Monday, 28 November 2011

The fretful porpentine

I'm generally immune to the urge to share other people's YouTube videos of animals allegedly being adorable. Maybe my standards have started to slip, or maybe the sound of a porcupine's displeasure at having its dinner interrupted really is hilariously cute. You decide:

I think I can just about get away with a porcupine. But if I ever start sharing kitten videos, for the love of God, just kill me.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Why we must act now, according to Chris Dillow

The politicians’ syllogism: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done.” 

A brilliant summary of the boilerplate justification for way too many many policy announcements. The rest of the post isn't bad, either.


My beleated contribtion to Lieutenant John Pike's fifteen minutes of fame (with apologies to Ring Lardner).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

After they were annexed...

Concerning The Way To Govern Cities Or Principalities Which Lived Under Their Own Laws Before They Were Annexed

WHENEVER those states which have been acquired as stated have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you. Because such a government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot stand without his friendship and interest, and does its utmost to support him; and therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way.

Nicolo Machiavelli The Prince

Pay attention, children

That nice Dr Heather McGregor* from executive search firm Taylor Bennett will explain all about executive pay. A silly man on the radio said it didn't seem fair that top executives' pay has grown so much more quickly than everybody else's over the last 30 years.

That was silly of him, wasn't it? Big boys and girls don't worry their darling little heads about babyish ideas like fairness, now do they? This is what Dr McGregor told him:

Anyone over the age of seven who says things are not fair needs to have a reality check.

Some people think that  employees might sit on Renumeration Committees, the way they do in those nasty socialist countries like ... er ... Germany. What a lot of silly billies! Dr McGregor explained why they were just being silly:

You would not give your children a say in how much money you allocate for clothes, for haircuts...
I know most employees are old enough to have families, drive cars, have bank accounts, save for pensions and do other grown-up things, but we mustn't forget that they are really only like dear little toddlers, and it would be ever so silly if toddlers told their mummies and daddies how to behave, now wouldn't it?

I wonder where McGregor, educated at the  independent St Mary's Hall girls' school (which, despite benefiting from tax relief by virtue of its status as a "charity" and charging fees of £12,609 to £20,817 per year, got into "financial difficulties" in 2009 and was taken over by the exclusive Roedean school), picked up the ideas that fairness is a foolish notion, fit only for children, and that the lower orders lack the maturity and intellectual capacity to have a meaningful opinion on the entitlements of their betters?

Any ideas?

*Salary £108,000. If her recruiting skills are as lacklustre as her debating skills, Taylor Bennett could save a few quid by replacing her with somebody on a nursery school assistants' wage, without any loss of intellectual rigour. If they recruited an actual nursery school assistant, the candidate would benefit from already having experience of talking down to people as if they were infants.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Word of the day

Petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) 

The distinctive aroma of rain falling on dry earth. I never knew it had a special name until now.

2011: Arab Spring, Euro Winter

Democracy is good enough for the Arabs, but the wise old heads of Europe are apparently too canny to let unpredictable voters get in the way of the serious business of running countries. First Greek democracy fell to an unelected Austerity Junta. Then came Italy. Which dominoes will be the next to fall? Spain, France?

The lamps are going out all over Europe. I hope we see them lit again in our time

A big hello to all intelligent life forms everywhere...

 ...And to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.

A long while back, I was at a friend's house, listening to records. More specifically, he was playing a few tracks from his collection and inviting those present to 'name that tune'. I was successfully able to name the theme tune to the original radio version of The Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy - or so I thought. That was when I discovered that it wasn't an original theme tune, but a piece by The Eagles, called Journey of the Sorcerer. Apparently, I'm not the only person to have made this  mistake.

Anyway, shout out to the other seven billion confused B Ark descendants out there on Earth 1.0. Your chill-out tune for today is...

The Eagles - Journey of the Sorcerer

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mock the weak

A lot of people make fun of Milton Keynes, which is fine by me. I think it's a better place to live than most outsiders imagine, although the reality falls short of the Milton Keynes Development Corporation's original vision of a beautifully planned, orderly, harmonious place to live with no building higher than the highest tree. If people want to make fun of concrete cows and the grid roads and all the roundabouts (which really do keep traffic congestion to a minimum), I don't have a problem with that.

