A Few Inadequate Words

John Stuart Mill
"I don't think you fully grasp the concept of Liberty"

The extremists of all flags, whether they laughably describe themselves as Christians, Muslims, nationalists, or what they will, have far more in common with each other than with those they claim to represent. They can hate and kill who they choose because they cannot or will not identify with them as people. This is not fighting for a cause, this is failure of humanity; self-involvement on a horrific scale.

You have to wonder about their mental processes. What does a man think he will achieve by murdering cold-bloodedly? Did he seriously believe that Norway could be terrorised out of allowing immigration? Maybe he thought he could spark a nationalistic uprising by the heroic shooting dead of teenagers.

It seems he wrote a 1,500 page document to explain his actions, but I doubt it will tell us anything – except the incredible lengths an insecure man will go to, to justify himself.

A Gift From China

Unfortunately China is the name of my mother’s cat, and her feline idea of a neat gift is a small mammal. In this case, about as small as they get – a pygmy shrew. Poor little thing. I’ve shown it here with a credit card as they’re the same size the world over. As you see, it’s no bigger than your thumb.

Well, it’s nature’s way I guess. I mean, we actually have this cat around in order to murder small mammals, so I can’t be mad with her when she catches a non-verminous one. Though I notice there’s an ongoing debate in the US about whether cats are a major threat to the balance of nature as they’re not a native species. Well I suppose nothing is a native species if you go back far enough, but as domestic cats have only been in North America for a few hundred years you could see how the native birds aren’t prepared for them, and though it would be surprising if there wasn’t a native predator in the same niche, I can’t actually think of one. What catches small wild birds in North America? I don’t think coyotes do. Fisher cats perhaps, and related weasel-like things. But they are only found in some climates.

I don’t know; as far as I’m aware, cats in North America have never really gone feral and therefore are only found where humans live. And with a few exceptions, the balance of species in such places is never going to resemble what it did before farming and industry. So I suspect removing cats would be like trying to make a shopping mall more like a forest by painting it green.

But perhaps I should know better than to get into an argument between cat people and bird lovers.

Anti-Islamic Terror?

That’s the front of tomorrow’s Sun. Needless to say, it’s a Murdoch paper. What, you may wonder, is the evidence they have that links Norway’s massacres with Islamic extremism? The main clue would probably be that Al Qaeda sells more papers.

The little actual evidence so far seems to point to a home-grown rather than pro-Islamic terrorist threat. Not that it couldn’t be both of course, but several Norwegian news sources – TV2 for example – has stated that the suspect arrested had connections with Norway’s far right. VG, the major Norwegian tabloid that was caught in the blast, says the suspect described himself as ‘nationalist’. It appears that he was an outspoken opponent of immigration and of Muslims. So it may well turn out that this was actually an act of anti-Islamic terrorism. The irony would then be almost too much to bear.

But you wonder, does understanding the political motivation behind this actually matter? The most salient feature of an ideology that thinks it’s all right to kill people at random is that it thinks it’s all right to kill people at random. There isn’t much ground for further discussion. We may as well say that the attack in Oslo was carried out by The Evil Ones and leave it at that.

Emergency At 2 a.m. – Aftermath

That was a new battery

So late last night, I left the house because I heard strange sounds and found what I recognised as a neighbour’s car burning in the road outside.

Disorientating. This is a quiet village, crimes don’t happen here; I don’t know when there was last even a chimney fire. But now I’m looking at a car engulfed in flames, surrounded by sleeping people.

And of course, I had no way of being sure whether the guy who owned it was still in there or not. The heat – indeed the light – made it impossible to see if there was a body inside.

I won’t keep you in suspense, he wasn’t. But it was a long time before I knew that for sure.

He hadn’t left it here of course. It had been broken into and pushed a little way from the house, we guess so they could start it out of earshot. When they found it wouldn’t start they must have torched it to hide any evidence. It wasn’t the sort of car you’d steal for resale, and it’s not probable that someone would come way out here to find one for a joyride; most likely they’d wanted a random vehicle to carry out a robbery.

Definitely no one dead there
The skeleton of a seat only

Intriguingly, another car was torched shortly after only a mile or so away. It must have been the same people, this isn’t the kind of place things like that happen ever, never mind twice a night. Maybe that was a second attempt to take a vehicle that refused to start.

I hope so. We’ve a way to go before we get to the bottom of this, but I like to think the cars of my neighbours helped foil a crime last night.

Vatican City Limits

From Roma with love
Ideally, it should be in a hollowed-put volcano

What I hate about the Vatican is their holier-than-thou attitude. It may not pretend that it’s above error, but it continuously insists, to us and to itself, that even if it does on occasion do harm it ultimately achieves a greater good.

Look closely at the logic of that. The more harm the Vatican does therefore – whether it be protecting paedophiles from the law or impeding the prevention of AIDS – the more good it must be doing. The benefit of its existence must outweigh these ephemeral evils. To think otherwise would be to confront a truly appalling vista.

And if the good the church does must inevitably outweigh the bad, then preserving it and its power in the world must surely be worth more than the safety of a child. Or any number of children.

This kind of ruthless logic is what makes religious organisations last for thousands of years while kingdoms and empires rise and fall.

But when an Irish politician unequivocally condemns the actions and the attitude of the Vatican, you know that times are changing. Addressing the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’.

