Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Guant Watch.

Here is some more from Jon Gaunt, Columnist at the Sun Newspaper who has a spot on Talksport radio.

Its not even arguments or even a reasoned opinion its just one big pile of garbage that is written in such a way as to appeal to ones lowest dominators, Fear, outrage, disgust, racism etc.

Well anyway.

Radio GAGA

Guant has another umpteenth go at the BBC, one perhaps thinks that the Sun has a kind of numbers policy with the BBC. Ie slip in a certain number of anti -BBC bias a week. Guant picks the easy target of Chris Moyles about how much he gets paid and what he is doing in LA. Rather than pointing out the actual value of the BBC ill simply point out 1. The Sun is owed by Newscorp a multi national news and entertainment conglomerate. Headed up by Rupert Murdoch a right wing Australian now a US Citizen. One wonders really the Britishness of Britain’s most “loved” paper being owed by a yankee. 2 One wonders if a little professional envy is going on as well as Guant’s more successful radio DJ

Sex Ed at Six is Sordid,

Guant makes a lot of heavy weather on this one. The title of the piece (the above) is of course emotionally charged and very misleading to the point of lies. It concerns a FPA (family planning association) leaflet aimed at six years olds which names all the different body parts and covers topics such as love and partnership. It is not an explicit sexual how to guide for six year olds on the pleasures of fellatio and cunnilingus. But Guant says “the sexual and social engineers reckon it’s a good idea for kids as young as this to see illustrations of naked girls and boys and then for them to be taught the real and explicit names for their genitals”

Gosh, Golly and Gee mom, well that’s going to turn them all out to be queers and prostitutes. If anything good, honest and rational sex education is a must for a civil society. Britain has a well noted abysmal rate of teen pregnancy, STD and underage sex in the developed world a marked contrast to Europe which is more open with its sex education.

Guant offers up little else except “banging on” about how much of our tax goes to the FPA. You needed wonder saying that it performs a public service or a necessary social role. He believes that its Parents that should teach their children period. Well yes if the parent is able to provide all the information that enables to the child/adolescent to cope with and respond to the jungle that is modern life. Unfortunately most parents are not up to the task in the same way they are not up to the task of teaching English or French or Mathematics. The other week Gaunt give a ringing endorsement for Sarah Palin, her bizarre Christian ethics did little good with her children her daughter is now a unmarried pregnant teen. Least this be a soft target, Alaska has one of the worst STD and teen pregnancy rates in the USA. I’m sure this would give Guant a cheer.

Guant finishes with a cute story about how one of his children asked him “what does gay mean” Guant charmingly replies that it is to love another man. Fair enough but one wonders what would his reaction be if one of his own kids said they were gay?


Michael Faulkner.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Why Politics "sucks" in 2008.

Politics sucks in 2008. Its seemingly irrelevant, obscure, ridiculous, boring and cynical. Has it ever been any different? Maybe but that’s not the point the point is what’s going on in the here and now. I’m used to hearing that before Thatcher when you looked at Labour or the Conservatives you knew what you were getting. That’s barely discernable now. The squeaky Liberal Democrats as perhaps the only true party of opposition in Britain. But who the hell’s their leader? Is it still Ming Campbell? Honestly? In America if I vote Republican at least I know what I am getting, guns, Jesus and babies. As for the democrats what do they stand for? What does Obama mean when he goes on about hope?

How relevant are politicians? Its an empirical question. How many laws do they pass. How powerful are they as opposed to Big business, the media and Religion? Who runs Britain is it the CBI as Monbiot thinks? Is it the Murdoch press? What has Gordon Brown really done? How important are Quangos and advisors and civil servants?

