Step Away, Professor Dawkins, Step Away…

One of the reasons why I refuse to use Twitter is because it is impossible to have nuanced conversation and argument in a straitjacket of 140 characters. However, as the saying goes, fools rush in, where angels fear to tread

And so it is with Richard Dawkins, who in response to someone who tweeted:

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

responded with

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

Oh god; *facepalm*. Talk about a hostage to fortune. Ophelia references a discussion between Michael Bérubé (whose son, Jamie, has Down Syndrome) and the moral philosopher Peter Singer. It’s worth reading.  Dawkins, it should be noted is a scientist, not an ethicist or moral philosopher.

Professor Dawkins has a history of opening his mouth to change feet when he uses Twitter. Personally, I think he should stop using it. It’s an embarrassment to all concerned.

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“ISIS is a Zionist Plot”

There’s a small disturbance in the Force here in the Netherlands at the moment. A civil servant, working for the Ministry of Security and Justice as a Project Leader for the National Cyber Security Centre, just so happened to tweet (and I paraphrase) that

“the terror group ISIS does not exist and it is all a Zionist plot to defame Islam”.

Yasmina Haifa, for it was she, has since deleted the tweet, claiming that she belatedly realised the political sensitivity in relation to her work (no, really?), but apparently stands by what she says, claiming, in a radio interview that

“Apparently freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to particular groups and not to others”.

Not surprisingly, she has been sacked suspended from her job. However, she claims to have had no idea that her comments would cause such a fuss, saying in the radio interview that she

“…assumed I was living in a democratic country”.

Yes, Ms. Haifi, you are living in a democratic country. And freedom of speech does not absolve you from freedom from responsibility.

She appears to be either disingenuous or ignorant. Either way, she does not seem fit to hold the position of Project Leader at the National Cyber Security Centre.

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I Wish…

…that the upcoming Disney version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods will do justice to the material.

The first teaser trailer for the film of Into the Woods has been released, and it’s notable that there ain’t no singing in it, even though it’s a Sondheim Musical. Apparently the filmmakers have also taken out a couple of the songs and changed the plot. All of which leaves me hoping that they haven’t wrecked one of Sondheim’s best works. At least I saw the stage production of Into the Woods when it played in London back in 1990, and I have the DVD of the American Playhouse production of the work to remind me of how good it could be.

Posted in Film, Music | 2 Comments

This Land is Mine Redux

A couple of years back, I blogged about Nina Paley’s short animation: This Land is Mine. Two years on, and nothing seems to have changed in that part of the world. The only winner, as Nina pointed out, is the Angel of Death.

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MH17 & Dutch Pragmatism

It’s shocking news about the loss of flight MH17. All the more so because 298 civilians appear to have been killed in a conflict that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. And all because some trigger-happy Ukrainian rebels, armed by the Russians with surface-to-air missiles, appear to have mistaken a passenger airliner, flying above 32,000 feet on an established route over Ukrainian air-space, for a Ukrainian military transport plane.

It’s a route and flight that was well-known to me during my last years working for Shell. We were setting up a data centre in Kuala Lumpur, and many of my colleagues, of many nationalities, would be travelling back and forth between Shell’s head office in The Hague and KL. I myself flew that route on a couple of occasions. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that at least one Shell employee, working in IT, was on that flight.

This article in today’s Guardian points up the phenomenon of Dutch pragmatism. Dutch passengers checking in at Schiphol today seem to be of the opinion that the downing of flight MH17 was an isolated incident, and unlikely to happen ever again. They are right, but that’s probably of little comfort to those who have lost family, friends or colleagues in this tragic event.

Posted in News and politics, Travel | 3 Comments

Horse Driving Trials

The local horse and carriage club held its annual horse driving trials (samengestelde menwenstrijd in Dutch) last weekend. On the Sunday, the Marathon was held, and I went along to take photographs at one of the sets of obstacles near our house. The full set of my photos is up on Flickr, but here’s a taster:






Posted in Events, Photography, Sport | 1 Comment

Taking The Kids For A Spin

I’m not sure whether it’s the same duck, but a mallard attempts to nest in the shrubs by our pond every year. It’s mostly unsuccessful – last year the nest was abandoned, and earlier this year, something (a marauding crow?) took the eggs. However, this year, the mallard had a second attempt and has hatched six ducklings. The first we were aware of this was a couple of days ago, when she took them out for a spin on the pond.  Until then, we hadn’t realised that she had returned to the nest and had been brooding a second batch of eggs. She and the ducklings now seem to spend most of the time in the nest hidden in the shrub. Just as well, otherwise our dog Watson would be disturbing them.





Posted in Nature, Photography | 1 Comment