German church gets it!

Finally! Faint glimmers of brains at work in the Catholic Church:

Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops are requiring that suspected cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or others working for the church be reported to prosecutors.

Of course it’s not the Pope, and it’s only policy within the German archdiocese, but it’s a start. Is it too much to hope that this may signal an eventual shift in policy across the board? Maybe, but it’s certainly iron-clad evidence that German Catholics read my blog.

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Canada Revenue Agency stops beating dead horse

Here’s an interesting legal connundrum:

David Little, who has spent the last few years moving back and forth between P.E.I. and New Brunswick, has refused to file tax returns since 2000 in protest of government-funded abortions. He was due in court in Fredericton this week to face a charge of refusing a court order to file them. Little was found guilty in 2007 on three counts of failing to file, and eventually was sentenced to 66 days in jail for refusing to pay the $3,000 fine. He believes it’s his religious right to refuse to pay taxes because he doesn’t want his money funding abortions.

Oh… wait… did I say “interesting”? I meant “stupid”. There is no such right enshrined in the Canadian Charter allowing you not to pay taxes for things you don’t believe in. Freedom of religion and belief is what is termed a ‘positive right’, meaning that you have the ability to pursue it, and that nobody has the right to bar you from such pursuit. It does not encompass the right to exempt yourself from civic obligations because you don’t like them.

For example, it would be permissible for Mr. Little to post anti-abortion tracts on public notice boards, or picket abortion clinics. He could even start a blog and talk himself to death about how abortion is murder. If Mr. Little were a private medical practitioner, he could refuse to perform abortions (doctors are considered contractors to the state, not employees of the state, and therefore are not required to provide any services they don’t want to). All of the above actions are perfectly legal expressions of Mr. Little’s religious objection to abortion (although the Bible says nothing about abortion, and equating it with murder means that he must also refuse to pay taxes to support the military).

Refusing to pay taxes, however, is neither legal nor smart. However, the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes that pursuing him for the money may be legal, but it has ceased to be smart:

“You can only beat a dead horse so long, and then the whip starts to fray,” [Federal prosecutor Keith] Ward told CBC News Monday. Not only are the taxpayers of Canada insulted once by having to pay all this money to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada on what is a lark of Mr. Little’s, but now they’re going to be faced with it again.”

It also turns out that Mr. Little doesn’t have the money to pay the fine anyway, so the thing is a moot point.

The part of this story that is interesting, however, is the abuse of “freedom of religion” as an excuse for all kinds of things. Many on the right talk about their “freedom of religion” being infringed upon because public schools teach the reality that homosexuality isn’t an abomination; merely a personal trait like hair or eye colour. These same people invoke “freedom of religion” when talking about the rights to gay marriage, sex education, or abortion. Having the freedom to believe in your own religion doesn’t mean you exist in a bubble where no opposing ideas are allowed in, or that you have the right to impose your personal beliefs on anyone besides yourself. It definitely doesn’t mean you have the right to cut your children off from hearing any information you don’t like. What it does mean is that you can express your objection, teach your kids what your beliefs are, and allow them the opportunity to decide for themselves.

Classically Liberal: The intersection between Libertarian and Liberal

I’ve mentioned a couple times before that I regularly read a libertarian blog written by CLS called ‘Classically Liberal’. While I don’t agree with everything CLS says (particularly his views on the role of government and health care), I find his articles useful and insightful.

Today’s post is no exception:

But things have changed. Both the Left and the Right have changed. The Left in most the world no longer has the same slavish dedication to dirigism that they once had. The political Left, to a large degree has shifted politically toward the center. The communist empire that attracted so many of them collapsed and so did the ideological assumptions of many on the Left. You now have former socialists like New Zealand’s Michael Moore, the former prime minister, writing in defense of globalization and free trade. This isn’t the Left of fifty years ago anymore. It isn’t even the “New Left” of the 1960s, which was just a more obnoxious version of the old Left.

