Category Archives: USA

The scary side of Scientology

Try as they might, threatening people, revealing confidential information and harrassing anyone who dares to question their motives is hardly going to endear people to the Scientologists, the cult that masquerades as a religion.

Here is a report from Private Eye:

Former Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder spilled the beans in John Sweeney’s BBC film this week. After half a century inside the church, Rinder now says that it is a cult.

But some public figures in Britain are still happy to give it the benefit of the doubt. “I don’t think Scientologists get a fair deal,” Jonathan Ross wrote in his autobiography. When Tom Cruise repaid the favour by appearing on Ross’s show, the sycophantic host gave him a very fair deal indeed by not asking about Scientology at all.

Another admirer is the coalition’s new minister for climate change, Charles Hendry, a Tory MP whose seat borders the 59-acre Scientology estate in East Grinstead. In 2004 Hendry attended the premiere of Tom Cruise’s film Collateral. “I thought Tom was absolutely amazing,” he gushed. When the star chatted to Hendry’s stepdaughter on the MP’s mobile phone, Hendry said: “Clare thought it was the coolest thing ever.” A year later, in July 2005, Hendry told the House of Commons: “Although Scientology may be very controversial… undoubtedly as human beings they do a great deal of good… certainly as an organisation it’s gone through serious hoops in terms of making sure it has the right to broadcast on TV, satisfying the broadcasting commission that it isn’t a cult.”

The “broadcasting commission” is a reference to the Independent Television Commission, which has since been succeeded by Ofcom. Neither body was in a position to say whether the church was or was not a cult, and neither did. But Judge Latey in the high court in 1984 called it exactly that: “a cult… corrupt, sinister and dangerous… out to capture people and… brainwash them.”

In Britain, the church operates as the Church of Scientology Religious Educational College Inc, a not-for-profit organisation which filed an income of £12,958,196 in 2008. Despite its wealth, and the Charity Commission’s ruling that the church isn’t a charity for religious purposes, the City of London Corporation grants 80 percent rates relief for its “London Org” (ie HQ) on Queen Victoria Street, thus saving it a total of £1,306,363 in rates since the centre opened in 2006. Westminster city council gives 80 percent rate relief on its “London Celebrity Centre” in Leinster Gardens, saving it £165,303 over the past decade. Birmingham city council gives 80 percent rates relief on the Scientology property at Winston Churchill House, as does Sunderland council at the new £5m “Org” on Fawcett Street. Whether the church enjoys rates relief on the most famous Scientology property in Britain, its “stress test centre” on Tottenham Court Road, is a secret: Camden council refuses to answer questions on the subject.

A few brave local authorities haven’t yet been brainwashed. Manchester city council charges the full commercial rate on the £5m “Org” in Deansgate, as does Mid-Sussex district council for the estate at Saint Hill Manor near East Grinstead. With a government minister on the Scientologists’ side, however, can it be long before the dissenting councils cave in to Tom Cruise’s creepy church?


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The JFK way

In recent months I have had cause to travel to the USA a number of times. While I have commented before about the new-approach immigration staff at the airport – they even smile at times – sadly the organisation and attitude of other staff is as appalling as those employed at Heathrow by BAA.

When will the corporations running airports realise that people might spend more and give their employees less grief if in return passengers were treated like human beings and not juvenile delinquents. Bottom of the pile are the humourless driods who scan luggage was you leave the country. They do all they can to belittle punters, barking surly and unhelpful commands while not lifting a finger to help.

They are a disgrace. The USA is a great place to visit. Why does it always finish on such a low?

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Michael Savage: a vile man laden with hate

Michael Savage: shock jock or vile bigot?

Michael Savage: shock jock or vile bigot?

I read about the ban slapped on so-called American “shock jock” Michael Savage by the UK government with interest.

Last month, I was in the USA on business, and driving back to New York with an (English) colleague of mine, we happened across Savage’s show. While initially we were amused at his ranting, it very soon became clear that this went way beyond the usual rhetoric aimed at building a love-him-or-hate-him audience.

