Saturday, 30 April 2011

Irreconcilable differences / Relics of the third rank

Relics of the third rank are of two categories. The first category is a piece of cloth touched to a first or second class relic of a saint. The second category is a piece of cloth that has been touched to a shrine of the saint. It is permitted to be sold without a charge of simony.

How does an institution hold two incompatible and irreconcilable concepts simultaneously? Paul Dinter’s eschatological analysis of his present predicament is as follows:

“For when colleges become self-interested market actors, they join the societal shift away from fostering the communitarian values that even Adam Smith, the Apostle of capitalism, saw as a necessary counterbalance to a freewheeling market economy. In his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith called for counterbalancing our natural ambition and competitive striving with an empathetic observing conscience. He called this agent of balance an "impartial spectator" that would help guarantee a decent society in which the products of individual labor could be fairly traded. For left up to nature alone, the laboring classes drift toward indentured servitude, unable to bargain for or receive the fair exchange for their service that befits moral decency.”

Who is this impartial spectator and can he worship both God and Mammon? Another liquid asset of the church as outlined on the Medieval Blood Relics website:

“The relic of the Holy Blood was brought to Bruges by Thierry of Alsace in the 12th century after the Second Crusade. The blood is preserved on a cloth claimed to have washed the body of the dead Christ as related in one of the apocryphal gospels. Popular legend ascribes the origins of the relic to Jerusalem however it was more likely looted from Constantinople during the sack of the city in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. The relic is encased inside a rock crystal phial decorated with gold coronets.

The relic was extremely important to Bruges’ cultural and religious history. The Basilica of the Holy Blood, where the relic is kept, was a popular pilgrimage destination and pilgrims were granted indulgences by the Pope for visiting the relic. The relic is also the centerpiece of the Procession of the Holy Blood that occurs every year since 1303 on Ascension Day. The parade is one of the largest religious celebrations in Belgium and the arrival of the relic to the city and various Biblical narratives are reenacted throughout the festivities. Although the blood is normally congealed, the relic is said to liquefy once a year on this day.”

It certainly is an asset to the town in both the monetary sense and as a physical manifestation of the pilgrim’s belief. Zizek would say that the truth of the ideology (belief) lies in what it practices rather than its doctrinal statements and its ultimate goal is to “secure and defend the idea of the polity as a wholly unified community.” This is true for Bruge in spite of its fundamental fantasy of a perennial liquefaction of the relic. It’s also true for Manhattan College when the administrators deny a fundamental injustice within the institution in order to maintain its ethical ideal as a cohesive socially responsive community in the tradition of LaSalle. Zizek would point to the variety of logically inconsistent responses to the adjuncts united only in the desire to establish the greater good (and the material reward to the bureaucrats) and apply Freud’s kettle logic to the situation. Freud described a story in which a person borrowed a kettle and returned it broken. The borrower would then offer a number of logically inconsistent reasons for not compensating the owner such as it was already broken, he didn’t really borrow it and it’s not really broken. The only unifying theme is the desire not to pay the owner. The only unifying theme in the college is the desire not to lose control of the employees. The moral code is subordinate to the general social construct of a deregulated free market economy. Dinter makes a plea based on a prior societal construct which is not acknowledged by the institution although that is its nominal mandate. I think that when the Roman Catholic Church transitioned from the feast day of Joseph the worker to Divine Mercy Day it signified a physiological shift from the temporal concerns of the people to a pious abstraction divorced from reality. This has real consequences for a moral force independent of the current political dialogue in which we find ourselves. Good luck to Mr. Dinter.

He’ll need it because last Wednesday the U. S. Supreme court allowed AT&T to use the fine print of contracts to eliminate class action law suits in AT&T v. Concepcion. According to an article in the Hufferington Post by David Arkush, this flouts the laws of 20 states.

“The case's potential impact is breathtaking. Corporations can now prevent consumers and small business owners from exercising what is often their only real option for challenging companies that defraud them by millions or even billions of dollars: banding together to file class action lawsuits. The case could be equally devastating to millions of non-union employees, who need class actions to challenge systemic discrimination by their employers. The Supreme Court has given major corporations the green light to engage in nearly limitless wrongdoing against others, so long as they do it in relatively small dollar amounts, which ensures that no one can afford to challenge the misconduct without a class action.

A sudden demise of class actions will shock the markets and the legal system. It will dramatically increase the market power of major corporations over ordinary Americans and small business owners, who are already outmatched. Innumerable laws that protect the public will become irrelevant because few people can enforce them.”

I’m glad that I live in Canada.

Irreconcilable differences / Relics of the second rank

Relics of the second rank are items or pieces of an item used by a Saint while on his/her body such as clothing or other personal religious artefacts. These also cannot be sold but donations to the benefactor for the glory of the church may be given in receipt of the items.

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower.”   Karl Marx (1843)

In 1813, Victor Hugo wrote the novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and he named the Hunchback Quasimodo because the character in the novel had been found by the Archdeacon of the cathedral, Frollo on the steps of the church on Low Sunday and Frollo subsequently names the baby after the Latin introit for the day. The Latin name is also a play on words because the word “quasi” means almost and “modo” means the standard measure so the hunchback is almost the standard measure of a man. Two other main characters are Esmeralda, the vain object of Quasimodo’s affections and Captain Phoebus, the handsome but shallow and self-centered object of Esmeralda’s desire.  Quasimodo symbolically in the novel shows Esmeralda the difference between himself and Captain Phoebus . He places two vases in her room: one is a beautiful crystal vase, yet broken and filled with dry, withered flowers; the other a humble pot, yet filled with beautiful, fragrant flowers.  For me this captures the difference between the beatification of the deceased pope today and the celebration of Labour Day by workers.

