Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

OK, so have you heard the one about the bloke from Goole who was planning to start his own race war? Probably not, because it’s not been on the news at all. Rather like the BNP guy in Burnley, whose trial was also shrouded in tebbly tebbly concerned silence. Martyn Gilleard, a 31-year old lorry driver, is currently standing trial for making nail bombs, as well as collecting a variety of weapons. The prosecution alleges that he’s a fascist who was planning to use them on his local mosque, and they seem to have a strong case – as well as the bombs, the bullets, and the knives, he collected American white-supremacist propaganda material. The BBC reports; I’m amused by his defence that he “said he had become less racist recently”. Indymedia has more, including photos.

Here’s the head of counter-terrorism in Scotland, making sense:

Fife’s assistant chief constable said the public is at risk because racism is being used to unite people into violent causes. He said this also undermines police work to reassure the Muslim community following the attack on Glasgow Airport last year.

Burnett said: “We’ve had a number of right-wing issues recently [in the UK] that again have raised their head in Scotland. There have been serious cases down south that have been really well dealt with by the police down there, but we shouldn’t be complacent about it. There’s no point promoting positive race relations if, in claiming to be everyone’s co-ordinator of counter terrorism, you take your eye off the right-wing.”

But it’s strange how little media/political attention is paid to the guy with the actual real explosives, compared to, say, the “Lyrical Terrorist”. Perhaps it proves that intellectualism really is valued in Britain, at least by the Security Service – and who is to say they are wrong? After all, it wasn’t the street fighters who put Hitler in power.

This is, however, another shot in the greater intellectual struggle of our times. I mean, of course, the debate between Dsquared, Jamie Kenny and myself about exactly how jihadi radicalisation works. Jamie has in the past argued that there is a sort of climate of nonspecific extremism abroad in our culture, which doesn’t have to fit any particular political world-view, but instead makes its way to earth by any handy conduit. I wasn’t very convinced of this to begin with, but I’m beginning to think there’s something in it.

Evidence: here we have an actual prison-gang jihadi recruiter, who’s being held in seg to stop him propagandising other prisoners. The key facts, however, are that his name is Stephen Jones and he used to be a member of the BNP. Clearly, Jamie’s thesis is valid at least for some people. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones were to become, or have been, a Maoist, a deep-ecologist who thinks getting rid of people in general would be a good thing, a hardcore libertarian nutcase, or just a random thug. 10 years ago, perhaps he might have become a road-protesting raver, given the right drugs and influences. I particularly like the statement from the Prison Officers’ Association rep that the sheer magnitude of the threat is shown because “if someone as right-wing as this can be radicalised, what could happen to the normal prisoners?” On that score, we’d surely want to worry about the screws.

Come to think of it, perhaps this free-floating extremism explains more than just the anglo-jihadis – there are the Decents, for one, and maybe even me. Dsquared has in the past expressed his concern at the speed with which Mohammed Sidique Khan, possibly the most capable person this movement produced, went from something approaching normality to suicide terrorist – come to think of it, it’s a bit like what I think of as the Decent Death Dive. Taken together with this post, perhaps our society is organising itself around a defining tension between free-floating authoritarianism and non-specific extremism?

Last weekend, for the first time in years. A couple of things – first of all, they’re knocking down the first attempts at regeneration now, whilst a lot of the empty sites that used to be mills are still empty. The whole 60s grey tickytacky city centre is gone, leaving half a mile of rubble. Oddly, the remaining Victorian buildings seem to reassert themselves in the power vacuum, the sight lines being recreated onto the Wool Exchange and others. The changes to the street plan also have this effect – Market Street, Priestley’s favourite, is a major road again. (Bet it’s shit on a weekday, though.)

How did I not notice how many weird religious entities there are in town before? Not just the Muslims (although I saw tract-pushers in the city centre, something I don’t remember seeing very often before), but the Scientologists and weirdo yank Christian sects. The Abundant Life people have had their supermarket-size hangar for years, but it’s the first time I saw it as a religious building rather than an unusual B&Q.

What does it mean? Yorkshire has a tradition of sects, and I suppose the lag between Bradford and Leeds in the last twenty years doesn’t help. I can’t help seeing it as worrying, though.

Remember the flight and arrest of Charles “Fiddy Cent Thousand Dead Child Soldiers” Taylor back in March? Sure ya do. You may also recall the bizarre involvement of Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian Protestant evangelist and – to be brutally frank – charlatan with a Boeing 747. Paul, who claimed to be Taylor’s “spiritual adviser”, has made a career of appearing in war zones to offer various tyrants religious counsel and a trip in the jet, the whole thing funded by charitable donations from the faithful but imprudent. Other clients he claimed at the time included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and various Haitian rebels.

