Friday, February 20, 2009

According to Law, What Is a Religion ?

An interesting, food for thought article, but one that of course is not going to resolve the question. As it rightly wrote: "It turns out the debate over the definition of religion is as old as history itself and the debate has gone on for ages." As for me, I kind of like the Leo Pfeffer's definition: "...if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps 'the' religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult."

In full:

According to Law, What Is a Religion ? - Digital Journal: Your News Network:
In preparing a story about the religions of Natchitoches, Louisiana several days ago, I checked out a book on Mormons. I told the clerk I was writing about religions. “That’s not one,” she said, “It’s a cult. They don’t believe like us."

Well, first of all the word “us” I thought interesting since the young woman neither knows me or my beliefs. But no matter, I smiled and said, “What makes you think so?” The sweet-faced femme with Southern drawl said simply, “I just know, don’t you.” “Actually,” I said, “I don’t.”

So what makes a cult these days, I wondered and decided to find out. Besides it wasn’t long ago that Mitt Romney, a Mormon who ran in the Presidential primaries, went on television to defend his faith as a viable religion.

Just about every major religion has been a cult at one time or another. Christianity was considered different enough to cause consternation to Romans and Jews alike. The divisions of Christianity have called one another cults as well, but what makes a religion legal?

The Church of Scientology is recognized over most of the world as a religion, although some may define it as cult. Believers use this fact to recruit. Others consider it a cult with a nefarious character. That’s true of other groups as well. For example, the Branch Davidians were controversial both before and after David Koresh.

The Internal Revenue Service gives this as definition :
a distinct legal existence,
a recognized creed and form of worship,
a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government,
a formal code of doctrine and discipline
a distinct religious history,
a membership not associated with any other church or denomination,
an organization of ordained ministers,
ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies,
a literature of its own,
established places of worship,
regular congregations,
regular religious services,
Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young,
school for the preparation of its ministers.
But some wonder if this set of criteria of the IRS is accurate and if it might just be biased and flawed. One writer observes that it distinctly favors high or formal churches with large congregations. Unitarians and Quakers often meet informally in homes or small places. Some groups use a selection from different religious literature. Some have history that is aligned with other groups, but hve such different characters that they couldn’t be associated with the same group, such as the Quakers and Baptists who left the Church of England at the same time and have a shared history in some respects and unshared in others. Lots of groups don’t have Sunday school for the young. So if it isn’t the IRS standard that is reasonable, what should be used?

It turns out the debate over the definition of religion is as old as history itself and the debate has gone on for ages. Even lawyers and nations have had trouble sorting it out. The problems involve the imposition of societal standards and judgments that can make a difference. So when it comes to protecting religion the application of the law requires a definition, but that definition brings debate. Then there is identity religion where folks subscribe to a community but not necessarily to a specific set of religious beliefs. That would include many Jews, for example.

In most places the laws that regulate religion are usually oriented towards majority practices and the promotion of specific groups to the community to be recognized. So the actual practice of faith means that in countries with large Christian populations Christmas is a holiday and in Islamic countries laws that permit the ritual slaughter of animals.

So what is a religion? The answer is really who applies and over time who is accepted after enough fuss is made and enough adherents develop to make that fuss heard by those in control and power, according to those who have reviewed this question.

I guess that means we can include Mormons as a religion. They have had two well-known Governors and a host of other people in political offices and a little over 12 million members worldwide. That’s certainly enough to make a fuss and a religion.

I Saw It, I saw It, I Saw Valkyrie!

Contrary to what some reviews have written, I found Tom Cruise excellent, beaming out confidence, authority, insight and integrity into the main character. I can hardly think of a better way to play that role.

I was surprised also to find out that the story was not just about a bomb that did not kill Hitler. The whole Operation Walkyrie was in fact more than that, it also consisted of a whole plan to take over power after Hitler's death. That was not the intention of the Operation as written but that was how it was used. Almost half of the film deals with what happens after the bomb goes off. Eventually it fails because it turns out that Hitler did not die, and was able to win back a few key allegiance that turned the situation against the plotters.

Lastly, I was wondering why people who don't really have the historical background would go and see the film. I was with my Asian girl friend (OK I was not in Belgium) and she understood little to nothing of the film, even as I tried to explain her bits of it. The cultural gap was just way too wide to cross. In this respect, it certainly is not a mass-friendly movie, and it's amazing that the movie had the success it had taken that into account. No doubt, the fact that it's Tom Cruise is for a big part in the attraction the movie has out of the US and Europe. I doubt it would be enough to make it a real success on foreign market, though.

On the whole, great realization and acting, and a very instructive movie from a historical perspective, but it's not going to be a second Top Gun.

Negative Reviews Bring Trust

To allow for negative reviews is important even for commercial products. At one points there were two web sites for Symbian softwares, One was Handango and the other was something like The later allowed for negative reviews while the former only allowed positive ones. Because of this, I could not trust Handango and ended up buying always from Sadly, it seems Handango bought :-( I guess in spite of their dishonesty they may have been better commercial managers. The good people don't always win... Nevertheless, the truth of this facts remain...

The story below reminds me of Handango, and I hope they won't go the same way.

Slashdot | Restauranteurs Say Yelp Uses Extortion To Ply Ad Sales:
"Readers Mike Van Pelt and EricThegreen point out a story in the East Bay Express alleging that online restaurant review site Yelp is doing more than providing a nice interface for foodies to share their impressions of restaurants. Instead, says the article, representatives from the site have called restaurants in the Bay area to solicit advertising, but with an interesting twist: the ad sales reps let restaurant owners know that, if they buy advertising at around $300 a month, Yelp can 'do something' about prominently displayed negative reviews of their restaurants. If the claims are true, it sure lowers my opinion of Yelp, which I'd thought of as one of the good guys (and a useful site). I wonder how many other online review sites might be doing something similar."

Microsoft Incompatible with Microsoft

(off-topic but funny)

Slashdot | Makes IE8 Incompatibility List!:
"'Microsoft is tracking incompatible Web sites for its upcoming Internet Explorer 8 browser and has posted a list that now contains about 2,400 names — including"

The Positive "Cult Experience"

Some anti-cultists like to post a list of "post-cult syndromes", the weakness of which has been discussed by Monica Pignotti and Lema Nal.

However, why not post lists of strengths too? (Bearing the same limitation that these are not necessarily caused by cult membership).

I can see a few positive aspects.

I was interested to read recently that most high profile defectors have done rather well in re-integrating society, in spite of having spent 20-35 years in Scientology and having no formal high-level education. I have seen that with myself and my friends as well. I think it has to do partly with some of the useful things we learn while in such a group, but also because of the fact that (I believe) most "cult members" are bright people who join alternative groups because they see through the limits of society and are not satisfied with it. They are idealist-oriented people who seek something better.

The "cult experience" also provides one with a feeling of "having found what I was looking for", a feeling of engagement and belonging, of dedication for the common good, responsibility for the world we live in, etc... I think these are positive and somehow stay as inner qualities after one quits the group.

One also may experience states of heightened awareness. It gives them a taste of what true spiritual experiences might be. It is similar with drugs. In spite of the negative effects of drug, it can give one an idea of higher states of beings. Often, after getting rid of the negative influence of drugs, one will seek to experience the state back, but without the dependencies this time, and I think that's a good thing too.

Ethic - one's sense of ethic is strongly reinforced while in a cultic group. This may sounds strange and I will explain later, but this is in fact what happens. One becomes more aware of the consequences of wrong doing, of the energy balance in the universe and the reaction of one's own spiritual being to ego characteristics such as greed and cheating. After exiting the group, one may retain this sense of ethic, and I believe it makes for more honest and responsible citizens. Again, you could say that the sense of honesty was already present in the 'cult member' before, but I believe it is part of what makes him attracted to the group and that the group strenghten those qualities.

