Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Note to terrorists: Subscribe to USA Today

I'm on holiday at the moment and wasn't planning to do any posting, but I just had to say something about this.

This morning's USA Today's front-page lead, headlined "Airport Security Uses Talk as Tactic," describes how airport cops and TSA screeners are being taught to spot possible terrorists by their speech and body language.

A second article on page 3 then describes precisely the sorts of suspicious speech and actions Officer Plod is on the lookout for. Both articles are sourced from airport police, Customs and Border Protection and TSA officials.

Security? Do these dopes have the smallest idea of what their jobs are supposed to be about?

I'm no security expert either, but I know this much: you don't announce your tactics in public. It doesn't surprise me that politically appointed government hacks would be so ignorant, but I would have expected a little more discretion from professional police officers and airport security directors.

The security routine at airports is mostly a farce designed for public relations, to give the appearance of protection without the substance. Any serious airport security would involve extra screening for identifiable
Muslims or those whose records show they've traveled in Muslim countries. But that would mean running afoul of the dreaded ACLU (which, needless to say, also opposes using behavioral clues to decide who needs extra attention).

Think about this next time you put your hand luggage and shoes in those trays and raise your arms to be "wanded": the United States government would rather you were blown up in mid-air than offend the politico-religious group that is unquestionably the most likely to try to separate your infidel soul from your body.

Saturday, December 24, 2005



We interrupt this blog to bring you a news bulletin of temporary and, in the great scheme of things, very little importance.

I'll be away from Reflecting Light Control Center until January 1. Destination: Pasadena and Los Angeles. Blogging will resume shortly after we all toast the New Year.

I wish you a wonderful and spiritually uplifting Christmas, Hanukkah, day off, or whatever else you celebrate.

As always, I recommend checking out the sites listed in the sidebar to the right.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Painting spirit by numbers

matrix of multiples of four --- www.

Chryzode: Matrix of Multiples of Four

Mathematicians can find great beauty, even inspiration, in a mathematical formula. The greatest mathematician of antiquity, Pythagoras, was also a mystic.

Until recently I never could conceive how that was possible. Economics is supposed to be the dismal science, but I'd award the prize to math. A bunch of letters, numbers and signs -- pure essence of boredom.

Modern computing has changed the, er, equation. It's now possible to visualize mathematical ideas in color and simulated three dimensions. Wowie zowie!

Artistic view of 128 quaternionic Julia sets

Jean-Fran├žois Colonna: Artistic View of 128 Quaternionic Julia Sets

Or, check this out:

images of crystal growth based on simple cellular automaton rules with 8 nearest neighbors

Primordial Soup Kitchen: Images of Crystal Growth Based on Simple Cellular Automaton Rules With 8 Nearest Neighbors

Advanced mathematics, yes; but any old hippie of my generation will recognize it as the tribal folk art known as a God's Eye.

See the links for many more fascinating examples of computer-visualized mathematics.

The Web finally convinced me that computers were not inherently Satanic; the blogosphere made me a believer in online communities; and pictures like these suggest the truth of Arthur C. Clarke's famous aphorism: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Give them an inch, they'll take 2.54 centimeters

If you are planning to order a pizza in a European Union nation during 2009 or thereafter, paste this in your hat:
Pizza Hut are in the process of phasing in metric measurements for their 950 [European] restaurants in preparation for an EU ruling due to take effect from 2009 which says that pizzas must be sold in metric measurements instead of imperial. (Thanks to Neil Herron at Wonko's World.)
What could be more reasonable? The initiative, after all, came after 18 months of close study by the multi-lateral Pizza Standardization Commission, which swore in 44 witnesses whose testimony runs to 3,659 pages of closely spaced type. If nothing else, you could hardly expect a system of measurements called "imperial" to survive into the 21st century C.E. (itself an anachronism; events will soon be dated 2o E.U.E., etc., for European Union Era). If only our ancestors had had the foresight to call the system Emerging-World Multi-Cultural Units (EMUs), the mandarins in Brussels might not have gotten around to outlawing them until, maybe, 2015.

Given the urgency of the situation, the EU is taking a risk in allowing the present pizza measurements to be phased out gradually. But according to my highly placed sources, a last-minute behind-the-scenes effort by the European Coordinated Pizza Manufacturers and Distributors League (ECPMDL) pushed back the deadline by 60 days.

