Friday, January 29, 2010

Irish madrassas

Cardinal Seán Brady has been arguing that the state should continue to promote his beliefs. He wants his extravagant cult to continue to have a leading role in the indoctrination of children.
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland said parents had a right to have their children educated in accordance with their philosophical and religious convictions and the State had a duty to support this with public funds.

“Those parents who choose and value the Catholic education provided for their children are taxpayers in exactly the same way as parents who send their children to other types of schools.

“To disadvantage any group of parents because of their faith is completely contrary to the principle of equality and pluralism,” he said

Parents have a right (within reason, but then reason can be a tricky thing for some people) to tell their children whatever nonsense they want. They don't have a right to expect the state to pay for it. The state must not endow any religion (Bunreacht 44.2.2). 44.2.4 makes it clear that the state "shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations" nor should any legislation "affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school".

Is religious instruction received only in a religious education class? No. A school with what they like to call a "Catholic ethos" will be seeking at all times to provide religious instruction to its pupils. It extends beyond the classroom and beyond any particular slot in the timetable: that's what an ethos is.

So the religious instruction might come in the form of a Religion class, or might be included in the "ethos" of a CSPE class; it might be the statue of Saint whoever in the hallway, the crucifix on the classroom wall, the school prayer, the hymns at assembly, the religious imagery in the school crest; it might be in the name of the school.

All of those things are part of the ethos and part of a process of indoctrination that constitutes religious instruction. Your child might be able to opt out of Religion classes, but how do you opt them out of an ethos? You can't. The Cardinal's reference to "parents who send their children to other types of schools" is disingenuous. The Catholic Church's role in education in this country is so long-established and so pervasive that in many cases there is no other type of school available.

When the state pays for the Cardinal's schools it is endowing his religion and it is prejudicing the rights of children attending those schools who do not wish to receive religious instruction. If the Cardinal wants that then his church should be paying for it in its entirety.

State-funded schools should be entirely secular in their ethos, their decoration, their names, and their codes of conduct. Within that secular framework the state could allow time periods in which pupils can opt to attend classes in their own parents' religion or classes in philosophy or the history of ideas: Catholics can go to classes on Catholicism, Muslims to classes on Islam, atheists to classes on whatever they choose.

The class on Catholicism should be paid for in its entirety by the Catholic Church. The state does not have a duty to pay for religious education: quite the opposite is the case. Catholics may be taxpayers but that doesn't mean that the Department of Finance should be subsidizing the Church, which is effectively what the Cardinal wants it to do.

To suggest that the removal of a generations-old state subsidy for Catholic schools amounts to religious discrimination is nonsense. The state should treat everyone the same by making its schools secular and giving them a space in which the religious can provide instruction in their own particular set of superstitions, on their own terms, to their own adherents and at their own expense: what's unfair about that?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not DeFault of Bertie and de Brians at all

We posted a link a while back to Morgan Kelly's analysis of the economic state of the BaNAMA Republic.

Now a story from Dara Doyle at Bloomberg refers to Kelly's report, and to the number of mortgage default cases being heard in the High Court in Dublin. The CEO of the EBS reckons there's a 25% chance of another wave of mortgage arrears, and the ESRI estimates that 30% of mortgaged homes are already in negative equity.

Note the judge's remark to one defaulting homeowner, a party to one of sixty such cases before the court that day: "you will appreciate that when parties enter a legal arrangement, if someone loans you money, you have to pay it back."

Yeah, you have to pay it back unless you're a bank or a property developer in which case the taxpayers will pay it for you.

And then the taxpayers will be so cash strapped by paying your debts that they'll end up in court for not paying their own debts.

And then you can take their homes away from them.

Oh, and when the banks are nationalized you can take their pension funds away while you're at it.

