To thine own self be true

Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Religious freedom

Posted by Polonius on 20 August, 2012

This afternoon’s Beyond Belief on Radio 4 had people seriously arguing that children could be possessed by witchcraft.

Yesterday we had Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s bigoted refusal to discuss gay marriage, under the ridiculous notion that his views on the matter were worthy of some respect.

Yesterday, too, we had the latest disturbing blasphemy case from Pakistan.

These all follow hard on the heels of the Pussy Riot case.

I think religious freedom is a good thing, but can we have too much of a good thing? Of course, the answer to that is not to deny people the freedom they want; it is to educate them so they no longer want that.


Posted in Religion, Society | 1 Comment »

A fool

Posted by Polonius on 19 August, 2012

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has decided he doesn’t want to talk to the Scottish government on gay marriage.

His church has been covering up for paedophile priests for decades, if not centuries. His pope is the same Ratzinger who for 24 years co-ordinated the cover-up worldwide.

The really shocking thing is that that is absolutely minuscule compared to the 1.5 million AIDS deaths a year in Africa alone that could be prevented by condoms, but that same pope says the use of condoms can only be justified by male prostitutes!

These people think they have some authority to speak on matters of sexual morality. It would be funny if it wasn’t so horrific.

Posted in Religion, Society | 1 Comment »

London court strikes a blow in the war on photography

Posted by Polonius on 23 July, 2009

Somewhat belatedly, I’d like to draw your attention to the shocking story of Jamie Waylett. The use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was a disgrace, and the fishing expedition to find something to pin on him was small-minded and vindictive. I’d love to contrast the entire episode with how grown-up police officers behave, but Sierra Charlie‘s been deleted. I must lobby Sierra Charlie 2 to repost.

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Andrew Wakefield made it all up?

Posted by Polonius on 8 February, 2009

The Sunday Times has an unfortunate obsession with exclusive stories. It’s unfortunate because the desire to get the story published often takes priority over checking the facts.  The most notorious example was the Hitler’s diaries hoax of 1983. I’m sure they’ve fallen for the odd previously undiscovered Shakespeare work as well but, in characteristic Sunday Times fashion, I can’t be bothered checking.

These hoaxes cause the Sunday Times and its publishers much embarrassment, and the rest of us much schadenfreude. Unfortunately, the paper’s performance on health stories is less amusing. Its sympathetic treatment of Peter Duesberg‘s eccentric views on the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS may be due to incompetence, but was prolonged over an estended period and may have had fatal consequences. Its editorial staff can sleep soundly in their beds in the knowledge that the deaths in the UK as a consequence of their publishing this rubbish have been far fewer than South Africa’s 330,000 from 2000 to 2005.

Against this background, it would be dangerous to assume that a medical story in the Sunday Times would be painstakingly researched and verified. So it is with some misgivings that I recommend reading today’s piece by Brian Deer. If this proves accurate, it will blow away the last vestige of evidence behind the whole preposterous MMR-autism nonsense. Not that the cranks are overly concerned about evidence. Brian Deer has done good work on this issue before; it’s just unfortunate that he chooses to publish in the Sunday Times.

Posted in News, Society | 5 Comments »

Charity begins at home

Posted by Polonius on 3 February, 2009

[Resisting the temptation to end the title “…homo”. What a pity many readers would have misconstrued it.]

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle about animal charities in Scotland today. The Scottish SPCA accuses the RSPCA of  allowing Scots donors to believe that the RSPCA spends money in Scotland, when in fact it doesn’t. I’m sure the same confusion exists between the NSPCC and Children 1st (The bloody stupid name doesn’t help.)

But I think there’s a much more shameful comparison to be made here. In 2007, the RSPCA made £114.1 million to the Scottish SPCA’s £11.984 million. In the year to March 2008, the NSPCC made £119.435 million  to Children 1st’s £9.270 million. The real disgrace is that the figures for the children’s charities are much the same as the animal charities’. Aren’t suffering children worth more than suffering of other species?

