Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Queensland floods: why will nobody talk about climate change?

JULIA GILLARD, Tony Abbott and Anna Bligh spent much of the Christmas period posing for the cameras in flood-ravaged Queensland. There was plenty of talk about tragedy, the need for compassion and the resilience of the “Australian spirit”.

Yet no political leader dared mention climate change—a major factor in the severity of the floods.


full article here:

How George Osborne's tough words on bonuses proved to be so much hot air.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Stephen Hester, the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is to be paid almost £7 million


I wonder if this has occurred to anyone else.

There is much in the media (e.g. tv documentaries) about obesity.

Now, perhaps the line between ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ is fuzzy. But I do think that, on some people, e.g. Michael Moore (documentary filmmaker), Kung Fu Panda (action hero), being heavier than ideal can look endearing.

But in general, obesity is a very unattractive quality in people – because they possess far more fat than their body needs.

And that’s exactly how people like Stephen Hester (RBS chief) appear to me – obese (simply substitute ‘fat’ with ‘cash’).

One of the most glaring examples of ‘obesity’ is that tv show, ‘Celebrity Cribs’, where the cameras take you round the lavish mansions of rockstars etc. And what’s galling is that celebrity materialism is celebrated as ‘achievement’, whereas obesity is damned as ‘failure’. But surely they are essentially the same sickness: consuming far more than your body needs because you are perpetually trying to fill some hole (e.g. identity, self-esteem) inside.

The BBC Moving In Precisely The Opposite Direction To The Public Mood

The BBC Moving In Precisely The Opposite Direction To The Public Mood


I believe that the popular mood in Britain has turned rapidly against Israel over the past decade. Israel appears to have been initially fearful that the BBC might reflect such sentiments. But after considerable secretive pressure from the Israeli foreign ministry and its lobbyists, the BBC has moved in precisely the opposite direction.

Most notable was its refusal in 2009 to broadcast an appeal for that year’s selected charitable cause – helping the homeless and sick in Gaza after Israel’s 2008-2009 winter attack. The BBC claimed for the first time in more than 20 years of running such appeals – part of its public service remit – that doing so would compromise the organisation’s “neutrality”.

Other signs of the BBC’s loss of nerve are its abandonment of truly independent documentaries on Israel. Instead in recent years it has accepted “soft” documentaries from Israeli production crews. Israeli film-makers have had great success offering as their chief selling-point to the BBC various dubious “exclusives” – typically, “rare” interviews with senior military people and views inside Israel’s war rooms “for the first time ever”. Israeli film-maker Noam Shalev, who has specialized in these kinds of productions, has made faux-documentaries like the 2006 “Will Israel bomb Iran?” that have offered little more than Israeli foreign ministry propaganda.

Perhaps the most notorious recent example is “Death in the Med”, the BBC’s Panorama programme in August 2010 into the killing of nine passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara. The much-touted BBC investigation followed the same compromised format as mentioned above, but this time presented by a supposedly impartial BBC journalist, Jane Corbin. With a largely Israeli crew, Corbin again offered several “exclusives”, including being present during a training exercise by the “secretive” commando unit that stormed the Marmara, and interviews with the commandos themselves. The illegality of invading a ship in international waters was not discussed, nor was Israel’s theft of the passengers’ media equipment. There was no warning that video footage shown in the documentary was selectively edited by the Israeli government. Audio tape of passengers telling the Israeli commandos to “Go back to Auschwitz” that Israel is known to have doctored was presented as authentic, with Corbin even stating that the insults were “a warning sign”.

Even as Israel’s grip on the narrative coming directly out the region weakens, it will fight harder to ensure that reporters of all kinds covering the conflict come under intensified pressure. Israel will focus on selling its image and discredited myths to those least in a position to question or doubt them. Be warned that editors from the overseas news organizations should be among those who can be more easily swayed.

Jonathan Cook

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

'meaning', 'purpose', 'sin', 'God'

The following questions were recently put to me:

1) In what way are you 'seeking meaning and purpose'? Are you seeking it through science, religion, or what?

2) What do you understand by the terms 'sin' and 'sinners'?

3) Do you think/believe that God exists? Why or why not?

I would be very interested to hear anyone's response to these.

My response was this:

I seek ‘purpose’ by endeavouring to maximise the time I spend doing things that I find enjoyable and/or interesting. That can involve science, religion and many other things, e.g. swimming, humour, dance, politics, travel, … (the list is long).

I don’t know about ‘meaning’; I haven’t given that enough thought, e.g. I don’t have a clear idea of what ‘meaning’ means. (I even think there might be some (much?) truth in the adage held by some that ‘life is meaningless.’)

‘Sinner’ only has meaning if one has some moral code for humans in mind. Then a ‘sinner’ is anyone who transgresses that moral code. Different people have different moral codes, so will differ in their understanding of ‘sin’ and ‘sinners’. For example, I believe it’s immoral to exterminate a group of people because they happen to fall short of your standards in some respect; Nazis, in contrast, believe it’s virtuous to exterminate such people; therefore, they and I would differ in our understanding of ‘sin’ and ‘sinners’, although we would both apply the same logic: a ‘sinner’ is someone who transgresses the moral code that you yourself believe in.

Does God exist?
The concept ‘God’ needs clarification. Because I don’t take much interest in the subject, I only have rough ideas of what people mean by ‘God’. I will answer the question based on what (I think) people seem to mean by ‘God’.

1) God is a supernatural consciousness that directs the universe:
I don’t believe or disbelieve that. It seems a tenable thesis because it can (apparently) be convincingly argued that science explains nothing, merely elucidates the ‘how’ of natural mechanisms. So, regarding the question of how these mechanisms come to exist in the first place, a ‘creator’ seems a tenable proposition. Only if I took far more interest in the question of God’s existence could I come to the conclusion that the ‘creator’ concept is either nonsense or convincing.

2) God is a father figure in whom one should have ‘faith’. Not doing so means that, after death, you will be condemned to eternity in hell:
I don’t believe that, primarily because I don’t believe in fascism and fascist leaders, which is what this conception of God amounts to: ‘swear allegiance to me or suffer the consequences.’

The main reason I don’t take much interest in religion and God is as follows (and I think this reason applies to most people who share my disinterest):

My (perhaps crude) understanding of religion is that it is primarily concerned with morality, e.g. the correct way for humans to live. The problem, then, is that religious people, throughout history and the present, don’t mark themselves out as more moral than nonreligious people; indeed, it can easily be argued that people of religious faith behave far more immorally than nonreligious people. If anyone fails to lead by example in their professed area of expertise, then they are bound to fail in getting people to take them seriously.

(An example from the education world is this: I don’t take the judgements of school inspectors, e.g. Ofsted, seriously because I know that very many of them are failed teachers. They do not lead by example in their professed area of expertise – knowing what constitutes good education, so they cannot be taken seriously. When people do appear to take them seriously, it is only out of fear of inspectors’ perceived power. So this is like people’s fear-the-consequences ‘belief’ in God: people believe in Ofsted – or God – for the same reason that the citizens ‘believed-in’ Big Brother in Orwell’s ‘1984': fear.)