Friday, October 31, 2008

The march of the Judas goats

It's a pity the Episcopal Church has become so etiolated that it has faded to near-invisibility in the public consciousness, because it's proving to be the testing range for everything that one can expect from an Obama presidency. The victory of the radicals in TEC is the blueprint for the approaching victory of the radicals in the U.S., right down to the election of an unqualified affirmative action cipher with powerful sponsors and protectors.

Like Obama, Schori had no real qualifications for the job of bishop, let alone head of TEC. The fact that she had never even run a parish was simply brushed aside, as people were assured that she was some sort of phenom for whom the normal rules had to be bent. In fact, the old-fashioned method of rising through the ranks was dismissed as something the "little people" had to put up with - important stars like Schori didn't need to waste time in the minor leagues, they could be catapulted straight into the manager's chair. After two years of Schori's amateur hour management, the Episcopal Church has reached a state of ruination from which it will never recover. It turns out all that low-level drudgery has its uses, after all. It may seem like a waste of time for someone "important", but puttering about with the hymn list, the organist, the choir, the altar guild and the Christmas bazaar quickly teaches a man that dealing with human beings is not like playing chess or adding up financial columns or writing elegant memoirs.

That's another point of similarity between Obama and Schori: in the absence of any real accomplishments, their fans reach for the fluffy peripheral details which are all that are left, and aggrandize them into symbols of uniqueness and rarity. Schori never built a parish or distinguished herself as a scholar, but...she flies a plane! She studied squids! She's calm! She has a low voice! Similarly, Obama has done little but promote himself - he sponsored no legislation, he could barely bring himself to vote on other people's legislation, he spent his years as a "community organizer" getting his face recognized and helping nobody, and, outdoing even the Masala Lillian Hellman by writing TWO memoirs of his accomplishment-free life, but...he has a nice voice! He's pretty! He has exotic relatives! He...well, I can't think of anything else, really.

And when another candidate appeared, who DID have the equivalent of parish-level experience - Sarah Palin - the experts could not be more dismissive. Her state is so small! She was mayor of a small town! How can anyone compare such bush-league qualifications to a Harvard education and the pampered rise of a Chicago insider? But as with Schori, if America elects Obama, they will find out just how the ability to work with normal people about their normal, everyday concerns DOES outweigh the merely theoretical, paper abilities of a professional self-aggrandizer.

The final similarity is in what I call the March of the Judas Goats - the conservatives in the Episcopal Church have learned the hard way that their ranks are honeycombed with false comforters, who, for a variety of reasons, have sold out to the radicals and are making it their business to tranquillize those who remain in order to make as little trouble for the radicals as possible. Some of them have fanciful ideas of retaking lost ground through some sort of "underground" movement, while others just want a peaceful life and are trying to convince others that struggling only makes things worse.

Political conservatives in the U.S. have similarly been treated to the sight of former conservatives waving to them from the Obama ranks, and trying to convince them that things won't be so bad if they just learn to go along to get along with the inevitable conquest. Their motives are as obscure as their explanations, but there is a strong whiff of self-interest in these former top dogs who are quailing at the thought of 4 or more years scavenging for berries in the wilderness while the Obama supporters will be feasting at the heavily-laden picnic tables of power. Surely the dogs can pick up a few crumbs when the wealth is going to be shared around?

Their delusion is pathetic, and I suspect they won't have to wait any longer than the Episcopal wafflers in San Joaquin did to find out. Once the trouble-makers had departed, the conservatives who remained behind were shocked to find that the reward for their fidelity to the boss was to be kicked to the curb and replaced with safe men (i.e. liberals). As a commenter on the Midwest Conservative Journal put it, "Well, really, what did they expect? Did they think that Katherine Jefferts Schori would raise her hands in benediction over them, and say, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant,' and usher them into a position of power and responsibility?" No, once their usefulness as embarrassments to the departing bishop was over, they were tossed away like so much garbage. And one of the few things we'll have to look forward to, should Obama win, is the ashen faces of Frum, Noonan, Buckley and the other turncoats, when they find themselves kicked aside by their new master, and cast out by the old friends they've betrayed.

UPDATE: David Frum is voting for John McCain. Better late than never, and here's hoping that a lot of over-fastidious conservative intellectuals come to a similar conclusion before crunch time on Tuesday.

