Iraqi civilian deaths v Latin American body count

I’m not going to say these are fully comparable, but it does make me wonder why we hear so much about Iraq and relatively little (to nothing) about Mexico, Colombia and the other Latin-American countries’ War On Drugs-related deaths.

Iraq: between 106.000 and 116.000 civilian deaths between 2003 and now. Roundabout 12.000 deaths a year, tailing off recently.

Mexico: around 220.000 deaths since 1990; or 50.000 deaths since 2006. Pretty much exactly 10.000 a year, constant even over last 5 years (if not rising, to over 15.000 in 2010 according to this source).

Colombia: around 450.000 (!) deaths since 1990. Astonishing. Colombia does have a larger population 46 million; Iraq’s is around 30 million. Mexico is quite a bit bigger at over 110 million (all from Wikipedia).

The questions that I have then, are: why don’t we hear much more about the carnage going on in Latin America (fortunately the local leaders are starting to push back against the US); does it not bother the US that actually more people are getting killed on their doorstep than in that far-away country; and will the US ever learn not to try and fight costly holy wars against what it perceives to be evils, and instead turn to more cost-effective – more effective full stop, really – ways of dealing with their problems? I’m not holding my breath.


Hello, goodbye

I was one of the million+ people that downloaded Instagram when it became available for Android. I wasn’t even to fussed but some of my friends raved about it.

Then,  before I had even used it once, it was bought by you-know-who for you-know-how-much.
And I happen to totally not trust Facebook with regards to privacy and copyright, no matter what they promise about independence and bla.

So, alas Instagram…bye-bye. You have been uninstalled.

I’ll stick to Pixlr-O-Matic – until I find out about their terms and conditions…

The C of E and the Catholic Church contradict each other

They really need to coordinate better and make up their mind.

In this (pretty appalling, of course, but I don’t have time to point out all the errors) piece a senior catholic figure pointed out (mistakenly) that same-sex marriage would violate the ‘rights of a child to have a mother and a father’.

At the same time, archbishops of the Church of England have spoken out against gay marriage, but for other reasons. One would think, at first sight, that these two religious behemoths would (excuse the pun) sing from the same hymn-sheet.

But wait a minute… why is the Church of England different from the Catholic Church to begin with? Precisely –

the CofE supports DIVORCE.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but if there’s one thing that is bound to violate the ‘right of a child to have a mother and a father’ it is the right to allow those same mother and father to divorce.

I’m waiting for the campaign, run by the Catholic Church, to make divorce illegal for everybody for the same reasons they oppose same-sex marriage, and publicly attack the CofE over this. I’m not holding my breath though.

‘Militant secularists’ are not the ones eroding religiosity…

… the religious themselves are.

A fair amount has been written lately about the ‘militant secularism’ remarks by baroness Warsi. I won’t waste more time dispatching of these stupid and bigoted ideas, as this has been done convincingly by others already. Suffice it to say that if current secularists and atheists are seen as ‘militant’, then students, NHS staff, London underground drivers, and members of the Scottish Labour Party, to name but a few, must be deemed positively terrorist – what with like, taking to the streets and protesting en masse, or demanding things. The temerity!

Compare this to ‘militant’ secularists who, er, write articles in newspapers, or take to the court (where, may I remind Warsi and her ilk, the LAW is upheld, nothing more, nothing less). Compare this classic cartoon:







What I want to say here, briefly, as I don’t think it has been said, is this:

Nobody can forcibly take (religious) beliefs away

Why is this realisation important?

Because is this discussion the religious (mostly the christians) make it appear that it is the atheists/secularists (NB these are of course not the same at all, but the distinction is usually lost upon the frothing-at-the-mouth antiatheists) who are forcing the believers out of their churches, taking their bibles away, and thereby effect a decline in religiosity. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The only people that can make christians stay away from church, are those that attend in the first place. The only people that can unregister from a church’s membership are those that are a member to begin with. As was once said wittily but truthfully: “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ’em” (Yogi Bera) – the inverse applies here: if people wanted to go to church, no atheist is gonna stop them.

As indeed christians are making that decision for themselves, blaming outside forces is silly. The question that people like Warsi forget to ask (conveniently and deliberately, because to put up a strawman enemy and attack it is so much easier than confronting your own failures as a religion, political movement, or public figure), is why this is happening in the first place.

It’s the arguments, stupid!

If outside pressure is to have any credit, the most likely explanation, then, is that the arguments put forward by secularists and atheists are seen as increasingly valid, and the religious are acting upon this. And if there were no truth in these arguments, I don’t see the problem the church has – all it has to do is simply indicate where these arguments are flawed, and people will start coming back to the churches. Well, I say – good luck with that.

On a side note, and despite loud claims to the contrary, most mainstream media are still overwhelmingly biased towards religion, so to think that people are giving up their beliefs because they are ‘bombarded’ with anti-religious messages, is simply insane. If anything, religious people are on the whole surrounded by reinforcing, yay, indoctrinating, messages, constantly reminding them of how awesome their beliefs are. The fact that atheist messages come through at all, and are even accepted as valid, says a lot about the relative merits of the arguments either side puts forward. However ‘militant’, in loudness of arguing, there still is no contest between atheism and religion.