I think that in the church’s haste to sanctify the deceased pope they choose to ignore his involvement with the sexual abuse scandals that occurred during his tenure and the relationship with the Argentine junta as I outlined in my Good Friday post. The Vatican has always maintained that the beatification process is a declaration of having lived a life worthy of emulation rather than a complete summarization of his pontificate including his various policy decisions affecting the daily operations of the institution of the church. The Church’s position is that they cannot make a saint but only ratify his intercessory power in heaven as indicated by the occurrence of miracles associated with his name or relics.

On Labour Day while workers are concerned about their monetary liquid assets, the church is mindful of another type of liquid asset. After the pope’s death, four vials of his blood mixed with an anti-coagulant were collected. These are considered by the church to be relics of the first rank. Two of the vials were given to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late pope’s private secretary and current archbishop of Krakow, Poland. The other two vials were given to the nuns at the Bambin Gesu hospital in the Vatican. One of the nuns’ vials was placed in an ornate reliquary constructed by the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations for display at the beatification service today. For me this is the crystal vase of Victor Hugo’s novel.

There were also relics of the second rank created when fragments of a cassock worn by the pope were attached to a holy card inscribed with a prayer to “obtain graces through the intercession of John Paul II.” The Vicarate of Rome which runs the operation solicited donations from an estimated 100,000 recipients to cover the costs of shipment and production with any surplus going towards the expenses of the sanctification process for John Paul II. These relics are referred to as ex indumentis, meaning cloth that the late Pope touched. The Vatican dodged a claim of simony by saying it was not a commercial operation. Simony is the crime of selling relics and is named after Simon Magus in the Acts of the Apostles 8:18-24 where he offers to buy the power of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands from the disciples.

Now we get to the disjunction between the magesterium and the practice of the church with its various institutions. There was a post on Inside Higher Education website on this Easter Monday by Paul Dinter, adjunct professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, a Catholic university in New York. He was making a moral statement on the contradiction between the historical social justice mandate of the college and its current efforts to forestall the right of its adjunct academic staff to form a union through the use of legal challenges. If the service in Rome today is the crystal vase then this is the humble pot. He writes:

“Thus "solidarity" for workers has been seen as a natural, moral outgrowth of the ancient Christian notion of koinonia, of "communion" that helps us overcome our natural tendency to self-serving individualism. At least that is the way that Karol Wojtyła saw it, and, when he became Pope John Paul II, he programmed that notion into the body of social teaching that began to develop 90 years earlier with Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum ("On Revolutions") back in 1891.

In John Paul’s own encyclical Laborem Exercens ("On Human Work"), he made it clear that in the historical conflict between labor and employers, the Catholic Church has always held to the principle of the priority of labor. This follows from the moral orientation of capital, or private equity, to the common good, a principal that nonprofit organizations have often exempted themselves from as if the lack of a formal profit motive removed them from the exigencies of social justice.

But in setting out the rights of workers, then, the pope also wrote of the social evil of underemployment when workers do not receive the kind of payment for their labor that allows them to maintain a family and provide for some future security. And in this context, he explicitly promoted the right of association by which workers could form unions, a right he broadly construed because he wanted to assure that social justice and  common good be promoted as widely as possible.”

How does an institution hold two incompatible and irreconcilable concepts simultaneously? John Paul II wrote the quoted encyclical on the primacy of labor and yet pandered to an Argentine junta totally at odds with his beliefs to the extent of seemingly ignoring the murder of two activist bishops. The institution to which Paul Dinter belongs believes itself to be continuing and inculcating the traditions of Roman Catholic educational pioneers such as Ignatius Loyola or John Baptiste de La Salle and yet buys into the prevailing neo liberalist philosophy which is on the other end of the ethos spectrum.

Marx would talk about false conscience. Ideas would be perceived to be true through the power of argument accorded to accepted experts who were really in the thrall of those who benefited materially from the status quote. Anti union sentiment is valid and contributes to the mandate of the college because it furthers the notional moral framework of the college through more efficient use of its labor force. The college administrators would not be aware of the apparent contradictions. Slavoj Zizek in the footsteps of German political theorist Sloterditj would insist that the true state is an “ideological cynicism” where the voluntary consent of contestable situations is contracted through a conscience acceptance of conditions which are known to be at odds with one’s notional moral framework but is cynically accepted to further one’s ultimate objectives.  The saving of souls from damnation in South America by anti clerical leftist and communists outweighs the present loss of both clergy and laity through the predations of a murderous junta. The oppression of the employees of a social justice college is outweighed by the ability to reach more potential student seekers and thus achieve the greater good of the institutional community.

Irreconcilable differences / Relics of the first rank

Relics of the first rank are the body or parts of the body of a Saint. If anyone sells such a relic they are guilty of simony and are subject to immediate excommunication under Canon law 1190 (1983).

Today, May 1 is Labour Day. In the Church it is also called Low Sunday being the octave day of Easter and for this particular day, the moment of beatification for Pope John Paul II at a ceremony in Rome celebrated by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI and witnessed by a million pilgrims. The irreconcilable differences in the title are between the secular world and the world of sacred as expressed in its magisterium or accepted churchly teachings of historical record as opposed to its practice.

World Workers, whatever may bind ye,
This day let your work be undone:
Cast the clouds of the winter behind ye,
And come forth and be glad in the sun.
Now again while the green earth rejoices
In the bud and the blossom of May
Lift your hearts up again, and your voices,
And keep merry the World's Labour Day.
These are the first two stanzas of a poem written By Walter Crane in 1894 rejoicing in the Labour Day festivities. The first May Day celebration for workers was a work stoppage by 200,000 people around the United States in 1886 adopted as a protest to obtain an anticipated eight hour working day. The International Workers Congress held in Paris on July 14, 1889 decided on this date as a celebration for workers around the world and it has been an annual event. Also July 14th is Bastille Day in France and the birth date of my twin daughters so I guess that they’ll be little revolutionaries. Today the movement is on the defensive and the last embers of collective bargaining are being stuffed out in America and perhaps in Canada under the tutelage of Stephen Harper by the conservative attacks of right wing politicians and their corporate backers. According to ctblogger on the leftnutmeg blog this is evidenced even in historically union friendly Massachusetts yesterday:

“House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns.