Now how come, if the above is true, that cultists are being cultic? Well, that's the irony of all cults, including anti-cult cults and political parties. They just do wrong in the belief that what they do is good! It's the whole dialectic of cultism and I am not going to go into that now.

Which brings me to the next positive aspect, not linked by one's belonging to a cult but, on the contrary, the process of going out. Going out from such an high level of personal involvement requires tremendous questioning and integrity to look. When you truly realize the limitations you have fallen into, which I refer to as the cultic mindset, then you can see it in other groups, and this may help you chose better next time around. By itself, it also is enlightening and one can learn a lot through this too. You realize the importance of never assuming, keeping yourself open to self-questioning (which makes you more humble, a spiritual quality), and the importance of free speech to avoid getting trapped in a closed group/cult mentality.

Of course, as I pointed out many times, not all ex-members learn from their exit in this way, and they on the contrary become involved in the very same mentality they were trapped while in the cult but on the other side, and doing really wrong things - all the while still believing they are doing good. This is just the next trap we need to learn, and once we can see that trap too, then, again, we really gain more positive insight, beneficial to our own evolution, and beneficial to society, because it makes for a less intolerant society, where individual members gain the courage to question the majority's assumptions and stand against mob mentality.

So, on the whole, I think the cult experience can be really positive too. It strengthen the good qualities in the individual and provide him with the taste of "something" our sclerotic society and religions usually are unable to provide. It further makes the person wiser as he exists the group, in that it makes him more aware of a variety of illusion one can fall into. Again, if the person is able to avoid or exit the anti-cult trap, it makes him/her more perceptive of yet more illusions.

These are a few positive things I can see, at first sight, about the "cult experience", and things that would be fitting for a positive list.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Maxwell Smart's Shoephone


Play Agent 86 with a D.I.Y. guide to making a shoephone - Engadget:
"Find yourself in situations where you can't bring a handset but are in desperate need of one? [...] The win? You'll find yourself in the company of secret agent Maxwell Smart as you surreptitiously dial and take calls from your shoe."

Robots Used to Treat Autistic Kids

Robots used to treat autistic kids • The Register:
"US boffins say they have developed a method for treating children with autism - the condition characterised by repetitive behaviour, difficulties understanding human language and/or lack of imagination - by having them spend time with robots."

Not sure what is but some guy made a link to my web site from there and I am getting loads and loads of hits, way more than any other web site or forum. (4218779) Glib mom sues Church of Scientology for taking away son's schizophrenia meds and giving him a loaded gun

Notable Scientology Critics

A rather exhaustive list of critics. Of course, I am not on the list. The fact that I also criticize anti-cultists does not make of me a "notable" critic ;-)

Notable Scientology Critics (many of whom are former Scientologists)

Bad Memories

There has been news recently of a drug allegedly erasing traumatic memories. Grahame makes a good point that Scientology processing does not erase the memory itself but only the trauma attached to it.

My Scientology Blog: Bad Memories:
"[...] Scientology Auditing does not erase memories as the article implies that the drugs do.

Auditing erases the trauma associated with the memories. The memories themselves are still there, it's the pain and suffering associated with them that is gone.

If you had an accident and the memory was completely removed then you could easily make the same mistakes again and repeat the accident. If you have the trauma removed then you can remember exactly what happened and thereby learn from your mistakes.

I think that's a much better solution."

San Diego Global, Valentine's Day 2009

If true then 20 is not such a bad number for SDO (peaked at 60 one year ago). The video does not substantiate that claim, though. I counted a dozen at the most. Interesting also the mention that some Scientologists waived and made the peace sign (reminder of Tom Cruise autographing the peace sign on Anonymous' mask). BTW, the cake just looks full of colored chemicals, not appetizing at all

San Diego Global, Valentine's Day 2009 - alt.religion.scientology | Google Groups
"[...] Not much activity. A couple of Scilons waved at us while going to their cars, and one guy flashed me a peace sign after reading my sign as I stood by the driveway. [...]"

The Tory Horror Picture Show

Criticism of Tory Christman Magoo, some of which I may agree, some not. That the LMT failed upon her joining I would not agree. That she is a spy from the CoS outing people who call her for help I would not agree either. On the other hand, I would agree with what is quoted below, with some reservations

Magoo made a great disservice for her cause when she tried to capitalize on the Jett Travolta tragedy through changing her story and when she censored dissenting opinions and banned the posters from her Youtube channel.

PS - just go through this tread in ARS to see how anti-cultists try to suppress dissenting opinions, constantly changing the topic title and likening it to chocolate recipe.

Magoo - The Tory Horror Picture Show - alt.religion.scientology | Google Groups
Now she claims, that she would like to help other people to get out of the cult. If asked to show one, only one person, whom she helped to break free, she has no answer.

[...] One agenda of her is for example to find out, who is critical of the church or who wants to leave it. Thus she posts her phone number and asks people to call her, for she will help them. From time to time she reports such calls. She is always very happy when she receives a call like this and likes to end all her reports with the words: "Way to go, OSA!". Afterwards one never ever hears anything of this people who called her. There are no follow-ups from her, nor any statements of those people. Niente. Nothing. Nada. Nichts.
That may be a good point. I saw several times in ARS titles from her along the line of "another OT 8 leaves the CoS, way to go OSA" but I never had time to follow through such claims. Having seen her lie and censor about her seizures in the Jett Travolta tragedy, I do give some credence to the claims above. To be double-checked, though, given the fact that source is not very reliable either.
"[....] Instead of that I have read several stories of people, who left or wanted to leave and she contacted them. For example to a father of three, if I remember right (it was on ocmb, the story) and this man, Greg Bashaw, was in the hospital because he was very sick and in a poor psychic condition, but he was under surveillance and could have been helped of course. One day he got a visit from someone, whom he knew from the church. Hours later the man was dead. Name of the visitor: Tory Bezazian. Reason of Bashaw's death: suicide. When asked about this terrible incident, she never answered. She did not deny to have visited this man. "
Jesse Prince was also with Magoo on that occasion.

Response From an Anti-Scientologist

Typical reaction from anti-cultists (and cultists of all kinds) - jumping to conclusions that justify their agenda, lumping together, labeling those who disagree with their quickly-made opinion as "liars".

Anti-Cult Controversies: Response from an Anti-Scientologist
[...] Observe how Ms. Zell has already made up her mind what the truth is about Jett Travolta, thus I am a "liar" from her perspective. At the end of the day, I agree with Harvard Psychology Professor Richard McNally who wrote that the best form of advocacy is to discover the facts about an issue, rather than attempting to turn an "ought" into an "is" [...].

Halle Berry and Raspberries

Nice move from dazzlingly beautiful Halle Berry delivering a thank-you speech to the Raspberries, but I really have to disagree that her performance in Catwoman deserved a Razzie! (And I don't tag that as off-topic cause they also speak about Battlefield Earth. Travolta should go in there and thank L. Ron Hubbard too!)

Dazzling failures - The National Newspaper:
"The Oscar-winning actress went over to what many in Hollywood would consider the dark side when she turned up in person at the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2005 to accept her Worst Actress award for the film Catwoman."

Dusty Stardom

Dusty the cat story is hugely popular, as seen by the comments on the article below, and is doing more to boost Anonymous' cause than anything Shallonymous ever did. There now also is a dedicated domain:

4chan /b/ Tracks Down Cat Abuser:
"it's good to see anon do something helpful for once"

"At least in this instance they are using their wits and numbers to deal out some vigilante justice on a real piece of @$#%. From what I know of 4chan and its inhabitants I have very mixed emotions - but if they're going to use their abilities for good then my opinion may very well improve."

"and I never thought I'd say this...but... Go, Cyber-terrorist. Go."