Certainly the pizza lobby felt hard done by. They pointed out the costs involved: re-sizing pans and ovens; a complete design re-think for advertising and point-of-sale collaterals; ordering new lettering for menu boards; and the person-hours required to remove the old letters and retrofit the new ones.

Nevertheless, the Pizza Standardization Commission concluded: "In today's highly competitive world, the nations of Europe must present a united front if we are to offer a counter-weight to the pizza-pricing power, or PPP, of the bloodthirsty screaming-fundamentalist Halliburton-ruled intelligent-design-loving United States of America."

There is no question that this move by Brussels represents a significant challenge to American PPP. I view with alarm the inchworm pace of metrification in the U.S., more than 30 years after President Jimmy ("I am the World") Carter told us to get with it as soon as we put our sweaters on.

In fact, the only new metrification moment I have experienced in years was when signs went up on Highway I-10 between Tucson, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, showing distances in kilometers. I can only surmise that this was part of a Federal Highways Program to ensure that illeg — excuse me, economic migrants from Mexico were not confused about their actual progress away from the border. A small step, but surely a harbinger of greater ones to follow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Look out below

The latest post, Apologia pro Blog Sua, appeared underneath two earlier ones. That surprised me, even freaked me out a little at first when I published it and didn't see it at the top. But I'd tinkered with it since yesterday before publishing it, and I realized that Blogger sorts postings by the time code for when you first save them as drafts, not when you publish them.

It doesn't matter, except I didn't want you to miss the latest entry thinking nothing new has appeared. So I invite you to scroll down to Apologia pro Blog Sua. Thanks.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Refracting light


This is a Hubble telescope photo of a dying star, which is emitting gas and dust, thus, refracting light. (Tip of the hat to Pastorius at Infidel Bloggers Alliance.)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork." (Psalms 19:1)

Yankees, go home

Iraq has had its third election in a year. That should now qualify it as a democracy. It meets Bush & Co.'s most recent definition of a success.

The United States's real success in Iraq took place some two and a half years ago, when Saddam Hussein's vicious regime was ended after a three-week invasion. It was a good thing to do and I'm proud of my country for doing it.

Ever since, President Bush has upheld one of the country's less admirable traditions, of winning a war and losing the peace. He and his advisors seem to have understood nothing about the psychology of the Middle East or about Islam. They assumed that once the Baathist government was no longer calling the tune, a grateful populace would hail the American liberators and the territory between the Tigris and the Euphrates would resemble the green and pleasant landscape inhabited by The Teletubbies.

When the Peaceable Kingdom didn't arrive on schedule, the rationale for the war and occupation morphed from taking down a threat to the United States to promoting democracy, the all-purpose solvent, the great Philosopher's Stone of history. While our very brave and extraordinarily skillful armed forces dodged (or failed to dodge) mortar fire and IEDs, as the casualty rate that had been minimal during the invasion began its agonizing rise, we applied to the Iraqis for their friendship. We tried to bring them together in one happy family. We rebuilt the country's infrastructure. The world's toughest fighting men and women were drafted as social workers riding in tanks. Some didn't make it home.

But we've won — we've hatched, officially, a democracy. We've accomplished all that we can accomplish. It's hubris to imagine that we have the power to instill in a people the power of self-government that it took the Anglosphere half a millennium to grow organically.

Not to say the Iraqis can't do it; I wish them the best. But we can't do it for them. The most we can do is create the outward framework of democracy. The spirit is something they'll have to develop themselves. If enough of them really want to, they will. If they don't understand or desire the idea of democracy, the state of mind it requires, then we can't inject it.

It's time to end the occupation. I don't want one more American life sacrificed for the fantastic notion of democracy all over the Middle East. If various different brands of Islam want to prong each other to win control, let them. We should probably welcome exactly that. Hasn't anyone among Bush's lineup of neocon bobbing heads ever heard of the maxim, "Divide and conquer"?

If the military strategists want it, we should establish permanent bases in Iraq. We should call the newly elected, democratically chosen, bright and shining leader of a liberated Iraq to drop by for a very private visit and listen to a valedictory speech. It would go something like this:

"Congratulations on your election victory, Mr. President. We're going to keep a couple of divisions and some Air Force units here so you won't miss us too much, but otherwise it's your show now. Feel free to call on us for advice, and come help yourself to our foreign aid, like most of the world.

