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Nov 112018
 

Horseshit.

Normally on Remembrance Sunday, we remember the dead of all wars, but this one is a bit special – it’s exactly 100 years since the armistice that brought the killing phase of World War 1 to an end.

Around this time of year, there are often those who make grand pronouncements about the sacrifices those who fought made for some sort of noble goal – our freedom, the freedom of others, to defeat a really nasty enemy.

None of that applies to those who died in WW1; some of them may have felt

Austria-Hungary and Serbia fought because of the assassination of a single man. Russia fought to support Serbia; France fought to support Russie; Britain fought to support France. And Germany fought because Austria-Hungary fought. This gross over-simplification happened remarkably quickly – all of the declarations of war occurred within about 1½ weeks.

So no great debate on the aims and goals of what the war was for then.

So whilst those who fought (and in some cases died) in wars are not to blame, not all wars were fought for good reasons – certainly you’ll find it hard to find a good reason for WWI. 

Light’s Shadow
Jun 232018
 

On any number of occasions, you encounter the first half of a quote from 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 from feminists determined to show that christian marriage is no more than sexual slavery for women :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.

However the full quote makes it sound a little bit different :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again.

Not quite the same. Perhaps not at modern levels of political correctness, but neither is it at quite the level that the feminists will portray it as.

Now there are other bible verses on marriage; some good (from today’s perspective) and some bad. If you take all the bad bits, it makes it sound like women were repressed to the point of being ground into the ground. If you take all the good bits, it makes it sound like early christian marriage was a perfect equal partnership of a type that wouldn’t look totally wrong even to today’s standards.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

If I move onto mediæval marriage, there is often a mistaken belief that an arranged marriage was a forced marriage, and that arranged marriages were always young girls being married to lecherous old men. There is always the assumption that the men were always happy about the arrangement whilst the women were always unhappy.

In other words, it wasn’t just women “persuaded” into an arranged marriage.

As for young girls being married off to old lecherous men, there are a few exceptions :-

  1. Henry II may have been “old enough” when he was married to Eleanor of Aquitane, but she was 11 years his senior.
  2. David II was just under 5 years old when he was married.
  3. Henry IV was probably 14 when he was first married.

Obviously not conclusive, and it is still possible that the overwhelming majority were lecherous old men marrying young girls. But we don’t really know.

As to women being forced into arranged marriages, it certainly happened from time to time, but there were usually plenty of opportunities for the victim (whichever one) to escape :-

  1. The church was opposed to forced marriage, and it is possible that they would assist those forced into a marriage to get an annulment (although a peasant might find this trickier).
  2. There are plenty of cases where women who were opposed to an arranged marriage would run off to a convent for temporary (or permanent) refuge.
  3. The church would recognise any “informal” marriage as a valid marriage blocking any further marriages. So anyone with a problem with a proposed arranged marriage could simply run off and get married to someone else. Which would instantly block any arranged marriage.

One indication that forced marriage wasn’t generally accepted is that the Magna Carta contains a provision to block the king from forcing his wards into arranged marriages. So the barons who forced the king into accepting the Magna Carta were annoyed by the king forcing their female relatives into marriage.

Property rights are a similar area where the law is misunderstood; married women could not own property in their own right. True enough, but there are two aspects that are overlooked :-

  1. Dowry was an arrangement by which a woman’s family or the woman herself could take property into a marriage with the expectation that on the death of the husband that the property would be returned to her. It was an arrangement to ensure that the woman had the resources to maintain herself after the marriage died. And whilst this was open to abuse, there are plenty of legal cases to show that a woman could (and usually succeeded) take a case to court and get the dowry returned.
  2. In some cases women could get a declaration of femme solo to go into business on her own account, own property, and be responsible for her own debts independent of her husband.

Does this mean that everything was equal and fair? Of course not, but equality wasn’t an important concept to the mediæval society – and that applied to men just as much as women. But neither was it quite as bad as portrayed; indeed there are plenty of indications that conditions for women got worse as the mediæval era ended and the modern era began.

One concrete indication of that was the 1834 reform act which for the first time explicitly removed the vote from women; before that date women could and did qualify for a vote under the regulations for their constituency. Although social pressure to not vote increased towards 1834.