First snow

We had our first big snow of the season on Tuesday night. It was heavy, wet snow, with a high wind, and I have terrible news - my damson plum tree wasn't strong enough to withstand the burden and it broke! The trunk snapped 5' from the ground. I was just shattered when I saw that on Wednesday morning - I cried all day. Dean says we can get another one, but they're very rare and hard to find - it took me 5 years of searching before I happened to find one in a local nursery. And it was growing so beautifully, too - it was almost 13' high and so graceful. I can still hardly stand to look out the window now, because I see it every time.

They're baaaaaack!

The garage sale this summer was a bit of an epiphany for me; I realized that I could have either THINGS or SPACE, and after thinking it over, I decided that I have way more things than I ever really use or need, so on the whole, I'd rather have more space. So I've begun reclaiming house-space from the things that have been occupying it for the last few years - almost from the moment we moved in, actually. I've succeeded with the basement, and now it actually LOOKS like a basement you might be able to use. Once the computer comes back (whenever that might be) and it's installed down there, we'll actually be going down there to DO something, instead of just dashing down to GET something.

Yesterday I thought I'd attack the unfinished part of the basement right next to the laundry room that's just storage. This has been cluttered up for years with old lamps, china, photos, maps, luggage, and blankets. There's also an old piano down there that came with the house. Over the years, things have been pushed against the walls, and now that we're worrying about basement leakage, it occurred to me that it would be a good thing to clear away all that stuff so we could actually see the entire wall, so that we'll be able to tell if there's a water problem here too.

So yesterday I went downstairs with a broom and a garbage bag, and began pulling out stuff that nobody wants anymore. I found bits of an old stereo system down there, plus old briefcases with broken locks that Dean could never bring himself to throw away. I threw them all away. But as I was clearing away the clutter, I saw something moving near the wall, and spotted a fat little mouse! Well, we always knew they were around, and I've never been able to find all the entry points from the garage to the house, so I wasn't too surprised. I rapped the broom on the floor, expecting it to scurry back behind the shelves. Judge my astonishment when it completely ignored me! In fact, it ambled right out into the middle of the room! I didn't try to hit it with the broom, but I expected that once I started moving and sweeping, it would run away. Nope. It just toddled around the room while I worked, and eventually walked away behind one of the shelves. It's one thing to have a mouse, but at least it could have had the decency to put on an act and make me think I was scaring it, instead of swaggering about as if it owned the place! Well, at least I've removed a lot of its shadowy hiding places. I think it's time to get the humane trap out of the garage again, and see how many we can catch to release down by the river.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Songs for your oPod

Mark Steyn is so clever, with all his constant references to popular songs illustrating current events.  In the last week, he's referenced Willkomen, Bienvenue, Welcome, I've Got You Under My Skin, It's Morning, Noon and Night and I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love, I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy (both in the same piece!), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and that doesn't even count his weekly "Song of the Week" essay.

Well, maybe I know more opera than jazz, but I can do that too. Since watching so-called conservative insiders like David Frum, Peggy Noonan and Christopher Buckley suddenly haring off after the receding sound of Obama's flute, a Canadian naturally thinks back to the stupidity of Trudeaumania in the '60s. Americans went through their Kennedy infatuation, but too much wealth and forelock-tugging has done what it always does, and that family has now degenerated through the generations until the "Kennedy magic" is now pretty much retrospective. America needs a new gigolo to sweep them off their feet, and Obama seems to be the man. Sensible people always wonder what goes on in the brains of other, formerly sensible people when they suddenly lose their heads and start acting like idiots. I remember once reading a biting analysis of why America fell for John Kennedy and it came down to "Because he was pretty."

The incoherent babbling of ex-conservatives trying to squeeze onto the Obama bandwagon has brought to mind this great old Noel Coward song:

I met him at a party just a couple of years ago,
He was rather over-hearty and ridiculous
But as I'd seen him on the screen he cast a certain spell.
I'd basked in his attraction
For a couple of hours or so.
His manners were a fraction too meticulous,
If he was real or not, I couldn't tell,
But like a silly fool I fell

Mad about the boy
I know it's stupid to be mad about the boy
I'm so ashamed of it but must admit the sleepless nights I've had
About the boy

On the silverscreen
He melts my foolish heart in every single scene
Although I'm quite aware that here and there are traces of the cad
About the boy

Lord knows I'm not a fool girl
I really shouldn't care
Lord knows I'm not a school girl
In the fury of her first affair

Will it ever cloy
This odd diversity of misery and joy
I'm feeling quite insane and young again
And all because I'm mad about the boy

Mad about the boy
It's pretty funny, but I'm mad about the boy
I can't believe it's true, but when I'm blue
In some strange way I'm glad about the boy.