I find myself struggling to see where I fit with the libertarian moniker. There is a great deal about the philosophy that appeals to me – maximum liberty for all people, the power of free market capitalism, the possibility of multiple viewpoints and approaches where the best one comes through. At the same time, I recognize that regulation and taxation exist for a reason – to compel us to do things that are in our best interest that we might not otherwise do. PZ Myers is notoriously dismissive of libertarians, a fact that is much to my chagrin as I agree with him on most other things. A friend and commenter on the site is much more libertarian-leaning than I am, and I’m not sure that I agree with his stance either.

Wherever I may find myself on the libertarian/authoritarian scale, it will never be in the morass of conservatism that is destroying the word ‘libertarian’ in the United States. I shudder when I see our neighbours to the immediate south dress up bigotry and xenophobia in the costume of Libertarianism (note the capital L), whilst simultaneously eschewing its core principles of equal rights and maximum liberty. CLS’ article draws a sharp line to show why being in bed with conservatives is indeed sharing that bed with the devil.

The Right of the 1980s was not obsessed with bigotry. What did happen, however, is that the Christian fundamentalists abandoned the Democratic Party. Until the 80s the fundamentalists were Democrats, since Southern Democrats were the most consistently hatefully, bigoted politicians around. But when the national Democratic Party adopted the civil rights movement white fundamentalists abandoned their natural home for the GOP. Unfortunately they brought with them the stilted, bigoted views that they always held. They eventually, for the most part, came to accept black people as their legal equals but they still harbor a natural tendency to find scapegoats to hate. At the moment their favorite targets are gay people and immigrants.

Read the article. It’s not good; it’s great. Plus, I learned a new word: dirigisme

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Why do I want to take religion away?

People who argue against the influence of religion, and argue for its separation from public life (which Jesus also did, by the way, for those of you who actually bothered to read scripture), are commonly asked the same question: why do you want to get rid of religion? Atrocities have occurred throughout history committed by people who tried to outlaw religion (Pol Pott, Stalin, Mao) – why would you want to go down that path? Surely outlawing religious practice would lead directly to the same atrocities!

Unlike other arguments that I present and then ridicule, this argument actually has some merit. History has indeed shown us what happens when you try to force a belief system upon a group of people, whether it be state-sponsored atheism or state-sponsored religion. Horrific deeds are the result when you try to control someone’s mind. The problem with the argument is that it makes an erroneous assumption: that I (or those with similar viewpoints) want to get rid of religion.

I will state here unequivocally that I have no interest in taking religion away from people, even if such a thing were possible. Religion, like racism (and herpes) will be around in some form or another regardless of legislation or acts of physical force, and will just keep cropping up here and there. However, even if I could somehow mandate the removal of religion, I would not. I have no right to make decisions on someone else’s behalf – respect for individual autonomy is a fundamental tenet of ethics.

So why write all of this stuff then?

There is a common misconception that people who argue against the influence that religion has in public life are somehow trying to take away their ability to believe what they want. This is the same line of reasoning used by people who accuse affirmative action advocates of taking away jobs from white people. It comes from a mindset (which I’m sorry to say  seems to be held pretty much exclusively by conservatives) that the way the world is now is the way it is supposed to be. White people are at the top of the heap worldwide? Ah, well that must be their manifest destiny! Christians dominate the political spectrum? It must be God’s will.

This is inherently built in to the concept of ‘conservatism’ as opposed to ‘progressivism’. Conservatism, by definition, is about holding on to and maintaining traditional structures and events. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing. Some traditions are important to maintain, in order to understand where we came from – go to a military parade exercise and look at the seemingly-archaic procedures of marching and saluting. However, when we take a nuanced view of traditions, we understand that some of them need to be updated to reflect present-day reality. Conservatives deny this, instead fighting to maintain the status quo.

Some people who identify themselves as ‘conservative’ will say that the conservative movement is about maintaining individual autonomy, and refusing to capitulate to societal pressure or government shows of force. This philosophy is correctly called Libertarianism, and for reasons that I can’t quite fathom it has been rolled up in the conservative platform. Libertarianism stands opposed to collectivism (or authoritarianism – a rose by any other name…), and should not be confused with conservatism. In the same way, many people who identify themselves as ‘liberal’ (myself included) do not see themselves or their values reflected in the communal-authoritarian or arch-relativistic philosophy of progressivism. While their/our beliefs may often overlap with those in the liberal movement (gay rights, public education, health care), there are things to which they/we voice strong objection (health “freedom” woo, the role of business, religious “tolerance”).

