Monday, 31 December 2007

Think modern art can be a bit of a joke?

Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, US How many Bush administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb? - None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honourably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

Doug Fishbone, US An applicant for a job with the US federal government is filling out the application form. He comes to the question: "Do you favour the overthrow of the United States by force, subversion or violence?" After thinking about it he ticks "violence".

· Laughing in a Foreign Language, the Hayward gallery, London, January 24-April 13

Friday, 28 December 2007

Let's end all political dynasties!

The headline links to a Guardian article speculating on what Benazir Bhutto's sons might do. I hope they read the article and conclude that there are better ways of helping Pakistan than running for office on the strength of a name. (UPDATED I got that wrong - her son is running now.)

Historically, democracy was born out of dissatisfaction with the hereditary principle. Simply because someone was the heir to the family that had once organised a successful coup d'etat was not seen as a good indicator of their ability to rule. Or indeed their "divine right". Most successful democratic states have dispensed with hereditary offices - even Britain has finally got around to reforming the House of Lords, although I think they still have some way to go. (Canada's Senate is not hereditary - but that needs reform even more urgently.)

Yes, I am afraid it does apply to Our Own Dear Queen too, despite the fact that as titular Head of State she has done a Good Job. She still wields influence - and on the whole has been very discreet and sensitive in its use. But still, it is highly offensive to the ideals of liberty and equality that she does so.

What beggars belief is that Americans appear to buy in to the idea that relatives of former presidents are good candidates for office. The present office holder must surely dispel for all time the idea that "political dynasties" have any role in a modern democracy. Does that disqualify Hilary? Well, I don't know that she is running as Mrs Bill - she is her own woman - or at least enough of her own woman to get elected, so we cannot disqualify everyone who just happens to have had a relative in a top job.

Tony Blair did not have the right to pass on his job to his selected candidate - no matter what he promised over the dinner table. Brown is suffering not least because he has no discernible mandate - and seemed reluctant to get one when he could. We want to elect our leaders - and we also want to be able to get rid of them when they do not perform.

The US process for getting rid of a President is now so cumbersome and ineffective it needs to be reformed too. It is ludicrous that a President can be impeached over a tawdry affair with an intern, but not over the "high crimes and misdemeanours" that W - and his VP - have committed.

The idea behind democracy is that we trust the people. What is happening in Pakistan at present is that gangs who want to take control have no intention of trusting anyone. They cannot get a popular mandate but will happily seize power any way that they can. The way that the democratic process in most democracies can be held in abeyance is a warning. People talk about "checks and balances" but what is most noticeable is that the people who depend on them most could not win a popular vote - and most of them are not willing to try. They cannot resist the temptation to meddle with the system to their own advantage as our Premier of BC is currently demonstrating.

What people must learn - over and over again - is that just because someone has a familiar name or looks good on tv does not mean they can be trusted with power. I think the way to do that is to allow for more voting, not less. More direct decision making through referenda, but also more directly elected bodies - at all levels of government - with much shorter terms of office. Voting should not be a rare opportunity but something we get to do all the time. And then perhaps, if practice makes perfect, we might get a bit better at it.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

tugboat story

Actually a push tow

As a swing bridge operator myself, I thought the pictures that precede the story were extraordinary - but what makes the site worthwhile is the account that follows them

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A Christmas Message from George Bernard Shaw

[from "A Preface on the Prospects of Christianity" (Androcles and the Lion): 1913]

"Not this man but Barrabas" Matthew: 27

The Alternative to Barabbas

But the mobs must be faced if civilization is to be saved. It did not need the present [World War I] to show that neither the iconographic Christ nor the Christ of St. Paul has succeeded in effecting the salvation of human society. Whilst I write, the Turks are said to be massacring the Armenian Christians on an unprecedented scale; but Europe is not in a position to remonstrate; for her Christians are slaying one another by every device which civilization has put within their reach as busily as they are slaying the Turks. Barabbas is triumphant everywhere; and the final use he makes if his triumph is to lead us all to suicide with heroic gestures and resounding lies. Now those who, like myself, see the Barabbasque social organization as a failure, and are convinced that the Life Force (or whatever you choose to call it) cannot be finally beaten by any failure, and will even supersede humanity by evolving a higher species if we cannot master the problems raised by the multiplication of our own numbers, have always known that Jesus had a real message, and have felt the fascination of his character and doctrine. Not that we should nowadays dream of claiming any supernatural authority for him, much less the technical authority which attaches to an educated modern philosopher and jurist. But when, having entirely got rid of Salvationist Christianity, and even contracted a prejudice against Jesus on the score of his involuntary connection with it, we engage on a purely scientific study of economics, criminology, and biology, and find that our practical conclusions are virtually those of Jesus, we are distinctly pleased and encouraged to find that we were doing him an injustice, and that the nimbus that surrounds his head in the pictures may be interpreted some day as a light of science rather than a declaration of sentiment or a label of idolatry.

