Pakistan Tanker Fire And Devil-Possessed Frenchmen -Is There A Connection?

What have exorcisms in France got to do with an overturned oil lorry in Pakistan? Not a lot, is the immediate response, but maybe there is a connection. In Pakistan recently, a tanker carrying hundreds of gallons of fuel overturned after blowing a tyre. In excess of one hundred and fifty people died when the truck exploded as a passer-by lit a cigarette. [1]

Hearing of the tanker leaking fuel, people from all over the locality, and some from further afield, rushed with cooking pots, cans, and anything else capable of holding liquid, to salvage the leaking fuel for themselves. Most of them died when the tanker blew up.

It was a horrendous tragedy. The dead weren’t thieves, they were just poor, desperate people who saw the tanker accident as a gift from Allah. They were Muslims. It wouldn’t have mattered if they’d been Christian, or Hindu, or even Buddhist. They were still dirt poor, and their religious beliefs had done nothing to improve the bitter poverty of their existence.

A recent report in France reveals that more than three times the number of exorcisms are being carried out now, than was the case ten years ago. Most are conducted by the Catholic church. Because French people are less religious now they leave themselves open and vulnerable to diabolic attacks. At least, that’s what one Catholic priest told the newspaper printing the report.

In fact, there hasn’t really been any increase at all. What’s changed has been the numbers of cases identified as possession by the Devil, as opposed to other causes such as psychiatric illnesses. In some cases the church will have a psychiatric assessment done, or more likely, the priest relies on his own experience to diagnose the unfortunate sufferer.

It all smacks somewhat of medieval Europe, or maybe 21st century Pakistan. In both cases the people affected are under the control and dominance of a powerful hierarchical religious organization. And you can bet that the vast majority are poor, struggling, individuals with probably little in the way of education.

There’s no doubt that any original sense of moral purpose, humanity, or plain ‘goodness’, which may have been inherent in any of the major religions at their inception, has been usurped by the greed and quest for power of those charged with the responsibility of guiding and caring for its doctrines down through the ages.

In 21st century France, Pakistan, and throughout the world, religion is now no more than a tool of the marketeers, peddling heavenly immortality to anyone fool enough to be taken in by the glib tongues and promises of godly love in the next life, even if the one being lived today is squalid and purposeless.

The words of Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth, or any of the other so-called “Divine Prophets” may have held a certain sense of comfort at one time (or, they may not), but today there’s no room for the originals in human society. All that’s spouted in the mosques and churches is twisted rhetoric, honed through the ages into tools of power and control over those who venture into these mausoleums of a bygone era.

Might the poor folk lying dead on the street in Pakistan have expected their prophet to at least provide them with sufficient for their needs so they’d not have to lose their lives filling a cooking pot with petrol? Might the mentally sick Catholics of France expect more of their god (and their church) than a priest informing them they’re possessed by Beelzebub?

Isn’t it time we buried these old superstitions once and for all? It takes only a modicum of intelligence to quickly conclude that the ‘devil’ only exists in celluloid cinema. Any cleric who says otherwise is either lying for his own nefarious purpose, or is, himself, in need of psychiatric medicine.

Of course, there is a modicum of insecurity behind this sudden influx of diabolic insemination in France. It’s a secular nation with a secular government. Separation of church and state is a reality, unlike certain other nations where its mere lip-service. The Catholic church fears its loss of power. “There’s a growing paganism,” said one French priest, “so the Devil is more at home.” Which is best translated, “We’re losing our control over the people, so we use the myth of the Devil to bring them back into the fold.”

Is there a place for religions in modern society, or is it time we recognised them for the myths they are and consigned them to the dustbin of history? It’s hard to argue there was ever any justification for their existence, except as a means to control the poor, disease-ravaged, peasantry of middle-ages England, or the 21st century peasantry of Pakistan. Life was/is so desperately hard for these people that some hope of a better life after death is probably the only belief that keeps them functioning. Let’s not forget that the mullahs, imams, priests, curates, vicars, bishops, archbishops, and pastors, peddling these myths are mostly living very nicely off their wares. The idea of giving all they own to the poor, somehow seems to have got lost in translation.

If, after reading this diatribe, you conclude the writer has a down on religion, you’d be right. He happens to believe the idea of immortality is total and utter bunkum. It works like this: okay, you have a crap life. You live in squalor, you have trouble feeding your family, you have to work at three really terrible low-paid jobs for eighteen hours a day to survive, your baby daughter has a terminal disease that can’t be treated because you can’t pay the hospital fees, your husband is serving ten years in prison for smoking a joint of marijuana while trying to gain a few moments of relief from the hell that is his life, and your house has just been repossessed. Don’t worry, because so long as you believe and come to our church, and leave a little something on the plate as you leave, Jesus/Allah/Hare Krishna/ will make it all up to you once you’re dead. Hang in there and don’t complain.

Doesn’t it truly sound like a load of bollocks? That’s because it is. If there was no religion we would all accept the inevitability of death as a personal ending. Carl Sagan, the great physicist, astronomer, poet, said of the concept of afterlife:

…it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority […] anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny.