What does this have to do with anything?

Humankind, like anything else, must constantly adapt to reality as things change. This philosophy is perhaps best encapsulated in the Taoist tradition, in which one is exhorted to be mindful of the flow of the universe (the Tao), and instead of resisting its direction, to allow one’s self to move in harmony with it. This adaptation and change is necessary for survival – as we know from evolutionary biology, those species that cannot adapt, die. If we want to survive as a species, or as a society, or as individuals, we must learn to respond to environmental/social/political challenges and find a way to live with them.

This need for change stands diametrically opposed to the religious/conservative philosophy (small wonder that those who oppose the teaching of evolution are almost exclusively conservative religious people), in which the status quo must be preserved. If the world works this way for a reason, then any attempt to adapt the way we do things is a betrayal of the order of the universe. Change is bad, and so are those who advocate it.

Religion is an impediment to human progress. It is the yoke around our necks that slows us and prevents us from being able to adapt and explore and challenge new frontiers. While sometimes progress needs to be examined closely through the eyes of caution (life-extending technology is perhaps one example), that is not the same as standing as a roadblock to progress at every opportunity. Sometimes (in fact, often), rapid response is needed to relieve or prevent human suffering, and when we have to wrangle at every step with those who refuse to accept rationality or observed reality as truth, suffering is prolonged. The problem with simply throwing up our hands and agreeing to disagree, is that one of these philosophies is trying to kill us.

So should we abolish religion?

I don’t think it is generally advisable to abolish religion. It’s definitely not a good idea to outlaw certain types of belief. That is merely substituting one form of tyranny for another. This seems to be the fear of religious people in the face of secularism – that somehow they will be persecuted and forced to recant, or prevented from practicing their beliefs.

Nobody is advocating this position – not seriously, anyway.

But there needs to be an admission on behalf of the religious community that curtailing the outrageous level of privilege that religious belief has enjoyed over the past few thousand years is not the same as oppressing religious people. Currently, being a “person of faith” is somehow seen as a virtue, and piety is confused for righteousness. Religion has become a qualification for public office (thankfully not so much here in Canada, but that may be changing), and school boards everywhere are becoming entrenched in fights that are ideological, rather than fact-based.

When we no longer accept religious beliefs as valid arguments, and instead rely on evidence and logic, we are better-suited to adapting to changing reality. The founding fathers of the United States understood this, which is why they expressly forbade religious involvement in legal and political matters. Sadly, this has been slowly and steadily eroded to give us a system wherein Sarah Palin is taken seriously when she says we have a Judeo-Christian heritage in this society. However, the principle still stands. If we are able to move back toward such principles, in which superstition is not granted equal time to fact, we will be in a much better position to address the challenges that we face today as a species, and the ones we will undoubtedly face anew tomorrow.

TL/DR: While I do not think it is a good idea to outlaw religion, I would like to see us move toward a system that does not grant it the special privileges it currently enjoys. Also, a bunch of stuff about how conservatives are trying to kill us.

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CFI Vancouver stands in solidarity with Sakineh Ashtiani

On Saturday, August 28th skeptics from Centre for Inquiry Vancouver attended a rally on the south steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The rally was in support of Sakineh Ashtiani Mohammadi, the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning, for the alleged crime of adultery. I say ‘alleged’ not simply because I don’t see adultery as being a crime worth punishing, but also because Ms. Ashtiani has denied the charge several times. The Iranian government, refusing to bother with little things like truth or integrity, staged a bogus confession on live TV. This rally was one of 100 held in cities all over the world, and was a follow-up to a rally I attended on July 24th.

