Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

Aaronovitch Watch reflects upon dinner with Denis MacShane. There’s an important point here, and one that was well made as a by-product of Nick Davies’ brilliant reporting on Operation PENTAMETER 2, a giant police sweep looking for prostitutes brought into the UK by force that failed to find even one. It turned out that the entire project was driven by policy-based evidence – a succession of politicos and thinktanks progressively taking what had once been the upper bound in an actual study, treating it as an actual forecast, and then adding a bit.

Not so long ago, I had the opportunity of discussing this with a source in the Met vice squad, and the take-home message is Davies was being conservative – it was actually worse than that.

Anyway, one of the most egregious examples of PBE in the story was the fault of none other than MacShane, who promptly responded by writing to the Guardian and accusing Davies of “taking the side of the managers of the sex industry”. As Davies pointed out in the original story, the whole thing followed the pattern of the campaign for war with Iraq with uncanny accuracy.

There was the exaggeration by stripping out caveats, the practice of using deliberately extreme limiting cases as central forecasts, the search for anyone who would provide the right kind of intelligence when the intelligence services’ intelligence didn’t fit around the policy…and the shameless red-baiting attacks on anyone who disagreed. Sniff, sniff. Are you a good anti-Fascist? Will you condemn, etc, etc?

The lesson, however, is that some people seem to gravitate to this set of tactics or political style (because that’s what it is); if Denis MacShane worked for the Party of Kittens, he’d be secretly briefing the press that Mickey Mouse was part of a decadent Hollywood-liberal elite in league with feline leukaemia, based on his summary of a leaked report from the newly established Council for a Flea-Free Future, and if you called him out on it, he’d get all the members of the Accuracy in Cat-Related Media mailing list to write and accuse you of being objectively pro-dog.

Come to think of it, it’s part of the package of modern thinking; you need a Boris Johnson-esque clown figure, a Tony Blair-esque tebbly tebbly concerned type, and a MacShane-esque underhand thug.

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As a change from the austere scientism hanging around this blog after Arthur C. Clarke’s death, Michael O’Hare reminded me of another wonder of British postwar culture today.

Among the religious doctrines that run me axle-deep in the mud whenever I try to follow them is literal resurrection to eternal life. I’m astonished to learn via Rachel Zoll that expectation of a literal, personal, physical resurrection is coming back in serious theological circles.Physical? What can this really mean: my body has done OK for me over the years but some parts are getting worn out, and most people die old and pretty beat up; will almost everyone in heaven wear reading glasses, and be in walkers or puffing up stairs? Will paraplegics spend eternity in their wheelchairs, the blind tapping canes? Do they get to take their service dogs? Come to think of it, before I sign up for this, are there dogs generally – resurrected (this seems impious; I love my dogs but they aren’t people) or some other sort?

I’m more than a little shocked that this mode of belief is on the rise; maybe I shouldn’t be. But there’s plenty of time for number crunchin’, logic choppin’,ScienceBlogs.com atheism; what strikes me about this is the dogs. Are there dogs generally? How could anyone possibly imagine a dogless heaven? It’s as absurd as a universe that ends on the nine billionth name popping out of the computer. It’s as absurd as not knowing whether that would happen when the if x is in NamesOfGod condition evaluates True when n=9,000,000,000,000, or whether it would have to output to the printer first.

In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film A Matter of Life and Death, David Niven’s character is washed up on the east coast of England after the shooting down of his aircraft, believing himself to be dead. Walking along the beach, disoriented, the first creature he meets is a dog; obviously, this convinces him that he has arrived in heaven. I always hoped there’d be dogs, he says, stroking its head.