Is there such a thing now as rational political discourse? Or is it all mood music, shallow trite speeches and saccharine smile photo-ops and empty gone the next day headline grabbing sound bites? It really needs to be said that politics, British Politics anyway is boring. If your not actually involved in it ie an MP, civil servant, journalist I cannot see how you could sit through a hour of the house of Parliament without snorting speed. Take Gordon Brown a clever fellow no doubt and who can surely hold his own in a argument but when he appears on TV its “Bla Bla Bla” He is liable to induce narcolepsy in a child with ADHD. If Brown gets kicked out which seems likely he could always get a job selling sleeping pills on late Saturday night TV for people on a ecstasy comedown (perhaps it would not be sound marketing as he is already a sleeping pill) I’ve got it!-- simply put a speech of him on a loop on some backwater TV Station where Insomniacs can tune in and quickly doze off out only to wake up the next day on the floor with the TV still on.

Silliness aside as well as questions as to what he has actually done. He is an unelected Prime Minster. He has governed for well over a year now and the British Public have not been given a chance to decide whether they want him or not. I should also add that when they have been allowed to vote, Labour has done disastrously.

In America the situation is different as with everything its that much bigger, glitzier and gaudier. It needs to be said John McCain is to old to be President, he is well past retirement and according to Social Security Administration website there is a 10% chance that McCain will die in his first term. Needlessly to say this increases after the second term and is compounded by the stress of the Presidency (decisions, travelling etc). Now of course if he is President and does die or has a stroke then guess who does become president--you guessed it Sarah Palin the Iris Robinson of American Politics.

Sarah Palin is by her own admission a born again Christian. She has embraced Creationism which is no better than saying the earth is flat. Denied global warming and holds every kind of illiberal, intolerant view you can think off. She believes that its God’s will that America is in Iraq, asks Alaskans to pray for a oil pipeline and publicly stated that she would not support an abortion for her daughter even if she was raped. The Church she was raised in has some scary end of the world views. I would not be surprised to find her believing in the rapture or the end of days erupting out of a nuclear holocaust. Lest I be accused of picking on her because of Religion, she is simply not competent for the role of VP. Two years as Governor and before that Mayor of a small town who population is only 9,780 (2007). As way of comparison the town that I live- Comber, Northern Ireland has 8,933. I should add though that the figure for Comber was taken in 2001 and is likely to have increased since then. By way of interest we don’t have a full time police station and we don’t have a mayor. She has no foreign policy experience and has already made gaffs “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." Its not Tax payer funded. Her son is going to fight in Iraq I wonder if she could locate it on a map.

If irrationality and incompetence was not enough then try corruption. Palin is currently under investigation for abuse of power along with her expenses under scrutiny for misuse. So this is the woman who could one day have her hands on the Nuclear codes. Her appointment is nothing more than a cynical move by McCain to shore up support with the Christian right and possibly Hillary Clinton supports. It is an insult to Americans, an insult to everyone’s intelligence finally it is an insult to the office of the President

Serious questions have been asked as to why are the Republicans voters so craven and plumb for politicians who do not serve their interests on important issues such as the economy and health care. Recently Jonathan Haidt on Edge published a paper on what makes people vote Republican along with responses from other writers. Its interesting reading.

Would I be too bold to say that if the Republicans win it will be a slow death for liberal America indeed America itself as it descends into a circus freak of a country with Nuclear weapons. America’s standing is low with the rest of the world at the moment, Obama would go a long way to repair the damage of the Bush years. If McCain wins a cry of despair and disappointment will be clearly audible across the world.

David Cameron is a Martin Amis hilariously and rather accurately described him as a “pretty boy pretending to give a shit” I think he is a great big fucking fake. At least Palin actually believes what she believes. Cameron I believe is simply out to make a name for himself. The smug pretension of pretending to care is exquisitely obvious. I can almost imagine him off camera saying to one of his aides “Ok time for me to do my thing in front of plebs”. His recent harangue at fat people and alcoholics taking responsibility is a perfect demonstration of his political opportunism and cynicism. There is surely a rational conversation to be had about obesity however his coded but obvious attack on the white working class is not it. His attack on alcoholics that they should take responsibility for their state is like telling a person who suffers from Prader Willie syndrome to stop eating. His policy is not compassionate conservatism nor is it practical common sense conservatism it is 1.a policy for doing nothing, ie its not up to Government its up to you. 2. When things go wrong or don’t get better don’t blame us you have only yourselves to blame.