A handful of members of CFI Vancouver were present to show our support for both Ms. Ashtiani and for the international movement opposing stoning. We arrived, spoke with the organizers, and participated in the event. There was a series of speeches, a large petition poster (which we all signed) and a (somewhat disturbing) simulation of a stoning victim. Organizers also handed out postcards destined for the United Nations assembly, demanding that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be barred from speaking there in September.

We were asked to say a few words on behalf of CFI, and since I had spoken at the last rally, I volunteered to speak for the organization:

“My name is [Crommunist]. I’m a volunteer with Centre for Inquiry in Vancouver and I’m very happy to represent the Centre for Inquiry at today’s important event to save the life of Sakineh, and to bring awareness of the unconscionable human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“We’ve heard other speakers detail the specifics of this horrible story. What I’d like to do briefly is remind the world that this is not an isolated case of abuse. Iran has been accused of violating multiple international agreements, the most egregious being the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in its execution of minors. Iran is one of the last countries to engage in the execution of children, accounting for two-thirds of the global total of such executions, and currently Iran has roughly 120 people on death row for crimes committed as juveniles. In one of the most well known cases in 2005, Human Rights Watch brought to light the case of two young boys – 16 year old Moahmoud Asgari and 18 year old Ayaz Marhoni, who were whipped and then hanged supposedly for unidentified sexual offenses, but in reality likely simply for being gay. It’s rather amazing how Iran can violate multiple human rights at once, in this case those of children and gays.

“In 2004 a UN resolution condemned Iran for human rights violations including the execution of children and gays, torture, the persecution of political opponents, discrimination against minorities, and violations of freedom of speech and expression.

“The Centre for Inquiry is deeply concerned about human rights abuses around the world, and we fight for the advent of rational, critical and scientific thinking, coupled with secular humanist ethics of compassion and tolerance and secularism itself, which means church-state separation. Iran is an example of what can go so terribly wrong when the principles and values that we stand for are trampled on in almost every possible way.

“Iran may be among the world’s most extreme examples of how bad a government and society can become when it’s run by a theocracy that has no conception for church-state separation, but it does remind us of why we must fight around the world and right here at home for the continued prioritization of the values of the enlightenment. Those values are rationalism, accountability, freedom of expression, secularism, human rights, an openness to new ideas and a spirit of respect and compassion. These may be abstract and lofty philosophical ideals, but they are given a very human face today by the plight of these victims of stoning.

“The CFI is proud to stand with Iran Solidarity, we are proud to stand against the horrific act of stoning, we are proud to stand with over 100 cities around the world to say with a loud voice ‘we will not tolerate this any more‘.”

This issue is precisely what CFI should be standing up for. Such atrocities can only happen in places where the religious establishment wields control over the secular authority. While I’m not ready to strap on a rifle and charge into Iran to fight the regime, I am happy that I was able to take part in this event, and join people all over the world in showing our opposition to the practice of stoning.

Special thanks go to Justin Trottier of CFI Canada and Jamie Williams of CFI Vancouver for preparing the speech, and to Fred Bremmer for taking the photos.

Movie Friday: President Bartlet gets Biblical on her ass

Have I said that I’m a big fan of The West Wing? Yes, yes I have, but I’ll say it again.

I love The West Wing

Using the Bible to justify anything is the beginning of the end for your argument. There’s so much evil shit in that book it chills the blood. It was written at a time when science didn’t really exist, when free inquiry was treason, and where superstition reigned. In the above clip, President Bartlet (played masterfully by Martin Sheen) decides to call out a bigoted radio show host by showing her the inconsistencies in her own argument – if you’re going to use the Bible to justify your hatred of homosexuals, you have to follow it all the way.

This is my challenge to any religious person who considers themselves a follower of the Bible – if there is a single Biblical law or prescription (even the ones that contradict the other ones) that you don’t follow (wearing cotton blended clothes, touching a pig skin, eating shellfish, sitting on the same couch as someone who’s on her period… just to name a few), please tell me how you decide which ones are worth following and which aren’t? By the way, I will not be swayed by the argument that the New Testament makes the Old Testament obsolescent – not only is that not Biblically-based, it is inconsistently applied (anyone who has ever invoked the Ten Commandments or Leviticus is apparently guilty of violating their own religious beliefs). If you apply some external standard of right and wrong to the Bible, you recognize that you are a better judge of right and wrong than the authors of the Bible, and that some of what they say can be ignored. If some, why not all of it? Where exactly is the line?