Last week, to my considerable amazement, he intervened in the Foley scandal, suddenly turning up to wish himself on dead-man-walking Dennis Hastert. Fascinatingly, when Talkingpointsmemo.com’s reporter Justin Rood caught up with him, he claimed to know Condoleeza Rice, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and sundry other hard-right theocrats. But that isn’t all. The Houston Press has a rather fantastic feature on the guy, detailing a wealth of bizarreries and frauds including a fake leper colony, the abduction of an 11-year old girl from India to the United States and her subsequent abandonment, and a fraud in which he accepted a large sum of money to fly a group of Jews to visit Auschwitz, welshed, and then used the cash to put his jet through a long-overdue C check.

Ah, the jet. It’s a 1982-vintage Boeing 747SP, like a 747 Classic but with reduced capacity to make room for extra long range tanks. He claims it’s the only private 747 except for Air Force 1 (not true – there are a couple belonging to oil sheikhs, and AF1 isn’t a private jet, the clue being in the call sign), and nothing will part him from it. Not the exorbitant cost of maintaining a 24 year old jumbo, nor the giant fuel bill, nor FAA safety regulations. Among other things, he also spent quite some time flying around the world whilst not paying the crew. The C-check that the “Friends of the Israeli Defence Force” unwittingly paid for was carried out in Canada, presumably to evade pursuit.

None of this would be immensely surprising in the airfreight business, which is proverbially beset by shysters. Normally, though, it would go as far as lawsuits in odd places around the world and aggrieved creditors posting to PPRuNe.

But what is especially interesting about this seller of indulgences is that he appears to have decided to be a World Leader, sweeping into zones of international crisis in his long-range jet, dispensing pomposity by the gallon, and being photographed at the shoulder of the great and terrible – and simply gone out there and done it, without the impediments of getting elected or paying any of his own bills. When he called on the president of Ethiopia, he demanded the full honours of protocol, including a red carpet at the foot of the airstair – just in case, a carpet is part of his plane’s equipment. One wonders whether the carpet is included on the MEL, the minimum list of equipment that must be present and functioning before the aircraft can take off.

He is a self-made statesman, or more accurately a one-man state – a true product of our times. More seriously, he is yet another example of the weird lack of quality control the leaders of Teh War on Terror so often display in their personnel judgements. Having wangled an invite to the Southern Baptist convention, where he shocked the assembled bible-wallahs by soliciting donations to his personal funds from the stage, he seems to have glommed directly on to the Republican Party’s religious wing and its weird and sinister fascination for West Africa. Beyond that, he seems to have some features that would clearly endear him to Bush..

“Bluntly put, when Dr. Paul receives an answer he does not like, he seeks out someone who will tell him what he wants to hear. This is not the way to operate an aircraft; this is a very dangerous game to play, especially since Dr. Paul has little aviation experience. I have advised Dr. Paul and GPI in writing before — many lives will be put at risk if someone doesn’t start to understand what it is going to take in terms of time and money to operate this aircraft.”

I can’t help thinking this blog could do with an airborne command post. As part of our Global Struggle against Vapid Egregiosity.

Remember the flight and arrest of Charles “Fiddy Cent Thousand Dead Child Soldiers” Taylor back in March? Sure ya do. You may also recall the bizarre involvement of Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian Protestant evangelist and – to be brutally frank – charlatan with a Boeing 747. Paul, who claimed to be Taylor’s “spiritual adviser”, has made a career of appearing in war zones to offer various tyrants religious counsel and a trip in the jet, the whole thing funded by charitable donations from the faithful but imprudent. Other clients he claimed at the time included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and various Haitian rebels.

Last week, to my considerable amazement, he intervened in the Foley scandal, suddenly turning up to wish himself on dead-man-walking Dennis Hastert. Fascinatingly, when Talkingpointsmemo.com’s reporter Justin Rood caught up with him, he claimed to know Condoleeza Rice, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and sundry other hard-right theocrats. But that isn’t all. The Houston Press has a rather fantastic feature on the guy, detailing a wealth of bizarreries and frauds including a fake leper colony, the abduction of an 11-year old girl from India to the United States and her subsequent abandonment, and a fraud in which he accepted a large sum of money to fly a group of Jews to visit Auschwitz, welshed, and then used the cash to put his jet through a long-overdue C check.

Ah, the jet. It’s a 1982-vintage Boeing 747SP, like a 747 Classic but with reduced capacity to make room for extra long range tanks. He claims it’s the only private 747 except for Air Force 1 (not true – there are a couple belonging to oil sheikhs, and AF1 isn’t a private jet, the clue being in the call sign), and nothing will part him from it. Not the exorbitant cost of maintaining a 24 year old jumbo, nor the giant fuel bill, nor FAA safety regulations. Among other things, he also spent quite some time flying around the world whilst not paying the crew. The C-check that the “Friends of the Israeli Defence Force” unwittingly paid for was carried out in Canada, presumably to evade pursuit.

None of this would be immensely surprising in the airfreight business, which is proverbially beset by shysters. Normally, though, it would go as far as lawsuits in odd places around the world and aggrieved creditors posting to PPRuNe.