Lets take two cases in point from the summer. One was the decision to reclassify Cannabis, second was the human embryo and fertilisation debate. Gordon Brown in true clunking fist fashion pressed ahead with the decision to upgrade the drug in the face of scientific research and police advice and a good degree of public opinion. All in a cynical ploy to curry favour with the Daily Mail and other Murdoch papers. Very few politicians are able to engage in rational discussion when it comes to drugs. The issue whether or not a drug should be legal or not is a pharmacological issue not a political one.

At lest Brown did the right thing with the abortion and fertilisation debate and bill. But why was people of religious conscience given a free vote? Why not subscribers to astrology charts given one as well? Cameron in another unprincipled sop wanted the right for women to have abortion cut down to 20 weeks in order to seem “reasonable”. Stem cell research which is potentially the most promising branch of the sciences to yield huge medical benefits to humans was stymied by Religious ignorance.The law was passed but it was a close call.

There is perfectly sound and reasonable arguments for upgrading Cannabis and opposing abortion however reason was few and far between on these issues. One cannot discount the negative and destructive role that the media plays in this. I think a good case can be made that the Murdoch press is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy we have in the UK.

Something needs to change, the anti intellectual streak in American politics is also worrying. The rest of the world has at times the misfortune to suffer whatever America does and what works there. So can we imagine in ten years someone like Iris Robinson running the UK. What is needed? Better education for sure. For people of clear thinking ability and reason to stand up and say enough of the bullshit. To pin down politicians on the specifics of policy as much as possible. To make politics as transparent and free of corruption and insider deals as possible. Let me say three words that we should deploy in our political discourse they are enough, Honesty, Reason and Evidence.

Best and be Well.

Michael Faulkner.

The Wire. Its all Connected

Its nice being wrong. That’s not a comment that is usually uttered or seen in a sentence. We humans don’t like to be wrong. Even when “we’re wrong we’re right” and dig our heels in and redouble our efforts even if it’s folly and we know it. “Some people would sooner die than think” wrote Bertrand Russell. For me I always try and live up to what Marcus Aurelius wrote of his adopted father Antoninus and which was no doubt a exhortation to himself that we be “delighted to be shown a better way”.

This delight has enraptured me several times in the past and no doubt will continue. I remember the first time it happened. I was twelve years old and me and my friends were fanatical playstation gamers. Via my cousin I had introduced my friends to a game called Resident Evil, a survival horror game which placed more emphasis on thinking and planning than on mindlessly shooting. It was also uniquely unnerving, heralding that a new era in computer games had been lunched. We all loved it and thought it was the “best” game ever. It was defended to the death in arguments with others especially against Tomb Raider whom we thought (quite rightly) was overblown, boring and “crap” to control. For many hours my brain was engaged in arguments with unseen games reviewers and opinion pieces that simply did not “get” Resident Evil.

Then I played a demo of Metal Gear Solid.

Very quickly almost like a curtain being drawn back to let in the sun, Metal Gear Solid swept always almost instantly the belief that Resident Evil was the best. It was several degrees greater both in terms of plot, voice acting and replay value. It was though the introduction of Stealth gameplay and the necessary use of intelligence (goal making, problem solving, analysis and planning) that made it original. Resident Evil may have laid the foundations but MGS took it to previously unimaginable realms. The boss battles is a case in point. The duels were no point and shoot affair requiring both dextrous fingers and lateral thinking.

Though one game had been replaced with another it did not shift the actual thinking that lay behind them. Successive “paradigm” shifting experiences and “thinking about thinking” itself has left me more open and less sure about being utterly certain. The caveat of course comes from another great paradigm changer that we should “be open minded but not so open minded that our brains fall out”. Or that we should know “less and less about more and more”.

