Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oh dear me...

Oh, my goodness...

this is really not going to be very good.

Again with that logical principle of non-contradiction thing...

anyone would think I was obsessed...

Objection 1: the Calgary Herald hath said that there must be a "balance" between "a woman's right to choose" and the need to place limits on that right...

“The state ought to establish boundaries because it cannot tolerate a situation in which there is literally open season on its unborn citizens at every stage in their development.”

“At a certain point, the state must declare that having passed the legal limit during which abortion is permissible, the rights of unborn Canadian citizens take precedence.”

I answer that:

Bollocks.

"...here the Herald has fallen into a logical pitfall, a trap from which it is only possible either to say that abortion must be outlawed entirely or that there is not now and never has been any such creature as an "unborn Canadian citizen". The abortion lobby has been successful in establishing in Canadian court cases that there is no such thing as an "unborn Canadian citizen" - that an unborn child is, according to one Alberta court, merely another part of the woman's body.

...

The concept of "balance" is a popular one in Canadian politics. The word was used by many who supported the legislation that enshrined embryo experimentation as a legitimate occupation for Canadian scientists. The bill was said to be "balanced" by its regulations governing the use of embryos in research. But a balance that allows human beings to be killed in large numbers to further medical science strains the meaning of the word.

The entire discussion on embryo research, and abortion, can be summed up simply. If an embryo is not a human being, no excuses, like "balance", are necessary; if, however, an embryo is a human being, no such excuse is possible or acceptable. MP's who suggested that the bill was "balanced" had to start with the decidedly unbalanced premise that an embryo was not a human being.

Similarly, if what is carried inside a woman during pregnancy is "an unborn Canadian citizen" as the Herald asserts, that person must be afforded the full rights of that citizenship, including the right not to be killed at his mother's request. If he is not a citizen, if he does not exist at all as the abortion movement would have us believe, there is no need for any "balance" between purportedly conflicting "rights".

This inability to recognize logical contradictions has crippled attempts to find sanity in the debate. Logical contradictions, the notion that two opposed ideas cannot both prevail, that one cannot both be in the room and not in the room at the same time, that a child exists before birth and a woman has a right to abortion, cannot be pleasantly plastered over with references to "balance".

...

There are only three possible positions to take in the abortion debate. A child in the womb at any stage really exists and is really a human being who must be protected from harm. No human being is present in the womb, so opposition to abortion is absurd and unjust. Or a third position that is becoming increasingly popular and accepted: that a child exists whom we may now kill at will with no legal repercussions, a position that simply negates all of the legal history of the western world and the foundational notion of human rights.

All of these positions are held, and fiercely defended, in the ongoing struggle over abortion. But they are all mutually exclusive positions and no logical "balance" is possible between them.

Who's lynching whom?

I'm having so much trouble lately with the terminology of Britain's enlightened and civilized political debate.

Help me out here.

Is a "fascist lynch mob" a mob of fascists who want to lynch people who disagree with them? or is it a bunch of open minded people who want to string up fascists for being closed minded?

And how do you tell the difference?

So hard to keep score.

Giddy with delight

I've been called a "fascist" on Damien Thompson's Telegraph blog

Father Tim Finigan's blog

JustineF 29 Jan 2008 17:43

links to a semi-fascist blog [that's ME!! woo hoo!...oh, I see she only said "semi-fascist" Poop.] which in turn links to the BNP [ooooo!].
Father Tim Finigan can't be unaware of the blog's politics since [he talks to me all the time and knows everything I think, cause, you know, I like to keep my opinions to myself and am all secretive and stuff...] he posted a comment on a post (which I presume he read) which favourably mentioned and linked to the BNP in the post's text (as well as including a link to the BNP on its blogroll) [wickedness! The sheer wickedness!]. He conspicuously failed to mention, let alone condemn, or even so much as raise his eyebrows at the BNP link.


Gosh!

thanks Justine.

I couldn't have made up a better parody of what I've been writing about on the subject of the suppression of independent thought in British political life.

You get my coveted Making My Point prize of the week.

Sorry Arse

Being “Sorry Arse” for the day consists of either telephoning or visiting people and saying….. well, “sorry” to them for all the nasty and terrible things that we (or anyone else, either alive or dead) have done to them. This can range from a police car on blue flashing lights which drove to fast down their road to apologising for slavery in the 18th Century. You think I am joking about the last example? Think again.

Unhelpfully for our sycophantic senior officers, the Slavery Abolition Act was in 1807. Ruralshire Constabulary was formed in 1867. But let’s not let a small fact like the force didn’t even exist at the time get in the way of a great apology opportunity. With great ceremony in 2007, senior police officers who were not alive at the time, working for an organisation which didn’t exist at the time, apologised to the local minority ethnic police staff association, for slavery in the British Empire.

Before you ask what this has to do with you, remember that you paid for the posters, literature and the rather delicious lunch afterwards. Council Tax is a wonderful thing.

Dream Job


Puffin Counter,

on


Skomer Island.

Only the Welsh Wildlife Trust calls it "Assistant Warden"

• Biological recording and monitoring on Skomer particularly the annual breeding bird surveys ("puffin counting")

• Checks of the buildings and other estate furniture

• Practical estate work and maintenance

• Supervision and training of volunteers, including daily work programme organisation


salary will be £12,500 pa pro rata plus accommodation on the island.

Christian Environmentalism II

Just a very shorty short expansion on the previous introductory thoughts on how Christians should approach “environmentalism”.

What happens to our brains when we go for a walk in the woods or fields?

Mine slows down. I relax my head more than my body. The ten-mile-a-minute thought processes and the scatterbrain flitting from one set of ideas to another shuts off and I can concentrate on one thing at a time.

My mind drifts, like lying in the sun on a floating log at the beach at Nanoose Bay when the tide is low, the water warm and steady, your bare feet trailing in the water, just brushing the shale on the bottom of the bay, the gulls calling and the waves making a noise like a million whispered voices over the pebbles of the beach...

I find that this is the mental condition I need to communicate with God. I have almost no capacity to resist temptations to distraction when I'm at home. I fight my brain in Church. I'm at war with my thoughts in almost every other situation.

But walking the fields, looking deep into the mysterious depths of hedges for the source of a bird's call, watching the steam of the cows' breath blowing out of their big square noses...

those are things that have an autonomy, an independence from my thoughts and ideas, that makes it possible to take myself out of myself for a moment. And not being wrapped up in our little selves, and our little ideas, is what prayer is supposed to accomplish, and where it is supposed to start.

A Christian concern for the environment, for nature and the world's systems, then, must start with an acknowledgement of the otherness of natural things. It may be a hint at a way to start understanding the otherness of God.

Nature is real. So real that it does not respond to you, your preferences, your ideas or opinions. It is so implacably real that all your actions in regards to it can themselves only be based on real things. The natural world is one of the best cures for ideologies there is, if it is taken honestly. Nature can teach us that we are not as in charge of things as we often like to think.

Once free of those delusions about our powers that grow in our cozy, safe, controlled un-natural environments, we might be able to clear away some of the mental rubbish and start asking questions about The Real. The implacable otherness and realness of nature where we are stripped of our illusions of power, may, possibly, lead us to questions about origins, and the real nature of our relationship with the world, and our responsibilities to it.

* * *

Right. If any of that made sense, please let me know.

That's all the free-floating stuff for today.

Community Communion Distributors

(Non-Catholics can just go look at another blog for a second, it's kind of technical, and therefore very dull...)

I know we've been all over this one and there isn't much need for it, but something just popped into my head while reading this:

Canon law, that is, the law of the Roman Catholic Church, is clear: when a person distributing Communion objectively knows that another person seeking Communion is, in the words of Canon 915, “excommunicated, interdicted, or…obstinately persist[ing] in manifest grave sin,” the person distributing is obligated ro refuse Communion to the person seeking.

In response to the question,“Who is to judge the state of a Catholic communicant's soul? Who may make the decision to refuse Holy Communion?,” Archbishop Raymond Burke responded: “Canon 915 does not require that the competent authority in the church actually judge the state of a person’s soul, which only God can do, but rather the objective contradiction between the faith the person professes and his or her persistent actions contrary to clear teaching, after pastoral admonition, especially in the light of the harm that such counter-witness causes."


It made me realize yet another reason the employment of non-consecrated persons to touch the sacred species is bad.