In fact, I rather welcome the fact that people treat the place as a bit of a joke, because it means there's less of the thin-skinned, self-important local pride that makes other places look even sillier. I lived in Leighton Buzzard for a short while, at the time when Jeremy Clarkson made a throwaway remark about in a car review about Leighton Buzzard being 'the fifth-best town in Bedfordshire'. The Pages of the Leighton Buzzard Observer carried a furious rebuttal from the affronted council leader (or some such local dignitary), raging and spluttering as if somebody might have actually noticed this remark, or could have cared less.

I'm no Clarkson fan, but this was practically the least offensive thing he's ever said. A comment from Clarkson shouldn't have even been local-newsworthy unless he'd at least called the local council lazy, feckless and flatulent and preferably accused them of murdering prostitutes in between meetings of the planning committee.

What does rile me is comfortably-off people sneering at everybody who lives on the city's poorer estates. Take this nasty little "satirical" e-mail from earlier this year, as reproduced in the Anna Raccoon blog

An Earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale hit the new city of Milton Keynes on Wednesday morning.

Casualties were seen wandering aimlessly saying “bang out of order”, “mental” and “sorted”. Some are still confused that something interesting actually happened in Newport Pagnell! Some residents of Fishermead were woken before their ‘giros’ arrived and it caused quite a panic!

The earthquake decimated half of the Fullers Slade area causing in excess of £17.55 worth of damage. Several priceless collections of mementos from Ibiza, Corfu, Rhyl and Blackpool were damaged beyond repair including a cute little donkey that ‘broke wind’ when you clapped your hands. 

At a time when unemployment is soaring, the numbers of the working poor are at a record high and desperate people are killing themselves after being thrown on the employment scrapheap, isn't it good to know that there are people out there unafraid of mocking the poorest and weakest members of society? I guess, as it becomes less acceptable to taunt people for their race or sexuality, the sort of inadequates who always need somebody to look down have to find a new target to kick, (preferably somebody too weak to kick back). "Chav" is in danger of becoming the new "queer".

What I love is the irony of the thrusting, aspirational suburban golf club set sniggering at the poor for their lack of taste. It's a bit rich, coming from the class that's spent years disfiguring the countryside with a rash of unsightly mock Tudor "executive" homes. These Petit Trianon playhouses for the petit bourgeois are just the architectural equivalent of a flatulent ornamental donkey for people with more money than sense.

The poor, of course, don't get much of a say about what their accommodation looks like. In Milton Keynes this led to some very strange results on the older estates, where 1970's architects were given free rein to design radical, modernist machines for living to house the "overspill" from Greater London. Some of the designs were pretty stark and brutal. The linear, angular, gleaming, metal-clad lines of the '70s buildings in Netherfield, for example, certainly have what Kevin McCloud would call 'integrity', but it's the hard, uncompromising integrity of a housing project designed by daleks.

I hardly need to add that, being low-cost pre-fabricated social housing, they haven't worn tremendously well. The years and individual redecoration can't disguise the uncompromising geometry, but they have destroyed the pristine, chilly unity of the facades, which look patchier and shabbier by the year A lot of MK's original buildings were only supposed to be temporary, built to house the people who came to build the city, then to be torn down to make way for something better. Forty years later, we're still waiting.

I was in Netherfield the other day, when I spotted something rather extraordinary. I'm a bit conflicted about sharing it as, after all I've said about mocking the poor, it might seem like more middle-class piss-taking, but this is such an astonishing collision between the aesthetic of the suburban executive home and the stark functionalism of '70's prefabricated social housing, that you really have to see it to believe it. Sorry about the quality of the following picture, taken with a low-quality mobile phone camera with a scratchy lens - at least it saved me the job of pixellating out the car number plates:

Yes, somebody has actually looked at one of these Mies van der Rohe-inspired brutalist dwellings and decided that what it really needed was a mock-Tudor facade.

No matter whether the person responsible was rich or poor, (for all I know it might have been the landlord) this is just so wrong it's off the scale. Somebody actually took something from the Decade That Taste Forgot, hybridised it with its opposite and came up with something this unspeakably what-the-hell-were-you thinking?. It's so wrong it's almost right. 'As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table' as somebody once remarked. If you want to marvel in higher quality, somebody's posted a far better picture of the building in question here, or you could just put Farthing Grove, Milton Keynes into Google Maps and find it for yourself on Street View.

Milton Keynes - you've just gotta love the weirdness.