The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labour to oppose any reduction in workers' rights. “

The present mainstream ideology in North America is neo Liberalism and the laissez faire doctrines of the past have been replaced by more technical sounding terminology such as the efficient market hypothesis. Old wine in new bottles! Economists are the new theologians of the market place and presume that economics are eternal and external laws like gravity instead of the consequences of human decisions and behaviour. Although these propositions and paradigms have taken a beating in the last recession they remain in vogue with the chattering classes.  A thousand right wing think tanks churn out new aphorisms such as tax burden implying that taxes have no tangible value and infer that the interests of the employees are aligned with those of the employer in spite of economic statistics which prove the contrary. Class warfare is so yesterday. A corporate mass media reformulates the struggles of the majority of the population within consensus positions and discourse boundaries defined by those who benefit from the current situation and disseminated by their appointed augurs on national television.

Low Sunday is the octave or eighth day of Easter. It is called Low because it is considered part of the great Easter feast but of lower degree. The liturgical name is Dominica in albis depositis(Lt) because the newly baptized on Easter Day or neophytes lay down their white robes for the first time signifying their transition to full members of the congregation and the end of Easter. Some denominations call it Pascha clausum (Lt) or the close of Passover. In the Roman Catholic church it is referred to as Quasimodo Sunday from the first two words in Latin of the introit, short for Antiphona ad Introitum or response to the entrance of the clergy, at mass “Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite (As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile) and makes a general allusion to renewal through the resurrection of Jesus. Traditionally this Sunday had been known as the feast day of Saint Joseph the worker implying the solidarity of the Church with the common man but the day has been observed since 2000 in the Roman Church as “Divine Mercy Sunday” an association with a 20th century Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, who was a visionary and mystic to whom the beatified John Paul II had a strong personal devotion.

Finally today is the day on which the beatification of Pope John Paul II takes place in Rome. His papacy lasted 27 years and he died inflicted with Parkinson’s disease on 2 April, 2005. At his death his mourners insisted “Santo subito! – Sainthood now.”  His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the typical five-year waiting period before the process of beatification could begin, but insisted that the investigation into John Paul's life be thorough although the final conclusion was for all intents and purposes preordained.  This waving of the usual waiting period was based on “imposing fame for holiness” and “the common canonical dispositions were integrally observed.” As far as I can see this was based on his recorded saintly life – good intentions and daily self flagellation based on books published since his death.  This corporal mortification or abusing one’s body to identify with Christ’s suffering is a method to resist temptation and develop in spirituality. This is the fastest beatification ever recorded, six years after his death and beating Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003 by a few days. Beatification, the first step towards sainthood, requires one miracle usually healing which is complete, instantaneous and durable (lasting). The said miracle occurred  when a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease in 2001 was cured after her order prayed to John Paul II and she wrote the Pope’s name on a piece of paper before bed. On waking in the morning she was healed. This was thoroughly investigated by the appropriate councils of the church hierarchy and found to be medically inexplicable and to meet the predefined canonical conditions of a miracle.

At this stage, he can be called “Blessed.”  Before he can be a Saint, another miracle must be documented.  This would provide the proof that John Paul II is in heaven and capable of interceding for those requesting his help. Some dissenters have suggested that the excessive haste in the process is due to the political and doctrinaire aspirations of his successors in the church hierarchy.  They are certainly in the conservative and reactive camp of the late pope especially since most of them were appointed during his long pontificate. The change in this Sunday liturgical identification from the feast of St Joseph the worker to Divine Mercy Sunday is reflective of a transition in the church from identification with the common people to a more pious ethereal reflection which was increasingly entertained by John Paul II over the span of his papacy.


Friday, 29 April 2011

Oh Canada!

The CBC or the Communist Broadcasting Company as the Conservative Party refers to it had the following comment on April 5, 2011:

"Awish Aslam, a second-year political science student at the University of Western Ontario, told CBC News she and a friend were trying to attend a Sunday rally with Harper when they were asked to leave by an RCMP officer.

Aslam said they were led to the lobby where the officer told them they were no longer welcome because they had ties to the Liberal party. Aslam said the only explanation was her Facebook profile photo showing her posing for a picture with Ignatieff at a recent Liberal rally in London."

You can’t go to a Conservative party event unless you have complete ideological purity. The article also said the following:

“Aslam said she had to pre-register for the Conservative event Sunday, which is how the party had her name and that her friend's father, who is a Conservative party member, helped them fill out the online form to get on the list.

Aslam said she wanted to hear directly from all the main party leaders and had also attended a rally with NDP Leader Jack Layton. While Aslam, 19, said she has no political affiliations and has not made up her mind on who she will vote, she did say she did do a few days of volunteering for the provincial NDP when she was 16.”

The following video is an official Conservative election ad – Canada, White people and aboriginals only. He should come to my neighborhood. The election is only a few days away and it’s time to toss Harper and all his right wing buddies out!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Parlez-vous français?

Not anymore in Louisiana. Yesterday the state board of reagents decided to slash foreign language degrees in their universities:

More than 100 academic degree programs will be eliminated state-wide for not graduating enough students, the Louisiana Board of Regents decided Wednesday.

Nearly 200 more academic programs will be consolidated or shaped into new programs, under the plan approved by the board that sets policy for the state’s public colleges and universities. Southern University has the most degree programs being directly terminated, with 13 degrees lost, including its Spanish and French bachelor’s degrees, the Regents determined

Alongside other cuts at Grambling State University, no public historically black college in the state will offer a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language once the programs are phased out. That adds to other state-wide reductions in foreign language degree offerings the past two years.