The writer refers to "a person distributing Holy Communion" who was, until recently always a priest or deacon. In the old Church, these people were trained in situations under which it is necessary to refuse a potential communicant. An extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, as we call them officially, is not a trained person. He, or more usually she, is in no position to be able to implement the canonical requirement to refuse Holy Communion to someone whom she knows to be in manifest grave sin. (In most cases, she has no idea that there is such a thing as grave sin, and what the word "manifest" might mean, but that's a rant for another day.)

This led me to the next conclusion. Has the Church, by allowing people who are not trained and have no competence to refuse Holy Communion declared or even assumed that there is no reason at all, in any circumstance to refuse a communicant. The implication is that the Church as accepted the protestant assertion that there is nothing about that little white disk that is especially important. Certainly nothing about it important enough to say, "No, I'm sorry Mr. Kerry, I can't give you Communion."

I'm not sure whether this is the result on the disposal of the idea that the bread actually becomes the body and blood of Christ, or the ancient and ever-new heresy that Christ isn't really God, or the widespread assumption that God isn't very important. Catechesis in the last 40 years would support all these ideas equally felicitously I think.

Anyway,

sorry about getting all Catholic for a second. It just popped in there.

Open Season on Logic

The state ought to establish boundaries because it cannot tolerate a situation in which there is literally open season on its unborn citizens at every stage in their development.”

“At a certain point, the state must declare that having passed the legal limit during which abortion is permissible, the rights of unborn Canadian citizens take precedence.”

So, presumably that means that before that "certain point" open season on Canadian citizens is OK.

Any reason not to extend the season to other Canadian citizens? Or is it only the ones we can't see right now?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Must remember this one

From politically incorrect T-Shirts,



to be remembered when I'm writing cheesy SF.

It's better here

than there.

(photo thanks to young Daniel, who never calls.)

Took these today, across the road from my cottage.






If the door to Narnia is going to be anywhere, it's going to be in a place where the daffs bloom in January.

More pics to come. Forsythia and more.

The Great Hunger

I just had a thought.

I wrote a while ago:

* That there has been so much manufacturing in the last 250 years, that there is virtually no need to buy new things. If everyone in this country were to give to a needy neigbour or a church charity all the bits and pieces of furniture, household goods and clothes and other permanent things they are not using, every man woman and child in this country would be amply provided for.

The above suggestion would ruin the economy.


but of course, it wouldn't.

People already have everything they need. They don't buy things they need, they buy things they covet. Or have been taught to covet.

Need is finite. It can be satisfied and the man who needed, freed from his needs is free to pursue the things in life proper to his state.

But we never get there now. What we have now is endless, and endlessly stoked desire and, therefore, endless emptiness. We are a perpetually hungry people, never filled, no matter how bloated we become.

We're the tribbles in the quatro-triticale. Starving to death in a compartment full of poisoned grain.

(hmmm...maybe SciFi is good for something after all...)

"This boy is ignorance and this girl is want..." they are the doom of man.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are you now or have you ever been...

I've never really noticed until today that I'm actually extremely evasive about my own political positions. It's not that I don't have them, it's just that I so hate the usual direction of political debate that I just refuse to tell anyone what I really think.

When someone asked me on the blog recently "whether I was a BNP member or supporter" I fought the temptation to enter a long and acidic rant about how my personal political beliefs can be sussed out by reading me for anyone who knows anything about politics, and how rude it is to ask. Maybe this is an English trait, but in my tiny tea and sherry-sipping universe, asking someone point blank like that what party a man supports, is akin to asking him which cabinet ministers his mother slept with in her youth. More likely to garner a swift one to the left eye than a response.

The trouble with political discussion now is that it is so hemmed in by post-modern definitions and assumptions. We all think we know about political theory, but in fact, political thought has become so corrupted by partisanship and so thoroughly overshadowed by the current polarization, particularly in terminology, between traditional "conservatism" and the new secularist ideologies, that there is almost no shared frame of reference.

In the new political universe we all inhabit, there is no room for discussion of any new idea, party, or policy. We are all so completely dug in behind our entrenchments that we don't dare stick our heads up to even examine whether we ought to be at war with each other. (Please don't take that as a nod to the let's-all-just-get-along school) But we are badly hampered, I think by the party lines of our respective camps.

The kneejerk assumption that a man who supports George Bush can only be a "neocon" is an example. There are no other reasons to support him than membership in a particular, narrowly defined political camp?

People usually assume that I'm a fascist (whatever they may mean by that little unword) because I'm against abortion and contraception. This leaves me stuck with a pigeon hole ("extreme right") that doesn't actually fit my views because the issues have come to be about only one thing. Even I was surprised to find that I'm actually a moderate, (yes there is such a thing) on any comprehensive political map. Anti-authoritarian and to the left of Mrs. Thatcher on economics.

This hopeless state of entrenched partisanship can be seen in Britain with the coverage of the BNP in the media. BNP = Fascist/Racist in Britain's media, almost universally. It is a theme so well laid out and so sacred that there is no discussion anywhere of any of their policies. But no attempt is ever made at defining those terms or pinpointing which policies might have earned the titles; we are all just expected to agree to the labels without examination. In fact, having read the BNP's manifesto, I have found that quite a lot of their economic policy is fairly close to the ideal of the traditional Catholic social and political teaching of the late 19th century; that developed after the Piuses started answering the Marxists and their immediate predecessors. And a lot of it irritated me for various reasons. No matter; I don't think anyone can agree with every policy of any party.

Here's a shocker for the lot of you: I'm a card carrying member of...


wait for it...

the Tories.

and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

Confused?

Could you be confused because neither of these things fits the profile? What if the profile is hopelessly enmired in our mindless political assumptions. The political correctness of our various camps. Do you assume that membership in the Tory party means I have to agree with everything they do and say? Does it mean that I have some pretty disparate views on politics, foreign policy, economics etc? That my views fit none of the parties in existence?

Could it possibly be that this is true of everyone in regards to every political party?

Of course, we are now so far away, after 250 years of industrialism and 450 years of protestantism, from being able to reinstate any Catholic social ideas into the mainstream, that the whole thing remains more or less in the realm of fantasy novels and the kinds of sweet, limpid and peaceful dreams you have early on a June Sunday morning when the sun is shining in your window and the village church bells are ringing, making you forget for a moment that the world has already gone completely down the toilet.

My personal political beliefs and preferences and wishes, and hopes, are pretty far away from the present realities. But I do live in this world.

And in this world,

it's rude to ask.

Ancient Yews


Another reason to love this country.

There's a group for ancient yews.

That's yew trees. Taxus baccata.

Ancient ones. (that means very very old ones.)

Aims of the Ancient Yew Group

* To raise public awareness of the national and world wide importance of our ancient Yews.

* To survey, record and monitor the health of our ancient Yews.

* To highlight potential threats.

* To research and collate all modern and historical references of our ancient Yew heritage.

* To provide advice to help people protect their ancient Yews.

* To campaign for better protection and seek government support.

* To bring together Yew tree enthusiasts, providing an opportunity to discuss, enthuse and help towards achieving the above aims.


Imagine. There are yew tree enthusiasts here.

Try to picture that in any other country. Can't can you?

The Fortingall Yew is an ancient yew (Taxus baccata) in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland. Various estimates have put its age at between 2,000 and 5,000 years; recent research into yew tree ages suggests that it is likely to be nearer the lower limit of 2,000 years. This still makes it the oldest tree in Europe

Dark Ages ~ Not just America

The impact of these things on politics is that politics becomes more or less irrelevant. We don't really have a society any more, so in that context, what is it that politics could possibly accomplish? Most Americans don't vote, and I doubt that very many, in their heart of hearts, really believe things are going to get better over time, regardless of which party is in office. The result of incivility and loss of community, of a world in which (e.g.) violence in our high schools is now regarded as simply a fact of life, and learning and erudition regarded as jokes, is cultural death, cynicism, loss of belief in America at large.

...

Politics cannot be meaningful when the huge majority of the population has turned away from "the commons," from any participation or even concern about the larger society (which politicians such as Reagan and Thatcher claimed didn't even exist), and into private worlds of shopping, Prozac, TV, the Internet, religious fundamentalism, and the like.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I don't know about you

but I never really relaxed when everyone said the Cold War was over. Maybe I was just born pessimistic, but the thought did occur to me even then when I wasn't really paying much attention, "Well, if there's no Soviet Union in charge of the bombs, who's running the joint?"

