Posts Tagged ‘England’

US Senate does something undeniably good for once

July 23, 2010

UPDATE: This bill is now a law.

A while back I wrote about the case of Simon Singh and his battle with chiropractors and the UK’s terrible libel laws. One thing I neglected to mention was a further ramification to the British legal system when it comes to libel laws – the possibility and practice of something called libel tourism.

Let’s say I wrote a book called Osama bin Laden is a Big Stupid Jerkface for an American publisher. And in it, I wrote about why I think bin Laden’s a big stupid jerkface. Then someone who didn’t like me saying that could obtain a copy of my book from a British distributor and then sue me under the UK’s jurisprudence even though both my publisher and I are American. That’s libel tourism.

Well earlier this week, the US Senate passed a bill regarding this issue which is now on its way through the House of Representatives. From the Agence France-Presse:

The measure would prevent US federal courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
It would bar foreign parties in such cases from targeting the US assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.

And what makes this even better is that it was passed with unanimous consent, which means that both Democrats and Republicans were all like this:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting that this law, which is co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is in response to a book called Funding Evil by Rachel Ehrenfeld. Ehrenfeld was sued by a Saudi billionaire she accused of funding terrorism under British jurisprudence. She now hopes that this legislation will pass the House and set off a ripple effect both within the UK itself and in former British colonies which adopted their backwards legal system.


Another guru rapist

April 9, 2010

Sometimes it’s fun to take news stories out of context. For example, this:

“He has for many years now been at the centre of a group of followers, overwhelmingly women, some of whom have been part of his circle for many years.”

and this:

The women were drawn in with claims that Mr [last name] had worked for the Dalai Lama and he would drive them around in expensive cars, the jury heard.

sound like they might be about Tiger Woods. But they’re not. That was from a story about a healer/guru in London who recruited women to rape and then recruit future rape victims for him.

Michael Lyons, aka “Mohan Singh” is being charged with five counts of rape. And unlike more pragmatic cult leader rapists, he’s been doing this kind of stuff since 1998 based on what seem only like vague promises about life changes instead of empirical results. Well yeah, if you suddenly join a rape cult after previously not belonging to any then your life will change. There’s apparently some fine print about the exacy nature of these life changes which some of the victims/collaborators overlooked before signing on.

Simon Singh wins appeal

April 1, 2010

After almost two years of legal action, Simon Singh won the libel case against him by the British Chiropractic Association on appeal (full text of ruling). The case was over an article called “Beware the Spinal Trap” which appeared in the Guardian in 2008, specifically over where Singh wrote that the BCA “happily promoted bogus treatments,” because they do.

Originally, the courts ruled that happily promoting bogus treatments implied that the BCA would have to be promoting treatments which they knew didn’t work. This is exact opposite of how we have libel in America, where the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knowingly misinformed the public. In British law, such as it is, being right isn’t good enough of a defense against libel.

The president of the BCA said he is considering appealing the appeal (YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE APPEALS). Singh says that so far the lawsuit has cost him £200,000.

Hopefully this can be used as a precedent to reform the UK’s primitive libel laws. From the BBC:

Coalition for Libel Reform spokeswoman Tracey Brown said: “This case has brought out of the woodwork the fact that so many other discussions are being killed, from discussions of cardiology to human rights to medicines.
“We’re now pushing ahead for bigger changes to the law so that we have the kind of public interest defence that means it wouldn’t have taken two years and £200,000 to find out whether Simon can defend himself.”

You can learn more about British libel reform here.

You can also read more info on the case from the Index on CensorshipSteven Novella, Rebecca Watson, and Jack of Kent.

Prince Charles is being a douchebag again

February 22, 2010

Prince Charles on the Enlightenment:

“It might be time to think again and review it and question whether it is really effective in today’s conditions, faced as we are with huge challenges all over the world. It must be apparent to people deep down that we have to do something about it.
We cannot go on like this, just imagining that the principles of the Enlightenment still apply now.”

Do you see what he did there? He just went from needing to re-think Enlightenment ideas straight to Enlightenment ideas not working and that we can’t go on with it because WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. Usually people need to make a case to go from a premise to a conclusion like that, but I guess when you don’t have to work for a living like everyone else you might feel entitled to just draw conclusions out of nowhere.