So let’s scrutinise. There is no evidence for human immortality. Not one shred. It’s a lie perpetrated by clerical conmen who are either themselves deluded, or out to deliberately delude others to their own ends.

Imagine for one moment the idea that we all believe in our own mortality. How might the world be different? Perhaps, we might not be so resigned to our own individual plights. We may be somewhat less agreeable to one person flying around in his private jet, while others had nothing. Just maybe our own lives, and by comparison those of others, may become more important to us. It could mean less wars, more concern for those less well off than ourselves, a more peaceful, understanding world. After all, if we all accepted our life on earth was all we have and death truly was the end, we just might be more accommodating to our neighbour, less tolerant of the inequalities in the world, and far less willing to allow our husbands and sons into a war-zone at the whim of power-crazed politicians.

Had this revelation come about a hundred years ago, it’s even possible 150 Pakistanis might be alive today, their standard of living such they’d no need to risk their one life for a gallon of petrol, and the Catholic clergy of France would have had to go out and find themselves a proper job.

Of course, there are those who will question this premise. To them the writer will say only this: in the two or three thousand years that religion has had a bearing on human life on this planet, name one time when factually i.e. not by myth, or twisted teaching, but using scientific evidence, there has been any great positive happening that can be subscribed solely to the influence, or effect, of religion.

Personally, while this writer can list a multitude of negative occurrences resulting from the effects of religion on human life: myriad religious wars, torture, the Inquisition, evil popery, persecutions, and in more modern times, ISIS, Sunni v. Shia, false lip-service by politicians to various ‘divinities’ to attract votes, etc, etc…balancing these often inhumane and barbaric acts with any positive effects of religion on humanity is frankly beyond him.

Religion and politics go hand in hand as institutions to control and brainwash the people. Of the two, religion is by far the most dangerous. Politics isn’t able to invoke a divine being to persuade the voters (though some politicians might consider themselves at least semi-divine!) but the churches hold over us the power of divine retribution versus an all-encompassing divine love, all dependent on how we behave here. At least, if we’re foolish enough to believe that tripe.

Until we break free from the yoke of religion the peasantry of Pakistan will continue to die in abortive attempts to procure the most basic items of survival in this, their only life. And the poor Catholics of France will carry on suffering diabolic possession, egged on by power-hungry clerics denying them the modern, psychiatric skills that would otherwise be their true salvation.

[1] “Pakistan fuel tanker inferno kills at least 150” BBC, June 25th 2017

The ‘USS Fitzgerald’ And The ‘ACX Crystal’ – Maritime Mystery Or A Terrorist Attack?

The East China Sea can be a busy place, even at 2.30 in the morning. Nevertheless, a U.S. warship has technological eyes and ears that can operate miles into the distance. It was a clear, relatively quiet, night. The only ship nearby had been a Filipino-flagged container vessel out of Nagoya bound for Tokyo. It had passed on the warship’s starboard beam, maybe a mile or so away, some twenty-five minutes previous.

The guided-missile destroyer was on a routine patrol. Apart from the watch at their stations, most of the hands were asleep in their bunks. The USS Fitzgerald wasn’t on high alert. Her commander was in his cabin, a junior officer in temporary command. Apparently, no-one noticed the huge bulk of the heavily-laden container ship bearing down on them until it was too late to take evasive action. The huge vessel had a deadweight of almost 40,000 tons, the Fitzgerald a mere 8,900 tons. It was no contest.

The container ship, ACX Crystal, rammed the Fitzgerald on her starboard side just forward of the bridge structure. The vessel’s huge bulbous bow ripped into the hull of the warship below the waterline like a great battering ram. For seven of the sleeping sailors below decks death was instantaneous. Sea water engulfed their quarters. The commander’s cabin was crushed by the impact, it’s occupant severely injured, needing immediate airlift to a land-based hospital.

The ACX Crystal, having suffered only superficial structural damage, turned about, onto its original course and continued on to its destination, Tokyo. The USS Fitzgerald managed to stay afloat long enough to be towed back the fifty-six miles to its home port of Yokosuka in Japan.

The container ship had been on a easterly course when it first encountered the Fitzgerald. It steamed on for twenty-five minutes, then made a 180 degree turn and back-tracked westward, ramming the Fitzgerald some twenty-five minutes later.

Course of the ACX Crystal

The true position of the Fitzgerald at the time of the incident has not been made public. There’s no way of knowing her exact location at the time the container ship first passed by her, but the moment of impact is fairly obvious from the above image. It begs the question: what caused the captain of the ACX Crystal to turn about and retrace his steps until he rammed the warship?

Given that, immediately following the incident, the container ship resumed its original course, almost as though nothing had happened, it seems unlikely the ship had developed a fault requiring her to return to her port of departure. Had a crew member been lost overboard? Was the container ship returning in an attempt to locate him? There’s no mention of the ACX Crystal not having a full crew when it arrived in Tokyo.

It’s hard to envisage any scenario other than the ACX Crystal being deliberately used to sink the Fitzgerald. A terrorist attack using a 40,000 ton battering ram?

There are still many unanswered questions. Was the Fitzgerald in sight of the ACX Crystal fifty minutes before the incident? Why didn’t the Fitzgerald’s watch notice the huge vessel bearing down on them?

