Saturday, 27 April 2013

Real purpose for GW's Library revealed :)


Doctor's at the Houston Texas Memorial Hospital today a released statement revealing the real reason behind the George W Bush Library – memory loss.

It is widely reported President Bush is a recovering alcoholic, less well known is the extent of damage that he suffered from his alcohol abuse.

The doctors are hailing the library as a success of technology aiding the brain injured. They hope the technology may one day be to available others including veterans and vehicle accident victims.

“We are excited that this technology, will allow former President Bush to have full recall of his time in office”

A number of foreign diplomats said off the record that they agreed that it was indeed an exciting development, one saying “I think it is time to call The Hague, what he did to 'french fries' must see justice, now that mental incompetence is no longer a legal issue with the former president.”

A legal expert working with Webster's Dictionary, told Theocracidal "We think we have a pretty good case. GW's torturing of the English language pretty well documented.  This removes the one legal hurdle that was really problematic."

Friday, 26 April 2013

Economic mismanagement

Since 2007, Child poverty has risen 9% to 25%, The average weekly wage has fallen NZ$100, The cost of living has risen 38%.

Now the New Zealand Government proposes to continue it mismanagement by weakening worker protections.

What next?

Some celebrations...

A week ago, I made the 200th post. As it happened, that article was celebrating my nation's legislature passing marriage equality. In the next few days, someone will be the 13,000th viewer. 
So far I have found a modest and enthusiastic audience, who seem to be very forgiving of typos. I'm also grateful for this audience.  I'm especially grateful, for the assistance from Indianapolis, with the proofing of some recent articles.

More great news for the LGBTI community, France and Rhode Island have voted for Marriage Equality.

Researchers have successfully 3D-printed functional liver tissue. This will be great news for those affected by Hepatitis or other liver disease who otherwise have to rely on transplant surgery. It will still be some time before this becomes a clinical option, but it is good to know what is just around the corner. (more)

Pakistani agricultural workers have won trade union rights. As well as reducing exploitation this is important in low wage economies for lifting economic performance of the economy as a whole, better paid workers create demand and grow the business sector. (more)

People around the world have stood up for free expression in Bangladesh. This is important because of riots, murders and the use of blasphemy laws to quell criticism of Bangladeshi Muslim war criminals who have escaped justice for 40 years. Congrats to those organizing these successful demonstrations. (more)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Clown Colin Craig takes on satire

Hot on the heels of a weak sauce press statement following the passing of the marriage equality amendment and a fumble courting media highlighted on The Nation, Colin Craig has a new media strategy - high tackling satire.

Colin Craig has moved ahead to destroy any remaining credibility that he might have once possessed. He has actually had his lawyers draw up papers requesting a retraction and public apology from a satirical blog, The Civilian.

It seems some people in politics have difficulty with humour. I first took note of this problem when it was reported that the a North Korean media organization took The Onion's Kim Jung Un voted the Sexiest man Alive piece for real news.

The problem was further highlighted when America's Republicans got all excited over "Friends of Hamas" which originated as a private joke from a journalist. After that Breitbart.com recycled a satire from The Daily Currant.

There are a few serious issues here. How did we get to a place where parody and satire are indistinguishable from real politics? What is happening to journalism that such weak sources get legs?

How does a politician not know that satire is protected free expression?  Starting a bun fight might simply be a strategy for boosting the profile of his languishing political career.

Colin, please go and do something useful, return to the toothpick recycling business. You don't need satirists to make you look like a fool. Your own words are more than capable of achieving that ambition on their own.

[UPDATE]
Colin Craig has commented that he believes his reputation has not been damaged by this incident. Well, Colin, that was never very likely, was it? Your reputation, satirically speaking, spends much of its time languishing in the darkest smelliest parts of a DoC long-drop in the Kiangaroa forest in order to hide from Colin Craig's Press releases.

See also 3News coverage
   The Civilian
   The Civilian responds

Woo, the perveyors, and the best known sceptic.

Today the Humanist Society ran a presentation on the work of James Randi and the James Randi Educational foundation.
Randi is best known for his work exposing hucksters, Including Ure Geller, Peter Popoff. He also exposed practises including divination and psychic surgery.

Sylvia Browne famously announced that she would accept the Randi foundation $1m challenge. She has not been in contact since. When first asked about her no show, she claimed to not know the contact details. The Randi foundation promptly supplied contact details. Later she claimed that she did not want to take money from godless people.

Here are some of Sylvia's more spectacular fails:
Sylvia presses on with her notional drowning of a 9/11 firefighter


Sylvia tells a family their missing boy is dead before he is found alive and well in an urban St Louis Apartment.



James Randi exposes psychic surgery on Johnny Carson:

James is going strong at 84, He announced the pigasus awards naming Dr Oz as a leading purveyor of woo for 2012/13. Over the last year We have seen on the Dr Oz Show Joel Olsteen and meditation promoted for well being an debates over reparative (ex-gay) therapy and the legalization of marijuana/cannabis(psychosis not mentioned). Also a variety of fringe science topics. Dr Mamhet Oz's outstanding efforts promoting pswudo science and none science on the show has earned him a third Pigasus. No one has ever before received this honoured accolade as often.
Alex Jones also won in the category of conspiracy theory.


