Friday, 14 December 2012

#Cornwall Council bleeding the poor for nearly 5 x our weight per capita.

According to the excellent Guardian Data site, Cornwall Council's demand that I - and the other poorest people in the county - pay 25% of my Council Tax Benefit, means that those that are not in receipt of benefits escape any and all of the cuts that central Government has made whilst the poorest have to pay approximately five times the amount per capita of the county.

Let me clarify:

  1. My contribution to CTB under the Council's plans mean that I will be paying an extra $246 per year.
  2. Set against the £48 the cuts will cost me, this represents bad value for money.
  3. At 5 times the cost of the cuts, I am subsidising those that can afford to pay.
  4. The contribution made by those who are not in receipt of CTB will be exactly £0 per year.
  5. Set against the £48 the cuts will 'cost' then, this represents robbing the poor to pay your own debt.
  6. By not paying anything to counter the cuts, those that can afford to pay are off-setting their financial losses against those that have nothing.
Seriously! What is wrong with people? How can this be a difficult concept to get your head around?

The poor do not have any money, because they are poor. Cornwall Council thinks that it is the poor that are best suited and funded to bail their national party's mess. Well, let me just say this.

"Over my cold, dead body!"

Explain to me how the poor pay for the entirety of the cuts and those that are not considered poor enough to warrant getting CTB at all pay nothing? NOTHING?

Idiot quote from #Cornwall Council leader, Jim Currie

“While we recognise that this recommendation will cause difficulties for some people in Cornwall, the stark truth is that the Council does not have the money to pick up the bill for this”
-Jim Currie. Conservative Leader of Cornwall Council

Why is this idiotic? Because he thinks the poorest people in the county do have the money to pick up the bill.

Here is a question for Mr Currie:
Considering I have a negative annual income, and that I suspect that you do not, who is better situated of the two of us to 'pick up the bill', as you put it?
This isn't empty rhetoric. I want an answer, Mr Currie.

Other posts in the series

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Do you have a message for our illustrious Leader? Please leave a comment below. I will be emailing him a link at

#Cornwall Council Cabinet decision gets locals commenting. Not #BloodFromStone at all.

The comments section at ThisIsCornwall is getting quite a hit, no less for my participation. Here is my tuppence-worth (cause that's all I have):

"Okay. I have found the words.

Cornwall Council is spinning this story to make you feel bad for them being short-changed from central Government's deep pockets/long arms ratio, but it is downright insulting of them to suggest that they don't feel the Cornish tax payers should shoulder that  burden, only to then put that burden wholly and directly on the county's poorest people. It is shockingly arrogant beyond belief.

In fact the money they stand to make from this little enterprise actually exceeds that they claim is the shortfall; all at the expense of the poor. I applaud their cheek, if nothing else. 25,000+ more homeless. 

And to all you nay-sayers below; do you really think there are enough jobs to go around to save this situation? Really? What about those of us that are on ESA or DLA? Should we just be thrown in the bin along with the tightly squeezed toothpaste tubes? There's no paste left, and no method to obtain any more.

A number of you here will recognise me from my posts regarding religion. Clearly that is not my only area of activism, and I shall not be taking this lying down. At the following link, you will find a post I have quickly hashed together with why this deal sucks for me personally (it is my blog after all), followed by a checklist of what the other 25,000+ people that will be affected by this recommendation can do to stop it.

I have a readership of some 5,000 a month, over 8,000 social network contacts, am already in contact with The Cornishman, and my local Cornwall and Penzance Town councillor (who has already committed herself to voting against the recommendation - thanks Ruth Lewarne). And I am a long way from over yet; we have a month to mobilise. 

Andrew George MP will be next. Perhaps he would like to join the Facebook or Google+ groups 'Great Cornwall Council Poverty Tax', or start Tweeting with the #BloodFromStone hashtag to highlight the issue. Whatever, I and a great many people like me will be marching on Truro in the run up to the Full Council meeting at 10:30am on January 15th to remind the Cabinet that there is a local election coming up on May 2nd, and that their seats are not granted to them by fiat.

Just so people know where I am coming from, on Monday I shall be standing in front of Penzance Town Council to make my pitch for why I should be considered for the co-option of the vacant councillors position in Penzance's Promenade Ward. I look forward to seeing some support at 7pm on Monday 17 December 2012 in The Guildhall, St John’s Hall.

It is all too easy to bend over and let the Government bite you on the ass, but when we turn around and bear our teeth, democracy assures us there will only ever be one winner."

Other posts on the Great Cornwall Council Poverty Tax:

#Cornwall Council's Cabinet is broken. Not to worry; I've reported it. #BloodFromStone

I love modern technology, especially when it means I can contribute to making my community a better place to live. is just one such enterprise that makes bringing a problem to the attention of your local council so much simpler.