“The consequences are dire,” said Southern foreign languages professor Thomas Miller, who unsuccessfully argued, “We are in the process of turning the program around.”
This seems strange to me considering that the state has a high concentration of both Creoles and Cajuns. Louisiana Creole people are descended from French and Spanish colonial settlers in Louisiana. Cajuns are the descendants of the Arcadian or Free French in the Canadian Maritime provinces who were neutral during the French and Indian Wars (1754 - 1763) and expelled to Louisiana. Both groups have a dialect of French and in recent years there has been a resurgence in its use after a long period of forced assimilation and the sole use of English in local schools. The economic consequences of their cultures to Louisiana has been substantial so eliminating  language degree programs is puzzling to me even under the rubric of efficiency and cost containment.

Arizona: heart of darkness

”Both chambers of the Arizona legislature have passed a bill that, if signed by Governor Jan Brewer (R), would remove the name Balbir Singh Sodhi from Arizona's 9/11 memorial and sell his plaque for scrap metal.

Sodhi was shot to death four days after 9/11 by a man who later told police he wanted to take revenge on the people responsible for 9/11. He picked Sodhi because of his Sikh turban. Like most practitioners of the Sikh religion, Sodhi was from India, not the Middle East.”

The above quote is from the Hufferington Post in an article on April 28, 2011 by Dawn Tao. Sodhi, a gas station attendant in Meza Arizona, was killed by a man who mistook him for an Arab because of his turban. Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh (R) who sponsored the bill (HB2230) is also a friend of J.T. Ready and the Arizona National Socialist Movement or NSM which is the local branch of a neo Nazis party. Shown below is a video of their annual Arizona parade in 2009 with the state representative present at the rally around the 1.07 minute point.

Those Unions

My mother who is a Tory and thinks that if you got rid of unions everything would be fine with the world got this Conservative fundraising material in her mail this week.

The lies that the Liberals are spreading about the Conservatives are 1) they want to replace public schools with vouchers and charter schools, 2) bust teacher's unions and 3) reduce the current teacher's compensation package with a lower "more affordable" package. The problem is that the last time the Conservatives were in power during Mike Harris' common sense revolution they tried to do all three and failed. I remember being in one of the largest demonstrations  against the cuts in Ontario history at the time. In general the Conservatives want to mimic the current situation in the States.  I wonder why Canada ranks number four in the world for education and America ranks 17th?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we treat teachers better in many ways. Of course the States isn't resting on its laurels. Why be 17th when you can aim for 30th which they will achieve after they've pushed through all of their present plans. Its hard to be a superpower when a good percentage of your population is functionally illiterate.

The material talks about the extra $3 million dollars that the campaign will spend on advertising for promotion of the Liberals. In the states where the next presidential election is estimated to cost about a billion dollars that's pin money. Hudak's main mantra is tax cuts which is the Conservative solution to every problem.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Born in the USA

Obama's Original Birth Certificate

Now that Obama’s original long form birth certificate has been released the question arises has there been an American president who was foreign born? The answer is maybe. Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) who was a Republican and the 21st president of the United States (1881 – 1885) was supposedly born in North Fairfield, Vermont on October 5, 1830 but he had changed his date of birth from 1829 to 1830. His early records had also disappeared in a fire.

Arthur P. Hinman, a lawyer, wrote a popular book in 1882 titled, “How a British Subject became President of the United States”. An article published June 2, 1884 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle gives the gist of the book:

The main charge of the book is that William Chester Alan Arthur was born in Dunham Flats, Canada, on [sic] March, 1828, and that he represented himself to have been born at North Fairfield, Vermont, the birthplace of a younger brother, Chester Abell Arthur, who was born in 1830, and died a year later. It is stated that in 1834 when another son was born he received the name of William Arthur, Jr., and then the name William was dropped by William Chester Alan Arthur, and he was henceforth known as Chester Alan Arthur. The records, copies of which are given, show that in 1845 Chester Alan Arthur entered Union College, stating his age to be 16.

His father became a naturalized citizen 14 years after he was born so Arthur could claim dual citizenship of Canada and the United States.

He became President on September 19, 1881 since he was Vice-President after President Garland died from injuries inflicted in a prior assassination attempt by Charles Guiteau. During his tenure he signed a ten year Chinese exclusion law after vetoing a twenty year version and refused to overturn “Jim Crow” laws that prevented Afro Americans from voting. On the positive side he is considered the father of the American Civil service moving the appointments from patronage to examinations.

Chester Alan Arthur - 21st President of the United States, Canadian

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Monday

Church Altar with Easter Lilies

It's raining outside so I thought that I would describe my Easter Sunday. I got up about 6:30 and arrived at my parish church for the 8 am service.  The lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) decorating the alter are traditional. After the service I went to a champagne breakfast in the basement. Easter represents the end of Lent which is a forty day period of fasting and penance so we like to have a big feast(s) on Sunday.

Church Champagne Breakfast
In the afternoon I went to where my kids live and had Easter dinner which consists of  potatoes, asparagus, lamb with garlic and lemon, carrots, brussel sprouts and pavlova with berries and cream for dessert. Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlo during her tour in New Zealand. We had a Moscato d'Asti from the Piedmont region in Italy for wine. Moscato d'Asti is sparkling white wine produced mainly in the province of Asti, north-west Italy.

Easter dinner


Friday, 22 April 2011

Quebec Conservative Election Ad

Immigrants. Who needs them?

Here's an Conservative attack ad used by the Harper campaign for Quebec in the current general election.