Kind of nasty to be proved right in this case:

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

Gulag Theme Park

At least someone remembers why all this "democratic freedoms" stuff is important. yes, even more important than your ipods and mobile phone games.

No search warrant necessary.

Did I mention I'm glad I don't live there anymore?

"Shirlene McGovern, or any other human rights officer, can come into my office whenever she thinks it's reasonable, to 'examine' it. No search warrant necessary. She can even come into my home, if she gets a court order -- but such a court order can be applied for and granted without notice to me. That's the kind of ambush usually reserved for getting warrants to break in on crack houses.

"Again, without a warrant, she can take any documents I have, including on my computer.

"Oh, and section 24(1)(c) allows for such search and seize orders to be granted not just against me but anyone else who refuses to answer questions put by investigators like Shirlene McGovern.

"That's the power of these commissions -- before I'm even found 'guilty'.


Alberta Human Rights Act says: (and if that name doesn't make you fall down on the floor laughing...)

an investigator may do any or all of the following:

(a) subject to subsection (2), enter any place at any reasonable time and examine it;

(b) make inquiries orally or in writing of any person who has or may have information relevant to the subject‑matter of the investigation;

(c) demand the production for examination of records and documents, including electronic records and documents, that are or may be relevant to the subject‑matter of the investigation;

(d) on giving a receipt for them, remove any of the things referred to in clause (c) for the purpose of making copies of or extracts from them.

(2) An investigator may enter and examine a room or place actually used as a dwelling only if

(a) the owner or person in possession of it consents to the entry and examination, or

(b) the entry and examination is authorized by a judge under section 24.

Judge’s order

On Conservatism's Ongoing Nervous Breakdown

John O'Sullivan, writing in the New Criterion:

“mainstream” conservative parties in all countries for the last thirty years have shunned nationalist voters and the causes that arouse them from immigration to anti-supra-nationalism. This has resulted in the rise of third parties and political entrepreneurs specializing in such issues. Examples include the National Front in France, the People’s Party in Denmark, the Freedom Party in Austria, the National Alliance in Italy, One Nation in Australia, the Reform Party in Canada, Ross Perot in the United States, UKIP and the British National Party in Britain, the late Pim Fortuyn’s party in Holland, and New Zealand First.

"three highly important developments: the shift of power from legislatures to bureaucratic agencies and the courts in domestic politics; the shift of power from democratic nation states to largely unaccountable supra-national bodies from the UN to the European Union, etc; and the development of ideologies that, lagging behind events, serve to justify these relatively new political practices and institutions as legitimate...

The first task for a serious conservatism is to de-mystify the unaccountable bureaucracies that are not only our enemies but also the enemies of the nation-state, religion, small independent businesses, aspiring entrepreneurs, families and married people, and patriotic and self-reliant citizens. ...Our second task is to defend democracy at home and the nation-state abroad. ...Our third general response should be to restrain and obstruct bureaucracies directly...

Betjeman ~ one of us



When John Betjeman’s Collected Poems came out in 1958 they made publishing history and have since sold over two and a quarter million copies.

But Betjeman was not only a poet. Through his broadcasting and journalism he opened people’s eyes to the value of the buildings and landscape around them and became Britain’s grand champion of its heritage.

2006 was his Centenary, and we continue to celebrate his legacy to us.


A Pome.

Inexpensive Progress

Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let's say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor car is master
Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
'Keep Left,' 'M4,' 'Keep Out!'
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small 'amenity,'
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we'll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
We'll know that we are dead.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Good things in England



Ranger School.

although I'm fairly sure that tracking orcs is the sort of thing you have to pick up on the job.

But I see that there's upgrading you can do.

And yes, you can actually get a job as an actual ranger. and it pays pretty well too.
Seasonal Ranger - Falls of Clyde (2 posts)
Scottish Wildlife Trust

Salary: £12,500-15k

Right now the Wildlife Trusts are among the most popular volunteer agencies in the country. Imagine how it would take off if they just called it "Dunedain Ranger School".

Every Tolkien-nerd tree fanatic in the country would line up.

Grammar: the Framework of Reality

Hey. It looks like I'm not the only one who has figured out that the abandonment of grammar education has been one of the key tools of the effort to destroy All Good Things.

Anyone else read the Postmodern Papalist?

But aren't we postmodern types obsessed with the oppressive use of language, of which grammar is an authoritative underbelly? Well, sure, we are a bit focused on language, sometimes at the expense of our interest in reality, and you don't have to be a reader of Orwell to know that language can be used quite effectively as a tool of oppression. Any politician knows that, and they are not the most philosophical bunch. Sorry, Plato, but it's true.

Postmodern though I am, I am quite serious about the study of grammar, for grammar is the structure by which we understand reality. And the man who taught me that abhorred deconstruction and all things postmodern. He's a classical Aristotelian, a realist in no uncertain terms.

Why is the study of grammar so important? It is because the rules of grammar, if not absolute and eternal, are nevertheless based upon the framework of reality--at least in so far as we understand reality. To be correct grammatically does not necessitate flawless understanding of reality, but real ignorance of and errors in grammar (not simply careless typos) will affect our understanding of reality. Grammar errors can mean errors in understanding.

Christian Environmentalism

Is the idea of Christian Environmentalism an oxymoron?

I'm interested to see the great emphasis in Britain on the preservation of the land and wildlife.

This country spends a simply enormous amount of its time and money looking after the ground and the things growing out of and living on it. A great deal more than the Canucks. In fact, it amounts to something of a national obsession. I've always known from my own upbringing that Brits are completely dotty about gardening, and I've observed that the entire country is one enormous cultivated garden. When my plane was first over England, there was a brief gap in the cloud cover and the thing that struck me was the endless expanse of green patchwork quilt we were flying over.

There are records of some form of land management/nature conservancy in this country going back to before the Saxon period. The Benedictine monks started it when everything was still covered in forest. The Saxon farmers who moved in after the Romans pulled out were just cutting trees down willy nilly. When the Benedictines showed up, they converted them not only to Christianity, but to responsible husbandry too. The monks invented the whole idea, in fact, having done more or less the same trick on the continent.

It seems clear that in Britain the concern has yet to be transformed, as it has in Canada, into some quasi-mystical earth goddess religion. It looks, from the superficial internet evidence at least, to actually be about land, wildlife and resource management. Something very important when you've got as little land as we do and as many people.

I grew up with my mother teaching me taxonomy and marine biology as she learned it in university. Of course, since then, the religious and social/political questions have taken over my thoughts, but I have been expanding those thoughts a bit since. But now I want to know if there is a genuine Catholic understanding, how important it is in relation to everything else that we have to pay attention to, and what our response ought to be.

I think while we rightly reject the neo-pagan Environmentalism that seems to have taken over the business of science, we mustn't be caught by the temptation to pendulum away from the issues altogether. There must be a genuine Catholic response to the use of natural resources. (Sorry, Gillian: I know "pendulum" isn't a verb.)

I'd like to start thinking about what that should be.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why the hell did I stay so long in that stupid country?!

Just looking at the website of Chester University:

Tuition Fees
You will find that your contribution to your tuition fees differs from university to university, but will usually be somewhere in the region of £3,145 per year. This will increase slightly each year in line with the cost of inflation. However, you will normally not be expected to pay for these directly until after you have completed your course, and until you are earning more than £15,000 per year. Instead, you will normally be eligible for a tuition fee loan to cover fee costs, which will be paid directly to us on your behalf.


So, it's about $6,300 a year for undergrad. You don't pay up front and you don't start paying back until you can actually afford to.

And I'm told that this is after the system was screwed up under the Blairistes.

Its a funny thing about Canada; they aspire to being a socialist country, but can't even get students into their universities.

Just another of the millions of reasons Britain is still better than that pathetic backwater I was living in for sooo very long.

so

very

long.

CBC guy starts to get a glimmer of a clew

Could someone who lives in a farm please go out and check to see if the piggies are growing wings?

A senior official of the CBC has slammed the "intolerance of the secular"

Peter Kavanagh, a producer at CBC radio, in Toronto.

Quote of the week: "The danger is that no one wants, or should want, those we disagree with to be gagged by the state or by force of any kind."

no one?