Here in Cornwall, we have a great deal of problems with the council itself, so where better to raise the issue than with a site dedicated to getting them to solve local issues. I decided to do just that.

I wonder how long it will take to fix it, there is only one month left to go before it is too late.

See my earlier blog post to see what the problem is, followed by the next post

Please remember to share and promote this import issue. It could mean the difference between 25,000+ people having a roof over their heads.

Do you get Council Tax Benefit in #Cornwall? Then bloody well read this and do something about it.

In a press release from Cornwall Council today - and despite having just rejected a similar 30% recommendation earlier today - the Council cabinet has announced that it plans to... a recommendation that all working age recipients of council tax benefit [have] to pay an additional 25% contribution towards council tax.
If you are considered one of the poorest working-age people in the county, and you currently receive a full 100% rebate on your council tax,it is  you that will start paying 25% of your total council tax bill. 

Let's put this into perspective, shall we? I'll take my circumstance as an example.

This is my income/expenditure:

Employment Support Allowance: £3,692

These are my basic outgoings:

Gas & Electric: £592
(both increasing by 7.8% in 2013)
Water: £300
Food: £2080
Pet costs (food and insurance): £217
Mobile: £384
Broadband: £204

Total: £3777

So at the end of each year, and before I have to worry about council tax, I have no less than:

- £85 p.a.

Let me stress that amount:
After having paid only those bills that are necessary or I am contracted to pay, I am left with a negative amount of money.
Earlier today, I was forced for the first time in my life to accept the generosity of my community, and take an emergency package from the food bank. It was inundated. I shall be putting my name forward as a volunteer now.

Assuming that regardless of any other discounts I receive, and that the council is telling the truth when they say they 'support the proposal to reduce the maximum entitlement to council tax benefit to 75%', I should expect a bill of no less than £246.90 for my band 'A' property. This leaves me one simple question that anyone who is in a similar position to myself must ask the Cornwall Council cabinet?
Given my circumstances, where do you suggest I find the money to pay a council tax bill?
I don't just mean that metaphorically. Actually ask them!

I suggest you do much the same as I have; take an hour or two out of your day to work out your income expenditure for the year, find out how much Cornwall Council expects you to pay in council tax and follow the instructions below.

So what can I do?

Lots of things
  1. Work out the combined annual income from all sources (after tax) for your household. (benefit rates. Jobcentre Plus can also help you with this; inundate them with requests and jam up the system)
  2. Work out your expenditure for a one year period for your household. You may run a car, or own a TV (I can't afford one) or have other expenditures that I do not have. Try to be as thorough as possible, but don't lie; you won't need to.
  3. Work out how much your full council tax bill here, and deduct 75%. This will leave you with a good approximation of what Cornwall Council expects the county's poorest to stump up.
  4. Find out who your local Cornwall County councillor is here, and email them with your income/expenditure, your estimated council tax bill and ask them (politely) how they are going to vote at the Full Council meeting at 10:30am on 15th January, 2013, reminding them that the local council elections are on the 2nd May, 2013.
  5. Using the same link, write to your Member of Parliament with a similar email/letter,, and that you will not support them if nothing is done.
  6. Most importantly, write to the cabinet of Cornwall Council (Yes, I know there are 10 of them, but the same letter can be repeated) informing them of your plight and that you simply do not have the money with which to pay. 
  7. If you like to write a lot, express your disgust at the situation by writing an article on the ThisIsCornwall site (login required). A mention in the letters column of your local paper is just as good. Do you have a blog? Use it. Telephone any journalists or media types you might know. Phone into Radio Cornwall, Pirate FM or any other local radio station. Anything! Just get your voice heard.
  8. Leave a comment on the ThisIsCornwall news item on the subject.
  9. If you really want to go to town, you can contact all 123 councillors!
  10. Sign the Cornwall Council on-line petition (coming soon), and share the address on your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+)
  11. Speak to your friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues - anyone that will listen - and let them know what they stand to lose.
  12. Join the dedicated social media pages on Facebook, Twitter (Use the #BloodFromStone on your Tweets about the subject) and Google+.
  13. Attend the Full meeting of Cornwall Council at Truro (15/01/2012) where the final decision will be made. I shall try to organise a car pool, march (any other ideas?)
  14. Let everyone know your thoughts in the comments below.
This is just a beginning, people. I am nowhere near done yet.

In order to make sure you keep up to date with events, you can also click on the little red RSS link on the right. I get most of my traffic from Reddit, please share this post by adding it to PenzanceLocalPolitics (coming soon) and any other subreddits you feel would get the most attention.

