Intolerance dates from June 2014 – the subject continues with Woke, BLM and ongoing issues in 2021

After my excursion into religion last week I did think of writing on a less controversial subject like gay rights or paedophilia. This week’s headlines have been dominated by the events in Iraq whilst Ukraine nervously continues. Elsewhere, the impact of missing girls in Nigeria has not gone away nor has the continued fighting in Afghanistan even if it is now local troops fighting rather than American or UK troops, or the other NATO forces that have been deployed there and shed their blood as well. As with Iraq, coalition forces will soon have departed and we can fully expect Afghanistan to return to its historical state of occasional tribal warfare. The Pakistan forces have just launched a major offensive.

All of the conflicts have one thing in common – religious intolerance. Just as my previous blog attracted some comments it does not mean I shall give up on my view in that all religions behave appallingly, given half the chance, and yes I do include Christianity in that view. This time I am not focusing on historical inaccuracies or whether the Bible say this or that or the Koran , Torah, and onward into whatever belief system or set of rules that for one reason or another the individual believes is the truth.

One thing is clear they cannot all be right, they cannot all have their version of God and religious duty. At the moment the conflict spreading from Syria to Iraq is between different branches of Islamic faith, Sunni and Shia. With perhaps the ISIS or ISIA forces another version of Sunni. Once Europe was full of competing version of Protestants and Catholics, helped by tribal rivalries amongst warring families so to see the Islamic faith fighting their wars should not be surprising.

Then we have on-going issues between in Muslim, Sikh and Hindu faiths in India.

The common factor is religion, not resources for a change. Organised religion as a proxy for the power of individuals. Whether it’s a leader in Iran, Saudi, Syria or or the never-ending fight of the Jewish faith and Arbia still seen in the battles over the future of Israel and Palestine. It was not that long ago that Hammas and Hezbolah were taking their fight onto the streets of what passes for a modern city in Palestine.

Compare and contrast these activities with more secular liberal societies. Has Western Europe become immune to religious tension. Certainly on the scale seen in other nations. The argument falls down where we have Syria and Lebanon. Both partially secular on the surface. Assad’s regime was and is oppressive but there did appear to be some religious freedom.

1960’s Lebanon was seen as a typical Mediterranean European-like city before it descended into chaos which thanks to the activities of Syria and Israel (expelling Palestinians) remains on the precipice of civil war.

What of the role of West in all this, the West a loose term for the alliance of USA and it’s allies. Falsehoods led to the second war in Iraq. The world’s moral indignation after 11th September 2001 has been lost. Instead of concentrating on fixing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iraq was attacked and Afghanistan ignored until it was too late. Just like Afghanistan was ignored after the Soviet Union left until the Taliban were firmly in charge.

Now we have nations whose idea of the rule of law is secret courts and mass surveillance of their own citizens using carefully worded statements to explain how they comply with a law. We have had secret rendition, we still have Guantanamo and even here in the UK we need the new Supreme Court to tell us whether a trial, for the first time in our legal history, can be held completely in-Camera. Is this the freedom we believe we want. Judging by the lack of outrage ot these events I suppose it is. I looked at the Newspaper headlines today. There were more stories about the sex lives of minor celebrities and various free offers than there were about any of these issues.

Judging by the number of people who bother to vote in the UK approx 30% in the latest local and Euro polls and approx 60% in last general election. No one cares. The scandal of MP expenses rumbles on but virtually all of the MPs were returned at the last election just because they wore a particular rosette. The average MP is elected with 35% of the vote from 60% of the electorate who bother to turn out. Democracy in action but at least it’s better than a religious dictatorship, although it’s no guarantor of freedom of expression, religion or action and as for equality don’t get me started.

Creationism, The New Right and a Rant

Creationism, The New Right and a Rant was written in 2014

I have just commented on a blog, in which the author complains about the arguments between atheists and creationists getting out of hand. The author thought that by asking everyone to calm down and we should listen to all sides everything will be fine. Just like the argument with Islamic Fundamentalism. I have to disagree. It will not be all right, if we allow religious extremism to flourish unchallenged. I have no wish to live in an Islamic Caliphate nor a Tea-Party version of the world supported by a version of Christianity which seems routed circa 1550 A.D. A date that it is itself subject to significant variance. A.D with dates that don’t add up. But, I won’t start that again, the discussion on numbers I mean.