We should be thankful for the work of the JREF. It is massively unappreciated by too many.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Anything but a Kiwi Atheist

While discrimination against atheists has been highlighted in US media on occasion, Like the 2006 case of the school girl, Nichol, who refused to dishonour her netball team's pregame prayer circle by faking it, and instead, choosing to stand silently and respectfully outside of it, only to be bullied by students and teacher alike and accused of criminal behaviour(theft), to a family who became the local "zoo attraction" in their own home before being run out of town. It seems New Zealand is not immune, even though many like to say we just don't care about the personal views of others.

Christopher Scott Roy, a  teacher who appears to have been forced to resign his role at Auckland Tamaki College because he was neither a Christian or Mormon. Mr Roy has taken a case to the Employment Relations Authority.

The Authority has published a dicussion in which Mr Roy states that Tamaki College "saw Christian/Mormon faith as a core responsibility to which he was indifferent and reluctant to accept or practise as a condition of employment." Tamaki College disputes Mr Roy's claims.

It seems to me, that this is barking mad. The  behaviour of the school in this case, if accepted, would make group think an acceptable employment requirement. Think about it You could be fired being an aphilatelist (not a stamp collector), you could even be fired for not believe in the one true creator of the beer volcano - the Flying Spaghetti Monster. These examples seem ludicrous and over the top but what if you could get fired from your job because you voted for Labour or the Greens, or National, once. Or perhaps because they found out that you think that as a matter of public policy Mix Ownership / Partial privatization is not in the long term interests of  New Zealand.

In Manawatu, former Mayor Heather Tanguay and her husband Jerry have been practically run out of Palmerston. After vandals, including the head boy of a local school defaced political bill boards. The Tanguays were shocked to discover that the motivation for the vandalism was religious in nature and they were disgusted by the nature of the vandalism.

There is a narrative that is used to paint atheists as amoral nihilists. This is a caricature, that is laughable if not, offensive, to atheists. We are a significant segment of the New Zealand population, we are well educated, talented and law abiding on the whole. New Zealand Police stats tell us over all crime is going down, while the census tells us religious non belief is rising at about 1% per year. Societies with higher proportions of atheists in the population have fewer murders and teen pregnancies, more competitive economies than those with fewer atheists. We atheist don't have our morality handed to us in a book of iron aged fiction. We work for our moral ethical values using reason. We don't  murder or beat people up because we don't want to live in a world where murder and assault are acceptable, we can extend this to war too. We don't need this rule handed down by authority of an imagined grand Inquisitor. As for nihilism while there may be some nihilists among us, they are quite rare. Most atheists in the strictest sense, accept science as a way of knowing about the world we live in. There is a feeling we can get in those moments when we contemplate what science teaches us about the universe in its grand scale to it small detail and myriad complexity in between, the Japanese call it Yugen.

Those contemplative moments are often too few and too far apart, as we take care of more pressing concerns. Are the kids keeping up at school? Has the dog got his shots? Does the cat need a new flee collar, Are we keeping up at work? Will work still be here next month. How long till we need to rewarrant the car? When to change the smoke alarm battery? What's for dinner(and contrary to what you might infer from our own jokes about ourselves, and the comments of some crackpot theists - baby is strictly off the menu). In reality we are not any different except that we don't feel the need to dress up for a weekly fashion show to be reminded how not to be an asshole by an institution with a questionble history of discrimination, criminal offending and conspiracies to hide from legal authorities, suspicious financial practises,  and unhealthy attitudes some adult relationships.


See also the full ODT Story on Mr Roy's case
Manawatu Standard on the Tanguay case

Friday, 19 April 2013

Quack's cranky friends censor criticsm on Youtube

A real scientist, complete with PhD, and work contributing to NASA. Create a well researched video criticizing the work Texas' Burzynski Institute Run by Stanilaw Burzynski.  Burzynski's work has made him wealthy enough to defeat the normal controls on quackery, claiming defeat over the FDA and a fifteen year battle with Texas Medical Board to revoke his medical license.
It appears an associate of Burzynski has filed a complaint, automatically taking down the video.


As parliament advances human rights, meet the sore losers

It was only to be expected really, the Conservative Party of New Zealand are just not happy with Wednesday nights vote to allow the state to recognize the right to marry regardless of gender or sexuality. Not only does this bill mean same sex couples can marry, it will also mean the an end to mandatory divorces for couples where one spouse seeks to pursue their transgender identity.

But the conservatives and Winston Peters, with both calling for a referendum. Winston Peters made this clear in speech on Wednesday night in a moment where I not help imagine him in a rainbow afro wig, big red round foam rubber nose, and size 42 floppy shoes.

But he's not the only one talking about referenda.
Colin Craig's Conservative party issue the following press release on facebook.

Of course the problem that they appear to miss is that majority opinion on minority rights is subject to prejudice and the slanders and liables that prevail in the majority narrative. Then again they perhaps relying on it, because that narrative is subject to vociferous minorities spreading bullshit, we saw that happen in 1930 Germany, and we saw it in the lead up to the Rwandan Genocide as Hutu preachers, raised church attendance by slamming Tutsies. But the targets don't even have to be in the minority, in West Africa no one less powerful perhaps than a child, and preachers there persecute children for being witches

For a political party, it is unusual in this country to see a press release start with a religious reference. But since it is a quote from Colin Craig that should not be a surprised. And it is perhaps the first clue that dangerously stupid is about to be said.