Also, of course, the continued failings of every major religion are not helping their own cause either, being in turn (or simultaneously) backward, stubborn, wrong, and downright criminal. In this age of internet and fast-spreading news, religion is its own worst enemy – ‘with friends like these, who needs enemies‘.

In short, instead of incessantly trotting out the ‘loud militant bad’ canard, the conservative right slash christian defenders of the faith would be better off asking themselves some tricky questions about exactly why christianity is increasingly seen by its own members as non-viable. Whether they do or not, and whatever answers they find if they do, the outcome to me is likely to be the same regardless.

Adam Lusher and The Telegraph are lowly cowards

(with apologies for the slightly dodgy grammar in the header)

Why, this header? Here’s why:

“Slaves at the root of the fortune that created Richard Dawkins’ family estate”

Lately the lower echelons of the right-wing press have been busy ganging up on Richard Dawkins. Probably because, hot on the heels of a defeat in court, christianity in the UK was put further on the back foot by an interesting and  thorough poll by Ipsus Mori, showing that there is no such thing as a vast christian majority in the UK. We all know how much our right-wing newspapers love to cozy up against religion, giving them the sheen of righteousness (while actually being rather vile and scummy, if you have been following the news about phone hacking, amongst other things).

Anyway, Richard Dawkins has been targeted by the lowlifes in the tabloids, which is no surprise and can be ignored fairly easily, but this slur in a ‘normal’ newspaper is a new low.

And to elaborate on why this is the act of a cowardly journalist, supported by a cowardly newspaper?

Well, first off, there is no comments section. Probably because they knew that was going to be filled 90% with support for Dawkins and rage against the writer of said shite. The newspaper also dared to file it in the “UK > News” section, which seems very charitable given the non-content of the article.

Secondly, it would have been nice if the writer had done similar research into his own family history and shown a perfectly pristine clean sheet. Having said that, even with such an inclusion the point made would not be valid, as nobody alive can be held responsible for what their ancestors have done. We’re not talking about just slavery of course, but about witch-hunting, repression of women, supporting genocide, and suchlike.

Then there is the problem that Richard Dawkins is a fairly low-profile figure, compared to, say, the current PM, a few archbishops, and most of all the Queen. I daresay that within their families there are quite a few more skeletons in the closet than Richard Dawkins’s relatively modest one. Why such fuss about him? Well, we know why, see above.

And finally, on the same level but much more recent in history, there are literally (tens of) millions of Germans alive today that descend directly (as in, one or perhaps two generations) from a population that helped initiate the largest war in the 20th century as well as one of the biggest genocides of all human history. I do think we’ve all gotten over that one and realise that the generation(s) of Germans alive today is (are) not responsible for this.

So, for all the above, I say that Adam Lusher and The Telegraph are lowly cowards. And, unlike them, I do have an open comments section.

Why same-sex marriage should be a non-issue

What better day than Valentine’s Day to vent my unequivocal support for gay (same-sex) marriage!?

Why? Here’s why!

Fortunately, I can be very brief about this. The only real ‘argument’ that always transpires against legalising same-sex marriage comes down to one form or another of ‘marriage is god’s institution’.Since marriage isn’t, same-sex marriage should simply be legal.

If you peer back through mankind’s early history, you can see that marriage originally was most likely introduced by our early ancestors to facilitate social life in a small tribe: fewer fights over women (basically, shagging rights), as marriage made it clear ‘who did it with whom’. I presume this also made it easier, at least in theory, to know which child belonged to which male. The net result is a more stable, happier tribe. As these early tribes lived a violent life it was important that babies were produced, else you were outcompeted (outnumbered) by the neighbouring tribes, so in these days, gay marriage was not very high on the agenda – in fact, homosexuality could be positively bad for the tribe.

Later this set of attitudes was institutionalised, as many other mores, like ‘thou shalt not kill’, and appropriated by organised religion under the umbrella ‘it’s actually god who wants this’. Very convenient for the ruling class – priests and kings – as this gave them the power to speak on behalf of their, self-invented, god.

The simple conclusion

Fast forward to the here and now and it is clear to me that there is no valid argument against same-sex marriage. Marriage is not bestowed unto mankind by god, nor does a marriage – on this overpopulated planet we inhabit – necessarily have to result in offspring being produced. Rather not, I would say.

Marriage is simply two people who love each other and want legal and official recognition of this fact – with the financial perks and legal bonuses that come with it. As I see it, there is no lawful way to discriminate against gay people by disallowing them marriage whilst giving clear and tangible advantages to married opposite-sex couples. This is fundamentally against any and every constitution, which tend to prohibit discrimination based on sexuality.

It might take a while for everybody to realise this, but in the end, common sense will prevail – see for instance this hopeful poll result.

Recent ‘racism’ in the news

Difficult to decide when to start again and what about, I might as well start here. Too long to fit into a tweet…

In chess there is a saying (first coined by Dr Tarrasch) along the lines of “it is not enough to be the better chess player; to win one must play better chess than the opponent”.

I had to think of this when reading the defence of two people recently accused of ‘racist’ behaviour, Luis Suárez and Diane Abbott – that they are not racist. Well, to paraphrase Tarrasch:

It is not enough not to be racist; one must refrain from racist remarks.