Catholic Register Special,

If it wasn’t [good grief! doesn't anyone know the use of the subjunctive in English? "wasn't"?! Ugh. Barbarian.] so serious it might be funny, the way perceptions and conventional wisdoms can be turned on their head. Intolerance is often seen as the hallmark of religion, the critique raised when the secularist wants to curtail or restrict the role religion occupies in modern societies. [you can see the dim flickering of rational thought...flicker...flicker...]

It’s that unthinking assumption that if people believe something to be true they aren’t open to discussion, argument or negotiation about what that belief entails [like believing the Church is an evil oppressive force that suppresses free investigation, right? 'cause that's certainly one that nearly everyone believes without being open to discussion argument or negotiation...Or did you mean something else?] or means in the day-to-day ordering of society. So when a small group of faculty members and students at Rome’s La Sapienza University succeeded in preventing Pope Benedict XVI from speaking there recently we were all left with a mirror image of tolerant and intolerant. Suddenly the religious is the open welcoming point of dialogue and academia, that bastion of free speech and inquiry without limit, is the source of militant, vigilant intolerance. [Bingo! You get the Rational Thought Prize of the Week. Now that wasn't so hard was it?]

Some would argue that this is just one more battle in what seems to be an intensifying war between all religions and the fundamental secularists that seem intent on engaging and defeating religion everywhere and anywhere. But it is possible that the farce that took place at the university founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 speaks to a more confusing and dangerous situation than a stare down between believers and disbelievers.

Ostensibly, the protest against Benedict speaking at the university was linked to the Catholic Church’s trial of the scientist Galileo in the 17th century. In 1990, when Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he commented that the trial of the astronomer in 1633 was reasonable and just, given the times and the circumstances. For holding that view, the protesting academics decreed that the Pope, an acclaimed academic, was unfit to speak. And yet if he had spoken, he would have told the audience:

“La Sapienza was once the Pope’s university but today it is a secular university with the autonomy that has been part of the nature of any university, committed only to the authority of truth. In its freedom from political or ecclesiastic authorities the university finds its particular role, (a role which is) even for modern society, which has a need for such an institution.”

The academics insist there is no room to argue over the assertion that Galileo’s trial was just but insist on using strength and force to prevent anyone, especially Benedict, who holds that view from expressing it. This is a far cry from a commitment “only to the authority of truth.”

Unfortunately this appeal to strength to silence opinion and speech seems to be on the verge of becoming the norm.

The Human Rights Commission actions against Maclean’s magazine by the Canadian Islamic Congress, Catholic Insight by a complainant angered by that magazine’s stance on homosexuality, the student councils at universities in Canada being dragged before commissions because of their refusal to recognize pro-life student groups and the continuing arguments about whether publishing the Danish cartoons about Islam are hate literature are all examples of how we are losing our ability to talk, argue and agree to disagree that once was a fundamental aspect of liberal democracies. This abbreviated list of actions tells us that both the religious and the secular are willing to seek out the means to silence their opponents.

The danger is that no one wants, or should want, those we disagree with to be gagged by the state or by force of any kind.

No Student Loans without Gov't ID Card

Home Office documents
leaked to the Conservative party last night, those applying for student loans will be forced to hold identity cards to get the funding from 2010.

Anyone aged 16 or over will be expected to obtain a card - costing up to £100 - to open a bank account or apply for a student loan.

The document says: "We should issue ID cards to young people to assist them as they open their first bank account, take out a student loan, etc."

The government had planned to start issuing the ID cards to people applying for a passport from 2010, but confidential documents confirm that the scheme will be delayed to at least 2012.

The biometric cards are due to be introduced for foreign nationals later this year, with the first expected to be issued to UK citizens on a voluntary basis from 2009.

From next year, they will also be issued to people in "positions of trust" such as airport workers.

The revelations have led to concerns that the government is planning to collect the fingerprints and other biometric details of more than two million young people entering higher education each year by stealth.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green called the plans "straightforward blackmail" to bolster "a failing policy".

"This is an outrageous plan. The government has seen its ID cards proposals stagger from shambles to shambles. They are clearly trying to introduce them by stealth."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Retrograde II

That's funny,

Fr. Ray Blake was just blogging about the same thing on Tuesday.

In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child was an “odious daughter” (the common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child was “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.


Savages.

Gnosticism vs. Faith

The other day I was given the task of discovering what sort of a man the new Black Pope is.

I failed to find anything significant. But it seems I didn't look hard enough, or with enough attention.

The new Superior General of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolás, had this to say in 2005 about the "liberating ways of religious wisdom":
The real spiritual Masters of all ages are more keen in teaching the way to God, than in giving answers to questions about God. Asia has produced an incredible wealth of such "Ways". The search for wisdom or for the Divinity is a very concrete search and the Masters continue to guide people in the journey of the heart. It is in this context that we Christians have to think and reconsider our Christian practices, from simple devotions to Sacramental celebrations.
I must increase so He must decrease.

Here's what the late Jesuit Father Jean Daniélou had to say on the same subject:
For syncretism, those who are saved are the inward-looking souls, whatever the religion they profess. For Christianity, they are the believers, whatever level of inwardness they may have achieved. A little child, an overworked workman, if they believe, stand at a higher level than the greatest ascetics. "We are not great religious personalities", Guardini once said; "we are servants of the Word." Christ himself had said that St. John the Baptist might well be "the greatest among the children of men", but that "the least among the sons of the kingdom is greater than he." It is possible for there to be great religious personalities in the world even outside of Christianity; it is indeed very possible for the greatest religious personalities to be found outside Christianity; but that means nothing; what counts is obedience to the Word of Christ.

The difference is between gnosticism, the salvation of the few through 'secret' knowledge, and the desire of God to save everyone through trusting surrender to His mercy.

I know which one I'd pick.

Thanks to Diogenes for the answer that we all had more or less already guessed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Such is our condition in Britain,

that when I read this:

"An asylum seeker with a false passport worked for almost a year processing immigration appeals, it emerged yesterday."

I burst out into loud guffaws.

Paid by the state to go hungry

Now, I've always thought that there is a whole set of weird compulsions surrounding food that many people adopt that are the direct results of our unimaginably bloated commercial culture.

Obesity, anorexia and vegetarianism are at the top of the list. Only in a society where it is almost impossible to go hungry, where "the poor" possess ipods, flat screen tv's and artificial breasts at public expense, can there be people who construct elaborate gustatory fantasies for themselves in which food plays some kind of Freudian replacement role.

I believe C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere or other that such things would be classified by the scholastic philosophers as a sub-variety of gluttony. He called it "the gluttony of delicacy" that gives a little squeal of horror at the sight of more food on the plate than is wanted. Or the wrong sort of food.

In cultures where people do real work and receive real recompense (not just imaginary electronic numbers recorded in a bank computer) for their labour, people eat what is available. The contrast is easier to see in other situations where other kinds of rules apply. I was in a sort of quasi-monastic "lay ecclesial" community once, near Quebec City. I rejected it, after about three months, because it had quite a lot of things wrong with it, but one of the most obvious was the delicacy.

There was, for instance, a young fellow there who insisted that he needed to eat no meat whatever. He made a few rather poorly thought out arguments for this, but it was clear that this was merely his own form of cultural exhibitionism. I was the cook and said that in a community, it was important, unless it was a serious health related thing, to humbly eat whatever was put in front of him. He then set about manufacturing reasons that his vegetarian gluttony was health related.

At the same time, I've always thought it was a manifestation of the sickness of our culture that "diet" food, food, in short, containing no food, is actually more expensive than regular food. Food with food in it.

But here's a new one:
Government to beat obesity epidemic by PAYING fat people to lose weight

I don't think I could have made that one up myself.

Too bad, since I guess it means I'll never get a government job.

Ever tried to talk to a "liberal"?

Card. Pell:
Lacking a common philosophical framework and sometimes even any coherent framework, it seems as though it is becoming increasingly difficult for educated westerners to perceive truth and accept it...At a broader and deeper level we have the hostility to the concept of truth among the deconstructionists, the post-modernists.


as I've said elsewhere:
The situation around the world that became apparent with the advent of legalized abortion did not occur randomly but was the logical outcome of certain trends in philosophy that began, some contend, as far back as 17th century France, Germany and England. The replacement of traditional, Natural Law-based philosophies and ethics with a new, subjective[43] and relativistic model of ethics began recognizably with the advent of the humanist movement in the 17th century.