"It's actually quite interesting to read about how they tracked the kids down and how they got the attention of the police. The Internet can be a very powerful force for good or ill. In this case good, but I fear it will be (and perhaps has been) used for ill."

"Just been trawling through all the links. This Kenny kid has brought and incredible shitstorm down on his own cowardly head. Richly deserved it is, too. The poor cat looks nothing short of desperate in those pics."

Tom Cruise Takes Son Connor on Track

Last Feb. 17, I blogged about Tom Cruise getting back on the racing road. Seeing the article below, I believe that guy on the photo I webbed at the time is not Keith Urban but Connors, the son of Tom Cruise.

PHOTO: Tom Cruise Delights Son Connor - Celebrities - Javno:
"Tom Cruise used a free weekend and took his fourteen year old son Connor to the automobile race Daytona 500, which is very popular in the USA. The famous actor and his company watched the event from a VIP section."

L. Ron Hubbar's House Strikes Back

Comments about Hubbard's house story I blogged about last Feb. 5, 2009.

Phoenix News - Feedback from the Issue of Thursday, February 19, 2009 - page 1:
"[...] The L. Ron Hubbard House is just that, a house. Ron Hubbard lived there at one time. There isn't anything hidden or secret about that. Some people (including quite a few neighbors who aren't deranged) have actually enjoyed seeing the house and safely eating some coffee cake. [...]"

Police Report Found no Scientology Role in Suicide

Police report did not conclude church members forced Kyle Brennan off antidepressant. The Clearwater police released on Tuesday 200 pages of documents from the investigation.

Police report found no Scientology role in suicide - St. Petersburg Times:
"CLEARWATER — Police investigated the role Scientology played in the suicide of a troubled young man two years ago, but did not conclude church members forced him off his antidepressant medication or contributed to his death.

[...]Clearwater police on Tuesday released more than 200 pages of documents from the investigation of Brennan's death. The reports don't provide evidence of a key claim in the lawsuit: that Brennan was denied access to the antidepressant Lexapro.

Police instead learned that Brennan wasn't taking the medication regularly. The only Lexapro pills police found were in a 30-pill bottle issued to him almost three months earlier. Sixteen pills remained.

The mother's attorney, Ken Dandar, said Kyle was taking the medication as needed.

The young man's own psychiatrist told police the prescription would have to be carried out on a regular basis. He was not aware of any "major side effects" from suddenly withdrawing from the medication. The drug's Web site states that quickly coming off the drug can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

[...] Thomas Brennan told police he didn't approve of psychiatric medication because it clashed with his religious beliefs. But he said Kyle agreed to go off the medication because he didn't like taking it either — a claim that Kyle's mother and her attorney reject.

[...] He left two suicide notes that claimed people had failed him.

Prior to his death, Kyle Brennan, who had depression, anxiety and early signs of schizophrenia, lived in Virginia with his mother. In late 2006, he took $8,000 from his bank account and left on a cross-country trip.

On Jan. 7, 2007, his mother received a call from an FBI agent in Des Moines, Iowa, who said Kyle Brennan had stopped by and claimed he was being followed and "they were after him," the agent said. He wasn't eating and appeared emaciated.

Kyle turned up in San Diego at his aunt's home, according to the report. He told her that "they were hunting him down." The aunt tried to get him to seek mental help, but he left. Kyle contacted his father, who agreed to bring him to Clearwater.

[...] Thomas Brennan worked as a handyman on Denise and Gerald Gentile's properties in the area and became a friend of Denise's.

[...] The lawsuit claims that Denise Gentile was acting in her function as a "chaplain" when she interfered with Kyle Brennan's prescriptions.

[...] Denise Gentile admitted to police that she spoke very briefly with Kyle's mother about getting the young man drug treatment, but she said that was in her capacity as a friend — not as a representative of the church.

Relate blog entries: R-KyleBrennan-

Judges Plead Guilty to Jailing Kids for Kickbacks

A strange story of judges taking bribes to fill up child care facilities by sentencing juveniles. One of the juveniles was Berandine Wallace, 14, who was jailed for creating a spoof MySpace page mocking her school assistant principal.

Judges plead guilty to jailing kids for kickbacks • The Register:
"Two corrupt judges have admitted getting paid for sending young offenders to private jails, often against the advice of probation officers and other court officials.

Bent judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, both of Pennsylvania, admitted receiving $2.6m in kickbacks as part of a plea-bargaining agreement that will see each jailed for a minimum of seven years. The deal sparked protests from friends and relatives of youngsters affected by the case, some of who have already launched lawsuits. [...]"

Ideology and Method

A quote that summarizes my own position towards Scientology critics.

Mr. and Mrs. Boring lose Google Street View tilt • The Register:
"We salute their ideology. But not their methods."

Apple iPhone Police Censor South Park

Apple blocked the creators of South Park because its iPhone app was potentially offensive.

Apple iPhone police censor South Park • The Register:
"Apple has blocked the creators of South Park from selling an iPhone app based on the long-running cartoon series.

According to a BoingBoing post, the blog site's 'friends at South Park' said that 'We first announced our iPhone App back in October, after we submitted the Application to Apple for approval. After a couple of attempts to get the application approved, we are sad to say that our app has been rejected.'

The reason? The content was 'potentially offensive.'"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Truth Seeker is an excellent "critic" - alt.religion.scientology | Google Groups
"[...] New guy shows up to ask an innocent question. Everyone jumps on the poor sap: "We all see through your evil schemes, undercover OSA op!!!"

I'm reminded of some of the more fanatical Anonymous videos where innocent bystanders are accused of being undercover Scientologists. That takes some hardcore paranoia to video yourself hassling ordinary people only because they happen to be within a few blocks radius of a Scientology church.

A guy completely unrelated to any of it happens to walk by an Anonymous protest. What do the "moral" protesters do? They call the poor guy insulting names because they just ~know~ he is a secret OSA op trying to sneak a peak under their masks."

Muslim Cults Redux

AntiCultControversies : Message: Re: Muslim Cults:
"[...] Unfortunately, most Christian literature about Islam and most Muslim literature about Christianity are biased. For now, I can name only one book which is not biased - "A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue" by Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk. One of the authors is a Christian, the other is a Muslim. They present the main concepts of their religions. BTW, they are friends, and their discussion is very kind and peaceful.

"[...] No Christian will rely on Muslim literature about Christianity as the only reliable source about Christianity. In the same way, I think the most reliable source of information about Islam is what Muslims write for Muslims.

[...] I have seriously studied Muslim theological literature, including:
1) 8 Russian translations of Koran (some of them with comments);
2) 2 Tafsirs (Koran commentaries) ;
3) several books of hadiths, including the most respected Sahih Al-Buhari and Sahih Muslim (hadiths are stories about Muhammad which consist Sunna which is the second source of Islam after Koran);
4) several books on Aqida (Muslim dogmatics) and also many other literature.

[...] There are
too many myths on both sides. I do not think debunking of these myths is the purpose of this group. However, those who are interested in discussion of these things can contact me privately."

Shallonymous' Abuse of the Law

I sometimes disagree with "Tom Newton" but he is really good at catching up Shallonymous abuses.

The video hosted on this page (like the one on the other Newton page I blogged about today) is another video about which Shallonymous boasts about, when in fact it again demonstrates that what they do has little to nothing to do with "peaceful protests", and it even features a non-Scientologist passer-by who tries to make them understand that their masked farce is not welcome. The fact that he may have been a bit drunk indeed does not remove the validity of his opinion, only that it makes him bold enough to tell it to the masked face of Shallonymous.

I have to agree with Tom that the close up filming, provoking, and mocking on Youtube of the reaction of people they provoked is just harassment and stalking - and it's not funny. It may be "legal" (at least in the US it seems, not in Europe), but it really is just an abuse of whatever rationale is behind that legality.

