24 December 2011

gobble gobble goblins

Happy Christmas Clodhopperers - Herewith your pressie.......

User Manual:
1. Grab 20 mins
2. Pour large glass mulled wine - (mince pie & cream optional)
3. Find comfy chair
4. Plug in headphones
5. Relax
6. Click on pressie:

for optimal enjoyment have large bowl of fruit nearby.

Best wishes for a happy and peaceful year to come....

clod xxx

Goblin Market appeared in 1861 when Christina was 31. She was of a very devout high anglican persuasion and her epic can be read, (if you like), as an allegory of temptation and salvation; but in the unconscious erotic imagery, I hear more the 'baulked desire' of a young womans' love thwarted by the angst of an overworked religious conscience one time too many.

Her life was featured in a recent 'In Our Time' - the podcast is still available if you're minded to discover more about her life.

Sorry about the odd glitch here and there: no time to re-record it now........

13 December 2011

18 November 2011

Zeig Fail

Talking of the Nazis, I remember when Ratzi the Natzi came to the UK, he said...

"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Deary deary me. You’d think the man had never read Mein Kampf or read any other of that deluded meglomaniacs speeches. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator." [Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp. 46]

"I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work." [Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]

"What we have to fight for...is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the Creator."
[Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp. 125]

"This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief." [Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp.152]

I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so" [Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941]

"The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine."
[Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 1 Chapter 12]

"Thus inwardly armed with confidence in God and the unshakable stupidity of the voting citizenry, the politicians can begin the fight for the 'remaking' of the Reich as they call it." [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 2 Chapter 1]

"Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise." [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 2 Chapter 1]

"For how shall we fill people with blind faith in the correctness of a doctrine, if we ourselves spread uncertainty and doubt by constant changes in its outward structure? ...Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Though its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less unwilling to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas... it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body the character of a faith." [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 2 Chapter 5]

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life...." [Adolf Hitler, Berlin, February 1, 1933]

"The folkish-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God's will, and actually fulfill God's will, and not let God's word be desecrated. For God's will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord's creation, the divine will." [Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf]

Well...alright, let's not. Ratzinger knew exactly what he was doing viz trying to put the frighteners on everyone by equating Nazism with secularism and atheism. The sad thing is, people will buy it because it's the Pope saying it...and he knows it.

Well, go read it for yourself and it quickly becomes apparant that Hitler was an out and out Creationist and white supremacist and anti-evolutionist, as well as being a Kit Kat short of a picnic.

The Pope should be ashamed of such intellectual duplicity..though one knows, he isn't.

17 November 2011

Panzie Tanks?

THE NAZIS CREATED NATURE RESERVES, championed sustainable forestry, curbed air pollution, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to nature.

A snip at £20.50 on Amazon...that's my crimbo sorted then.

The sound of creaking leather from their collective greatcoats broke the silence as the assembled Wehrmacht officers leaned forward to examine the huge table map of the Spreewald, the vast forest area standing between the XI SS Panzer Corps and the Red Army.

The problem was clear – vast stretches of gorse in the forest (Ulex europeus) were in flower and it was the nesting season of the rare inversely-spotted bark-spitter.

“Well, gentlemen” General Busse announced to his colleagues “there is no way we can attack them through the forest – the damage to the environment would be too great. Our panzer tanks still emit excessive CO2 and the electric hybrid version is still on the drawing-board.”

The other officers grunted in assent. There were those amongst them who could still recall the terrible Battle of the Somme in 1916 – how entire woods were destroyed, how the crash of the shells broke the noise abatement regulations as far away as Camden and how the noxious exhaust from the infernal English tanks caught the back of the men’s throats.

No, that was the carbon footprint to end all carbon footprints. Never again!

“However” the General continued, “I have developed a strategy that I believe you will find is sufficiently eco-friendly. The XI Panzer will move forward by bicycle on the left flank, the SS Mountain Corps will take the right flank using public transport – there is still a regular bus service from Lűbben after 10 o’clock – and we will sent a small diversionary unit through the forest. But I must spell out one important message for them: keep to the paths and no shooting!”

............................Tim Sanders

16 November 2011

losing the plotinus

Plotinus held that to wish for the absence of ‘evil’ was to wish that there be nothing at all. That if there is to be a world at all, that that world MUST contain the evil(s) it does simply because it is made out of matter. That there could be no essential, no ultimate essence of evil because it has no ‘Form’ (in the Platonic sense), so really there’s no such thing as evil qua evil.

So when we talk about evil, what we are really talking about is a perception of the absence of goodness - and the degree to which we perceive it to be evil is the ability to perceive how much goodness is missing.

Now Plotinus held that matter (everything) originates from a 'Source', which he termed ‘The One’ or ‘The Good’, and that it (the source) holds no will, no desire, no intention, not even any sentience. So nothing like the conventional theist interpretation of a creator God - a being that actively willed the universe into existence. It seems to be more like a light bulb - if it’s on, you get light, you just do. If it’s off, there’s nothing. So, insofar as things exist at all, they partake of the goodness but it is hardly the fault of a light bulb (goodness), say, if a dirty mirror does not reflect that light (goodness) perfectly.