Good Friday

A missing witness to the death of a Roman Catholic bishop during Argentina’s military dictatorship was found safe early Thursday after unknown people took him hostage and warned him to back down from testifying in an inquiry into the death, the witness’s lawyer said on Thursday.  The witness, Víctor Martínez, 52, had been missing since Monday afternoon and the Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had ordered the country’s security forces to try to find him, fearing he could be killed. “New York Times

This week a bit of the past returned. On the day when we remember the suffering of Christ in services around the world, let’s also remember the suffering of los  desaparecidos and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina after the 1976 coup d’état that resulted in the installment of  the military junta called Proceso de Reorganización Nacional which ruled  from 1976 to 1983. On July 11, 1977, Mr. Martínez was the sole witness when Bishop Carlos Horacio Ponce de León was killed in a purported accidental automobile crash.  He survived the crash and was tortured at the direction of the junta for information on the bishop’s activities with respect to discovering the final destination of political dissidents who disappeared after the coup. The previous year Bishop Enrique Angelli who was also an activist had died in a suspicious car accident. Other church activists including two French nuns were also killed by the regime.

‘The Advocate,’ 17 June 1982

The Vatican was always reticent about the regime considering it a bulk ward against South American leftist anticlericalism and communism. The Argentine papal nuncio Archbishop Pio Laghi maintained support for the junta among the local clergy and represented the tacit acceptance by the Vatican for its human rights abuses including the murder of Roman Catholic clergy and laity.  He later became a Cardinal and was close friends with Admiral Emilio Masse who was convicted in 1999 for trafficking in babies and children during his tenure as one of the leaders of the regime.  According to Hugh O'Shaughnessy in an Independent newspaper obiturary, Emilio was instrumental under Washington’s tutelage in the development of Plan Cóndor, a collaborative scheme to co-ordinate the terrorism being practiced by South American military régimes against dissidents of all strips. In 1982 just before the fall of the regime Pope John Paul made a special papal visit to Argentina in order to bolster the relationship between the Vatican and the junta. In an article by T. Crosthwaite, 2010 from, “The head of the Argentine Church, Cardinal Aramburu, refused to receive the relatives of those who had disappeared.  He also allowed federal police to go into his cathedral to clear out the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who had taken refuge there.  Another is that of Father Christian von Wernich, a police chaplain during the period of the “dirty war,” who was convicted of complicity in multiple murders, abduction and torture.  At the trial of Father Wernich, which took place in 2007, Father Ruben Capitanio, also a Roman Catholic priest, accused his Church of being “scandalously close to the dictatorship” during the “dirty war.”

‘The Advocate,’ 17 June 1982

Good Friday is about the Roman and Jewish establishments’ attempt to silence Jesus by the power of the state through crucifixion and yet in the centuries since the Passion of Jesus the Church has condoned the abuses of power by the state to maintain its position.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Skjærtorsdag (II)

School Teachers at the demonstration

On the local level, a Rouge Valley National Park of approximately 10,000 acres is about to be created. This will be the first near urban wilderness park in Canada and accessible by car or public transit in under an hour from Toronto. The Rouge Park Alliance wants to add another 5,000 acres but the Conservative candidate, Paul Calandra, wants to preserve the land for farm production by reducing the park to a much smaller size than even the original concept. I suspect that he really wants to allow his real estate constituents to develop the land for housing. As Oscar Wilde said, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing"

 I don’t want Canada to imitate America and I believe that the States is on a path to a Mexican style of governance where a plutocracy of wealthy families in conjunction with a political oligarchy controls the majority of the net worth of the country and the political process. Obama is a one term president and will triangulate himself into oblivion. The current Republican frontrunner according to the polls is Donald Trump who struts about like a Manhattan Mussolini.  He’s going to make the trains run on time but as for the middle class, “You’re fired!”  In a Washington Post article on Tuesday, columnist Richard Cohen reported about a 1990 Vanity Fair profile story which revealed Ivan Trump told her divorce lawyer that her husband read a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order” which he kept in a cabinet by his bed. The majority of American society will be poor, desperate and crime ridden. A necessary but not sufficient precondition for this situation to occur in America is the diminution of critical reasoning which the loss of tenure for academics, a major current thrust, would accentuate. The political discourse in America has been reduced to a series of logical tautologies (in the original Greek sense) and non-sequiturs packaged into sound bites.  A more appropriate term for the Right’s game plan is a coalescence of parallel interests rather than a conspiracy and the role of the low information voter as the central actor is critical. Education is not synonymous with job training as both the Republicans and Democrats infer. Just to give you an example the Tea party loves Trump and hates taxes. Donald says he wants to put a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. A tariff is a form of value added tax which is passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices so he is really creating a massive increase in taxes.
This is where I segue into the plodding and pedantic section. With respect to political voting heuristics, there are three basic methodologies for the analysis of voter preference using inductive, deductive and reductive reasoning. A person who makes a “choice based on reductive statements” is using reductive reasoning- an attempt to explain a complex effect through a simple cause. Let’s call this the Harper school of voter preference since I can’t find anyone in the literature that ascribes to this point of view except to use it as a foil. The second paper which I referenced ( Conservatism as a closed belief system - I’ll get to this in another post) uses deductive reasoning on the part of the voters since they apply general principles, the core conservative ideology to reach specific conclusions based on the particular situation and disposition “to manage uncertainty and threat.” There is a school of thought that uses inductive reasoning in voter preferences. Lupia and McCubbins in the book “The Democratic Dilemma” : Cambridge University Press (1998) use inductive reasoning, a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances using a traffic light analogue. The following is from a wiki summary:
“Driving through an intersection would require perfect information about where all the other cars are going, but we use a traffic signal as a substitute for all this information. We can still make a rational, reasoned choice without perfect information. In politics, we frequently hear that people (voters especially) lack the information required to make good decisions; this criticism has led to serious critiques of democracy. Yet politics has much in common with this traffic signal: "Using similar logic, it follows that limited information precludes reasoned choice only if people appear to be stuck at complex political intersections and lack access to effective political traffic signals" (page 12, in chapter 1). This book's main claim is that people do have access to "effective political traffic signals."
If you know about Latino culture, you’ll like the following quote:
“This is largely a formalization and experimental analysis of Popkin's (1994) arguments about cue-taking and information shortcuts. For example, Popkin uses the vignette of Gerald Ford's ignorance of how to eat tamale. As Lupia and McCubbins point out, it is significant that this gaffe didn't hurt Ford everywhere, only among those voters who (1) knew how to eat tamale and (2) connected ignorance of Latino culture with ignorance of Latino issue concerns.”
The debate on deductive versus inductive reasoning for voter preferences continues to this day with no clear winner. I find that the deductive school is more apocalyptic and pessimistic about the future than the inductive school which is more populist and positive about “low information voters.” I suppose this could explain why the academics in the deductive school had their federal grants cut after the relevant authorities on Capitol Hill read their report. Subtext comparisons to Stalin and Pinochet don’t play well with Conservatives. One of the “effective political traffic signals” is university professors. If you can control them by eliminating tenure then you gone a long way to controlling the political process. How much humility and altruism was displayed by the academic bureaucrats who fired Princeton University Spanish teacher Antonio Calvo? The bald truth is very little.