The clash between the traditional system of thought and the new is the basis of a state of philosophical and social instability, often referred to as “the Culture Wars,” of which the life issues form perhaps the most significant front. The split in this war is, loosely described, between “liberals” who want greater relaxation of traditional legal restraints on sexual and other behavior, and “conservatives” who believe that society has a right and a duty to maintain laws restricting the private behavior of citizens.

But more profoundly, the true philosophical and ethical split of the Culture War is that between traditional objective[44] moral laws, and the imposition of the new subjectivism as the criterion for morality.

Establishing what is and is not ethical is not so straightforward in our current state of vast philosophical flux. There are a number of different schools of thought – of philosophical presuppositions[45] – currently in vogue and they, naturally, produce a different set of conclusions in ethical questions. It stands to reason, therefore, that our ethical situation is chaotic.


Me n' Cardinal Pell...booyah!

Retrograde

This reminds me of the comment made by an old friend of mine, who said he was happy I'd found something to do in life that I was interested in and passionate about, but was sorry that it was something "so retrograde".

In the interests of maintaining a 25 year-long friendship, I refrained from pointing out that the unlimited license of individuals within a society to kill their own children is something very old that was only stopped after the advent of Christian civilization in the west.

Cardinal Pell (eeee!) makes the same point:
Two thousand years ago, for example, the exposure of unwanted female infants and deformed male infants was legal, morally accepted and widely practiced throughout the Greco-Roman world. Far more babies were born than were allowed to live and Plato and Aristotle both recommended infanticide as legitimate state policy. There was also frequent recourse to abortion, with Roman law according the male head of the family the right to order a woman in the household to abort and the weight of Greek philosophy fully supporting such views...

the historian Rodney Stark records how by the end of the second century, these people who were by now know as "Christians" were not only proclaiming their rejection of abortion and infanticide, but had begun to confront pagans and pagan religions for sustaining these crimes. Stark argues that the relatively superior fertility of the Christian population was one of the reasons for the rise of Christianity within a society that was otherwise intent on contracepting and killing itself and its future.

TV Culture Environmentalism

or,

How I learned everything I need to know about Climate Change from Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Hey, remember that Twilight Zone episode where the earth was losing its orbit around the sun (or something) and it was getting hotter and in the end, everybody fried and when the guy woke up he discovered it had all just been a bad dream, but it was just the opposite and the world was moving away from the sun and we were all freezing to death?

The 'climate change" thing reminds me of that, cause it seems like they can't make up their minds which way it's going.

Anyone old enough to remember when we were kids and before environmentalism there was "the ecology" and before "global warming" there was "the coming little ice age". 'Cause see, the industrial pollutants were supposed to be pouring into the atmosphere and making a big sort of smoke cloud thingy that would block out all the sun and all the crops and trees and things would die and we would go extinct...oh, hang on, or was that the dinosaurs?

Anyone else remember the big winter of '78 when we all nodded knowingly and said, "yep, this is it, the start of the Big Freeze, just like that Twilight Zone episode."

And remember when the hole in the ozone layer was going to give us all skin cancer? Wasn't that the point of the closing scene of THX 1138?

And remember when DDT was going to kill all the bugs so the birds that ate them were going to die and we would all get to a "silent spring"?

And remember when the Amazon rainforest was going to be wiped out by slash and burn agriculture and the world's oxygen was going to be depleted and we were all going to be on O2 tanks? Yeah, I think that was in Blade Runner, wasn't it?

I swear that the best movie I've ever seen about climate change was that one where they destroyed New York with a GIANT TIDAL WAVE, man that was GREAT! And then there was this big super-freeze and Bilbo Baggins and the Royal Family got caught in it and the guy froze on the spot like that woolly mammoth they found in Alaska?

Now that was cool.

Yep.

I'm an expert.

I really ought to be working, instead of reading Kathy.

Call me romantic

But I still go a little giddy whenever I hear the words "Cardinal" and "Pell" put together.

highlights:

environmentalist fanatics represent "a minority neo-pagan, anti-human mentality,"

Extreme environmental proposals are often expressions of modern society's deep confusion about the place and value of the human person in the world. They should set off warning bells for us. If we have learnt anything from the atrocities of the last century, it is that wide scale attacks upon human life and dignity both stem from and sustain reductive understandings of the human person.


It all makes me think that the kill-the-humans environutters are really just very very unhappy people who don't like their own lives and can't understand why anyone would be interested in life at all.

This:
the root cause of the many and varied human rights abuses which afflict our world today is contemporary man's inability to see himself as "mysteriously different" from other earthly creatures; to grasp the "transcendent" character of his "existence as man"; and to consider life as a splendid gift of God, something "sacred" entrusted to his responsibility and thus also to his loving care and "veneration"
would simply be utterly non-sensical to them.

I remember being a chronically depressed hippie-leftie-socialist feminist who hated life and couldn't see why anyone wouldn't volunteer for the euthanasia centre. It wasn't nice.

Maybe that's why they all come from Vancouver. The 362-day-a-year overcast can make you pretty unhappy, even with all the snowboarding and pot toking.

Have aliens stolen the brains of the Guardian editors?

and if they have, are they on our side?

Denying us a vote on the EU treaty is arrogant cowardice
Without the debate a referendum would bring, Britons will rebel against unsanctioned meddling, to the union's detriment

Simon Jenkins
Wednesday January 23, 2008
The Guardian

The House of Commons is about to do a proper job. For the next month it is not discussing the new European constitution or "Lisbon treaty". That is sealed and delivered, and was so back in 2005. The Commons is discussing whether Britain should agree to it, and how. The debate is already angry and bad-tempered, an excellent sign.

On this subject there are just two facts that matter. The first is that everyone but a fool (or a minister) knows that the new treaty is the rejected 2005 constitution in all but name. Its architect, the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, says so. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who negotiated its passage, says so explicitly. Even the pro-government Commons foreign affairs committee said so, at least in part, last week. As the pro-EU Tory Kenneth Clarke remarked in the Commons on Monday, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, would look less miserable if he abandoned his absurd denial, admitted reality and got on with the debate.


(Ok OKAY! So I read the Guardian. Actually, I get headlines sent to me by Google News Alerts and they include the Guardian. Sheesh!)

I guess it's really true

that wonders never ever cease:

The Guardian has come out against Livingstone.

To understand why Ken Livingstone is unfit to be the Labour candidate for mayor of London, you have to grasp that he has never moved away from the grimy conspirators of the totalitarian left, who have always despised the democratic traditions of the Labour movement. There is a queasiness about dragging them into the light because so many of the baby boomers now in power wasted their youth in Marxist-Leninist politics. But it is better to overcome queasiness than fail to treat a sickness and Ken Livingstone began by travelling with the sickest sect of them all: the Workers' Revolutionary party....


I remember the shock and awe when the Globe and Mail dumped the Liberals and supported Harper. Like the day it stopped raining in Vancouver and this big weird scary bright yellow thing appeared in the sky where the cloud roof is supposed to be and all the pastey-faced bug eyed Vancouverites ran around in a panic thinking it was the end of the world. Lotta lattes spilled that day.

wellwellwell...

Hmp.

Whether we like it or not...

Apparently, the Police Federation doesn't like democracy...

Well, are we surprised?

Police Federation officials claimed they were powerless to prevent Mr Barnbrook from marching. Spokesman Metin Enver said he was not invited specifically but police officers recognised him when he turned up. He said: "Some of my colleagues saw we had the BNP Mayoral candidate with us. The one thing we want to make clear is we didn't invite him. It wasn't a closed march. He chose to attend by his own accord which is his right in a democracy. It is disappointing if anyone chose to join the march for their own agenda.

"We didn't ask him to leave because whether we like it or not we live in a democracy."

"Your Canadian Rights To Keep Your Opinion To Yourself."

HEARING DATE / TIME: ____1/11/08_11:00 AM_____

LOCATION: ____AHRCC Hearing Room 8B, Calgary_______

PRESIDING CLERK: ___Shirlene McGovern___

Says intention was to demonstrate he has right to publish whatever the hell he wants. Must check to see how this is classified in AHRCC intent classification guidelines. Now starts saying AHRCC/government has no right to question what is in his mind. Probable violation of AHRCC-0944(d) "How To Read Defendant Mind."

