Town Council; or that we don't, in which case the prayers are empty words but still doesn't do any harm beyond being a very minor waste of time.

If there is a human right to be shielded from hot air, my employers had better watch out. If I collect together every effusion of mamagementspeak gibberish that has ever landed in my inbox I should be able to sue them for millions.

Lord Carey is dependable in such cases. But when Carey speaks out, you always have to remember that, despite appearances to the contrary, he isn't actually the Archbishop of Canterbury. He retired a decade ago. As we've come to expect, the present incumbent seems to have been unavailable for comment. It being Synodtide, no doubt he was too busy rearranging the deckchairs.

Perhaps His Grace has at least found time to say a prayer for Bideford Town Council. I certainly have. Naturally, though, I would not dream of suggesting that anyone trespass still further on poor Mr Bone's human rights.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The march of the religiophobes and the death of British liberty

Item the first: the Derby Three have been sentenced. It's chokey all round, fifteen months apiece for two of them, two years for the third. Two years for distributing leaflets expressing his sincerely held beliefs! Here's a random sample of what you can do and get half of that.

Does Judge John Burgess have a sense of irony?
"Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy and a basic ingredient of any free society.

"Parliament clearly had this very much in mind when this legislation was passed."
Or is he just an obedient functionary who has long since internalized the principle that freedom means whatever his masters want it to mean?

Meanwhile Ben Summerskill of Stonewall crows at my expense (see p. 14 - another "charity" that accepts state funding worth several hundred thousand pounds a year whilst simultaneously spending its cash on lobbying legislators).

Item the second: up pops Mr Summerskill again, still crowing at my expense. For the Appeal Court has ruled that if you run a business, even if it is just having people sleep and eat in your own home, you have no right to allow your conscience to inform the terms on which you do business.

In a free society, the options open to Messrs Preddy and Hall would be absolutely straightforward: accept the offer of two single beds or go elsewhere. Not liking the Bulls' attitude, but then we're all different, aren't we, and after all it's their business and their home. But in increasingly unfree Britain the Bulls offend against the civic religion of diversity... by daring to be different.

If Stonewall is indirectly an arm of the state, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is directly so. That did not stop it from backing Messrs Preddy and Hall. For in post-liberal Britain it is nothing out of the ordinary for the state to take sides in litigation between private individuals. The state decided what verdict it wanted and the judges duly delivered. I can hardly believe I've felt moved to write that about my country.

The Bulls had to make do with the Christian Institute, which is considerably poorer than Stonewall (never mind the EHRC) and predictably so since it evidently enjoys no state funding.

And, whilst it natually doesn't compare with a two-year prison sentence, £3,600 is a hefty penalty for putting a couple to the trouble of re-booking their holiday accommodation. If you're running a small B & B you can't afford to take that kind of hit too often (whose interest would it serve, by the way, if the Bulls were forced to shut up shop and throw themselves on the mercy of the state?). Again I refer you to Julia M's blog, where she chronicles on a daily basis how people do appalling, despicable things and get off with far lighter penalties than the one inflicted on this utterly harmless, decent and principled couple.

But perhaps in both cases that is the point. For the state and the post-liberal establishment, people with principles are far more threatening than mere scumbags, so must have a correspondingly hefty stick waved at them. The luminaries of the Spanish Inquisition would have understood perfectly.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Powers behind the throne?

What can we expect of Bashar al-Assad's consort? There's some delicate pirouetting here around a room liberally furnished with elephants:-
There are cases where the wife is a malign influence but mostly it's not the case, says Daniel Chirot, author of Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age. In fact, wives are often unfairly blamed for the actions of a leader, due to a kind of prejudice that holds them to higher standards.
Poor things. So let's hear it for Eva B's benign influence on You Know Who. Without her he might have turned really nasty.

PS Credit where credit's due:Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, not exactly my favourite member of the commentariat, is admirably robust.

What could possibly go wrong...

...with an arrangement like this?

M'learned friend's remarks constitute the most hilarious exercise in special pleading I expect to come across in 2012:-
He added: "Notwithstanding their sexuality and that they acknowledge to that extent that they are an 'alternative family', the mother and her partner hold very traditional views of family life and would not have chosen to bring a child into anything other than an intact, two-parent, family.
Yes, indeed, time-hallowed tradition awards the prerogatives of parenthood to the hand that wielded the cake-icer and withholds them from the one which manipulated the membrum virile. I can't exactly recall reading this in the Book of Common Prayer but no doubt it's in there somewhere, perhaps tucked away between the Churching of Women and the Service of Commination.