Couldn’t have put it better myself really. Well maybe stylistically, but the content is spot on. He continued:

. . . a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic . . . as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so . . . excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.

Broadly speaking, he tore them a new one.

Hight time, and popular support is overwhelming. Irish new media publication TheJournal.ie did decide to give space to a priestly apologist for the Catholic church, but I think that was mainly to give the rest of us a target. His point though, if the metaphor is not unfortunate, was that we should not throw the baby of the church’s teachings out with the bathwater of its failings. Society needs a spiritual dimension, and the church has contributed much of practical value too.

I’m not going to argue against the social utility of religion – not today at least. For the moment I’ll accept the assertion that people, some people at least, require or benefit from religion in their lives. The question that still remains however, which I would like to ask this apologist, the Vatican, and every cleric who put the instructions of the Vatican before the safety of children: Why does that religion have to be Catholicism?

There are many other faiths. Heck, there are even many other forms of Christianity. Perhaps people in Ireland who wish to practice a religion should choose one that has sinned less.

Emergency At 2 a.m.

Well that upset my plans. There I was just polishing my rant about the Vatican (coming later now) when I heard a bang. Of course, you hear bangs in the country. But two in the morning is a little unusual. Also, it wasn’t a bang I recognised. Curious, I turned down the TV.

Another bang. That was definitely strange. I got up and went out of the house. It’s a fairly dark night, but I could hear a strange noise. Again, not something I could put a finger on. Sort of fire-like. Out on the boreen (lane), I saw a light coming from just where it bent behind my aunt’s tractor shed. A… fire-like light. Also the smoke was kind of fire-like too. I was beginning to suspect this was definitely something fire-like. Like a fire. It was just that it was coming from a place where fire didn’t belong. The middle of a little country back-road?

Yet I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw as I rounded the corner. A fire, with a car in it. A car. On fire. There was a car on fire in our boreen.

It looked like a neighbour’s one, a little Peugeot in an ugly shade of bluey-green. It didn’t look like he was in it though. If he was, it was too late – the car was engulfed.

I called these guys.

The only thing that could make this job better would be if you got to *start* the fires

More of the story later this evening. It’s 5 a.m. now.

The Origin Of Landfish

Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atk...
Nude With Fish

That’s enough frigging Murdoch, let’s get back to reality. I finished repacking all the stuff in the attic! Or almost anyway. The boxes are upstairs, they’re just in the way of where I sleep. Which is not helpful, because I need sleep quite badly now. That’s probably why I’m having all these realisations. I finally realise the truth about snakes for example. Haven’t you? Snakes are land animals that evolved from fish… back into fish. Develop legs, climb out of water, lose legs again. Crazy. So from now on, I’m going to refer to all snakes as “landfish”. People will know what I mean.

Another thing. We have words for societies that are ruled by the rich, that are ruled by the best, by the mob, even a word for societies that are ruled by the worst. But there isn’t a word for rule by the most ruthless. How come?

And then I realised. There used to be, but all copies of that dictionary were burned and the lexicographers and their families shot.

This next story has the virtue of being true. A friend of mine came across the bizarre case of someone who was arrested for burning his own underwear. She wondered if that was arson.

Of course it is, I said. He set his arse on fire.

All right, I think I’m tired enough to sleep on the boxes now.

The Murdoch Show – A Review

Banana cream pie.
Critical Notice

The end of an extraordinary day, says the TV man. Did anyone else think so? To me it seemed a let-down; predictable, unchallenging, frequently tedious.

What we were watching was, as reader jonolan put it, theatre. And not even good theatre, unless you count the intervention by the pieman – that at least was unpredictable. Otherwise its sole moment of flair was Assistant Commissioner John Yates’ surrealistic claim to be a postbox.

The prince came across more like a villain, and it was the king who vacillated. He wanted to apologise as profusely and humbly as possible – yet he wouldn’t accept the blame. Such inconsistency in a character strains credulity.

The best you can say for the production is that it was well rehearsed. The Murdochs delivered their lines effectively enough: News Corp is a highly ethical organisation, the News Of The World a completely inexplicable and isolated aberration. It was at least a daring conceit. And memorable – though mainly because they kept saying it at every opportunity.

Then in the last act a whole new theme was introduced. The News Of The World was revealed by Rebekah Brooks to be a crusading journal, focused only on protecting children and the rights of soldiers, a paragon of what newspapers should be. But the transformation hadn’t been justified by anything that had gone before, so it lacked conviction.

That’s what this show needs more of. Conviction. Preferably several.

Let Watson At Him, Dammit!

They’re not letting Tom Watson at him again. He was the only one who managed to put pressure on the Murdochs. Now they’re being let do their prepared statement stuff once more. It’s nearly a free commercial for them.

Funny – Murdoch seemed to really perk up after the attack. I guess the adrenalin did him the power of good.

That Pie In Full

Who owns this? No idea

First LulzSec last night, now a comedian attacking an old man with a pie, making the Murdochs at least 10% more sympathetic. Anarchists not helping.

Though James did help undo it a little with “The terrible, terrible incidence of voicemail interception around… whatshername.”

Nicola Blackwood is fairly impressive, but her cuteness makes me feel like we’re only looking at her larval stage.