I think that a few examples would be useful at this point.
Stockwell Day, the Canadian minister of corrections, stated in June of 2010 that it would be necessary to spend billions of dollars on correction facilities due to an increase in unreported crime. If the crime is unreported then how can anyone draw conclusions as to a change in the volume of crime?
The Conservative government in Canada eliminated the long census form for 2011. If the census data doesn’t support the assertions on which you base your policies then eliminate the census. I’ll argue my anecdotal evidence and ideological stance against your anecdotal evidence and ideological stance!
Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School. He is one of the luminaries who support the slashing of federal government spending in America to reduce the long term debt. An unstated effect of this policy would be an increase in the income disparity of the wealthy with the rest of society. In a recent conference, he argued his point on the fact that a linear projection of the current increase in debt implies that by the year 2080 the total debt would be three and a half times the GDP of the country and the Interest payments alone would absorb the entire federal budget. The math is impeccable but anyone who makes a seventy year linear projection is either a fool or disingenuous. 
In recent TV commentaries (not just Fox news), President Obama is presented as a secret Muslim with socialist aspirations who is simultaneously a corporate lackey and a tool of big business. The Donald says he was really born in Kenya. What can I say?
I don’t have a problem with people who make these statements. They’re only trying to advance their own agendas and I suppose it could be argued that I’m cherry picking in order to advance my thesis. I do have a problem with people who have the responsibility to their profession to query these assertions instead of soft ball questions and rapt attention. Pollsters say that CNN’s rating are dropping because it relies on facts rather than staking out an ideological stance and having more opinion. For 2011 the number one cable news channel in America is “fair and balanced” Fox news.
 I’m a science guy rather than humanities person but I do have analogues. In undergraduate school, I remember that the dosage levels for drugs were implied to have been handed down from God or in more measured form that the pharmaceutical companies had done their “due diligence” and based their dosage range on careful, extensive and statistically valid studies.  Later on in life I discovered that a lot of these ranges had been based on the results derived from studies on a rather small group of white, healthy, middle class males. When your non white, sickly, poor female did not show the expected response to the dosage, it was not biological variability or patient non compliance but a normal aspect of a systemic faulty analysis of the data. The patient in this case is the body politic and we desperately need people to objectively analysis the situation and offer solutions to very important questions which go beyond the usual boundaries of academia. On this day of reflection the world of Harper and Trump has no humility or altruism.

Final Comment

Skjærtorsdag (I)

Leonardo da Vinci’s (Italian, 1452-1519) painting of the Last Supper
Denne dagen skulle Jesus holde påskemåltid sammen med disiplene. Det var den vanlige måten å feire påske på for jødene, de holdt måltid på samme måte som Israelsfolket hadde gjort den første påsken i Egypt over tusen år tidligere.

This day would Jesus eat the Passover with his disciples. It was the usual way to celebrate Easter with the Jews; they were eating the same way that the people of Israel had done the first Passover in Egypt over a thousand years earlier.

I thought that I would start this post on Maundy Thursday with a little Norwegian language quote because I’ve been in Norway, Thursday comes from a Norse word meaning Thor’s day and finally it would create curiosity. Today is a holiday in Norway but not in Sweden so they do the same thing that all good consumers do and go shopping. They have an annual trek to the shopping malls in Sweden called harrytur where towns like Strömstad have huge sales of alcohol and tobacco which is much more expensive in Norway. It’s a bit like Torontonians travelling to the discount malls in Buffalo, New York except they forage in Sweden with all the rapacity of Vikings pillaging coastal towns in the Middle Ages.  Skjærtorsdag is deconstructed into Skjær (“cut”) and torsdag (“Thursday”). This is because it was customary for men to cut their beards on this day since spring was coming and the weather was getting warmer. In Sweden it is associated with the day of witches where young children dress as witches and knock on doors for candy.

