Monday, March 18, 2013

Every Sunday morning on BBC TV there's an hour-long discussion of moral issues. What this usually boils down to is differing religious believers spouting their own brand of bigotry based on their reading of one 'holy' book or another. Albeit one by one and not shouting. So not remotely Spanish. But, when it comes to bigotry, there's few that can out-do the Muslim Brotherhood. Their government in Egypt – in the face of the UN's attempts to get a declaration of women's rights together - has provided 10 reasons why this shouldn't happen, stressing that its implementation would 'destroy society'. Personally, I think it's time for a schism in Islam. Above and beyond that of the Sunnis and Shiites, I mean. Leaving the 7th century Neanderthals behind in the desert.

On a lighter note, The Washington Post is said to host an annual competition for clever folk who can do amusing things with words. Click here for a full list of winners. One of the challenges is supplying alternate meanings for common words. After the week I've had with my mother, no one will be surprised to hear that my favourite is:- Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

Talking of words, so-called Americanisms that creep into (British) English can be sonorous or they can be – as was once said in another auditory context - 'like a pistol let off at the ear-hole.' I put the one I read today – burglarised – very much in the latter category. Especially as we already have a perfectly good (and shorter) word – burgled.

I read of the deposit theft developments in Cyprus with incredulity, seeing it as little more than institutionalised theft. And taxation without representation. Revolutions have been inspired by less. The dictum that kept recurring to me was “The effect of every major reform is the exact opposite of that for which it was designed.” So, we will see but I suspect the responses will be momentous.

Talking of the EU, a Cambridge historian writing in New Society has written on “The German Problem”, which first emerged in 1870, I suspect. Possibly earlier. Here's his final paragraph:-
Today, Germany is both too strong and too weak, or at least too disengaged. It sits uneasily at the heart of an EU that was conceived largely to constrain German power but which has served instead to increase it, and whose design flaws have unintentionally deprived many other Europeans of sovereignty without giving them a democratic stake in the new order.[Think Cyprus!] The question we face now is this: how can the Federal Republic, which is prosperous and secure as never before, be persuaded to take the political initiative and make the necessary economic sacrifices to complete the work of European unity?

One way or the other, the German question persists and will always be with us. This is because, whenever Europe and the world think they have solved it, events and the Germans change the question.

You can read the entire article here.

I did a little check on my mother's name, Barbarita, and confirmed there are few others with the same handle. Though she isn't unique. Talking of my mother . . . She may still be ill, bed-bound and 88 but this evening, as on every day for the past week, she has sneaked into my bedroom, negotiated a passage between the desk-chair and my suitcase on the floor, closed the curtains and put a walking stick along the bottom of the curtains 'to prevent a draft'. This evening, I filled in a form for her to sign, containing her bank details. Despite knowing that I have a First Class degree in law (from back when almost nobody got them!) she still went through the form line by line before signing it. As I may have said, it gets tough at times.

Finally . . . How are the polar bears faring? If you think that global warming is decimating them, you'll find this article interesting. Normally, I'd provide a link but the paywall would keep you out. So here's the whole thing:-

De rigueur though it may be to describe Sir David Attenborough as a “national treasure” and our “greatest living naturalist”, it really is time he was called to account for the shameless way in which he has allowed himself to be made the front-man for one particular propaganda campaign that has stood all genuine scientific evidence on its head. Last week yet another report picked up on the part Sir David has played in promoting what the facts show to have been no more than a colossal scare story. 
It is now seven years since Sir David was first wheeled out by the BBC as the main cheerleader in its campaign to whip up panic over man-made global warming. In two documentaries, he presented himself as a one-time “climate sceptic” who had now been convinced by the evidence. The only problem was that, as he repeated a series of familiar alarmist mantras, there was little sign that he had checked the evidence for any of them: not least his claim that, thanks to the melting of Arctic ice, the world’s polar bear population, already down by a quarter, could be facing extinction. 
Pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth had already made polar bears the most iconic image for their crusade to save the planet. WWF, in its relentless pursuit of funds, was moving on from pandas to appealing to the public to “pay £3 a month to adopt a polar bear”. 
Vainly, in the face of this avalanche of propaganda, did an array of experts and bodies such as the US National Biological Service and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature point out that, thanks to curbs on hunting in the Seventies, the world’s polar bear population had, in fact, risen from 10,000 in 1966 to 25,000 or more in 2006; that all but one of their 19 main groups were significantly increasing in numbers; and that, based on observed data rather than highly questionable computer models, there was not a shred of evidence of any threat to the bears from climate change. 
Al Gore twice famously fell flat on his face in promoting the cause, first when his film An Inconvenient Truth focused on the fate of four bears that were later shown just to have drowned in a storm; then when he made big play with a picture of two bears on a half-melted iceberg, which the photographer later protested she had only taken because it was a striking image, unconnected in any way with climate change. 
But although Al Gore may have been notoriously reckless in misusing evidence, he has no pretensions to being a scientist. Sir David’s reputation, on the other hand, is that of a man with respect for science, although this did not prevent him in 2009 from supporting a ridiculous BBC publicity stunt involving a giant blow-up plastic polar bear floating down the Thames, or making polar bears a key feature of his Frozen Planet series in 2011, ending in a propaganda pitch for global-warming alarmism that somehow managed to overlook the fact that polar sea ice had recently been greater in extent than at any time in 30 years.
When, last week, the Global Warming Policy Foundation published a new report, Ten Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears, Matt (now Lord) Ridley referred in his foreword to Sir David’s bizarre determination to ignore the evidence. The report’s author, Susan Crockford, an experienced Canadian polar bear expert, explains just why there is no connection between the thriving polar bear population and climate change, and how this has been concocted into one of the great urban myths of our time. 
Nothing is going to stand in the way of Sir David’s reputation as a national treasure, even though it rests so largely on the extraordinary skill of the cameramen who make his documentaries so memorable. But for his readiness to lend his immense prestige to a scare story that defies all the evidence he deserves no respect at all.