Update (Occupy Milton Keynes)

Having posted this, I think I belatedly get it. Seen from the point of view of a resident, maybe this isn't so mental after all. You've got the powers that be pouring people, like so much fungible human overspill, into their anonymous, generic boxes, then one day one of the residents decides to stop being the passive recipient of somebody else's aesthetic and stick two big fingers up at the people who designed these anonymous hutches. What you see before you is an act of defiance and individuality, a sane protest against an absurd world.

It still looks bloody ugly, though.

Update 2 "Civic" amended to "local", as I ended up talking about Leighton Buzzard, which isn't a city by any stretch of the imagination.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Yay! Techno party!

Not only have the people not been consulted, sending for the technocrats is openly praised as a mechanism for avoiding consultation, whether by referendum or a general election. Instead, "governments of national unity" - a euphemism for something like one-party state - are sworn in as though there's a war on. There's not a war on. Nor has society collapsed, not even in Greece. It's just a common-or-garden economic crisis, no worse than that which British democracy sailed through in the late 1970s. 

Top blogging from the Heresiarch on the rise of technocracy at the expense of democracy. What worries me about the new governing class (apart from the little matters of legitimacy and accountability, or total lack thereof), is the basis on which these people have been appointed. Mario Monti, for example, is a former adviser to Goldman Sachs and Coca Cola and a.'convinced free marketeer with close connections to the European and global policy-making elite'.

Yes, he was an an advisor the Goldman Sachs the company that 'helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules' and best mates with the European and global policy-making elites (you know, the ones who were in charge of the Eurozone and were totally unprepared for the global financial crisis in 2008). All very cozy. He sounds more like part of the problem than part of the solution to me.

I do believe that there are people with exceptional talent, intellect and technical skills who can change the world for the better. I just don't believe that it's this bunch of conventional insiders.

If you want to put some faith in experts as saviours, you'd be better off following the scientists at Wellcome Trust's Sanger Institute, who've been studying how the malaria parasite infiltrates red blood cells and may have pointed the way to an effective vaccine against a disease that kills about a million people every year, most of them children under five.

Or Neil Gershenfeld of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, prophet of what might just be the next industrial revolution and 'a bottom up culture of distributed innovation'.Techno utopianism, maybe, but unlike the EU version of rule by technocrats, at least some of his dream might come true and could potentially put a lot people in control of their own lives, rather than reducing them to the status of voicless serfs, toiling to preserve a broken system.

Beats as it sweeps as it cleans

Some people have been making unfortunate claims that the UK's intelligence services were complicit in the extraordinary rendition of terror suspects who were detained and tortured overseas. The Foreign Secretary is concerned. 'The very making of these allegations undermined Britain's standing in the world as a country that upholds international law and abhors torture'.

Lessons have been learned. According to the BBC, there are plans to restrict what can be said about the security services in open court so, if abuses like the ones being alleged were to ever happen in future, the public need never know.

James Dyson secured Britain's standing as a world leader in bagless vacuum cleaner technology. Good to know that we also maintain our lead in sweeping potentially embarrassing information under the carpet. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Red China - perfect for that special Tea Party

“The ‘Great Society’ has not worked and it’s put us into the modern welfare state,” she said. “If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situation. They save for their own retirement security…They don’t have the modern welfare state and China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society and they’d be gone.”

 From The Thoughts of Chairman Bachmann

A leading American right-wing, über-libertarian evangelical praising the achievments of the Communist Party of China? Not long ago, you'd have thought anyone positing a Bible-Belt-Beijing Axis must have skipped a dose of anti-psychotics.

Although I don't consider the Tea Party/Communist Party model a remotely desirable terminus for any political journey, I've got to give Bachmann credit for spotting the obvious* fact that the red flag is flying over a full-on, devil-take-the-hindmost Gilded Age. Comrades, we don't need no stinkin' welfare state! Hell, these guys can execute as many criminals as they like and they don't let no jailbird-lovin' pinko liberal bed-wetters stop 'em. Yep, them good 'ol chicom hordes are just the sort of folk Michelle and her fanbase could happily invite round for Thanksgiving dinner, if only they weren't so darned godless.

Like Lenin, Bachman seems to imagine that her revolution will eventually result in the withering away of the state and a truly complete democracy. It's an interesting theory, but the parallels between America's own Gilded Age, with its grim factories and corrupt plutocrats, and modern China aren't encouraging. In both cases, large doses of laissez faire went hand in hand with Tammany Hall-style graft and cronyism. Real unfettered plutocrats (unlike the idealised fictional libertarian, John Galt) didn't even want to shrink the state becuse of some high-falutin' principle, but were quite content to chow down on juicy government contracts, without getting too pernickerty about 'only trading for mutual benefit' (see the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal).