Defendant says some snippy remark about "irony of 'Human Rights' Commission." I tell him he is entitled to his opinion. He says "I wish that were a fact," all smart-alecky. I hand him AHRCC Pamphlet 7401, "Your Canadian Rights To Keep Your Opinion To Yourself."

I can't believe this is still going on, I'm late for lunch and defendant is toast, but keeps yapping. Starts asking a bunch of questions like "Who should determine what speech is reasonable?" "Who should determine what is offensive?" Umm, heh-looo Ezra -- what am I, a potted plant? I didn't spend 2 years getting my M.A. in Hate Speech Detection at McGill for this kind of treatment.

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Retraction and apology seems reasonable. May help him with anger issues. Split the difference on economic reward to $2250, one goat. 100 hours of mandatory Islamic counseling, after which beheading option will be reconsidered.


H/T to Kathy

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let's talk about something else

Science Fiction.

The month of January is a hard one for me. I don't like the darkness; I don't like the weather. It's the waiting period of winter where we all just hunker down, worry about our bills and try not to drink too much, sleep too late or smoke too many cigarettes.

One of the ways I deal with Black January is to ignore it completely. To go out as little as possible, to avoid shops, to ignore the phone when it rings. I hibernate in January. (In Canada, I generally avoided February too.)

One of the ways I do that is to watch a lot of free internet TV. I have no idea if it is legal or not, but until these websites are shut down by the cops, I'm still going to use them. Internet telly is better by far than the ordinary kind. No ads and no annoying waiting until next year for the exciting conclusion of last season's cliff hanger. In fact, no annoying waiting until next week to watch the next episode. It helps the avoidance of Black January to just let your mind sink gratefully into some other world for hours at a time, and not have to put up with programmes you don't like, or pay the BBC for the privilege.

I have a guilty admission to make: I like trash tv. Especially science fiction. Before I left Canuckistan, I went through a long phase of watching gritty BBC crime dramas like Cracker, Life on Mars, The Lakes and State of Play (mostly on DVD). I also fell into a swoon over Doctor Who (both Eccleston and Tennant, although my loyalty is still to my childhood Doctah, John Pertwee).

In recent weeks, my online TV obsession has been with Stargate Atlantis.

In some ways, SGA is analagous to Star Trek, but it's way better. Better writing, less ideology and the situations the characters face often have to be overcome without a great deal of help from fancy schmancy technologies. It is more akin, I think, to Firefly, that way.

SGA is fun. And the resemblance to the old cliff hanger adventure cowboy radio programmes and films of the 30's, 40's and 50's is obviously not accidental. It's full of characters that don't take themselves or their ideologies too seriously either. There's loads of non-scary violence and almost no sex or even much inuendo, so I'd say its eminently suitable for kids, except those who are easily frightened by scary space monsters. The evil Wraith are pretty nightmarish, so, good on the writers for that too. I hate a show with non-scary or watered down villains. There's no way to like or feel sorry for the Wraith.

The show has one feature that makes it better than any of the Trek shows: it avoids political correctness like the plague. The heroes do all sorts of things out of necessity that would have the Federation and Star Fleet nellies quaking in their politically correct faux leather boots. They make loads of mistakes and face the consequences for them manfully.

And it's very pro-military too. I'll bet the guys in Afghanistan love it.

It is, in short, manly.

So, why do I apologize for liking it?

Y'see, I was raised on SF by my hippie mother, (which is almost reason enough). She gave me Ray Bradbury as soon as I could read on my own. I moved on to the harder stuff fairly soon, enjoying short story collections, usually published in the 50's, written by real scientists for the most part. (Anyone know how many math and science PhD's Azimov had? It was more than he ought to have been allowed to have, I'm sure.) I started writing it as soon as I was old enough to sit up at the kitchen table with the manual typewriter my mother bought me at a flea market. She showed me where to put my fingers on the keys and I was away.

But in my early 20's I stopped writing or reading fiction of any sort and plunged into philosophy and religion and since then have fallen in with a very bad crowd. I know a lot of rather snooty High Culture Catholics who I fear would not approve of my latent trash-loving tendencies.

The trouble is, that the tendencies are still there, just keep coming back, like malaria. And I've come up with a corker of an idea, or set of ideas, for a novel.

A question I put to Steve yesterday:

HJW:
I can't remember what we decided.

Is science fiction stupid, culturally trivial and strictly for permanent adolescents or is it a useful tool to tell stories and reach a wide audience?

I know I can't see Jane Austen writing the script to a Stargate SG1 episode, but that doesn't mean that SF has no redeeming cultural value does it? I don't think it will ever be considered litritchah, but does that mean it shouldn't be used?


SS:
I think classic literature becomes so in spite of itself, not through the intention of its author. I also think a lot of classic literature is probably overrated. I even like pulp fiction - and I don't mean the Tarantino movie. Science fiction has likely not had sufficient time to become classic. Perhaps like the saints of old, it will require centuries before a great work of sci fi makes it into the canon of literature. Some are approaching this already - The Foundation Trilogy, the original Star Wars, some of Gibson's stuff, Shirow Masamune's cyberpunk work (like the later iterations of the Ghost in the Shell universe), the first Matrix film, Brian Henson's Farscape, etc. There are also probably notable contributions by Bradbury, Philp K. Dick, et al., though these may be more to the general conceptualizations in the sci fi universe than actual stories themselves. C.S. Lewis's space trilogy are classics, particularly the first two. Perelandra is my favorite book ever, hands down. Of course, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne have both shown up on the list of classic authors, so from the literati perspective there are precedents.

If you love your idea, go with it. Self-consciousness kills the artistic process.


HJW:
there is one problem with me writing science fiction...

I don't know a thing about science.

For instance, assuming you have faster than light travel, and you are going to a planet in another star system. How far away does that have to be?

And,

if you have a geological survey ship outfitted to do initial exploration of potentially colonizable planets, how much crew do you need? How big a ship in tonnes?

If you are doing this kind of survey, what do you need to look at? I can think of a few things. Pollen counts, airborne bacteria, viruses, atmospheric gas and particulate content, temperature, geothermal activity, ocean currents, size of ice caps, and general size and placement of continental land masses, the circumference of the planet, orbital distance and tilt affecting the length of day, year and season. But there must be a hell of a lot I'm missing, having looked out the window through most of my highschool science and math classes and never having gone near astronomy or physics.

Hell, I don't even know how my toaster works.

The thing that bothers me is falling back on the canon of SF cliches. Stuff like "subspace" messages, tractor beams and "universal translators". Obvious plot devices that seem to cheapen the whole undertaking.

One of the reasons I thought Firefly was one of the best things TV has ever produced was that there were no easy short cuts for anyone. And all the new Star Treks just make me nauseous.

But I'm faced with a big problem.

I have nothing but contempt for most sci-fi/fantasy crap churned out by women. Chicks, in my experience, are lousy at real science fiction for the same reason they are lousy at engineering and prefer the soft sciences like marine biology, so they can go and commune with the dolphins. And the only way they can write it is to bring in a lot of despicable chick stuff: dragons, sorcery ...

relationships ...

Ugh.

Its another reason I despised STNG. Every time there was something going on, there was some easy feminine solution. "Oh, captain, I feeeeel that these innocent rubberforehead people just want to be understood."

bleah.

There's no mystery why women didn't start making it big in SF before the 60's.

Anyway, There's always google, I guess. And when I started writing about biotechnologies, I had to start with websites like the Journalists' Medical Science Dictionary and good old Wikipedia.

It's just that...I sooo hate to work.


SS:
I'm with you. Which is why I just cheat. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. If you get bogged down in the technical details you'll never get anywhere and many of your readers will get bored. It's why I've never finished a Tom Clancy novel.



HJW:
Of course, you can't please all the geeks.

Still, I think I'll do a little research. I really don't want to end up writing sword and sorcery stories about girls and their dolphins communing with elves in other universes with crystals.

Ick.

I'm giving myself the creeps just mocking it.
Cardinal Egan's Cathedral.

(Egan being a JPII fav pic BTW.)

Those wishing to express their gratitude and compliments may contact:
Reverend Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie
Rector
460 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10022, USA
(212) 753-2261
rector@saintpatrickscathedral.org

This little piggy...

Man, these people

Need. To. Get. A. Life.

A story based on the Three Little Pigs has been turned down from a government agency's annual awards because the subject matter could offend Muslims.