The global economy is beset by uncertainties, financial markets are highly volatile and the construction sector domestically is experiencing a slowdown. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the fundamentals of the economy are still good — a point often lost by some. … Over recent months, the dynamics of the housing market have changed fundamentally. A natural and welcome slowdown in property price inflation…
Brian Cowen, 5 December 2007

The dislocation caused by international economic turbulence will be limited, and will not deflect us from the strategic course on which we have embarked. Workers whose real incomes are protected by the budget, businesses whose commitment to development through moving up the value chain by a greater reliance on research and development, towns and regions that are planning for a new and strengthened role under our commitment to regional balance, educational institutions that seek to meet the needs of the students of today and tomorrow, families with caring responsibilities and communities seeking to look after their older people, their children and those with disabilities, can all see that their needs and efforts are being supported by the Government through the very balanced and progressive measures in the budget.
Bertie Ahern, 6 December 2007

Nice one, lads.

Twitter Twitter

Apologies again for the recent duplicate tweets. We think it's something to do with Twitterfeed but tracking down the exact problem is proving tricky.

Seismic Shock: the movie

Modernity Blog has posted a video...

All aboard for the Middle Ages

From The Guardian:

Academics fight rise of creationism at universities

Ah, at least there's always Jesus and Mo...

Jesus and Mo

ID cards by stealth

The Irish Times reports that substantial discussions have taken place between the Office of Data Protection Commissioner and the Department of Social and Family Affairs on the topic of a national identity card.

The report suggests that the card will include PPS number, photograph and signature. One imagines that in the end it'll have a lot of other things on it as well. The ID card may be required for access to public services. What else will it end up being required for? Will we be required to carry it at all times? Will it become a licence to exist?

There may be efficiency benefits in a centralized ID system, but this ad hoc, thin-end-of-the-wedge approach isn't good enough. The government should be making and defending its argument for ID cards publicly. ID cards have significant implications for civil liberties and privacy and any proposal to introduce them (even sneakily) should occasion a full public debate on their merits and demerits.

We're not very good at having public policy debates in this country. There is in Ireland a quiet consensus about healthcare policy, for example, that lacks any of the big-picture arguments seen in the UK over the value of the NHS and the role of private health insurance. We have instead co-location, sell-offs of public assets to private companies, and an apparent determination to force the middle classes (such as they are in the post-crash era) into the pockets of private health insurers so that the public system can be downsized.

In higher education we saw the government's failure to grasp the nettle of tuition fees. It will have to be grasped at some stage, and the reality is that students are already paying fees. The government wants Ireland to be a knowledge economy but they need to do their sums if there's to be any hope of that. What we haven't seen is any broad argument about what we're prepared to do as a nation, what outcomes we actually want, and what the reality of access to education is in this country and what the "social engineering" (and long-run economic) implications of that are.

The recent problems with flooding, snow, ice, water shortages and more flooding have all been regarded as crises. We lurch from crisis to crisis because we don't think big enough or long-term enough. It's a problem that Elaine Byrne has discussed. You can even see it in our urban planning, or lack of it. Decisions are made on a gombeen kickback basis or without properly public processes but often with a disregard for long range strategy. Even the government's big spatial planning ideas were a political horse-trading fudge.

Let's not even get into McCreevy's idiotic decentralization idea.

Our recent concerns about the security and integrity of a DNA database are applicable here, too, as are the comparisons with the UK, where a more public process and argument over ID cards has been ongoing for some time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seanad seats up for grabs?

In this article in the Irish Times Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, President of DCU, considers Batt O'Keefe's bolt-from-the-blue announcement that he is to do away with the 102-year-old National University of Ireland, a decision he seems to have reached without consulting anyone you'd think he might - the Chancellor or Senate of the NUI, the Presidents or governing bodies of the NUI universities, the NUI's alumni, NUI Senators, etc. etc.

One interesting paragraph is this:
Finally, I am wondering what will happen to the NUI Seanad seats. More than 30 years ago, the people decided, in a constitutional referendum, that the franchise for the six university seats should be extended beyond the graduates of TCD and the NUI. Since then, successive governments of all shades have done absolutely nothing about this, showing what can only be described as contempt for the electorate. Maybe the dissolution of the NUI will now provide the prompt for action on this point, though I’m not holding my breath.
There are two things to say about this: firstly, it's yet another example of the government's (and governments') willingness to ignore constitutional reform and related legislation when it suits them, an interesting point in the light of Dermot Torquemada Ahern's haste to legislate for an offence of blasphemy; secondly, it highlights the fact that those Seanad seats will be up for grabs in some way.