I can’t argue with that. I don’t think we know what matter is, do we, or where it comes from, if it comes from anywhere? Einstein expresses some of that here:

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.” Albert Einstein - Berlin 1927

Plotinus is side-stepping the logical and evidential problems of evil with which atheists love to plague theists so frequently. But insofar as this is a very deist interpretation of reality we can’t say much about it except to note that Plotinus thinks that the metaphysics of physical objects (humans included), means that they must be imperfect to some greater or lesser degree and that that movement towards a greater reflection of the good is our job and that it is a very rational one.

Or else, he was just trying to make The Matrix and hadn’t figured out who Neo was yet. :-)

15 November 2011

Haught 'n Jerry #2

John Haught’s paper ‘Does Evolution Rule Out Gods Existence’, has been published over at the American Association for the Advancement of Science website. The Association’s strap line is ‘Advancing Science, Serving Society’.

It’s part of an ongoing attempt to reconcile science and religion, but I’m left wondering just exactly how the above paper Advances Science or, indeed, Serves Society.

From the world view of a theist, science and religion MUST be reconcilable for the declared aim of both is to discover that which is true, that which is real.

Therefore, whatever science may discover MUST, eventually, if somewhat reluctantly and possibly painfully, be incorporated into the religious world view. How could it be otherwise?

The scientific ethos, moreover...”is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity.” Benedict XVI – Sept 2006

Fair enough: let’s agree for now that science and religion are both seekers after truth. Is there a difference in how they go about it? I think so. I’m going to suggest that science is obedient to truth in that it will follow truth, by the nose, wherever it goes and that, on the contrary, religion has already staked out its truth claim, and is both obedient to that truth and to what it thinks that truth demands of everyone. Since, however, the truth claims of the various religions are mutually incompatible, we are left with the options of either declaring one of them to be true, none of them to be true, or to discover in some verifiable way of discerning the validity of such claims to truth.

Religion itself is characteristically highly resistant to ‘truth’ it does not like. (Rome only got round to apologising for the Galileo debacle in 1992), and of course the tussle over evolution runs and runs – the Catholics perhaps slightly ahead of the game here, in their acceptance of the theory, and with their current efforts to incorporate evolution into their theodicy.

If any such rapprochement between science and religion is to work, religion is going to have to radically refine its notions of what is acceptable as ‘evidence’.

In Haught’s earlier debate with Jerry Coyne, Haught seemed to be suggesting that personal experience fell into the category of ‘evidence’. Humans of all religious persuasions (and none) have, throughout history, had numinous and transcendental or peak experiences.

"There is no doubt that great insights and revelations are profoundly felt in mystic or peak-experiences, and certainly some of these are, ipso facto, intrinsically valid as experiences. " "The peak-experience is felt as a self-validating, self-justifying moment which carries its own intrinsic value with it" (Maslow, Religion, Values and Peak Experiences).

Alas, however peak your peak experience was, it simply will not do as reliable evidence: how will you distinguish between the one who experiences Christ from the one who experiences Vishnu from the one who experiences a Fuath?

The word of God as revealed through scripture is a similarly suspect candidate for ‘evidence.’

.As Haught says of the Creationists:

“….. [they] close their eyes to modern historical awareness of the time-sensitive nature of all human consciousness, including that expressed in the sacred texts of religion. They are unable to discern the different types of literary genre--symbolic, mythic, devotional, poetic, legendary, historical, creedal, confessional etc.--that make up the Bible. And so they fail to read the scriptures in their proper context.

The difficulty is to distinguish words that proceed from God from those that proceed from godly men. From, what is to be taken literally and what metaphorically; and who gets to decide, and when, (and on who’s authority?). What was to be taken as canonical truth and what apocryphal? Ancient sacred texts simply will not do as adequate evidence to establish the veracity of religious claims, however beautiful, inspiring or poetic the language may be.

To paraphrase Sam Harris:

Can literature or testimony…..”even slightly increase the probability that the Book of Mormon was delivered on golden plates to Joseph Smith Jr. by the angel Moroni? Do all the good Muslims in the world lend credence to the claim that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse? Do all the good pagans throughout history suggest that Mt. Olympus was ever teeming with invisible gods?”

No, of course not. So what is left for us to call on in our endeavour to unite science and religion?

"Certainly, love’ transcends’ knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreía" -- worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason.” (cf. Romans 12:1). – Benedict XVI – Sept 2006

How do you crawl out from beneath this stultifying mountain of opaque theology to get at truth? Why certainly? Transcends knowledge how? Perceives what, exactly? And because of all that…. Christian worship harmonises Word with Reason? Eh….how?

[Cartesianism and Empiricism]…..”on the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: This basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.

This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity.

A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: It is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. [my emphasis]

The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.” - Benedict XVI – Sept 2006

The questions raised about the origin and the destiny of humanity, questions raised about morality, ethics and community are NOT solely in the purview of the church. There are many churches and only one humanity. The pope cannot hijack such questions from humanity and glibly claim that we haz failed to construct an adequate morality out of science, or the humanities, a scant couple of hundred years after the first electric light bulb was invented.