Wait a minute… bigoted radio show host? Gosh, where have we seen that before?

Yep, the character Jenna Jacobs is based on the real-life fraud (and racist harpy bitch) Laura Schlessinger. I thought that since we ran into her yesterday, it was a good time to show this most excellent clip.

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“Doctor Laura” at the Michael Richards/Mel Gibson school of etiquette

The really frustrating thing about blogging is that sometimes a week will go by where a million bloggable things happen, and I’m left with the choice of either commenting on them 2 weeks late, or flooding you with Facebook/Twitter updates every 5 minutes. As a result, I am writing about this story right after it happens, but you’re not going to read this until today:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the talk show host who recently apologized for saying the N-word 11 times to a caller on the air, said Tuesday she plans to give up her radio show when her contract is up the end of this year.

For those of you who don’t follow talk radio (and Science bless you for that), Laura Schlessinger is a PhD in physiology who hosts a radio show in which she verbally abuses people who call in for help. Why anyone would care what a physiologist has to say about religion (she is, big surprise, a fundamentalist Christian) or relationships, or anything besides physiology, is beyond my understanding. But they do, for whatever reason, and she hands out bad advice.

On the show in question, a woman called in to ask Dr. Laura what she should do about her husband’s friends. It seems that the husband and his friends think that they have license, by virtue of the woman’s race, to make racist comments. It’s the whole “I married a black woman, and therefore I am not racist, and therefore I can say racist things and you’re not allowed to be offended” argument. The caller was looking for the proper way to broach the subject with her spouse.

In a fit of… I really don’t know what, Dr. Laura decided instead to accuse the woman of being “too sensitive”.

“Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”

I’d laugh, but I’ve heard this same stupid argument from my own friends. It’s either that, or saying that it’s okay to say it because it’s in a song lyric, or that somehow “nigg-a” is different from “nigg-er“. These are all profoundly stupid arguments, and all I hear when someone says them is “I want the license to say things that I know to be racist and hurtful, and it’s your fault if you’re offended.” Congratulations, you are making the same argument as those brave freedom-fighters from Courtenay, and also rapists.

I’ve talked about the meaning and history of this word before. In essence, the word has no proper context that makes it not unbelievably offensive. It is rooted in the idea that Africans are not human, and that the sub-human treatment they received at the hands of their slave owners was justifiable. In my opinion, nobody should get to say it outside a discussion of its historical and/or sociological significance. Dr. Laura pretends as though there’s never been a good reason offered for why it’s ‘okay’ for black people to use the word, and that it’s a mystery why white people (and especially white people) aren’t allowed to say it.

I read a bunch of coverage about this issue, which I’m not going to link to because they mostly said the same thing. There was one commentary that I thought was interesting and worth sharing. A blogger mentioned the similarity between black people and the dynamic of a family. I have issues with my family, as we all do, particularly with my father. Because I was raised in a single-parent household, my dad and I frequently quarreled over pretty much everything. This, I gather, is normal parent/child stuff (incidentally, for those curious, things between my father and I are now better than they’ve been since I was a small child – growing up will do that). I used to fantasize about telling him off in front of a large crowd of his friends, perhaps at his funeral. Let’s stop this here, and simply conclude that I am not a daddy’s boy. That being said, I will not tolerate anyone speaking ill of him, even my other family members.

There are things we can say to and about our family members that sound (and may be) incredibly hurtful. But let someone from outside the family come in and try saying the same things, and sparks fly. Someone who is not in full possession of all of the facts, and who is not part of the dynamic, has no license to say things they may have heard just because someone else says them. In the same way, it’s highly inappropriate for any non-black person to use the word nigger, even if many black people think it’s appropriate to use with each other. Those who pretend that they don’t understand why this is so, and belligerently go out of their way to say it anyway, have suspect motives for doing so.

