Saturday, August 09, 2014

Seperation of Church and State.

Due to personal issues, this is my first blog for a long time so I thought I’d ease my way back into it gently.
I  saw this on the BBC web site:
I wondered what the reaction of Christians would be, so I popped over to the Christian Post:
Diner Drops Discount for Praying Customers After Being Threatened By Lawsuits; Manager Speaks Out
By Emma Koonse , Christian Post Reporter
A manager of the North Carolina diner that recently dropped its occasional 15 percent discount to customers who pray in public is speaking out on the threats of a lawsuit this week.
Mary's Gourmet Diner made international headlines after a customer shared her "praying in public" discount on Facebook, garnering thousands of likes and shares. However, the Winston-Salem, N.C. restaurant has already ended the deal after coming under legal fire. On Thursday, The Christian Post spoke with a manager at Mary's, who chose to go unamed, that described his disappointment in the controversy surrounding the discount.
"Our community has very strong individuals who have done nothing but support us and we give nothing but thanks to them. The ones that really have been harassing us are out of state individuals and not individuals that live in our community," said the manager, who wished to remain anonymous. "We are strong individuals, we have taken all of this in, and we appreciate everyone's support and unfortunately the bad has overruled the good."
The owners of the diner, Mary Haglund and her daughter Shama, have not yet responded to CP's request for further comments. However, the manager revealed that the co-owners are saddened over the threat of lawsuits following the prayer discount.
"We have done away with the discount and Mary and her daughter Shama are very saddened by this, this is a gift that we gave to our customers - this is a gift that has been taken from us," the manager said. "The gift of giving is just as important as receiving the gift. These individuals are very hurt, but it has made our community stronger. There's always good things that come out of the bad, and unfortunately, we will see it in time, but we are not seeing it yet."
Although Mary's will no longer offer 15 percent off the check for customers who pray, the diner is still encouraging patrons to take time before their meal in gratitude.
"There is a lot of evil in this world, and we encourage people to still come in and take a moment before the food to really be appreciative of what they have and to separate themselves from all the madness in the world," the manager added. "All the disease that's coming into the U.S. and from all the war and the madness that's going on overseas as well. All Americans are very stressed about the economy and the way things are going, but we have things to be thankful for and we like to give thanks regardless of a discount or not."
The original social media post displaying the discount by customer, Jordan Smith, received thousands of likes and shares, but not all responses to the deal were positive. While many Christians praised Mary's for encouraging prayer, other believers cited Matthew 6:5 in the New Testament: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others," according to other reports.
Furthermore, other readers online questioned whether or not Mary's extended the discount to all forms of prayer – Christian or otherwise. In response, Haglund told an Orlando, Fl. Christian radio station that she appreciates the "attitude of gratitude," regardless of whether it is a Christian prayer or a simple meditation.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Mary's posted a hand-written notice on its front window stating it must "protect your freedom from religion in a public place," according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The restaurant also cited the threat of a lawsuit before offering an apology for "any offense this discount has incurred."
All fairly innocuous stuff really, a discussion about whether praying in public is self serving etc.
What the Christian Post failed to mention was the reason they stopped giving ‘a discount for praying in public’ was because they received a letter from a group called ‘Freedom From Religion’ who sent them a letter, not threatening a lawsuit but asking them to withdraw the discount.
Extract from the BBC article:
However, unbeknownst to her the discount may have been a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in the 1960s to protect US citizens from racial and religious discrimination. "As a place of public accommodation, the Civil Rights Act requires the diner to offer goods and services, which we interpret to include discounts, without regard to religion, race, and national origin," says Elizabeth Cavell, a staff attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.Cavell sent a letter to the diner urging it to withdraw the discount. "Most people can understand how discriminatory discounts are really unfair to the people that are not included in the preferred group," says Ms Cavell.After receiving the letter, Haglund immediately stopped it, posting a sign on the front door to inform her patrons of the change. "I applaud the Civil Rights bill and there was no malintent on our part, so we have discontinued the discount," says Haglund.
I am opposed to any form of religious involvement in the running of a country  but in conclusion I think it might not be a bad idea before you eat a meal in a restaurant, particularly in some of the more backward US states to close your eyes and say the following. ‘I hope the cook washed their hands after they visited the bathroom.’ And who knows a 15% discount might be just around the corner.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been jailed

Just to follow on from the previous post:

Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Judge Marina Syrova convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had "crudely undermined social order".

