Tag Archives: Current Events

UK Government Petition to Stop Scientology Becoming a Religion

I read today that James Higgs in United Kingdom has created a petition calling on the British Government to not accept Scientology as a religion in the UK.

Gods know that I’m no fan of the Scientologists, but my thoughts on them are for another posting.

For today, my thoughts are that, no matter how much I may dislike the Scientologists, this is a bad thing and scares me. And it should scare all pagans as well as those who practice religions or hold beliefs that are in the numerical minority or are generally considered out of the mainstream.

Clearly, this petition, like so many other bad ideas for laws, is borne out of the best of intentions (generally at least). The key thing, though, that makes this scary is the simple fact that it’s not seeking to use the coercive force of the Government to protect citizens from the specific actions of other parties. Rather, this is seeking to ban a group based on its beliefs. From the petition:

Without compromise to freedom of thought or expression, the teachings and beliefs of Scientology, Dianetics and science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard must never be legally be accepted as a religion – regardless of any recent EU decision to the contrary.

We consider the ‘Church’ of Scientology is an exclusive business venture that by prohibiting access to scientifically-proven psychiatric therapy and medicine is effectively enslaving its believers.

That is a frightful thing in no small part because it is seeking to protect people from a religion. By what criteria? Does someone who is polyamorus in part because of their pagan beliefs need to be protected from the perceived risks of multi-partner relationships by banning paganism?

I understand the good intentions but this isn’t the way to solve this problem. This is building a tool that can one day be used against others.

I truly hope this doesn’t pass. For all of us, really.

Say You Want a Revolution

In the interest of full disclosure, this is adapted from a comment I made in Robert Scoble’s blog today.

So Microsoft today spent 6 Billion on an advertising company, aQuantive. First, I have to say, that’s one of the ugliest sounding names I’ve heard in quite some time.

More importantly, I think if they rummaged around in the sofa they could’ve found another billion and bought Chrysler instead. Given the complete lack of any stated vision or direction coming out of Microsoft these days, buying aQuantive isn’t all that different from them buying Chrysler. I doubt Ballmer et al. really know what they’ll do with it. They’ve just got some vague idea that since other people are doing well with advertising, they need to as well. Setting aside the fact that I’m deeply skeptical about online advertising at all (how much money have you spent, dear reader, as a result of clicking on a “sponsored link”?) this is another demonstration of weakness from Microsoft.

The current strategy there seems to be to copy a lot of other people’s stuff (Apple: Vista; Google: Search) that than really find anything new on their own. OK, so that’s not the first time the charge has been made but I’d argue things are different now from the past. In the past, when Microsoft followed others into established markets there was some direction to it. Now there’s no plan. It just looks like they’re just doing stuff to do stuff.

As a long time watcher of Microsoft, I have to say it’s pretty clear that Ballmer is grossly incompetent as a CEO. Carly Fiorina was sacked over her performance and he’s done significantly worse for Microsoft than she did for HP. The fact that he’s not been sacked speaks to a board that is failing its shareholders. And I think that’s the why of the stock price. It’s going nowhere because of a Ballmer tax. No one has faith in the value of the company under his leadership and they don’t think he’s going anytime soon because MS has a rubber-stamp board. Buying MS is essentially buying to hold until Ballmer is gone and someone with vision comes to the helm.

The words of Cromwell to the rump parliament apply to Ballmer and the board:
You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.

It really is time for a shareholder rebellion. The only people doing well at Microsoft are the executives and the board. Time to remind everyone who they all work for: the shareholders.

Of course, the biggest shareholder IS one of the executives. And that means nothing’s going to change soon.

So begins the frenzy

I see today the first report indicating that the legal quagmire around the pet food recall has begun.

Menu Foods, who supplied the poisoned food to so many companies, has filed suit against the Las Vegas company that imported it from China, ChemNutra Inc.