Apparently, Deng Xiaoping probably never said 'To get rich is glorious!' but Mark Twain really did say, tongue-in-cheek:

What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.

I'd argue that Twain's critique of a lightly-regulated Gilded Age in a developing economy is rather more balanced than Deng and Bachmann's uncritical propagandizing.

Hat tip.

*  To be fair it's probably not that obvious from the vantage point of Tea Party voters who believed that Sarah Palins's proximity to Russia made her some sort of foreign policy guru.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Don't panic! Don't Panic!

We have a plan … there's a lot of scenario planning, thinking about all possible outcomes. We have to deal with the world as it is... I don't think we should be panicking...

Said Baldrick  Lance-Corporal Jones  Vince Cable this week, discussing the Eurozone crisis, before reassuring us all by dropping that phrase about a potential 'Armageddon narrative' into the interview.

Thant's what he says, anyway. I've got a little theory that what the managers* of UK PLC, Deutschland GmbH, et al. actually want is to spread a few warning doses of fear and panic, in the hope that we'll stop thinking, not get too uppity and keep on voting to maintain the status quo, for fear of something worse. Margaret Thatcher's tireless old cheerleader TINA (There Is No Alternative) is still doing her stuff.

Sound advice at the moment would be to really not panic, switch off the noise machine, remember that Britain's not facing a real Armageddon and hold onto the thought that there is always an alternative.

If you want to know what Britain seriously preparing for a real Armageddon looked like, take yourself back to the Cold War and sit yourself down in the driving seat of a Vulcan V-Bomber. With the nuclear doomsday clock at a few minutes to midnight, this is where some lucky soul might have been sitting, poised between being shot out of the Russian skies by a SAM missile** and unleashing the plane's own Blue Steel nuclear missile to incinerate a few hundred thousand souls in the blink of an eye.

Claustrophobic, cramped and functional, this was your office if your job was convincing the other power bloc that we were really serious about Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Real-life Dr Strangelove hardware and quite chilling. I've got a feeling that with a bit more awkward questioning, thought and flexibility and a bit less raah-raah-ing from TINA we could muddle through the Eurozone "Apocalypse" rather better than we'd have survived a nuclear holocaust.

Mind you, have you seen where the Doomsday Clock is at the moment? We're not out of the woods yet, are we? Maybe we should all be having a little panic - just not about the things the political class want us to panic about.

*They're getting to look a little less like politicians with some connection to voters and more like members of a managerial overclass every day.

** Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome strikes again

Friday, 11 November 2011

The devil woman wants to know...

... if you've been involved in an accident that wasn't your fault.

 Oh, hang on, those are specs on her head.

Top advertising tip for ambulance-chasing lawyers. Subliminal satanic imagery rarely inspires trust, except among Faustian dabblers in the dark arts, who are probably playing for bigger stakes than a few grand for their dodgy whiplash claim. And don't ever ask your clients to sign up using a red pen...

Spotted on the back of the Thomson Local directory for Milton Keynes.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

From The Illustrated Uxbridge English Dictionary

ductile [ˈdʌktaɪl]

 Noun: A tile with a duck on it.

Image courtesy of Nemo's great uncle's Flikr stream. Silliness courtesy of The Uxbridge English Dictionary.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Newport Pagnell

At night to Newport Pagnell; and there a good pleasant country- town, but few people in it. A very fair — and like a Cathedral — Church; and I saw the leads, and a vault that goes far under ground, and here lay with Betty Turner’s sparrow: the town, and so most of this country, well watered.

From The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 8 June 1668

Image courtesy of Ned Trifle's Flikr stream 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The 99% were 'just asking for it'

It started with the banking crisis of 2008. A myth has grown up that 99 per cent of us were innocent in that, and have been forced to bail out the guilty 1 per cent. Actually, a majority of us were probably borrowing more than we should, and we can't just blame the banks for forcing the money into our hands, or the politicians for failing to regulate them. 

Writes Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent. I'm sick of hearing this sort of pious nonsense about how we are all being miserable sinners who should turn the other cheek and forgive the bankstas and the politicians who told us that There Is No Alternative because we're all, in a very real sense, just as guilty as our abusers.