I wrote in my comments on the blog:

I believe that crossing a busy road is safe if I close my eyes as God will protect me. I know that crossing a busy road is not safe if I close my eyes.
One is fact one is faith or belief.
I know which one I trust to be taught to children.Your description of teaching children to read is essential; however this must be based on fact. The air is compromised of various gasses it is not belief it is fact. It is belief that a book mis-translated through various languages over several thousand years (old and new testament) gives an accurate view of the world’s development. Scientists to believe propose hypothesise that may prove to be correct or not. In modern science these are tested by other scientists. This leads to probability of fact not absolute certainty but highly likely.It is highly likely that you will be killed or seriously injured in my first example, not fact.

So to use the same reasoning on the creationist view of the world ends with ‘a highly unlikely‘ based on analysis despite the faith of those who believe it. It is highly unlikely that a book (which is contradicted in other contemporaneous records) is a factual account of what happened. Just as Galileo’s view of the solar system was incorrect. Five hundred or more years ago all Christian religious leaders thought the world was flat because the bible told them so, or so they said. It isn’t.

I still find it amazing that in the 21st century (Christian calendar) religious faith is so persuasive and yet has such a narrow view of the world in which we live. There are probably seven billion people on the planet now. The bare majority are Christian (31%), Islamic (23%), but these are false numbers based on census returns where asked, assessments and projections. On most national official forms a submitter has to put a religion. I was born a Methodist (Christian,) married in a C of E church but I am not religious, yes it is hypocritical just like my parents baptising me into a religion without my say so. Before I have even a chance to think about the subject – indoctrination or culture?

My argument today though is with Creationism, a smaller minority of Christianity but with translated political power in the USA; at least due to its strong connections into the Republican Party. The row there is what is taught in schools not in Religious Education classes but in science classes. In the UK the last week, outside of World Cup coverage, has been the ongoing actions in Birmingham of Islamic extremism creeping into the classroom. OFSTED inspections have followed special measure have been implemented. Statements have been made in the Houses of Parliament. My largest concern to these matters is the lack of sexual equality apparent in this version of the Islamic faith just as it is in orthodox Jews and some parts of Christianity.

Muslim women and reasonable Christians, are you not concerned with the impact on your lives. We have Nigerian girls kidnapped by so called Islamic extremists and a general Islamic approach in many so called Islamic countries to the prevention of equality. I haven’t read the reports let alone visited the schools but I just draw the comparison between reaction to Islamic teaching compared to Christian teaching in schools. We may not have the extent of creationism in the UK but both need to be challenged before a scientific approach to science and an equal (sexes) view of the world is lost.

NSA and Snowden – A Year On

NSA and Snowden was written in 2014 but the revelations remain concerning and technology, surveillance and privacy remain key issues

Another anniversary this past week. After the commemoration of D-Day 70 years ago on the 6th June, something far less significant in multiple nation’s collective memories, it is one year since The Guardian first printed Edward Snowden’s revelations about the activities of the NSA, GCHQ et al. For an excellent commentary and summation read the article on The Register.

The article covers not only the scope of what was revealed but also discusses the impact of these revelations. It is clear there is still much to be revealed, and there is also the on-going reluctance of the British Press in particular to publish some of the revelations. Most notably, the Register also published details about the international fibre and communication link tapping operations notably in Oman. Quoting from the article from 2nd June.

Exclusive Above-top-secret details of Britain’s covert surveillance programme – including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East – have so far remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden. Government pressure has meant that some media organisations, despite being in possession of these facts, have declined to reveal them. Today, however, the Register publishes them in full.
So not only do we have hidden spying activity, no surprise there, but a marked reluctance by our own media to discuss the issue. The often quoted excuse for not discussing the issues is that it put lives at risk and harms the nation. This is made as a statement with no factual information to back it up. Proof of a negative is always difficult, but really lives at risk from the UK public knowing that a location in Oman is built and operated for the entire purpose of monitoring Internet communication links, something that the locals in Oman. all the people who built and service the staions and all the agencies know, but the British public must not.