Finally, thanks for your time. See you Truro on the 15th January.

Latest posts on #BloodFromStone

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Norwich: Godless capital of England and Wales, Census shows

Source: BBC News

Norwich has the highest proportion of the population in England and Wales reporting no religion, at 42.5%, according to the census.
It is not the first time an area in the east of England has taken the title.
In 2009, a survey by think tank Theos suggested it was the most non-religious region of the UK, with almost half of those surveyed saying they believed the theory of evolution made God obsolete, and more than 80% disagreeing with creationism and intelligent design.
Andrew Copson, from the British Humanist Association, which ran a campaign to persuade people to tick the "no religion" box last year, says it's not easy to know exactly why Norwich stands out.
"We know that it tends to be more young people, whites and males that say they are non-religious," he says. "Norfolk also has a lot of free churches, and we know they tend to die out more quickly than other churches - so that might be a factor."
Norwich does have two cathedrals and is said to have more standing medieval churches - 32 - than any city north of the Alps.
Keith Morris, editor of Network Norfolk, which reports on the Norwich and Norfolk Christian community, says his experience contradicts the census findings.
"In the last year we have reported on a number of new church congregations, including those serving mainly Chinese and African residents in Norwich itself, " he says.
Other posts on the UK Census 2011;

Domestic Energy Prices vs Inflation and #fracking in the UK

Source: BBC News

A controversial gas extraction technique known as fracking has been given the go ahead by ministers today, in a bid that the Government hopes will bring energy prices tumbling.
Fracking involves creating little explosions underground, then injecting water and chemicals to release gas trapped in cavities in shale rocks.
In the US, the method has been met with considerable opposition as reports of poor, incomplete or censored research have lead to a number of detrimental environmental issues. These include;

  • Air quality - In some areas, elevated air levels of harmful substances have coincided with elevated reports of health problems among the local populations.
  • Water consumption - An average US well requires 11 to 30 km3 of water, typically within one week. According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, greater volumes of fracturing fluids are required in Europe, where the shale depths average 1.5 times greater than in the U.S.
  • Water quality 1 - The contamination by hydraulic fracturing fluid both as it is injected under high pressure into the ground and as it returns to the surface, is thought to be a further risk to drinking water supplies.
  • Water quality 2 - Groundwater methane contamination is also a concern as it has adverse impact on water quality and in extreme cases may lead to potential explosion. There have been reports of people being able to set light to their domestic water supply.

  • Water quality 3 - Hydraulic fracturing fluid might release heavy metals and radioactive materials from the deposit which may reflow to the surface by the flowback.
  • Seismicity - Hydraulic fracturing causes induced seismicity called microseismic events or microearthquakes. In the UK, the firm, Cuadrilla, was stopped from fracking after two small earthquakes.
  • Health - One fairly extensive American study on the effect of fracking concluded that exposure to gas drilling operations was strongly implicated in serious health effects on humans and animals.
The Government hopes that fracking will lead to price stability and long term consumer cost benefits to the UK energy supply, but the Committee on Climate Change has warned that;
...relying heavily on gas for future electricity supplies would leave households vulnerable to higher bills in the long run as the price of gas on the international market is volatile.
The UK won't benefit from substantially lower prices unless the rest of Europe decides to back shale gas too, as Europe has a gas grid that allows gas to be traded to the highest bidder.
The CCC has examined the potential impact on bills of different energy systems and predicts that subsidies to renewables and nuclear would put about £100 on household bills by 2020, but that by 2050 a gas-based electricity system might cost people as much as £600 extra.

Energy in the UK

Despite a long-term inflation rate that has not altered much over the last decade, energy costs have risen considerably above this underlying rate.

But, according to;

"the real impact on households is seen in the cumulative price increase. The chart below shows domestic energy prices have risen by 75% since 2005 compared to around 20% for the CPI in aggregate.

"Fuel prices have risen much faster than food and transport costs, which have been in the news recently, and the CPI. These rises have tended to overshadow those components of the cost of living that have (supposedly) fallen or increased much more slowly – such as clothing and communication.

"Domestic fuel prices have risen rather more since 2005 than the price of petrol. The greater public outcry about car fuel prices than domestic fuel prices could reflect the relative transparency in pricing – so it is no surprise to see Ofcom and parliament looking at energy companies’ pricing policy and tariffs.

"The prices of all fuel types have risen with liquid fuel the most volatile and at the top of the pile (since 2005), along with gas. The gap between gas and electricity looks set to widen further as Scottish Power announced that gas bills will increase by twice as a much as electricity bills."