"Oh, one other thing. If a little bird ever whispers in our ear that you are offering aid and comfort to al Qaeda or some such mob, we'll be having this conversation with your successor."

Apologia pro blog sua

Students of spiritual literature will recognize the title of this posting as a light reflection of Cardinal John Henry Newman's autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua. Cardinal Newman might well have felt the need to offer an apologia (which I think is best translated as "justification" rather than "apology"), as an Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism — not the done thing in 19th century England.

My only recent conversion involved swapping some dollars for pounds sterling at Heathrow Airport last March, but I've been feeling like I need to justify something about this blog.

The tagline says Reflecting Light is about spirituality, psychical research, politics, and the way we live now. Looking back over three months' worth (if they are worth anything) of postings, I see that politics has been overweighted.

That was never my intention. If anything, I expected to emphasize psychical research, which I've been following for many years and which seems to have hardly made a ripple in the blogosphere. It's also been all but ignored in our materialistic, pseudo-rationalist culture. So finding news or ideas about psychical research (or parapsychology, as the few professionals in the field tend to call it) is no cinch. The subject matter is there, but it can take some digging, even if you're reasonably au courant in this area, as I try to be.

As for spirituality, I hold that the search for the experience of God is the greatest and most important adventure there is. If people can write in blogs about their quest for the world's best ice cream or the latest gee-whiz technological toy, why shouldn't one's daily interaction with spirit be a fit subject?

Why not indeed. But it has been harder than I expected to find suitable subjects in the realms of either psychical research or spirituality that can be dealt with adequately in the relatively short length of a blog entry and the limited time available for writing a posting.

Spirituality is especially tough to give its due in the blogosphere. For one thing, it's intensely personal, and while I have to refer to myself in a posting occasionally to set a scene, I'm determined that this is not going to be a blog about me. (Anyone who believes they are learning ego transcendence, as urged in Vedanta and Buddhism, would do well to write a blog: it's a good test of seeing whether you can put your lower self aside.)

More than that, spirituality is immensely subtle. Although it has an outward aspect — I believe spiritual growth that isn't grounded in benevolent behavior in the daily world is a delusion — the path is one of groping in darkness, at least in early stages. It takes great conscious effort but the results are often hardly consciously perceived at all; you meditate or pray or serve your fellow men and women and you seem to fail again and again. No revelation rewards your efforts. But maybe you think about how you are now and how you used to be and realize that you've changed in some way that can't be put down only to getting older or more wordly wise.

People much more spiritually gifted than me have had trouble putting experiences of transcendence and grace into words. But I still intend to try from time to time. Maybe it will be useful for others like me who meditate poorly, don't understand how to pray, and continually fall short of the glory of God. I can't tell you how to overcome blockages or inertia on the spiritual path, but I believe I can honestly tell you this: if your aspiration is sincere, you cannot fail. At some point you will understand this.

Politics, in contrast, is easy to write about in the sense that there is plenty of raw material to work with and it's right out there, often very dramatic. Until the past few years, I have not paid much mind to political issues, because I believed that they were unimportant, belonging only to the world of transient phenomena rather than the spiritual realm. That was shallow of me. The world of phenomena is less real than the world of noumena, but it is not unreal, and acting rightly in it is important if we would know the higher consciousness.

Even so, in comparatively "normal" times, I doubt that I'd have a great deal to say about conventional politics. (I still can't get worked up about things like congressional races, much less mayoral elections.) But at the moment there are what might be called meta-political issues. They are of more than passing interest — they will profoundly affect the course of history and "the way we live now."

First, of course, there is the Islamic march to dominate every society where it has gained a foothold. Whether this is something inherent in Islam or a perversion of it is an interesting topic, but whichever is true, there is minimal difference in the consequences. Islam has already begun to exercise a strong ideological and legal influence in several European countries, and the same process in earlier stages can be seen elsewhere. Islam is not compatible with Western traditions of individual freedom of thought and speech, and those traditions are decaying where Islam has established itself through immigration and a shockingly high birth rate.

Second, the tradition of individual freedom is almost equally threatened by a quite Western ideology: the super-state, as seen in purest form the European Union and to some extent in national governments. Centralized government, far removed from local interests and traditions, as well as from individuals, shows seemingly unstoppable growth. Its goal is to regulate virtually every aspect of life that matters in the name of rationality and efficiency. Under this system, society doesn't develop organically, and change doesn't stem from decisions of individuals or groups of individuals; it's handed down by bureaucracies motivated by the belief in social engineering. Whether the system is called Communism, Socialism, or democracy serving corporate capitalism, the principle is much the same.