If I could employ
A little magic that would finally destroy
This dream that pains me and enchains me
But I can't because I'm mad...
I'm mad about the boy

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Braxton's Lear - Drunkards - Is There ANYTHING They Don't Know?

Slate's combination Village Atheist/Town Drunk launches another wobbly salvo at Sarah Palin, triggered by her refusal to actually touch the floor with her forehead when Science passed by in all His majesty. The causus belli was actually a little less lofty; as Yuval Levin pointed out in National Review Online, Palin was criticizing the method of funding of this particular piece of scientific research; a sneaky little earmark slipped in by the Democratic Representative for California. In other words, dirty porkbarrel politics as usual. Obviously not a matter of outrage for an Obama supporter like Hitchens, who has spent most of his life siding with Marxist thieves and con artists and is clearly enjoying his return to familiar territory.

But instead of honestly admitting that he supports grabbing taxpayer dollars through any con that will work, he tries to take some bogus atheist high road, which turns out to be just a handy excuse for screaming abuse at a woman.
In an election that has been fought on an astoundingly low cultural and intellectual level,
Let's start out with an assertion of our own lofty claims to high culture, shall we? Hitchens steps down from the rarified cultural atmosphere to which he is accustomed, to deliver a lesson in manners from the land of yobbos and soccer hooligans, to the vulgarians of the New World. Wisdom! Attend.
with both candidates pretending that tax cuts can go like peaches and cream with the staggering new levels of federal deficit,
Gosh, isn't that like Christopher Hitchens claiming that he can combine increased alcohol consumption with a reduction in barfing in doorways? The halfway alert reader might notice that he's the one responsible for the problem at BOTH ends. Instead, he talks as if the "staggering new levels of federal deficit" are some natural phenomenon like increased tornado activity in Kansas, which simply have to be accepted as part of The Way Things Are.
and paltry charges being traded in petty ways, and with Joe the Plumber becoming the emblematic stupidity of the campaign, it didn't seem possible that things could go any lower or get any dumber.
This is where the Great Tragedian smites his forehead and declaims, 'Would to Gud I'd been lain in my grave ere I lived to see such a day!" But Hitchens has sort of messed up the "Would to Gud" line, so he'll have to just flounce offstage in a sulk at the indignity of having to lower himself to actually notice a plumber - a PLUMBER, forsooth!
But they did last Friday, when, at a speech in Pittsburgh, Gov. Sarah Palin denounced wasteful expenditure on fruit-fly research, adding for good xenophobic and anti-elitist measure that some of this research took place "in Paris, France" and winding up with a folksy "I kid you not."
Hey, Hitchens, you might try that folksy business sometime. The only reason people in Mayberry put up with a character like Otis the Town Drunk is because he's so darned cheerful and polite. If he were always belching booze fumes in people's faces and spitting on their shoes, they'd probably belt him in the teeth and throw him out of town.

I won't bore you with the canned biology lesson on the fruit fly that follows next, you can probably read it in Wikipedia for yourself. Though I was interested to discover that "fruit fly" is also gay slang for a woman who hangs around homosexuals. Maybe Sarah Palin was just objecting to research on the Episcopal Church?

Hitchens tosses off the science lesson quickly, in order to get to what he REALLY wants to write about: Palin's obnoxious insistence upon being a Christian.
With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man's philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things,
What? Mrs. Palin isn't granting interviews to you? Dear, oh dear! What is an honest, fair-minded journalist with an interest in widening his horizons and a curiosity about other people's beliefs to do? I guess he could take all that free time that he intended to devote to interviewing Mrs. Palin and use it to ask probing, in-depth questions of Barack Obama. I've no doubt he'd be happy to answer questions about all the interesting people he's met since his his college days and the economists and political players who have most influenced him and why. Oh, he's not granting interviews, either? Fancy that.
but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of "teaching the argument," as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now....

An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive).
On the other hand, he could just make up a lot of vapourous assumptions and insinuiations and string them together in a vaguely threatening mass, then strike a dramatic pose as the Clarence Darrow of our day, declaim thunderously about sloth, envy, wickedness and stupidity, and wait for the applause as the curtain falls.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Something creepy for Halloween

This bizarre little film is a condensed retelling of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', using live action, animation and puppetry. I like it for its eerie creepiness.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Lost Media

Michael S. Malone has written an excellent article on the more than bias - the corruption - of the media as they throw away even the pretense of impartiality as they lunge toward Election Day, trying to haul Barack Obama into the winner's circle by sheer brute force. I confess, I'd never thought of the personal reasons he outlines - maybe one has to be an insider to know how journalists and editors really think. I was looking for something more lofty and philosophical, when it might just come down to a desire to safeguard a pension.

