Go Nigel!

In practice the European Parliament doesn’t have a whole lot of power. Like the UN, it mostly functions as a debate club with lavish perqs for its members, so who gets elected to the thing really doesn’t matter all that much.
Following the results of yesterday’s elections, it’s been fun watching the journalists who think fashionable thoughts clutch their pearls and rummage through their handbags for their smelling salts. Quickly running down the Twitter of Canadian journalists, the insufferably prissy Doug Saunders over at the Globe seems most discombobulated.
So for that alone, well done voters of France and the United Kingdom!

Hucksters

Christie Blatchford in the National Post:

How curious it is that in our modern world, where more than ever before transparency and accountability are demanded of both government and public institution [sic], two of the last holdouts have been brought together in the heartbreaking story of Makayla Sault.

They are, of course, evangelical Christianity and aboriginal healing.

Of course? Where did that come from? There are of course plenty of valid charges which could be leveled against that strange amorphous thing which is contemporary evangelicalism. But one of the lone holdouts against “transparency and accountability”? (Wait. Did she just tacitly suggest that government and public institutions have capitulated to demands for accountability? Let’s leave that for another time.)

More to the point, almost any charge is probably true of some subgroup in that group encompassed by a term as vague as ‘evangelical’. At this point it seems to mean anyone who identifies as Christian, but isn’t Catholic or Orthodox, isn’t a mainline protestant, and isn’t a fundy. So everything from stodgy conservative Presbyterian to vulgar non-denominational mega-church, to the huckster televangelist-Pentecostal nexus goes in the catch-all ‘evangelical’ category. It’s the latter that’s in view here. If Benny Hinn & Co. were representative of evangelical Christianity, the point would be well taken.

But he’s not, so Blatchford doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but it does underscore just how bewildering protestant Christianity is to those outside.

Vanity of vanities

“The bishop is black, incidentally.”
“The Episcopalians have a black bishop?”
“Oh, they’re very liberal,” said Sheldon, rolling his eyes. “It coulda just as easy been a woman or a Sandinista. Or a lesbian. Or a lesbian Sandinista.”
The Mayor shook his head some more. He found the Christian churches baffling. When he was growing up, the goyim were all Catholics, unless you counted the shvartzer, which nobody did . They didn’t even rate being called goyim. The Catholics were two types, the Irish and the Italians. The Irish were stupid and liked to fight and inflict pain. The Italians were stupid and slob-like. Both were unpleasant, but the lineup was easy enough to comprehend. He was in college before he realized there was this whole other set of goyim, the Protestants. He never saw any. There were only Jews, Irishmen, and Italians in college, but he heard about them, and he learned that some of the most famous people in New York were this type of goyim, the Protestants, people like the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts, the Astors, the Morgans. The term Wasp was invented much later. The Protestants were split up into such a crazy bunch of sects nobody could even keep track of them all. It was all very pagan and spooky, when it wasn’t ridiculous. They were all worshiping some obscure Jew from halfway around the world. The Rockefellers were! The Roosevelts even! Very spooky it was, and yet these Protestants ran the biggest law firms, the banks, the investment houses, the big corporations. He never saw such people in the flesh, except at ceremonies. Otherwise they didn’t exist in New York. They barely even showed up in the voting surveys. In sheer numbers they were a nullity— and yet there they were. And now one of these sects, the Episcopalians , had a black bishop.

If I were running the education system, Tom Wolfe would be on the required reading list. I’d get lots of angry letters, I would.

Yeah, your kids are fat and lazy

Some earnest busybodies have announced with some fanfare that Canadian kids aren’t active enough, which may well be true. But since statistics is fun, I decided to look up the report itself and run some numbers. Assigning a numerical scale to the letter grades (F=0, D-=1, D=2, …, A=11, A+=12), and running a simple linear regression on the relationship between the government strategy scores and the overall physical activity scores, we get a slope of -0.29 (ρ = -0.16). In other words, ‘better’ government strategy is weakly associated with worse outcomes. Make of that what you will.

Oops

Public art. Now with a dose of stupid to complement the ugly.

Speaking of rackets:

The original design actually called for the racquet-shaped light fixtures — which each cost $4,595 — to be strung like real racquets, but that plan was nixed, Holmes added.

Five grand for a block of concrete with a bent piece of metal sticking out of it, which are now supposed to resemble futuristic trees. Futuristic trees. Let that sink in a bit. And now ask yourself, do you trust the aesthetic judgement of the people responsible for this crap? Who are they? Why do they still have jobs? There’s something just not right about them.

Ottawa

Beautiful Sunday morning in Ottawa.
wpid-img_20140518_0927322.jpg.jpeg

 

Tourists amassing on Parliament Hill.
wpid-img_20140518_092448.jpg

 

The lineup for tours of Parliament stretches from Metcalfe almost to O’Connor.
wpid-img_20140518_0926382.jpg.jpeg

 

My front yard is also looking good this morning.
wpid-img_20140518_095200.jpg

Unsurprising news

I love it when Science! backs up my prejudices:

Analyzing the data, Gibson found that each treatment diet, whether it included gluten or not, prompted subjects to report a worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms to similar degrees. Reported pain, bloating, nausea, and gas all increased over the baseline low-FODMAP diet. Even in the second experiment, when the placebo diet was identical to the baseline diet, subjects reported a worsening of symptoms! The data clearly indicated that a nocebo effect, the same reaction that prompts some people to get sick from wind turbines and wireless internet, was at work here. Patients reported gastrointestinal distress without any apparent physical cause. Gluten wasn’t the culprit; the cause was likely psychological. Participants expected the diets to make them sick, and so they did.

Self-diagnosis based on the advice of people named Oprah and Gwyneth is kind of a stupid idea when you think about it.

Vile weed!

wpid-img_20140516_072107.jpgIn previous years, my yard would have been full by now of six-foot high specimens of the world’s stupidest and ugliest invasive plant. But this year, thanks to a bit of Roundup and judicious use of a hypodermic syringe, the plants are all stunted and deformed. The leaves are curling up, turning yellow, and falling off. A winner is me. (Almost)

It’s nearly enough to make me want to counter-protest at the anti-Monsanto march next week.

Havana

Michael J. Totten visits Cuba:

I visited Iraq seven times during the war and didn’t have the heart to tell her that Baghdad, while ugly and dangerous, is vastly freer and more prosperous these days than Havana. Anyway, Iraq is precisely the kind of country with which Castro wants you to compare Cuba. It’s the wrong comparison. So are impoverished Third World countries like Guatemala and Haiti. Cuba isn’t a developing country; it’s a once-developed country destroyed by its own government. Havana was a magnificent Western city once. It should be compared not with Baghdad, Kabul, Guatemala City, or Port-au-Prince but with formerly Communist Budapest, Prague, or Berlin. Havana’s history mirrors theirs, after all.