Third, there is an international Liberal Establishment that includes politicians, academics, and the media that is determined to perform radical surgery on every concept of the nation state and on many previously long-established individual rights. To use the phrase "international Liberal Establishment" does not mean a conspiracy — the Establishment's personnel don't get together to plan their next move. It's just that they have the same assumptions and values and use their positions to set the tone of every controversy.

What do they believe in? Multi-culturalism, open borders, favoritism for every "minority" that can be found or invented (such as the Hispanic "race"), regulation, the moral equivalence of both sides in every conflict (except when it's minorities versus the majority).

Putting all three of those issues together, I am profoundly worried about the future of individualism, free thought and free discussion.

There are plenty of other bloggers illuminating these topics, and plenty of them are better informed and more sophisticated in their thinking than I am. There are a number of blogs (some listed in the sidebar at right) to which I am grateful for helping me to understand what's going on. As much as I'm tempted to defer to them and burrow in my chosen specialties, it would be moral cowardice for me to ignore the great political and social currents of this our time on earth. So I offer my thoughts in the hope that each individual's contribution will count for something.

And that's my apologia for this blog. Thanks for your time spent reading it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

No more make-believe

The regrettable violent confrontations in the streets of Sydney have at least concentrated some journalistic minds wonderfully — to the point where they have started to look at the context and go beyond the Liberal Establishment's one-note song of white racism.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Miranda Devine writes:
So now we know the facts, straight from the Supreme Court, that a group of Lebanese Muslim gang rapists from south-western Sydney hunted their victims on the basis of their ethnicity and subjected them to hours of degrading, dehumanising torture. The young women, and girls as young as 14, were "sluts" and "Aussie pigs", the rapists said. So now that some of the perpetrators are in jail, will those people who cried racism and media "sensationalism" hang their heads in shame? Hardly.

The journalists, academics, legal brains and politicians who tried to claim last August that the gang rapes of south-western Sydney were just a run-of-the-mill police blotter story being beaten up by racists, scaremongers and political opportunists don't ever want to acknowledge the truth about that ugly episode in Australian history. They don't want to acknowledge the fear and tension that ran through a part of Sydney they rarely visit and can never understand.
To give the judicial system due credit, it did arrest and obtain a conviction of the rapists. But the judge had to make sure that political correctness got in the last word.
In August, when Judge Megan Latham handed out laughably lenient sentences to three men in one gang rape case, which were later more than doubled on appeal, she made a special point of debunking the race link: "There is no evidence before me of any racial element in the commission of these offences," she said. "There is nothing said or done by the offenders which provides the slightest basis for imputing to them some discrimination in terms of the nationality of their victims."

Except that later one of the victims complained her victim impact statement had been "censored" of any "ethnic" references by prosecutors intent on a plea bargain. She was convinced she was raped because of her ethnicity. "You deserve it because you're an Australian," the rapists told her during the five-hour attack.

It's just so inconvenient of the victims to insist on telling the truth.
I hope dhimmi dummy Judge Latham is now suitably embarrassed, but I doubt it. When political correctness seizes the mind, it drives out values such as truth and and emotions other than self-infatuation for knowing better than ordinary people the difference between acceptable facts and unacceptable facts.

The article continues:
"I looked in his eyes. I had never seen such indifference," one 18-year-old victim, codenamed Miss C, told the court, remembering one of the 14 men who called her "Aussie pig", gang raped her 25 times over a six-hour period in Bankstown and Chullora, and then turned a hose on her. "I'm going to f*** you Leb style," he said.

Fourteen gang rapists have been convicted, or pleaded guilty, thanks to the courage of seven victims who testified for days in court as their tormentors smirked nearby, the men's families threatened them and defence lawyers suggested they had enjoyed the rapes.
For better or worse — no doubt for better and worse — the events in Sydney have signaled the drawing of a line. Indigenous Aussies will no longer put up with insults and outrages from immigrants who imagine themselves soldiers in a 9th century Sultan's army.

Lawrence Auster quotes from a forthcoming article in something called the Citizens Informer.
… Something significant has happened in Australia. For the first time since the Third World invasion began, thousands of whites gathered together, as a self-identifying group of co-nationals, and stood up for themselves and their civilization, as it becomes more and more clear that an increasingly dangerous situation is developing in their country.
I've never previously heard of Citizens Informer and it might be cranky, but that observation at least rings true.