Gary Larson once did a Far Side cartoon titled “Bobbing for Poodles”. In one of his books, he talked of the number of complaints it had attracted, and expressed his relief that he hadn’t gone with his original title of “Bobbing for Babies”. I have no doubt whatsoever as to which title would have attracted more complaints in the UK, and it saddens me.

Posted in Rants, Society, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Delusions of adequacy

Posted by Polonius on 15 December, 2008

At my place of work we’ve all recently been asked to update our CVs (That’s curricula vitarum or, for those of you across the pond, résumés.) I don’t know whether to be amused or horrified at those people who consider themselves “highly competent” in MS Word, yet think multiple blank paragraphs are a sensible way to force a page break, when what they should be using is one of “keep with next”, “keep lines together” or “widow/orphan control”. Even barely competent users could insert a proper page break.

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Edinburgh court strikes a blow in the war on photography

Posted by Polonius on 4 October, 2008

The issue of photographers’ rights is not a new one. I’m not sure when the notion that all photographers are paedophiles first emerged, but obviously it’s only since 2001 that all photographers are paedophiles, terrorists or both. In 2004 the UK Photographers Rights Guide was published. Of course the law differs between jurisdictions, and in particular, it’s often unclear when Scots law (which concerns me most) differs from generic UK law. That the rights guide was written by a lecturer at a Scots university gives me some hope that she would have pointed out any significant differences if they existed.

I’m not sure who coined the expression “the war on photography” but Bruce Schneier has certainly used it. Yesterday a Scots court appears to have opened a new front in the war. I’ve often been critical of the BBC’s reporting, but if this story is substantially correct, Sheriff Kenneth Hogg is a disgrace. uk.legal is abuzz with the story. I note that at the time of my writing, the most recent comment on the UK Photographers Rights Guide, by the original author, expresses some dismay at recent interpretations of the law in Scotland. The fact that the accused in yesterday’s case pled guilty suggests that his solicitor, Andy Houston, feared that Boss^H^H^H^HSheriff Hogg might interpret the law in the latest, most fundamentally idiotic, way. I’ll give the solicitor the benefit of the doubt, and assume that his advice was based on an understanding of how the sheriff’s mind works (and in this context, by “works” I mean “does what the Daily Mail tells him”).

Posted in News, Society | 1 Comment »

Much ado about very little

Posted by Polonius on 3 July, 2007

I wondered if I ought to post on the events over the weekend, but instead, I sat back and left it to the experts. Bruce Schneier‘s views are similar to my own, but perhaps better expressed (apart from the title being in poor taste). Several of the comments link to further interesting material.

As luck would have it, I had occasion to visit the RAH this morning. There were a few police officers about, including two at the door, but it was pretty much business as usual.

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Good blogs, bad blogs

Posted by Polonius on 8 June, 2007

A perusal of my blogroll should be enough to convince you that my interests are fairly eclectic. I generally read blog feeds via Protopage, which provides a handy feed aggregator (and lots of other widgets) that I can access from anywhere I can find Web access.

There are many good blogs in my Protopage blog feed, but I keep them sorted in (roughly) order of interest. Fairly high up the list is Schneier on Security, whose material ranges from fairly abstruse IT stuff, to the latest half-baked ideas from the War on Terror™. In the space of 24 hours [I drafted this a couple of days ago], he’s posted not one, but three interesting articles (1, 2, 3).

At the bottom of my Protopage list are the irritating blogs that I just can’t quite bring myself to delete:

Posted in Blogging, Society, Technology, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Feeling the heat?

Posted by Polonius on 23 May, 2007

I haven’t yet finished reading the RES report on global warming, but it seems a pretty decent summary of the issues. For further reading on the subject, RealClimate is a good starting point.


New Scientist recently published refutations of some of the more persistent denialist FUD.

Posted in Science, Society | Leave a Comment »