The next paragraph is shall we say counter factual, a majority of Kiwis support this as evidenced by recent polls include one run by a group intent to fight the bill. While some polls have had results that appear to support the Conservative position many were far from scientific, include the Campbell Live text poll cited by Winston Peters. But even so I have already shown why even a well run poll would be pointless. Even if the Herald Digipoll got the number right at 52% the margin of error puts 49% with in range. Under 30's support marriage equality more than older generations and support is set to grow for marriage equality even faster as people notice the world isn't falling off its axis. The apparent rise against marriage equality is like the result of people accepting lies and liables against the variant communities and the wedge argument from consequences at were offered by the conservative quarter.  Not to mention the preacher that blame the drought on the marriage equality debate.

Yes, majority rules, is the platform position of Conservatives, And Germany voted to take away the rights of Jews
Should the Jew, with the aid of his Marxist creed, triumph over the people of this world, his Crown will be the funeral wreath of mankind, and this planet will once again follow its orbit through ether, without any human life on its surface, as it did millions of years ago.
And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.

Mein Kampf - Adolph Hitler, Ch2 Vol 1 1922

Thursday, 18 April 2013

'Atheists and humanists are the most discriminated groups in the country'

The religiously unaffiliated in the US is the fastest growing segment in the US and already number 20%.
Many see the lies, scaremongering, social manipulation, moral hypocrisy, and money hungry preachers and are repulsed.

Even though some US studies put atheists in a position of being less trusted than sex offenders, the religious right is organised and holds veto power of one of the two major political parties in the US. It's somewhat bizarre, because at the same time they respect Brad Pitts' work in Katrina recovery, George Clooney's ambassadorial works for human rights and are big fans of Daniel Radcliffe and Ian McKellan, not to mention the huge support for the Star Trek franchise - created by atheist Gene Roddenbury. Gene, Leonard Nimoy (raised in Jewish tradition) and two others wrote the Undiscovered Country after his acceptance of the atheist position. The script has Captain Kirk asking "What does God need of a star ship?". This is a parody of a Christian parable.


In New Zealand, the religiously unaffiliated number about 35%, but we have a similar problem to the US; as we have not yet organized a potent political force to counter the regressive politics of rightwing religious fundamentalists. It is time for secular people in America, New Zealand and elsewhere to organise. Todd Stiefel is doing his part and helped organise the Reason Rally 2012 that brought 20-30,000 secular people together on the Washington Mall. America's secular voters wielded surprising power in last year's presidential vote.

Here in New Zealand, The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and the Humanist Society of New Zealand are working at the vanguard of bringing together secular New Zealanders. Recently, these groups worked together to bring a series of public seminars highlighting the encroachment of religious fundamentalism in our public schools. New Zealand prides itself on being an inclusive society. Religious fundamentalism is often unabashedly exclusive; this is an anathema to our Kiwi values. The failed push back for marriage equality is just one example, the vast majority of the opposition to Louisa Wall's bill was from religious groups. Too often, they offered vile arguments, scaremongering with predictions of criminal behaviour, and in at least one case blamed the drought on the discussions and push for marriage equality.

It may seem easy to dismiss these ludicrous contributions to the debate as just the product of the minds of random cranks, but the fact is they are not. The fact is too many unsceptical minds accept these assertions without question. Note that today the Bob McCroskrie's facebook group Protect Marriage NZ has over 7800 likes and sometimes posting material from the American Family Association which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a hate group. Here is a sample from Bob himself:


When I checked today, I did not see any posts on that page by anyone other than "Protect Marriage NZ", primarily shares of statuses and blogposts by Bob McCroskrie. It sort of looks like the modern equivalent of the 1970's kook with a mimeograph in the basement. Though that appearance may be administrative because overtime an intolerance of tolerance grew in the way they handled dissenting posts.

Such intolerance of dissenting opinion is common among primarily fundamentalist groups. It seems they habitually take demonstrably wrong positions and can't stand their ideas being shown up as unsupported by anything more than sky hooks, or that the ideas they are pushing are flat out counterfactual. It creates an echo chamber effect which was so clearly demonstrated in the genuine shock of the GOP at the last US Presidential election.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A proud day for human rights in NZ

A lame and disgusting smear from
traditional marriage advocates
It looks like today will be the day New Zealand legalizes the love of consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation. This is a step forward for many reasons, it is an advance in human rights, and for secular society. Clearly the opposition to this bill has been primarily driven by conservative religious views with groups associated religious organzsations providing the bulk of the relatively limited opposition to the change. I described the opposition as relatively limited, because New Zealanders, diverse walks of life came forward to defend or assert the rights of the their friends and loved ones to celebrate their with public ceremony and the dignity of the name of marriage for their relationship.

Even though we have had Civil Unions for about 8 years, having to call legally bound committed relationship, sticks in the craw for some as a form of apartheid. Some thing qualitatively less than marriage. And for others, especially those objecting that is just the way they like it.

Thankfully, from today that situation will be no more. After today, gay men and women can have more than the soup bone of Civil Union, and enjoy the full roast.

It is a day celebrate, with many more celebrations to come. Thank you Jacinta Adhern for seeing through the nonsense of the Mormon church that you were raised in to stand for Gay New Zealanders, including your uncle. I don't care what the right wingers say, you're fabulous.

