Oct 092012
 

I really do not, and cannot at present, understand how anyone can defend or indeed promote the death penalty.

1) The overwhelming evidence is that is doesn’t work and any kind of deterrent.

2) It’s purely retributive, based on revenge.

3) If we make a mistake, we can’t release an innocent person; we’ve killed him.

 

I’m genuinely open to trying to understand more; I’d like to comprehend how anyone can logically or rationally support the death penalty.

 

Can anyone? Please? I’d like a debate ….

Oct 052012
 

I’m a criminal. On paper, anyway.

 

Yes, this is my confession. I have, at times, consumed narcotics. Class A. Jazz salt. Etc.

 

Of course, I’m hardly alone in that. The (so-called) wider community is rife with it, with the nature of the product consumed depending as much as anything on the bank balance of the user in question. Between junky and judge, there’s really little other difference.

 

But we are often told that in the LGBT community, the incidence of drug use is much higher. I’m in no real position to assess the validity of that claim, but taking it to be true, what reasons could there be for this?

 

Mental health issues are likewise, apparently, more prevalent in our community. Are we self-medicating, to alleviate the symptoms of depression, for example? Or does the causation run the other way? Does drug use lead to the conditions in question? Almost certainly, both of these statements are true in some cases, but they don’t strike me as the case particularly widely.

 

Perhaps its our innately hedonistic lifestyle? Sex on tap, clubbing ‘til dawn, champers and coke, darling! Well, if anybody knows where that’s going on, could they please tell me? While there may be a tendency to be more up front and honest about our activities and proclivities, I don’t think there’s really much difference in frequency! The heteros are at it just as much as we are, though most probably with far less panache.  

 

Is it our marginalisation from mainstream society? Does the impossibility of the pipe and slippers home life drive us to drugs? Well, even if it once did, that’s hardly plausible now. We’ve attained the same level of boring as everyone else.

 

Perhaps the reality is that, as in other aspects of our lives, we’re generally far more open   . It’s not that long ago that just being us put us on the wrong side of the law; perhaps there’s some cultural attitude we’ve all adopted in some way, that makes us less hesitant to share these things? I’m gay, so what? I enjoy sex, so what? I take drugs, so what?

 

Happily, that reaction seems to be trickling down to the general population. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s just social evolution, maybe it’s none of the above. But in the past fifty years, homosexuality has gone from outré, to passé, and the enjoyment of sex has gone from sinful to joyful. Given the wealth of data supporting the fact that drugs should be legalised, that drug use is less damaging to both the individual and society than alcohol, and that a significant proportion of all crime is related to the criminal status of drugs, perhaps we as a whole are about to wake up and realise “oh, you do drugs? So what?”

 

 

 

May 162012
 

 

Once again: “Plausibility” does not mean “knowing the mechanism” : Respectful Insolence: “Now on ScienceBlogs: Teaching After The Test: An argument for a national school schedule

Last 24 Hrs Life Science Physical Science Environment Humanities Education Politics Medicine Brain & Behavior Technology Information Science Jobs RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE “A STATEMENT OF FACT CANNOT BE INSOLENT.” THE MISCELLANEOUS RAMBLINGS OF A SURGEON/SCIENTIST ON MEDICINE, QUACKERY, SCIENCE, PSEUDOSCIENCE, HISTORY, AND PSEUDOHISTORY (AND ANYTHING ELSE THAT INTERESTS HIM)Latest Posts Archives About RSS Contact Who (or what) is Orac? Orac is the nom de blog of a (not so) humble pseudonymous surgeon/scientist with an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent’s posterior about his miscellaneous verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few will. (Continued here, along with a DISCLAIMER that you should read before reading any medical discussions here.)

Orac’s old Blog is archived at Archived Insolence.

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(Via .)

May 162012
 

I’m rubber, you’re glue: “

Why do cult leaders and religious fanatics try to insult atheists by comparing atheism to a cult and atheists to religious fanatics?

Zealous atheists resemble religious fanatics.

Rabbi Dow Marmur

#Atheism is a cult with a small following.