But that is what it wants to do. It wants to claim these for its domain and claim that it has parity with science because it has this logos based on its understanding of a divine. What it really believes is that it is far superior to science and would very much like to claw back some territory by hitching a ride on the coat-tail of sciences’ demonstrable success by re-integrating science and theology.

In his debate with Haught, I think Coyne unceremoniously pulled the threadbare rug of this reasoning apart and demonstrated that theology is actually content and knowledge free, while at the same time presenting evidence to show how religion convinces people that they have this ‘other’ knowledge together with the rationale and righteousness to act upon that knowledge... with disastrous and poisonous consequences for individuals, communities, cultures, societies, not to mention the entire world.

One simple and effective way of such hijacking and coat-tailing is to lay down a claim that genius is a form of divine inspiration and that significant scientific discoveries may be taken as yet further ‘evidence’ of the beneficence of the divine...beckoning us ever onwards and upwards towards our celestial destiny. I predict a lot more of that sort of thing.

...to be continuerated...sometime....eventually....possibly.

07 November 2011

On War and Morality

When Bush and Blair collaborated to invade Iraq they may both have been convinced that it was the right thing to do both morally and legally. The concept of a ‘just war’ is very old and can be traced back even before the likes of Aquinas and Grotius. Still, there are millions of people who differ and think that their action was neither moral nor legal. Clearly the legality was questionable and some would argue that both the legality and the morality were shoe-horned into place to justify the action that had already been agreed.

We don’t seem to have moved on all that much in our understanding of either the legality or the morality of war, (except perhaps in the formulation of international treaties, charters and conventions and the refinement of customary law between nations), and given the way war has changed in both practice and reason, it is perhaps time we tried to make things clearer.

It would help because to be asked to leave your home, travel to some distant land and be required to kill people is neither a trivial thing to do, nor to ask of someone. If you wanted me to do such a thing, I would want to question you very closely on your reasons and motives for asking it of me, even if I was in the armed services and you were a commander tasked, with handing out the orders.

In the case of Iraq, the reasons, the motives, the justifications, seemed to be a movable feast: a spectrum of imminent threat to us from WMD; Iraq’s possible connection with terrorist outfits like al-Qaida; getting rid of a brutal dictator who, when he wasn’t gassing his own people, was ruthlessly oppressing them. It depended when and of whom you asked the question. It all sounds as cobbled together as was the intelligence that supported the action. Why was that?

One answer seems to be that it all came about as a consequence of 9/11. After that, the concept of pre-emptive or preventative war moved much higher up the political agenda but without a corresponding refinement of either the legal framework or the moral considerations which frame such actions. It might be time to update both, but how?

The justification for both pre-emptive and preventative war seems to rely on a couple of premises: that the intelligence provided is accurate, reliable and complete and that the outcome is achievable and worth the expenditure of life, money and material it will entail. In the case of the Iraq war, both of these premises seem to me to be entirely questionable. One of the difficulties is that wars in olden times look to be much simpler, transparent and base in their motivations, though no less horrific for that; while modern war, seeming as it appears to be moving more towards more pre-emptive or preventive strategies, looks to be not only more complex, but also seems to go very much against notions of what a just war is.

Of current concern is the widely reported and disturbing news that Israel is seriously considering a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities near Tehran in the conviction that such facilities are for anything but civil and peaceful purposes. That may be so, I don’t know, but if they do strike, it takes us yet further down the road of normalising pre-emptive strike strategies setting yet another precedent that such actions are permissible.

Israel has form in this regard both with its preventative strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in June ’81 and, arguably, with its pre-emptive strike in the ’67 Arab-Israeli war. Preventative in the first instance because there was no immediate threat to Israeli security and pre-emptive in the second because seven infantry divisions, several hundred tanks and jet fighters clustered on your border, coupled with Egyptian pacts with neighbouring Arab states to lend military support if required, could be construed to be a tad threatening. In the first instance the UN Security Council condemned the raid while in the second, they mounted no objection.

It could be that Iran is attempting to produce a nuclear weapon. It is conceivable that they are just crazy enough to use it against Israel. It could be, indeed, seems likely, that Israel will strike pre-emptively to prevent this. What is as difficult as figuring out the legality and morality of such action, is working out the second and third order consequences for the Middle East and the rest of the world.

War is always terrible, if not always immoral. If we are asking our young people to kill and be killed in our name, we should, at very least, be clear about the moral and legal frameworks we use to justify such action. It seems self evident to me that we are not.

05 November 2011

Haught n Jerry

Recently catholic theologian Prof John Haught debated biology Prof Jerry Coyne on the topic 'Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?'

The debate generated a bit of on line fuss, because Haught attempted to block the release of the video of the event, but it is now online and linked to above.

Anyway, it seems to me that Haught was persuing the NOMA (non overlapping magisteria) tack and concluding that science and religion are compatible and are just different ways of knowing stuff about the world. He said that there are different levels of understanding and gave some examples: a monkey looking at a book just sees black squiggles on a page, a todler recognises the odd word, an older child can understand the text, an experienced adult can recognise deeper meanings, understand metaphor and so forth. So, he's saying that your understanding can be transformed by experience and that if, say, you have a deep personal experience of Christ, then that can radically transform your understanding of the world.