The digital book, re-telling the classic fairy tale, was rejected by judges who warned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

Becta, the government's educational technology agency, is a leading partner in the annual schools award.

The judges also attacked Three Little Cowboy Builders for offending builders.

The book's creative director, Anne Curtis, said that the idea that including pigs in a story could be interpreted as racism was "like a slap in the face".


Here's a thoughtcrime for you:

Nick Griffin and the BNP are right. They maintain that the problem is not with the Islams, but with their liberal enablers.

Listen, can we come up with some word for the whole leftist politically correct mush-headed establishment other than "liberal"? Because they aren't.

Well, I feel cheery!

The sun's been out today for at least two hours and Shirlene McGovern is upset by all the publicity she's been getting over the interrogation of Ezra Levant.

Eeeeee!

GO EZRA! GO EZRA! GO EZRA!

My lawyer has received two upset calls from the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The first, from Shirlene McGovern herself, complained about the publicity she is receiving. I'm surprised at her reaction -- you'd think someone who regularly interrogates citizens about their private political views would be comfortable with the concept of public scrutiny. Imagine if she actually had to expose her private thoughts, not just her public actions as a government officer.

Anyone else ever do this?

when you're watching a film or a television programme, and someone is swimming under water without any breathing equipment, do you hold your breath to see if it could be done?

I always do.

I think someone should tell movie directors to keep this in mind.

Random mutations

So, how's that old evolutionary theory holding up hey? Got the gist of how things came to be, yes? All random genetic mutations over millions of years,



yeah.

Right.

You just keep telling yourselves that. I'm sure it makes you feel much better.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lies, damned lies and...

This just in from that fun-lovin' bunch at the National Secular Society:

"Catholic Church shown to be economical with the statistical truth"
(and isn't that a great headline? Worked on me!)

Anthony Spencer, who runs Pastoral Research, said the Church’s own figures were little more than guesswork, based on rough estimates of mass attendance.

Mr Spencer said: “Mass immigration is masking a huge alienation among the Catholic community. There is a huge unexplained loss of people to be found when you look at those who were baptised as babies, but who are not getting married or holding funerals and subsequent baptisms in Church.”

Mr Spencer said that his statistics showed that 530,000 Catholics had ceased even minimal involvement with the Church since 1997, whereas official Church statistics put it at 72,000.


[Aside: Naturally, the NSS is way behind. This revelation of the Church's duplicity is, of course, a straw man...or could be a red herring... anyway, the idea that the Catholic Church's governing class knows that we're in big trouble statistically and is trying to hide it, is absurd. Anyone who goes to Mass anywhere in this country will see for themselves. And, of course, it's being reported in the news all the time. The phrase "decline in Mass attendance" is so common in the news that you can use it effectively for a Google News keyword search. But hey, its the NSS, another organization well known for its objectivity and intellectual honesty.]

Now, putting aside the NSS' obsessive hatred of the Catholic Church, (nothin' we aren't used to by now!) these are some interesting and useful statistics, I think. But what the NSS fails to note is that those of us Catholics who still bother are mostly those who actually believe the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic religion. What has happened in recent decades for reasons we won't bother with here, is that most of the people who are, or were, actually sitting in pews and who are drifting away, are those who don't.

As I've pointed out elsewhere. For the most part, those who are left are the ones for whom it would be unthinkable, unimaginable to "drift" out of the practice of the Faith. Those whose daily existence and entire universal outlook are formed by a religious understanding that can be replaced by nothing else and who appreciate the seriousness of the obligations that understanding imposes. This sort does not “drift away” from the practice of their faith.

As we know Papa R. has said somewhere that we will be looking at a much smaller and much more faithful Catholic Church in the coming years. There will be no more idle pew-sitters, or cultural Catholics or people who go because their mothers go. People who go to Mass, will be the sort willing to risk what others have risked for the same thing in the past. The sort who will hide priests in their homes, if necessary, and give sturdy defences of the Faith while standing before the gallows.

All indications, including those in Mr. Spencer’s report show that this is coming to pass.

Personally, with all respect to the NSS (meaning none) I’d call it an improvement.

I would be loath to speak anything that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man's foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet I have such courage in avouching the majesty of Jesus my King, and such affiance in his gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and my evidence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation. I am to sue most humbly and instantly for combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found: protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just missed a call from a friend in Rome

And learned yet another one of those little things that I didn't know I didn't know about life in Britain.
"If I knew how to work the UK phone system better, I'd have called you back myself.

But I don't know how you do that thing with the phone to get the thingy to tell you the last number called. In Canada you punch in *69. Don't know even how to get directory assistance here.

I knew that learning how to operate a new country would be difficult in a million billion little tiny irritating ways that I could not possibly have anticipated."

Kathy cracks me up

"Siding against Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in their respective HRC battles is the moral equivalent of hiding Nazis in your attic during World War II."

Safe as houses

"New study shows..."

Apparently, a study has shown that there is widespread support (in the US) for people to believe whatever they want to believe, so long as there is little or no action taken upon those beliefs.

The trend is clear. Vague talk is safer than clear action. Personal beliefs are good, but not if these doctrines lead to actions that indicate that some beliefs are right and others wrong.

Seeking is good, but finding is bad. Judging is even worse.


Well, I'd say that, starting with Archlayman Dr. Rowan Williams, the entire Anglican and Catholic clergy of the UK is perfectly safe.

Yep. 'Cause you know. Staying safe is what we are called to as Christians.

In an age of "I'm OK, You're OK" spirituality, he added, "American spirituality has glorified 'searching' for spiritual meaning, but de-emphasized 'finding.' In other words, it is good to be looking for spirituality, but it is intolerant to actually believe you have found a right faith.

Warren again

I'm going to have to give David his own blog label soon.

The components of political correctness -- radical feminism, the “gay agenda,” multiculturalism and “reverse racism,” extreme environmentalism, “health fascism,” Darwinist scientism, and lately and most incongruously, Islamism -- do not constitute a coherent worldview. Each agenda contradicts each other, and each is internally irrational. The various interests are however united, not by what they affirm, but by what they deny or oppose, and are dedicated to destroying. Their common enemy is the Christian heritage of the West, or what is often called the “Judaeo-Christian tradition.”

Never mind all that political nonsense

here's something real.

It's all theoretical until you're actually meeting real people. This is a pair of emails I received yesterday and today.

"A woman's right to choose" I believe the popular euphemism has it...

----- Original Message -----
From: R. C.
To: HJW
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2008 11:15 AM
Subject: Urgent prayer request

Please pray for a fifteen year old mother of a pre-born baby whose parents have booked an abortion for her this Tuesday. She is 4 ½ months pregnant and just told her parents on Friday. They booked the abortion the same day! She and the baby’s father do not want to have an abortion. The girl’s mother says she does not want the abortion either. The baby’s grandfather is worried about the family’s reputation in the family and community. He also thinks giving birth may harm their young daughter.

The family has agreed to meet with me to look at information that the doctor did not give them and maybe cancel the abortion. Please pray for me and for the family that they will make the right decision for their daughter and let their grandchild live.

----- Original Message -----
From: R.C.
To: HJW
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2008 10:38 PM
Subject: Update to prayer request

L. and I meet with N. ( the 15 teen year old mother of pro-born child), her boyfriend (also 15 years old), and her mother for 2 1/2 hours this afternoon. Her father had left home until we were gone because her did not want to meet us.

They looked at the information, talked, cried and her mother said they told her nothing when she called to book the abortion. When she asked questions they told her to look for answers on the Internet. N. cried and said she did not want to go against her family's wishes. Her father is angry and her 21 year old sister will not even speak to her. She is worried about her friend's reaction. She has exams this week and has to study.She does not want the abortion but her father is insisting.

Her mother listened as L. translated the details of how abortion could hurt N. physically and will hurt her emotionally. She said she is going to cancel the abortion appointment and talk to her husband about the dangers of abortion for a young girl and about the development of the baby. She was shocked about the abortion techniques and said twice that she is now a Grandmother. The mother said she will not be frightened by her husband.

But her husband sounds like a very dominant father and husband who could easily over power them. Even though N. and her mother talked of coping with school and caring for the child I know that the father can over ride their resolve and demand an abortion. Tomorrow I am going to look into options at school and a place for her to live if necessary. I told her she can live with us.

I don't know if they were just being polite by saying that they will not go for the abortion on Tuesday.