Savage was quite simply a vile bigot. Anyone who opposed him was shouted down. He repeatedly referred to “Hussein Obama” and his being a “Muslim lover”. The president’s crime at the time was that he had apologised to Europe for what he described as the USA’s “arrogance” during the Bush era. Savage fumed that there was nothing to apologise for and that Europeans were “vermin” who had “sponged off the USA for decades”.

Warming to his task, he berated the 66% of Americans who thought Obama was doing a good job, told one first-generation Asian who phoned in to remonstrate to “get back to driving your cab”, and then harangued an elderly person who said they were a state employee as being a “lifelong sponger” who needed to “get off their backside and do a day’s work”. By the time he said that Muslims (all of them presumably) were “the people who attacked the World Trade Centre” we had had enough.

We discussed how on earth someone could be allowed to get away with preaching hatred – Savage himself, lowering his voice to sound sincere, had earlier claimed that he was the only voice of reason in a “liberal-dominated” media and spoke for the people – where in any normal society he would be locked up for inciting civil unrest.

He has previous, including urging Americans to “burn the Mexican flag on your street corner” and labelling autistic children as “brats” in need of discipline. He the Koran as “a book of hate” and told Muslims: “Take your religion and shove it up your behind.” In 2003 he was fired by a TV channel for saying on air to a caller: “You should only get Aids and die, you pig …”

He is threatening to sue the UK government for “defamation”. Even the hapless Jacqui Smith couldn’t lose that one. Play five minutes of one of Savage’s bile-laden broadcasts and he would be sent packing.

Free speech is one thing. Savage is quite another. Even in a democracy we need limits. Savage claims he stands for “traditional values”. In his own way, he is every bit as evil as anyone the West has been fighting in the war on terror.

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Farewell, America’s greatest disaster

America will regret electing this man for generations

America will regret electing this man for generations

Rarely do all factions of the media agree, but the last days of the Bush administration have managed that. The consensus is that Bush is among the worst presidents of all time, that his time in the White House has been a disaster which has left America’s reputation in tatters, its economy shredded, and made it despised across the globe.

That Bush was elected in 2000 can be seen as unfortunate and nobody can be held to blame, even though it took dishonesty and corruption to swing the Florida decisive vote. However, any American who voted for him in 2004, knowing what they knew about him and his (in)abilities and ignorance should hang their heads in shame at the possibly irreperable damage he has done to their nation.

One of the best assessments came in the Observer at the weekend.

The economic and fiscal picture is bleak. During the Bush administration, the national debt, now approaching $10 trillion, has nearly doubled. Next year’s federal budget is projected to run a $500bn deficit, a precipitous fall from the $700bn surplus that was projected when Bill Clinton left office. Private-sector job creation has been a sixth of what it was under President Clinton. Five million people have fallen into poverty. The number of Americans without health insurance has grown by seven million, while average premiums have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the principal domestic achievement of the Bush administration has been to shift the relative burden of taxation from the rich to the rest. For the top 1 per cent of us, the Bush tax cuts are worth, on average, about a thousand dollars a week; for the bottom fifth, about a dollar and a half. The unfairness will only increase if the painful, yet necessary, effort to rescue the credit markets ends up preventing the rescue of our healthcare system, our environment and our physical, educational and industrial infrastructure.

The only hope is that the mistake is not repeated with McCain and the Sarah Palin, the woman who makes Bush look positively cerebral.

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Filed under george bush, US politics, USA

Lewis comments stick in the craw

Carl Lewis’s bellyaching to the effect that Usain Bolt must have been on drugs to have run like he did at the Olympics raised more than a few raised eyebrows in the athletic fraternity.

Lewis was part of the 1984 US team which, it is widely believed, failed more drugs tests than you can shake a stick, or even a syringe, at. In a world where commercialism rules, it was all hushed up. Lewis himself made a career out of tut-tutting against drugs cheats although he, of course, was whiter than white.

Bolt is a remarkable runner – not in the sense of Marion Jones, but one who really is a one-off. So was Michael Johnson. So was Jesse Owen. So was Ed Moses. His crime, in Lewis’s eyes, appears to be that he is not American.

Lewis’s comments are little short of racism. He will get away with it because he is black, but he really should be ashamed of himself.

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