The problem I have with that is that experience is conditioned and what is true is going to be true independent of what anyone believes is true. So, the hindu might experience brahma, the muslim, allah, the catholic, jesus and any of those experiences might be personally transformative but what can the experience reveal about what is actually true?

He uses another analogy which is to do with meaning and purpose. Imagine a pot of boiling water. Why is it boiling, what is its purpose? On one level, energy applied to the pot is causing the water molecules to bump into one another and heat up until it reaches the phase transition point where water turns to steam. On another level, he sais, the water is boiling because 'I want a cup of tea.' His idea is that the universe has purpose and that that purpose is supplied by an external higher intelligence - the 'I want a cup of tea' level.

The problem I find with that one is that he is conflating causation with purpose. Meaning and purpose seem to me to be human attributes. An aardvark is seldom heard asking itself 'what is the point of being an aardvark?' The purpose of being an aardvark is to be an aardvark. Humans, perhaps uniquely, I'm not sure, have brains capable of asking the question: for what reason do I exist? That does not mean that the question is a valid one: that just because we are capable of asking the question, that there therefore must be an answer to it over and above the brute fact that we exist. In asking the question one can supply the answer on as many levels as you can ask the question. Haught is saying that there is one 'true' answer to that question. I beg to differ. So did Prof Coyne, evidently to Prof Haught's considerable annoyance.

You can judge for yourself.

There is much more to be said, but today, I have a higher purpose... :-)

02 November 2011

the tent is nigh

On one level the protest outside St Pauls has distracted the debate away from throwing a spotlight on financial criminality and corporate greed and broadened it's beam to include the inner workings and moral integrity of both St Pauls and the wider Anglican church. I'm inclined to think that that is not necessarily a bad thing and probably even a good one: it forces a public response from sections of the community who might otherwise have chosen to stay more or less silent and let it all blow over. But the inequality, injustice and unfairness in the system we have now are not just matters of opinion, they are matters of observable and objective fact - and those who lay claim to be the harbingers of moral values in our society ought not to be trying to hide from these uncomfortable truths but should be tackling them head on. As some church person said somewhere...'just because the church is established doesn't mean it shouldn't challenge the establishment.'.....or something like that.

01 November 2011

Pell Hell

Oh...that Pell....right. What an idiot.

"Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions." - Legatus Summit Speech 2006

Let me count, oh lord, the ways this is stupid.....nope....can't do it....too many....you have a bash.

31 October 2011

Sin and Sex

In consideration of Catholic opposition to the use of condoms in the fight against the spread of Aids, what are the arguments being used and do they hold water?

1. The use of condoms will encourage promiscuous casual sex and thus actually increase the spread of Aids.

That's an empirical question and can be tested. My bet is, it won't, but I suggest that that is not the main focus of the churches viewpoint nor reason for the position they take on this.

2. The God given purpose of sex is procreative and generative and therefore anything that interferes with either of those natural ends is sinful.

So, if you have a married couple who are knowingly infertile where the man is HIV positive and the woman isn't, and the man uses a condom to prevent his wife getting aids, would that be sinful?

If you have a married couple, this time not infertile, but still HIV discordant as above, who practice the rhythm method with the aim of preventing a pregnancy and who also use a condom with the intention to protect the wife from getting aids, would that be considered sinful?

The intent in the use of the condom is solely to prevent disease transmission, not to prevent pregnancy. This brings us to the principle of double effect, which even catholic doctrine will allow to operate without moral condemnation in certain circumstances. For example, the use of the contraceptive pill is allowed for medical purposes so long as the primary intent in its use is not the prevention of pregnancy. A pregnant woman diagnosed with uterine cancer where the prognosis is death before term will be allowed a hysterectomy even though the outcome will be the death of the fetus. The death of the fetus is a secondary effect, it is not the prime motivation of the surgeon performing the operation.

So, if that is the case, even considered from within catholic doctrine, if the intent in the use of the condom is medical, (prevention of disease), and the secondary effect of this is interference with the (assumed) natural purposes of sex, whence then the moral teaching against the use of condoms?

Leave the mind reading to your supposed God and instruct every HIV positive person to use protection.

You know it makes sense.

12 October 2011

In Defence of The Realm

Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP
Secretary of State for Defence


Dear Liam

I am writing to apply for the post of 'Special Advisor' to the Secretary of State for Defence, (assuming you still are), and enclose my CV.

I've already taken the liberty of printing my business cards, and don't worry about the vetting: I signed the official secrets act in 1975 and I've been to the vet several times this year.

Never mind all this carping in the lefty press - what do they know? To be honest, I had a 'best man' too once but lost him in similar circumstances. It happens. I'm sure Mr Wherrity's done nothing wrong and paid all his own travel and accommodation expenses on the eighteen trips abroad on Mod business. I've no idea what the fuss is all about! Anyway, Mrs Root likes the look of the chap and we're prepared to offer him the back bedroom and a wet-fish franchise.

In my undergraduate years I developed a network of highly trained haddock able to detect enemy submarines off our coastal waters from the smell. This was a top secret project - so mum's the word! The network is still active and I would be more than happy to sign it over to your defence research department for a nominal remuneration.

Nil bastardo carburundum old boy. Here's a pound.