But what is especially interesting about this seller of indulgences is that he appears to have decided to be a World Leader, sweeping into zones of international crisis in his long-range jet, dispensing pomposity by the gallon, and being photographed at the shoulder of the great and terrible – and simply gone out there and done it, without the impediments of getting elected or paying any of his own bills. When he called on the president of Ethiopia, he demanded the full honours of protocol, including a red carpet at the foot of the airstair – just in case, a carpet is part of his plane’s equipment. One wonders whether the carpet is included on the MEL, the minimum list of equipment that must be present and functioning before the aircraft can take off.

He is a self-made statesman, or more accurately a one-man state – a true product of our times. More seriously, he is yet another example of the weird lack of quality control the leaders of Teh War on Terror so often display in their personnel judgements. Having wangled an invite to the Southern Baptist convention, where he shocked the assembled bible-wallahs by soliciting donations to his personal funds from the stage, he seems to have glommed directly on to the Republican Party’s religious wing and its weird and sinister fascination for West Africa. Beyond that, he seems to have some features that would clearly endear him to Bush..

“Bluntly put, when Dr. Paul receives an answer he does not like, he seeks out someone who will tell him what he wants to hear. This is not the way to operate an aircraft; this is a very dangerous game to play, especially since Dr. Paul has little aviation experience. I have advised Dr. Paul and GPI in writing before — many lives will be put at risk if someone doesn’t start to understand what it is going to take in terms of time and money to operate this aircraft.”

I can’t help thinking this blog could do with an airborne command post. As part of our Global Struggle against Vapid Egregiosity.

Well, those of you who are taking part in today’s protest against the Serious and Organised Crime & Police Act, aka the Brian Haw Act, may get to meet…me, as I’m quite likely to come over to the camp at Runnymede from the TYR operations centre in fabulous Egham. Beware.

So there’s this mad scientist! who’s designed a machine that subjects people to a really strong magnetic field until they perceive – wow! – the presence of god. No, really. Then they tested it on..wait for it..Richard Dawkins!

Let me guess – it cranked up to a high-pitched chattering whine, sucking in so many prayer-watts that churches browned-out for miles around..and finally exploded in a blinding flash.

Not quite, but close.

Scienceblogs.com has rapidly become one of the best things on the Web, and today I saw this post of Pharyngula’s regarding a crazed god-nut college in the US where you can be disciplined for “making eye babies”, touching a person of the opposite sex (your own is fine, though homosexuality is a big no-no), or not giving an accurate account of your movements off the campus. What you can’t be is qualified to do anything, really, as the place isn’t accredited and hence its degrees are worth slightly less than the paper they are printed on – probably a good thing as the library is censored.

What I thought was especially creepy, though, was that there are students who happily rat on their colleagues:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of course there would be. There always are. A surveillance culture breeds finks like a gold mine (according to Hunter S. Thompson) breeds its own army. From outside, of course, or afterwards, the psychology is incredibly difficult to penetrate; what did that person actually think when they ratted Morris out? That they were doing God’s work? That if they didn’t do it first, someone would do it to them? Or did they just feel warm and fuzzy with contentment at conforming so well?

But they always do it. Which is a long way of getting around to the point that the Tories in the Lords just did, and caved on the ID Cards Bill. That’s going to be a goldmine for the buggers, no? Not only that, but 250 MPs didn’t bother to vote in the Commons. That almost made me feel for Labour MP David Taylor, who voted in both lobbies to show that he really, really didn’t care. He was so keen on floppy indecision, he voted twice in order to cancel himself out!

And I should really mention these three, none of whom could be bothered to show up:Keetch, Paul
Oaten, Mark
Taylor, Matthew

Scienceblogs.com has rapidly become one of the best things on the Web, and today I saw this post of Pharyngula’s regarding a crazed god-nut college in the US where you can be disciplined for “making eye babies”, touching a person of the opposite sex (your own is fine, though homosexuality is a big no-no), or not giving an accurate account of your movements off the campus. What you can’t be is qualified to do anything, really, as the place isn’t accredited and hence its degrees are worth slightly less than the paper they are printed on – probably a good thing as the library is censored.

What I thought was especially creepy, though, was that there are students who happily rat on their colleagues:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of course there would be. There always are. A surveillance culture breeds finks like a gold mine (according to Hunter S. Thompson) breeds its own army. From outside, of course, or afterwards, the psychology is incredibly difficult to penetrate; what did that person actually think when they ratted Morris out? That they were doing God’s work? That if they didn’t do it first, someone would do it to them? Or did they just feel warm and fuzzy with contentment at conforming so well?

But they always do it. Which is a long way of getting around to the point that the Tories in the Lords just did, and caved on the ID Cards Bill. That’s going to be a goldmine for the buggers, no? Not only that, but 250 MPs didn’t bother to vote in the Commons. That almost made me feel for Labour MP David Taylor, who voted in both lobbies to show that he really, really didn’t care. He was so keen on floppy indecision, he voted twice in order to cancel himself out!

And I should really mention these three, none of whom could be bothered to show up:Keetch, Paul
Oaten, Mark
Taylor, Matthew