The doctrines in which Jesus is thus confirmed are, roughly, the following:

1. The kingdom of heaven is within you. You are the son of God; and God is the son of man. God is a spirit, to be worshipped in spirit and truth, and not an elderly gentleman to be bribed and begged from. We are members one of another; so that you cannot injure or help your neighbor without injuring or helping yourself. God is your father: you are here to do God's work; and you and your father are one.
2. Get rid of property by throwing it into the common stock. Dissociate your work entirely from money payments. If you let a child starve you are letting God starve. Get rid of all anxiety about tomorrow's dinner and clothes, because you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.
3. Get rid of judges and punishment and revenge. Love your neighbor as yourself, he being a part of yourself. And love your enemies: they are your neighbors.
4. Get rid of your family entanglements. Every mother you meet is as much your mother as the woman who bore you. Every man you meet is as much your brother as the man she bore after you. Don't waste your time at family funerals grieving for your relatives: attend to life, not death: there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and better. In the kingdom of heaven, which, as aforesaid, is within you, there is no marriage nor giving in marriage, because you cannot devote your life to two divinities: God and the person you are married to.

Now these are very interesting propositions; and they become more interesting everyday, as experience and science drive us more and more to consider them favorably. In considering them, we shall waste our time unless we give them a reasonable construction. We must assume that the man who saw his way through such a mass of popular passion and illusion as stands between us and a sense of the value of such teaching was quite aware of the objections that occur to an average stockbroker in the first five minutes. It is true that the world is governed to a considerable extent by the considerations that occur to stockbrokers in the first five minutes; but as the result is that the world is so badly governed that those who know the truth can hardly bear to live in it, an objection from an average stockbroker constitutes in itself a prima facie case for any social reform.

Monday, 24 December 2007

R I P Oscar

The CBC is reporting the death of the great Canadian jazz artist, Oscar Peterson.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Night Train : Music Video

And what do you want?

Vampire Energy

Useful to know

I keep most of the things in my home on power bars with an overload device. This is because I live a suite that has no separate breaker panel. So in order to avoid having to bother my neighbour every time I inadvertently trip a breaker I got power bars with their own breakers. This means when I go out or go to bed with one push on a switch I shut everything down.

Saturday, 22 December 2007


A guy is visiting San Francisco, and walks into a small store in Chinatown.

He notices a small bronze statue of a rat.

He asks the owner "How much?"

The owner replies "$50 for the bronze rat, and $1,000 for the story behind it".

The guy says, "Forget the story", and buys the rat.

As he's walking down the street he notices two live rats following him. As he continues to walk, more rats start following him.

He starts to get a little concerned, and heads for the waterfront. By the time he gets there there are thousands and thousands of rats following him.

He walks up to the end of the pier and throws the bronze rat into the Bay, and the rats all follow and leap off of the pier and drown.

The guy rushes back to the store and walks in. The owner says, "Ah!, so you're back for the story".

The guys says, "No, I was wondering if you have any bronze lawyers?"


The link to this animated version of the Tom Lehrer song was one of the comments to the opinion piece by Marina Hyde in the Guardian that the headline links to.

It is merely coincidence than it continues yesterday's theme. I will deny that I like pornography - why I do not even have a pornograph to play it on!

Friday, 21 December 2007

A final farewell to sex

The most obvious thing about moving into my 70s was the disappearance of what was the most important thing in life: I ceased to be a sexual being.' Diana Athill, 90, reflects on the affair that carried her into old age

Diana is 90 - I am only 58. So this is not anything about resonances with my experience. In fact very much the opposite. I have never met anyone - male or female - with this kind of attitude. I wish I had. It is also very good writing indeed.