As I said in the last post, the whites who felt hard done by chose the wrong way to register their anger. I hope from now on they'll be just as insistent for justice and as determined to defend their community, but in nonviolent ways. Whether they will, or can, take that route depends in large part on the government, the media, and the courts being willing to stop playing make-believe and recognize realities about immigration that their cherished liberalism wants to keep suppressed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oppressed majorities

The civil disturbances in Sydney represent a phenomenon I predict we will see a lot more of: oppressed majorities lashing out in the only way the feel they can.

The white Australians described by the mainstream media as rioters were out of line. It's wrong to deal out extra-legal "justice," whatever the provocation. And any lager louts who are convicted of going around beating up people of middle eastern appearance deserve what they get from the court.

That said, the native Aussies were exhibiting a pent-up anger that had been building for years about the bullying, intimidation, and violence practiced by some Muslims and Lebanese gangs, which civil authority did nothing to stop, for the worldwide Liberal Establishment's usual reason: fear of "offending" minorities and giving them an excuse to spool up their anti-social behavior even further.

At Belmont Club, Wretchard (who apparently lives in Sydney) describes the background (scroll down to comments):
A number of Lebanese Muslim gangs have been marauding and were famously raping white gals fairly frequently. A number were arrested but there are already liberal campaigns to get them out. Most recently, these youths have been hanging out at Maroubra beach where they ran into the surfing crowd. A few days ago, a gang of 40 Lebanese Muslims took over a beach to play soccer and were asked to leave by the lifeguards. The 40 (what is it about 40? Forty Thieves?) beat the lifeguards, one into unconsciousness.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
THE eldest of four Pakistani gang rapist brothers has admitted lying at trial and apologised to his victims but said he thought he had a right to rape the "promiscuous" teenage girls.

MSK, 27, told the NSW Supreme Court yesterday that this was because the girls did not wear headscarves, were drinking alcohol and were unaccompanied when they went to his Ashfield home. MSK also blamed his intoxication, "cultural beliefs" and an undiagnosed mental disorder.

He and his brothers MAK, 25, MRK, 21, and MMK, 19 - who cannot be named for legal reasons - are serving between 10 and 22 years for raping two girls in 2002. All except MRK are yet to be sentenced for several other rapes.
The Liberal Establishment bangs on endlessly about equality and respect for everyone. In practice, though, some are more equal than others. There is one set of law enforcement for white Australians, another and much more lenient one — to the point of non-enforcement — for immigrants.

Tony Parkinson, in Australia's The Age:
Clearly, there has been much anxiety and tension in this part of Sydney for some years. Allegations in 2001 that Lebanese youths had specifically targeted Anglo-Australian girls for gang rape became a white-hot issue after a local Islamic leader argued the young women ought to accept some blame for their attitudes and dress sense.

This may have been the genesis of the so-called "cultural misunderstanding".

Then came the Bali bombings of 2002, which claimed the lives of six women from Maroubra. Next, a series of counter-terrorism raids on Middle Eastern families in the city's south-west. All of which coincided with the increasing menace of Lebanese crime gangs in Sydney's underworld, muscling in on narcotics, gun-running, car theft and extortion.

In November 2003, a retired NSW police detective, Tim Priest, delivered a scathing presentation to a dinner hosted by Quadrant magazine. Having worked on two National Crime Authority taskforces on organised crime, Priest warned of the risk of parts of Sydney degenerating into Los Angeles-style gang warfare unless police chiefs recanted the "softly-softly" approach adopted since the mid-1990s to ethnically based criminal gangs.

"The Middle Eastern crime groups and their associates number in the thousands," Priest went on to say, adding, controversially, that much of their violence was racially motivated. "That these groups of males can roam a city and assault, rob and intimidate at will can no longer be denied or excused. Even more alarming is that the violence is directed mainly against young Australian men or women … victims … because they are Australian."

The Lebanese gangs, he said, were ruthless in the extreme: "They intimidated not only innocent witnesses but even the police that attempted to arrest them. As these crime groups encountered less resistance in terms of police operations and enforcement, their power grew not only within their own communities, but also all around Sydney."