One key shift was less sudden but just as enveloping and exciting. I have been long a fan of The Sopranos, the HBO television drama. It was simply the most absorbing, intense and rewarding TV show for years. Sopranos (HBO) seemed to operate on different rules than other drams. If you peer closely though you find that the Sopranos structurally speaking is quite similar to say Northern Exposure or Twin Peaks but it’s the content, the camera angles, the lighting, the fashion, the use of real locations that elevates The Sopranos into the sublime.

Sometime near the end of 2006 my friend un-dramatically mentioned to me that a TV critic has stated that The Wire and The Shield where the best things on TV which incidentally were both on FX. We watched a small portion, understanding it was not fair game so to speak to simply wade in mid episode mid season to judge something. Of course-- we weren’t impressed, but kept it in mind. I used to work in a video store, it was my job to spread little germs either cynically (by company orders) to sell people stuff or which I more enjoyed getting to show people great movies they might enjoy. I was like a good waiter who recommends complimentary wine with a meal or a literature inclined doctor who recommends a depressed patient something inspiring to read. On Christmas eve I recommend the show to a customer to whom I had a wonderful conversation with. He bought the show and his little journey began.

In that time me and my friend had watched a few good episodes and were warming nicely to it. Back at the store the customer came back to tell me that he loved it, that it was probably the best thing he ever saw. He had not finished the show but was well onto doing so. Enthusiasm which is infectious must of rubbed off on me and we began one of those great “blokee” conversations were we were both on exactly the same level. After the conversation I shortly watched a few more episodes and me and my friend were both smiling with the realisation that we had stumbled upon a hidden gem. It was not until maybe the fourth or fifth episode that it really flowered. When you become enraptured by something it has a kind of cascading effect where you become totally absorbed into it. As Charlie Brooker wrote of the show “prepare to obsess”. It is surprising but everyone who watches the show marvels at it with real zeal. Another customer and now friend a local novelist has similar high thoughts of the show.

Despite the brilliance of the first season it was not until the second season that I had some thoughts that might be better than The Sopranos. These thoughts hovered around season three and four. It was not until completing season four and considering what the writers and creators had pulled of in season 3 and how it could have derailed the show that left me no doubts. Despite the caveats of what I wrote above I believe a case can be made that The Wire is simply TV’s greatest drama and one perhaps that will not bettered for a very long time. First though I want to mention what can seem a somewhat childish thing of calling something best and saying something is better than it. Its not like I fall out of love with the previous highly esteemed work. Resident Evil and the Sopranos are still respected. The Sopranos remains one of the boldest and entertaining shows around. Only that like reaching a plateau on a mountain which offers stunning views of the landscape, you discovers that above it lies a better vantage, a higher cliff upon which to look over the landscape. The Wire like Metal Gear is simply another notch up the mountain.

The first thing to be said of The Wire when one begins to look beneath the surface is how much of an outsider it is. I’m sure you noticed that most American TV shows are either based in LA or NYC. Either that or shot on a studio lot. The Sopranos only slightly goes beyond New York into New Jersey which is just across the Hudson river. Most people who work in the film and television industry are products of film school. They serve apprenticeships as runners and other nobodies while chipping away at getting a shot at something. They come up through the ranks learning what’s expected and what isn’t. They learn the all to obvious truth of the pernicious role of advertising commercials on a show’s content and the strict guidelines governing content enforced by the networks. David Chase the creator of The Sopranos came from film school and started out as a story editor. Many of the house writers on the show such as Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess are career TV writers. In one or their commentaries they talk about the structure of The Sopranos as using the ABC method of storytelling a TV staple. Ie big story and two smaller stories filling out the big one. The scenes in the episode interweave around the 3 stories.