Temp Hides Fun, Fulfilling Life From Rest Of Office

The Onion tries very hard to be funny - but every so often it just cannot manage it and writes something that is simply true.

The best thing that ever happened to me was losing my well paid job. Of course, I did not think so at the time and I bust a gut trying to get another one. It has taken quite a while for the truth to dawn on me. But having a much less demanding and lower paid job has given me some time to rediscover what it is I like doing. Which is a bit like work but not much. And the hours are great.

Myth, Myth!

Turkey does not make you sleepy

You do not need to drink 8 glasses of water a day

You use all of your brain (not just 10%)

Hair and fingernails do not grow after death

Reading in bad light does not ruin your eyesight

Shaving does not affect hair growth rate

Mobile phones do not cause hospital equipment to fail (and though the story does not say so I do not think there is any evidence of interference with aircraft navigation equipment either)

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Off the charts

You have probably done that political compass test. I am somewhere off to the lower left. No surprise - nearly every candidate running for US President is way over in the other quadrant. Which is probably why I live in Canada

Hummer: Now Everyone Will Know

Here's that guy again

I posted his first video - and now he has worked on the argument a bit more. Sorry, a lot more. And it is not about "is the science right?" It is about simple risk management. We have policy choices and it is clear that even George W Bush is beginning to twig that outright denial is not going to cut it.

BC Consumer Protection Authority

I have lived in BC for over ten years. This is the first time I have ever come across this body. I was reading Macleans story about a fraudulent funeral home they had closed down.

The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia (BPCPA) is the only organization of its kind in Canada. The BPCPA of BC protects consumers and encourages fair business practices by:

* Responding to inquiries and complaints from BC consumers and businesses;
* Educating consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities;
* Licensing specific industries;
* Inspecting these licensed industries to ensure they are complying with BC's consumer protection laws;
* Investigating alleged violations of consumer protection laws and following up with progressive enforcement action; and
* Recommending enhancements to BC's consumer protection laws to the provincial government.
Good. I can think of a number of things they can do.

Thinking of visiting the US?

I did not reuse the headline from the original story deliberately. Her sex, age and hair colour should be irrelevant.

You must read this first.

This is what America has become. If you are American, you must understand what your government has done and is doing to destroy your nation's reputation.

If you are not an American citizen you need to understand that you have no legal rights at all. They can detain you and ship you to a third country to be tortured on the basis of nothing credible at all. They have already done that to many people including an innocent Canadian engineer who had no intentions whatever of entering the US but what was just changing planes in NYC!

There can be no possible justification for this behaviour as it is obvious that this young woman posed absolutely no threat to the US at all - and that is all Homeland Security is supposed to be about. The United States is becoming a fascist police state - if it is not one already.

Small Steps

David Suzuki, Special to the Sun
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It recently became time to change the two toilets in my home. I decided to replace them with dual-flush toilets, which should save my family huge amounts of water. Toilets manufactured before the 1980s usually require 15 to 20 litres per flush. Toilets sold during the '80s and early '90s use 13 litres.

For more information:

It is really quite hard for me to criticize David Suzuki, who has the status of a secular saint in Canadian environmental circles. And this advice may be very useful in some places. But not in Vancouver. We have no water shortage here. Vast amounts of water are spilled every day from our reservoirs and only in very dry summers, or when there is a major system failure of some kind, are we advised to conserve water. We restrict lawn sprinkling - but mostly because it is completely unnecessary except for newly seeded lawns - which are exempt. We flush our toilets and wash our cars in drinking water - which looks profligate to people who have to carry every drop in jerry cans five miles a day. And even though our watersheds are "pristine" the stuff that comes out of the taps smells so bad (due to chlorination) and is so often clouded with silt that most people spend a small fortune on filters or bottled water for drinking and cooking.

But the biggest waste is old water mains that leak. And the bureaucrats and politicians are quite happy about that because they do nothing to stop it. We do not pay for water by usage either in most homes - although water meters are gradually being introduced. If water wastage was a big concern, we would first fix the leaking water mains. That would produce a much better rate of return in terms of capital employed than any consumer oriented scheme. Some innovative buildings show that you do not even need water pipes or sewers: you can collect rain water and recycle it through several systems before allowing it to sink gracefully into the soil. Such buildings require exemptions from the local building code and are therefore exceedingly rare.

