This from The Independent - read it before it disappears behind the pay-per-view wall.
And remember, these evil fuckers are the folks who support Alito the most:
It's called Hell House, which sounds ordinary enough. What makes it peculiar is that it is run by a right-wing evangelical church, and its aim is, quite literally, to scare the bejesus out of impressionable teenagers and shock them into signing up for a life in the service of Christ.
We've already endured scenes of assault, abortion, murder and suicide, complete with ear-piercing gunfire, strobe lights, thumpingly loud music and buckets of theatrical blood. We've seen a teenage girl punished for entertaining a single brief thought about meeting a guy on spring break - a thought that leads directly to her being viciously gang-raped. We've seen how homosexual temptation can lead to lies, betrayal and violent death. We've seen people become evil under the influence of pornography.
And now we are plunged into sudden darkness. Out of no-where, actors in devil costumes grab us by the shoulders and throw us into upright coffins. The doors slam shut and won't open. Someone is cowering next to me in my coffin, but it's too dark to see who it is. The heavy-metal soundtrack is cranked up to maximum volume, the devils start beating the coffins with sticks and laugh manically that we are on the way to eternal damnation.
Some of my fellow Hell Housers lose it completely. "Get me out of here! Get me out of here!" screams a girl a couple of coffins down.
This is evil, nasty sicko-cult brainwashing at its very worst.
Things started getting particularly gruesome, in a Hammer horror sort of way, in the abortion scene, when cold, heartless doctor characters used an outsize pair of tweezers to pull unidentified bloody animal parts out from between a teenage girl's legs. (This trick, incidentally, is straight out of Keenan Roberts' outreach kit.) Having extracted the foetus - "America's version of the Holocaust," the devil narrators tell us - the doctors then manage to let the girl die too, through inattention. They act like it's just another day at the office.
In the show's most overwrought scene, an alcoholic, adulterous, porn-addicted litigation lawyer who has just secured freedom for a known paedophile stabs his wife rather than have her discover he has been molesting their daughter. The daughter then shoots her father, retreats to her room and slits her wrists, spilling fake blood over the floor, next to her bible.
To take 13 and 14 year olds, already awash with hormones, and subject them to the kind of flood of neurochemicals this would induce would produce a tabula rasa - an almost clean slate upon which anything could be written. Its a process well understood by psychologists and unscrupulous cults. Its also almost certainly assault, even if the people went there voluntarily, and it should be something for which a rape charge would be made in court. Does any police department or prosecutor have the guts to shut places like this down?
There - that's a real Hallow'een horror story for you. Blessed be.
In the Guardian newspaper today, Dawkins is particularly clear on the fact that while ID advocates demand flawless evidence from evolutionary theorists and pick every gap in the fossil record as a fundemental flaw that "of course means ID is right", they don't apply scientific rules of evidence rigourously to their own thinking.
The equivalent evidential demand of creationism would be a complete cinematic record of God's behaviour on the day that he went to work on, say, the mammalian ear bones or the bacterial flagellum - the small, hair-like organ that propels mobile bacteria. Not even the most ardent advocate of intelligent design claims that any such divine videotape will ever become available.
Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent "cinematic" sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus. And - far more telling - not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the "wrong" place in the evolutionary sequence. Such an anachronistic fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water.
As the great biologist J B S Haldane growled, when asked what might disprove evolution: "Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian." Evolution, like all good theories, makes itself vulnerable to disproof. Needless to say, it has always come through with flying colours.
Similarly, the claim that something - say the bacterial flagellum - is too complex to have evolved by natural selection is alleged, by a lamentably common but false syllogism, to support the "rival" intelligent design theory by default. This kind of default reasoning leaves completely open the possibility that, if the bacterial flagellum is too complex to have evolved, it might also be too complex to have been created. And indeed, a moment's thought shows that any God capable of creating a bacterial flagellum (to say nothing of a universe) would have to be a far more complex, and therefore statistically improbable, entity than the bacterial flagellum (or universe) itself - even more in need of an explanation than the object he is alleged to have created.
If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.
There's far more, all excellent. Definitely a must-read for anyone seriously debating the topic.