This of course takes nothing away from The Sopranos but The Wire is a different species of animal altogether. Firstly its in Baltimore mostly west Baltimore, as far away from the glories of Hollywood or the trappings of Manhattan as you can get. It deals mostly with the underclass, the black underclass. In fact one of the many remarkable things about The Wire is its prevalence of African Americans. The nuances in the writing of these characters and acting on display which defy any other TV show with the possible exception of Roots. This is of course no accident nor is it a politically motivated gesture, its simply verisimilitude. As Baltimore is mostly a black city and the stories mostly focus on black people from all nooks and crannies, dark alleyways and marble floored corridors of the powerful and the powerless.

The strange and original nature of the show has a lot to do with the creators. The principal creator is David Simon, a former investigative journalist for the Baltimore Sun. Simon wrote the excellently observed Homicide A year on the Killing Streets which was turned into the acclaimed TV show Homicide. The other creator is Ed Burns a former cop with the Baltimore city police and retired school teacher in the same city. Simon and Burns have long worked together producing the HBO mini movie adapted from Simon’s book The Corner. You cannot fail to notice that not only have both men lived and worked in the city but have been surrounded by the very milieu they depict.

If this was not enough, they have assembled a mugs line-up of some the best and most recognised novelists working in crime fiction. George Pelecanos, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane and Joy Lusco. Many of the directors have roots in independent cinema or have worked on shows like The Shield or The Sopranos.

This translates into something that has never been seen on TV before and one rarely glimpsed on film either. To start with traditional TV storytelling was dumped on the street like an empty vial of dope. Simon was conscious right from the start to avoid the typical all problems resolved at the end of episode structure. The Wire develops slowly, over the course of 13 episodes. There is no instant gratification and pay offs per episode. Simon’s analogy was with novels. Novels are a fine example were characters and complex situations are slowly and gradually built up. This is of course not to say that Simon and his team embrace an aesthetic of post-modern randomness and lax storytelling. Quite the opposite, there is considerable time spent investigating characters, their internal self-contradictions and how they relate to the outside world and the institutions they are trapped in. McNulty is a fine example of this. He is neither a crusading cop or one that acts out of rational self interest. Its not clear to us nor I would add to McNulty himself that when he mouths off to the Judge at the start of the series that he is intending to kick off a “shit storm” which ultimately sees him exiled to the “boat patrol”. McNulty’s home life is a mess, his partners (both work and sexual) frequently distrust and despair of him, his pursuit of criminals is not out of duty or justice but more a kind of thrilling engagement with cunning adversaries. “stupid criminals make for stupid cops” “I’m proud to be chasing these motherfuckers” he opines.

The show operates on a kind of evolutionary principle. each episode, each series, each character becomes increasingly complex as the show goes on. Season one is “relatively” straight forward, one long police investigation into a drug crew. It covers such themes as institutional dysfunction, the paradoxical effects of capitalism, the Hobbesian trap of Omar, Stringer and Avon. By Season two these themes are elaborated upon along with themes of port corruption and the death of the working class. The Third season arguably the most complex juggles street wars, drug legislation, reform, political intrigue, more corruption, and much much more. The truth is that miss an episode or two and you will fail to understand the whole thing. This is a sad fact and perhaps the reason why the show isn’t as popular as it should be. On a side note a fun game to play in later seasons is to link all the characters by using only one or two intermediaries. Eg Stringer and Carcetti are linked by Senator Davis. Or Avon and Frank Sobotka are linked via Sergei the Russian. The finales are masterpieces of narrative culmination and editing. One perhaps would have to go as far back as the Godfather to see how a complex story is resolved through parallel editing and multiple unfolding climaxes in such a brilliant way.