Maundy Thursday is used in the Anglican Church and originated with the Latin word “mandatum” which comes from the first word in the Latin translation of the Gospel of John (13:34) bible verse. “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you") was spoken by Jesus at the last supper. The washing of feet to represent humility is part of the service. This is the point at which I shift for a moment to Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” where he hypothesizes about various aspects of the Last Supper picture. Is John on the right of Jesus really Mary Magdalene? The painting has faded, been washed during a flood and had a door cut in the bottom so it’s hard to judge. Folk have continued to bring up new ideas about the painting. One person suggested that the heads of the people in the painting are actually musical notes that when reversed in a mirror (Da Vinci would sometimes use mirror reversal) referred to a contemporary musical piece. The fallen saltshaker on the table could represent bad luck. Does the fish represent a reminder that several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen and Jesus grew up near Lake Tiberias?  Is the fish a herring or an eel?  The Italian word for eel is “aringa” and “arringa” means indoctrination and the word for herring is “renga” which means he who denies religion. We’ll always query symbolic codes in the painting.
The basic message is humility and altruism. Not popular with Steven Harper and the Conservative party in Canada’s current election campaign. If the Liberal party is the house of Hillel then the Conservative party is the house of Shammai. At least Shammai was faithful to the Law while the Harperites flout parliamentary tradition. Speaker of the house, Peter Milliken, made a ruling on contempt of parliament. This is the first time in Canadian history that a government has fallen due to a non confidence vote on this topic as well as in any of the 54 countries of the British Commonwealth. The wording is as follows:
That this House denounce the conduct of the government, its disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it did by justifying the Conservative Party's circumvention of the rules on election spending in the 2005-2006 election campaign, when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used public funds to solicit donations to the Conservative Party, when the Party used taxpayers’ money to finance a pre-election campaign under the guise of promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan, when it changed the wording in government communications to promote itself, when it showed that it is acceptable for a minister to alter a document and make misleading statements to the House, when it refused to provide a parliamentary committee with the costs of its proposals, and when it improperly prorogued Parliament.
A few comments: When a parliament is prorogued, between two legislative sessions, the legislature is still constituted and the prorogation causes all orders of the body such as bills and orders to be expunged. Prorogations are not recesses, adjournments, or holiday breaks from legislation, after which bills can resume exactly where they left off. Harper did this twice in one year to avoid contentious issues which is an inappropriate use of the procedure and flouts parliamentary tradition. This is a direct threat to democracy. I went to the anti prorogation demonstration in Toronto to publicly display my disapproval.
Myself at the Anti-prorogation demonstration

Harper has also announced his intention after the election to eliminate the public funding of parties’ electoral costs which amounts to approximately $2 per vote won in the previous election. He would like to adopt the American system where private funding by special interest groups and lobbies are so important and have a major effect on legislation to the detriment of public interest. If the Conservatives win a majority then they will try again to reverse the CRTC decision not to allow false or misleading information to be broadcast thus enabling Fox news north. The Prime Minister’s office also issued a directive this year that the phrase “Government of Canada” be replaced with “the Harper government” in all government communications so that citizens who have a marginal understanding of civics think it’s his government. We don’t elect Prime Ministers. We  elect members of parliament.
Part of a very large crowd at the demonstration

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Mountain

A beautiful video by Terge Sorgjerd taken on El Teide, the highest mountain in Spain. Must be seen in HD and full screen.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Ex deus

Holy Maximizer

People seem to be having fun with subsets of Rational Choice Theory these days. Rational Choice theory is a subset of Positive Choice Theory which says that a rational actor will act so as to maximize the satisfaction of its preferences. Positive Choice Theory and Rational Choice Theory do exist in the social sciences. I was hoaxed not too long ago by an article on Academic Choice Theory in Yves Smith’s blog which was detailed and convincing. The title was “Blacklisted Economics Professor Found Dead: NC Publishes his last letter” and you can read it here Now this has been applied to deities in an article “Posner on the Economics of Theology” which was supposedly written by the well known jurist, Richard Posner and posted by Lawrence Solum . You can find it here Since this is Holy Week you might like to have an irreverent moment with this one.  

Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding March

You have to see this royal parody of the JK wedding march video. For all you anglophiles.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Cum ramis palmarum

Outside my window today

Ingrediente Domino in sanctam civitatem, Hebraeorum pueri resurrectionem vitae pronuntiantes,  Cum ramis palmarum: Hosanna, clamabunt, in excelsis.  Cum audisset populus, quod Iesus veniret Ierosolymam, exierunt obviam ei. Cum ramis palmarum: Hosanna, clamabunt, in excelsis.

As our Lord entered the holy city, the Hebrew children, declaring the resurrection of life, with palm branches, cried out: Hosanna in the highest. When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they went forth to meet Him: With palm branches, cried out: Hosanna in the highest.

Palm Sunday. For me it means processioning at church, a gift of a palm cross, hot cross buns and snow. The last item is specific to today because we had a snow storm. Hot cross buns began in the middle ages when a part of the blessed host would be placed into buns and the cross was marked on the top to signify the host. The buns were sometimes nailed over the doorways of homes for good luck. Some people have elevated the palm cross into a form of mystical object but I just find it an interesting annual keepsake to remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem just a few days before His crucifixion. I have no reliquaries.  For clergy the palms are burned at the end of the day and the ashes preserved for next year’s Ash Wednesday.

The donkey was a symbol of peace and the laying of the palm leaves represented the arrival of a king. I wish that the American government would remember this symbol with respect to Cuba. Since 1962 there has been a total trade embargo and one consequence is that observant Cuban Jews lost their access to kosher items for Passover so each year groups in Canada would send these items as Maot Chitim (Wheat money) under an old Jewish custom of gathering wheat to provide the poor with matzoh. Maybe one day they’ll learn. Rabbi Hillel once said “He who refuses to learn deserves extinction.” I just hope that they embrace the true meaning of their traditions.