Daniel Dennet, one of the smartest people I ever met ( he ties first place with Richard Dawkins) has an essay entitled “Show Me The Science” in which he sets out the failings of the Intelligent Design lobby in graphic terms. If ID is to be a serious competitor to evolution then it must do what scientific theories do and get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications.
To see this shortcoming in relief, consider an imaginary hypothesis of intelligent design that could explain the emergence of human beings on this planet:
About six million years ago, intelligent genetic engineers from another galaxy visited Earth and decided that it would be a more interesting planet if there was a language-using, religion-forming species on it, so they sequestered some primates and genetically re-engineered them to give them the language instinct, and enlarged frontal lobes for planning and reflection. It worked.
If some version of this hypothesis were true, it could explain how and why human beings differ from their nearest relatives, and it would disconfirm the competing evolutionary hypotheses that are being pursued.
We'd still have the problem of how these intelligent genetic engineers came to exist on their home planet, but we can safely ignore that complication for the time being, since there is not the slightest shred of evidence in favor of this hypothesis.
But here is something the intelligent design community is reluctant to discuss: no other intelligent-design hypothesis has anything more going for it.
Excellent stuff from a master of real thinking.
Via Europhobia (Nosemonkey, you ROCK this week!) comes the news that:
"The Mayor of London has established the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, in association with the British Red Cross, to raise money for the victims and their families. The British Red Cross has already donated £50,000 to the Fund.
The money raised will be held in a Trust and used to assist the victims of the attack, their immediate families and partners in a variety of ways. For example, they may be used to relieve sickness and disability, physical or mental, caused by the attack or to relieve financial needs. The money may also be used to support other appropriate projects that the funds allow.
The funds will be distributed by the Trustees of the London Bombings Relief Trust, who will be appointed by the Greater London Authority."
Spread this one around, folks. Personally, I would love to see this on every blog and website from here to the moon by the end of next week.
As Saint Sir Bob Geldoff (or is that Sir Saint Bob?)would say...
GIVE THEM YOUR FOOKIN' MONEY!
I write for a group blog called the Unpaid Punditry Corps. Every week the UPC issues a challenging question to it's members and others.
This week, the challenge is:
How do you think the founding fathers would decide on the hot button issues of today?
The Grail readers are among the most freethinking people I have ever come across, so I thought I would ask for your help here. I will post my own thoughts later in the week but in the meantime how about giving me some ideas?
This weeks Gravitational Pull-Up from the Unpaid Punditry Corps is:
Is the religion or belief structure that you practice, or try to follow, a matter of personal choice?
Good question. And answering it will give a good background to why I am so worried about developments in American politics that issue from the crusades of the rabid Christian Taliban. Here we go.
I am a Pagan, a member of that diverse set of believers who comprise the 18th largest religion worldwide today. That is, 18th if you only count those who are avowedly part of the resurgence of Western polytheism which began about 50 years ago. If you count other pagan religions like Hinduism (and Hindus mostly proudly accept the label "pagan")then the situation changes quite a lot.
I am not going to describe what a Pagan is. I don't have to describe what a Christian is or a Moslem. If you don't know, follow the link and educate yourself -it's your problem, not mine. For those who are interested in the exact "lineage" of my Paganism (all of whom will be Pagans themselves) - I am a third degree Alexandrian Wiccan with a strong preference for Celtic symbology and Druidic philosophy. I am co-founder of the Red Alder (Fearnan Ruadh) covens in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
And so the answer to the question is obvious. Yes, my religion is a matter of choice. Choice is one of the key definers of what it is to be a Pagan. We are a decentralised bunch, accepting no Popes or organisational leaders. We rely on our immanent relation to divinity to be our guidance and that in turn gives rise to a strong prohibition on imposing our beliefs on others, either as evangelism, as a slate of beliefs that adherents "must" have or as moral "rules" that we demand be enforced by the State. We welcome those of every ethnicity, every sexual orientation, every political point on the compass. As Prudence Jones, one of the founders of the Pagan Federation in the UK, puts it:
“Paganism is pluralistic-we have many ways of worshipping deity. It is the religion of the 21st century. It respects individuality and it respects others. It welcomes diversity and other ideas.”