And if you really want to one up your neighbours you can buy a composting toilet. You can't get much greener than that.

But if water conservation in your toilet is something you want to do, you can either fiddle with the ballcock - or the smaller, neater filling valves that are replacing that ancient contraption - or put something in the cistern to displace some of the water. Or you can follow the advice of the Fockers

If its yellow, let it mellow
If its brown, flush it down

Cheap and nasty

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Spying claims rock BNP

Oh good

There may be a split
According to Nick Lowles, an anti-fascist campaigner from Searchlight, large sections of the party across the north of England and Scotland are now openly hostile to Griffin and the current BNP leadership. "This has become a very serious split and it is difficult to see how the two sides can be reconciled without one group leaving the party," he said.
We can only hope he is right about that.

They call themselves "nationalists" but what they are really is Nazis - and the weaker their nasty little cabal becomes, the happier we all shall be

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Jed vs The Doctor

I replay this every so often when the fundamentalists are getting me down.

Jed is the President the US should have had. And the lady is obviously "Dr Laura" - and you only win arguments like this when you have really good writers.

Saturday, 15 December 2007


It is a very good movie - and the first time I have thought the movie better than the book. But the sight of her in her wet underwear is supposed to be what drives him to a later act of passion. But frankly, I do not think she has enough shape to promote anything but concern for her obvious undernourishment.

As old man Steptoe
was wont to remark "I likes meaty birds!"

Friday, 14 December 2007

Christmas card

BC Hydro has a card at the following site:

They will donate to the BC Childrens hospital each time someone activates the site and ‘deposits a cyber quarter’. It is for a good cause, it's a cute Christmas card and it is fun!

Feel free to pass this one on.

B.C. lags behind other provinces economically: report

So much for "the best place on earth". And this report, please note, does not come from the lefties or the greenies but "a group of Premier Gordon Campbell's handpicked advisers"

For me the real kicker in our system is that we are the only place that deducts every cent of earnings that welfare recipients make from their cheques. Everywhere else it is recognised that not only is welfare grossly inadequate and has to be supplemented by charities like food banks (a temporary measure that was introduced to embarrass a BC government over 20 years ago) but getting any kind of job is the first step off walfare. Exactly what kind of incentive is it to lose all your earnings to the government? Can you imagine the howls at the other end of the tax system if the super rich had to give up all their unearned dividends after they got to a certain level?
"The most troubling social indicator is the proportion of British Columbians living below the low-income threshold," says the report, which calls the social condition category "one of the most compelling considerations" for judging a society.

The report says the proportion of people living on low incomes in B.C. has been greater than other provinces through much of the past decade.

And just in case anybody buys that argument about the economic "incentive" of attacking the poor, "B.C. dropped from second to sixth in overall economic growth" - even though we have oil, gas, minerals - and are giving away hydro to P3s

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Michigan Left

I have never seen one of these

I stumbled upon it - and read it with growing disbelief. The lengths that American traffic engineers will go to avoid using a simple roundabout!

My boss is incompetent, what can I do?

Q I work in a public sector organisation, and the senior staff in my department have all been there for 30 years or more. People have been promoted on longevity rather than merit
I should not be doing this. I should be over it by now. But reading this cri de coeur and the response reawakened all the old issues.

The advice of course is get another job - but what is not said is how you explain why you want another job and what kind of reference will you get from your incompetent bosses. In organisations like this - and there are plenty of them - blame always trickles down but all praise gets trapped at the top. The boss takes credit for your successes and you take the blame for his failures.

I wish I had a better solution, since changing jobs can often be quite traumatic on families when relocation is involved. And getting a job in a new city means breaking into a whole new network unless you are widely known and have a strong reputation in your field. Maybe that is where the stimulus comes from for all those conferences and seminars.

Your career is your possession - but don't expect that other people will not try to take it from you if they can

Monday, 10 December 2007

Robert Latimer has been persecuted, not prosecuted

When Robert Latimer was refused parole, I felt that i should write about it. But for a variety of reasons I simply could not deal with it. I cannot imagine what it must have taken for this man to take the decision he did. But I have long thought that in the case of euthanasia, we treat our pets much better than our families.