Please keep them in your prayers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Muslims against Sharia and that damned Logical Principle of Non-Contradiction


Now this is interesting.

It reminds me a bit, somewhat incongruously perhaps, of John Henry Newman's efforts to bring Anglicanism back to its origins and to create some kind of reconciliation between the CofE and its apostolic Christian roots. Of course, in this investigation Newman was too honest and diligent and his work brought him into the Catholic Faith. (While others of his clique, carried on in their desperate delusions, bringing us the weird and surreal house of mirrors known as "high" or "traditional" Anglicanism.) Perhaps it reminds me of Newman's solution for the Protestant Problem because there are certain correspondences between that and the Muslim Problem.

It strikes me also that the item gives us a hint of why the so-called "liberal left" is currently so dedicated to the Islamic project of world domination. It is not just that they are both bent on the same goal, to wit, the utter demolition of Christian culture and the philosophical assumptions upon which it is founded. It is deeper than that.

Adherents to the modern authoritarian leftism currently in fashion in places like the newsrooms of the BBC and Guardian, are making common cause with the Mahometans and their brand of authoritarianism because their ideology comes from Protestant authoritarianism. The "new left" is merely a logical extension of the ultra-authoritarian Calvinism that preceded it. Calvinism also, if you recall, required its adherents to slavishly submit to the words of the Bible as though it is the literal word-for-word dictated message from God. It also required its followers to conform their thoughts to an unquestioning acceptance of a number of logical contradictions. To a 17th century Calvinist, the idea of interpreting the bible was a capital offense.

Similarly the proposal to examine and edit the Koran to bring it into line with Christian moral values seems to be a self-defeating and self-refuting proposal, one that neatly exposes the inherent logical contradiction at the heart of Islam.

I wonder what an honest, objective Muslim who is not normally inlined to become a "homicidal zombie", would make of the Koran when approached in the way these people seem to be suggesting.

It does create a little dilemma doesn't it? Islam requires unconditional and unexamined submission to Allah; this requires submitting to the notion that the Koran (unedited) is the actual literal faxed-to-earth-by-angels words of Allah. But because of the manifestly evil and self-contradictory content of the Koran, to do this, they must turn off both their conscience and their intellect.

But if Muslims then edit the Koran to make it nicer (and, let's face it, more Christian), how can they possibly "submit" to it? It would then have to be admitted that it is not the literally dictated words of Allah, but a book written by human beings for their own purposes. The entire religious proposal of Islam then collapses.

The problem of Islam is this:

The Koran is the literal word of Allah,
but the Koran is manifestly wicked, and is full of contradictions,
leading to only two possible logical conclusions: that Allah either does not exist at all and was invented by an evil megalomaniac to further his dreams of world conquest, or is a ravening demonic monster who must under no circumstances be mistaken for the living God.

This leads us to the next problem:
Islam requires submission to Allah, as revealed to man in the Koran.
But human beings are endowed naturally by their Creator with the ability to tell right from wrong and are created with the freedom to choose between them.
If a man submits to Islam, he knows that he is submitting either to the demonic monster Allah, or to something he knows is false. Either way, in order to submit to it, he must do violence to his nature and suppress his conscience and his intellect in order to do something wicked and dishonest. He must, in other words, become a wicked and dishonest man himself.

But to try to solve this dilemma by making the Koran better, by trying to make Allah into the True God, he is back to dishonesty again. If he remains a Muslim, since the only thing a Muslim is required to believe, the only "tenet" of Islam is utter submission to the Koran as it is, he must admit that his religion is wrong, false. To say he submits, but only to parts of the Koran, is to say he submits only to his own preferences, and we are back to dishonesty and internal contradictions again.

The only way out is to ask the question, "Can the Koran in its entirety be the true word of God?" And if we are starting with Christian presuppositions about the nature of God (He is always good, cannot will evil and cannot ever contradict His own nature), we are obliged to say that the idea of a good God is always and can only be utterly contrary and opposed to the savage beast represented as God in the Koran.

What they seem to be admitting is that the only way to be a good Muslim is to be a bad Muslim.

Now, the human intellect, will and conscience, in its natural un-deformed state, is ordered to that which is objectively good because it was made not by man, nor by the monster Allah, but by the true God who can only make good things and only will the good.

From this it naturally follows that no human being who wants to do good can submit to the Koran without deforming his conscience in some way. Either by using the pretense of obedience to the wicked instructions in the Koran to excuse the evil he wants to do in life anyway (beat his wife, murder people who disagree with him, rape, launch Human Rights Commission complaints against magazines and publishers, and blow up buildings) or he can pull a Winston Smith and masochistically force himself to submit and love something he knows is false. His religion requires that he become, in other words, either a bad man with a hopelessly deformed conscience, or a self-enslaved dhimmi living a lie.

Both of which will make him into the kind of monster so beloved of the demon Allah.

Which is precisely what we have seen.

Anyway,

Muslims against Sharia, it seems to me, are trying to figure out a way out of this impossible logical contradiction: they are trying to be good men and good Muslims at the same time.

“Islam, in its present form, is not compatible with principles of freedom and democracy,” it proclaims.

“Twenty-first century Muslims have two options: we can continue the barbaric policies of the seventh century perpetuated by Hassan al-Banna, Abdullah Azzam, Yassir Arafat, Ruhollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Hizballah, Hamas, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, etc., leading to a global war between Dar al-Islam (Islamic World) and Dar al-Harb (non-Islamic World), or we can reform Islam to keep our rich cultural heritage and to cleanse our religion from the reviled relics of the past.

“We, as Muslims who desire to live in harmony with people of other religions, agnostics, and atheists choose the latter option. We can no longer allow Islamic extremists to use our religion as a weapon. We must protect future generations of Muslims from being brainwashed by the Islamic radicals. If we do not stop the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, our children will become homicidal zombies.”

Free Speech Hockey Cards

Hey, I've had an idea. Why doesn't someone who is good with photoshop start making Free Speech Hero cards, the kind the kids trade in the school yard.

I'd suggest Ezra, Mark Steyn the Great (may he start to be widely heeded), and

Pat Condell...



(and yes, I know, a lot of Catholics really hate Pat Condell, but the point is that because we're Catholics, Pat himself has nothing to fear from that fact. Which is why Catholicism is good and Islam is evil.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hey, d'ye think he might be getting ready to suppress the Jesuits?

One warning and a short wait for compliance (that everyone knows will not be forthcoming) and then...

The Pope stressed this reaffirmation several times, pointing to specific areas where the Jesuits are known to have caused scandal.

In the letter, the Pope stated: "so as to offer the entire Society of Jesus a clear orientation which might be a support for generous and faithful apostolic dedication, it could prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Speaking of boilerplate

Do you think it might be possible, some day in the future, for a journalist to write a story about cloning that does not mention:

Parkinson's n' Alzheimer's disease
Dolly the sheep
Dr. Hwang Woo Suk

(Sometimes it's a bit dull, that's all, to read the same thing over and over...)

you asked...



Someone asked me, 'Why the tag for cloning posts is "saturnalia"?'

Saturn (Chronos) was one of the elder gods. It was prophesied that the only way Chronos would lose his power was when one of his children would depose him. To prevent this from happening, each time his wife Rhea delivered a child Cronus would immediately devour it.

Thus, saturnalia, a wild debauched party in which we consume our own children in order to maintain our own power.

Speaking of cloning nightmares...

Last year, whilst daydreaming one afternoon, I came up with a plot and outline for a science fiction novel that included a near-future society in which cloned and genetically altered humans made up a large portion of the population. They were a genetically engineered slave race, of course. It might have been a bit of boilerplate SciFi, but I thought the name I came up with for the cloned slaves was clever. They were called "constituents".

They were made, you see, from the re-constituted bits of humans.

I thought it was amusingly ironic.

There was another planet involved and all sorts of things and the main character was an archaeologist, one of the last of his almost entirely defunct discipline, since, of course, in the near future, when everyone has three ipods and a constituent to make the tea in the mornings, who needs to know anything about human history or origins?.

Maybe I'll get around to it one day.

I got most of the ideas from various horrifying apocalyptic nightmares I'd had over the years, but only the really scary ones. The ones that made me want to not go back to sleep for a year.

It got complicated when I had to start looking up Urgaritic texts from the ancient near east and studying the mystical poetry of St. John of the Cross.

It's sooo easy to become distracted when researching.