ACX Crystal

Even if the container ship was showing no lights, it’s inconceivable the Fitzgerald’s highly sophisticated radar equipment missed it. Why did the larger vessel not stop to render assistance to the badly damaged warship?

Washington is certainly alarmed at the upsurge of ISIS in the Philippines. This from CBS less than one month ago:

Video obtained by The Associated Press from the Philippine military indicates an alliance of local Muslim fighters, aligned with IS, are coordinating complex attacks. They include the Islamic State’s purported leader in Southeast Asia: Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, with a $5 million bounty on his head.

U.S. officials are assessing whether any of the estimated 1,000 Southeast Asians who traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years are fighting in Catholic-majority Philippines. They fear ungoverned areas in the mostly Muslim region around Marawi could make the area a terror hub as in the 1990s.

Then, the Philippines was a base of operations for al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, who plotted in 1994-95 to blow up airliners over the Pacific. The plot was foiled. But the same men were instrumental in the 9/11 attacks on the United States. [1]

The ACX Crystal was being operated as a ‘bareboat charter’. That means the charter company supplies its own crew and master, and is responsible for all costs i.e. port fees, fuel, insurance, and all other expenses. ACX Crystal was chartered to Sinbanali Shipping Inc of Manila, Philippines, since 2014. There’s not much information on Sinbanali, but it’s known that the master and crew of the ACX Crystal were all Filipinos.

The US Navy is carrying out an investigation into the Fitzgerald incident, and so far is keeping its findings secret. Maybe, in time we’ll learn more. Maybe we won’t. For now the near loss of the USS Fitzgerald, and the resulting deaths of seven of its crew, remain a maritime mystery.

[1] “Islamic State threat in Southeast Asia raises alarm in Washington” CBS, May 26th 2017

Grenfell Tower: A Fancy Name May Make It Appear More Respectable

A rabbit warren is still a rabbit warren no matter what fancy name you give it.

It never ceases to amaze me how those with so much have no thought for, regard for, or knowledge of, those with so little. The massive fire this week at Grenfell Towers in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, serves to highlight this in such a way even the media commentators are having trouble hiding their disgust at the manner in which the richest borough in the city has penny-pinched on providing safe housing for those much less well-off than themselves.

The poor folk of Grenfell Towers, and the other high-rise rabbit warrens on that ‘housing complex’, have some well known neighbours. The Beckhams live in the borough, as do Jeremy Paxman (well-known broadcaster and political hob-nob), Sir Richard Branson, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, James Dyson (vacuum cleaner mogul), J K Rowling, Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bernie Ecclestone…and the list goes on – there’s a short list of fifty of the wealthiest people in the country, listed HERE (courtesy of the Evening Standard), all Kensington and Chelsea residents . They’re all neighbours of those residents who lived, and died, in Grenfell Towers.

How house prices compare:

£1,369,708
Average in Kensington and Chelsea

£220,094
Average for UK

£66,384 Increase in average Kensington and Chelsea price since 2016
Source: Land Registry

Of course, the rich and famous mostly vote Tory. Well, it saves them money, particularly when one of their political representatives…

…the “Right Honorable” Brandon Lewis MP, now Minister for Immigration, but in 2014 was Minister for Housing, refused to consider regulations that would have forced building developers to fit sprinkler systems, on the grounds “…it might discourage house building.”

The former Conservative housing minister warned against increasing fire safety regulations to include sprinklers because it could discourage house building.

As the death toll from the Grenfell Tower blaze rose to 12 [now 17, and rising], it emerged Brandon Lewis, who was recently promoted to immigration minister, declined in 2014 to force building developers to fit sprinklers.

A sprinkler system would have “undoubtedly” saved lives at the Grenfell Tower blaze, the managing director of the Fire Protection Association told The Independent.

“Whether they’d have stopped that fire spreading at the speed it did up the outside of that building is another matter,” Jon O’Neill said. “But to have had sprinklers in that building would have created an environment where it would have been easier to rescue people and increase survivability.”

Mr Lewis’ department [Housing] declined to bring in regulation forcing developers to fit sprinklers while he was in charge.

He told MPs: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation.”

He said the Tory Government had committed to being the first to reduce regulations nationwide. [1]

He openly admitted that the Tory government was hellbent on reducing safety regulations throughout the country. The only possible reason – more profits in the pockets of the wealthy developers and to hell with the lives and suffering of the peasants that are housed by them – they’re expendable.

Chief of these racketeers, prime minister Theresa May, has been forced to agree to a public enquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Anything less would have caused her loss of face. Public enquiries in the UK cost a lot of money (paid by taxpayers), make a lot of noise, and generally result in a whitewash.

We’ll wait and see what this one brings, but they’ll likely make sure to drag it out until the media memory of Grenfell Tower has faded, and other news replaces it in the headlines.

“Grenfell Tower”: they truly believe that by giving them fancy names they can make them appear respectable.

[1] “Grenfell Tower: Tory minister declined to include sprinklers in fire safety rules as it could discourage house building” The Independent, June 15th 2017