Priest drew a comparison with the no-go zones of inner-suburban Paris. "Police began to use selective law enforcement," he said. "In hundreds upon hundreds of incidents, police have backed down to Middle Eastern thugs, taken no action and allowed incidents to go unpunished. Again, I stress the unbelievable influence that local politicians and religious leaders played in covering up the real state of play."

In the flip side to the contentious policy of racial profiling, Priest asserted that police in NSW have tended to prosecute those who were less likely to use their ethnic background, or cultural beliefs, to hinder investigations. This kept the police out of trouble with the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Privacy Council and the internal investigations unit. But one effect, argued Priest, was to give Lebanese crime gangs the run of the streets.
The Aussies who went on a rampage may have been tanked up and stupid — but not so stupid that they couldn't see the obvious: their rights, and those of other white Australians, to be safe from harassment and crime had been ignored for years by government and police operating under the delusion that if only they closed their eyes to Muslim immigrant wrongdoing, the problem would go away. The Liberal Establishment had come down on the other side. There was one set of rules for white Australians, a different set of rules — or a near absence of rules — for immigrants.

And the mainstream media follow the party line: The problem is always white "racists." That many Muslims believe that infidel laws do not apply to them and that infidels have no rights that need to be recognized by Muslims cannnot be mentioned — too insensitive. One of Tim Blair's commenters notes:
Interesting phenomenon in these excerpts. When the attackers are Middle Eastern, they are described simply as “men” of indeterminate race/nationality:

gangs of men rampaging through the beachside suburb.

cars carrying up to 50 men

Mobs of men have damaged a number of vehicles

police making arrests as mobs of men roam the streets

But when they are the ones being attacked, suddenly their status as Middle Eastern is made explicit:

Sunday’s mob attacks on Australians of Middle Eastern origin

a group of about 100 Cronulla locals surrounded a car carrying men of Middle Eastern appearance

Do they teach this stuff at journalism school?

The Liberal Establishment makes it clear that the oppressed majority can expect no help through legal redress or fair representation in the court of public opinion. While condemning violence, it removes every alternative to violence except submitting to the tyranny of a minority that officially can do no wrong.

That's how it works everywhere in the Western world. Immediately after the London Underground bombings in which Muslims blew up more than 50 people, the police official at a press conference could scarcely contain himself when a reporter asked if there was evidence of Muslim terrorism. He replied: "The words Muslim and terrorist do not belong in the same sentence." He could have replied, perfectly reasonably, "We don't know yet and don't want to jump to conclusions." Instead, he immediately ruled out even the possibility of its being Muslim-inspired terrorism, as indeed it turned out to be.

In the United States, people who merely photograph or report illegal immigrants who are criminals, according to the law, are called "vigilantes" by the president of the country. And the only reason the so-called "vigilantes" have taken direct action is that they have watched year after year as illegals flood across the border with a wink and a nod from Washington.

I fear — and fear is the word I mean — that the violence in Australia is an opening shot in what could become an international civil war. When citizens raised to believe themselves to be free people under the rule of law see, again and again, that their government and media have only contempt for them; that they are second-class citizens compared to minorities; and that they can have their liberties taken away for defending themselves, we should not be surprised if they no longer feel obliged to follow the rules of a game in which the cards are stacked against them.

Having cheerfully allowed into their countries huge numbers of immigrants with no desire to assimilate and in the case of Muslims a rejection of the individual freedom that most Westerners take for granted, politicans are now caught in a trap of their own devising. The numbers of immigrants are now large enough in many electoral contests that they're perceived as being able to tip the balance. And so the race is on to see which candidate and party can most cater to them and ignore any wrongdoing, and to do so they must imply as an excuse that minorities are victims of an intolerant majority.

What better way to create an intolerant majority than to make it into an oppressed class?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Putting Queen Victoria in the waiting room

While away from Reflecting Light Command and Control Center these past few days, I spent some of that time in the waiting room of a hospital outpatient facility along with my mother, who was there for surgical treatment.

If you've been in one of these places, you know that it's of a different order than a doctor's or dentist's waiting room. It's more like a hostage situation. As many as 30 patients, along with their accompanying relatives and friends, can be required by the system to hang tough there for hours on end.

Why must waiting rooms be so oppressive, particularly since many of their inhabitants are ill, anxious, depressed, or experiencing physical pain?