No we're bloody well not.

I wasn't borrowing more than I should have been, (due to a combination of instinctive risk aversion and dumb luck), but many of those who were didn't think they were being reckless. With house prices climbing further into the stratosphere with every passing year, many people took what they thought was a calculated risk to get an eye-watering mortgage, rather than wait until the tiniest starter home was way out of their reach. The poor saps believed the politicians and financiers who swore that everything in the market was for the best, now that we'd arrived in best of all possible economic worlds. Not to mention being ground down by the relentless hard sell of commission-hungry debt salesmen and the soft soap of the Property Ladder promise of securing your future by canny property speculation.

'But we all voted for the politicians who failed to regulate the banks, so it's our fault, isn't it?' This highly disingenuous claim would only hold water if we seriously assumed that a significant proportion of the population avidly hung on to the newsreaders' every word about the the state of the Hang Seng, the Dow Jones, the Nikkei and DAX, without their eyes glazing over, took a subscription to the Economist and actually had a clue about complex financial engineering, then, in full knowledge of what was going on, recklessly voted for politicians who they knew were negligently ignoring a coming crisis.

They didn't. Even an obsessive economics wonk like Gordon Brown got it memorably wrong, so it's a bit rich to turn round and blame the average guy or gal next door for not knowing about the problems of over-leveraged financial institutions, the US sub-prime market, collateralized debt obligations and sovereign debt. Not to mention the fact that politicians don't always deliver what they promise at election time - just ask anybody who voted Lib Dem last time round.

The argument that we all share the guilt because nearly everyone is in some sort of pension scheme which benefited, in the good years, from financial jiggery-pokery, this is just another unwarranted assumption about how well informed informed consumers are.

How may normal people have a clear idea of how their pensions work? If your eyes don't grow heavy when somebody starts going on about pension provision, then you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din. I've no idea whether my pittance of a works pension is invested in Italian government debt, pork bellies, ostrich farms, none of the above or all of them. Most of us just signed the dotted line and hoped that the out pension provider wasn't actively ripping us off, out of some vague idea that having a pension would be less likely to leave us destitute than just stuffing any spare cash under a mattress and hoping for the best.

Power and knowledge matter. The rest of us don't share the guilt of those who knew what was going on or had the power to change things. We weren't 'asking for it', any more than the rape victim who's accused of contributory negligence just because she wore a short skirt on the night in question. No ifs, no buts, no excuses.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Burn his body from his head

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. 

Pope Benedict XVI

Now's the time of year when we get together, in a spirit of Christian tolerance, to celebrate those good 'ol cultural expressions and traditional values. All together, now:

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holloa boys, holloa boys
God save the King!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!

A penny loaf to feed ol' Pope
A farthing cheese to choke him
A pint of beer to rinse it down
A faggot of sticks to burn him
Burn him in a tub of tar
Burn him like a blazing star
Burn his body from his head
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
Makes you proud, doesn't it?
It is no exaggeration to say that civilisation itself is indebted to our Christian heritage. As Johnston writes “Impartial law and politics are near to the very essence of principled civilised communal living. From such study came the democratic ideal of representative Government, with universal adult suffrage and regular elections. This in turn is founded upon concepts of accountability and human dignity, which themselves derive from the Biblical view of man made in the image of God. It is no accident that these ideals emerged in the Christian West (and nowhere else), a civilisation uniquely tamed and moulded by the Gospel.”
Happy bonfire night, everybody!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

So unlike the home life of our own dear Queen

I see Liz Jones, queen of the censorius net-curtain-twitching journalistic busybodies, has taken time out from sticking her disapproving nose into other people's private grief and decided to put some of her own dirty linen on public display. And, by gum, it's mucky!*

*The blog Carmen Gets Around ended in 2013, so if you if you go to, you'll find there's nothing to see here ... move along... I've threfore therefore updated the link which now takes you to the version archived on on the Wayback Machine (you'll have to scroll down a little way for Carmen's takedown of Liz Jones' article "The craving for a baby that drives women to the ultimate deception").

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Engage warp drive, Dr. Dan!