The only thing spoiling the joke is the fact that the football being kicked around by three people used to having their own way is actually a child. My advice to the judges would be to adopt the creatively traditionalist approach in their turn and propose to satisfy all the parties by dividing the infant into three equal portions.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Queen's accession to the throne

... is marked hereabouts with gratitude and joy. Not least for the reasons suggested here (though I suspect she may get just a little clerical or even episcopal assistance at Christmas, and I'd love to know who provides it).

Free speech, the ASA and the new atheists

Having recently defended the right to say in public that God demands the execution of men who have sex with other men, today I have been springing to the much more congenial task of defending the right to say "God heals" (one comment here and passim here). Though "congenial" is hardly the word to describe the fact that it is now within the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority to rule on the truth value of theological propositions.

At the weekend Damian Thompson wrote despairingly, and therefore not very helpfully, about the atheism of young opinion-formers. If Damian's colleague Tom Chivers can be taken as a representative specimen, he's bright enough, to be sure, but not, I think, quite as clever as Damian suggests. Certainly nowhere near as clever as he is, to judge by the evidence of his mugshot, in his own estimation.

What is worrying about the new atheists is not their cleverness. It is the fact that they have grown up imbued with the conviction that anything they disapprove of can be and should be banned. Demanding bans is a pure reflex. It has become the only way of getting attention for your belief that a point of view is deluded and dangerous. If you don't call for a ban nobody will hear you above the commotion of all the other banners.

Conservatives need to stop using "liberalism" as an umbrella term for the things they are agin. Nobody under thirty has the remotest conception what liberalism means. And they should take heart - Damian T please note. The mania for banning things must surely be the covert expression of a profound insecurity. Even in the case of Tom Chivers.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Reasons to keep the bishops in the House of Lords

(even Rowan Williams)

1. Because 26 Lords Spiritual sitting alongside other elected members in a largely toothless revising chamber do not a theocracy make.

2. Because they are at least as likely to have their hearts in the right place as the politicos they rub shoulders with.

3. Because, whilst most are the kind of hand-wringing Guardian readers who think people are going to starve if their benefits are restricted to, er, more than a C of E priest gets, if we wait long enough another George Carey may come along.

4. Because their presence is a nod to fourteen or so centuries of unbroken Christian tradition which have shaped even militant atheists far more than they care to realise.

5. Because on many ethical issues they do in fact speak for many people in other Christian denominations and of other faiths.

6. Because if it ain't broke don't fix it.

7. Because it annoys Tom Chivers.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Orwell test, the Grumpy test and the Derby Three

Do you think that men who have sex with each other should be punished by execution? No, I don't either.

Do you think that someone who not only held that opinion but cared enough about it enough to produce leaflets expounding it, complete with a picture of a gallows, and post them through people's letterboxes would be more than a little repellent? Same here.

Do you think that if you were a homosexually inclined man and you received one of these leaflets you would feel upset about it? We're still in agreement.

So should the distribution of such leaflets be a criminal offence? Since in fact it now is, this may be the point at which our views diverge.

Ever since it started the Harry's Place blog has had a banner which reads "freedom, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear". Fine words by a fine writer - George Orwell (and it's a pity he doesn't get a name check from HP any more).

So the Orwell test tells me that if I can't say in public that men who have sex with men should be executed, I'm not free.

And let's be clear about the vital corollary to the Orwell test. Since Orwell's day we've become positively addicted to proclaiming our rights, less keen to talk about the obligations without which rights are meaningless. Let's have some big bold red letters:-

"Freedom, if it means anything, is the duty to allow people to tell us what we don't want to hear."
I'll modestly christen that one the Grumpy test.

I don't want to say what the Derby Three said in their leaflets. They do and we must allow them to say it. If we want our society to be a free one, that is, and evidently many of us don't.

Take what is for most of us an equally repellent opinion: that adults should be allowed to have sex with children. Can that be said in public? Anyone saying it is at best on shaky ground. Way back in the Eighties the leading lights of something called the Paedophile Information Exchange were convicted of, if I remember rightly, "conspiracy to corrupt public morals" - a category of offence as vague and potentially all-encompassing as "hate crime" - and as far as I could make out from the trial report in the Times the convictions were based largely on the fact that the group had campaigned for the abolition of the age of consent. It bothered me that it could be illegal to campaign for a change in the law, and if I'd been braver I'd have written a letter to the Times to that effect. I don't recall anybody else being brave enough either - or if they were the paper wasn't brave enough to print it.

But if we want our society to be a free one we are obliged to allow those who so wish to voice this abhorrent opinion. Even if the thought of them getting their way makes us feel sick. Once again, the facts suggest we'd rather not have too much freedom.