"'How would I react if I were outnumbered five to one by a group of strangers in creepy plastic masks, who started following me and videotaping my every move?'"

WELL DONE ANON! Saving Dusty the Cat

For once I am 100% with Anonymous - and note that this is not Shallonymous of Scientology fame (these are too busy fighting imaginary enemies to do any such good in the world) - these are the original 4chan anons. This guy was torturing cats and published his deeds on Youtube. Anons tracked him down and within 24 hours got him charged.


Kenny Glenn The Animal Abuser - Encyclopedia Dramatica:
"Quicker than you can say Chris Forcand, Anonymous was able to track down the perpetrators, alert the local authorities and get the fucktards in custody after the local police verified that Anon's crack detective team were indeed, right on the money. Dusty the cat was liberated and turned over to a local vet for a check-up and some catnip and maybe even some pussy."

The Gullibility Test

Now this is an interesting video, albeit not for the reason it has been webbed.

OK - it's a mildly amusing parody. But what I find interesting is at the very end. The two persons they try to involve in the parody turn out to be actual Scientologists! And again, contrary to what Shallonymous tries to portray, they are friendly and tolerant to the whole sketch, even though it apparently has been ran in front of the org..

Scientology Gullibility Test « THE WOG BLOG from XENU TV

Manufacturing Enemies

"Their original issues have been so clouded up by sensationalistic conspiracy theory and unreliable apostate testimony that it's nearly impossible for the public to even relate to Anonymous.

Their attempts to take their Internet gossip to the streets is often met with hostility and resentment. People are increasingly put off by the masked protesters with their invasive use of video cameras and offensive "bull-baiting" comments.

[...] There are hundreds of such incidents as these, in which Anonymous provokes and videotapes heated responses in order to convince the public that they actually have a reason to protest (they don't). They are manufacturing an enemy because there really isn't one."

Katie Holmes Italian Style

Italian gossips about Tom and Katie losing weight, but a nice pic of Holmes in a Pierrot outfit :-)

Problemi di peso per Katie Holmes. Si teme l’anoressia | BlogGente

Princess Suri valentine's Day with Mickey

Princess Suri Finally Meets Those Aliens Dad Always Talks About” at The Insider
"Tom surprised Katie & Suri with a Valentine’s Day Disney Extravaganza at Walt Disney World where Suri was dressed like a fairy princess. "

Pirate Bay Assaults Scientology's Ship

You would think that the Pirate Bay, currently in the news for a law suit being brought against it in Sweden, would have its front page with something relevant to the suit. Not at all. For some strange reasons, they elected to dedicate their front page to Scientology, with a pic and a link that lead to loads of Scientology-related documents.

Interestingly, the Swedish suit is not filed by the CoS!

Download music, movies, games, software! The Pirate Bay - The world's largest BitTorrent tracker

Mom Sues CoS in Son's Death

The mom of non-Scientologist Kyle T. Brenman, 20, who committed suicide on Feb. 16, 2007, is suing the CoS and three parishioners for wrongful death. The three parishioners are Denise Gentile, the twin sister of David Miscavige, her husband, and Kyle's father, Thomas Brennan.

The lawsuit claims Gentile and her husband persuaded Kyle Brennan's father to take away Kele's Lexapro, which he was taking for depression and anxiety, and which led him, the suit claims, to shot himself with a loaded .357 Magnum that he found in his father's apartment.

The suit is being brought by attorney Ken Dandar, well-known for his extended legal battle against Scientology during the Lisa McPherson case.

Mom sues Church of Scientology in son's death - St. Petersburg Times:

CLEARWATER — A mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, its Flag Service Organization and three parishioners, claiming they brought about her son's death by denying him access to his antidepression medication.

Among the three parishioners named as defendants: Denise Gentile, the twin sister of the church's current worldwide leader, David Miscavige, as well as her husband, Gerald Gentile.

The lawsuit stems from the death of Kyle T. Brennan, 20, who shot himself in the head on Feb. 16, 2007, in Clearwater, while visiting his father, who is a Scientologist.

[...] Filed in Tampa federal court Friday, the lawsuit claims Gentile and her husband persuaded Kyle Brennan's father to take away his Lexapro, which his son was taking for depression and anxiety.

The suit, which also names Thomas Brennan as a defendant, states that the defendants tried to put Kyle Brennan into a Narconon drug treatment program.

Kyle Brennan was not a Scientologist, the suit states.

The suit is being brought by attorney Ken Dandar, well-known for his extended legal battle against Scientology during the Lisa McPherson case. McPherson, a 36-year-old Scientologist, died in 1995 while in the care of church staffers in Clearwater.

Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis said the lawsuit is an attempt to "draw the church into something that we don't have anything to do with."

None of the Scientologists named as defendants were church staff members, he said. They were all just parishioners. And Davis emphasized that the events took place on private property without church involvement.

Even Narconon, the drug treatment program that uses L. Ron Hubbard's teachings, is a separate entity from the Church of Scientology, he said.

Still, the case draws attention to Scientology's opposition to psychiatric drugs like Lexapro, which it deems to be mind-altering.

The Web site for Lexapro warns users not to go off their medication suddenly, even if they are feeling better. Changes in dosage, it says, can cause patients on antidepressants to worsen their depression, show signs of mood changes and exhibit thoughts of suicide.

Before his death, Kyle Brennan lived at home in Charlottesville, Va., where he was attending college, Dandar said. He was in the second year of a liberal arts degree when he left school and traveled around the country, Dandar said.

Kyle Brennan made a number of stops, going as far west as Hawaii, but in February 2007 he found his way to Clearwater, to stay with his father, whom he hadn't seen since the summer before.

Dandar said Kyle was taking a 10 mg dose of Lexapro, which he descried as "moderate." It was prescribed for him in early 2006 to help him with depression and anxiety.

He continued to use the drug while staying in his dad's two-bedroom apartment at 423 Cleveland St. in Clearwater, Dandar said.

But a week into the stay, Denise Gentile and her husband prevailed upon Kyle's father to take away the Lexapro medication and lock it in his truck, the lawsuit alleges.

While Scientology spokesman Davis said Denise Gentile was not in any authority position at the church, the suit alleges she had the title of "chaplain" and was held up as an authority of sorts on helping families with emotional matters.

The Gentiles and Brennan also phoned Britton, the young man's mother, to try to persuade her to put Kyle in Narconon, the lawsuit states.

The mother, who is not a Scientologist, was adamant that she and her son did not want anything to do with the drug treatment, the lawsuit states. She insisted that her son be put back on Lexapro.

The medication remained locked away, the suit states.

On Feb. 16, 2007, just after 11 p.m., Kyle Brennan shot himself with a loaded .357 Magnum that he found in his father's apartment, the lawsuit states.

His father found him dead, his head slumped in a laundry basket.

The lawsuit said it is unclear how he got ahold of the gun, but it blames "one or more of the Defendants."

"They locked up his medicine, but not the loaded .357 Magnum. That's the story line," Dandar said. "I think that's the case."

Thomas Brennan did not return a phone call left on his voice mail. Neither Denise nor Gerald Gentile could be reached for comment.

Relate blog entries: R-KyleBrennan-

The Saga of Anne-Marie Lizin

Anne-Marie Lizin, Belgian Independent Senator and anti-cultist is in trouble and offered her resignation as Mayor.

In Dec. 2007 she used local government agents to distribute fliers for her election campaign and publically called "prostitute" a member of her office who confirmed the facts.

In Oct. 2007 an investigation of the regional hospital of Huy, of which she was the Administrative Council President, suspected unjustified expenses possibly linked to her credit card.

Her party's Committee on Audit wanted to hear her about it but she claimed she could not go because she was recovering from surgery - the same day as she participated in a television debate about Guantanamo! Her party was pissed and suspended her.

The local government then started a disciplinary procedure again her. The only way Lizin would be able to avoid having to answer the investigation would be to resign - which she just announced last Monday!