Most especially, thank you to Louisa Wall,   for introducing your  private Member's bill correcting this in justice.

Update: the bill has passed 77/44. I was up all night celebrating with freinds old and new.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Attack of the Kiwi theocrats

With the MMP threshold due to drop to 1% for the 2014 election, expect to see nationalistic theocrats The Conservation Party of New Zealand in Parliament in the next political term.

While their position on marriage equality is a big loser for them, they are organizing. But their relationship to media is somewhat strange with their public relations person at a recent public meeting attempting to act as minder in a fashion not out of place in a Panorama documentary on the Church of Scientology.

They seem to talk up the idea that they are a mainstream organization. The first time I heard that line was in the mid '80s from a Mormon door knocker. And you might still hear it from the Church of Scientology.

While there may be value in "economic nationalism", there are certainly less odious options like the Greens, or Labour who support this position without the tendency to legislate what us Kiwis do with our naughty bits.

While Craig's fans like the supporting the family bit, the fact is the Conservative only support one kind of family: the family of the bronze and iron aged Middle East. This policy alone should lose more than half the vote.

Colin Craig will not have a mandate in parliament; at most, like American politicians, his place in parliament will be bought and paid for with cash.

In the 1970's the Religious right was nowhere in US politics, now the Tea Party has veto power over the Republicans. Also today, the religious right is organizing and posing a threat to New Zealand's secular tradition. We can no longer rely on our secular tradition anymore. As we now have an opportunity to contribute to a written constitution, I feel it is a duty to make a submission to ensure separation of church and state enshrined in this constitution, as it is in the US Constitution's 1st amendment. Because even with that protection, the pressure is on in the US,  with Virginia attempting to get a federal court to uphold sodomy laws and North Carolina attempting to establish a state religion.

The Nation
Make a submission to Our Constitution.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The excesses of the NZ religio-industriel complex

As much as we like to laugh at the excesses of the American religious-industrial complex, New Zealand is far from immune. Indeed our statutes require less accountability in regard to the spending of charity money than even the US, the world capital of hucksters brandishing Bibles like Peter Popoff, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Robert Schueller and Joyce Meyer. Many have seen the flash cars of the elders Destiny Church and Brian Tamaki's helicopter wish list item. But he's not the only one. Ray Comfort Started out, here in New Zealand and now operates in California. But still New Zealand tax laws provides little accountability for the use of revenues by charitable organizations connected with religious institutions.

A few examples:

While you crunch down on your WeetBix, keep in mind not a single cent was payed in revenue taxes by the manufacturer, because the commercial entity Sanitarium is owned by the Seventh Day Adventists.

Ngai Tahu has an individual receiving 14% of revenues in there remuneration package.

Some how in 2012, the Royston Hospital Trust Board Achieved the staggeringly exorbitant rate of 7% of revenue spent on charitable purposes. This on revenue approaching $1m and expenses less than $64k. The Royston Trust has assets of $25m.

To me this kind of burns because I have worked for a couple of charities myself. One of which is now defunct because it could not get enough revenues to cover the expenses of the very worthwhile work it was doing for low income Wellingtonians. And the other is perhaps Wellingtons most successful charity The LifeFlight Trust, which at time I worked was spending 24-27% on overheads, which should not be begrudged because if for-profit organizations can teach the non-profit sector anything it is that you have to spend money to make money. It is better to spend $400 on advertising to collect $1000 and keep $600 for the cause than to spend $10 on raffle tickets sold for $100 and keep $90 for the cause.

I Saw it on TV.
Destiny Church has previously offered content for Sunday morning programming on Prime TV. Hour of Power from the Chrystal Cathedral has been on the Sunday morning programme for something for the order 20 years. It is worth noting that the cathedral went bankrupt, but not the ministers, and they were able to keep it going. It is worth noting some of the programmes offer Prosperity gospel which asks belivers to gave away money in the hope of unspecified receiving. Often believers give away money they can ill afford. Other programme offer end-times theology which leads to poor planning or no planning at all and folks ending up without resources to help them through difficult times. And let us not forget the nonsense of Harold Camping.

Sean Faircloth mentions that US based Evangelicals see their religion as an export business. Just looking the TV schedule for this week, it is hard to disagree that this is how they see it. It is worth noting that where these churches the most popular, the most poverty exists. Especially where Prosperity Gospel is involved. In some sense this is worse than pokies, at least pokies rarely pay out.

CH day tm  Show
2 Mon 4:10 It is Written
3 Mon 5:00 Joyce Meyer
1 Mon 5:30 Believers voice of Victory
2 Mon 6:00 Creflo Dollar

1 Tue 5:05 Believers voice of Victory
3 Tue 5:30 Joyce Meyer
2 Tue 6:00 Creflo Dollar
minimise

3 Wed 5:00 Joyce Meyer

1 Wed 5:05 Believers voice of Victory
2 Wed 6:00 Creflo Dollar

3 Thu 5:00 Joyce Meyer
1 Thu 5:05 Believers voice of Victory
2 Thu 6:30 Creflo Dollar

3 Fri 5:00 Joyce Meyer
1 Fri 5:05 Believers voice of Victory
2 Fri 6:00 Creflo Dollar

3 Sat 6:00 Charles Stanley

1 Sun 5:30 The world to come with David C Pack
3 Sun 5:30 Charles Stanley

P Sun 6:00 Music and the Spoken word
P Sun 6:30 Life TV
3 Sun 7:00 Charles Stanley 1315

P Sun 7:30 Hour of Power
P Sun 8:30 Tomorrows World
P Sun 9:00 Impact for Life
P Sun 9:30 Life TV
P Sun 10:00 Running With Fire


See Also
  Dr Michael Gousmett's article on NZCPR
Public schools languish while privat schools boosted

Sunday, 14 April 2013

In defense of our children

On Friday, Sean Faircloth, Peter Harrison of Secular Education Network and David Armstrong spoke at a public seminar held at Lecture Theatre GLB1. The seminar was organized by the Humanist Society of New Zealand in conjunction with the New Zealand Association of Rationalist and Humanists.
The event was supported by three times as many people attending as was expected.