I'd like to be able to read the Derby Three's leaflets, and of course the problem is that it would be illegal to reporduce them. No doubt I could find the texts if I did a bit of digging about on non-UK-based Islamist sites, but I'd rather not. I'd just like to satisfy myself on one point which would make everything I've written so far not wrong but inapplicable. That would be the case if they had suggested that Islamic law trumps the law of the land and that Muslims would be justified in taking the law into their own hands. Then we would have a case of incitement to murder on our hands, and anyone guilty of that deserves to have the book thrown at them. There we hit a valid limitation to freedom of speech.

But it doesn't look that way. Partly because the report doesn't say so. And partly because they were apparently charged with "incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation", not the manifestly much more serious offence of incitement to murder.

What the BBC report does do is quote a homosexual recipient of the leaflets:-

He said the first leaflet, Turn Or Burn, made him feel "quite horrified" and it was after he received Death Penalty? that he called the police.

"They made me feel terrorised in my own home," he said.

"Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street."
Well, his feelings are entirely understandable. And should be entirely irrelevant. Either the leaflets incited arson and assault or they didn't.

Or shall we make it illegal for Communists to drop their leaflets through the doors of capitalists, on the grounds that they could give the latter nightmares about being murdered in their beds?

George Orwell gave us a terrifying pcture of total thought control. As far as I recall it didn't occur to him that the Party might justify it as being necessary to protect the citizen from unpleasant emotions.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Professor Malaprop

"Foetus parties" are a phenomenon that appeared on my radar the day before yesterday. I started reading this expecting to find myself harrumphing over the latest irritating fad. Then I reached this bit...
Also, does this escalate the thinking held by some that a foetus should have a life of its own before birth and, therefore, have rights of its own?
At the moment, UK law allows for the mother to make decisions on behalf of her baby until the baby is born. Using technology in this way seems to have the potential to upset this position and raises the spectrum of women being accused of doing wrong to their foetus, as happens in the USA.
The least of my concerns is that someone who can't write literate English ("raises the spectrum", mark you) is entitled to call herself a professor. More horrifying by far is the discovery that a person who worries about encouraging mothers to see the children inside them as human beings in their own right is chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives.

So, don't feel obliged to invite me, but by all means keep partying. As for Professor Warwick's concern about "class envy, alienation and a sense of inequity", how about foetus parties on the NHS?

A reason to stay Catholic

This will confirm many in the view that the Catholic church is unfit for consumption. This on the other hand will hardly register outside the country concerned - but it ought to.
"We cannot build a state in a culture of treachery, lies and terror, of militarisation and the flagrant violation of the freedom of expression"
These are brave men, and surely their country's best hope.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Godless morality with its slip showing

Fifty-two per cent of Republican voters reject the theory of evolution, saying mankind was created in present form within the last 10,000 years; just 31 per cent think man-made climate change is happening. In Congress, Republicans fought stem cell research and the HPV vaccine. Sarah Palin, ignoramus-in-chief, mocked “fruit-fly research” as a “pet project [with] little or nothing to do with the public good,” rejecting at a stroke most advances in genetics since Gregor Mendel.
- Tom Chivers, posting under the heading "Republicans turn their back on the Enlightenment" and revealingly failing to distinguish between rejecting evolution because it conflicts with religious dogma and opposing embryonic stem cell research on moral grounds. Research=science=good. I'm certainly disappointed by Rick Santorum's stance on evolution and think he would do better to be guided by the Pope, but if forced to choose I'd trust his moral reasoning sooner than Mr Chivers', since the very possibilty of moral reasoning rests on our being more than just highly-evolved monkeys.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The dawning age of DIY brainwashing?

After I'd written the update at the end of my previous post, paranoia began to set in. Was it really just coincidence that one visit to the Guardian homepage led me to two substantial pieces on the persecution of Christians? Or has the paper already mastered the art of silently tailoring the content it offers to the individual reader's interests and preferences? Depend on it, this is on its way even if it's not already with us. It would merely be an extension of what advertisers already do. Not always with great skill, of course. I seem to cut a pitiable figure in their eyes. There was a sustained campaign to get me to take out a credit card at the special paupers' interest rate of three zillion percent. They've given up on that one for the present, but now they think I need them to find me a woman. Perhaps they associate blogging with anoraks and questionable personal hygiene - quite rightly so, of course, but thankfully it hasn't deterred Frau Grumpy up to now.

I digress. My serious point is that we face the terrifying prospect of news media which allow us to brainwash ourselves, constructing ever more impenetrable walls out of our own prejudices without even noticing we're doing it. I infinitely prefer to have the Grauniad trying to convert me to its own prejudices. That way I know where I am, and I'm about as likely to succumb as I am to go down with chicken pox a second time.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Imposing the party line

To give its due, the BBC has done a much better job of reporting the massacres of Nigerian Christians than other news media. Not that that's difficult; today the Daily Tottygraph thought I would be more interested in the revelation that Foxy Knoxy's ex has a new girlfriend. Frau Grumpy says if I want to read a proper newspaper why don't I give the FAZ a try.