Not to be outdone, she also announced that she will be a candidate for the next local elections! She will also remain independent Senator.

Ironically, she qualifies the legitimate objections about her behavior as a "witch trial of the XXIth Century".

In French:

La saga de Huy, étape par étape, jusqu'à la démission d'Anne-Marie Lizin -- RTL info


En décembre 2007, un journaliste dénonce un comportement illégal : lors de la dernière campagne électorale, des agents communaux distribuent des tracts pour faire la publicité d’Anne-Marie Lizin. Jusque-là, rien d’anormal. Or, l’enquête du journaliste révèle que ces agents communaux ont distribué ces tracts durant leurs heures de travail. Une journée de distribution de tracts revenait donc aussi chère à la communauté qu’une journée prestée à la commune. En ce qui concerne cette affaire, Anne-Marie Lizin dit à l'époque ne pas être concernée : "C’est le secrétaire communal qui gère les relations employeur-employé", avait-elle rétorqué.

Par après, Micheline Toussaint, (première échevine de Huy et sorte de rivale d’Anne-Marie Lizin) se fait traiter de prostituée par l’ex-bourgmestre de Huy… Anne-Marie Lizin n'a pas supporté que Micheline Toussaint confirme que les agents communaux aient effectué un travail illégal. L’enquête conclura enfin que les agents qui ont distribué ces tracts étaient en réalité en congé lors de cette distribution, mais qu’ils ne l’avaient pas annoncé à la commune.


En octobre 2007, le Centre hospitalier régional hutois est perquisitionné : la justice soupçonne l’utilisation abusive des cartes de crédit de l’hôpital, et notamment celle d’Anne-Marie Lizin alors que celle-ci est présidente du Conseil d’administration de l’hôpital. Le montant ? 37.000€ dépensés en 4 ans et injustifiés.


Anne-Marie Lizin doit alors être entendue devant le comité d’audit du PS, qui se demande ce qui se passe. Mais elle dit ne pas pouvoir s’y rendre, car elle est en convalescence, et vient de subir une opération lourde. Or, Au même moment, elle participe à un débat télévisé en France à propos de Guantanamo. Elle provoque ainsi la colère du PS, et Elio Di Rupo, la suspend momentanément du PS.


Il s’agit d’examiner les dépenses, pour infirmer ou confirmer les soupçons. Mais Anne-Marie Lizin annonçait lundi en exclusivité sur Bel RTL démissionner de son poste de bourgmestre : la procédure disciplinaire sera arrêtée dès que la démission de l’ex bourgmestre sera officialisée.

Lizin jette, temporairement, l'écharpe mayorale hutoise - Belgique - Actualite - Le Vif/L'Express

La sénatrice-bourgmestre de Huy, fragilisée depuis plusieurs mois par des accusations visant son utilisation de la carte de crédit de l'hôpital de Huy et suspendue par son parti, se dit victime d'un procès "stalinien" de la part du Parti socialiste.

Dans un entretien accordé à "La Libre Belgique", elle dénonce la procédure que le PS a mené contre elle. "C'est un procès de sorcellerie au XXIe siècle", déclare-t-elle. Tout était d'ailleurs écrit à l'avance. "Ma santé n'a pas été pour Elio Di Rupo, un argument suffisant pour attendre, c'est clair.", a-t-elle affirmé.


Pour autant, la démission d'Anne-Marie Lizin ne signifie pas qu'elle tourne le dos à la politique. Elle a, en effet, annoncé qu'elle sera candidate lors des prochaines élections communales et que d'ici là, elle resterait sénatrice indépendante.

Fort Harrison Hotel and Flag Building Renovations

The Scientology-owned landmark Fort Harrison Hotel is shrouded in scaffolding as it gets gussied up in a $30 million renovation project started in April.

Updated electrical and communication systems, three commercial kitchens, two catering kitchens, a poolside bar and a tea lounge are among the renovations.

The article also contains more stuff about Scientology-owned real estates in Clearwater, written in a confusing manner, as well as quoted praises about the CoS cooperation in the real estate area.

Church of Scientology spiffs up Fort Harrison Hotel, plans interior work on Flag Building - Dallas Business Journal: (full article)

CLEARWATER — The largest building downtown and its little sister are hard to miss.

The Mediterranean-revival Flag Building occupies an entire city block. It is connected via an overhead walkway to the landmark Fort Harrison Hotel across the street to the west.

The Church of Scientology owns both, and each is in a phase of multimillion-dollar construction.

The hotel is shrouded in scaffolding as it gets gussied up in a $30 million renovation project started in April.

Looking from outside, the Flag Building appears nearly finished. However, the exterior shell of the church’s new world spiritual headquarters hides from view interior work necessary to complete the gigantic building after construction began nearly 10 years ago.

When these projects and others planned are completed, the Church of Scientology will own about 2 million square feet in downtown Clearwater. The Scientologists thus are an obvious presence in the commercial real estate arena.

“They are a major force downtown, and they take good care of properties they own,” said Laura St. Clair, senior consultant at Colliers Arnold and a member of Clearwater Downtown Partnership’s advisory board. “They are a draw and create tremendous opportunities.”

Arnold Brown Properties LLC, an affiliated business that has dealt with the church to amass property downtown, owns the northern portion of what is known as the “Super Block,” which is bounded by Osceola Avenue, Fort Harrison Avenue, Drew Street and Cleveland Street near the waterfront. Arnold Brown plans to eventually build a mixed-use development on the site to tap into downtown’s revitalization.

“The church has been extremely cooperative, and we have a great working relationship with them,” St. Clair said. “We continue to invest downtown. It is coming to life.”

The church estimates that a daily average of 1,600 students and parishioners will use its new Flag Building once it is completed.

The facility will employ about 1,200 people.

Staubach Co., an international construction management firm founded by football star Roger Staubach, is overseeing the interior design and build out.

Construction documents for the project are in the permitting process, said Lisa Mansell, the church’s downtown liaison.

The church recently hired Hardin Construction Co., an Atlanta-based general contractor with offices in Tampa, to complete the Flag Building, Mansell said.

The long-awaited completion is expected late this year.

The rejuvenated Fort Harrison Hotel is expected to open this spring, Mansell said.

Nova Hotel Renovation & Construction, a company with offices in Florida and California, is the general contractor for the hotel project. About 350 construction workers are employed.

The renovation includes a full resurfacing of the hotel, which was built in 1927. About 100,000 square feet of new carpet are part of the renovation.

Updated electrical and communication systems, three commercial kitchens, two catering kitchens, a poolside bar and a tea lounge are among the renovations.

The hotel also has been brought up to strict standards for hurricane safety, Mansell said.

The church has spent millions of dollars on real estate improvements that benefit the city economically, said Elliott Ross, president of the Ross Realty Group in Clearwater.

Yet the few office buildings downtown struggle to lease space, and some major companies have moved to other areas along major traffic routes, he said.

“It’s not necessarily a business friendly environment downtown,” Ross said. “There are access challenges and not much lodging. It’s been hard to lease there because it’s just not a business core anymore.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CoS Behind Schedule on New Montreal Building

The CoS bought the building "La Patrie" in Montreal, Canada, for $CAN 4.25 million in the summer 2007. Initially foreseen to be ready for 2008, the restoration works are still nowhere. They need $CAN 10 million to restore it and are currently still far from this target. The CoS says the current economy crisis is partly to blame. Anonymous claims the failure is due to decreasing and less motivated membership.

In French below.

Violaine Ballivy : Église de scientologie au centre-ville: le projet bat de l'aile | National

Le projet d'expansion de l'Église de scientologie à Montréal a du plomb dans l'aile. Son déménagement au centre-ville, prévu initialement pour 2008, n'aura pas lieu avant la fin de l'année 2010, a appris La Presse.