Of course, this isn't exactly unprecedented. Chesterton observed something similar over 100 years ago:
It is customary to remark that modern problems cannot easily be attacked because they are so complex. In many cases I believe it is really because they are so simple. Nobody would believe in such simplicity of scoundrelism even if it were pointed out. People would say that the truth was a charge of mere melodramatic villainy; forgetting that nearly all villains really are melodramatic. Thus, for instance, we say that some good measures are frustrated or some bad officials kept in power by the press and confusion of public business; whereas very often the reason is simple healthy human bribery. And thus especially we say that the Yellow Press is exaggerative, over-emotional, illiterate, and anarchical, and a hundred other long words; whereas the only objection to it is that it tells lies. We waste our fine intellects in finding exquisite phraseology to fit a man, when in a well-ordered society we ought to be finding handcuffs to fit him.

...We do not want a censorship of the Press; but we are long past talking about that. At present it is not we that silence the Press; it is the Press that silences us. It is not a case of the Commonwealth settling how much the editors shall say; it is a case of the editors settling how much the Commonwealth shall know. If we attack the Press we shall be rebelling, not repressing.

The Illustrated London News, October 19, 1907

A week later, Chesterton went on with the same topic:
The old editor used dimly to regard himself as an unofficial public servant for the transmitting of public news, . If he suppressed anything, he was supposed to have some special reason for doing so; as that the material was actually libellous or literally indecent. But the modern editor regards himself far too much as a kind of original artist, who can select and suppress facts with the arbitrary ease of a poet or a caricaturist. He "makes up" the paper as man "makes up" a fairy tale, he considers his newspaper solely as a work of art, meant to give pleasure, not to give news. He puts in this one letter because he thinks it clever. He puts in these three or four letters because he thinks them silly. He suppresses this article because he thinks it wrong. He suppresses the other and more dangerous article because he thinks it right. The old idea that he is simply a ode of the expression of the public, an "organ" of opinion, seems to have entirely vanished from his mind. To-day the editor is not only the organ, but the man who plays on the organ. For in all our modern movements we move away from Democracy.

The Illustrated London News, November 2, 1907

So, how's that Thousand-Year Reich thing working for you?

I remember some posts last year, over at MCJ, discussing the probable future of The Episcopal Organiation. Everyone agreed on the basics: the headlines would be captured by the departures of dioceses and parishes, but underneath those arresting events would be a steady obbligato of departures by individuals, mostly believing Christians and their families, while the laggards in the pews grow steadily older and lonelier. There was disagreement, however, on how long it would take for TEO to finally die: ten years, 15 years, another generation, or maybe never.

The skeptics pointed to the mountain of money under the squatters occupying the premises of the former Christian Church and stated that this would NEVER run out. No matter what happened, there would always be enough money to keep the usurpers in cozy lunches and stylish vestments, so they were safe from the bad consequences of their apostacy and degeneracy.

What do we see now, however, but an understated report that TEO is frittering away its inheritance on legal adventures, and suddenly has to worry about paying the bills. The downturn in the stock market has wiped out 30% of its wealth - all those investments that were supposed to bankroll comfortably the "winners" have turned to dust before their eyes.

Most of the time, I watch the news with a sort of scornful shake of the head and sarcastic comment, but occasionally I share the feelings of The Anchoress:
But then again, folks, you know what I always say - everything happens for a reason. There is a reason that this untried, unprepared, not-especially-glib-after-all man has been thrust into such extraordinary prominence at this time. There is a reason why so much seems to be coming together to work in his favor. There is a reason why world markets are collapsing just before this very important election, and why they will continue to do at least until after the vote.
What that reason is? Who can say?
I do get almost a superstitious feeling sometimes, that none of these things is accidental, and that God is doing something He doesn't do that often: writing us a message, in bigger and bigger letters, with more and more underlines, so that we can't ignore it, no matter how hard we try.

It feels like something is coming to an end, and it's like listening to a symphony where all the familiar themes are having their final turn onstage before being wrapped up. Even TEO is getting its little turn, as its theme twitters out in a tiny flurry of piccolo notes - an almost comical inversion of the grand, solemn organ themes that it played over the past centuries. It just seems strangely uncoincidental that when the debauched and degraded libertines who had been starving resentfully outside the church doors gathered their courage and made a final, bold push to break down the doors and rush inside and take over - at the moment of triumph, suddenly the prize in their grabbing fists began to crumble and fall around them in ruins. What they've scrabbled and trampled to grab first - real estate and property - are the very things that are at the center of the wound now bleeding the U.S. economy. The proud citadel of their revolution is a church on Wall Street, where their wealth is daily dissolving before their eyes.

