Church nominees on Education Committees; Petitions Committee writes to Scottish Government (for 3rd time)

Primate's Progress

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for our Petition to remove unelected Church nominees from Scottish Local Authority Education Committees, things got better.

nov24_0 Spencer Fildes and Paul Braterman testifying to Public Petitions Committee

The Scottish Secular Society is petitioning the Scottish Parliament for the removal of the theocratic anomaly, according to which every Local Authority Education Committee in Scotland must include three representatives of religious bodies. These church nominees are not answerable to the electorate, nor to the elected Councillors, and do not even have to declare an interest.

The Public Petitions Committee has now discuss the matter at three separate meetings. At its November 24 meeting last year, it took evidence from Spencer Fildes, who is advancing the Petition on behalf of the Society, with minor contributions from me, and agreed to write to interested parties, including of course the Scottish Government. So far, so…

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Glasgow local elections; my preferences based on secularism issues

Here’s some good information for Scottish electors casting their votes in next week’s local council elections. If you’re interested in seeing which parties take a positive position on secularity in society, Paul’s article is essential reading.

Primate's Progress

Life goes on at local level, and I urge you to cast your local vote on local issues. Here, for me,* the order of preference is clear, based on my educational and secularist concerns:

Greens > SNP ~ Labour > LibDem >> Conservative

Marble staircase, Glasgow City Chambers (click to enlarge)

My reasons are apparent below.

Under the system used, it is important to list all your preferences (or as pedants point out, all but the last of your preferences) in order

I asked all parties a series of questions saying I would publicise their response or lack of it. SNP replied with specific answers. The Greens referred me to their manifesto. Other parties did not reply at all. I give below SNP replies, and such information regarding the other parties as I could gather from manifestoes and other sources (note that this introduces sampling errors); direct quotations from party…

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Socrates is still mortal, but fallacies aren’t fallacious

Primate's Progress

Updated repost of The Fallacy Fork and the Limits of Logic, at 3 Quarks Daily

No quiet moment; Theresa May calls snap UK election (BBC)

I had been waiting for a quiet moment to write about this, but there isn’t going to be a quiet moment, so now will have to do. [Update: these words went up on 3 Quarks Daily last Monday. On the Tuesday, Theresa May called a snap UK General election]

Debaters regularly accuse their opponents of using fallacies. These can be formal fallacies, such as simple errors of logic, or informal fallacies, such as appeal to authority, ad hominem and strawman arguments, among others. If a piece of reasoning depends on any of these fallacies, so it is claimed, the conclusion does not really follow from the premises, and while it might still be true we have not been given any good reason…

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How the Church of Scotland justifies its unelected Education Committee appointees; assumption, presumption, and privilege

Primate's Progress

scotsparliamentlogo Our petition to the Scottish Parliament seeking to remove these unelected representatives is still open for signature here

As regular readers will know, moves are afoot to remove the three Church nominees who sit, with no regard to the electoral process, on every Local Authority Education Committee in Scotland (you can help by simply signing our Parliamentary Petition here).

In England, the legal requirement is for two such representatives, one from the Church of England and one from the Catholic Church. Something ought to be done something about this, although the English educational system, disrupted and fragmented, is now largely out of the hands of the local authorities anyway. There is much be said about the situation developing in England, little of it complimentary, but that is not my present concern.

churches_of_scotland_timeline3 Schisms and mergers among Scottish churches since the Reformation; Wikidwitch via Wikipedia. Click on link for clearer image

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The neck of a goose and other devices

There’s been a bit of a stooshie in some of the social media arenas into which I dip an occasional sceptical toe. The news item that has been stimulating debate is the report in the UK Daily Mail newspaper of a curry house manager who was prosecuted for food safety offences. But what caught the xenophobic imagination of the press was the implication from the prosecuting local authority that a bottle in the kitchen was contaminated with faecal matter because it was used to carry water to the toilet for personal cleansing after defecation. And this must surely mean that the chef in question actually prepared food after defecating and cleaning himself, which is the worst offence of all.