Until the UK Government can provide credible research that fracking is both a safe and genuine solution to the deepening energy crisis facing us, then they will continue to draw the ire from an increasingly suspicious electorate.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

My responses to the Pope's first Tweets.

Upon hearing Pope Benedict was to begin Tweeting, I signed up immediately. There is nothing more fun, don't you think, than being able to engage directly with the most powerful religious leader on the planet (*ahem). Here follow my opening salvoes.

Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.
 Looking forward to the debate.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

An invitation to #TeamJesus to define what they mean by 'an atheistic worldview'

For as long as I have been writing/commenting/blogging about atheism, I have been confronted by an utterly bewildering phenomenon, namely the insistence by theists that atheism - despite being the lack of a belief in the existence of a god or gods - forms the basis of (or in its totality) a 'world view'.

I encourage people to forward this to their theistic-leaning friends and family, and share on whatever social networks you are subscribed to (I'll post it to r/atheism, but if you want to post it to another subreddit, I thank you), to try and elucidate just what it is theists think constitutes an 'atheist world view'.

If you would like to leave a comment, please be as specific as you can.

Thank you in advance.

UK Census 2011: 'No religion' rises from 15 to 25% of the population

Despite the controversial wording of the 'religion' question in the UK Census in 2011, the number of people stating that they had 'no religion' rose 10% from 15% to 25% of the population according to figures released today.

Conversely, the Christian population of England and Wales has fallen by four million to 33.2 million in the past decade, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, saying English cathedral congregations have grown in recent years.

U.N. rights body gives posts to "unfree" countries

Reuters reports that Mauritania and Maldives, which both permit citizens who renounce Islam to be sentenced to death, have been elected vice-presidents of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has recently released the Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious, that lists seven countries where should one's religious beliefs be in abeyance with that recognised by the state, the death penalty can be sought.

Under what circumstances is it possible that a human rights organisation like the UNHCR can elect members from a pool of nations that have broken International Law with regard to freedom of religion as set out out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

The Covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.

Article 27 of the ICCPR mandates the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minority to enjoy their own culture, to profess their own religion, and to use their own language.

However, Mauritania (signed 17 Nov 2004) outlaws apostasy, or the renunciation of the official religion for another or for a philosophy that does not recognise the existence of a deity. Anyone found guilty of the offence is given the opportunity to repent within three days, according to the report. If this is not done, the offender is sentenced to death and his property is confiscated by the state. 

The report also recorded two cases in 2010 in which Maldivians (signed 19 Sept 2006) who declared publicly they could not believe in Islam or any other religion were told they would face death if they did not renounce their views. One subsequently declared after special education he accepted Islam and the other committed suicide after writing a note saying he had been foolish to reveal his stance on religion to workmates.

Other than Mauritania and Maldives, the report names Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan as holding policies where the death penalty can be sought for ,amongst other 'crimes', apostasy and atheism.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mapping the atheist blogosphere.

The number of atheist bloggers appears to be on the rise, but there is little in the way of promotion or support; often leaving beginners with a feeling of failure and/or burnout.

Over at Cryptonaut in Exile, CdogZilla has collected the names and locations of a number of atheist bloggers and plotted them on Google Maps.

Blogging can be a lonely, frustrating and daunting task, so any help to support someone's burgeoning blogging experience is something that has my whole-hearted support.

A great many of you will be familiar with The Atheist Blogroll, and it has certainly brought some traffic my way, but I think the visualisation afforded by utilising Google Maps adds a different dimension to blog promotion that cannot be overstated.

Atheism - and more importantly the allied political movement of secularism - is indeed on the rise. We should be mindful to promote good sources of information, opinion and general competence in our positions if we are to be taken seriously, and this map can be a significant aid to rallying local support like no other I have encountered.

Add your atheist blog to the project here.

Can you recommend any other support efforts for the promotion of atheist bloggers? Let me know in the comments below.

I don't quite know why I haven't posted about this before, but better late than never.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mythmaking in the Gospels (Richard Carrier)

Richard Carrier doing what he does best. Perhaps the greatest argument for Gospel mythicism I have heard,

Monday, 3 December 2012

I get mail.

I have to admit, I am somewhat disappointed with the lack of feedback I get here. My traffic appears moderately healthy, but very few people engage. So when I received an email titled 'AN ATHEIST IN THE WOODS', my pique was raised. No less so because it hailed from the email account of my aunt, whom I shall be visiting in France over the holidays.
An atheist was walking through the woods.
'What majestic trees!''What powerful rivers!''What beautiful animals!'He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him.

He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him. 
He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer.

He tripped & fell on the ground.

He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him. 

At that instant moment, the Atheist cried out: 'Oh my God!'
Time stopped.The bear froze.The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky.
'You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident.' 'Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?'
'Am I to count you as a believer?'
The atheist looked directly into the light, and said: 'It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian?'