If I say the waiting room where my mother was told to park herself until she was ready to be admitted to the surgical preparation area was institutional, you will understand what I mean. But this place was worse than institutional: it was a warehouse for people.

From my recollection (and I had bags of time in which to note its every detail), it lacked even the token mass-produced calendar art pictures that grace the walls of a cubicle-filled government office. There were chairs; there was a carpet; there was a rack with a few ill-used magazines. That was the decor. One large window had a view, partially blocked (which was probably just as well), of the parking lot.

And, oh yes, there was a wall-mounted TV, tuned to dopey interview shows and soap operas, with the sound on.

Tell me this: how many patients, many of them getting on in years, all with some ailment — perhaps potentially life threatening — want to be entertained by a half-wit host asking, "Is it true that you can lose weight by having sex? Stay with us, you'll find out right after the break!"

Almost none, if what I saw in the waiting room is any clue. The several dozen people on hand did their best to ignore the TV. Some talked with their companions; a few read; lots of them just sat, staring into the air or their memories, as the minute hand circled the clock.

This scene, mark you, took place in a unit of a prominent medical facility serving Long Island's tony North Shore district.

So an institution whose standards of medical treatment are presumably first class can't find any better way to help its patients, their friends and relatives — who, as already noted, are not likely to be in good spirits — pass the hours than to give them chairs and force-feed them junk TV.

A hospital administrator reading this might well reply in exasperation, "Well, what are we supposed to do for the patients while they're waiting to be called — stage a song-and-dance show for them?"

No. But you can start by showing them some respect and not assume they're all dummies who would be lost without their ration of daytime TV.

And thinking along those lines, there are other options, once you acknowledge the possibility that being ill doesn't make people morons. And that, in fact, being ill tends to encourage people to value their time and use it wisely. Those whose bodies are failing them (and that's all of us, sooner or later) need the consolations of art.

So how about making the waiting room an uplifting experience? For a cost of next to nothing, the hospital could play recorded music. Classical music, even. All right, not Mahler or Shostakovich, but there are plenty of popular favorites to choose from: Bach and Schubert and Mendelssohn and the inevitable Mozart. Why not? Surely even those not accustomed to it would prefer that to braying tabloid TV.

What about offering reading matter beyond a few tattered copies of Sepsis Today and Modern Cancer and dumbed-down supermarket tripe like Time? I suspect many people sentenced to indefinite confinement in hospital waiting rooms would be glad to be offered magazines with ideas, so that they could improve their minds instead of killing time.

Improve their minds? The very phrase has a quaint, Victorian ring to it. Well, the Victorians had some attitudes that could help sort us out. They lacked our (somewhat illusory) assurance that any problem can be fixed by a therapist or tax accountant or social welfare program. They knew, for instance, they could be carried off by cholera any time, and no polysyllabically named drug existed to stay the hour of their passing: no wonder they believed "life is real, life is earnest." The idea of "killing" time was abhorrent to well-brought-up Victorians. They would have shuddered to think of hospitals encouraging their own patients to waste hours on TV shows they would rightly have found degrading.

But we don't have the Victorians' faith in individuals' ability to improve their own character. (We believe, instead, in reforming their health habits, monitoring their speech for any hint of insensitivity, and hectoring them to consume fewer resources.) The idea of a medical facility being concerned with its patients' souls as well as their kidneys or arteries never crosses our rationalist minds.

The loss is ours.

I agree with A.N. Wilson when he writes:
If there has been a single shift in balance since Lytton Strachey wrote his mischievous debunking of Eminent Victorians over eighty years ago ... it is the reversal of roles in the judicial bench. Strachey and his generation self-consciously judged and condemned the Victorians. We, while noting many things amiss about Victorian Society, more often sense them judging us.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I'll be out of town for a few days and there will probably be no posting. As usual, I recommend checking out the worthy sites linked to in the sidebar to the right.

Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you again soon.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mr. President: Tear down this wall

To take politics at all seriously is to send yourself an engraved invitation to disappointment. Imagining that one elected official is going to set things to rights — even a modestly few things — is to make yourself hostage to a game where the odds are stacked against you, and the politicians who manage to climb the greasy pole do so in a world whose moral and philosophical content could be carried in a flea's purse.

So I am in no way shocked, or even much saddened, that the Wizard of Crawford, Texas has turned out to be — like he of Oz — not a bad man (unlike his predecessor), just not a very good wizard.