There are so many Biblical examples to reflect on, it would be hard to list them all. Belshazzar's Feast. 1 Thessalonions 5:3 - "While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." Luke 19:26 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.' The hollow men and women who "own" TEO now are the ones who have nothing - no faith, no discernment, no humility, no shame. And so even the dirt they hug to themselves is being taken away.

Canadian car chase

David Warren has no patience with theories about "man-made" global warming; he says that temperature fluctuations on Earth are connected to solar activity, and this year there's almost no magnetic activity on the Sun so it's going to be a deep freeze. After the 5' deep snowfalls of last year, I don't know if I can stand to go through this again; maybe it'll be cold and dry, though that's not all that much better.

But we can at least laugh as long as possible at the coming blizzard, and this Midas Muffler commercial is a good place to start. I don't know if it's being shown in the U.S., but I see it often during hockey games up here:
And speaking of hockey, we were watching the Ottawa-Toronto hockey game tonight (in Punjabi). It was only the first period, and Toronto was already up 1-0 when we tuned in. A moment later, and it was 2-0, much to my disgust. Then less than 2 minutes later Ottawa unexpectedly scored. "Ottawa got a goal!" I exclaimed. "Did Toronto suddenly pull their goalie?' asked Dean.

Making my move

Like Lydia, the seller of purple, I have decided to convert, and my family with me.

We have an iMac.

My new Dell is in the shop again, getting its THIRD new hard drive in as many months, thanks to the execrable Windows Vista. No more. When it comes back, I will insist that Vista be removed, and replaced by Windows XP, which worked perfectly well for 6 years in the old Dell. (If the computer crashes again after that, I guess I'll have to accept that the machine is just a dud.)

Meanwhile, I have begun the task of phasing out ALL our Windows computers, and replacing them with Macs. This iMac is the first, and we will learn how to use it (I'm typing this on it right now - it's not that hard.) Emma's computer will probably have to be replaced within the next 2 years - she gets a Mac next. Unfortunately, the Dell is new, but it is going into the basement, where with luck, only Dean and I will use it, and we'll be careful and hopefully it will last. It might be useful to have one Windows OS running, because so much software is designed to run on it, but I am looking forward to the day when this house is Microsoft-free.

So repeat after me: "I abjure Bill Gates and all his works."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Relearning past controversies

As I was methodically reading through my Chesterton articles (not going very fast, I'm afraid - I've only gotten through about 4 years'-worth so far) I came across references to a controversy that was very current in Chesterton's day, but which I'd never heard of and couldn't readily understand. It started with references to Nonconformists and household auctions, then went on to criticize Mr. Balfour and his Education Act. Finally I had to look this up, and I found some summaries of the controversy.

At the turn of the 20th century, England was pretty evenly divided between Nonconformists (non-Anglican Protestants) and the Church of England (imagine that!). The Education Act of 1902 both removed local control of the School Boards (representatives were no longer popularly elected) and rolled in the denominational schools so that they would be supported by taxes. As the Anglicans ran the great majority of these schools, the Nonconformists objected to paying taxes to support the institutions of a sect they did not belong to or approve of.

This led to the Passive Resistence Movement, where Nonconformists refused to pay the portion of their taxes that would support the CoE schools. Those who wouldn't pay would have their goods seized by the local authorities and sold at auction to forcibly pay the tax, and those that wouldn't permit this were sent to jail. This is where Chesterton's reference to "auctions" came in. I found a brief description of one of these scenes by the author Kingsley Martin:
My father was involved in the passive resisters' fight against Balfour's Education Act of 1902. Each year father and the other resisters all over the country refused to pay their rates for the upkeep of Church Schools. The passive resistors thought the issue of principle paramount and annually surrendered their goods instead of paying their rates. I well remember how each year one or two of our chairs and a silver teapot and jug were put out on the hall table for the local officers to take away. They were auctioned in the Market Place and brought back to us.

Mother and I were taken for our first motor ride to one of these village auctions where father would explain the nature of passive resistance before the sale began. We drove to a village some fifteen miles away, sometimes travelling at the frightening speed of twenty miles an hour. In those days roads were deep in dust, and you could tell if a car had passed because the hedges were white. I remember three small boys running behind each other pretending to be a motor. The first said he was the driver, the second a car, and the third the smell.
Anyway, this is all old history - if it were suggested today that ANYONE in our society might be put in jail for refusing to pay for the upkeep of someone else's religion, the reaction would be the wide eyes of shock and then laughter. Such a thing is unthinkable - that is a relic of older, ruder ages, though 1906 is not so long ago.