This reminds me of the farcical situation a few years ago when Ordnance Survey Maps and road atlases would show blank empty spaces where UK military and other sensitive bases were. Meanwhile the then Soviet Union was scanning those places with satellite photography almost hourly. So our prospective enemy knew what was there (at least what building were) but the British Public was not allowed to see that just inside the main gate was the entrance to the Officers’ Mess and NAAFI next to the tennis court. I have never been able to understand why this was the case, this in built secrecy left over from the war, like changing the road signs around as if an invader would not have a compass and discover our ruse.

Back to NSA and the latest series of revelations. The sheer scope and scale of the observations are in one way comforting, our spies are spying, protecting us. They claim to have prevented all sorts of illegal actions like Germany stealing a march on trade negotiations or when Chancellor Merkel was getting home from the state dinner. The plumbed into the content not just metadata of every single telephone call in the Bahamas. How many pizza takeaway orders were there? We should be told about this vital contribution to national security. The sheer scale of the monitoring beggars belief yet it has raised the merest flicker of interest in the UK. I believe that some of this is down to media jealousy. Much like the Telegraph when it broke the MPs’ expenses scandal. The Guardian had an exclusive and the rest of the media seemed reluctant to follow up.

Whether Snowden was right to release the information will be a matter for history to judge there has been a media backlash against him pushed forward by the self same agencies he has allegedly harmed. The bottom line is that like MPs these agencies work for us. GCHQ is funded by the taxpayer, if it is wasting needed national resources discovering how many of us posted tweets on our favourite dogs isn’t it justified that we question what they are spending our money on. At a time of national austerity with ongoing cuts still impacting numerous government spending, what exactly are we getting for our money. Our MPs don’t seem to want to find out as I have previously blogged here. Our media for spitefulness , boredom or just plain laziness have not followed up. Where is the probing Channel 4 or BBC Panorama expose? Yes, they have reported on the Snowden allegations but where is their own investigation adding to the story. The NSA intercepting and tampering with Cisco routers was an allegation without specificity from Snowden. Then film emerged of the NSA doing it, it’s referenced in The Register’s article but still the doubters question Snowden’s authenticity. This week, having claimed for months that they had no emails from Snowden complaining about anything, they suddenly released one email from him. How did they manage to find that? No emails means no emails, not one. Where are the others he cannot have sent just one? Another scandal waiting to happen unreported in the mainstream press.

My final comments for today concern the real issue. On Friday we commemorated a major step in the fight to bring freedom to Europe. Freedom what does that mean? Freedom in my view is about freedom from oppression, free to think, comment and express opinions. The Internet has greatly extended this freedom. It has also given us the freedom to shop, post dog and children videos and endless meaningless chatter. The e-commerce activities have been significantly undermined by our so called security agencies deliberate attempts to break encryption and other secure systems. There actions have made us less secure as a whole. Billions of financial transactions are at risk because of exploits they either created or left in place so that they could spy on everything else. This is akin to a policeman breaking the locks of every house in case he needs to raid it at some stage in the future or a doctor creating a virus so that he always has plenty of patients.

This is not security, this is not in my interest and it’s a colossal waste of resources. Every part of government is scrutinised about how it spends our money except this one. Perhaps our own MPs might do the job they are elected to do rather than the one their party or government tells them to do. Cosy-ing up to the security services is not their job, representing us is; I wonder if they ever will?

Sales Ranks and Writing

Are sales ranks the bane of a self – pub writers life?

My books rank from 20,000 to over 400,000

Of course I was Number one in free thrillers once now I’m 217,150 with that book in overall paid. I suppose that is not bad given the alleged million plus books available. Genre rankings are different again, but without getting into those which are further specified by Amazon location we all have to remember one thing. The ranking are driven by weightings and various algorithms which are known only to Amazon. This is not a problem it is after all their store they can sell and run what they like and rank results how they like. The number would be different for revenue in whichever currency rather than just sales. It will differ in Kindle, hardback, paperback and audio too.