But it does require a strenuous attitude adjustment. I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 to be my country's president (although even then it was somewhat a matter of faute de mieux). A couple of years before that, say in the eight or ten months following Sept. 11, I honestly thought he might turn out to be one of our great chief executives. He seemed — nay, was, back then — that rarest of political figures, someone operating on principle and damn the opinion polls and pundits of the mainstream media. Bush also won my respect when, instead of responding to the terrorist plot with a symbolic public relations stunt (e.g., ordering the lobbing of a few missiles addressed "To Whom It May Concern"), he oversaw a slow-to-ignite, meticulous plan that took down the regime in Afghanistan that had harbored the Al-Qaeda terrorists.

What followed the Iraq invasion, which I still believe was a highly moral act, was an extraordinary military victory followed by a debacle of the highest order in which we entrapped ourselves through our own success. He should have been content with ridding the world of Saddam and establishing a permanent military presence in Iraq, while leaving the factions that had been fighting one another in that country since Genghis Khan was knee high to a hound dog to get it together. Instead, Bush opted t0 spend American lives trying to create an Anglosphere-style democracy, among people for whom that concept meant as much as the Martian Bill of Rights.

That isn't saying that Iraqis can never acheive a reasonably free and benign society. I'm not that cynical about human nature, even human nature that has been stewed in Islamic dementia for 1400 years. But the president I used to admire seems to have taken those remarkable military successes as a sign from God (whether literally or figuratively is hard to tell) that he could remake the earth. "Democracy" was the magic elixir that would turn the Middle East into a church social.

With every passing day, it has become more obvious to practically everyone (including many favorably disposed to Bush) that his utopian vision is going pear-shaped. And what was under other circumstances a Bush strength, namely his willingness to stand his ground even when subjected to the most extreme and outlandish abuse any president has had to endure, has become a factor in his gathering downfall. The man lacks any mental flexibility. He seems to equate changing his mind with weakness. He doesn't learn from experience.

Once Bush settles an issue for himself, his position seems to possess him. End of discussion.

I know less than the average person about the president's associates — that sort of political-insider gossip bores me — but it seems likely that he surrounds himself with people whose first spoken word was "yes" and whose vocabulary hasn't noticeably widened since, and with advisors hand-picked to give him the advice that he has already given himself. Even Bush's public appearances are starting to be hermetically sealed. Lawrence Auster writes, concerning the president's recent pep rally:
Bush gave the speech, as he seems to have given all of his speeches on Iraq, to a military audience, clearly conveying the message that he doesn’t feel confident to address an audience of civilians on this urgent national issue, but must have an audience of ready-made, 22-year-old yes-men, thrilled to be in the presence of their commander in chief. It is as though Bush sees America as a banana republic, or as a country like Pakistan, in which the only reliable national institution is the military.
Bush's desire to deliver his message in the presence of a presumably groveling audience can also be seen in his tactics for pushing a de facto U.S. merger with Mexico. In support of his philomexican obsession and his stealth plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants, he chose to relaunch his stuttering open borders campaign in a speech in my former home town of Tucson, Arizona. Since Tucson is a mere 60 miles or so from Mexico, and a fair number of its citizens are of Mexican descent, El Presidente Fox-Bush (or his yes-persons) seems to have assumed that his proposals would be warmly received down there in Mexizona.

If he had any real contact with people in Tucson other than selected cheerleaders, he might have learned something. But the odds are he left as ignorant as he arrived. Bush has done something no politician of any stripe can afford to do — he's insulated himself from political reality outside his circle of sycophants. He's built a wall with gates that open only outward.

No matter how deep his own feelings run, Bush the leader should — if he cares about what's good for him and his party — peek over the ramparts he's surrounded himself with. If he could bring himself to do that, he would understand that a substantial majority of Americans (including some of immigrant stock) are extremely concerned about his failure to enforce immigration laws and his collusion with a Mexican president keen to export Mexico's problems to America.

He'd understand why, in border areas, more and more people are taking it on themselves to do the job of that the federal government is supposed to do but isn't, stopping the invasion of illegals. (Bush calls the Minutemen "vigilantes," as if notifying the authorities when you see people breaking the law is contrary to the way things are supposed to work.) If you think that's not a healthy situation, I agree. But when the president of the United States contemptuously ignores the law and public sentiment, what else can they do?

Mr. President, get out of Fortress Bush, listen for a change, and think. Tear down this wall.