But as the Episcopal Junta wriggles its way through the courtrooms of the nation, this thought occurred to me: if there WERE some such statute in place, some requirement that outsiders should pay for the priviledges of the insiders, would today's Episcopal tyrants hold back from employing it? They wouldn't. Everyone knows instantly that they wouldn't. They wouldn't shrink for a moment from seizing an opponent's car or TV, or sending a police squad to handcuff him in his home and lead him off to prison. They'd do it in a heartbeat, with no qualm or self-doubt, and they'd plume themselves on their cleverness in being on the winning team, the stronger team, the side that never has to worry about feeling the oppressor's whip on its own back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One election down

Well, our election was last night. Dean was happy, because the Conservatives increased their number of seats in the House. I was unhappy, because the Conservative candidate in our riding lost - the Conservatives took 10 out 15 ridings in the Ottawa-Carleton area, but ours is a toxic immigrant dump, so we went with the losers. I wasn't half as unhappy as the lunatic Leftist commentators on CTV last night, though. One crazy old coot named Craig Oliver kept insisting that Harper had really been defeated, because he'd called the election in order to get a majority, and only got another minority. He even called on the PM to resign because of it! I kept thinking of the interrogation scene in 'A Man For All Seasons', where Sir Thomas More corrects the Duke of Norfolk in his assumption that he knows WHY More won't sign the oath. "Perhaps merely to give you trouble!" he suggests blandly, and I thought it would be funny if Stephen Harper were to assert that he only called the election to give the Liberals trouble, not for any benefit to himself!

All this bogus outrage over another minority government gets on my nerves. There are countries in oh-so-sophisticated Europe where minority governments are a way of life. And let's not bring up the subject of Israel - I don't know if they've ever had a majority government in their history. Dean had a dream once, that he was playing a board game called "Knesset: The Game Of Israeli Politics". He said it was unbelievably involved, with tiny little pieces that had to keep fitting into each other, and as soon as you thought you might have put something solid together, the whole thing would fall apart and you'd have to start again!

Anyway, now that the Liberals have been so successful in constructing the "New Canada", as I heard it referred to last night (during coverage of Justin Trudeau's victory in the riding of Papineau) we might have to get used to minority governments. Before the Trudeaupian social lab experiments of the 70s onward, Canada was a country of decidedly European descent, with some Asian immigrants thrown in for cultural spice. Now we've mongrelized ourselves to the point that huge percentages of the country have no relation to each other. Naturally, such Balkanization results in divided politics. We're going to be living with voting blocks forever, and an election is a reflection of what the voters think. If we're so split up that we can't combine forces to get one party into the majority, then a minority is the most accurate reflection of what the country actually looks like. I don't see why this is supposed to be such an outrage. It's the form of government you get when you mix a lot of incompatible interests together.

Anyway, what occupied me most yesterday was not the election, but the fact that our new windows finally arrived! The guys have been installing them yesterday and today (the big bay window takes all of one day to do). I couldn't be happier - some of the old glass windows were so old and clouded (not to mention having lost their seal) you could barely see out of them, especially when the sun was coming through. Now, it's as if we never saw out those windows before. James's room has a window that's right opposite the stairs, so you see it as you come up - it's now so clear and open, with a view straight out to the tops of the trees with all their fall colours, you feel as if you could fly straight up the staircase and outside!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dignity. Always dignity.

Remember that line from 'Singin' In The Rain'? Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), the big silent movie star, is answering soft-soap interview questions by Hollywood gossip columnist Dora Bailey, and sums up for his fans the motto that has governed his entire career: "Dignity. Always dignity." Of course, we then see flashback clips of how his career REALLY developed, and it's an endless parade of the worst, most vulgar vaudeville routines imaginable: from tapdancing for pennies in a pool hall to slipping on banana peels, seltzer down the trousers, pie in the kisser, you name it.

I'm starting to get that same feeling of faux gravitas from the way John McCain is running the final weeks of his presidential campaign. With our Canadian election over tomorrow, attention turns to the much more interesting events in the U.S., and McCain seems to be campaigning in the Lockwood style, refusing to descend to outright criticism of his "friend" Senator Obama, and going into full spinster aunt finger-wagging mode to chastise the unruly voters who have the bad manners to boo the Democrat they want to defeat.