Look forward to working with you. Let's go!

Yours sincerely

Dr Henry Root. Dip. Fsh, MoD, CoD.
(Aquatic Defence Specialist)

11 October 2011

Hose Anna?

Q. What today unites - Roman Catholics, Mormons, Presbyterians, United Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, United Sikhs, Muslims, Episcopalians, Reform Jews and Orthodox Jews, National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, the devotees of Santeria, Yoruba and a bunch of other religions? Is it love, peace, truth, justice, compassion, mercy?

Nope....it's discrimination. The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School versus Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. Where the the fight is for the legal right to hire and fire employees at will within their organisations upon religious grounds....notwithstanding Equal Opps Laws.

The case is here...

How do you think the Supreme Court will vote, with or against the respondent?

Perich's brief notes…..this is not in essence a religious dispute.

“Perich asserts only that she was wrongly terminated
from her teaching responsibilities in retaliation
for asserting her right to sue for disability discrimination.
Resolution of that question does not require
the court to resolve a Lutheran doctrinal dispute.

The civil court need not consider whether Lutheran
doctrine in fact requires called teachers to follow
the Synod’s internal dispute resolution procedures.
It can take the church’s assertions about Lutheran
doctrine as a given, but nevertheless determine
that Perich’s termination violated the ADA’s
retaliation provision—a neutral law of general applicability
that does not give way to religious conviction,
no matter how sincere or important. Smith,
494 U.S. at 879.

Nor does it matter that Perich was a called
teacher or commissioned minister. The fact remains
that she taught secular subjects in a commercial setting.
And the question whether Hosanna-Tabor retaliated
against her for threatening to assert her
rights under the ADA is a secular question for a
secular court, not an ecclesiastical question for an
ecclesiastical court. Indeed, called and uncalled
teachers had “identical” duties. Pet. App. 4a; see supra
at 5-7.

The question in this case thus is the
same as would have been presented if Hosanna-
Tabor had fired an uncalled teacher of the same
secular subjects in the same commercial setting in
retaliation for her exercise of ADA rights.”

My own view is that, while it is not the business of the state to interfere with freedom of religious expression, no exclusions from civil protections to employment rights should be conceded to religious organisations.

JUSTICE SCALIA: “What is the legal definition of "minister"? What is it? That you have to lead the congregation in their religious services or what? What is it?”

That's the issue. If you grant the religious exclusion from employment law citing the 'ministerial exception' rule, then they (religions) have to know who their ministers are and so does the state, because the state has an interest in protecting employees. Granted, not all religions have heirarchic structure, so they could choose to define everyone as a 'minister' of that religion. But if that was defined in law, then any person choosing to be in the employ of such a religion, would do so knowing that the ministerial exception rule applied to them (in whatever capacity they work for the organisation), and they would be free to accept or decline the job knowing the implications of that. The state is required to legislate to make that clear and religions are likewise required to make their position clear by either keeping a ministerial list or granting across the board ministerial status to everyone or whatever.

Then it becomes...does the state have the bottle to do it? It remains in religion’s interests to have the situation remain murky and it will turn on the states determination to protect its citizens employment rights, if necessary, with constitutional amendment/s.

10 October 2011

Because I'm Probably Not Worth It

Dear Ms Bettencourt - Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine, Paris.

I am writing to inform you that Mrs Root and I are considering becoming L'Oréalists and would like to seek your advice on how we might go about this.

To be blunt about it, we’ve examined all the major philosphophies: from the tub-dwelling Dodgynees of Sinope in classical times, right through to the nicotene-sodden existentialists of the modern era and, quite frankly, they’re all whingeing namby pambys, liberal wets, barking mad, or worse.

Your own philosophy on the other hand, seems to grasp the essential truth of modern life with such a deceptive wisdom yet dynamic profundity, somehow all encapsulated in one simple aphorism…. ‘Because We’re Worth It.’ [TM]

Sheer genius….it’s got ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ knocked into a cocked hat, I can tell you!!

We know where you’re coming from too Lilian. As proprieters of a multi-thousand pound, wet fish distribution empire, we know when to call a spade a spade and the importance of developing a dialectic of olfactory capitalism to enlighten the early 21st century.

I say ‘dynamic’ because yours is a living breathing philosophy which moves with the times. I remember the slight look of dissapointment on Mrs Root's face in the early years when the slogan was ‘Because I’m Worth It.’ [TM]

Well obviously, YOU are - €34 million a month, or approx 25,350 times the French minimum wage, so I hear (LOL).

But then came the look of delight when it changed to ‘Because You’re Worth It.’ [TM] By golly, you should have seen the growth in Mrs Roots volume and confidence after that one! It was staggering.

But even that palls into insignificance besides the sheer transcendent bliss and ecstatic realisation that became hers when you delivered the ultimate teaching - ‘Because We’re Worth It.’ [TM]

Obviously there’ll be one or two points of doctrine to clear up before we join because, well, let’s not beat about the bush, not everybody is 'worth it', are they? You wouldn’t, I imagine, be including such wooly minded liberals as Germaine Greer or Polly Toynbee or Shami Chakrabatti as being ‘worth it’ now, would you?