Apparently, Mr Putin is head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which must be one hell of a leap of faith for an ex KGB man.

So, in short, why bother to overthrow a crude dictatorship when you just replace it with more of the same?

And just to add,  for the sake of Judge Marina Syrova, I hate religion too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

South African police shoot dead striking miners.

From today’s Guardian:

South African police shoot dead striking miners.

The deaths came after a week of turmoil at the Marikana mine that had already seen ten people killed, including two police officers and two security guards. Lonmin, the world's third biggest platinum producer, was forced to suspend production at the mine, about 60 miles north-west of Johannesburg, after what it called an illegal strike escalated into an alleged turf war between rival unions.
His voice shaking with anger, the union leader Joseph Mathunjwa accused the Lonmin management of colluding with a rival union to orchestrate what he described as a massacre. Mathunjwa, president of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), told the eNews channel: "We have to send condolences to those families whose members were brutally murdered by a lack of co-operation from management. We have done our bit. If the management had changed their commitment, surely lives could have been saved."
South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, condemned the killings but made no reference to the handling of the situation by the police. "We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence," he said. "We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence.

When I read this the last passage from George Orwell’s Animal Farm sprang to my mind:

"Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Muslim and Jewish groups denounce German circumcision ruling

From Today’s BBC webpage
European Jewish and Muslim groups have joined forces to defend circumcision for young boys on religious grounds after a German regional court ruled it amounted to bodily harm.
A joint statement says the practice is fundamental to their faiths and calls for it to be awarded legal protection.
The ruling by the Cologne court - also criticised by the Israeli parliament - does not apply to the whole of Germany.
But Germany's Medical Association told doctors not to perform circumcisions.
Thousands of Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised in Germany every year.
The unusual joint statement was signed by leaders of groups including the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, the European Jewish Parliament, the European Jewish Association, Germany's Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs and the Islamic Centre Brussels.
"We consider this to be an affront (to) our basic religious and human rights," it said.
"Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms against this court ruling.
"To that end we will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition and call on the German parliament and all political parties to intervene in overruling this decision as a matter of urgency."
The leaders also met members of the European parliament and the Bundestag to express their anger and insist that the German parliament establish clear legal protections for the rite.
The BBC's Stephen Evans in Berlin says the German government is clearly uneasy about the ruling, particularly after accusations that it was inappropriate for the country of the Holocaust to outlaw a fundamental ritual of Judaism.
The ruling by the Cologne court followed a legal case involving a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four year-old that led to medical complications.
The court said that a child's right to physical integrity trumped religious and parental rights.
The doctor involved in the case was acquitted and the ruling was not binding. However, critics fear it could set a precedent that could be followed by other German courts.

In my opinion this is the tip of the iceberg.

I have a major beef with organised religion and that is the freedom of individuals to choose their religion. If for example, you are born into a Catholic household you are brought up a Catholic and this applies to all other faiths. 
If as you reach adulthood you decide that the religion you have been brought up is not right for you, can you just pop along to your local religious leader and opt out?
The answer in most cases is no. If you renounce Islamism, I believe the penalty is death. 
Try and leave the Jehovah Witnesses and you face ostracising by your family and friends. 
Scientology? Men in suits wearing dark glasses and driving SUVs follow you around.
My bottom line is this. Believe in what you want but don’t force your beliefs on me or anybody else, is that so hard? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

RBS and NatWest customers could face weeks of turmoil as a result of computer chaos