Once I did wipe me with a gentle-woman’s velvet mask, and found it to be good; for the softness of the silk was very voluptuous and pleasant to my fundament. Another time with one of their hoods, and in like manner that was comfortable. At another time with a lady’s neckerchief, and after that I wiped me with some ear-pieces of hers made of crimson satin, but there was such a number of golden spangles in them (turdy round things, a pox take them) that they fetched away all the skin of my tail with a vengeance.

Frankly, the response to this story is racist self-justification of the worst sort. I doesn’t matter that the chef in question was convicted of food safety offences. What mattered to the gutter press was that he was dark-skinned, of Indian heritage, had the name Chowdhury and was bad enough to clean himself after defecating.

There is no need of wiping one’s tail, said Gargantua, but when it is foul; foul it cannot be, unless one have been a-skiting; skite then we must before we wipe our tails.

Now, this sort of thing fills the British with horror. After all, poo is dirty, nasty stuff and you never want the merest trace on your lilywhite fingers and, after all, we’ve got toilet paper so we don’t have to make the choice of washing or leaving unwashed in the absence of wiping. Surely only the heathen races of darker hues would ever dream of actually washing their bottoms after having a Donald? Even the French managed to invent the bidet, although that is equally foreign and unsettling to the chauvinistic Anglais mind.

Afterwards, in dunging behind a bush, I found a March-cat, and with it I wiped my breech, but her claws were so sharp that they scratched and exulcerated all my perinee. Of this I recovered the next morning thereafter, by wiping myself with my mother’s gloves, of a most excellent perfume and scent of the Arabian Benin.

The report from the court is clear. Mr Chowdhury did use the bottle found in the kitchen for personal cleansing and did perform his ablutions with his hands. Frankly, so what? The council raised reasonable concerns that the bottle was refilled at the kitchen sink, which obviously has the potential to contaminated food preparation areas with faecal bacteria, which is a genuine Bad Thing. Most premises where this practice is carried out keep a discreet bottle in the loo itself for filling from the washbasin in the compartment.
The defence to the accusation was that Mr Chowdhury was following his own cultural practice in washing his backside with water using his hand. And he was. But culture is derived from locality and environment, and not from skin colour, family name or religion. The rather nasty backlash that I’ve seen to this story is seeking to associate the practice with Islam and muslims in general, leading to the inference that “these people” are dirty, don’t or won’t understand food hygiene and can’t be trusted to prepare food for white people. Frankly, that’s all balls.

After that I wiped me with sage, with fennel, with anet, with marjoram, with roses, with gourd-leaves, with beets, with colewort, with leaves of the vine-tree, with mallows, wool-blade, which is a tail-scarlet, with lettuce, and with spinach leaves.

My father told me many years ago that bacteria could seep through eight layers of toilet paper. I don’t disbelieve him. I wash my backside with water using my hands myself – in the bath or in the shower; sometimes I’ve even taken a poo immediately before said bath or shower. Everyone who doesn’t exclusively use a flannel glove at all times in the bath or shower is in the same category. I don’t consider myself unsuitable to be a food handler as a consequence.

Then with mercury, with parsley, with nettles, with comfrey, but that gave me the bloody flux of Lombardy, which I healed by wiping me with my braguette.

The use of paper for wiping faeces from backsides is a modern, western invention and isn’t that great at actually doing the job. I’ve been assured in the past by non-westerners who use water that they consider the western practice to be dirty and foul, because faecal matter can be left behind.

Who his foul tail with paper wipes,
Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.

Actually, the rise in the use of moist cleansing wipes suggests that we knew that all along, but were too priggish to admit it.

But, to conclude, I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the inwards, in so far as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains.

My personal favourite material for the task, in the absence of a goose’s feathered neck, is moss, which combines the scrubbing and cleansing in one simple, natural facility. But you don’t get a lot of moss in middle-eastern deserts or the hot dry topics.

Personally, I don’t care how people clean their backsides, what matters is that they have good personal hygiene and clean their hands both after using the toilet and upon their return to food preparation duties. I’m not convinced that all the social media warriors who condemn Mr Chowdhury could necessarily say the same for themselves.

Note: the quotations are taken from Gargantua by François Rabelais, translated by Thomas Urquhart and Peter Antony Motteux. The direct source is