Also It might be worth clarifying just what the ‘it’ is that those that are worthy of it are worth, if you get my general drift. If you could also say what the age is when people start to become ‘worth it’ is and what age they stop being ‘worth it’ and if you could clarify which groups are not ‘worth it’ and probably never will be and maybe how those who are not ‘worth it’ may proceed to become ‘worth it’.

Marvellous! I’m sure you’ve got all that worked out by now.

Can’t wait to hear from you. Here’s a pound in advance of membership fees.

Do you want references? I know the Pope quite well and am in frequent ongoing correspondence with him.

Yours in L'Oréalfactory anticipation

Henry Root - Supplier of Pure Protein from the Sea.
“There is nothing more sublime than the smell of wet fish on a Monday morning”

PS - [TM] - stands for trademark...not transcendental meditation.

04 October 2011

Roll Mops and Reverends

Reverend Ratzinger

What’s going on?

I wrote to you last September following your triumphal visit to this green, and once peasant land, offering our help with your avowed ‘Re-evangelising of The West’ program. You’ll doubtless recall that I offered to meet Archbishop Fisichella of the Pontificial Council for New Evangelisation, (PCNE for short), in Whitby to get the ball rolling. He didn’t turn up: and we’d even brought him a brace of Craster Kippers!

I hope we can rely on you to initiate the required disciplinary procedures and provide us with an explanation of why the Archbishop failed, by his absence, to support this important catholic grass-roots initiative?

After we’d eaten the kippers, Mrs Root and I decided to begin the process of evangelising of the east coast anyway starting in Scarborough, (just down the road from Craster).

In the absence of any representatives from the Holy See, we decided to employ tactics that Mrs Root and I developed some years ago during our hectic campaign to eradicate all the pornography that was flooding into our area at the time. In that instance we formed an organisation called ‘The Ordinary Folk Against The Rising Tide Of Filth In Our Secular Society Situation Society’ - (TOFATRTOFISSSS for short). We achieved considerable success with this venture organising weekly gatherings for lively, no-holds-barred discussions over wine, cheese and roll-mops and sometimes with a guest intellectual delivering a short paper.

Building on this success I am pleased to inform you that we have initiated similar organisations in Scarborough, Throxonby and Ugthorpe thus far and are gradually working our way west.

We sent invites to most of the top turns in the Catholic heirarchy to the inaugral meetings but none of them turned up. It’s possible they were all busy setting up the new clerical anti-paedo monitoring units that are now such a feature of everyday catholic life.

Whatever, Mrs Root and I will continue the campaign in the assuredness that it has your blessings. I enclose an invoice for start-up expenses incurred so far: accommodation, petrol, publicity, office costs, room hire and so forth. I trust you will remit and oblige through the Vatican treasury at your ealiest convenience. Can’t have the good guys running out of the readies eh?

Good luck in Berlin, though God knows why you’re going there. We’ve already done them twice!!

Could you oblige with a signed photo for the Mrs?

Here’s a pound.

Yours......going great guns!

Henry Root

PS Don’t mention the war!!!

30 September 2011

Fish Enrichment Technology

Dear President Ahmedinnajacket. –


Me and Mrs Root note that Iran will execute Yousef Nadarkhani shortly. Quite right too: you can’t just have people believing what they want to believe and let them get away with it, can you? Where would we be then? It would be chaotic. Much better to tell people what they have to believe and kill them if they don’t..

Mrs Root notes that Iran has already executed 97 people this September and sais they are only the ones she knows about: “goodness knows how many others there are,” she said, gutting another sturgeon at the wet fish counter… “the reporting systems are not quite what they should be.”

She later added that it would be quite good if we were allowed to kill everyone that eat meat, as we would sell far more wet fish that way.

I don’t think it’s altogether that simple though do you? I mean, if say the christians also executed people for believing the wrong thing, (alas, they stopped it a while back), then, say if Mr Yousef recanted his christianity in Iran and sought asylum in Britain, well then, we would kill him too for deciding not to believe his christianity anymore.

Well, you can see where this is going: a lot of people might just conclude that belief itself was just too dangerous and drop them altogether, and start to rely on what we actually know to be true instead.

Heaven knows where we’d end up then!!

All the best.

Henry Root
(Bespoke Suppliers of Wet Fish Enrichment Technology to the Worlds Elite)

PS - Mrs Root sends her love and asks will you send a few more male escorts over as she’s done the last lot.

Encl: A pound for wear n tear on the ropes.

28 September 2011

aloha u akbar

Way to go King Abduller!

Allowing women to drive indeed!…Whatever will they want next? Give em an inch eh? I never allow Mrs Root out without a male escort ….she complains a bit now and again but buckles up in the end.

Mind you, you should have seen the last male escort!

Quite right to give the misguided wench 10 good lashes – but watch they don’t pad out the burqa with a life vest or some wet fish: they can be a bit crafty like that you know?

Mrs Root, (cod be upon her), thinks it might have been a big mistake to allow them to vote too: at the moment they’re only worth half a man but, mark my words, they’ll vote to be worth as much as a man, if not more than a man, at the very first opportunity.

Don’t worry though, they’ll calm down in a bit and see sense when you’ve made an example of the first few uppity females and published the photos of their bleeding backs in the Riyadh Observer.

