December 7, 2007

1984 redux

We were, of course, never at war with Eastasia.

Posted by Stephen at 11:11 PM in Politics | War | Permalink

June 28, 2007

Losing Focus

Although I’ve written about the activities of the Exclusive Brethren sect in Australia and New Zealand, I hadn’t realized how well-established it is in Britain, too. There, as in Australia and New Zealand, the sect is targeting kids: the Brethren’s Focus Learning Trust already runs 37 private schools, and is now angling to back one of Tony Blair’s flagship city academies.

Britain’s clueless minister for schools, Lord Adonis*—who before his baffling enoblement was plain Andrew Adonis, an equally clueless newspaper reporter—has made it clear that he won’t rule out such a move. Which is hardly surprising, given his embrace of creationists and other religious nuts. And Ofsted, Britain’s alleged schools watchdog, just loves Focus Learning. As the Telegraph notes, in 2005 Ofsted praised the trust for providing “good support to its schools” and a “generally good” quality of teaching. In a country where “teaching standards” is an oxymoron, that’s high praise.

Pity, then, that Adonis and Ofsted didn’t do their homework. Perhaps they would have picked up on the Exclusive Brethren’s lengthy record of child abuse, money laundering, and political meddling.

But then again, perhaps they wouldn’t.

[*Adonis may yet lose his job as a result of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle, so there is hope.]

Posted by Stephen at 6:49 PM in Education | Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2007

Euro-creationism and human rights

The Council of Europe—which oversees human rights in the European Union’s member countries—will vote next week on a proposal to defend the teaching of evolution, and keep creationism and intelligent design out of science classes in EU state schools. A report for the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly notes that the campaign against evolution has its roots “in forms of religious extremism,” and that “Today, creationists of all faiths are trying to get their ideas accepted in Europe. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights.”

This isn’t trivial: the Council of Europe governs human rights for more than 800 million people in 47 countries, and has the European Court of Human Rights at its disposal. And although it isn’t binding, the proposed resolution—which says member states should “firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection”—could effectively pull the rug from under Europe’s religious crazies.

Of course, the resolution first has to pass. Stay tuned.

Posted by Stephen at 5:51 PM in Education | Evolution | Humanity | Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

June 8, 2007

Devolved

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 66% of Americans believe that creationism is “definitely or probably true,” compared with 53% who feel that way about evolution. Which means that at least one in ten Americans are both stupid and confused. Worse, more Americans are familiar with creationism than with evolution—perhaps there’s hope yet for Ken Ham.

As for Brownback, Tancredo and Huckabee, whose creationist cretinism prompted the poll: maybe it’s just as well they don’t believe in evolution, because they’re clearly not a product of it.

Posted by Stephen at 3:31 PM in Evolution | Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2007

Earmarked for Jesus

Religious groups find yet another way to syphon cash from the economy:

St. Vincent College, a small Benedictine college southeast of Pittsburgh, wanted to realign a two-lane state road serving the campus. But the state transportation department did not have the money.
So St. Vincent tried Washington instead. The college hired a professional lobbyist in 2004 and, later that year, two paragraphs were tucked into federal appropriation bills with the help of Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, awarding $4 million solely for that project. College officials said the work would improve the safety and appearance of the road into the campus, which President Bush visited two days ago to give the college’s commencement address.

What a remarkable coincidence: someone give Murtha a medal.

A New York Times analysis shows that the number of earmarks for religious organizations, while small compared with the overall number, have increased sharply in recent years. From 1989 to January 2007, Congress approved almost 900 earmarks for religious groups, totaling more than $318 million, with more than half of them granted in the Congressional session that included the 2004 presidential election. By contrast, the same analysis showed fewer than 60 earmarks for faith-based groups in the Congressional session that covered 1997 and 1998.
Earmarks are individual federal grants that bypass the normal appropriations and competitive-bidding procedures. They have been blamed for feeding the budget deficit and have figured in several Capitol Hill bribery scandals, prompting recent calls for reform from White House and Congressional leaders.

No surprise that the number of religious organizations listed as clients of Washington lobbying firms tripled from 1998 to 2005.

Posted by Stephen at 12:05 AM in Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)