The audience learned that the original architect of New Zealand's education system, Charles Bowen, understood three primary essential features an education system must have to provide great good to society:
  1. Free, and so accessible that no one locked out
  2. Compulsory, so no one is locked out of the value of education
  3. Secular, so that society would not need to be divided because everyone would have a common platform from we could work together.
But since the days of this great vision much has changed, during the eighties we saw the cost of education falling upon students through student loans.
In 1897 Reverend Mckenzie found a loophole in the law known as the Nelson Clause. This clause allows schools to nominally close early for special activities.

And now religious groups are lining up and rubbing their hands at the prospect of charter schools now being pursued by National as a political favour to libertarian ACT party.  The overseas experience of charter schools varies wildly, while there are some successes, many fail to meet basic minimum standards. Charter schools legislation  leaves these schools exempt from the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman’s Act, making them immune from scrutiny and accountability. Such schools in the US have in some cases used textbooks that state, "Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.", or even positively spin the murderously racist KKK as reformers "fighting the decline in morality"(more). I mention this as a heads-up for what we can expect from charter schools. I'm comfortable paying taxes in support of secular education because I don't like being surrounded by idiots. Sure, many kids going through these schools will be smart, but then so were the folks at Waco and Jonestown. But the beliefs they adhere are demonstrably harmful. Other beliefs, while not necessarily fatal, are still harmful to the cohesive secular society that has so often led human rights, including women's suffrage and electing Georgina Baier, the world's first transgender MP.

Destiny Church, the cult run by Brian and Hanna Tamaki, has made announcements concerning the development of a closed community with its own school. The likelihood is that the children that will attend this school, and it will likely be a charter school, will be exposed to a curriculum with some disturbing religious elements. Tamaki's rhetoric suggests that a Christian nationalist agenda will be pushed through propaganda in the schools' curriculum. Tamaki previously stated circa 2003 that Destiny Church would be running this country by 2008.



You may think "well they can teach their kids what they like". Perhaps, but should they do that on your dime? And what effect would this have on future New Zealand society? Please remember what German Christian nationalists did for Europe just before the middle of the 20th century. Like the many citizens of Nazi Germany, there is no reason to suggest that members of DC are malevolent (except for the questions surrounding the money trail), but certainly they are wildly misinformed and blind to the negative consequences of growing this ideology in the population, or of creating a theocracy.

You might have noticed the speaker with the American accent, US evangelicals see their work as an export business; certainly, Brian is getting support from foreign agents. Some US evangelicals certainly have no problem with the idea of Christian theocracy; indeed many desire it. And certainly, it is central to the theology of Dominionist Christians.


Peter Harrison opened noting the heroic courage and forthright determination of Malala Yousufzai and her continuing defence of education for Pakistan's girls and young women. Peter also noted the effect of teaching girls that they must be subordinate to men. Not only does this happen in the predominantly Islamic cultures, it also happens in schools with connections or programmes provided by fundamentalist Christian groups.

On the home ground

We saw the photo of a girl in the "timeout corner", not being punished ostensibly, but she was opted out of this religious instruction by her father.
Parents started contacting the New Association of Rationalists and Humanist over concerns raised by the experience they had. For some, the first clue that their child was in a religious programme was when their kid came home with a prayer card, including the daughter of an attendee to Friday's seminar. In cases where kids are opted out, the opt-out is sometimes ignored, some kids are put in a time-out corner for "quiet reading", or on rubbish duty, and at least one Christchurch case a kid was made to do dishes in the staff room.
This separation and lack of meaningful activity contribute to bullying and religious discrimination. This is further amplified in cases when participating children interrogate opted out children for their nonbelief in the god presented on the play playground. The targeted children may have been brought up with a different notion of the divine, or none - all driven by profound convictions of their parents. In other cases participant children became distressed upon learning that their families do not believe what they have been taught in these classes, fearing the eternal punishment per Christian doctrine concerning hell was given to them in the religious instruction.
It is the view of the Secular Education Network that religion if it is taught should be taught without bias and at an appropriate age. However what we are seeing is overwhelmingly Christian education for children aged 6-8 years, and perhaps younger.
The main provider of these classes is the Church Education Commission(CEC) who report that at least 11 schools have withdrawn from their programme since, at the behest of the Secular Education Network, the CEC has adopted a policy of "informed consent". This is a significant win of persuasion over an organization that once described our secular state schools as "untapped mission fields".
In approximately 800 of the 2000 or so public primary schools in New Zealand offer religious instruction, sometimes without the full knowledge of parents. For some, the following was the only information they had:
Values in ActionPermission slip
I give permission for my child to participate in the Values in Action programme.[ ][√]

NoYes
The question is how the CEC and others get to do this. The Nelson Clause allows schools to close early for special activities, so technically these classes are off the school clock, at technicality not fully appreciated by 8 years old and so the classes come with the authority school. Efforts continue with the aim of repealing the Nelson clause.