The Bush family has always had this lofty sense that they shouldn't HAVE to fight, that somehow the world should be allowed to voluntarily arrange itself into a pleasing pattern where the good and the worthy (them) are effortlessly wafted to their appropriate position on top. Fighting is both common and disrespectful of Providence, or Destiny, and though you can TALK about it, actually DOING it (except to put on a little show for the groundlings) is a sort of violation of the natural order of things. I've always felt that George Bush sees his progress through the world almost like the launching of an ocean liner - a dignified, slow, smooth glide, almost imperceptible at first, as the ship begins to move, yet unstoppable in its grave dignity. McCain seems to have adopted this che sarà sarà air of above-it-all superciliousness too.

We Canadians have kings and queens to capture this sense of "natural" superiority, but Americans don't, so occasionally someone will try to transfer it into the only position available - the presidency. Meanwhile, we all know that the reality is more like the vaudeville circuit - crude, ugly, uncomfortable, full of failure and narrow escapes. So it's deeply annoying to hear John McCain try to push this Hollywood fantasy of a presidential campaign that can float him like a butterfly on a warm breath of dignity and politeness and senatorial camaraderie into the White House. Ordinary people know that that isn't the way it happens, and they resent being treated like the saps who read Dora Bailey's column in the movie magazines.

Naturally, this leads me to a Chesterton quote, about this obsession with the unimportant at the expense of the important:
They always put the important fact in brackets, and the unimportant fact in the main sentence. For instance, there have been quarrels in the House of Commons of late as to whether there is really an unreasonable amount of corruption in the distribution of peerages, and the uses of the secret party-fund. Some members alleged that there was really abominable corruption; and it may be that some members alleged this with needless bitterness, and even with an appearance of personal enminty. But that does not alter the fact that the question of the alleged corruption is the important question, and the question of whether it was raised in the right way comparatively an unimportant question. A man declares that our politics are no longer pure, that our leaders do not reach their powers and honours by honest merits or even by honest heredity, but by purchase of the blankest and most brutal kind. If this is a lie it is a horrible lie; if it is a truth it is a horrible truth. The man who says it is either a slanderer or a patriot; in no case can it be the important question whether he is a well-behaved fellow. Yet all the newspapers I have seen have commented on the event exactly in the manner of that old friend of mine who made a wild use of brackets and conjunctions. All the newspapers have said, "Whether or no we think the member's attack on corrupt peerages justifiable no one can defend the way in which he did it." Or they say, "Whatever be the truth about the funds which Mr. So-and-So attacked, he might at least learn to state it in good taste." None of these journalists seem to see that they are making a frightfully urgent and essential thing depend upon and be secondary to a comparatively unimportant thing.
As usual when discussing any matter of evasive stupidity, examples from the world of Anglicanism abound. Many Anglicans and Episcopalians are more concerned with going down to the grave with their shrouds appropriately starched and folded than with getting sweaty and grubby in a combat that could save their lives. I always thought it was infuriating that a person could say the most appalling things about Mrs. Schori - that she's a hell-bound heretic, blaspheming the sacraments and dragging souls to the depths with her - and have such things received calmly, whereas a comment about her ugly hairdo will be scrupulously upbraided. How can it be a matter of no importance to say that the woman is a spiritual Gomorrah, but a matter of outrage to say that she isn't pretty?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pride goeth before a fool

Mrs. Schori is soon to lead a "Day of Repentance" for the Episcopal Church's unenviable record on the issue of slavery over 150 years ago. It surely must be a source of discomfort to her and her supporters that their church was so wrong on the most pressing moral issue of the day. Having not known the time of their visitation once, naturally they couldn't possibly make the same mistake again!

In the course of my reading, I happened recently to unearth a sermon delivered in 1862 by the Reverend Eliazer Kretin, Episcopal priest of the Church of the Blasted Fig-Tree, Nag's Ass, Missouri.

Brothers and sisters, I stand here before you today, a proud man. Proud and certain that the Lord blesses my pride, and will give me, and you, ever more reason to boast of being Episcopalians. As Episcopalians, we have always had good reason to consider ourselves better than the inferior Christians who surround us, but what makes us most proud today is our Church's perfect approach to the issue of slavery.

Yes, while our brother Abraham calls it...what was the term?...oh yes, "a tyrannical principle" that "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it", I am proud that we Episcopalians are distinguished by our pro-freedom stand. Yes, I said PRO-FREEDOM. Even a quick glance through our pious sermons and dinner conversations will reveal that we are profoundly supportive of the freedom of non-enslaved negroes, the freedom of the master, and the freedom of society.