Early Morning Seatrip

Jun 212018
 

The USA likes to think of itself as the “leader of the free world”, but two things that have happened recently shows that it is really morally bankrupt. It is no longer a great country but an international pariah.

The first is that they have left the UN panel on Human Rights because it is supposedly broken – they would rather throw a childish tantrum than stay, fix the supposed problems, and fight for human rights.

Actually it is the US that is broken. They would rather protect their ally (Israel) than actually do their job on the human rights panel; the honourable thing to do is not to protect their ally no matter what but to keep quiet when Israeli human rights abuses are being discussed.

The second is that the US has been found out about it’s policy of dragging young children (including dragging a baby away from its mother whilst breastfeeding), and locking them up in concentration camps (not death camps). Putting them in cages, letting the sleep on floors, limiting their bedding to survival sheets of shiny foil, keeping them inside for 22 hours a day; what else can you call this other than a concentration camp.

And that is just what has leaked so far – in just over a month since this policy was started.

There has been predictably a negative reaction to this policy – many US politicians  are outraged (and not just Democrats). One Republican governor has had himself pictured sending Sessions the finger; eight state governors have refused to send their respective National Guards to the borders.

And the number of lies told by Trump’s minions is unbelievable. The scum in the White House did this deliberately to provoke a reaction. But the reaction may have been bigger than expected – Trump has just announced that he is revoking his policy and children will be imprisoned with their parents.

I thought about not publishing this post when I heard, but then I thought No. The US government did this thing so still qualifies as a rogue nation.

Just take a good long look at that crying child; the US government did that. Trump and his minions went ahead and set up concentration camps for children; they probably spent close to a year getting prepared for this and at no point thought better of it. If your government ever does anything like that, you know that the wrong sort of people are getting into power.

And the people. As many as 28% approve of immigrant children being put into concentration camps; as many as 28% have a broken moral compass.

May 242018
 

A day or two ago, I bumped into someone online that used the phrase “elitist expert” in a negative context; either a troll or a spectacularly dumb person. He isn’t the only one; there are plenty of people who show a similar attitude.

Hell, the whole Trump government is riddled with that attitude.

There are two parts to this attitude – the notion that “elitist” is wrong, and the notion that “expert” is wrong. And I will attack those attitudes in reverse order.

An expert is simply someone who knows what they’re doing in one particular area – not necessarily just one. That could be an expert in economics, coal mining, carpentry, plumbing, etc. There is no reason why ordinary working people cannot be experts in what they do; in fact many of them are.

Imagine if you will that a plumber inspecting your pipework suggests that some of the pipes need replacing. If you totally ignore him, there is a word to describe you: “idiot”. Sure if it costs lots of money, getting a second opinion from another plumber is a sensible precaution, but to totally ignore the advice of the expert? Surely that’s stupid.

So don’t ignore experts – by all means get advice from other experts too, but to ignore them is stupid. Of course if you consult 1,000 experts and 995 of them say the sky is blue and 5 say the sky is purple, you should probably side with the majority.

As to elitist, well it is usually a bad thing – treating one person better than another for whatever reason is almost always wrong. But in at least one case, elitism is just common sense – my opinion on a plumbing problem is worth less than any plumber much less a plumber that other plumber go to for advice (“Man, that’s a tricky one; you’d better ask Jo.”).

Why do I use a plumber as an example rather than say a climate scientist?

Because there are two other factors in play :-

  1. The notion that “book learning” is inherently wrong.
  2. The notion that practical skills are worth less than intellectual skills.

A plumbing expert is just as useful to society as a climate scientist, and visa-versa. Of course they are valuable at different time scales – if there is sewage spewing out of your toilet, you need a plumber right now, and the services of a climate scientist are rarely that urgent.

Follow The Path

 

 

Apr 142018
 

In the USA, a considerable number of states (30 counting 16 years as “adult”) allow the marriage of underage children under certain constraints. And these marriages do happen; whilst proportionally they are a tiny minority, to those victims it is nothing less than state-sanctioned child sex abuse.

In terms of numbers, Unchained at Last (via Wikipedia) found that between 2000-2010 there were 167,000 children in marriages; 13% were boys (I mention boys because most articles start with the girls). But weren’t they all children marrying each other? Only in 14% of cases.