I mentioned the remarkable feat of so many good African American actors in such unique roles, though really all of its characters are wonderful creations. It’s almost a unpardonable sin to mention one actor especially but I’ll do it anyway. “Cool Lester smooth Freamon” played by Clarke Peters. The Bunk “happy now bitch” played by Wendell Pierce. Lt “my office” Daniels by Lance Reddick. “We got ourselves a inelastic product here” Stringer Bell Idris Elba (a Londoner) and of course Omar Little “The Cheese stands alone” gay stick-up thug played by Michael K Williams. McNulty played by Dominic West I’ve mentioned, There is Thomas Carcetti played by Aiden Gillen, John Doman who plays boss from hell William Rawls. Quite possibly the most touching performance of the show belongs to Chris Bauer as doomed union chief Frank Sobotka. It has been remarked from time to time that females are not heavily “represented” to use a modish PC term in the show. Though this is true what female characters the show does give us have been utterly unforgettable as witness Snoop played by Felicia Pearson and Det Greggs by Sonja Sohn.

There is so much to recommend this show, no review or missive could ever do it full justice or persuade people that it’s essential viewing. For myself the key that the show’s importance hangs on, its most vital contribution among many is its political engagement or rather its fury.

It is an angry show and David Simon is an angry man. Angry and depressed at the utter indifference that the ruling elite along with the media view cites such as Baltimore. Baltimore could stand in for any number of American inner urban areas. Take Washington the nations capital, on the outskirts of that cities political and tourist friendly centre there is a poverty stricken underclass mostly black. It is almost surreal like the scene where McNulty having to “babysit” Bubbles by taking him to kids Soccer game. Bubbles (a dope addict and police snitch) gazes on the rich middle class houses and people in perhaps the same way that peasant Italian immigrants may have stared upon New York when first entering the country at the start of the century.

Simon and his team poses some stark questions of Baltimore and America at large. How well is the police actually operating? What is its primary goal? Is the war on drugs winnable? Is it even right to call it a war? Should drugs even be criminalised? Billions of dollars are spent in the drug war yet schools are under-funded and mis-managed, the children who fail to get an education are new recruits for the drug trade how can we let this continue? How conducive to a civil society is it that politics is a game of manipulation and cynical self advancement and the cult of personality?

The Wire is likely to shatter whatever pre-conceived political views you may have, liberal or conservative. The show does at times become politically didactic and darkly cynical. On other networks some would have called this biased, socially irresponsible and depressing. It’s easy to counter such views by saying that The Wire is alone amongst a maelstrom of nauseatingly sweet American fantasies such as Lost, Heroes, Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives and other pop culture fair. Lest I pick on easy targets-- in my comfortably white European opinion I think the Wire has done more for representing the American underclass (especially black) than a trailer load of Rap Albums and MTV videos or the entire back catalogue of Spike Lee.

It is utterly refreshing to have ones views and opinions and expectations challenged in such a exciting original way. The Wire deserves its reputation as not only the greatest TV show ever made but among the greatest cultural artefacts that America has produced. In time it deserves entry into the American library of congress (which protects and upholds important cultural artefacts.) It also deserves to be shown in Schools and Colleges, for history and sociology students. In time it will become an important visual historical document of a largely abandoned and ignored America.

If that sounds pretentious then I hand over to Charlie Brooker who concludes his review of the show with characteristically stark conclusions “If you like good drama then you have absolutely no excuse for not indulging in this, it is just F***ing brilliant”

Best and Be well.

Michael Faulkner.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Some thoughts on the William Crawley interview with Richard Dawkins.

I watched this very good interview between fellow Ulsterman William Crawley and Richard Dawkins again on BBC2. He did a very good job of pushing Dawkins into a few corners over a few things. Crawley seems an intelligent fellow and he was much more informed and professional than most other people who critique Dawkins. In any case I sent this little comment to his BBC blog.

1. The term delusion that Dawkins uses is applied to a fixed false belief that a person declares. Its strange that Dawkins does not mention Freud and his essay on the future of an illusion where he correctly notes the wish element in belief. Dawkins defines his use from the Penguin English Dictionary as a “a false belief or an impression” he uses Microsoft spell checker’s term “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.” Though Dawkins can at times be quite mischievous his uses of the term is not Ad-hominem and it captures true supernatural- Religious belief perfectly.