This piece by Ian Mulgrew is far better than I could have managed, and I applaud his courage in printing it. I expect he will now get the full weight of condemnation to hell from the "holier than thou" crowd.
There is an unrelated judgment from the Supreme Court that says "a liberal and humane criminal law cannot hold people to the strict obedience of laws in emergency situations where normal human instincts . . . overwhelmingly impel disobedience . . . such acts are still wrongful, but in the circumstances are excusable. Praise is indeed not bestowed, but pardon is."

You can help urge cabinet to make that decision -- visit Latimer's website at or sign the petition at

There is also a group on Facebook called Free Robert Latimer.

I can think of no better case for mercy.

Conrad Black sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail on fraud, obstruction convictions


and acoording to the Sun Black was also fined $125,000 US, and ordered to forfeit $6.1-million.

And no club fed either
Because he gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a British Lord, Black cannot opt to serve his sentence in Canada, nor is he eligible for a minimum-security prison in the U.S.

Does he also get stripped of his peerage too?

Friday, 7 December 2007

The vegetable orchestra

More on the writers strike

How the stars manage without scripts (click on the title)

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The secret of happiness

“It appears that spending time relaxing is the secret to a happy life. Cost-free pleasures are the ones that make the difference — even when you can afford anything that you want.”

New research from the University of Nottingham comes up with a completely unsurprising result

A bar of chocolate, a long soak in the bath, a snooze in the middle of the afternoon, a leisurely stroll in the park.

I am surprised that just spending time with your children, pets or significant other did not make the list

How to Be a Mensch

A mensch?

Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.
Leo Rosten

Compassion -- the Richmond way

A letter to the editor of the Richmond News deploring the attitudes of those opposed to the proposed construction of a treatment centre for people with addictions

Last Saturday I attended what was billed as a "public conference" organized by the NIABY group in opposition to the proposed Turning Point facility on Ash Street. I found it saddening.

I had assumed that a "conference" would be a place of discussion, but the first piece of information that greeted us was: "It is not a debate and no questions or comments will be entertained on the floor." That, and the explanation of the name NIABY, "not in anyone's back yard" set the tone.

There followed a series of speakers who made statements containing many half truths, inaccuracies and false statistics. Quite remarkably the first speaker, a man with the title "Dr." who conducts research at UBC, spoke only in Chinese. It was clear the speakers were not knowledgeable about addiction or its treatment and they clearly regarded all people with addictions as bad and dangerous. This of course is fundamentally wrong. The vast majority of people with addictions are just like everybody else, often working regular jobs. When they reach the decision to stop using drugs or alcohol they should be supported.

And the letter ends

I call on all the citizens of Richmond and particularly the mayor and council, to resist this attack on Richmond and its lifestyle, and support Turning Point's application to build this very much needed facility.

Brian Wardley,


Hanukkah reminds us of the need to end suffering

progressive thinkers see the story of the oil as a way to preach about the scarcity of natural resources and the need to conserve energy. In fact, according to an article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Shalom Center in Philadelphia has launched the Green Menorah Covenant campaign to promote energy efficiency in Jewish communities. The campaign is timed to coincide both with Hanukkah and with the United Nations-sponsored conference on climate change this week in Bali, Indonesia.

The leap from the Maccabees to climate change may seem long. But Hanukkah, like other Jewish holidays, has always embraced universal themes. As Jewish families light a candle every night for the next eight nights, they shine a light on the world for all to see its wonders, and remind us of our duty to drive out the darkness of human suffering.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Iran halted nuclear weapons programme in 2003

So, there were no WMDs in Iraq - but the White House and No 10 ignored that, fudged the intelligence and went in anyway.

In the case of Iran the intelligence community has decided to break with the conventions that made that possible.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, decided last month that the key judgments of NIEs should not, as a rule, be declassified and released.

But intelligence officials said an exception was made in this case because the last assessment of Iran's nuclear programme in 2005 has been influential in public debate about US policy toward Iran and needed to be updated to reflect the latest findings.

NIE = National intelligence estimates represent the most authoritative written judgments of all 16 US spy agencies.

16? Why do they need 16 spy agencies??

Anyway, there has been plenty of speculation that an invasion of Iran was going to be the next step - despite the crippling national debt and the inextricable morass of Iraq. So either this inspired production of what they must have known for some time is either a good excuse to back off - or a "pre-emptive strike" by the intelligence community before George dumps them in the brown stuff again. Your guess is as good as mine.

