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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

We probably know more about religion than the religionists do

Atheists and agnostics know more about the major religions than Catholics and Protestants.

Well, it’s not surprising when you think that so many people call themselves this or that when it’s just a habit. Their parents were Catholic, say, so they identify as Catholic. Even many of those who go to church probably don’t know much about what’s happening – just lots of bells and smells and men in fine and fancy frocks and magnificent music and rousing ritual and seductive ceremony.

I remember my brother – a professing Christian – saying to me one day that I probably knew more about his religion than he did. When he said to me, “I’m a Christian,” I wish I’d asked him, “How do you know?”

Ah, l’esprit de l’escalier, eh?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Blue plaque for Tatchell

Peter Tatchell gets a blue plaque tomorrow. It’s part of the scheme – running in the UK, other European countries and the USA – that recognises notable people by putting a distinctive blue plaque on the outside of their homes.

Actor Ian McKellen will do the honours tomorrow, unveiling the plaque and saying a few words.

Tatchell said today:

Ian McKellen
“It is a big honour. I am very grateful to the people who voted for me, especially since there were other notable, worthy and deserving nominees. I hope my receipt of this award will encourage others to campaign for human rights. I have lived in Southwark most of my life and I am very proud to be part of its long, illustrious history of distinguished authors, playwrights, scientists, inventors and social reformers.

“I appreciate this award, but the greatest honour I’ve had is the privilege to know and work with so many amazing, courageous human rights defenders in Britain and around the world. That’s the real, true honour to me.”

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Religion = good habits?

So abandoning “faith” leads you into bad habits, and therefore sends you on a downward spiral towards being an unhealthy wreck? Hmm.

Well this is a “finding” of a study reported in Christian Today.

“The study was conducted by Christopher Scheitle,” the online outlet says, “a senior research assistant in sociology at Penn State University, and is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior.”

This is what he says: “Strict groups typically require members to abstain from unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use.

“These groups also create both formal and informal support structures to promote positive health.

“The social bonds of belonging to the group might be another factor for better health.”

So far, he’s talked of groups – not religious groups. OK, he goes on to describe two cults – the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses – as strict religions. But so far – according to this Christian Today report, anyway – he hasn’t said that a strict group that keeps people on the “straight and narrow” has to be a religious strict group. Just a strict group.

The fact that there may not be many nonreligious groups that insist on no smoking, no drinking, no other potentially unhealthy activities is neither here nor there. The implication here is that it’s religion that’s holding people together when it comes to living “safe” lives (just how boring those lives may be isn’t mentioned). It’s not. It’s adherence to a code.

Anyone could adhere to a code. It helps if you belong to a group, and have peer pressure and peer support.

There are, of course, groups that deal with individual behaviours, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and various drug-dependence help organisations. Maybe there are secular groups – here in the UK and in the USA, where this study came from – that are designed to keep people off all potentially harmful substances, legal or otherwise.

But it’s nothing to do with religion, as the Christian Today says later:

“The sociologist said more studies need to be conducted to determine the correlation between leaving a religion and health. He emphasised that the study does not show that leaving a religion directly results in bad health.”

Oh, well there’s nothing like leaving the salient bits till last, hoping no one will read that far, is there? Most readers of this story will go away thinking it’s religion wot does it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Are you getting cruelly killed meat? Perhaps you won’t be told!

“Britain goes halal . . . but no-one tells the public: How famous institutions serve ritually slaughtered meat with no warning”, says a Mail headline.

Yes, it’s really quite disgusting. It’s a longish piece, but interesting. And it’s also rather disturbing that some places that sell halal and kosher (i.e. cruelly killed) meat as a matter of course don’t see the need to tell their customers.

Dawkins on video

Big turnout at the Protest the Pope rally in London Saturday. That’s heartening.

Meanwhile, you can see Professor Richard Dawkins’s speech on the vid we’ve embedded below. Enjoy!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Gay cardinal on the road to sainthood – but his love will be ignored

Ratzo is beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman today – the last day of his highly expensive (to the British taxpayer) four-day visit to the UK.

But there’ll be no mention of his having been gay, and much in love with Father Ambrose St John, with whom his remains were buried.

And there’ll be a demonstration, too, as there have been throughout Ratzo’s four-day visit to the UK at enormous expense to the taxpayer.

See Digital Journal’s take on the story here, and our own previous posts:

Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones

Dem bones, dem bones, dem gone bones

Dem bones, dem bones, dem bones of contention

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Were the Nazis atheists? Is the Pope a Protestant?

The UK gay humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (owner of this blog) has robustly challenged the claim by Pope Ratzinger that the Nazis were atheists.