RBS and NatWest customers could face weeks of turmoil as a result of the banks’ computer chaos, the Financial Ombudsman Service warned today.
Meanwhile sophisticated internet fraudsters tried to cash in on the confusion by launching a phishing attack on NatWest customers in an attempt to steal crucial personal financial information.
And the pain continues for some 100,000 Ulster Bank customers who still have a frustrating wait until at least the beginning of next week to have their banking facilities restored.
The beleaguered Royal Bank of Scotland said today that just a few customers of NatWest and RBS will still experience delays after the update of account balances cleared for those banks.
But Ulster Bank customers will “continue to  experience unacceptable delays to their accounts being updated” until “the start of next week”, RBS said in a statement.
The computer mistakes that have hit an estimated 12 million customers of the two banks, as well as having a knock-on effect on millions more, could leave problems for many weeks to come, the financial watchdog said.
The FOS’ David Cresswell urged those affected to keep detailed records of what has happened to their accounts as the knock-on effects would take some time to identify and rectify.
"It is really important to make noted of what is happening, of conversations you have with people, of difficulties you are facing, because this is a ripple effect from the original problems," he said.
That includes making lists of extra charges for inadvertently going overdrawn or paying a credit card bill late, and making sure that a your credit rating is not damaged.
NatWest said it has extended branch opening hours to 8am to 6pm in an effort to clear the backlog of problems.
"But the full focus of our efforts will now be on delivering the same result for our Ulster Bank customers,” an RBS spokesman said.
Customer unhappiness was mounting today with many expected to switch banks once their accounts have been restored.

Before I comment I have to declare a vested interest, my job has recently been outsourced from Germany to the Czech Republic. (On a clear day if I went to the top of the TV tower in Berlin I could probably see it.)

Who gains from outsourcing?
First and most importantly, the manager in the company that outsources, he or she gets a big fat bonus for reducing the companies wage bill.
Secondly, the person who gets the outsourced job.
Finally the country which gets the outsourced job, as they have one less unemployed person to support.
Who loses from outsourcing?
Firstly, obviously the person whose job is outsourced.
Secondly the country that loses the outsourced job, as they now have to support an additional unemployed person. 
Finally and most importantly, the customer as they get a worse service, a less reliable product, with longer delays in resolving problems.

If you were about to have open heart surgery, would you want the operation to be performed by a surgeon with ten years experience and training or a cleaner who had no idea what they were doing but was incredibly keen and had watched every episode of Grey’s Anatomy? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jimmy Carr admits 'terrible error' over taxes

From today's Independent Newspaper:

Jimmy Carr spoke out after Prime Minister David Cameron branded his tax dodging "morally wrong".
The comedian released a statement saying: "I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to 'make light' of this situation, but I'm not going to in this statement as this is obviously a serious matter.
"I met with a financial advisor and he said to me 'Do you want to pay less tax? It's totally legal'.
"I said 'Yes'.
"I now realise I've made a terrible error of judgment.
"Although I've been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), I'm no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly.
"Apologies to everyone."

Mr Cameron, speaking last night during a visit to Mexico, joined a chorus of criticism of the comedian, whose tax arrangements were revealed in The Times on Tuesday.
Describing them as "straightforward tax avoidance", the PM said it was unfair on the people who pay to watch the comic perform that he is not paying his taxes in the same way that they do.
Mr Cameron said: "I think some of these schemes - and I think particularly of the Jimmy Carr scheme - I have had time to read about and I just think this is completely wrong.
"People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes.
"That is wrong. There is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement - that sort of tax management is fine.
"But some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong.

My heart goes out to Mr Cameroon, how it must hurt him to hear of morale wrong doing. If only he was in a position where he could do something to change the laws relating to UK tax.
If only he was prime minister, I'm sure he'd do something in an instant.
Hang on a second............................................. He is.
And once he's sorted out this particular loophole, maybe then he could look into UK tax avoidance by large companies, such as, Glaxo Smith Kline, Northern and Shell, Amazon and News International.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beating the tattoo and other things.

Watching the European Championships I have been struck by the number of footballers sporting tattoos. It almost seems compulsory to have them. When I was young the only people who had tattoos were sailors, Polynesian Islanders and ex members of the SS.
Speaking of the SS, I have been amazed at the reaction to the member of Greece’s neo Nazi Golden Dawn party assaulting two female panellists on a televised debate. People have thrown up their hands in shock as to how someone could behave that way. During the debate he threw water on one woman and then slapped another around the face. His defence was that he had been provoked, I presume he meant verbally, which is the sort of thing that happens in a debate. The idea is when this happens you are supposed to confound your opponent with an incredibly witty response. This is obviously beyond the powers of a right wing Neanderthal.
Having a neo Nazi in a debate with his opponents and expecting him to behave in a civilised manner is the equivalent of dressing a chimpanzee in a suit, calling him a waiter and expecting him to serve you dinner.