Note too how the spin credits GWB's "get tough" stance - and does not let the Iranians completely off the hook since they are still enriching uranium. For peaceful purposes - which they are entitled to do - but they still *could* make a bomb.

Just as every male is equipped to commit rape.

Green America

Just because the Bush White House doesn't get it, do not despair. A lot of Americans do, and are doing something.

Hundreds of American jurisdictions at the state, county and city levels have ignored Washington’s spectacular indifference to environmental crisis, which is what we see in terms of the international treaties, and are moving ahead by leaps and bounds to curb greenhouse gas emissions and forge a profitable green economy regardless of what goes on in Washington.
At last count, for example, more than 700 American cities had become signatories to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which is meant to bring them into line with the emissions cuts called for by Kyoto. Collectively, they govern more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

And there are also a couple of useful links and, two sites out of Seattle and New York, respectively, that have become must-reads for people captivated by possibility rather than gloom.

So long, James

James Barber "The Urban Peasant" was an inspiration to many. He celebrated simple cooking with easy to find ingredients and - as the video clip shows - ingenious tools. He encourages everyone to experiment and improvise. And he went the way he lived - in his kitchen with a pot of soup on the stove. At age 84. I should be so lucky

And here is a much better appreciation from Angela Murills

In a race for mayor, Taylor would stand as a brand unto herself

Interesting think piece from Miro Cernetig this morning. Taylor herself has not declared, but her backers are talking. She would not run under the NPA banner but as an independent.

The story concentrates on the wheelchair factor - Sullivan as hero overcoming huge personal odds to wave the flag of the Olympics as Vancouver's Mayor. But that is not going to be the thing that most Vancouverites remember. Miro does not mention this so I will. There is a much more recent memory - months of a completely unnecessary strike - no garbage collection all summer, no libraries, no daycare. Other municipalities manged to get a deal really quickly with no disruption at all - and most people now remember the event as "Sam's strike": fairly or not, that is the lasting impression.

Meanwhile Carol supporters will
flash back to the finance minister's effective depoliticization of public-service labour negotiations, when she signed deals with every single union in the province, a historic first.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Tracking Santa

Nice little seasonal item on Google's own blog

Saturday, 1 December 2007


I was going to make an image for this post but I was too hungry. I have been smelling my housemate's roast pork for a couple of hours and that had really piqued my appetite. I do not recall eating bison before - and that could be that to me it does not tatste a lot different to beef. Well a very nice beef, I will admit. I bought top sirloin steak and just threw it into a hot Le Creuset griddle pan. Turned it (once laterally, flip, once laterally again, take it out) and put it alongside a baked potato (Washington russet) and half a spaghetti squash. Glass of Aussie red (Stanley Cabernet Shiraz from a 2l cardboard box) MMMMMM nice

I had to buy two steaks so I put the other one in the freezer for later. When I do that one, I will add a pic

Read the link, try the bison. You will thank me.

Pope blames history's cruelties on atheism

Pope Benedict, in an encyclical released Friday, said atheism was responsible for some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in history.
Atehists may have been responsible for some cruelties - but not because of their atheism, that was just incidental.The "theists" on the other hand have been, historically, responsible for much greater cruelties, precisely because of their beliefs - which can start with the crusades and the Inquisition and continues to this day with the sectarian strife in Ireland to the protesters in the Sudan who think a teacher should be killed because her students named their teddybear after The Prophet.

The Catholic Church really has a very poor record indeed in the area of cruelty - even leaving aside the activities of those it simply condoned or ignored - promoted by its doctrine. And with the conviction that God was on their side and the blessings of earlier Popes cheerfully burnt, tortured, beheaded and maimed many millions simply because they did not share the exact same interpretations of a faith that was supposedly based on "love your enemies". And, at the same time, amassed huge wealth and power - again somewhat in contrast to the teachings of the Jewish carpenter they claimed to be following.

I think there is a quote somewhere about motes and beams but as an atheist myself I will leave that to others. I do think that Benedict needs to read a bit more history to get a sense of proportion on this issue - and should rather concentrate on apologizing for the role of the church and making amends for the cruelties it has promoted and condoned, rather than lecturing others.

And as for "justice" lets just mention Gallileo and leave it at that shall we