2. As to the fine tuning argument. Here is my own shot at it. Lets take the conclusion that if one of the constants was off then we would not be here. Life could not arise because of it. Now what other conclusion is there? The conclusion is actually contained in the premise. Anything else is superfluous. Saying that there must a creator is inference, inference tainted by human wish thinking. It’s a little like the story about the bird that drinks water from a puddle in the ground. How great it thinks to itself, that this puddle is so perfect for me to drink from. If it was not here I would go thirsty-it must off been designed. Of course it’s a pure accident that a puddle happens to occur just like the fact the we exist after 14 billion years since the big bang and after millions of years of evolution. Religious people think the physical constants argument is a good one its not. All it revels is the bias of human reasoning and wish thinking. Thinking that we are special and the end product of something (evolution or creation). Thinking that we are the centre of the universe. All the evidence demonstrates-all of it clearly shows that we are not special in any kind of teleological or divine sense.

3. It was a good point you made William about the ultimate regress argument and the fact that it can de-facto rule out using God as an explanation.(ie who made God argument) However it does not work in practice. In order for God to be invoked as a explanation for something he or it needs to be discovered. It needs to be able to be brought under the umbrella of reason and science. In order for it to become an explanatory tool it needs to be used to make predictions, it needs to be free to be tested, used to explain facts about the world better than any other theory. However the current state of knowledge shows every sign that the universe is not the product of a supernatural intelligence, never mind that we are created with some kind of plan. In short in order to work with the theory that God created the universe or sent his son to die for our sins say then we need clear, unequivocal evidence for God. Needlessly to say we have been wainting for this for a few thousand years and will not doubt be continuing to wait. “the messiah may come but he may tarry”

4. As for sectarian schooling. I think Dawkins was spot on, in fact he did not press the point hard enough. The northern Irish troubles could have been resolved as simply as promoting secularism in schools and abolishing faith schools. At the very least the bitterness and fear of the other would have been moot. I come from Northern Ireland myself and know well the pernicious influence of living in two “communities”

Can I just say William I think you did a very professional interview.

Best and be well


God on Trial.

Here is a comment i posted on the Guardian's comment is free in response to a theologian's egregious op-ed.

Here is the article

I wrote in response.

Sentimental, condescending, self-righteous drivel.

But thanks for telling me the conclusion to the BBC show God On Trial (missed that)

Let us entertain the notion of theodicy.

Two thousand years after the coming of Christ, when human society, knowledge and technology had ascended to a previously unimaginable apex-what were we rewarded with? Fascism, the holocaust, the A-Bomb, Dresden, the rape of Nanking don’t forget also millions who perished in the Gulags and under the yoke of Stalin. Christians have been waiting for Christ to return trailing clouds of silver glory to judge the living and the dead for over two millennia. (it is getting a bit long in the tooth We are also told that things are going to get very bad indeed before this momentous event occurs. I am of course talking about the rapture. Would any reasonable person of any belief not wonder after viewing the calamity of fascism and its brutal demise-wonder or worry how bad things will have to get before Jesus returns. If there is a God, a Jewish or Christian one he has just sat through the worst example of human outrage in history. Even if his plans for rapture were still a bit off would it not be merciful or loving to prevent the disaster? Or at least attempt to redress the carnage? A miracle perhaps?--all German guns suddenly stopped working upon the invasion of Poland?

There is of course no rebuttal to this, of how a loving just God could stand by and let this misery unfold. Justin writes that suffering is explained through human free will and that God has on countless occasions shown love and compassion. Could anyone provide a clear unequivocal example of this without recourse to the bible? Furthermore what has childhood leukaemia, Downs Syndrome or any of the numerous genetic diseases got to do with the notion of free will? How can free will or unconditional love explain away whole families of women ravaged by breast cancer or painfully having to surgically remove their breasts when they come of age in order not to end up like their unfortunate mothers?