'Very well', said the voice.
The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:

'Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.'
I am sure my aunt finds this sort of thing harmless, humorous, perhaps even compelling, but my initial reaction was that this is the single most vile and abhorrent communication I have received in any form and at any point in my life. [Edit: A reviewer on Reddit has made me realise that this is - in fact - not the worst communication I have received. There have been a number of highly offensive comments on social networks. But it is still the most offensive email I can recall.]

Why do I feel this way? Put simply, it reflects the abject disregard Christians have for morality, it demonises and condemns those that have the audacity to  rely on a rational and evidential view of reality and it is presented in a condescending and gut-churningly patronising manner.

Let's examine these aspects a little closer.

The Christian and morality

Christians are often wont to suggest that atheists are moral relativists - as if this is something dreadful in and of itself - but the truth is there are a good number of us that would say that morality is objective, just not divinely so. I do not happen to be one of them, but that is not my point here. In reality, it is the theist that is shackled to moral relativism and not the atheist at all. 

Consider the Deuteronomical references to slavery. It is clear that the Christian God has no qualms with the practice, and accordingly issues decrees on how such a trade should be conducted. So why doesn't the Christian also accept slavery? If objective morality comes from an omnipotent and unchanging God, why would the Christian take such a morally relativistic stance on slavery in abeyance with divine command?

An oft-touted retort is that that was the Old Testament and the New Testament of Jesus Christ is the proper account of morality for Christians, but there are now two relativistic problems to deal with. The first being that an objective moral law-giver must necessarily display that morality changes over time; rendering it relativistic. The second being that even in the New Testament there is no objective prohibition on slavery. So how do modern day Christians give an account for their objection to the practice?

Also, by trying to dismiss this moral aberration by insisting it is a cultural rather than theological phenomenon, and that slavery was very much a part of life in Judea, Galilee, and in the rest of the Roman Empire during New Testament times, but it is not now, one has openly adopted a morally subjective position. Which ever way you pick away at theistically motivated moral objectivism, it always turns out to be subjectivism in a cheap objectivist suit.

So what has all this to do with our ursine-threatened hiker? Well, this is the sort of story that is bandied around by Christians as a teaching in morality. In this case, it would appear that the moral of this story is that the Christian is absolved responsibility for killing non-believers for no other reason than their faith and their nature is the sole arbiter of decency. The obvious problem with this is that the Christian's morality simply doesn't exist in this context; they are nothing more than the whim of the Christian

Is this really what Christians want people to make of their perception of morality? That their faith and character is enough for them to kill their brethren with a clean conscience?

I find that vile.

The Christian and criticism

I have noted over the years that those people or organisations that do not take criticism well, or feel they have a right to operate outside of what is generally held to be common decency, tend to have one thing in common; they have a power base to defend at any cost. Churches are certainly no exception to this rule. Indeed, it might be said it was the notion of religion that initially created the concept. As such, churches - and those aligned with them - are very keen to dismiss any form of criticism.

This story tells us in no uncertain terms that the Christian God not only condemns those that criticise, but uses subterfuge to enforce it. The atheist trusts that this new and unexpected experience of God will be a fair and just  - as his Christian friends and family had assured him God would be - but instead of forgiving him his sins (which He could do at any stage) or receiving any form of mercy, God allows the Christian to kill him.

His crime? Using the so-called God-given faculty of reason and observation to conclude that there was no reason to believe in the Christian God's existence. He would have believed at the end, but apparently not even the death-bed conversion is enough to save one from God's wrath.

I would also like to mention the atheist's use of "Oh, my God!". It is clear that the story would have you believe that the atheist in question - by simple virtue of the fact that he made such an utterance - wasn't really an atheist at all, and that this cry out was a genuine call for the God he believed in all along. 

This is bullshit personified. If you are an atheist, you do not believe in the existence of a god or gods. That is it. There is nothing more to it. It can be restructured or reworded, but so long as the description meets the premise that atheists do not believe in the existence of a god or gods, then atheists do not believe in the existence of a god or gods.

Why would he exclaim such a thing? Well, such is the entrenched insidiousness of theistic thought in our society that we use these terms interchangeably with secular terms. I, for one, try very hard to eradicate such terms from my vocabulary, and I encourage others to do the same. Lest theistic types continue to peddle their hackneyed misrepresentations and have them understood only in their demonstrably incorrect terms.

To summarise, I find the sentiment of this story wholly abhorrent, and so should any person that values human life.