Which explains my implacable opposition to the Dominionist movement which has recently become such a power bloc inside the Republican Party. They are the exact antithesis of everything Paganism is about, and they glory in it, being self-avowed biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. These activists of the religious right are intent on making of America a Christian Taliban - and a particularly virulent and fascist form of Christianity at that, which will have no room for agnostics, pagans, moslems, believers in "some form of divinity" who don't feel the need to put a dogmatic shape on that belief or even other forms of Christian like my friends Harkonnendog and Shamanic.
As one leading Dominionist, D. James Kennedy who leads the $37 million a year Coral Ridge Ministries, told a meeting of influential conservative Christian powerplayers entitled "Reclaiming America For Christ":
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost,"... "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
During the conference's opening ceremony, the Dominionists recited an oath they dream of hearing in every classroom: "I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe."
So who are these rabid evangelisers who would turn the US into a Christian fundamentalist state? Some of the main leaders of the movement are:
So next time someone asks who the "religious Right" are, you will know who to mention. And you will know why I think they are the most pernicious influence in the US today - because these people would not hesitate to throw me on a fire for my faith. If you aren't a Dominionist yourself then before you defend their stance remember this - they don't want to defend you.
crossposted from Newshog blog
It would appear that major drug companies, the Catholic Church and the City of New York have been complicit in programmes which involved forcing toxic cocktails of experimental AIDS drugs onto children in care - with sometimes lethal results!
The story originally broke way back in March after being researched during the summer of 2003. The original article The House that AIDS Built, by Liam Scheff, already had all the elements of the BBC expose, and named the major drug companies involved such as Smith Glaxo-Kline, Pfizer, Bristol Mayer Squibb, Genentech, Chiron/Biocine and others. It named the Catholic Church's children's home at the centre of the row - Incarnation Children's Centre, it identified the NY City and federal agencies involved: the Administration for Children's Services in New York, the NIAID (National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, a division of the NIH) and the NICHD (the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development).
The only thing that has really changed since 2003 is the extent of the atrocious abuse of children by Mengele-style medical experimentation. The original article and a March 2004 report by Fox News mention only 50 cases originally which was later revised to 100. That is 100 children, some as young as 3 months, and all had either been infected with HIV or born to HIV-positive mothers. Their parents were dead, untraceable or deemed unfit to look after them. This enabled NY City ACS to become their only effective guardians, and removed the obligation to inform or get permission from other parents or guardians for the experiments.
Now, over a year later, the Guardian in the UK reports that:
The city health department has launched an investigation into claims that more than 100 children at Incarnation were used in 36 experiments - at least four co-sponsored by Glaxo. Some of these trials were designed to test the 'toxicity' of Aids medications. One involved giving children as young as four a high-dosage cocktail of seven drugs at one time. Another looked at the reaction in six-month-old babies to a double dose of measles vaccine.
If the children refused to take the drugs, they were force fed. If they still refused, then a tube was inserted surgically into their stomach and the drugs were given to them that way. The surgeries were performed at Columbia University Medical Centre.
Some in the medical establishment have defended the trials, but there is clearly a difference between treatment and experimentation. The Guardian continues:
Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, said the children had been treated like 'laboratory animals'.
'These are some of the most vulnerable individuals in the country and there appears to be a policy of giving drug firms access to them,' she said. 'Throughout the history of medical research we have seen prisoners abused, the mentally ill abused and now poor kids in a care home.'
Sharav has urged the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate and has demanded full disclosure of all adverse effects suffered by the children, including deaths. Brooklyn Democrat councillor Bill de Blasio is also demanding that New York's Administration for Children's Services, which approved the trials, reveal who gave consent and on what grounds.
Because of the many various agencies involved, so far everyone has managed to sidestep culpability by saying it is someone else's responsibility. Glaxo have effectively blamed the US authorities:
"The PACTG (Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group) designs and implements the studies. Companies like GSK will choose to provide medicine, funding, or not participate, based on a review of the trial design -- but ultimate approval, control and execution of the study are the responsibility of the PACTG," the company said in a statement.