This starts to look like a perfect opportunity for some Fianna Failure graft, cute hooring, and gombeenery. Let's all watch closely to see what they come up with.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Seismic Shock

Some further material on the Seismic Shock blog issue, including a rather half-hearted response from the Police:

There's an overview here:

Let's be clear - we have no idea what views the Rev. Stephen Sizer actually holds or whether there is any basis at all for the position taken by Seismic Shock, but we can take it from his reported comments that Sizer completely refutes the accusations made about him.

That is beside the point that we're making here.

If Seismic Shock has defamed Sizer then that is a civil matter and not a criminal matter. Why the police are involved is consequently baffling. The statement issued by West Yorkshire Police refers to a complaint of harassment. This presumably means that they had in mind the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), which defines harassment as a course of conduct that causes alarm or distress.

Even that doesn't make it any less baffling.

Does this mean that any course of conduct (i.e., doing something more than once) that causes anyone alarm or distress is going to result in a visit from the police? Not if it's a course of conduct reasonable in the circumstances - see the Act (1 (3) (c) - emphases added below) for that:

1 Prohibition of harassment

(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct—

(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and

(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—

(a) that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,

(b) that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or

(c) that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.

The police need to do some more explaining on this one, or the impression that the UK is being turned into a police state will persist. You can't even photograph or film buildings without getting questioned or even arrested. Even a celebrity photographing a funfair ride is cause for police intervention. They need to explain why they concluded that this matter needed to be pursued, why, that is, they apparently concluded that Seismic Shock's conduct was unreasonable.

It would also help if Seismic Shock laid out the evidence again and explained exactly why they believe that the course of conduct they pursued was reasonable in the particular circumstances.

Seismic Shock [u]

Whether you agree with his politics or not, it's worrying that a blogger is being visited by the police because of complaints about his opinions.

[UPDATE: There's some further information in this post.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Torquemada's DNA database

The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010 published by Dermot Torquemada Ahern seeks to establish a national DNA database. This is worrying for a number of reasons.

Minister Ahern had this to say:
The combination of these two major sources of samples (suspects and convicted persons) will ensure that, within a short time, a significant proportion of the criminal community will have their samples on the database. It is my hope that this fact would, of itself, act as a deterrent for some.
Bear in mind that this is the minister who recently inflicted upon us some shamefully idiotic blasphemy legislation. Note that "suspects" are a source of samples. You do not have to be convicted of anything for your DNA to end up on this database. It will include the DNA of entirely innocent people. All you have to do is be arrested. You might think that that's not a worry for a law-abiding citizen, but the experience in the UK shows that the police have been making arrests simply in order to get DNA samples.

The minister says that "a significant proportion of the criminal community will have their samples on the database" but it needs to be clear that a significant proportion of the innocent community will be on it too.

In fact, many innocent children have ended up with their DNA on the UK database and are trying to get it removed. The evidence on which the UK government bases its DNA retention policies has been questioned by many reputable agencies, including the Jill Dando Institute for Crime Science and Liberty. Genewatch UK has outlined a number of concerns about the UK's DNA retention system. It was clear As early as 2006 that the database was wide open to abuse.

This is not just a left-liberal concern about civil liberties and related weakness on crime. The Daily Telegraph, not known for its pinko tendencies, is equally appalled by the DNA database.

Minister Torquemada might argue that the innocent have nothing to fear - bear in mind that this is the same government (the Fianna Failure part of it, anyway) that wants to hold an inquiry into the banking scandal in private - but it's evident from the UK experience that the innocent have a great deal to fear.

Should we be concerned about the experience in the UK? Yes: to suggest otherwise would be remiss, and would surely place in this government a level of trust that they simply don't deserve. The blasphemy laws don't inspire confidence in their ability to legislate competently (even after their protracted failure to make sense of our libel laws was finally addressed we got the blasphemy idiocy), neither does their cackhanded attempt to deal with the issue of statutory rape and the age of consent.