Deepak Chopra

I really don’t get it. It’s as if I were to sneer at creationists by calling them scientists, or clobbered seminaries by referring to them as research institutions (those are things I would not do, by the way).

Rabbi, you’re a guy who has dedicated his life to learning arcane and largely irrelevant nonsense from holy books. You go through weekly (probably daily) religious rituals, you believe in improbable foolishness, you wear special garments — you’re a religious fanatic. My profession is educator: I spend every day putting together information and evaluating the work of my students. I dress as I will. I have no rituals, other than the deadlines dictated by the academic calendar. That I reject your brand of theology (and all brands of theology!) does not make me religious, nor does it make me a fanatic.

Chopra, you’re a guy who peddles feel-good woo to the gullible. You’ve got bizarre, unsubstantiated beliefs about a conscious universe that aspires to fulfill the desires of individual humans; you rake in big speaker’s fees and sell empty fluff in books to the fools who follow you. You’re a cult leader. Atheism tells people to think for themselves and learn about reality; we have a few people who rise to prominence in the movement by their words and actions, but they aren’t exactly leaders — they get barraged constantly with criticism by their fellow atheists.

So I’m a bit lost at what point those two loons are trying to make. Their comments don’t seem to fit atheists or atheism at all, but do apply with a vengeance to themselves.



 

(Via Pharyngula.)

May 112012
 

Roger Ebert on Death: “

Roger Ebert writes about death so poetically. (With no mention of an afterlife because you don’t get one.)

And now my friend’s wife and the newspaperman have both passed away. Early one morning, unable to sleep, I roamed my memories of them. Of an endless series of dinners, and brunches, and poker games, and jokes, and gossip. On and on, year after year. I remember them. They exist in my mind — in countless minds. But in a century the human race will have forgotten them, and me as well. Nobody will be able to say how we sounded when we spoke. If they tell our old jokes, they won’t know whose they were.

That is what death means. We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear. Some years from now, at a funeral with a slide show, only one person will be able to say who we were. Then no one will know.

That may sound depressing to some, but I don’t see it that way at all. Life is all about the memories you create and take part in. With all the events that had to happen perfectly for us to be alive today, it’d be crazy not to make the most of the time we have available. It’s a call for optimism, a call for us to be happy, to do something meaningful with our lives, whatever that might mean. It’s inspiring, really.

 

(Via Friendly Atheist.) fb

Nov 152011
 

Ok, I admit it, I’m an ante-diluvian Luddite, and shouldn’t be allowed near that-there Interwebs without supervision.

But I just … don’t … get … Twitter.

I’ve pared back the number of people I follow from 200+ to around 100, fewer than most of my friends follow. I still can’t read it all. And I know – I know – that I should just ignore the posts I miss. But I simply can’t do that. I get frustrated at missing things, and whenever I give Twitter a go, I’m perpetually scrolling down to pick up where I left off.

I find Twitter frustrating, aggravating and just not for me.

So I’ve finally deactivated my account. I’ll stick to telegrams from now on …

Nov 142011
 

… at best. At worst, he’s deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting an issue, framing a genuine concern for animal welfare as “an(other) assault on religious freedom in Europe“.

Never mind that Europe is probably the freest place in the world in which to hold, practise and preach your particular brand of self delusion. Sorry, religion.

Never mind the genesis of the kosher and halal rules are, at best, confused.

Never mind the fact that there are glaring errors in the definition of “clean” and “unclean” animals (really, the hare chews the cud, does it? Morons!).

Lyons expounds here upon his opinion that the Dutch ban on kosher and halal slaughter is “[t]aking a knife to liberty and tolerance”. Because, of course, the Netherlands are well known for being a repressive, restrictive and illiberal state. Yes, that seems right …

Taking it as a given that there is a “recent intolerant trend in Europe against religious minorities”, without providing the slightest evidence for this (hint: there is none), he proceeds to rape reason with Godwin, equating the Dutch law promoting animal welfare with – wait for it – the Nazis. Observing quite accurately the fact that “the last time kosher slaughter was banned in the Netherlands was during the Nazi occupation” he proceeds immediately to call this an “embarrassing parallel for modern-day Dutch politicians”.

