Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gay Argentines

Courtesy Andrew Sullivan.


I'm reading Graham Greene's The End of the Affair for book group, and have been recalling his other Catholic novels, especially The Power and the Glory.

I have no idea why, but almost no online comments take Greene's Catholicism seriously.

The book group is the LGBT group at Manchester Central Library, and I am trying to work out why this is a chosen book. Is there a hint of homosexual feeling between Bendrix and Miles?

Oh, and the flag above is for Martin.

[BTW. There is a good article online at the TLS].

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hate speech from the Church of Nigeria

Andrew Brown: Peter Akinola's hysterical homophobia | Comment is free |

If ever you think the Anglican church of Nigeria cannot get more incoherently bigoted about gay people, you're wrong. The latest proof comes in a position paper (pdf) submitted by the church to a parliamentary committee which is planning a law against gay marriage. Homosexuality is already illegal in Nigeria, of course, as is gay marriage. But the proposed law would provide three years in jail for gay couples who got married, and five years for any witnesses. Earlier drafts have proposed long jail sentences, also, for anyone who argues in favour of gay marriage.

's Hard Out There For A Coulter

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 13, 2009) - It's Hard Out There For A Coulter

"The cynical drag queen posing as a fascist isn't selling as many books as she once was."

This is deeply unfair to cynical drag queens.

Family Guy provokes anger over gay orgy scene - from Pink News - all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News

Family Guy provokes anger over gay orgy scene - from Pink News - all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News

Animated TV show Family Guy has come under fire from a parents' group over a recent episode that showed a gay orgy.

In the episode, screened in the US on March 8th, storylines included a gay orgy featuring 11 men, a baby eating horse semen and bestiality.


Interesting Fact of the Day

Charles Darwin wasn't an enemy of Christianity - Telegraph

When he studied at Christ's College, Cambridge, Charles Darwin occupied the rooms that had once belonged to William Paley, the chief exponent of proving the existence of God from biological design.

Hmmm. I have been reading a number of Richard Dawkins' books lately. I'm sure other people must be less boosterish and make more sense.

A life well lived.

JIC Boyd - Telegraph

What have the Vikings ever done for us?

The Vikings at No 42 - Telegraph

Vikings as neighbours, far from being the berserk Dark Age equivalent of a coven of Hell's Angels moving in next door, proved a boon to the community when they put down roots in 11th-century Britain. Researchers at Cambridge think we could learn a thing or two from them today about the assimilation of immigrants.

Once the axe-wielding seafarers had tired of raping and moderated their habits of pillage, they no doubt won the civic blue riband, buying jam at fetes and taking their plaited daughters to pony clubs. Still, it is only months since the president of Iceland boasted that his people's Viking blood ideally fitted them for banking and investment in the modern world. Iceland has since sunk beneath a glacier of debt. So we might think twice before emulating other Viking virtues.

Grand Paris: Architects reveal plans to transform French capital

Grand Paris: Architects reveal plans to transform French capital - Telegraph

One crucial aim is to end the isolation of central Paris


Horse bites off one of man's testicles - Telegraph

Horse bites off one of man's testicles - Telegraph

Low hangers?

The Myth of Mars and Venus

Do men and women speak the same language? The Guardian

Deborah Cameron takes on a myth.

The proposition that men and women communicate differently is particularly uncontroversial, with cliches such as 'men never listen' and 'women find it easier to talk about their feelings' referenced constantly in everything from women's magazines to humorous greeting cards.

The idea that men and women 'speak different languages' has itself become a dogma, treated not as a hypothesis to be investigated or as a claim to be adjudicated, but as an unquestioned article of faith. Our faith in it is misplaced. Like the scientists I have mentioned, I believe in following the evidence where it leads. But in this case, the evidence does not lead where most people think it does. If we examine the findings of more than 30 years of research on language, communication and the sexes, we will discover that they tell a different, and more complicated, story.

The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth in the everyday sense: a widespread but false belief.