The ability of public agencies (the HSE, and again, and again, and again, the Irish Blood Transfusion Services Board, the Comptroller and Auditor General, and Bord Gáis) to lose personal data isn't encouraging.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is reviewing this Bill: good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Images from #Haiti


An interesting comment on NBC's (non-)coverage of events in Haiti. Well, in the airport in Haiti...

Wheelchair gunman surrenders to police robot

Yeah, that's what it says. Welcome to the future - can I have my hoverboots now please?

Dublin City Council says no English allowed

Dublin City Council recently published the Draft Dublin City Development Plan, 2011-2017. It includes this:
17.9.2 Names of Residential Estates
All new street and development names shall reflect local historical, heritage or cultural associations and the basic generic description (i.e. Court, Quay, Road etc.) must be appropriate. The Planning Authority will approve the naming of residential developments in order to avoid confusion in regard to similar names in other locations. Street signs must be bilingual, and all house numbers must be visible. Developers shall agree estate names with the Planning Authority prior to the commencement of development. Such estate names shall be in the Irish language only and shall reflect the history and topography of the area in which they are located. The names of public roads shall be in the Irish language only.
The pieces I've emphasised show that Dublin City Council is abandoning bilingual placenames and will accept Irish language placenames only.

Why they persist in promoting these misty-eyed Celtic fantasies about the place of the Irish language is baffling.

Dublin County has a population of about 1,200,000, Dublin City a population of about 506,000. Of those aged over 3 years, 411,000 of the county population (37.2%) and 159,000 of the city population (33.8%) are classified as having the ability to speak Irish. Bear in mind that the county population includes that of the city. Dublin City has the lowest percentage of Irish speakers of any county council area in the country. Bear in mind also that this is a measure of those who claim an ability to speak Irish: there is no verification of any actual ability to use the language.

When one looks at studies into the actual use of the language in everyday life the numbers fall rapidly, even more so when one excludes those who use the language only in an educational context (so those who, for example, go to an Irish-language school but who don't otherwise actually use the language).

The authors (Borooah, Dineen, and Lynch) of a March 2009 study entitled "Linguistic Elitism and Gender in the Irish Labour Market: How much Advantage is there to Workers in Ireland Speaking Irish and being Male? Evidence from the 2006 Census" made this observation (p. 4):
if one regards a "living language" as one which is used daily, in a non-institutional setting, then Irish is a living language for less than one in twenty of Irish speakers in Ireland and a living language for one in forty of Ireland's population.
In fact, they estimate that only 15% of daily Irish speakers use it as a "living language". That 85% of daily Irish speakers use it only in an educational institution tells you a great deal about the artificial nature of much Irish language use. It is used because there is some constructed institutional benefit or requirement. Gardaí, solicitors, barristers, librarians, teachers and other public servants are (or were) all required to jump through a largely artificial Irish language hoop regardless of whether they are ever likely to need the language in the course of actually doing their jobs. Of course, people who would otherwise have made excellent Gardaí or teachers but who couldn't jump through the hoop never get to do that excellent job. The fact that Gardaí are no longer required to have an ability to use Irish rather gives the lie to the notion that it is a necessity for the job and exposes the artificiality of the requirement.

Taking that figure of 15% as a rough estimate, and beginning with the figures of 1,187,176 (for Dublin County's 2006 population) and 410,669 (the number in Dublin County in 2006, aged over 3 years, who have a self-declared ability to use Irish) we can make a rough estimate that up to about 61,600 people in Dublin County use Irish on a daily basis as a "living language". That represents about 5.19% of the overall population of the county. Looked at on a city level, the numbers are 23,800 "living language" speakers representing 4.85% of the total population.

So why institute a policy that ignores the language reality of 95% of the city's population (and 5% is generous - use the one-in-forty and it drops to 2.5%)? One has to conclude that it is politically motivated and yet another part of the Republican greenwashing of Irish cultural and public life. It's window-dressing at best, and part of a widespread and patronising waste of money at worst.