The Secular Education Network is looking for information to help find the schools offering this form of religious instruction so that schools can be encouraged to ensure parents are fully informed of the nature of programmes being offered. Note that once informed consent is part of the process, schools struggle to find enough parents to opt into the programme and tend close down the programmes for lack of support. Apparently, Kiwi parents have little appetite for people proselytizing to their children through our state education system.

The language used in the Values in Action like "invite children to be curious about God." is designed to be enticing but if that were true might there be questions about the biblical god's demands for human sacrifice(Abraham, Jephthah), ethnic cleansing(Midianites, Hosea 13:16), sex slavery(Deuteronomy 21:10-14), infanticide(psalms 135:8 & 10) and abortion(Hosea 13:16, 2Kings 15:16)? Note while many of the previously cited passages are the old testament, some will say "ah, but that is the old covenant, Jesus brought a new covenant". To which I would refer them to Mathew 5:17-19 NAB "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." and Luke 16:17 "It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid."

The second speaker, David Armstrong, is a Wellington playwright, columnist, and satirist. His provocative Dominion Post columns on topics including religious education, the Destiny Church, Charter Schools, ‘Wogistan’, and the importance of science has drawn the ire of the religious and conservative right. He has been described by furious trolls as ‘a few cards short of a deck’, ‘nothing but a hack’ and ‘a godless liberal with bleak intolerance.' Dave Armstrong noted they are "dying". This is mainly because of the lack of support from younger generations and the older generations are literally dying and being replaced by a less religious population.
The major institutions are all in decline. It is expected that this year's census will reveal that Christianity is no longer the majority in this country. And while it may well remain the largest group for some time, the next largest group is the no religion group, which is growing faster than religious groups. This is a generational change. The rising generation sees religion as a tool of manipulation and oppression and they don't like one bit at all. New Zealand is not alone in seeing a rise in non-religious people. In recent years, the in the US non-religious segment has risen to around 20%, and played a significant role in the 2012 presidential result. Here in New Zealand, around 35% counted themselves as having "no religion" at the 2006 census, expect 5% more this year.
Bill English is a Conservative Christian, and John Banks is a creationist, I would be interested to know if it is young or old earth creationism he adheres to. In 2005, we saw the scandal of John Key talking to the cult known as the exclusive brethren. John Key also wears a bracelet that supposedly stops him from getting sick. Perhaps we should be concerned when we place the future of the country in the hands of people who seriously entertain such woo or humbug to those not familiar with sceptic terminology.

Back in the 90's the Christian Heritage party gained about 4.6% of the popular vote. That was before Graham Capel got convicted of kiddie fiddling. Colin Craig appears to be trying to revive the movement and Peter Dunne may yet be replaced by the Conservative Party as the religious right continues to organize. During 1970's in the USA, the religious right was nowhere in the political landscape but they organized, and now they almost run the Republicans who have proposed over 600 provisions at the state level restricting access to women's reproductive health services in the first three months of this year.

Sean Faircloth came to bring together secular people and to bring together secular groups internationally. He notes that on a per capita basis New Zealand is the most "Dawkinsian". Australasia is also well placed to stand out in front in defence of human rights. Indeed we already have a bit of a reputation for that. It is part of why people want to come here from countries where human rights are crushed for the benefit of political and religious institutions.
The rise of the religious right in the US came from the coming together of an "unholy trilogy" of conservative Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, and Mormons.
In the 70's and 80's they organized by getting representatives on to school boards, and into political organizations, eventually affecting foreign policy informed by the book of Revelation and Dominionism. There is evidence that we are seeing the same "wedge strategy" being employed here.

We like to think of New Zealand politics as being relatively sane compared to the "clown car" or "short bus to Crazytown" that was observed in last year's US election process. And that may still be true, even with the buffoonery that has been hitting our headlines lately. But given time, we are looking at something very similar. "for evil to prevail, good must do nothing." The solution for this problem is that secular people must stand together and lobby our government to make clear that religious imprimaturs have no place in our secular nation. During Sean Faircloth's 10 years as a senator in Maine's state senate, Sean heard from a never ending line of religious groups concerned about "morality" - primarily focused on what people did with their "naughty bits". To Sean, this cheap and tawdry version of "morality" was a huge departure from the morality of Jack Kennedy type Catholics who concern themselves with matters of American poverty and civil rights.

Select Committee submission
Anglican leader says keep Bible out of School
Public schools languish while private schools boosted

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Neo fascist New Zealand

New Zealand with its proud tradition of progressive social politics, environmental concern, low corruption in government and public sector it appears is not immune to the trend of growing fascism seen in many parties of the world.

Kyle Chapman 

Former president of the New Zealand Nation Front(NZNF) unsuccessfully contested the Christchurch mayoral election in 2007. Chapman now leads a group calling itself Right Wing Resistance. As much as these guys are extreme it is easy to write them off as kooks but the New Zealand Democrat Party did win a surprising number of votes.