Lie detectors and social benefit claimants

Liberal Conspiracy � LC Briefing - The DWP Trial: A Quick Update | creating a new liberal-left alliance

A very interesting post at Liberal Conspiracy that goes beyond Guardian reporting on the use of telephone lie detector tests on by the British Department of Work and Pensions.

If my experience is anything to go by, living as I do on "social housing" estate, many people in fact do not apply for what they are entitled to.

Of course there are benefit fraudsters, and they should be dealt with, but Liberal Conspiracy is to be congratulated for resisting the overwhelming effort to attack an "underclass" by elites in the British press.

Simon Jenkins: This Thatcher mythology condemns her strengths and excuses her failings | Comment is free | The Guardian

Simon Jenkins: This Thatcher mythology condemns her strengths and excuses her failings | Comment is free | The Guardian

...history is silent on the downside of the Thatcher era. The command structure she created to crush her foes became unrestrained, over-centralised and inefficient. Her evisceration of local democracy bred a cynicism among Britons towards political participation that remains unique in Europe. It also led to her downfall through the poll tax.

Thatcher was one of the great 'nationalisers' of all time, taking control of the public housing stock, the rating system, a previously devolved hospital service, the universities, the courts, crown prosecution and, during the miners' strike, the police. It was Thatcher who turned Whitehall from an elite administrative corps into a demoralised, politicised officialdom which, under Blair and Brown, became besotted with targets, initiatives and useless IT systems.

Not a typical view of Thatcherism, but interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks

Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks | World news |

The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa's acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa's best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema.

Her brutal murder took place last April, and since then a tide of violence against lesbian women in South Africa has continued to rise. Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call "corrective rape" committed by men behind the guise of trying to "cure" lesbian women of their sexual orientation.

Warning: capitalism can damage your health

Warning: capitalism can damage your health | Anjana Ahuja - Times Online

Surely vodka comes into the picture in Russia?

State-owned banks asking customers about their politicial affiliations

At the Spectator there is a report asking Why are our state-owned banks asking customers about their political affiliations?

This is pretty dire.

It's a shame the "news elevator" that now exists in US does not exist here yet. All sorts of things come up in blogs, or in Private Eye, which should be, but are not, given wider media exposure.

Man survives Niagara falls leap

Man survives Niagara falls leap | World news |

I suppose he got the message - God has plans for him.

The New Leader of the Catholic Church in England

Bernard Longley to be Archbishop of Westminster, says leading Italian commentator :: Damian Thompson

If this is true it seems to be a good thing for gay Catholics, in you read the comments on Damian Thompson's blog.

"Warwick St Masses" is the key comment.

Some of the other named candidates are, or have been, if not "gay", were at least when I was at University, very, umm, "flamboyant."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

August 28/2006 - Peter Schiff Predicts The US Economic Collapse With Unbelievable Accuracy

YouTube - 8/28/2006-Peter Schiff Predicts The US Economic Collapse With Unbelievable Accuracy

Catholic Church Conservation: Papal letter- unofficial English version

Catholic Church Conservation: Papal letter- unofficial English version

Pope admits 'fallibility' and pledges to start using Internet

Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: Pope admits 'fallibility' and pledges to start using Internet

A very interesting account by Ms. Gledhill - by far the best religion correspondent around the British press. She has published some comments attacking her for her headline.

What we see in the comments is the usual dodge of over-eager papalists: that the pope is only "infallible" on some occasions.

The rest of the time extreme effort is put into claiming other statements are "binding". This applies to things such as the ordination of women, statements about homosexuality, and on contraception. In my opinion it is a fundamentally dishonest way of arguing, but is so familiar it has a name - "creeping infallibility."

I once wrote up a Syllabus of Papal and Magisterial Errors which is still online.

The comments made by Hans Kung in his 1970 book Infallibility apply now as ever.