It is a fact that we are not an Irish-speaking nation and we never will be. This policy is another indication of the denial of that reality that persists in local and national government. There is a role for the Irish language in modern Irish culture and the language ought to be preserved and encouraged, but this sort of tokenistic condescension doesn't help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh, the (more) irony

Following on from our earlier post about ironic copyright problems, here's another one...

France's anti-piracy agency, the one charged with enforcing its quite draconian laws on copyright infringement, has been accused of pirating the font in its own logo.

Go Google

Google is to stop censoring search results in China following reports of espionage and hacked email accounts.

Try the search and see what you can find...

You can read google's own account of this on the company's blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The family of the late Fred Fraser, one of the two property developers who bankrolled Iris Robinson's young lover to the tune of £25,000 each, have issued a statement. The Belfast Telegraph quotes from it:
In the months prior to his death Mr Fraser made a large number of charitable donations to different charities and individuals and to what he felt to be worthy causes.
What do they mean by "charitable donations"? We were given to understand that the money was repaid. The same article in the Belfast Telegraph makes it clear that the other bankroller, Ken Campbell, has been repaid most of the money (all except £5,000, coincidentally the same amount that Iris Robinson took as her kickback). If it has been repaid then in what sense is it a donation, a "charitable donation"? Most of those are not repaid, as I understand it: if it has not been repaid then where is it?

Another interesting issue that should be clarified is whether this or any other "charitable donation" was treated as such for tax purposes. Was tax relief claimed on any "charitable donation"? If it was, and if that "charitable donation" has been repaid, has the Inland Revenue been repaid?

A look at the BaNAMA Republic

"Failed by Fianna" in The New Statesman.

Yeah, Fianna Fail - the clue is in the name.


Saturday, January 09, 2010


And while you're at it check out this youtube video to get a sense of how bad it was trying to drive on ice.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Weather and climate

We posted recently about some people's inability to understand that weather and climate are not the same thing. Noted xenophobic, racist, homophobic idiot, Richard Littlejohn, for example, struggles with this. For a closer look at this particular example of Littlejohn's stupidity start here.

Of course, the fact that weather and climate are different things doesn't mean that they are utterly disconnected. This article offers some interesting thoughts on how the current cold snap in Europe is in fact related to anthropogenic climate change. There's some further discussion here.

Iris Robinson [u]

Should we feel much sympathy for the god-bothering homophobe and expenses cheat Iris Robinson? Nah - she's just not a nice person.

Even her public statement is the sort of mealy-mouthed self-serving nonsense you expect from someone who strides through life borne up on a self-righteous conviction that she has god on her side. Speaking of her nineteen-year-old lover she says, "I encouraged friends to assist him by providing financial support for a business venture."

How noble.

Here's another version of that:
The wife of NI's first minister broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in a business deal.

BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme said Iris Robinson, an MP, an MLA and a councillor, obtained £50,000 from two property developers.

The money was paid to her 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley to help him launch a new cafe. She later asked him for £5,000 for herself.
She even lobbied in parliament on behalf of one of those property developers. When her young lover's application for permission to lease the Lock Keeper's Inn was being considered by Castlereagh borough council, on which she sat, she failed to declare her interests. When she demanded the repayment of the £50,000 loan she asked for £25,000 of it to be paid to her church, the Light and Life Free Methodist Church: why? [update: Is it anything to do with the fact that Peter Robinson's sister, Pat Herron, is the pastor at that church? Herron has insisted that the church never received any of the money, but that doesn't explain why Iris wanted to give it to them.]

There are plenty of other tales about the exact nature of her relationship with one particular property developer, a developer who benefited from favourable decisions handed down by a planning committee chaired by, you guessed it, Iris Robinson. [update: There are also rumours about Peter Robinson's personal life, and about his fists. There's another particularly interesting rumour about Iris's suicide attempt and a flight of stairs. All utterly scurrilous, of course.]

She has declared that she's withdrawing from public life. Has she resigned her position as a Councillor, or as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, or as a Member of Parliament? No - she's still taking the salaries and allowances for all three of those jobs while declaring that she's not actually going to do them. Her salaries alone are estimated to amount to £97,137, and then there are the expenses claims and the jobs that go to family members - all public money. [update: It appears that she will be resigning her positions as MP and MLA, not before time. She should resign from the Council, too. Of course, she'll be entitled to pensions that could fund a few riverside cafés.]