Well, no, it isn’t. Because, you fucking idiot, the Nazis banned kosher slaughter because it was, y’know, FUCKING JEWISH and the Dutch ban is because it’s FUCKING CRUEL! Does that distinction escape you, Lyons?

His piss-poor potshots against our oh-so-illiberal intolerance continues:

“While such restrictions are often imposed in the name of modern, liberal values, they are their very opposites. A free and open society should be able to tolerate a diversity of beliefs and practices, even when they are at odds with the views of the majority.”

Ok, almost completely right. Just remove “practices”. Believe what you will; fine. Do what you will; not fine.

I may believe that stabbing all people with brown eyes through the very centre of their foreheads with a silver plate cake slice will guarantee their eternal bliss. In no way should there be any legislation in place to prevent my so believing.

However, if I were to act upon that belief … well, you see where I’m going.

The bottom line: we are obliged to respect people’s right to hold whatever beliefs they wish (or have been inculcated to believe). We are NOT obliged to respect those beliefs themselves. And we are absolutely not obliged to accommodate practices which are in conflict with what we as a society have come to see as acceptable.

Cruel, painful, agonising slaughter of animals to comply with the archaic, barbaric strictures of an Iron Age, bucolic belief system which, even at its inception was unsophisticated, ill-informed and idiotic compared to the many far more advanced societies around it, is wrong. Simply, and utterly wrong.

The Dutch are to be applauded.

The rest of us are to be upbraided for not having done the same.

The proponents of kosher or halal slaughter are to be ignored, or mocked, or both.

And Rob Lyons is a fucking moron, who is to be ignored. And preferably never published again.

 

Aug 272011
 

 

Another year, another Pride parade / day / party / celebration / farrago / fiasco …

 

Didn’t it all used to be so much simpler? I remember just five years ago, living in London at the time, it was a foregone conclusion that I, along with a selection of my closest friends, would be waking FAR too early on the Saturday in question, hopping on an-overflowing-with-gays train (plus the obligatory, sole, confused pensioner who had NO idea what was going on!) and sallying forth to London-sur-mer for the day’s festivities. Fifty-five minutes – and usually a couple of cocktails – later, we would have arrived, and the day would be glorious; from the practically guaranteed perfect Summer’s day, to the atmosphere of ribald mirth and cheerful fun, to the selection of music, entertainment and even shopping. What more could a poof desire?!

 

Now, however, the sheen seems to have gone. The last two years have beendisappointing. Whether itdue to the less-than-spectacular weather, or the media attention which seemed to presage failure, or possibly my familiarity with the city breeding contempt, donknow. Perhaps Isimply getting older growing up, and standing around in field for 4 hours isnmy thing anymore.

 

Actually, that never was my thing; I was born middle-aged and never really took to the joys of youth. (Youths, yes; youth, no!)

 

Nonetheless, something about the atmosphere of Brighton Pride always managed to help me overlook that and enjoy myself, ravening hordes and barking dogs notwithstanding!

 

So, I’m left pondering the question posed – what sort of Pride would I like this year? Successful, yes, though how you define that may as well be the same question, differently framed!

 

Do I want the parade? Yes – though I often miss it, alcohol NOT being to blame for this, I still value it as a reminder of why we have Pride in the first place!

 

What of the park? To my mind, it’s scarcely conceivable that Pride might happen without the celebration culminating in the park! My experience, as the travelling Londoner, was always and entirely at the park, the two ideas being inseperable in my thoughts! I realise others feel differently; they should get their own columns!

 

And what of the the week of community events leading up to the “big day”? I must confess, they rarely impinge upon my thoughts – I could for myself happily see them fall by the wayside. However, they’re not really up for discussion in the way that other, more obvious targets are; they’re not some monolithic entity, which stands or falls as one. Even if more than half of these events folded, others would remain and still more rise up to take their places. They neither operate under, nor require, the formal approval of Pride.

 

Let’s just keep it simple, shall we? Parade, Park, Party. No more politicking, sniping or in-fighting in the community – we’re going to face enough enemies without in the years to come, without fighting the enemies within!