"The errors of the ecclesiastical teaching office in every century have been numerous and indisputable: a close scrutiny of the Index of Forbidden Books would be particularly revealing in this respect. An yet the teaching office constantly found it difficult to admit these errors frankly and honestly. Mostly the correction was only made "implicitly," in a veiled way, without any frankness and particularly without admitting the mistake. It was feared that awareness of the admitted falliblity of certain important decisions would restrict or even finally shut out the prospect of claiming infallibility for certain other important decisions

For a long time, too, Catholic theologians in their works on apologetics in service of the teaching office, were able to successfully ward off any questioning of infallibility by the use of a basically simple recipe: either it was not an error or - when at last and finally an error could no longer be denied, reinterpreted, rendered innocuous or belittled - it was not an infallible decision.[...] "

Product placement ban on UK television to continue

Product placement ban on UK television to continue, Andy Burnham announces | Media |

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, has rebuffed attempts by commercial broadcasters to allow product placement on UK television.

In a statement, Burnham said that the government's three-month consultation failed to produce a convincing case for product placement – which he said would blur the boundaries between advertising and content.

Good for us.

Bravo William Hague!

WILLIAM HAGUE: We must let a judge probe torture case | Mail Online

We cannot sweep these allegations under the carpet. Until the full facts are known, Britain's name and reputation will be dragged through the mud - not least by the terrorists and extremists who will exploit these allegations for their own propaganda.

It is vital to remember that torture does not help us defeat terrorists; it helps them to try to justify their hostility to us.

Britain signed up to the Convention against Torture along with most other countries. We undertook never to sanction - or acquiesce in - the commission of torture.

We promised to prevent and punish those who torture in our name. It is time to live up to that pledge, restore our good name and - above all - find out the truth.

The Swiss gigolo


Ye gods. I know we're in the middle of a global financial crisis, but what kind of sorry, shortchanged, famished, bargain-basement excuse for a gigolo is Helg Sgarbi?

I can see why he wanted to seduce and blackmail the wealthy BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, but what did she see in him? The man (pictured) is Swiss, for heaven's sake. If their gigolos look like this, what do their accountants look like?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jon Stewart takes down both Obama and Brown.

Jon Stewart takes down both Obama and Brown.

View from my window


I have spent a good part of the past year reading evolutionary biology (Richard Dawkins) and popularising cosmology (Brian Greene), and all I can figure out is that "genes" are a linguistic tautology, and the best explanation anyone can give for the fixed parameters of physics is some "multiverse" idea.

And people say I am am odd to still believe in God?

Meanwhile see an article by a former colleague of mine, Sean McManus Do Atheists Need a Church?.

Bravest facebook group: I am HIV positive and not afraid to say!

I am HIV Positive and not afraid to say!

Join if you can.

"All About the Drugs" | The Big Money

"All About the Drugs" | The Big Money

The Wall Street Journal focuses on the rapidly consolidating sector. After the Merck and Pfizer deals, there is also Roche Holding's unsolicited bid for biotechnology pioneer Genentech in the works. The roll-ups show Big Pharma is changing strategy away from developing new lines of blockbuster drugs as it did in the 1990s to now bringing in new lines of business, the newspaper writes. BusinessWeek concurs, though in a more critical tone. These mega-mergers may look good for the bottom line, but they are 'killers for research,' the magazine concludes.

Not Good. But who the hell knows. Big Pharma's drugs are keeping me alive right now.

Shame about the side effects.

Medvedev's dogs win best in show | FP Passport

Medvedev's dogs win best in show | FP Passport

If Russia Today is to be believed, out of 12,000 dogs competing at the recent Eurasia-2009 dog show in Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev's three dogs just happened to all win top prizes

Iran's hidden homosexual history


Doug Ireland reports..

...a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years.

It was all a Dream

Op-Ed Columnist - Reviving the Dream -

The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert often gets slagged off as boring. In fact, as in today's article, he gets it much more than some of the flashier writers.

Working families were in deep trouble long before this megarecession hit. But too many of the public officials who should have been looking out for the middle class and the poor were part of the reckless and shockingly shortsighted alliance of conservatives and corporate leaders that rigged the economy in favor of the rich and ultimately brought it down completely.

Working people were not just abandoned by big business and their ideological henchmen in government, they were exploited and humiliated. They were denied the productivity gains that should have rightfully accrued to them. They were treated ruthlessly whenever they tried to organize. They were never reasonably protected against the savage dislocations caused by revolutions in technology and global trade.