The Christian and condescension and patronisation

More than anything about this story, it is its tone that disturbs me the most. Hahaha, the atheist was foolish and got killed because God is like that. When I mentioned 'gut-churningly patronising' earlier, I am not exaggerating. I have - throughout the curation of this post - been sat sneering at the screen in disgust at my even having to wade through the subject at all.

Why does my aunt think I would get anything from this other than a deep sense of resentment on her part, and the idea that she thinks my demise will be a painful and unmerciless one?

I can see it now. "It's only a joke, Tris. Don't take it so seriously." But it isn't a joke, is it? This is - as I have already stated - a story about morality. About a morality that the believer has faith represents - not a joke - but an objective reality that will befall me for their God's inability to present himself.

Well, fuck that, and fuck your God. He's a monster. Just as well He doesn't exist, eh?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

My application for co-option position to Penzance Town Council councillor for Penzance Central ward

I recently saw on Facebook that Penzance Town Council were looking to fill the position of Town Councillor for the Penzance East ward. It being too close to warrant an election, they are looking for suitable people to fill the void until the elections proper in May. Here is my application. Don't laugh.

Dear Simon,

It was nice to meet you in Waves on Tuesday, and after having read all the literature I was handed, I should like to formally put my name forward to be considered for the co-option position of town councillor for Penzance Central.

In support of my application, as was suggested, I offer a brief introduction.

Due to the religious and social mores of the time, I was born in Devon, but came to Cornwall as soon as my grandparents could tolerate my illegitimacy. Despite this early handicap, I consider myself every inch a Cornishman with a history of otherwise unbroken west Cornwall ancestry that stretches back to the 15th century.

My father's work took the family around the UK for the rest of my childhood, affording me the experience of schooling in Scotland and the home counties. I left school with mediocre O'level and CSE results and proceeded to work, ostensibly, in warehousing and distribution until an opportunity to move to Sweden came about that was impossible to turn down.

Whilst in Sweden, my career moved to construction and the installation of marble internal floors and stairs. Towards the end of my 7 year stay I also worked as a project manager for a train manufacturer. During my stay, I was awestruck at the efficiency and apparent ease in which the government and its instruments carried out its work, and upon my return to the UK in 2008 I started to look at how I could contribute to emulating the Scandinavian model here in Cornwall.

This activity initially moved me to blogging and Internet activism - something I still continue to do - but in the light of the current position at Penzance Town Council, I feel now is the time to 'step up to the plate' and get on with the business as it happens on the front-line.

I am presently on ESA for an anxiety issue generally brought about by the very inadequacies I deal with each day in relating to the business of British society as a whole, so I regard this application as a form of therapy and pro-active stance to right the perceived 'wrongs' that the general public appear to hold for reasons to distrust politics. I want to bring the public back into local politics.

Sometimes described as somewhat wordy, I have a tendency to encapsulate complex ideas in concise sentences; something I feel a time-pressed town council should appreciate. My political compass points me towards a liberal/libertarian position that transcends party politicking, preferring to concentrate on resolving problems common to us all rather than creating a wall of partisan bureaucracy  the ends are the means.

I suppose if I were to put forward my primary objective for my application, it would simply be to represent the interests of as many of the ward as is possible, emphasising community, growth and sustainability.

There is only so much I can put here for you to get a thorough understanding of who I am and what it is I want to achieve  so I would very much welcome the opportunity to speak with both yourself and the council and make my case in person. 

I know of no impediment to my application, so I hope that we shall meet again in the very near future to discuss whatever steps are to be taken next.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Mr Tris Stock

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng misrepresented by CNA

An article by the Catholic News Agency on Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng didn't 'scan' very well with me, so I decided to read the GQ article they were referencing to see if their story accurately reflected the sentiment of the original. There were - as is so very often the case with religiously motivated news sites - a couple of worrying journalistic traits that I would like to point out. 

In the opening paragraph, it was pointed out that;
A secular men's magazine has praised Chinese anti-abortion advocate Chen Guangcheng in its December 2012 issue, placing him on the list of “Man of the Year.”
Chen was not listed as "Man of the Year", but was one of many "Men of the Year". Their headline (GQ magazine names pro-life activist 'Rebel of the Year') was a more accurate description of the honour bestowed upon him. Reassuringly, CNA does note further into the article:
Chen is a self-educated human rights attorney who spoke out against China's one-child policy and the coerced abortions and sterilizations that are often used to enforce it.
This 'Rebel' title was awarded not - as CNA would have us believe - for his advocacy of a pro-life or anti-abortion position, but for his stated position of human rights and social justice. Indeed, it is not clear whether or not Chen is pro-life or anti-abortion at all; he states (to the effect) that he was brought up in no particular religion, but cultural references to Buddhism were practical guidelines for his position. All the evidence points to the fact that he is against forced/coerced abortion and sterilization. The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, it may well be the case that Chen is, in fact, pro-life and anti-abortion, but having never personally heard him make such a claim, CNA is at best being disingenuous and at worst lying outright. 