So am I saying Dr. Laura is racist? Let me answer that in this way…


I hope that clears up any ambiguity you may have at what I think of Dr. Laura.

Interestingly, she stumbled into another wheelhouse of mine when she said that she was quitting to restore her First Amendment rights:

“I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry — some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and sponsors,” she said.

Here’s the text of the First Amendent:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Also, you can spread racist speech, and private citizens are not allowed to be upset, or protest against your stupidity in legal ways.”

Can you figure out what part I added?

Is there a worse name than ‘honour killings’?

When you think of the word ‘honour’, it conjures an image of someone who is honest, plain-dealing, and trustworthy. What it doesn’t invoke is the image of a man who murders his children for wearing revealing clothing or dating outside his/her nationality, or for refusing an arranged marriage.

There’s no honour in murder. It is the weak-willed act of a coward who lacks any human decency. One might be able to persuade me that there is honour in the suicide tradition of Bushido, in which failure to act honourably moves the samurai to take his/her own life. I’m generally against the idea of suicide, but a person’s life is their own to do with what they want. What he is not entitled to do, however, is murder someone else to restore his own sense of ‘honour’. Any society in which one person’s mental state or social status trumps another’s right to the security of their person cannot stand.

India seems to be realizing this:

India’s home minister proposed Thursday a bill to provide specific, severe penalties to curb honour killings, saying they brought “dishonour” to India as a secular, modern democracy. “We are living in the 21st century and there is a need to amend the current law and the law must reflect what the 21st century requires,” he said. “We have to look ahead and build a society that is based on secular values and enlightened views.”

I’ve talked previously about the social climate changing for women in India. The linked article mentions that there has been an upswing of violence against women in India, and that it is necessary to make changes in the status quo if India wishes to achieve its goal of being seen as a major world power. Let it never be said that international peer pressure and secularism can’t make the world a better place to live. There are around 500 million women in India who would likely agree.

The problem with passing these kinds of laws, however, is that murder is a crime. I am still uneasy about punishing people extra for the reasons behind why they commit crimes. Punishing specific groups of people for committing certain types of crimes against other specific groups is ethically dicey ground. Is it still an ‘honour killing’ if a non-religious man kills his son for being gay, or his daughter for dating a black man? Maybe it is, and if there’s a way to state that unambiguously, I’ll be interested to hear it.

Canada seems to be realizing this:

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says prosecuting honour crimes is a priority for the government but that there isn’t any real need to change the Criminal Code.

Murder is wrong, and that must always be the focus. If passing specific statutes against honour killing will make it happen less, then that’s a discussion we can have. I doubt very much, however, that adding on a few extra years to a life sentence is going to meaningfully demotivate a person who is willing to murder his/her children from committing the act. The way to approach these things is that we have to model and encourage secular values of respect for the integrity of a human’s autonomy and security of person, and discourage the equation of “faithfulness” with righteousness.

Every time I hear of an honour killing, there is an almost-overwhelming temptation to immediately blame religion. The stories that get the most press are those in which the murderers are Muslim or immigrants from Muslim countries. I’m skeptical of this explanation for being overly simplistic, not to mention the fact that this type of killing is not founded in Qu’ranic verse. It’s sort of like when an abortion doctor is murdered by a Christian fundamentalist – it’s a flawed interpretation of scripture (which is, in itself, flawed, but we won’t go into that here) and isn’t an accurate reflection of doctrine. The problem is the belief that underlies both Christianity and Islam (and all religions) – that there exists an unobservable external standard which is accountable only to itself, but to which all of humanity is subject; and further, that this standard is not based on something reasonable like observable consequences to humankind, but based only on how fervently you believe in it. Sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and the like existed in the societies that spawned these religions, and they persist today. Blaming a book for a human failing neglects the larger and more accurate story that’s going on.