"This is appropriate, as long as such trials are conducted under the most stringent standards, and in compliance with the various state and federal laws and regulations regarding legal authority in the case of minors."
It is time to call for a full and public inquiry by the U.S. Senate and the U.K. Government. The public deserve to know (and those kids certainly deserve to know) who knew about or was complicit in this abuse. In New York, the ACS would not have had the powers it did without Mayor Guilliani. The Incarnation Childrens Centre is a Catholic body and as such is answerable to the Diocese of New York. Columbia University also has those it must answer to. The various federal agencies are responsible to the Secretaries of the relevant Departments and ultimately the President. The drug companies are responsible to their shareholders, but also to the governments of the nations in which they operate and are headquartered. The abuse is not confined to children from the Incarnation Centre and tests still continue on New York's children.
There has been much made in the U.S, media about the torture of prisoners. Now, let us make as much or more noise about the torture of innocent children in the "Land of the Free".
I know we try to keep politics out of TDG, but in this case it is simply too important to ignore. Please have a look at these pictures. They are harrowing, they show injured soldiers, injured Iraquis, mutilated children - casualties caused by BOTH sides. I for one will not turn my head away. No matter each of our opinions on why the war began,we owe each and every one of these fellow human beings the honour of not looking away. If it were my brother wounded in uniform, or my child left without a limb after an artillery bombardment....either way, I cannot promise that I would still be unbiased. It is up to those of us who have not yet been through that polarising experience to counsel peace while we still may, before generations of hate rage unstemmed. For the sake of the children. Please.
Regular readers may remember a discussion in these pages about body armor for the troops, or to be precise a lack of it. In odd moments I followed this discussion up with some research. Here is what I found.
In September of 2003, General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, told a House Appropriations subcommittee that he could not "answer for the record why we started this war with protective vests that were in short supply." This skimping led to an Army decision to only give plated vests to dismounted combat troops, a disasterous move which has led to demands for a House hearing. To date official answers are in short supply, even though up to one fourth of all soldier's deaths may be due to a lack of sufficient body armor.
Although some of the delays in getting body armor to the troops seem to rest at the door of Army testers, the most likely explanation remains that the Administration did not plan for extensive ground action after the first phase of the war was declared "Mission Accomplished". If they had, they would have realised that clerks and convoy drivers would become just as much at risk as combat troops, and would surely have discovered that there simply was not enough production capacity to provide enough ceramic inserts for body armor quickly enough to prevent deaths and injuries.
Certainly, Ceradyne Inc. could have told them. One of their directors, Milton Lohr, was Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for Aquisitions in the Bush Snr. administration and had also represented the U.S.' interests at important NATO meetings on shared technology. Their CEO, Joel Moskowitz, is one of the most high profile individuals in this industry sector. Ceradyne have mounted a monumental capatalisation and production effort in the last year, including a $2 million dollar spend on new facillities for ceramic armor insert production. This has paid of for the company, netting them a single contract for $461 million amongst others which bring their total orders to well over half a billion dollars this year. In consequence, their share price is up over 400% in the same period, and profits are up over 350%. After all, it's a sellers market right now, and Ceradyne have won most of their contracts either as the only bidder or as the only bidder who had any chance of delivering the product quickly enough.
Now, as if this debacle which directly cost the lives of Americans is not bad enough, Rumsfield seems not to have learned his lesson and is asking for a supplemental budget to include amounts for new body armor, instead of making it a priority of the main Defence budget. This is either an inability to learn from mistakes or a sneaky move to keep the manufacturers of the big-ticket items "on-side" by making sure their programs are paid for first.
On Friday, workers for a Texas based company surrendered hard drives hosting websites which had become of interest to US Federal Authorities. Simple enough, you may think.
However, the hard drives in question were physically in London, England, not in Texas. The organisation who's websites were seized deny any wrongdoing other than freedom of speech, and only one of the websites in question was for a US branch of the organisation!Indymedia describe themselves as "a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues."
It would appear that being foreign and doing your foreign thing in a foreign country is no longer enough to keep you safe from the long arm of the Praetorian Guards. It is a terrible day for freedom of expression. We all need to be aware of this. Pass it to your online friends.