Justin Thacker’s answer is not only an insult to our intelligence but our dignity as well. He bleats that Atheists just focus on the pain the “insane pain” of suffering. That is of course the dignified grown up way of behaving. Not running off somewhere to seek consolation in magic and fairy tales.

A wise mortal from the East once said that life was suffering that it was the first noble truth of existence. That everything that begins to exist will one day desist. Our suffering in this world is lessened by letting go of delusion, letting go of attachments and childish wish thinking. You simply live in the present and experience every moment as it comes. Suffering will come but we must face it stoically and with no illusions but the life hereafter or indeed this one.

Best and be well

Michael Faulkner.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Gaunt Delusion.

I look forward every week with a kind of perverse pleasure to read what Jon Gaunt has wrote in his column for the Sun Newspaper. A kind of guilty little pleasure. I can always count on good old Gaunt the hero of the working class, the fighter of bureaucratic injustice, the master of reasoned discourse in this spin-doctored to death hyper-mediated, liberal-run, Guardian controlled, BBC biased world.

So what was Gaunt up to this week on the 5th of September? This week he has been writing about Sarah Palin the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

He begins his column with “Don’t you wish we had politicians like American Republican Sarah Palin instead of the identikit, spineless, amoebas that infest Westminster” Well yes if it means embracing an ex beauty queen, a creationist supporting, bible believing religious wing nut who asks her church to pray for multi million dollar pipeline for drilling oil. A global warming denier, who has no concern for the wildlife or natural beauty of Alaska in her pursuit of letting oil companies rape the land. A member of the NRA, who has Publicly stated that she would not support her own daughter to have an abortion even if she was raped. Oh did I also mention she under investigation for misuse of office. She has only two years of experience as a Governor and no foreign policy experience or any valid experience for the role of VP.

He then goes on to say “this woman has more balls than most British male MP’s” except she doesn’t. Ok I’m being too “literal” here so what’s this meant to mean, that it does not matter how idiotic or ignorant you are as long as your not a liberal, wail, and make up for ignorance with pugnacity then fine. Palin says it best herself, “a pit-bull with lipstick”

“a Feminist dream” Gaunt writes. Most feminists or anyone wanting to see the advancement of women would be aghast at this woman holding office. In fact her selection is nothing more than a cynical ploy by McCain to win over Hilary supporters and seduce the Christian right. This is a insult to women, who are expected to vote for someone just because they have a uterus. Palin is positively anti-woman. She opposes abortion, sex education and wants abstinence only taught in schools. I cannot stop myself from pointing out that this policy has failed miserably with her own daughter. Sex education and contraception are essential to a well functioning civil society and are central to the emancipation of women.

He then says Palins the “real thing” as opposed to Obama. What does that mean? I have no idea, Maybe cause she's small town, not a liberal or intellectual, a kind of person “you could have a drink with”. or is it because Obama’s black?

He writes off criticisms by writing this “the opposition are trying to undermine the messiah by criticising Palin’s daughter for getting pregnant and Sarah for wanting to keep it quite.”

This is incidental, its needs to be pointed that the Christian Right frequently paint themselves as great moralisers and role models for everyone else. Time and again they are unable to keep their house in order. The problem with Palin is that if McCain wins she is a heatbeat away from having control of the Nuclear button. Its been well documented the demented eschatology that Fundamentalist Christians subscribe to (Regan conducting briefings on the middle east as it conforms to biblical prophecy.) in the end though this is not about Religion its about competency. She has no experience for the role. All she is is a personality cult.

It also has to be said why is Gaunt so interested in American Politics? This is someone who constantly harps on about Britain and England and shows a disinterest and inwardness in his columns time and time again.

Could be something to do with the fact the paper is owned by Murdoch, a former Australian now American Citizen who exerts more control on the minds of working class Britain than any British politician.

Is Gaunt Mad? is he serious? or is he a fraud? or maybe he does not know any better?