If it’s any consolation, the pope has the same problem. Some of them think they’re even entitled to be priests just on the grounds of being human. Imagine that?!?

Enclosed a pound for your court expenses.

Aloha u bugber (Cod is Great)

In solidarity

Henry Root (and half the Mrs)

(Purveyors of Wet Fish, some condoms and the odd bit of porn)

PS – We can supply wet fish at cost: they're very effective for a good flogging.

07 September 2011

The Root of Cloyne

Hey Jo

Never you mind that Enda Kenny Taoiseach fella. He’s an eejit, so he is. You're bound to get one or two bad apples in every barrel. Ah beejayzus, tis just bad luck that you’ve got thousands of them, is what it is.

Mrs Root thinks it’s probably all Obama’s fault since he visited Ireland.

It’ll probably be a good idea if you put a stop to your fellas buggering and torturing children for a bit till things settle down again. Take the long view, that’s the ticket!

If you’re reluctant to get rid of them we’d be happy to supply you with ice-filled cod pieces for the friskier priests to wear. Mrs Root thinks that’ll be more effective than giving them three hail mary’s, a how’s yer father and moving them to a new parish. No need to be bothering the Garde with it eh? Red tape: all that nonsense?

If Enda won’t toe the line stick some canon law up his backside on a short fuse. Remember the good ‘ol days Jo?

It’ll all blow over soon sais Mrs Root, (she’s at the wet fish counter – bless). One or two excommunicerations will see the end of all this nonsense.

Enclosed a pound for your legal fees.

Chin up Jo.

It’s not like you actually employ the buggers, is it?

Your affectionately

Henry Root

06 August 2011

Liquorice and Pom Pom

Liquorice and Pom Pom hatched out under a hen but she didn't want to look after them so we are hand rearing them.

20 July 2011

Cloyne Report

Recent BBC reporting on the Irish Parliament's reaction to the Cloyne report simply do not capture the determination and strength of feeling among the Irish to confront the Vatican's non-compliance and prevarication child protection legislation. The Irish PM's recent statement in the Dail captures this so I've extracted it as an mp3 audio which is here if you want to listen to it.


Given everything else going on, I suppose it's not very surprising that it's not higher up the news agenda. But what I find interesting is the contrast to be made between the phone hacking scandal where people are getting arrested, high ranking police officers are resigning, CEO's and chief executives are getting grilled in front of parliamentary committees and a raft of public enquiries are instigated all because of shennanigins in the media and the met. As opposed to the response to an organisation corrupt to its very core engaged in active cover ups of its criminal activities carried out over decades in which its employees destroyed the lives of thousands upon thousands of children and which STILL responds with denial, prevarication, obfuscation and a generally self protective modus operandi. How do they get away with it? Why do we let them?

EDIT: An organisation accrues so much power, over a sufficiently long period of time, and there develops a culture where the organisation begins to think it's above the law and accountable only unto itself. So, for Canon law in the church, you could substitute Wapping Law, in the Murdoch empire - a culture in which any wrongdoing/lawbreaking is to be reported, and dealt with, [read - mangaged away], internally only, with the priorities being the survival of the organisation and the insulation of the heirarchy from any meaningful accountability ie something more than an insincerely mumbled 'sorry'. It will be made very difficult for anyone to operate within the organisation without toeing the party line and there will be very harsh penalties for anyone attempting to do otherwise. It's hard to break such cultures when they become that powerful, but their fall from grace can be a fairly rapid, spectacular and dramatic event,if it ever happens.

10 July 2011

peaz meanz pwizes

In which clodhoppers wins second pwize in a booty contest of local plots and Cathy gets to cuddle fairly famous local gardener beefy Bill.

Our allotment friend and neighbour Holly made a mini-garden and she got first prize for that too!

We gottid a £3 seed voucher so we iz stinky rich and well famus to boot.

15 May 2011

And we'll all go together when we go...all suffused with an incandescent glow...

Or maybe not.

What happens in your head on Saturday 21st May at 6pm
local time when you discover that there’s no global earthquake, no
judgement day; you haven’t been Raptured up into glory and neither has anyone else?

What happens when you’ve pulled your kids out of
school, resigned your job, sold your house to buy into the wagon train of doom trundling around America bringing the '‘good’ news of damnation & destruction to everyone?

Do you stand around muttering ‘oh…..er……well’, and wonder what to do next? You’ve spent years preparing yourself for teh 2nd coming and He's stood you up.

You’ve already written off humanity as a bad job deserving of damnation and tribulation (but not you). Everything humans do is poisoned, sinful, loathsome in God’s eyes; you’ve no hope for the future, no faith in all the endeavours of humanity to progress, to get better, to live at all. All that is pointless and you want it to end next Saturday.... and it doesn’t. What happens in your head?

Was it a mistake in the math? It’s still going to happen, right? The Bible can’t be wrong on this can it? No, that's not possible: there’s just been a temporary postponement: armageddon is on hold...….wait….it’s just been revealed to brother XYZ that the new date is to be..blah blah blah and we’ve been blessed with more time to get the new date for the apocalypse into as many peoples diaries as possible.