“In his opening address to the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on 16 September, the Pope referred to ‘a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society’,” says PTT secretary and my fellow blogger George Broadhead in a news release. “This is rubbish. Hitler himself was born, and remained all his life, a Catholic. The church never excommunicated him.

“In 1933, he signed a concordat with the Vatican. The church agreed to keep priests and religion out of politics while Hitler, among other things, granted complete freedom to confessional schools throughout the country – a notable victory for German Catholics.

“The Vatican even asked God to bless the new German Reich! It ordered all German bishops to swear allegiance to the Nazi regime with an oath that ended, ‘In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interest of the German Reich, I will endeavour to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it.’

“So much for the Nazis being atheist,” Broadhead continues. “The Vatican was fully, if not enthusiastically, complicit with the Nazi regime. In Italy the Vatican state was set up under an accord (the Lateran Treaty) reached between the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and the Catholic Church in 1929. The accord not only created the state of the ‘Vatican City’ with full diplomatic rights but made a substantial financial payment to the Church and recognised Catholicism as Italy’s official religion.

“Bishops took an oath of allegiance to the Fascist dictatorship and the clergy were ordered never to oppose it or incite their flock to harm it. Prayers were said in churches for Mussolini and for fascism. Priests became members of the Fascist Party and were even its officers.

“The history of the Catholics’ collaboration with the German and Italian Fascist regimes is irrefutable,” he adds.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Left-wing atheists spitting venom? Oh, dear!

The Daily Mail never ceases to amaze me. In this story about Pope Ratzinger’s visit to the UK – which began yesterday in Scotland and continues in London today – it talks of how the 50-odd notable scientists, writers and entertainers who signed a letter critical of the visit were “spitting venom”.

As well as the “spitting venom” accusation (you need to scroll down to the second story to see this, or search on “Pope hit by a celebrity vendetta”, for there are two on the same page), the article adds that those who signed the letter were a “parade of celebrities – many of them Left-wing atheists”.

I suppose they needed to add “left-wing” to make the atheists sound a bit worse, and needed “atheists” (which I don’t think all the signatories are, incidentally) to make the left-wingers sound worse. A “parade of atheist left-wingers” would have done the trick equally well.

Believe it or not, these pieces come in the news section. No reporting of the news in the Mail, no down-the-middle straight reportage, telling it like it is. No, left-wing atheists have to be spitting venom.

It’s not what I’d call journalism. Put it in the opinion section, by all means. Everyone’s entitled to his/her opinion, after all, and you’d expect this sort of opinion in the Mail (the Daily Hate, as it’s often been called).

The piece – by Steve Doughty – goes on to examine one by one some of the signatories, and picks out the excellent fantasy author Terry Pratchett, an Alzheimer’s sufferer who has “claimed the right to assisted suicide”. The implication is, of course, that this is somehow a venomous, left-wing, atheist, and therefore bad, thing to do.

Journalism? You decide.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Suspended sentence for Ray Gosling

The broadcaster Ray Gosling – who runs the Gay Monitor campaigning website with Allan Horsfall of CHE – has been given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to wasting police time when he confessed to a mercy killing.

We reported last month that he was likely to face a charge. I initially reported on the story in February, and said there were do-gooders afoot who wanted him prosecuted for a mercy killing. I stand by the sentiments there in principle, even though it appears he didn’t kill anyone.

Are we being too harsh on dear old Ratzo?

A British think tank thinks (well, it would, I guess: it’s a think tank) that secularists are treating that nice pope chappie a bit unfairly. They reckon it’s a bit of a witch hunt.

What do you think? Can any persecution of Ratzo the Vile be too much, considering what he stands for, which has been rehearsed time and time again on this blog and others? See this link, which will take you to oodles of posts (including this one – weird, I know, but that’s how it works).

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Tick-Tock Muhammad: something
else to get Muslims jumping
We’ve all seen the “Turbomb” picture – the one that was published (among others) a few years ago by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten and upset Muslims so much that they started killing people. Now there’s a new take on it.

The ESHE streetware clothing company in Australia has produced a series of images, including the T-shirt you see here (called “Tick-Tock Muhammad”), one called “Pedo Pope” and some wallpaper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The case against Ratzo the Vile

The error of treating perpetrators of child sex abuse as sinners in need of fatherly counsel, rather than as criminals deserving of punishment, compounded by the motive of protecting the church's reputation at any cost, has been buoyed by the belief that, because the Holy See and its immune leader can do no wrong in the eyes of diplomatic law, they can do no wrong.

