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...

...in 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.