Is that what happens? You retrench into some miserable little end time cult, growing ever more dissociated from reality; alive in the world, but not living in it, part of humanity but taking no part in it.

But all that’s for later. What do you feel as the great day approaches? Fear, trepidation, expectancy, transcendent joy? What do you feel for the unraptured, the damned: the ones that will be left behind to experience unspeakable levels of torture, terror and torment? They’re getting what they deserve, right? No need to feel bad for them.

And polls suggest that somewhere around 40% of Americans, (123 million people), believe in some such apocalyptic scenario, and many believe it will happen in their lifetime.

On one level this is funny, but on another it’s tragic - as well as bewildering: that so many can abrogate responsibility for humanity to some fantasy going on in their heads beggars belief.

The trouble is: the more they dream of heaven, the more likely becomes hell on earth.

04 May 2011


I’m not doing a good job of working out how I feel about OBL flatlining at the bottom of the ocean.

Flat, actually, is about right.

I don’t feel like celebrating, I don’t feel any sense of closure, I don’t feel like the world is suddenly more secure, I don’t feel any thrill of retributive justice, despite the thousands and thousands of people who have died either directly or indirectly because of that insane lunatics skewed view of reality. I don’t feel like it’s drawn a line under anything or settled anything or nudged the world an inch closer to sanity.

In the decade since that dreadful Tuesday on Sept 11th, I’ve watched, listened and read about all the casualties of the ideological and religious warfare that’s plagued humanity for thousands of years. It never goes away. No politician will make it go away, no religion, no guru, no masters from outaspace, not the second coming, not Dr Who. It can only be made to go away by humanity coming to its senses one day.

01 May 2011

Alice in Interland

'Oh dear, oh dear. Not again!' exlaimed Alice, falling down another rabbit hole, this time promising to herself not to drink
anything that said 'DRINK ME' on the bottle, or to eat anything that said 'EAT ME' on the label, no matter how sugar coated or jam filled or otherwise tempting it looked.

She landed on a sand dune next to some, (possibly American, it was hard to tell), special services personnel operating laptops.

'What are you doing?' asked Alice, trying to shake the sand out of her dress.

'We're sending drones to attack the Gaddaffles with rockets,' answered one of them, poking the ENTER key with a grubby finger.

'Oh, I see,' said Alice, who didn't really at all. 'Will it hurt?'

'Oh, I expect so.... probably, very much.' said the soldier.

'But you won't actually be there to see?' queried Alice.

'Well, no, not exactly: but we will see it, sort of, on the screen,' said the soldier, turning his laptop round for Alice to watch the buildings explode on the little screen.

'Ahhh, I see,' said Alice 'it's a sort of computer game then? The Gadaffles must be very naughty,' observed Alice. '

'Some of them are VERY naughty and some of them are a bit naughty and some of them are not really all that naughty at all.' replied the one who seemed to be in charge.

'Your rockets,' queried Alice, seeing through the eyes of the distant drone, 'can tell the difference then?'

'Ah, well, no, not exactly, that is, not precisely, not 100% accurately, no, they can't,' admitted the leader.

'You really mean not at all, don't you?' exclaimed Alice, thinking 'I am beginning not to like this particular Rabbit Hole all that very much.'

18 April 2011

the pen and the s word

Anyone would think I hadn't written a damn thing for a whole month. It wouldn't be true though. The pen may be mightier than the sword but it's a damn sight easier to ignore.

18 March 2011

The Red Nose Academic Bus Company Ltd

Our roving reporter interviews the CEO of Red Nose Academic Bus Co on the benefits of deregulation.

RR: Are we likely to see improved productivity and performance following nationwide academic bus deregulation?

CEO: Yes, certainly.the freedom to choose our own passengers and create our own routes will allow us to fulfill our ambitions by investing in our shared destiny in innovative ways.

RR: Isn't the destination marked on the front of the bus?

CEO: Well, for operational reasons, sometimes it is necessary to change the destination during the journey.

RR: Won't that be confusing for the passengers?

CEO: Not really. They will all end up in the same place eventually.

RR: How will you go about choosing the passengers?

CEO: Obviously, we want passengers that can get on and off the bus quickly and who don't slow us down too much, or take up too much of the drivers time trying to find their bus passes or purses.

RR: All the other bus companies are academic now too. Won't they all be choosing the most profitable routes and passengers?

CEO: Possibly. Some restructuring of services is inevitable. Market forces will weed out inefficient or failing bus services which can then be liquidated or taken over by more efficient and successful bus companies.

RR: Won't that mean, inevitably, that some areas and passengers get poorly served or find there is no local service at all?

CEO: Well, you must remember: anyone can set up an academic bus company now....anyone with a double garage or an old barn can build and run a bus company. No expertise or special qualifications are required; so, where a need is perceived, hopefully the market will develop a service to meet that need.

RR: Good. It all sounds rather jolly exciting.

CEO: It is: and at weekends we can strip out the seats and do house removals too!

RR: Lovely. Well thank you very much. Can I get the 11.15 to Preston now?

CEO: Er...um....sorry, that bus left at 10.53 apparantly. It seems you've missed the bus. There'll be another along shortly I imagine.