I am proud of my church that we profoundly abhor the use of slavery as a form of salary-avoidance, which is crystal-clear after reading our elegant support of the Compromise of 1850 and our energetic involvement in enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act (let those who have cotton plantations, hear).

I am proud of my church that we have resisted the emotionally manipulative novels like "Uncle Tom's Cabin", portraying tales of slavery which are tragically necessitated by the harsh realities of those involved.

I am proud that my church does not describe equally gruelling stories of hardship on the part of homesteading pioneers of the West and settlers moving freely over the Oregon Trail to build their own farms or exploit mineral wealth.

I am proud of my church that in an age when people in Illinois live in ramshackle log cabins, where even as I write this, women are experiencing...hmm, what is the term our brother Abraham used...ah, yes..."unrewarded toils" so that some unknown child or grandchild in the future may enjoy prosperity, we respect the dignity of every slaveholder to have a choice about and control over the division of labor that will assure his own comfort and security.

I am proud that my church appreciates the calculations of capital outlays and profit margins, depending on the wholesalers' opinions on the market value of cotton and the probable movement of the stock exchange, so that every plantation-owner can be supported in making the painful, awful, life-determining decision of whether he can commit to paying wages for labor or owning slaves.

I am proud that I and many other slavery-supporting Episcopalians contribute to the good of society through the taxes and tariffs we pay on our slave-produced cotton and tobacco.

What greatly distresses me is that there are many others who would triumph the simplicity of their morality so that others might feel guilty about the difficulty and complexity of the reality of their own morality.


(the Rev'd Dr.) Eliazar Kretin

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Watching too much news

Last night I dreamed the Dow Jones dropped below 10,000 points!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My turn to be irate at stupid bureaucrats

Earlier this year, I posted an irate letter from a guy trying to renew his passport. Well, now I can write my own irate letter.

My application for a Canadian passport has been rejected.

Why is that, you ask? Is it because I am an inflammatory bomb-throwing conservative? A felon with many convictions and outstanding warrants? Just a common scofflaw who won't pay my parking tickets?


It's because my guarantor is my foreign-service officer husband, and the Department of Foreign Affairs will not accept his diplomatic passport as proof of trustworthiness.

Not long ago, a guarantor had to be a member of the upper classes. They didn't come right out and SAY that, of course, but that's what it amounted to: a guarantor had to be a professional, like a doctor or a lawyer, or a priest. They've recently changed that; now the only requirement of a guarantor is that he or she holds a 5-year Canadian passport, and knows the applicant for at least 2 years.

Dean works for Foreign Affairs; he travels abroad to argue for Canada's interests, and when he does, he uses his red diplomatic passport. So what's the problem? A red passport is only issued for THREE years (though it can be extended to five), and the form says a passport is issued for FIVE years. So when I entered on the form that the passport was issued in 2008 and expired in 2011, the jackaninny checking the form found the years between did not amount the the magic number of FIVE and summarily dismissed my application.

So a foreign service officer's passport is not acceptable to the Passport Office, but I could get someone like this to sign my form, and they wouldn't think twice about accepting it.

Still batting 1.000

Canada's budget Marat, Richard Warman, continues his unbeaten streak with yet another decision in his favour by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Oops, sorry, wrong Tribunal - the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. These "decisions" are becoming as staged and predictable as Chinese opera: the "cause" was a violation of Section 13, otherwise known as Warman's Law, since it is his own private Act of Attainder, launched at will against whomever he selects as this month's Enemy of the People. The defendant is poor and unknown. The "crime" is saying something that pisses off Citoyen Warman. The penalty is the same one awarded to Galileo: public silencing.

There was one variation: the Tribunal didn't award the usual bounty to Citoyen Warman - too many people watching.
But in a break with past practice, the tribunal declined to impose a penalty on Melissa Guille, co-founder and webmaster of the Canadian Heritage Alliance, a self-described collection of dissident writers and Canadians concerned about the suppression of civil liberties by special interest groups.

The story says later that Guille is a woman of modest means:
As well, imposing a fine could impose "undue hardship" on her, the tribunal added.

A single mother, Ms. Guille testified she earns $560 a week as an administrative secretary.

Interesting little detail, that. In REAL trials, information like that comes AFTER the verdict, when the judge is considering the sentence, and mitigating circumstances are offered to persuade him to be lenient. Canada's Revolutionary Tribunals don't waste their time - the accused has to plead for mercy BEFORE the verdict. And why not? Since there is never any verdict but one? Soon, they may decide to streamline the process further and dispense with hearings altogether.

I hope you are watching this, America. Remember what sort of police state you are entering when you come up here for vacations, or to attend the Olympics.