Simpletons with a little spare money and a vague sense of unease about life may wish to try one out of the many new-agey spiritual entrepreneurs who specialise in lightening clients' spirits, and wallets. I don't recommend it myself, but if you really must give all your spare cash to a self-appointed guru, you could do worse than Dr. Dan Mathews, whose web site I stumbled upon by accident the other day. This guy is quality. Hell, you could tick every box on a New Age Bullshit Bingo card before reaching the end of his awesome first paragraph:

Dr. Dan Mathews had a near death experience in August of 1992. On the other side of the veil he was ordained into the priesthood of Melchizedek and was given specific information about the “paradigms” which are defined as the level of consciousness that exists on earth. He was told that since the original downfall of man only three paradigms or realities had existed: one which began at the dawn of time, the second beginning with Abraham and the third emerged during the life of Jesus. Dr. Dan was told that beginning in 2003 humanity would enter into a warp-speed evolution of consciousness by moving through another twelve new paradigms of consciousness.

After Dr. Dan was given this information he was gifted with HOLY DIVINE HEALING. He was instructed to return to his body and use this gift by helping people reconnect to the parts of their soul which have been fragmented since the dawn of time and move gracefully through shifting paradigms with a complete connection to the God Presence within. Since this experience in 1992 Dr. Dan has assisted many people in their transitions through one-on –one sessions completed in person or by phone, group healings and lectures...

Dr. Dan’s private appointments are dedicated to your personal situation and are approximately 30 minutes each. The pricing is a sliding scale $85 -$148 and payment is reflective of your feeling toward the service. Cash is preferred. 

Bargain! Sign up here. Dr. Dan also does group sessions (subject to a minimum 'love offering' of $35). I wonder if he does spiritual development courses, too?

Seriously, though, is this stuff any more bonkers than mainstream religion? Try to make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity. The BBC has tried to explain:

The idea that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means:
  • There is exactly one God
  • The Father is God
  • The Son is God
  • The Holy Spirit is God
  • The Father is not the Son
  • The Son is not the Holy Spirit
  • The Father is not the Holy Spirit
An alternate way of explaining it is:
  • There is exactly one God
  • There are three really distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • Each of the Persons is God

Common mistakes

The Trinity is not
  • Three individuals who together make one God
  • Three Gods joined together
  • Three properties of God
What the hell's all that supposed to mean? Maybe a diagram would help:

No, it all still looks like complete balderdash to me (although it's considered rude to suggest that believing in a complex set of assertions without the benefit of any supporting evidence might just be a bit silly).

Whatever. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to connect with the God Presence within by moving gracefully through some shifting paradigms at warp factor 5. All love offerings gratefully recieved (cash or PayPal only, please).

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Occupy protesters can’t win

Here’s a bit more fact checking, this time from Guardian journalists have been disputing the Telegraph’s claim that only one in ten Occupy London protesters at St. Paul's actually occupied in their tents overnight. In this case, it looks as if nobody has definitively proved or disproved the original assertion. There are clearly a few facts to be nailed down here, to do with the sensitivity of the equipment, the time when it was used, whether tents been occupied for long enough to grow warm and show up on the equipment being used, (depending on how sensitively it was calibrated), etc, etc. Those facts are simply facts, regardless of your point of view.

What interests me here, though, is the way the disputed facts are framed, and how sections of the media feel free to dismiss and marginalise the protesters for doing one thing and for doing the opposite.

I don’t know what the real occupancy rates are in the encampment, but there are two ends of the possibility spectrum.

At one end of the spectrum, if there’s any truth to the Telegraph’s story, people aren’t camped out 24/7, but coming and going, presumably because they’ve got other pressing things in their lives to attend to, such as jobs, study, family, etc. At the other end, maybe there are protesters there all the time, people without such constraints who could conceivably be more-or-less full-time protesters; students with some flexibility to their schedule, perhaps skipping the odd lecture, the jobless, spoiled trustafarians and other family-supported well-off kids who don’t have a job to go to and so on.

It seems to me that some sections of the media have framed the debate so that the protesters can’t win. If they’re not full-time, hard-core protesters, sleeping out night after night, they’re dismissed as lightweights who don’t have the courage of their convictions and their protest is rubbished as a hypocritical publicity stunt without any real commitment behind it. If they are on the street night after night, then they’re dismissed as members of a jobless work-shy rent-a-mob with too much time on their hands, who can only afford to spend their lives protesting because they don’t have anything more productive to do.

 Catch-22 lives.*

*If this sounds familiar, just think about all the anti-immigrant stories you've read in the papers over the years. Bloody foreigners, coming over here and stealing our benefits. What, they're working? Bloody foreigners coming over here, stealing our jobs....