Is she getting a particularly hard time because she's a woman? No, it's because she's a corrupt, hate-mongering hypocrite.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Express shows stupidity alive and well in 2010

AS one of the worst winters in 100 years grips the country, climate experts are still trying to claim the world is growing warmer.
(see here)

Well done Martyn Brown, you fuckwit... You do know that weather and climate are two different things? Besides, even if you managed somehow to stumble on an idea...

Be prepared

AA Roadwatch Ireland are making a big point of advising us to be prepared for difficulties caused by the bad weather.

They should have taken their own advice and got some additional server capacity in place so that their site wouldn't keep hanging and dishing out 503 errors just when people actually need it...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A test exercise?? [u x 3]

What? Is this "part of a test exercise which appears to have gone wrong" or is it a not-so-subtle attempt to scare us into accepting increased security measures? Anyone want to bet that we get full-body scanners at our airports soon? It's only a matter of time before you won't be allowed on a plane without submitting to a full strip search: that's one way to cut aviation carbon emissions.

Who do we think it was? The UK hoping to get a clamp on what must look to them like an easy back-door route around their own security fence? Mossad with a similar aim in mind? DGSE hoping we'll shut up about Thierry Henry?

Maybe the government should appoint Martin Ferris to investigate - he knows lots about the illegal importation of weaponry.

Are we paranoid? Are we paranoid to think that it's very convenient that Hammam Khalil al-Balawi can be discredited as a double-agent? Would we be paranoid to think that CIA would kidnap a man off the streets of Milan and hand him over to torturers in Egypt?

The Irish-ish Independent is reporting that the arrested man is believed to be from Slovakia.


[update] A newer version of the RTÉ story:

Explosive reached Ireland after failed test
Tuesday, 5 January 2010 16:24

A quantity of explosive, found in a flat on Dorset Street in Dublin this morning, was brought into the country following a failed security operation in Slovakia.

It is understood the explosive was one of eight pieces of contraband planted by the authorities in the luggage of unsuspecting passengers at Bratislava Airport in Slovakia last weekend as part of a test of security procedures.

Seven were detected by airport security, but the eighth - 90g of research development explosive or RDX - was put in the luggage of a Slovakian electrician who lives and works in Dublin.

The 49-year-old unwittingly brought the material to Dublin when he returned from Christmas holidays.

Gardaí were eventually alerted this morning following a call from police in Bratislava and the flat on Dorset Street was sealed off.

During the operation, the adjoining homes and businesses were evacuated as the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit removed the explosive for further analysis.

Both Gardiner Street and Lower Dorset street were closed off for about an hour.

The Slovakian man was arrested at the scene, but gardaí are now satisfied that he is innocent and he was released from custody this afternoon. He will not face charges.

The Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs have been informed and the incident will be dealt with through diplomatic channels.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he was very concerned about the fact that the gardaí were not alerted for three days and has asked for a full report.

Labour's Joe Costello has called for Dermot "Torquemada" Ahern to issue a full statement on the matter. Predictably, Costello is worried about airport security:
We need to know what questions it raises about the security systems at Dublin airport and the procedures used by airlines flying to and from Ireland. If explosives can apparently be so easily smuggled into the country as part of a test exercise, then it presumably suggests that similar material could be smuggled in by those with more sinister motives.

If the point of this "accident" was to get our public representatives in a righteous tizzy about beefing up security then it appears to be working very nicely. Still, Torquemada really does need to say something soon.

For the sake of completeness here's the older versions of the RTÉ story (see the time stamps):

Foreign link to Dorset St explosive find
Tuesday, 5 January 2010 15:38

A 49-year-old man has been arrested following the discovery of explosive material in a flat on Dorset Street in Dublin.

RTÉ News has learned that the commercial explosive was illegally brought into the country as part of a security operation by another country.

It is understood the man, who is from Slovakia, ended up in Ireland with the explosives as part of a test exercise which appears to have gone wrong.

The man entered Ireland through Dublin Airport on Saturday afternoon.