Free Association

One week. Three followers, 140 views and 19 posts are my stats. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Certainly it’s far from the Olympian heights of Clarissa’s quarter of a million views. I feel the weight of being writer, editor and publisher after having moved up the food chain from passive reader to commentator and finally blogger. I’m still trying to get a handle on “fair use.” Canada has civilized copy write laws where fifty years after an author’s death his oeuvre goes into the public domain and can be quoted at length which means I can quote Robert Service’s “Dangerous Dan McGrew” in its entirety but not Pablo Neruda’s “Epitalamio”. I wonder if the University of Texas which holds the copy write to Neruda’s estate would show some latitude. Last night I had a weird dream where I was Mikael Bloomkvist in Stieg Larsson’s book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and in court for using copy written material without permission.
Noticing that one of my readers is from Slovenia, is Slavoj watching over me like some misanthropic Grand Inquisitor waiting to throw me on some epistemological rack?  I plead guilty of cultural contamination rather than cultural capitalism.  Northrop Frye once said that reading is “like a picnic to which the author brings the words and the reader the meaning.” Trolling through Clarissa’s followers list to outline a profile of a potential reader, I’m just going to do my eclectic thing and see how things work out. In one of my preceding posts I used the word, progymnasmata which is a Greek word referring to a list of exercises to teach rhetoric. Not a common term but screw the Gunning fog index. You can have hamburgers and hot dogs at your picnic. I’m having duck rillette, ham, Bayonne prosciutto and escargots in puff pastry with leeks, cream, white wine and fresh herbs at mine.
Nothing demonstrates the decline of Western civilization more than the secularization of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. The 1898 edition is a feast of arcane religious subjects. The current edition is a pale reflection with all the really fascinating facts redacted. Have you ever heard of the Devil’s door? This was a small door in the north wall of church sanctuaries built during the nineteenth century which was opened during mass to let out the devil. Beats the hell out of Little Red Riding hood. I have found a multicultural substitute called “The Dictionary of Mythology” by J. A. Coleman. Opening it at random, I see Chonchonyi, a vampire demon in the lore of the Arauacanian people of South America followed by Chonguita, a Pacific island monkey girl who transformed into a beautiful woman after she married Pedro, a Filipino prince.
Doing restaurant reviews is a possibility. There are five thousand restaurants in Toronto covering every conceivable cuisine. There’s probably a Polynesian restaurant serving fake Marquesas Islands long pig. I’m trying to get an angle on my coming trip to Buffalo, New York.  According to the Toronto Star Canadians spend 20% more than their American counterparts for equivalent goods even though the Loonie is now worth $1.04 US. In July 2009 the Loonie was worth just $0.92 US but the spread was 6.8%. Sounds like it’s time to hit the discount shopping malls in Buffalo again. I dropped the original concept for my trip which was a parody of a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and considered a more monumental Dante’s Inferno allegory with the Maid of the Mist tourist boat travelling up the Niagara River transformed into Charon’s boat crossing the river Styx. It could certainly be a metaphor for the American rust belt - a sort of northern Macondo although I don’t think that García Márquez would appreciate the comparison. In 1900 Buffalo was the 8th largest city in America and the first to be lit by electricity. It called itself the City of Light and it’s hard to imagine that the current denizens eating Buffalo wings and watching another losing game by the Buffalo Bill’s football team had predecessors who made allusions to Paris – a decline from La Ville-Lumière to current situation where the city had lost 11% of its population in the last census and has one of the highest housing vacancies in the country. The real descent started when my childhood television hero Buffalo Bob on the “Howdy Doody” show got sick, went to Pioneer village and was replaced by Bison Bill who outsourced Clarabelle the cow to a Chicago meat packing plant. After that it was all downhill.

Buffalo Bob  R.I.P.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Parsing Progressives

Everything moves forward.

From a progressive blogger:
“I don't identify myself as a liberal because the word makes very little sense to me. It has been used in such a wide variety of contexts that its meaning has been diluted to the point where the term means everything and nothing. ... You go far enough to the left; you will arrive at the far right and vice versa.

This is why I'm neither a liberal nor a leftist. I define my political views as progressive. I prefer this term because it is the most obvious antonym to the opposing political position, which is conservative. As a progressive, I believe that change, transformation and innovation are inherent to human beings. Even as I'm writing this post, I am not the same person that I was when I started writing it. This is why I believe the conservative position to be untenable. You cannot "conserve" anything because everything changes. It just does. We cannot stop the flow of time just like we cannot hope to preserve any state of affairs indefinitely. Everything moves forward, and a political movement that disregards the nature of things to the extent that it believes in moving backwards or standing still is illogical and unreasonable.”
Your post seems to indicate that you view the political spectrum is a type of Moebius strip with the conservative and revolutionary ends forming a circular continuum. To parse your idea of a “progressive” believing in change versus a “conservative”, I would submit that “progressive” implies a gradual or incremental change while a “leftist” or revolutionary believes in sudden or catastrophic change. This doesn’t seem to fit the metaphor of circularity.
I think that we have to separate the substance of the political stance from the method used to achieve it. Since you’re channelling Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 – 475 BC) in your analysis of time and change, let’s use Aristotle’s three branches of rhetoric - deliberative, forensic, epideictic -  as a corollary to Liberal, Progressive and Conservative. The Liberal uses societal and moral ethics to persuade his audience; a Progressive uses systemic analysis for his argument; a Conservative uses epideictic or “praise and blame” rhetoric.  I find it amusing to observe Sarah Palin’s Alaska program on television as a form of progymnasmata in which to hone her skills for the future.

Church of Reason

Church of Reason (Kris Kuksi)

In chapter 30 of Robert Pirsig’s book, “Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance” he writes,
“Phaedrus, the wolf, yes, down from the mountains to prey on the poor innocent citizens of this intellectual community...The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based on not individual strength but upon individual weakness. What’s really demanded in the Church of Reason is not ability, but inability. Then you are considered teachable. A truly able person is always a threat.”

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is a 1996 huge opus by David Foster Wallace that presents a dystopian vision of North America in the near future. It has many characters with interwoven connections and one hundred pages of footnotes. The graphic representation below is map of the relationships between the characters. Oh what tangled web we weave.

                                                                                           (purchase a full size poster from Sam Potts)