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Sakinah confesses! I guess I was wrong…

You’ll remember the news about Sakineh Ashtiani, the Iranian woman accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. You may also remember that after a world-wide rally was held on her behalf, her lawyer disappeared, and subsequently resurfaced in Turkey. Around that same time, new allegations surfaced that Ms. Ashtiani has conspired to murder her husband, which was the real reason she was being sentenced. Of course those charges were never proven, and she denied them repeatedly.

Looks like we were all hoodwinked!

Iranian state TV has aired what it says is a confession by a woman under threat of being stoned to death for adultery. In the interview shown on Wednesday, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani purportedly admits conspiring to murder her husband in 2005 and denounces her lawyer.

Of course… her face was blurred out, and her voice was dubbed over, and she was wearing a black niqab so it was impossible to identify her… but she said it was her. And so what if she all of a sudden is completely retracting her position for the past 5 years… she said it was her!

The airing of the TV confession is a sign that she could soon be executed, probably by hanging, our correspondent says. It seems the Iranian officials are sending a tough message to Western media and human rights groups that if they interfere in Iranian affairs and cause embarrassment, it will be counter-productive, he adds.

I don’t know if I can believe that second part. I’ll certainly buy that the government seems hell-bent on murdering this woman, regardless of either legality or reality or the outcry from the rest of the world. If the Iranian government thinks that anyone will be swayed by such a flimsy and obviously-fabricated ‘confession’, they’re severely overestimating the level of trust that the rest of the world has in the state of Iran. I’d be unlikely to believe this from my own government, let alone that of an evidently psychotic theocratic bully state with a history of fraud and intimidation.

The scarier prospect is that they know their video is crap, but that they don’t care enough to make it believable – that it’s just a big ‘fuck you’ to the rest of the world. From what I’ve seen of the Iranian regime, that’s quite likely to be the case.

Because we all need a good laugh from time to time

A buddy referred me to this website:

From: David Thorne
Wednesday 10 March 2010 7.12pm
Darryl Robinson
Permission Slip

Dear Darryl, I have received your permission slip featuring what I can only assume is a levitating rabbit about to drop an egg on Jesus.Thank you for pre-ticking the permission box as this has saved me not only from having to make a choice, but also from having to make my own forty five degree downward stroke followed by a twenty percent longer forty five degree upward stroke. Without your guidance, I may have drawn a picture of a cactus wearing a hat by mistake.As I trust my offspring’s ability to separate fact from fantasy, I am happy for him to participate in your indoctrination process on the proviso that all references to ‘Jesus’ are replaced with the term ‘Purportedly Magic Jew.’
Regards, David.

From: Darryl Robinson
Date: Thursday 11 March 2010 9.18am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Permission Slip

Hello David The tick in the box already was a mistake I noticed after printing them all. I’ve seen the play and it’s not indoctrinating anyone. It’s a fun play performed by a great bunch of kids. You do not have to be religious to enjoy it. You are welcome to attend if you have any concerns. Darryl Robinson, School Chaplain

From: David Thorne
Thursday 11 March 2010 11.02am
Darryl Robinson
Re: Re: Permission Slip

Dear Darryl, Thank you for the kind offer, being unable to think of anything more exciting than attending your entertaining and fun filled afternoon, I tried harder and thought of about four hundred things. I was actually in a Bible based play once and played the role of ‘Annoyed about having to do this.’ My scene involved offering a potplant, as nobody knew what Myrrh was, to a plastic baby Jesus then standing between ‘I forgot my costume so am wearing the teachers poncho’ and ‘I don’t feel very well’. Highlights of the play included a nervous donkey with diarrhoea causing ‘I don’t feel very well’ to vomit onto the back of Mary’s head, and the lighting system, designed to provide a halo effect around the manger, overheating and setting it alight. The teacher, later criticised for dousing an electrical fire with a bucket of water and endangering the lives of children, left the building in tears and the audience in silence. We only saw her again briefly when she came to the school to collect her poncho.Also, your inference that I am without religion is incorrect and I am actually torn between two faiths; while your god’s promise of eternal life is very persuasive, the Papua New Guinean mud god, Pikkiwoki, is promising a pig and as many coconuts as you can carry. Regards, David.

It goes on… absolutely hysterical.