Colin Craig

An Auckland businessman who used his own money to participate in the 2011 election and gained over 1% of the vote. Craig is what we might call a theo-fascist, his position is the religious law should be enshrined in New Zealand's secular law. His views on women and gays, are abhorrent most New Zealanders. yet he couches his policies secular terms. If were to look for a US equivalent we might pick Rick Santorum who would refuse his daughter and abortion after rape and who said "I don't want to give money to bla.. people ". or Mitt Romney who would deny an abortion even for life threatening medical complications.

He's not the only one church group from around the country made submission in the hope of defeating Louisa Walls Members bill Marriage Act Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill. other religious groups are still fighting to ban abortion even though it remains illegal except on clinical grounds.

National lead government of New Zealand.

So far I've examined the outliers.

Here we see a group of ministers caught in lie after lie, cronyism, and in illegal spying on New Zealanders.
Submissions to the Welfare working were ignored when they were critical of the government policy direction. So much so the community created its own Alternative Welfare Working Group to put forward the compassionate case to the New Zealand public directly. But still slurs against the poor are surprisingly popular.  The problem with this rhetoric is much like flogging a slave for not running fast enough after taking his foot off with a dirty pocket knife.

The Petrobras/Anadarko Supplementary order paper
This provision has been roundly criticised by experts in international, and by Peter Williams QC. It breaches international law. Williams himself uses the word "fascism" in his criticism of this provision that seem to been slipped with out the scrutiny of a select committee.  And an attempt to the SoP put before Select Committee was denied even with the opposition being willing to accept a limit time period for review of the SOP.


GCSB
John Keys suggestion that GCSB should be able to support other law enforcement agencies bring into focus some of the scariest nightmare fantasies of our home grown consiracy theorists who have been saying GCSB has been spying on NZer's for quite some time. The Report that criticises GSCB for survelence of around 80 persons indeed appears confirm some of their claims. Regardless of whether you adhere to conspiracy theories or not these revelation are extreme disturbing for New Zealand civil liberties.

Cyber Bullying Law
Touted as a crack down on cruel taunting behaviour in cyber space, this law is worded in such a way as to be a double edge sword using the language "grossly offensive" could be used to stifle free speech and some satire. the joke about Jesus is God and impregnated his own mother in order that she would give birth to himself might be taken by some as "grossly offensive", Retweeting half of Dave Allen's Material or George Carlin's Religion is Bullshit treatise might also qualify.

Ag-Gag
New legislation to make it a criminal offense to convertly video animal cruelty in our food industrial complex has been suggested here. Similiar laws have been enacted in several US states, effectively preventing campaigners from collecting evidence need for criminal violations of animal welfare laws.

Part of the problem is that the system relies on inspector, around whom the industry keeps on its best behavior, but when their back is turned indulge in sometimes sadistic behaviour. In one case inspectors missed pits full of dead dogs, some of which were cut open.

EQC's Gag Injunction
The problem with this injunction is that it anyone who has connection with EQC rather than specific individual or organizations. The injunctions goal is aimed at preventing those described from diseminating leaked information from a recent privacy breach conserning thousands of EQC claimants. Apparently especially the release of this information to the claimants themselves is of particular concern. It appears the revelation of this information is demonstrating to claimants that they are being short changed.

Data Sharing
the government has expressed interest in data sharing across departments. While  such a move has always been a technical possibility. The main reason for not pursing it had nothing to do with technology. The mere prospect of such a thing create the terrifying nightmare of technofascism a theme explored in Logan Run and through the Borg race of Star Trek. Space 1999 explored two different insane computer systems. This is certain not the time to be suggesting such a bold project, the systems the have now are leaking private information like a pasta strainer.


Monday, 8 April 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

What the South Has Done in 2013

As much as Republicans spent so much money, time, effort, sound bites, and lives on fighting the threat of the Taliban and other Muslim extremists, an indifferent observer might be left with the impression that they had little in common. But such an observer would be wrong. Both have peculiar interests in controlling bedroom behaviour and the reproductive rights of women while economic conditions are at best suspect.

Obama & Keystone XL: A Politically Inconvenient Truth

Best politicans corporate money can buy...

Saturday, 6 April 2013

There is no racism in America?!

If only that were true. See here the Georgia school that segregates its prom based on race and having a bi-racial student escorted from the "white" prom.
This community has been left behind by social progress like a WW II Japanese soldier who emerged from the jungle in the 1990's still unaware his war was over. The African American community, have shown great forbearance putting up with this. Someone please call the ACLU. Better yet, draft an amicus brief as the US Supreme court which is considering arguments for an end to the Voting Rights Protection Act and one of the arguments used is that racial discrimination is a solved problem.


"Shadows of Liberty": New Film Explores How Corporate Control of Media E...

The problem in mainstream media is the very problem that Americas founders tried to prevent. They understood that the media's role is to bring true to power, not to act as the mouth piece of government or corporations.


The saudi war on freethought

While Hamza Kashgari still languishes in custody not knowing whether Saudi authorities will take his head off. Yet another blogger faces one year in prison for his liberal blog in the conservative nation. Part of Raif Bedawi was to encourage religious discussion.

This is happening in a wave of crack downs where followers of Islam form a significant potion of the population with this last week seeing three Bangladeshi bloggers being arrest after a list 83 secular bloggers was given to authorities with demands to arrest those listed.