Working people were told that all of this was good for them, and whether out of ignorance or fear or prejudice or, as my grandfather might have said, damned foolishness, many bought into it. They signed onto tax policies that worked like a three-card monte game. And they were sold a snake oil concoction called “trickle down” that so addled their brains that they thought it was a wonderful idea to hand over their share of the nation’s wealth to those who were already fabulously rich.

In Praise of the British Political Class

Britain's bizarre reaction to war crimes allegations: investigations needed

Glenn Greenwald compares and contrasts the approaches of the American and British political classes to the evidence of official complicity in war crimes.

He sees the British as having a much healthier approach to the issues.

...Nobody suggests that it's perfectly permissible for government officials to commit serious crimes -- including war crimes -- as long as they had nice motives or were told that it was OK to do these things by their underlings, or that the financial crisis (which Britain has, too) precludes any investigations, or that whether to torture is a mere "policy dispute." Also missing is any claim that these crimes are State Secrets that must be kept concealed in order to protect British national security.

Instead, the tacit premise of the discussion is that credible allegations of criminality -- even if committed by high government officials, perhaps especially then -- compel serious criminal investigations. Imagine that. How shrill and radical.

If one stays immersed in American domestic political debates, it's easy to lose sight of just how corrupted and rotted our political and media class is, because the most twisted ideas become enshrined as elite orthodoxies. Britain is hardly the paragon of transparency and adherence to international conventions; to the contrary, they've been with the U.S. every step of the way over the last eight years, enabling and partaking in many of the worst abuses. Yet this one single case of documented complicity in torture -- mere complicity with, not actual commission of, the torture -- is generating extreme political controversy and widespread demands across the political spectrum for judicial and criminal investigations. The British political class may not have wanted to see it, but when compelling evidence of criminality is rubbed in their faces, they at least pay lip service to the idea that crimes by government officials must be investigated and subjected to accountability.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Heaven's Desire

YouTube - James Dean and Paul Newman screen test

From Andrew Sullivan.

Chatted up by a straight guy

I was in a pub this past Saturday night watching Manchester United trash Fulham in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

And lo and behold I was chatted up by a straight guy.

There was no sexualness involved; but he was 23, in the pub with me and my Dad watching Manchester United, and clearly entranced by the fact I was willing to discuss Renaissance art with him.

Thank the Lord, honour kept me on the good path.

It was just nice.

What happens if Citigroup fails?

Ask the editors: What happens if Citigroup fails? - Megan McArdle

Prediction. There is no way to untangle this financial mess without losses to some people. Most poor people, apart from some disruption, which will happen whatever happens, and most middle class people whose major asset is a house will survive in some way.

For people with significant financial assets, this house of cards is falling. Some will win, some will loose. My prediction is that there will be some successful political efforts to punish some members of the VERY RICH, but that almost everybody will loose money. There is no other way, since the "money" held does not really exist.

I don't have any wealth at all, but if I did I would predict fairly intense dollar and Euro inflation in the next five years, and would use any cash I had to buy either bonds (still some risk), or at this stage, property or gold.

Gold is nonsense in theory, but has a very long cross-cultural diachronic human history. And if you have the deeds on a house, inflation will reduce a mortgage, and assuming a society in which contracts are observed survives, you will be left with something of real value.

BBC NEWS | YouTube to block UK music videos

BBC NEWS - YouTube to block UK music videos

This looks like Google bullying. Is it? We need more information.

The basic question is this? Has Google abandoned its "DO NO EVIL" policy? Has it become a Microsoft II?

Tory Politician fails to understand ‘lost' Dark Ages

Time to cast light on ‘lost' Dark Ages? | Michael Gove - Times Online

When were the real Dark Ages? I only ask because there's recently been such a spate of books about the barbarism unleashed by the fall of the Roman Empire that we now know almost as much about that period as we do about Heston Blumenthal's kitchen hygiene. And it appears that the only difference between the Europe of the Dark Ages and The Fat Duck is that the restaurant is the more dangerous environment of the two.