The words are those of Geoffrey Robertson QC, the barrister behind the intentions of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have Ratzo the Vile arrested for crimes against humanity when he comes to the UK later this month (the spineless UK government has moved to prevent such a possibility – as you would expect, politicians being such utter shits most of the time).

Robertson has a book out called The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, a longish extract from which is to be found in today’s Independent.

And did you know that the Queen will have to wear black because, according to Robertson, “only Catholic queens can meet the Pope in white”? You couldn’t make it up. While I fly no flag for royalty, I see no reason why the Queen of this country should be forced to dress in a particular way for a bogus head of a bogus state – and on religious grounds at that.

The Pope wants more!

To coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s UK State Visit, the Humanists website has produced four A4-size posters. They can be viewed and printed out by going to this page.

My blog colleague Roy Saich, who runs the website, says, “The need to make the Humanist voice heard is shown by the recent outburst from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh,” he says, “who has accused the BBC of harbouring an institutional bias against ‘Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular’. This is in spite of the hundreds of hours of radio and television given over to promoting religion out of licence payers’ money.”

Saich continues, “The BBC denied that it had marginalised mainstream religious issues, which it said were placed ‘at the heart’ of its schedule. A spokeswoman said: ‘The BBC’s commitment to religious broadcasting is unequivocal. BBC news and current affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and works closely with BBC Religion, ensuring topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all BBC networks.’

“The BBC produces no programmes about the Humanist ethical tradition. So much for BBC claims to be impartial! Its website does not include a distinct section about Humanism and ignores agnostics and gives Humanism as a sub-belief of atheism. The BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, is a Roman Catholic who has denied that the BBC gives job preferences to Roman Catholics. Ninety per cent of the UK population is not Catholic.”

Yes, and yet some people still seem to think the visit by Ratzinger should be treated with respect, even by those who disagree with his monstrous views concerning sexuality, the role of women, the use of condoms, abortion and a host of other things.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Does HIV cause AIDS?: the video

Gay & Lesbian Humanist published in spring this year an article by the AIDS dissident John Lauritsen. The online publication Digital Journal carried a story on that article, and it received a lot of fiery comments.

Recently, Lauritsen gave a talk at a conference in Vienna (and he mentioned G&LH in the course of it), which we’ve linked to below.

I know most people have orthodox views about whether HIV causes AIDS and whether the drugs doled out by Big Pharma cure or kill (Lauritsen believes the latter), but, when you have a few minutes, click and watch. It makes interesting listening.

Friday, 3 September 2010

How the Pope will bring chaos to our streets

“Mass disruption warning on Pope day”, warns the Scotsman.

The paper’s report gives details of the mass disruption for Edinburgh and Glasgow.

And that’s only Scotland.

This geezer obviously feels himself far more important than the lives of ordinary people who want nothing to do with his evil, and the Scottish and Westminster authorities are happy to go along with it, because even those politicians who detest Ratzo the Vile as much as I do are so bloody pusillanimous that they won’t stand up and say the Pope should be kept out of the country unless he’s on a pastoral visit paid for entirely by the super-rich Catholic Church.

Damn the Pope and his legions!

“Those muddled folk at Ekklesia are at it again!” says my blogging colleague Roy Saich of the Humanists website in a news release.

“Their Simon Barrow says that the only reason for opposing the state visit of the Pope to the UK is because of the Pope’s medieval social views.

“It is true that these views are more than enough for civilised people to disagree with the Pope, but that the British government should be so backward as to spend at least £12 million pounds of tax money on hosting the Pope, who is the bogus head of a bogus state, is more than enough to justify public protests.

“Add to all this such idiotic beliefs as a virgin birth, wine literally turning into blood, wafers into human flesh and a resurrected human being actually lifted up to heaven to return at any time after nearly two thousand years, would be laughable if it did not get the church huge wealth and political power. The tax concessions and media rights granted as well, prove we do not live in a sensible country – just consider so called ‘faith’ schools.”


And another fellow blogger, George Broadhead, secretary of this blog’s owner, the Pink Triangle Trust, isn’t too happy, either, nor with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), who laughingly reckoned that the damned Pope should be respected.

What?!?! I don’t usually mix up question marks with exclamation marks, but this is exceptional naïveté.

George Broadhead says in a post to the Gaytheist discussion group (see sidebar on how to sign up), “This shows how completely useless LGCM has become since the feisty Richard Kirker left it as General Secretary some years ago.