In the penultimate paragraph CNA states;
Chen told GQ that his work opposing China’s one-child policy is not only a fight to protect the “rights of the unborn children” or of women, but of all people.
However, the use of the quoted "rights of the unborn children" is nowhere to be seen in the three-page GQ article, and any allusion to journalistic integrity has been thoroughly shunned. But there is more.

Interestingly, should any of CNA's readership care to read the original article, there is a quote that didn't make it in to their final draft. From GQ;

I had read Daniel C. Chung's article in The New York Times after my arrival in the United States, where he says that I should be careful about letting people exploit me to represent their interests. I appreciate his opinion, but I already have my own thoughts on this. If any person, organization, party—whatever—works to promote human rights and social justice, I will cooperate with them. Don't call that exploitation. Because exploitation would be for individual benefit.
Indeed, the very exploitation Chung had envisaged has begun to take shape in the CNA's article. It is clear to all but the most conservative Catholic that the Church does not have the best record on human rights and social justice, yet they are happy enough to co-opt this brave man to represent their own interests.

If in general you feel like you can't accomplish anything because someone tells you to do something, then what will you ever do?
It doesn't sound to this observer like Chen is the type of person that has much respect for authority, and if he has the cajones to stand up to the Chinese government, it is unlikely he will have much respect for the authority of the Roman Catholic Church's positions on human rights and social justice. But CNA is never one to let misrepresentation cloud the 'truth' of their own agenda.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quote of the day - Christopher Hitchens

I am going to get this printed on a T-shirt.

Rt Rev Justin Welby speaks in defence of 'doing God'

Not even installed as the Archbishop of Canterbury yet, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, spoke out against the idea that religious beliefs should “disqualify” people from giving opinions on politics or other public matters. The Daily Telegraph reports;
He urged Christians not to be afraid to refer to their faith, despite an assumption that they should “excise” their beliefs from their minds when holding public positions. The bishop made the remarks in his first speech since being named as successor to Dr Rowan Williams, who will step down as leader of the Church of England at the end of this year.
It is not so much the assumption that religious thought plays no role in opinion on political matters, but just they should bear in mind that in a modern and dynamic nation as ours is, that the thoughts and feelings of the majority are also considered (this being the nature of representation). To ignore this growing reality is to act irresponsibly with regard to one's public position.
In a wide ranging address, he spoke about his hopes that Christians would not be afraid to ”do God” - a reference to the comment of Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alastair Campbell about discussing religion in public.
Of course people should not be afraid to 'do God', but this is not the issue here. What is at issue is the fact that people's religious convictions are still afforded an unwarranted privilege despite the populace's intentions leaning all the more against it.

He highlighted the appointment of a US Supreme Court justice about whom a senator said Roman Catholic faith “would not be a problem” as long as it did not affect his opinions.
“You might think that that was so improbably absurd as to be howled down with hysterical laughter, but it was not, it was seen as a serious comment.”
Comparing the UK and America with regard to religious conviction in our respective political realms is risible; Welby compares - without the slightest hint of his ignorance - UK legislators with those appointed to carry out different legislation on another continent. One that is considerably deeper mired in the religious right-wing's totalitarian maw than our own.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

'God cannot restore the dream of marriage'

Firstly, I would like to apologise for my absence of late. I could go into details, but let it suffice to say that meeting a lovely young woman recently has been playing on my mind to the detriment of my work.

So this is today's report.

I have been in an extended battle with a regional newspaper here in the south west, called The West Briton. A weekly publication, there appears in my news reader at least one religious screed each week being passed off as news. I have posted on this before, but I refuse to give up, so I am submitting another article for inclusion as a response to this example of religious shit-baggery.

It has been said by David Ward on these pages, that marriage could ' be compared to the Olympic gold medal that we would all love to attain, but the commitment, dedication and singleness of purpose required makes it much easier to sit in the stands and settle for less'. Upon reflection, it is an unrealistic proposition that merely serves to shore up a confused understanding of either the institution of marriage or the process of elite sporting competition.

Whilst it may well be widely accepted that we all wish for a burgeoning relationship to culminate in the committed, dedicated and singular purpose Ward speaks of, the analogy begins to unravel when one considers that the two relationships being compared are not like-for-like. The goal of a successful personal relationship neither implies the failure of other's efforts, nor rewards one relationship over another based on the performance of its participants.