Gardaí received a phone call this morning from a security service abroad, telling them that a man was in a flat in Dorset St with around 100g of an explosive known as RDX.

The adjoining homes and businesses were evacuated, roads were closed and the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit removed the explosive for further analysis.

Both Gardiner Street and Lower Dorset street were closed off for about an hour this morning.

The Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs have been informed and the incident will be dealt with through diplomatic channels.


Foreign link to Dorset St explosive find
Tuesday, 5 January 2010 13:39

A 49-year-old man has been arrested following the discovery of explosive material in a flat on Dorset Street in Dublin.

RTÉ News has learned that the commercial explosive was illegally brought into the country as part of a security operation by another country.

It is understood the man and the explosives ended up in Ireland as part of a test exercise which appears to have gone wrong.

Gardaí received a phone call this morning from a security service abroad, telling them that a man was in a flat in Dorset St with around 100g of commercial explosive.

The adjoining homes and businesses were evacuated, roads were closed and the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit removed the explosive for further analysis.

The Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs have been informed and the incident will be dealt with through diplomatic channels.

Burn the witch #irishblasphemy

(from here, here and here on jesusandmo)

Information is power...

...which is why politicians will try to confuse people.

Below are: first, an organizational chart of proposed US health care reforms issued by Republican Rep. John Boehner, who wants to show that the proposals are over-complicated and confusing; and, second, a chart giving the same information but designed by someone who actually wants to make it comprehensible.

The thing is, I think they're both good designs.

(see also here)

(see also here)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bad Apple

Apple has been pushing the Find My iPhone function for a while now but this story is not going to help. A customer knows that her stolen iPhone has been sent to Apple for repair, sent by someone other than herself. She has contacted Apple about it, and the police have spoken to Apple about it. Apple are going to send out the fixed or new phone to the person who sent it to them, quite possibly the thief. FAIL.
If your iPhone goes missing you can log into on any computer to access Find My iPhone (under Account) and display your iPhone's approximate location on a map, write a message to be displayed on its screen, and play a continuous sound for two minutes even if the iPhone is set to silent. Or if you fear the worst, you can initiate a remote wipe to permanently erase your personal data and restore the iPhone to its factory settings.

But if it's sent in under warranty by the person who robbed you or the person who got the phone from them then they get a new iPhone and you can sod off. Super cool, Apple...

More hating for Jesus [u]

This sort of Christianity is hateful and evil. Religious convictions do not excuse homophobia and any religion that promotes this sort of hate is deserving only of contempt. (Is that blasphemous? Who gives a fuck if it is? Dermot "Torquemada" Ahern maybe...)

From The New York Times: U.S. Evangelicals’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push

[update] And from Malawi:

Malawi gay wedding couple denied bail for 'own protection': Two men arrested after symbolic ceremony last month could face up to 14 years in jail

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Irish Atheism is a crime [U]

We've posted about this dreadful piece of legislation before (here and here). Sadly, it has now come into force: welcome to medieval Ireland, alive and well in 2010. It is a shameful piece of lawmaking.

Coverage in the Guardian.

[UPDATE: And now on CNN, and the BBC, too.]


January 1, 2010
Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes
Filed under: Atheist Ireland, Campaign, Freedom of Speech, Is this Blasphemy?, Quotes — Michael Nugent @ 12:33 am

From today, 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.

This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.

Publication of 25 blasphemous quotes

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

Campaign begins to repeal the Irish blasphemy law

We ask Fianna Fail and the Green Party to repeal their anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act that is included within the Act. We ask them to hold a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.

We also ask all TDs and Senators to support a referendum to remove references to God from the Irish Constitution, including the clauses that prevent atheists from being appointed as President of Ireland or as a Judge without swearing a religious oath asking God to direct them in their work.

If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.

List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name - The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy - he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities - how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”

10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”

11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine - but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good - and cares about any of it - to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”

19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”

20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”

21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

22. PZ Myers, on the Roman Catholic communion host, 2008: “You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university… However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel.”

23. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”

24. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.

25. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.

Finally, as a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.” Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland’s new blasphemy law.

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