“At this time LGCM was always in the forefront of protest against religious homophobia from whatever source and Kirker never pulled his punches. I know this because I was then his counterpart in the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

“LGCM has obviously become as ineffectual as a campaigning organisation as the gay Catholic group Quest which I’m sure will be grovelling in awe of ‘his holiness’ despite his implacably hostile stance on gay relationships and gay rights.” (Excerpt used with permission.)

To be fair, LGCM goes round the houses a bit to get to respecting the damned Pope. It begins by saying it’s an ecumenical group and has Catholics among its members and the Pope’s visit is a moment of celebration for them and LGCM honours and respects the beliefs and traditions of said Catholics.


How anyone – especially those who live by the “meek shall inherit the earth” and “blessed are the poor” school of Jesusism – can respect the “beliefs and traditions” of such a backward, death-cult, evil organisation is beyond me. If Jesus existed and matched all the “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and “love thy neighbour” epithets, there would be no place in his heart for the Catholic Church or the damned Pope and his damned cardinals and their damned beliefs and their damned traditions.

Come on, LGCM. We thought you were made of better stuff than this. Instead, you’ve copped out to inhumanity and ought to retract that nonsense or just fold up. You’re doing no good for gay people by asking for respect for the beliefs and traditions of that iniquitous and vile organisation. The odd belief, the odd tradition, yes. Find a few. Be selective. The Catholic Church will have some beliefs that chime with those of decent people – those beliefs that are born out of humanity. And you do say you have issues with the Catholic Church and its views on matters gay. But you then seem to lump the beliefs back together under a request for respect for Catholics and, by implication, their Führer.

Intrinsic moral evil

If you show meekness in the face of this monster, you are showing meekness to all his beliefs. That, at least, is what people are going to perceive.

So what about the “belief” that gay is sinful, an intrinsic moral evil? What about the “tradition” of keeping women out of the priesthood? Christians who support Ratzo and his kind will be seen to condone this stance, as will those who demand respect for him and his damned visit. Ratzo, do not forget, is not going to change his views, and any number of prayer vigils will achieve nothing. May as well get out there and raise hell (short of violence or incitement, obviously), and, in so doing, raise some publicity – big time.

What about the “belief” that women should have no dominion over their own fertility and that there should be no family planning apart from the rhythm method – in other words no contraception (even when said contraception can in some cases double as a lifesaver by acting as a barrier against disease)?

What about the “belief” that anyone who aids and abets an abortion – even if the mother is still a little girl who was raped and was expecting twins and wouldn’t survive the birth – should be excommunicated? (And those excommunicated in some instances believe, don’t forget, that this will lead to their eternal torment after death.) Don’t believe that happened? See this post from March 2009.

What about the “tradition” of calling for ever more people to populate a planet that is groaning under overpopulation, knowing full well that each new human being will be making a demand on the environment and contributing to poverty?

What about the “belief” that it’s OK to tell children, as some do, that they could burn for ever – for ever – in hellfire? That their bodies belong to God? What about the “tradition” of filling children’s minds with unproven and unprovable nonsense about virgin births and a god who comes to earth, dies and wakes up again and goes back into the sky – stories to be found in a number of traditions?

Come on, LGCM. Grow up. Show your Catholic members where they’re going very wrong and invite them to own up to their gullibility and repent, or get of your organisation. Yes, not all Catholics follow the damned Pope and his damned beliefs and traditions, and clearly your Catholic members part company with him on some things. But they prop him up, and his damned organisation, by being self-confessed, unashamed Catholics; they give some sort moral legitimacy to the damned Pope and the damned Vatican and the damned cardinals and all their damned beliefs and their damned traditions, just by declaring themselves Catholics and thus helping to maintain the numbers the Catholic Church claims follow its damned beliefs and its damned traditions.


If I joined an organisation and was inimical to its mission, I’d be kicked out. Perhaps your mission is a bit flabby and irresolute. Perhaps you should not campaign, then, but just be a quiet little group that is there for community and companionship and mutual support (something it does very well, no doubt), and stop trying to pretend that you care for the rights of all gay people. Clearly, some strong words are needed when it comes to the monster who will step onto our shores later this month. Those strong words would be all the stronger for coming from Christian mouths.

Gay you may be – most of your members are, anyway – but you do gay people a disservice by continuing to call for respect for the “beliefs and traditions” of damned and damnable Catholics – sometimes intelligent Catholics, educated Catholics, aware Catholics who ought to know better and be ashamed of themselves for allowing their identities to prop up the damned Pope, his damned cardinals and the damned Vatican, with all its damned beliefs and its damned traditions.

However, in spite of a rather lively condemnation of the Pope and his legions, I would not wish him to burn in hell, assuming there were such a place. That would be damned inhuman.