ChemNutra is of course saying it’s not their fault. They’re just innocent victims too: it’s those bad people at XuZhou Anying Biologic Technology Development that did it. And, anyway, ChemNutra was duped, duped I tell you, since “[the company] had been recommended to us by a long-time reliable source in China, and presented what appeared to be legitimate proof that its product was safe”.

Of course, since this is a company in China, don’t expect any sort of legal redress from them. ChemNutra is the last one in the finger pointing chain in a country with a mature liability and litigation system so they’ll be the ones left holding the bag. Menu foods is surely suing in anticipation of an onslaught of suits from companies like Iams and others whom they supplied and have had to recall food.

Meanwhile, if this wasn’t an urgent enough situation already the fact that this may touch the human food chain is kicking this up into high gear.

My prediction: this will be bigger than Katrina when it’s all over. This is a very slow moving earthquake and we’re still in the early stages of it. This will have a huge impact on food trade with China (as in, hurt it if not kill it), cause a gigantic shift in the pet food industry, likely lead to the creation of some central entity to deal with these situations in the future, cause a change in tort law to enable pet owners to sue for more than the value of a pet as a possession.

Personally, I won’t shed a tear if all the companies involved in this go under. I paid (very) good money for Eukanuba food for years. And now I find that they knowingly are getting supplies from China and from a company with “Biologic Technology Development” in the name? What the hell was I paying for then? Someone please answer me that? My own suspicion is that Iams will be the biggest loser in this. People (like me) that bought their food were paying extra for what was perceived to be the value of quality. We’ve found that quality isn’t there, it wasn’t there. We can afford to go elsewhere to find that value. I think a lot of us will if we haven’t already. There’s been nothing from Iams/Eukanuba that amounts to an acknowledgement of that problem and tries to “get right”. At least Royal Canin came out and said they won’t let anything from China into their products again.

Like I said, this is just getting started. Were it not for the fact that people are losing their loved ones and no one in any position of authority gives a damn this would be fun to watch. As it is, though, the longer this goes on, the deeper the anger becomes. And there will surely be a reckoning.

Of bullies and killers

It is rather to be expected that after something as horrific as the shootings at Virginia Tech this past week that there will be questions about why, how and what to do to prevent something like that from happening again.

Sadly, one almost wants to say that there is now a pattern for these horrible events. After the memorial services there are predictably claims about violent games, television, and music, easy access to guns and a host of other causes and factors. And of course there is the usual calls to change things.

It is unfortunate though because there’s one thing that has been applicable here and at Columbine and in other situations. And yet somehow it gets only a passing mention and never any of the “things have to change” focus of other items.

That is the role of bullying in all of this. The fact that people involved in this situations are quite often the victims of ongoing, brutal bullying.

I suspect that people dismiss this first of all because it smacks a bit of justifying the actions and blaming the victims. I suspect too that people dismiss this as a survival of the very dynamics that creates that bullying into adulthood: a grown-up version of calling someone who is a victim of bullying a crybaby.

It is too bad because so long as we continue to ignore this point, the problem won’t really be solved. You can talk about the role of bullying in this all and not blame the victims. After all, we’ve learned how to talk about child abuse in viral terms (the abused becomes abuser), why can’t we do the same here? It shouldn’t take this long to figure out that our institutions essentially throw kids into a jungle where the lex talionis rules. And so when our kids emerge from that jungle dripping in blood, looking like they’ve come off the set of Lord of the Flies, it’s absurd for us to be shocked let alone horrified.

Indeed, in a way, it can be argued that these events represent people who have learned the lesson of that environment too well and that what they’ve done, really, is simply to take the proverbial gloves off and play that game to its fullest.

If people want to truly stop these situations then they should go to the first cause and actually work to stop that game once and for all by putting an end to the lex talionis in schools.

But once again, it seems that we’ll let the opportunity slip. Instead, we’ll put some new goofy labels on video games or some other ineffective action that at least makes people feel like something is being done, even though in truth nothing is being done.