Perry said...

Rearguard action by Piers Forster.

Azra said...

The problem with Islam is not Islam, it's the fucked up people and their equally fucked up cultures who hide behind Islam.

Did you hear about the bears in Russia who are addicted to Aviation fuel, get high and pass out? Quite funny actually.

Colin said...


This is a tough one.

It's certainly arguable that their entire culture is dictated by their reading of the Qu'ran.

I've read it twice (and even written about it) and each time have been struck by the fact that it could be used to construct both a gentle, 'modern' religion and a harsh, pre-medieval religion.

The same is true - though to a lesser extent - of the Bible's Old Testament. Which is why today's Christians tend to major on Jesus and the New Testament.

Christians (or most of them) don't believe that the Bible is the word of God and literally true (as opposed to being inspired by God.
Contrast Islam and the power of a book written in the 7th century.

I think I've said before that Islam need a Reformation of the sort Christians underwent in the 16th century. Though this is not an original thought.

BTW - Been meaning to ask . . . How do Muslims get forgiveness for their sins? Catholics, of course, have Confession. Do Muslims merely pray for absolution?

Azra said...

Colin - we pray to The Almighty to ask for forgiveness.

And I have to disagree with you. This is the same argument we're having in our mosques and schools of thought at the moment. There is so much of Islam purported through culture that it's become very different in many ways to what was originally preached by the Prophet Mohammed pbuh over 1400 years ago. I've made my argument about reading and interpreting the Quran on my blog - it's no simple matter, one cannot just read it out of context without consulting the Hadith (quotes of the Prophet) pertaining to each line, in context with the reason/situation that the verse addresses. Added to that, in the Sunni sect alone, there are 4 Scholars who both adopted and adapted the religion to the various cultures - moving from Iraq to Egypt - and all this is well documented (especially on the life of Imam Shafii). As well as most of the Patriarchal influences come from India - and so on and so forth.

Colin said...

@Azra. Will try to respond later but meanwhile you might enjoy this I saw today. Haven't yet listened to it myself.

Colin said...


I've lived in two Muslim countries (Iran and then Indonesia) where Islam was virtually invisible and Muslim woman didn't wear the veil at that time. Things have certainly changed a great deal since then. And, in my view, both countries have gone significantly backward. Is this due to culture or religion?

Or is it due to political change which has allowed small groups of men to (undemocratically) use what I'd call the negative reading of the Qu'ran to change society for the worse and to take women back into the Dark Ages.

And has Egypt gone backwards or forwards under the Muslim Brotherhood? Another group of men with a 'black' view of both the Qu'ran and, I guess, the Hadiths.

Azra said...

Colin, I still have to emphasize Culture. For instance, Iran's culture and particular mix of religion is so foreign to ours, that they couldn't be more different from us. In fact, I'd say we have more in common with orthodox Jews than most Iranians.

People have always had their own views and interpretations of Hadith and Quran, and they always will. And the same goes for just about every religion out there. Religion always has been used to further political agenda's (eg. Crusades) and will be continued to be used as such. It doesn't mean that the fault lies with the religion itself - but with those men who exploit and misinterpret the laws and then exert their authority and influence over others.

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