Oh, on the subject of respect, one organisation I do have some respect for is LGCM. I hope it doesn’t continue to disappoint me.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Intergroup on LGBT Rights takes up Igwe case

The UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) – this blog’s owner – has warmly welcomed the news that the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights has taken up the case of Leo Igwe, the Nigerian Humanist and gay-rights campaigner, who has been subjected to horrendous persecution in this religion-dominated country.

Igwe, who is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Association, and members of his family have been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment by police, involving multiple arrests on unsubstantiated charges, since 2007.

The Intergroup has taken action after an appeal to its president, Michael Cashman MEP, from the PTT’s secretary, George Broadhead, who pointed out what a stalwart campaigner Igwe is for LGBT rights in Nigeria.

Broadhead said, “In 2006 Mr Igwe made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. The Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that homosexual practice ‘is clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African’.

“The International Humanist and Ethical union, of which the PTT is a member, has made a vigorous protest to the Nigerian President about the appalling treatment of Mr Igwe, and it is very good to learn that the European Parliament’s Intergroup has protested to the Nigerian High Commissioner and Ambassador to the European Union. We hope that Mr Igwe will be heartened by this news,” Broadhead added.
Update: See comments for a clarification on this. The LGBT Intergroup may be taking up the case. Certainly, it’s been informed of the situation.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Trust criticises Tatchell

This blog’s parent, the PTT, isn’t too pleased with the gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at the moment.

While it’s good in many ways that Tatchell received a standing ovation at the Greenbelt Christian festival, to which he was invited to speak, he’s come in for criticism from George Broadhead, secretary of the PTT, for “putting a gloss” on Jesus’s teachings.

The criticism has gained publicity in the excellent Brighton gay mag Gscene (which for some reason puts all its quotations in both quote marks and italics, which is bizarre – but I won’t). You can see its story here – and read much more in that publication, too.

“Speaking about ‘the struggle for queer freedom in Africa’,” says Gscene, “he attacked church leaders who condone homophobic abuse, but praised the ‘brave, heroic Christians who refuse to go along with the persecution of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual’.”

The magazine’s article – written by Scott Hart – continues:

The turnout of 21,000 suggests that few had heeded a call by the socially conservative group Anglican Mainstream, to boycott Greenbelt because of Tatchell’s presence on the programme.

Tatchell drew enthusiastic applause from parts of the audience, and uncomfortable expressions from others, when he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” with the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Africa.

Mr Tatchell said: “The Anglican Church and Archbishop Rowan Williams have a lot to answer for, because they have put church unity before human rights.”

He outlined the contrasting legal situations facing sexual minorities in various parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world. These range from South Africa, which was the first country in the world to outlaw homophobic discrimination in its constitution, to Uganda, which plans to introduce the death penalty for a repeat “offence” of same-sex relations.

Pointing out that most homophobic laws in Africa date from the colonial era, Tatchell said, “They’re not genuinely African laws. They’re laws that were inspired by a conquering imperial power.”

Gscene says Tatchell was “keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution”, and quotes him as saying, “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief. What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate.”

Tatchell also praised Christians who have stood up against such attitudes, and mentioned South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo in particular. The latter had “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.

He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.

It’s always a hoot when nutjob organisations criticise things and boost said things in so doing. It happened here, as Gscene points out: “Tatchell drew laughter early on in his talk, when he began by ‘paying tribute to Anglican Mainstream, who by their attacks on me and on Greenbelt, have boosted ticket sales and ensured a successful Greenbelt’.”

But George Broadhead said, “It seems that Peter Tatchell has geared his speech very much to his audience and in doing so has put a gloss on the teachings of Jesus. What about Jesus’s puritanical teaching on sex or his horrendous teaching on hell-fire, for instance?

“I wonder what the Greenbelt audience would have made of the statement Tatchell made some years ago in an interview given to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme and reprinted in Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine,” says Broadhead, referring to an article some years ago in the print edition.

He then quotes Tatchell’s words:

The Church of England is an oppressive, homophobic institution. I think that any lesbian or gay person who is a part of that Church, unless they are overtly, actively campaigning to change things, they are part of the problem. They are helping to sustain that historic oppression of lesbian and gay people. I think ultimately it’s got to be their choice but I would hope they would make a decision not to be part of an institution which has for two thousand years persecuted lesbian and gay people. And I’ve got to say that the Bible is to lesbian and gay people what Mein Kampf is to Jews.

Well, George, you have a point. But Peter is a politician, and politicians gear their words to what they expect their audience will want to hear. Tony Blair (spit!) does it all the time.