L'Église de scientologie a vu très gros en se portant acquéreur de l'immeuble La Patrie au coût de 4,25 millions de dollars à l'été 2007. Près de deux ans plus tard, le mouvement n'a pas toujours pas amassé les fonds nécessaires pour lancer les travaux d'aménagement de ce vaste local situé rue Sainte-Catherine Est, en plein centre-ville de Montréal. Les plans de transformation ne sont même pas encore prêts.

«On en est encore aux étapes préliminaires et à la collecte de fonds», confirme le directeur des affaires publiques de l'Église de scientologie de Montréal, Jean Larivière.

«Le projet va nous coûter cher, très cher. On était conscients qu'il y avait beaucoup de travaux à faire, mais l'enthousiasme nous a un peu aveuglés et on fait maintenant face à la réalité», explique M. Larivière.

La transformation de l'édifice La Patrie, ancienne propriété de l'UQAM, en un lieu de culte au goût de l'Église de scientologie nécessiterait des investissements de quelque 10 millions de dollars. Sans préciser la somme amassée à ce jour, M. Larivière note néanmoins qu'il est «très loin du compte».

Le mouvement compte un millier d'adeptes à Montréal. Selon M. Larivière, plusieurs auraient décidé de consacrer cette année leurs contributions à un projet d'expansion semblable qui est en cours à Québec. Il associe aussi ces difficultés financières au ralentissement économique mondial. «Nos membres sont des gens comme les autres. En période d'incertitude, ils veulent garder plus de sous dans leur compte en banque», dit-il.

[...] Mais selon un porte-parole d'Anonymous, une organisation qui manifeste chaque mois devant les locaux actuels de l'Église de scientologie, rue Papineau, ce retard d'au moins deux ans dans les travaux révèle un recul de la ferveur de ses membres. «Ils investissent moins dans le mouvement soit parce qu'ils sont moins nombreux, soit parce qu'ils sont moins convaincus», dit Gaius Baltar.

En plus d'améliorer la visibilité de l'Église de scientologie dans la métropole, son déménagement rue Sainte-Catherine lui permettra de se doter d'une salle d'exposition de 45 000 pieds carrés entièrement dédiée au fondateur du mouvement, en plus d'une chapelle, d'une bibliothèque et de plusieurs salles de cours réservées aux adeptes. La superficie totale de ses locaux triplera.

Beware of Symptom Lists

Anti-Cult Controversies: "Symptom Lists can be Powerful Things":
As one self-proclaimed cult expert's website states, "symptom lists can be powerful things". Indeed they can, although not in the sense that particular website author means it. Symptom checklists such as the one presented on that website are notorious for leading people into believing they have syndromes that lack good research support. A well-known example of this were the checklists published that supposedly indicated people had repressed memories of sexual abuse, which were laundry lists of symptoms that just about anybody could be experiencing for a variety of reasons. For example, people with weight problems were told that this meant they had repressed memories of sexual abuse, ignoring the many other reasons a person might have a weight problem. People who had such symptoms were then subjected to years and years of therapy that may have ended up doing them more harm than good.

Something similar is occurring with the alleged "post-cult syndrome" where a wide variety of symptoms that could have a number of possible causes are attributed to an ex-cult member's past cult experience. There is no solid evidence for such a "syndrome" and I would highly recommend that the therapy consumer beware of websites claiming such and posting lists of symptoms, repeatedly offering an icon for people to click on, claiming that help starts by contacting the therapist.

[...] The problem now is that people who are walking out of groups on their own and surfing the web could be influenced by the websites suggesting all these symptoms and I am concerned that these checklists could become self-fulfilling prophecies, just as the checklists for repressed memories of sexual abuse were for so many people in the 1990s.

The other possibility is that people could be actually experiencing those symptoms for reasons that have nothing to do with the cult experience.

[...] Also beware of people claiming their practice is "evidence-based" who then refer to studies that are published by organizations with a vested interest in the form of therapy, rather than an independent peer-reviewed journal (the blooming cottage industry of "e-therapy" appears to be doing this, hyping benefits that have yet to be independently established by researchers who have nothing to gain financially).

Tom Cuise Back on Thunder Road

Nicole Kidman's New and Old Husbands Meet at the Racetrack

Tom Cruise, ex of Kidman, went back to Thunder Road this weekend, together with Keith Urban, current of Kidman. The Valkyrie actor was racing cars at a NASCAR Auto Race in Daytona Beach on Sunday, while Keith Urban provided musical entertainment.

Xenus Is for Real

In his latest article, he admits that the "Xenu" story, which anti-Scientologists claim is a "hidden teaching" of Scientology, is actually just an unpublished science fiction manuscript which has been taken out of context in order to ridicule the Church of Scientology.
That's not what he says. He says that the manuscript was used by Hubbard to make up the level, which does not mean that the content of that level is not taught as part of OT III. It is, and it does contain Xenu.

Actually , nobody knows exactly what Excalibur contains, if such a manuscript exists at all. To claim without proof that it was used to create the OT III level reflects very badly on Duigan and brings a suspicion towards anything else he may be writing.
So when Anonymous members tell me that Scientologists "actually believe" this stuff, I have to ask myself, who is it here that is really inclined to believe strange things without evidence?
Scientologists don't necessarily believe in the story itself, and much less "in Xenu", but they do believe in the supposed consequences of it, the body thetans - at least those who reached that level, of course.
Here are a couple more facts to consider:

1) No Scientologist has yet gone on record admitting to a belief in the "Xenu" the galactic space overlord.
Scientologists are not allowed to speak about that level. Even if they would, see above, believing in Xenu is not the point. The point is to run the process that goes with the story.
2) Every Anonymous member unquestioningly believes that "Xenu" is a teaching of Scientology.

Who do you believe? Is it more likely that there is a "hidden teaching" known only to a handful of Scientologists or that this is just a hoax, analogous to the "Taxil Hoax" which is used to smear Freemasons--or even along the same vein as "blood libel", which is used to defame Jews?

All three of these instances involve "hidden teachings" which are notoriously undisprovable, yet extremely convenient for enemy propagandists.
Unlike most of the other stupid claims promoted by Shallonymous, this one is actually fairly well documented and attested. Not that "Scientologists believe in Xenu". That's non sense to say. But that the story of Xenu is indeed taught at the OT III confidential level in Scientology, whether Scientologists believe in the story or not.

Anonymous in Anti-Anti-Gay Protest?

At last putting Anonymous' power to a good use. Maybe...

The question is: will they actually push through with it?

Westboro Baptist Church announces first anti-homosexuality picket in Britain - Telegraph:
"Followers of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church have threatened to picket a sixth form college in Basingstoke, Hampshire during a staging of The Laramie Project, a play about an American youth murdered because of his sexuality.

[...] Members of Anonymous, the nebulous online community that has previously organised protests against the Church of Scientology, are alreading planning counter-demonstrations outside the college on Friday, posts on internet message boards indicate."

CoS Groups Returning Slakin Ponzi's Money

As I wrote on Dec. 20, 2008, I have never heard anybody who victim of in a pyramid scam agreeing to return money gained in such a scheme once it was discovered to be a scam money, and so far groups affiliated with the Church of Scientology are the only ones to do so in my knowledge. Here is recent mention of this:

Alleged Madoff victims may be vulnerable to other victims' claims - Los Angeles Times:
"In another case, groups affiliated with the Church of Scientology agreed in 2006 to pay back $3.5 million they received from former Santa Barbara money manager Reed Slatkin and others who invested with him. Slatkin is set for release in 2014 from the U.S. penitentiary at Lompac, where he has been serving time in connection with a $593-million operation in which money from some investors was used to pay off others -- the classic definition of a Ponzi scheme."
Related blog entries: R-Slatkin-

Summit of the Drunks


What is really happening at these top G meetings?