To add to the analysis it of course does not include CreateSpeace, Lulu, Smashwords, iBooks, Nook etc. numbers or any authors selling stuff direct. Getting into the famous Amazon top 100 for anything is a start and we would all like to be there but does it really matter? We want high numbers of sales not just for the revenue (why give them away?) but for reviews and attention. We pay for meaningless advertisements and judge those on views and clicks which may or may not lead to sales. We blog – I’m doing it now, we Facebook, we twitter we hope for reviews from mainstream media. We comment on Goodreads and other web sites overall we try and get noticed.

Is this just some giant self-indulgent ego trip “look at me I’m a writer!” Why are so many people trying a creative element not just writing but music, video, arts including the massive increase in photography. Are we all deluded like the worst performers on a talent show or in a karaoke bar or is there something else going on?

The Internet has given us the opportunity, technology has expanded the tool set. The barriers to entry that traditional publishing upheld have been reduced, but a new hurdle sits in the way, competition. The professional element is hampered just as much as the semi-professional or gifted amateur. Competition for the writer is now not just another professional writer but thousands of amateurs and not so amateurs launching their own output onto the unsuspecting world.

Much of the output in all artistic forms may be considered to be rubbish by so called experts. The professional critics or the amateur ones bemoan the lack of standards whether its artistic brushwork, composition or a self-pub’s grammar. I bemoan the number of dog and cat videos plaguing YouTube. One thing for sure we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. The world has changed we are all going to have to lie with it unless some dystopian catastrophe changes the world. I don’t think any of us really want a world without the Internet digital music, photography or the other benefits no matter how much rubbish is attached.

Once upon a time stable lads bemoaned the introduction of the horseless carriage. To quote a poet (who really can’t sing) the times they are a’ changin‘. We’ll all have to live with it no matter our sales rank.

Convenient Day

Convenient Day was written in 2014 – it remains a continuing rant.

Today is the 2nd of June and I happened to come across the Daily Mirror’s paper headline (not the on-line site so I cannot give a link.) The Headline across the top half of the page has the news that today’s copy has a story concerning the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings including a reprint of the Mirror’s lead story form the time of the landings.

70 Years on… our original D-Day Paper”

Given the secrecy and timing of the landings the story was printed on the 7th June reporting the landings on the previous day. All well and good and something to report and recall, even celebrate the successful landings despite the huge sacrifice to achieve the landings.

My problem is this. The 2nd of June is not 70 years on, it’s nearly 70 years on. The headline is incorrect, it’s a lie, at best misleading and covers half the page of a national newspaper. The landings were originally scheduled for 5th June but delayed for 24 hours for weather until the early hours of the 6th. They were not and have never been on the 2nd. We may celebrate birthdays or anniversaries outside of the day itself but the anniversary day. You do not become 18 the day before even if you have a convenient birthday party and open your presents. It is not 70 years today, yet it will be on the 6th and to be even more pedantic the Mirror’s story is the 7th commemorating the 6th.
This confirms a further comment about other convenient celebrations. We have the Queen’s official birthday rather than her actual birthday and then my pet peeve Remembrance Day. The Armistice came into being at the 11th Hour on the 11th Day of the 11th Month. The two minute silence should be applied then. Instead it is postponed or delivered early as a national remembrance on the nearest convenient Sunday. Even then local services are not held at the war memorial on the Sunday they start there but are in the Church not by the memorial. On the actual 11th even if it is a Sunday there are just a few persons standing near the memorial at 11:00. Why, because it would be inconvenient for the nation to remember the 1st World War Sacrifice on the day in question. Millions gave their lives but we must not halt current commerce, government or anything else because it’s inconvenient. For Remembrance Day I could throw in the Church’s need to control the events regardless of the religion, or lack of it, of those involved and commemorated.
The same is true of other Bank Holidays on convenient Mondays. If we are to celebrate May Day why not on the 1st of May rather than the first Monday in May. Easter Monday is clearly tied with the religious events based on lunar calendars and weeks since whenever. Whit Sunday was the last Sunday in May another religious occasion but again is now a convenient last Monday in May Bank Holiday.
With 24 hour shopping and global enterprise, is the whole concept of bank holidays on convenient Mondays or other dates outmoded and ridiculous? Why not celebrate/commemorate the date in question. Why can’t May Day be 1st May it is after all May Day and will occasionally be a Monday and why can’t remembrance day be on the day we should remember?