Aficionados of barbarism have certainly been served up a rich feast these past few months. As well as Tom Holland's Millennium, there's been Chris Wickham's magisterial The Inheritance of Rome, James O'Donnell's The Ruin of the Roman Empire, Judith Herrin's history of Byzantium, now in paperback, and, just before Christmas we had Christopher Kelly's gripping biography of Attila the Hun.

I don't know what to say to this. Any of these books would have made it clear that the term "dark ages" is redundant. Gove is normally quite a bright guy.

Germaine Greer Doesn't like Rimbauding

Germaine Greer: I got a Rimbaud biography for my 70th. But I just have no patience for his silly fixations

How to look like a tw*t

Jonathan Heaf: Coming your way: leggings for men | Life and style | The Guardian

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The mechanics of tipping US-style

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | The mechanics of tipping US-style

The BBC on mean Brits.

Historical Archiving Takes a New Direction

Obama Outfitted With 238 Motion Capture Sensors For 3-D Record Of Presidency | The Onion - America's Finest News Source


“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

--Robert Frost in 1915

The disintegration of capitalism as a world system

Follow Brazil's Example

A discussion by Immanuel Wallerstein at The Nation. The thing to not here is that his views are not very different than Tom Freidman's in the New York Times, posted earlier.

...Obama is irrelevant, as are all the other left-of-center governments. What is going on is the disintegration of capitalism as a world system, not because it can't guarantee welfare for the vast majority (it never could do that) but because it can no longer ensure that capitalists will have the endless accumulation of capital that is their raison d'etre. We have arrived at a moment in which neither farsighted capitalists nor their opponents (us) are trying to preserve the system. We are both trying to establish a new system, but of course we have very different, indeed radically opposed, ideas about the nature of such a system.
Because the system has moved very far from equilibrium, it has become chaotic. We are seeing wild fluctuations in all the usual economic indicators--the prices of commodities, the relative value of currencies, the real levels of taxation, the quantity of items produced and traded. Since no one really knows, practically from day to day, where these indicators will shift, no one can sensibly plan anything.

In such a situation, no one is sure what measures will be best, whatever their politics. This practical intellectual confusion lends itself to frantic demagoguery of all kinds. The system is bifurcating, which means that in twenty to forty years there will be some new system, which will create order out of chaos. But we don't know what that system will be.

What can we do? First of all, we must be clear what the battle is about. It is the battle between the spirit of Davos (for a new system that is not capitalism but is nonetheless hierarchical, exploitative and polarizing) and the spirit of Porto Alegre (a new system that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian). No lesser evil here. It's one or the other.

Capitalism's Deadly Logic

Capitalism's Deadly Logic

Tariq Ali in The Nation

The crisis confronting capitalism is a vivid demonstration of the vapidity that underlay the appeal of globalization (a k a the Washington Consensus) as a mantra for all seasons, all times, all countries and all continents. Mass unemployment once again threatens the advanced capitalist world, as it has during thirty-four business cycles since 1854. Ehrenreich and Fletcher map today's conditions, underline the weaknesses of the left on every level and then pose the old question, What is to be done?

Oklahoma Legislator Introduces Bill to Ban Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins - Reason Magazine

Hit & Run > Oklahoma Legislator Introduces Bill to Ban Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins - Reason Magazine

I don't like Dawkins, but the Religious Right in the US just continues to show its idiocy.

The Inflection Is Near?

Op-Ed Columnist - The Inflection Is Near? -

Tom Friedman in today's New York Times.

"We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”"

Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corners

Op-Ed Columnist - Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corners -

"The simplest explanation for why America’s reality got so distorted is the economic imbalance that Barack Obama now wants to remedy with policies that his critics deride as “socialist” (“fascist” can’t be far behind): the obscene widening of income inequality between the very rich and everyone else since the 1970s."

Ian Buruma: How free is speech?

Ian Buruma: How free is speech? | Comment is free |

We need in the UK to enact the American 1st Amendment, and its associated jurisprudence.

There are many things to criticise in the US, but its guarantees of free speech and separation of church and state are not among them.

Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)

Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)