At the G8, it was Sarkozy who was drunk (made for an hilarious video):

YouTube - French president Nicolas Sarkozy drunk at G8

And now it is the turn of a Japanese minister at the G7... Maybe even more hilarious if possible...

YouTube - 'Drunk' Japanese minister apologises for G7 press conference

Scientology Banned in Karangada, Kazakhstan

Scientology has been banned in a province of Kazakhstan, though the decision is still under appeal.

This obvious act of discrimination follows in the wake of a wave of recent cases of human-rights violation by Kazakhstan's government against its religious minorities (see second article below).

In the words of Evgeniy Zotis, one of the few in Kazakhstan who oppose these acts, "You could hardly imagine a better way to discredit our country".

"Karaganda, February 16, Interfax - The Economic Inter-District Court of Karaganda, the administrative center of the Karaganda region in Kazakhstan, has banned the Church of Scientology in the Karaganda region."

[...] Meanwhile, the scientologists said they intend to appeal the verdict.

"We will not put up with attempts to violate our right to the freedom of religion in Kazakhstan," President of the Karaganda-based Church of Scientology Vadim Vitushkin said in a statement.
Washington Times - FEFFERMAN: What values are shared?:
[...] Recent human-rights violations by Kazakhstan's government against its religious minorities, however, cause some in the United States and Europe to doubt whether Kazakhstan has earned the right to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as it is scheduled to do in 2010.

The act of Kazakstan's Constitutional Council in overturning parts of a repressive new religious law on Feb. 11 is a step in the right direction. However, the political climate in the country continues to bode ill for religious minorities, and human-rights experts fear the parliament may still pass other new repressive measures.

Even without the new religious law, Kazakhstan has recently taken actions against its religious minorities that cause serious concerns.

The recent jailing of Unification Church missionary Elizaveta Drenicheva for teaching her church's doctrine on original sin is only one example of how Kazakhstan's view of religious freedom diverges from the mainstream of the community of nations.

[...] Article 18 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to express their religious views both privately and in community. Yet the judge sentenced Mrs. Drenicheva to a two-year prison term merely for sharing her religion with people who had come voluntarily to the church's center in Almaty to hear her lectures.

The clampdown on smaller religious groups in Kazakhstan has been attracting the attention of human-rights groups for some time. The Forum 18 News Service reports Kazakhstan has resumed jailing Baptists who refuse to register their worship services with the government. Khrishna devotees have witnessed their properties bulldozed and their leader banned from the country. The Church of Scientology reports that its centers and members' homes have been illegally raided by the secret police (KNB).

Coupled with government and police actions, a wave of negative media reports against minority religious groups has targeted Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Ahmadi Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as the newer groups. "All these articles have one source," claims Almaty Helsinki Committee head Ninel Fokina, "the KNB secret police."

In the early years after the demise of the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was often seen as a model of human rights and religious pluralism. Its majority Muslim population seemed willing enough to live in peace with its substantial Russian Orthodox Christian minority, together with a growing segment of Western religions. The recent shift toward repression reflects growing pressure from the two mainstream groups and old-guard secularists of the communist era that there are now "too many religions" in Kazakhstan.

[...] Some voices within Kazakhstan have spoken out against the repression. Commenting on the Drenicheva case, Evgeniy Zhovtis, chief of the Kazakhstan International Bureau of Human Rights, stated: "You could hardly imagine a better way to discredit our country."

Mrs. Drenicheva's case is now on appeal, but the 30-year old Russian missionary remains in prison. She is considered in the human-rights community to be a prisoner of conscience. Freedom House, the oldest human-rights group in the United States, said it "strongly urges the court of appeals to throw out Ms. Drenicheva's conviction on the grounds that it is a clear miscarriage of justice and the continuation of a worrisome campaign in Kazakhstan against minority religious groups."

Positive Mind-Control?

AntiCultControversies : Message: Can Mind Control Be Good?:
In his website, Hassan states that mind control is not always bad ( ):

""Mind control" techniques are not necessarily bad. Although I typically use the term "mind control" when describing unethical and abusive social influence, many of the techniques can be used ethically to promote positive spiritual and personal growth."

I think his statement that mind control techniques are not always bad is very confusing.

Then he goes on to say that spiritual practices can be ethical or unethical:

"For example, prayer can be used ethically or it can be used destructively as a tool of manipulation and coercion. Praying with a person aloud, and asking "God's blessing to help direct and guide him" (in an "open-ended" way) is just fine. Praying with a person, and asking God to "keep this person from making the mistake of leaving the group's workshop and returning to Satan's world" is unethical.
There may be some idea there. saying, for example, "You have to follow God's voice" would be OK. But saying in substance "You have to follow God's voice and I am that voice" would already be objectionable, even if we don't label it mind-control.
Meditation techniques can be used to build awareness and self control, or it can be used as a way of "thought-stopping"-undermining independent thinking and reality-testing. For example, if a person is having doubts and questions about a leader's behavior, and meditates to get rid of "negativity", it might stop the person from taking necessary action.

There are thousands of different "mind control" techniques which can be used for positive benefit. Some these techniques include: prayer, meditation, chants, singing songs, visualizations, affirmations, positive self-talk, breathing techniques, hypnosis, "speaking in tongues", ecstatic dancing, music."

So, as far as I understand, he considers all the spiritual practices to be mind-controlling, but sometimes this "mind control" is "ethical." I think it is another example of his stretching the term "mind control."
I agree. Why call it mind-control at all? It isn't really useful to understand the cult phenomenon, or at least it is questionable, and it isn't useful to understand spiritual practices. Not only Hassan stretches what he includes under cults and mind-control to the point it loses its meaning, if it ever had any, but to use it to designe something else in addition really just make it totally meaningless.
I think that between real freedom of mind (not Hassan's "freedom of mind") and mind control there is a big "gray zone." It is somewhat like in black and white television. Even though it was called "black and white," there were many gradations of the gray color there. The standard testing table for TV sets, used in the USSR and Russia, had 10 gradations. It means that a TV set was expected to display not only black and white, but also 8 shades of the gray color. Mind control is "black." Freedom of mind is "white." And there are many things between them.

Probably, Hassan considers that mind control and freedom of mind are the two alternatives. And probably, he includes the whole "gray zone" into "mind control." I do not think this is correct.
I think that what he means to say is that the same technique could be either beneficial or detrimental depending on the context. I would agree with that. I just don't see indeed why refer to both as "mind-control". It already is dubious a term when used in relation to cults, and it becomes even weaker when used to refer to any spiritual technique.

Or is there really something like "positive mind-control" vs. "negative mind-control"? Positive mind-control being me controling my mind, and negative mind-control being others controling it?

Scientologists Move in to Nashville

News briefs - News/Features:
"The church of Scientology has purchased a building right off campus – and a group called Anonymous really doesn’t like it. Donning “V for Vendetta” masks and offering cake to passers-by, the group (a national anti-scientology organization) gathered in front of the scientology center to protest this Valentine’s Day, donning masks to prevent retaliation from what they view as a shady, secretive cult. The center is located in the old Falls School business center, a historical building purchased by Scientologists last June for $6 million, which will probably become an “ideal org” – that is, the place from which Nashville scientology will form a “New Civilazation (sic) in Nashville,” to quote their website, Whatever the Scientologists are up to in there, at least they aren’t the ones standing on street corners, wearing creepy masks and offering cake to strangers."

Related blog entries: -NashvilleOrg-

Operation Chaniversary Monumental Flop

On Feb. 14 I read and blogged about an article that seemed to indicate that the last Feb. 7 was not the date of the one year anniversary of 2008 but that this fabulous event would take place on Valentine day, Feb. 14.