FFS, Freethought is not a crime. The more they squeeze, the weaker the grip. Arab spring means summer is coming.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Gospel of Harry Potter

JK Rowling's Harry Potter series is a rich work and a product of keen observations of the human condition. In recent times it has created fodder exploring some of the sillier bumper stick type comments commonly offered by religious people attempting to proselytize on the internet. I've used it myself, simply by rewording the theist comments using the idoims of the world of Harry Potter.

If you are not with Hogwarts', you are against Hogwart's.

GW Bush famously said "If you're not with, you're against us". This offers the excluded middle fallacy or false dichotomy. If I remember correctly Delores Umbridge may have uttered these infamous words while trying to hold Hogwarts under her control.

If it is not of Harry Potter, it's of Voldemort.

Or as fundamentalist Christians are fond of saying "If it is not of Jesus it is of the Devil". This is the very justification used to say "Harry Potter is of the devil" in Jesus Camp. Again it is a false dichotomy and of course based on the false premise that any of the fictional characters are real.

Harry Potter died so that you might be saved.

In the Deathly Hallows, Harry is poisoned, and for a brief time is clinically dead. He has a near death experience where he has a conversation with Dumbledor. He recovers or is resurrected before his final battle with Voldemort After which, Harry also gone on marry and have kids who he and his wife see off to Hogwarts.
Harry's victory over Voldemort ensures the safety not only of wizards and witches, but also of mubloods and muggles.
This is an act of a person that is concerned with the welfare of sentient beings  regardless of ethnicity. We also see his concern for unicorns attacked by Voldemort for the purpose of extending his life.

Harry Potter will set you free from bondage.

Harry gave the Malfoy's house elf a sock. Under the laws of house elf slavery this set the house elf free. This contrary to Jesus who endorsed slavery of all non-israelites and of Israelites who chose to accept a wife given by the master after six years of indentured servitude. This means Harry has the superior position over Jesus on the issue of slavery.

The theme of freedom has long explored in literature and philosophy. The story Moses depicts the freeing of Israelite from Egypt. Freedom is a powerfully strong human value, and well worth exploring. But fictional character can be credited with securing the freedom of an oppressed people, either the oppressed people rise up and take their freedom, the oppressor grants their freedom, or a third party intercedes on behalf of the oppressed be it internet petitions or foreign nations via diplomacy, sabre rattling or military strike. Harry respects the female friend characters for their skill, engenuity and his adverseries for the threat they pose. Harry would more the likely stand to those who say a woman's place is in a cloth bag.

Accept Harry and Voldemort will not have dominion of your life.

This is complete rubbish of course, countries with high levels of religiosity see more unwanted pregnancies, murders, lower economic performance. Higher religiosity in sex offenders correlates with more offences, younger victims.

The fictions you endorse don't make a better person, your behaviour does. Your willingness to help others even when it is inconvenient how people will be served. It matters not whether your Christian, Muslim, Pastafarian, or Satanist.

Repent your ways, or you will be condemned to Azkaban.

While it may be offered out of concern for the ethereal immortal soul or petronis. it is also implies an empty threat.

And opens up the question why would an otherwise perfectly nice person want to think bad things about someone who either doesn't read the same fiction as they do or who have and have realized it is a literary mess, marked by its savage origins.

Deatheaters are afoot in the city of London.

GW Bush infamously claimed "Gog and Magog are afoot in the desert." Why the leader of the most powerful nation and a secular nation  to boot would see this as a reasonable comment to make while office is beyond the pale.

In a sense there is a truism in this comment. In any enterprise, there are a few ways to succeed and a plethora of techniques for abject failure. People and events conspire to explore and implement many of the ways to failure. Some even voilently object to being deterred from failing enterprises.

If we look at enterprise of human welfare or example, there is a group of people who insist on "improving" the welfare of women by insisting that they wear coverall clothes akin to tents, and beating them in the street when they don't. further they are known for shooting, poisoning and bombing young women and seeking education. Clearly in the enterprise of human welfare these are abject failures compared to letting women chose their attire and seek education, and even endorsing the efforts of women to support themselves economically.

Harry Potter is alive

Harry Potter is alive. Evidence? Wands, capes, spectacle frames all available at red sheds and toy stores around the world.

The Mirangi Bay Community Church attempted to proclaim "JESUS IS ALIVE" on there bill board, but someone got to it.


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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Lizard People?! The Craziest Conspiracy Theories Americans Believe

When Bill Maher called America a "stupid country" you may forgiven for wonder how he could make such a claim.
Here is a clue...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Mobile: Atheist Puerto Rico cop files discrimination suit | Greenfield Reporter Mobile

The fight for the separation of church and state continues and atheist rights continues in Puerto Rico as as a free thinking Police officer fights for restoration of rank and a return to normal duties. Office Marrero was put on car wash duty after refusing pray with fellow offices prior to a carpark intervention. He was then shunned as they yelled "He is standing there because he doesn't believe in what we believe in,".

This is one of the first suits of its kind in the America territory with an 85% population and a large protestant minority.

The suit is being filed with the help of the ACLU.
Seems like a slam dunk.

 Mobile: Atheist Puerto Rico cop files discrimination suit | Greenfield Reporter Mobile

Inside North Korea

With Kim Jung Un talking tough, perhaps it would be worth taking look at the mind set that drives North Korea's somewhat pushy behaviour.