The Olympics also suggests a level playing field; something that some relationships are neither guaranteed, nor so much as recognised. The world's churches consistently oppose certain forms of relationship, and governments are only slowly introducing compromise legislation to afford these a 'foot in the door'. Unless it can be established that  'non-traditional' relationships have less value than 'traditional' ones, then there is no reason a representative government should not afford these equally valid rights in law. The churches are free to discriminate at will, and will no doubt continue to do so.
A touch-paper issue around the world, gay marriage, neither harms 'traditional' marriage, nor does it mean that it is a slippery slope that will lead to the moral decay of society. No one wishes to hinder the rights of heterosexual relationships, and no one is asking to marry their pets. If marriage is such a strong institution, what harm could possibly be cast by more people wishing to have access to it? Unless, of course, those that oppose equal rights for all people, feel that other's rights are not as worthy or 'right'. That is not their call, though. They are called rights for a reason. One does not get to vote on whether one person's love and commitment for another individual has more value or integrity, any more than if we were discussing mixed race or interdenominational marriage.
But what of 'traditional' marriage? Most religious believers (and some non-believers) might say that it is 'between one man and one woman', but this certainly isn't represented in scripture. In fact, marriage remains undefined in either testament. There are  numerous references to man/woman marriages, and homosexuality is largely seen as an 'abomination', but then after these Deuteronomical references we are introduced to Solomon (alleged ancestor of Jesus) who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Is this the tradition theists want to champion?

What is the big deal about tradition anyway? If it were so important, we would be entombed in an unchanging and stagnant society without any hope for our betterment. Wallowing in our self-righteous 'knowledge' that things simply cannot get better than that we have inherited from our ancestors. we don't do that, though. We are a modern and dynamic society that has a bent towards, at least trying, to make the world we live in a better place. Quite how denying homosexuals the same rights as heterosexual couples fits in with that picture, I am sure I do not know.

So what can God do to restore the dream of marriage? Unless he runs for Parliament, not much, it would seem. For although we are the creators of our own destiny, sadly our system still means that we have yet to afford basic human rights without resorting to voting on them. Hardly seems credible, but there you have it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Skeptical graffiti

Subject: Sceptical graffiti.

Example: "Heisenberg might have been here."

Mission: What you got?

Here are a couple more to whet your appetite.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Quick thought. Is God unchanging?

Notwithstanding the fact that I do not believe in the existence of God, the Christian will make many claims about His nature all the same, but even a cursory glance at these claims leads one to the conclusion that these claims are contradictory, rendering the existence of the Christian God utterly redundant.

Apart from the 'omnis' - presence, benevolence and knowing - the claim that He is also unchanging is prevalent within Christian thought. Indeed, what use an omni-God that requires the utility of changing His mind? That would entail that those matters on which His mind has been changed were, in some manner, incorrect or ill-conceived. So it is, then, that such an omni-God must be unchanging.

With this in mind, why would God do any of the following?

Create a new covenant with humanity?.

The New Testament is touted as just such an enterprise, but it suggests that the old covenant with the Jews was not sufficient. If this be the case, why did the old covenant not encompass humanity as a whole? God's chosen people would have no need to have carried out the numerous and heinous genocides that are rampant in the Old Testament, as all of humanity would have been seen as allies - regardless of their sinful nature. Are we all not sinners regardless of whether or not one is a Christian or  Jew?

Change the Ten Commandments?

The Old Testament has no fewer than three different versions of the Ten Commandments. Each of them differ. The ones espoused by modern day Christians reflect the original tablets given to Moses, but in another part of the Bible these commandments are slightly different. More worrying still, after these original commandments had been set in stone and smashed by Moses in a fit of pique regarding the construction of a golden calf, God once again called upon Moses to receive another set.

It is this set of commandments that were placed in the Ark of The Covenant and are the only ones that have the biblical subtitle of 'Ten Commandments' in our oldest manuscripts. However, they are quite distinct from those commandments first given to Moses as can be seen here. If God is unchanging, why would His commandments display so much diversity?

Is slavery still permissible?

Given that if God is genuinely unchangeable, the new covenant is clearly a forgery (or perhaps the work of Satan?), and the old covenant as set forth in the Old Testament is still in force to this day. The Old Testament gives clear instructions on how slaves are to be treated in the 613 Mosaic laws allegedly shared with him at the same time as he received the initial Ten Commandments and that would mean that Christians could conceivably still practice slavery without bruising their morality: God wants us to treat slaves in a certain way.

It could be argued that, just as the Ten Commandments were rewritten, the other Mosaic laws were also rewritten at a latter date. Just that these updated laws were not added to today's scripture. But there still lies the problem that if the Bible be an accurate account of the times of Moses then God would still have to have changed his mind with regard to slavery. This does not instil much confidence in the claim that he is unchanging.