But since Charlie has a problem with the Enlightenment because it’s outdated, he must have a much newer framework with which to see the world and solve all our problems. Haha! Just kidding. It’s just more of the same old ancient theology he’s been spouting for years:

“I believe it is of crucial importance to work with, in harmony with nature, to rediscover how it is necessary to work with the grain of nature, as it is necessary to work with the grain of our humanity,” he said. “What is the point of all this clever technology if at the end of the day we lose our souls, and the soul of nature of which we are a part?”

I’m not sure what exactly he means by our souls or the “soul of nature” and how they are being lost, but to answer his question the point of a lot of this clever technology is to reduce the amount of preventable suffering. Take GM crops for instance – which Charles is also against. The point of that would be to provide cheap food for areas lacking an agricultural infrastructure. Feeding hungry people, in other words. That’s the point. Apparently that’s not high-minded enough for this clown.

And that last bit about him claiming to believe we’re a part of nature really bothers me. If that’s the case (and I would agree with him on that point) then our technology would be analogous to birds building their nests and beavers building their dams. After all, they’re just doing that for the sake of their own survival, not for any “spiritual” reasons. We and all the other animals are just doing our thing as parts of nature, trying to get by.

That’s not what Charles wants though. He wants us to be distinct from the rest of nature – special, even. That way he can get away with holding the contradictory positions of glorifying nature and needing to take care of it at the same time. He’s condescending, paternalistic, and worshipful towards nature all at once. It’s a common problem with the New Agey types. And here is a great example of that, with some inbred babbling mixed in:

The Prince also made an impassioned call for houses to be built so that birds, such as swallows and swifts, could make their nests there. “It is immoral not to consider those other species that share this planet with us,” he said. “If the swallows and swifts stop coming here and nesting on the buildings that I love, then there is no point to life. Literally. It is symbolic, like the albatross. If that becomes extinct then I think we deserve nothing but reprobation.”

There’s no point to life if birds don’t nest in buildings he loves? Maybe someone should explain to him that most species (including most birds!) have gone extinct. And the vast majority of the time it has nothing at all to do with human actions either. I’m not saying we should actively encourage Charles to commit suicide over this, but he doesn’t seem to be aware of this. And if telling him happens to result in his suicide, well, that’s just the way things go. It’s “literally symbolic,” whatever that means.


Prince Charles urges EU medical deregulation

December 3, 2009

England’s most famous welfare queen – besides the actual queen – is meeting with the UK’s health secretary to get him to cancel proposed EU medical regulations which would “crack down” (words of the Telegraph) on people who practice medicine without being registered to do so.

Imagine that! It’s like the EU wants to enter the 20th century already in this regard.

Prince Charles has been outspoken in his advocacy of certain antiscientific positions. For example, he’s opposed to so-called genetically modified crops because to do otherwise would be to take us into “realms that belong to God and God alone.” Apparently he doesn’t understand that crops have been genetically modified by humans ever since there were such things as crops, during the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago.

Likewise, he doesn’t seem to understand the importance of regulating medicine, which is funny for what’s supposed to be the “nanny state” of the UK where regulation is taken a bit too far. He sees the deregulation of medical practices as protecting the “alternative medicine” industry, of which he has long been a strong supporter from promoting coffee “cures” for cancer to homeopathy and herbal remedies which has angered actual doctors who understand medicine. Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst even dedicate a chunk of their book to countering Charlie’s claims about such “medicine.”

It’s often said that there’s this word for “alternative medicine” that’s been proven to work: It’s “medicine.” So alternative medicine by definition either has yet to have been shown to work, or has been shown not to work. If you want your remedies and magic potions to be considered medicine, why not test them and have them join the rest of medicine? After all, it’s not like this is a foreign concept. Lots of medicine was once in the same category as herbal remedies, but then it was tested and shown to work. If it can’t pass those tests, then there are good reasons to regulate them and point out clearly that the results of such testing are consistent with them not working at all.

That’s what Charles would be doing if he actually cared about showing that his quackery works. But he doesn’t. He just wants more money poured into the multi-billion dollar industries he favors for his own personal, ideological reasons.