Unfortunately today has provided evidence of the party line being laid down at the Beeb. This morning at 08:06 the latest report appeared under the admirably unambiguous headline:-

Nigeria Christians hit by fresh Islamist attacks

But by 18:26 the same story had been published again with a new headline:-

Nigerians flee Boko Haram sectarian attacks

Even in its earlier incarnation the story begins with an equivocal reference to "a 24-hour wave of violence apparently targeting Christian communities". Clearly it is too early to exclude the possibility that Nigeria's large Buddhist community is being targeted.

But the introduction of the weaselly use of the word "sectarian", familiar from the BBC's coverage of massacres of Christians in Egypt, represents a definite turn for the worse.

Update: on revisiting the Trivigraph I discover that it is important that I should know that somebody called Graham Norton has been burgled. Full marks to the Grauniad though, and the paper should also be complimented on this piece - yes, "sectarian tensions" here too, but once you get past that it's a good report.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

In which Mr Grumpy comes over all Guardian-readerish

Actually it's just straightforward Christian ethics.

Last week Julia M's entertaining blog featured an incident in which a child was run over by a car near her school. Now it is rarely difficult to distinguish Julia from a Guardian reader, and she is famed for making short work of Counsel for the defence's pleas of mitigating circumstances. In this instance, unusually, she was inclined to sympathize with the perpetrator, and quoted a comment from the relevant local paper with approval:-
My thoughts go out to all involved in this horrific accident. Praying that the little girl is ok. Having known the driver of the car since I was 4 years old I can tell you she is a lovely lovely person and had very good reason to be driving That morning and believe me she is absolutely devastated over whats happened. Before we judge tho it is also children's parents responsibility to teach road safety and if your child doesn't know this then they should be accompanied safely to wherever they are going. It was an accident where a child walked right out in front of the driver and could have happened to anyone. I feel for all parties involved as it was not the child's fault she wasn't supervised by a responsible adult as much as it wasn't the drivers fault this child walked in the path of the car.
... this prompting Julia to conclude:-
Hmmm. Like School Road itself, it seems that responsibility is a two-way street...

And should remain that way.
Now comes a counter-hmmm(m) from yours truly:-
Hmmmm. So the road is called School Road. It has three schools in it. It presumably has signs featuring pictures of children. If the lovely lovely driver couldn't stop in time methinks speed and/or inattention was almost by definition an issue. But, hey, I'm just a poor ignorant non-driver.
Not so, says Julia:-
No, not if - as the commenter claims - the child darted out from between parked cars (which as PJH points out, shouldn't have been there).
At this point, since Julia is such a prolific blogger that the post is already three pages back, I take up the argument on my own turf.

For the commenter and Julia, the speed limit evidently confers an absolute entitlement to drive that fast. School run in full swing? No need to slow down, the speed limit's 30. Cars parked all over the place? Not my problem, they shouldn't be there. The speed limit's 30.

Though I described myself above as a non-driver, I do in fact hold a full driving licence, acquired at the tender age of 51. I was taking lessons less than three years ago, so they're about as fresh in my memory as anything is these days. And one of the most important things I learnt is that you adjust your speed not just to the speed limit but to road conditions, and specifically to any hazards present.

Parked cars are always hazards, and they do not magically cease to be so because they "shouldn't have been there". Schools are hazards too, and School Road with its three schools is a triple hazard. School Road with the school run in full swing and cars parked in all kinds of places where they shouldn't be is a mega-hazard, and the appropriate speed for it is, well, the speed which would enable you to stop in time if a child darted out from behind one of those parked cars. In other words veeeery slow. And even slower if you're not watching those parked cars like a hawk as you should be.

Because a child's right to life trumps your entitlement to do what you want to do with that lump of steel you go around in. Unconditionally.

Running late? Your problem. Next time start out earlier. Enraged by the mums' inconsiderate and illegal parking? My full sympathy, but two wrongs don't make a right, so drive safely for the conditions as they actually are. Nobody else drives like that? Well, you can be the first. If you haven't made a New Year's resolution yet, you might like to think about resolving to minimize the risk that you will ever run over a child. Because you don't want to be part of the culture of death, do you?

Campaign against gender role stereotyping meets unexpected resistance

Back to work<unsmiley face> but the day has not been quite devoid of entertainment: this just posted on the in-house social media thingy...

Early Learning Centre Toy Kitchen + Lots of Accessories FOR SALE

Assembled, and in A1 condition as my son hardly played with this, and it's been in the cupboard for 18 months, hence sale.
Btw I didn't manage a Happy Christmas post. Consider it wished. New Year ditto.