Pet warfare, game solutions, fishy business and political muscle

Pet theories

Fearless investigative reporters for a Jesuit magazine become wary when their lords and masters hit the daily newspapers. Of course, those who pack the scrum shouldn’t complain about a bit of aggro, but you do feel a bit aggrieved when Jesuit magazines kick own goals, as did La Civiltà Cattolica recently in an article on animals as pets. Writing sceptically about pets and their owners is an own goal in any code, even if the article was for animals and only against treating them as human. But the assault on feeding the moggie caviar and hibernating the family python in designer electric blankets restarted old wars between Jesuits and Friars, between the intellectuals and the workers in the church. Thundered Fr Canciani, a blesser of pets: ‘The average theologian is almost always solitary, and closed in his ivory tower.’ Historians will note that hostilities began on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi.

No dice

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs cribs most of its refugee determinations from a Monopoly ‘chance’ card: go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Refugee and asylum seeker issues in Australia shows there is more to it than that. The booklet, produced by the Ecumenical Migration Centre of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, gives clear and detailed answers to questions such as ‘What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?’, ‘Why are the onshore and offshore programs linked?’, ‘What are bridging visas?’, ‘What happens when a refugee’s TPV runs out?’, and ‘What are the arguments for and against using the current system of immigration detention?’

The writing is straightforward and open, aiming to explain rather than persuade. The booklet could be used as a resource by anyone who wants more information, including asylum seekers and refugees who want to understand their own legal situation and the options open to them. It doesn’t assume any previous knowledge, and the direct style allows for people who have recently learnt English as a second language. The complexity of immigration issues is always acknowledged, however. It is a calm, decent and sensible response to emotional issues.

This valuable publication is available through the Ecumenical Migration Centre, (03) 9416 0044.

Go fish!

Experts from the universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Leeds have discovered something remarkable—no longer will fish be perceived as one of the least intelligent species on our planet. Biologists Calum Brown, Keven Laland and Jens Krause go so far as to say that fish are highly intelligent. ‘Gone (or at least obsolete) is the image of fish as drudging and dimwitted pea-brains, driven largely by “instinct”, with what little behavioural flexibility they possess being severely hampered by an infamous “three-second memory”.’

Their results show that fish have remarkable social skills: they can recognise each other, develop strategies for catching prey and even exhibit the knowledge of using tools and building complex nests. Figuring that fish are the most ancient of the major vertebrate groups, some people may argue that this discovery is not necessarily exceptional.

So the next time you’re standing in front of a tank at the local pet shop and joke that the fish inside might not recognise you in three seconds’ time, think again. They may even recognise you years down the track.

True Lies

When Representative Darrell Issa petitioned 1.6 million Californians to request a recall against the Democratic Governor Gray Davis, it wasn’t about the $38 billion deficit, or about the failing education system, it was about securing Republican representation for the presidential campaign of 2004.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s success was due almost entirely to his familiarity. The Republican party couldn’t have scripted a better physical presence than ex-Mr Universe, himself. His experience in the political arena is as unconvincing as his acting ability but Californians were not deterred from turning out to the voting booths. They don’t care about the absence of quality, theirs is a state of illusion.

To add to the conundrum Schwarzenegger has listed—via national television—his qualifications for the role: ‘My movie Kindergarten Cop prepared me to deal with education issues, and my role as Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin gives me the insight necessary to deal with global warming.’ By this reckoning Maxwell Smart ought head the CIA.

With its integrity already in question, the formidable face of America takes a slap to its credibility.
The new Governor of California has promised, while he’s in office, there will be no need for another Total Recall.



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