The USA government condones and supports child sex abuse.

The overwhelming majority of not just the rest of the world, but even third-world countries are better on the marriage loophole allowing child sex abuse. Trump: For the victims of those marriages, USA is the “shit-hole”.

The Bench

Apr 072018
 

Now don’t get me wrong – I think all forms of execution are inhumane, but I have just seen a US progressive video which made it plain that hanging is supposedly more inhumane than current US forms of execution. I would mention them by name, but I’ve heard this from other places too.

A properly carried out (variable drop) hanging should be relatively humane – it should be fast (less than 15s from being removed from the cell to the end), and causes immediate paralysis and unconsciousness before death.

An interesting story from Pierrepoint (Britain’s last executioner) about the execution of Nazi war-criminals was that the US executions were carried out by volunteers rather than qualified executioners, and the volunteers refused to listen to Pierrepoint’s advice. Many of the US hangings were botched causing either decapitation (which probably isn’t especially inhumane, but would be rather messy) or slow strangulation over 20 minutes.

Perhaps it is this that has led to the belief that hanging is more inhumane than other US forms of execution.

Misty Trees

Mar 252018
 

It seems likely that the company Cambridge Analytica paid Facebook for access to data and using it’s access, downloaded as much data as possible for nefarious purposes. Nobody should be that surprised at this.

Facebook does not host an enormously expensive social network just because it is fun; it does it to make money. It probably does this primarily through advertising, but selling access to social network data is always going to take place.

And from time to time, scandals when companies like Cambridge Analytica are going to take place. At which point Facebook will protest saying that it didn’t realise that the associated firm was doing such naughty things. And once the story drops out of the news, Facebook will carry on leaking data.

As the saying goes: “If you are not paying for it, you are the product.”

In the end, the only solution to something like this, is to produce some kind of peer-to-peer application that is as easy to use as Facebook, uses strong end-to-end encryption, and keeps our data private to those people and groups we choose to share it with.

The Hole

Mar 152018
 

At pedestrians crossing (except for zebras), there is this strange box with a big button on it. When pressed, it announces to the traffic system that you want to cross the road.

Stating the obvious, but it seems that this is necessary. A strangely high proportion of people seem to amble up to a crossing and wait there hoping that the signal will change; it may do (especially if someone else pushes the button), or it may not.

There are rumours that at some crossings, the button is merely a placebo; fair enough. But at the majority of the ones I know well enough (and I know quite a few that well), a button push is required for the little green man to show up.

Expecting someone else to push the little button is laziness taken to the ultimate extreme.

And whilst we’re talking about it, the little green man that lights up is supposed to mean something – when he is green, you can cross the road; when he is red, you don’t. And yes I’m well aware that he’s red more often than not.

Through The Gateway

Mar 152018
 

One of the strangest things about the US is that one of the government’s most popular programmes is Medicare, which is in effect a socialist programme. As recently as 2015, 77% of US citizens approved of Medicare making it the second most popular US government programme (the most popular was Social Security which is even more socialist).

Yet tell most people from the US that socialism is alive and well in the US, and practised by US government, and you’re likely to be answered with astonishment. Of course the US isn’t tainted by that evil socialism!

Perhaps it would be better to call it “community-funded programmes for all”, although the “for all” would have to wait until Medicare is extended.

Audio Windmills

Mar 142018
 

Today came the news that Stephen Hawking has died, which is a loss to England, Britain, the United Kingdom, and the whole world. Well worthy of having a spot in Westminster Abbey. Yet as soon as his death was announced, we had bad christians (and at least one muslim) crowing about how he was going to spend all eternity in hell.

Yes, atheists know that christians think we’re going to hell. There’s no need to shout about it on twitter.

Apart from anything else, it makes christians and muslims look bad – is it any wonder that religion is losing ground to secularism when we have such noxious examples of the religious?

Now I’m not one of those atheists who thinks that all religious people are evil; a bit deluded perhaps, but not necessarily evil. But we do not see enough religious condemnation of bad christians from the good christians, or bad muslims from the good muslims.

It’s always worth remembering that evil words and deeds speak louder than good words and deeds, so good christians and good muslims need to flood their bad co-coreligionists with enough condemnation to drown out their evil words and deeds.

Rusty Anchor In The Sky

 

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