Yesterday, there wasn't a single peep in the news about that formidable event. I thought, it's Monday, let's wait another day. Today - the same. If there is something fabulous about that event it that it is fabulously ignored by the press at large. Except for one mention, and even that article ends by the quote of the day:
"Whatever the Scientologists are up to in there, at least they aren’t the ones standing on street corners, wearing creepy masks and offering cake to strangers."
Well done Shallonymous. You have made tremendous progress in the way the press perceives your action in just one year!

News briefs - News/Features

Quote of the Day: Creepy Masks and Caek

News briefs - News/Features:
"Whatever the Scientologists are up to in there, at least they aren’t the ones standing on street corners, wearing creepy masks and offering cake to strangers."

The Power of Words and Ideas

Words alone are able to make us believe the most incredible things. Is that mind-control? In an literal sense, maybe. In the anti-cult sense, of course not. Monica is right to point out that context is important too (feedback from the outside world), and this is where Freedom of Speech really kicks in and why ban of any form is ultimately detrimental. Words and ideas are best fought through more words and ideas, not by less. In the increasing debunking of myths like cult mind-control and hypnosis, we ought to realize the mere power of words and ideas on their own.

AntiCultControversies : Message: RE: [AntiCultControversies] Re: Debunking Hypnosis Myths:
[...] I can remember the first time I began to question that was back in the 1990s when I was working with some people who were in a small no-name cult where seven people were living in a house with a woman who claimed to be an alien "walk-in" and had gained complete control over her followers. She had them believing that they were destined to save the world and also had them believing that they were all sexually abused as children and had murdered people (this was proven false when one of the people allegedly "murdered" turned up in town alive and well a few days later not having had any contact with group members). I had in-depth conversations with two of the members and she didn't seem to be using any form of hypnosis with them. The more credible explanation was that they spent all their time together with little feedback from the outside world and lost all perspective on other points of view. If the assertion is made that all cults use mind control, it only takes one exception to refute it, but there seem to be many more than just one.

The possibility that gets ignored is that maybe people can become suggestible in situations that do not use hypnosis and that no special "trance state" is necessary. There are more ordinary social influence factors that could be going on that could be having much more powerful effects than hypnosis.

[...] I doubt anyone would then conclude that books in and of themselves are dangerous and keep people away from them. There are clearly many different variables operating in these situations. Hypnosis might be one variable, but it doesn't seem to be a necessary one for even a dramatic conversion.

Honest Abe Tops New Presidential Survey


I have read some time ago articles about striking historical and even mathematical similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy. I guess these can be found nowadays on the net too. Like most people I have a deep admiration for Kennedy's unique charisma. A similar article trying to draw parallels between Lincoln and Obama didn't quite convince me, though.

W. Bush ended near the bottom of the ranking, of course, where he belongs. The criminal idiot was recorded saying ""There is no such thing as short-term history. I don't think you can possibly get the full breadth of an administration until time has passed.""

He is right - over time I believe he'll be ranked very last.

Lincoln wins: Honest Abe tops new presidential survey -

Pakistan Agrees to Enforce Islamic Law in Swat Valley

This is something I am of two minds about.

One the one hand the crimes of Bush have led me to have some sympathy for the opposition, and thus for Muslims fighting that form of abject "civilized" violence (although I object to violence in doing that too). On the other hand I really am not discontent to see things like the Taliban society, and its barbaric practices, being removed from power (albeit my beef with Bush is really Iraq, not so much Afghanistan).

Now Pakistan is making concessions to some areas who wish to apply the Sharia. On the one hand, I have some sympathy for that position, for the reason above, and think it is smart and somewhat fair to let people choose their own way of life. On the other hand, I have to agree that such a concession is going to feed the motivation of those who use violence to impose their Muslim (or otherwise) societies.

Pakistan Agrees to Enforce Islamic Law in Swat Valley -
The Pakistani government, desperate to restore peace to a Taliban-infested valley once known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan," agreed Monday to enforce strict Islamic law in the surrounding district near the Afghan border, conceding to a long-standing demand by local Islamist leaders who in turn pledged to ask the fighters to lay down their arms.

In announcing the agreement, Pakistani officials asserted that the adoption of Sharia law would bring swift and fair justice to the Swat Valley, where people have long complained of legal corruption and delays. They said the new system would have "nothing in common" with the draconian rule of the Taliban militia that ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, during which thieves' hands were amputated and adulterers were stoned to death.

"There was a vacuum . . . in the legal system. The people demanded this and they deserve it," said Amir Haider Khan Hoti, chief minister of the North-West Frontier Province. The new system will include an appeals process, something the Afghan Taliban justice system did not allow for.

[...] But Pakistani critics blasted the deal as a dangerous concession to extremist insurgents who have terrified inhabitants of the valley for months, sending thousands fleeing to safer areas. They have bombed girls' schools, beheaded policemen, whipped criminals in public squares and assassinated activists from the secular Awami National Party that governs the North-West Frontier Province.

The critics expressed fear that this victory might spur the insurgents to push harder for the imposition of Islamic law in other areas, taking advantage of a promise by the Pakistani army to pull back from the surrounding area if peace is restored.

[...] Leaders of the Awami National Party here said they also supported the agreement even though their own views are more secular and they have been targeted by insurgent attacks. They said the government does not have sufficient force to defeat the Taliban and foreign fighters based in the autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. So, they said, it needs to negotiate with local militant groups in nearby areas like Swat to isolate the renegade hard-liners in the tribal sanctuaries.

"I have agreed to put my personal hardships behind me for the sake of peace," said Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial official from Swat who said he was put on a Taliban hit list, and whose brother was assassinated because of his Awami affiliation. "We have addressed the core issue, which was Nizam-e-Adl [Sharia law system], so now the fighting and other activities should stop."[...]

The Associated Press: Pakistan inks truce deal with militants in NW area:

Monday's peace agreement applies to the Malakand region, which includes the former tourist destination of the Swat Valley, where extremists have gained sway by beheading people, burning girls schools and attacking security forces since a similar agreement broke down in August.

U.S. officials complained the earlier accord allowed militants to regroup and rearm and urged Pakistan's government to concentrate on military solutions to the insurgency in the rugged frontier region, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

[...] "It is hard to view this as anything other than a negative development," a senior Defense Department official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of relations with Pakistan and because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

[...] Speaking in India, President Barack Obama's special envoy for the region, Richard Holbrooke, did not directly address Pakistan's peace effort in Malakand. But he said the rise of the Taliban in Swat was a reminder that the U.S., Pakistan and India face an "an enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals and our people."

[...]"This is simply a great surrender, a surrender to a handful of forces who work through rough justice and brute force," said Athar Minallah, a lawyer and civil rights activist. "Who will be accountable for those hundreds of people who have been massacred in Swat? And they go and recognize these forces as a political force. This is pathetic.

[...] Several war-weary residents interviewed in the Swat area welcomed the announcement.

"We just want to see an end to this bloody fighting," said Fazal Wadood, a teacher. "We do not mind what way it comes. It is no problem if it comes through the Islamic system."

[...] Hoti said the laws, which allow for Muslim clerics to advise judges when hearing cases and the setting up of an Islamic appeals court, would ensure a much speedier and fairer justice system than the current system, which dates back to British colonial times.

The rules do not ban female education or contain other strict interpretations of Shariah that have been demanded by many members of the Taliban in Pakistan — restrictions imposed by Afghanistan's Taliban regime that was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Note: knowing that the insurgents bombed and burned girls' school, it is a bit hard to believe that no ban on female education will actually be implemented...

The accord does not involve the tribally ruled regions adjacent to the Afghan border, where the United States has been targeting suspected militants with missile strikes fired from drones believed launched from neighboring Afghanistan.

[...] The Obama administration has signaled it will continue such attacks, which U.S. officials say have killed several top al-Qaida leaders. Pakistani leaders have voiced strong objections, saying the strikes undercut support for their own war against militants.