Friday, December 31, 2004

Three years on.... A silver lining?

The outpouring from the public in the wake of the quake/tsunami in Southeast Asia has been something. In a lot of quarters, people are outgiving their governments, and perhaps this is one of the few silver linings we will see from 9/11/01. Perhaps now there is a better understanding of something of this magnitude. There is, after all, that famous Stalin quote about one death being a tragedy but a million being a statistic. This is perhaps how North Americans tended to look at the outside world, a series of unfortunate statistics. It seems however that this time around there is none of that undercurrent of sentiment that suggests that the people who were affected by this were somehow ignorant or that this is one of those "things that happen." I don't know, maybe I'm grasping at straws here, but there's not much else there. Three years on what do we have, a useless invasion of the wrong country and less human rights? If you look at the official US government response to 9/11 that's what you're left with. So maybe, maybe we can now say that at least the citizens of North America of an understanding of tragedy. Perhaps we have some clues about how to respond generously in the face of catastrophe. I hope so, because everywhere else you look, the terrorists are winning.

Times have changed?

Let the Haters Hate....

Per McBrooks' request, I am going to switch on comments... Play nice kids...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

This just gets worse and worse...

They're now saying there could be something like 100 000 dead when all the counting is done. Southeast Asia has just had 30 9/11s as it were...

International Red Cross
Medecins Sans Frontieres
World Vision

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Song of the moment

Ageless Beauty by the Stars.

"The Iraqi People"

I swear I'm sick of that phrase being hurled about by apologists for Bush's sad waste of a war. War proponents go on and on about "the Iraqi people" and what they want. More often than not, they are held up as a contrast to the "insurgents" and "terrorists." Are the terrorists and insurgents all non-Iraqis? I doubt it and most of the reports I've seen suggest that there are many native Iraqis who are in on the insurgency as well. Logically this seems likely since the disbanding of the army and high unemployment rates probably mean that there are a lot of angry young men with nothing to do, fertile ground for a home-grown insurgency.

Another ploy is for Bush or whoever to tell us what these Iraqi people want. How do they know? They say there are problems with polling in North America, I can't imagine how bad it is in Iraq. First of all there is the intimidation factor. We don't even need to blame this on the legacy of Saddam's (US-aided) brutality either. Nope, Abu Ghraib probably has done more than enough to make Iraqis plenty intimidated by the Americans. I don't think that the Iraqis perceived it as "fratboy hijinks" as some consverative commentators have labelled the torture there. On top of that, who even has a working phone? I mean if you poll by phone, Iraq's severely damaged infrastructure probably means that pollsters can't reach large swaths of the country. So in reality, I don't think anyone has any idea what the Iraqi people want (except for those Iraqi people who are insurgents, we have a pretty good idea what they want). So the next time some war supporter tells you that the Iraqi people want this or that, perhaps rolling your eyes is the best response.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Better than Saddam?

Next time someone defends the Iraq war with the line, "well at least we got rid that bad Saddam Hussein." You just point them to this charming little biography of Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi. Was Saddam a bad man? Absolutely. But as the song says, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

With apologies to The Who...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Finest in Music Journalism

I wish I could write about music like this. Hilarious.

Missile Defence for Dummies

Well, actually I don't think there is anyone else who would find it that useful. I am reminded of this delightful topic by the recent failure of yet another missile test. These things can't seem to acquire a success rate of more than 50% in testing. If you read the link you'll find that this test had been postponed several times due to bad weather. Bad weather? Well, as others have pointed out, what's the chance of that being a problem? So there you go, it's a mediocre system that can't even work in ill weather. Of course the proponents will tell you that eventually it will work. One fellow on the CBC (sorry no link) stated that it was like the moon missions, that the impossible could be done. Great idea, except that unlike the moon, missile technology isn't a static target. Does anyone think that Russia and China (among others) aren't working on newer and better designs for their ballistic missiles? The result is a system that won't work and that will have prompted other nations to develop better weapons. Is it me or is this pretty much the opposite of the desired effect? Yup missile defence, it's for dummies...

Bush, the Neocons, and their False God, the Market

OK, I know that this doesn't affect me directly as a Canadian, but I think it's an excellent example of market dogma. The Bush administration wants to privatize social security, I think that's no secret. The insistence, on their part, is that the current system is "broken" although they never really elaborate on this point. It's just broken you see, just, just trust us, we're the government, we know these things. So of course what's the perfect solution for this non-problem? Why the market of course! Look at the diagrams here

Of course nothing bad ever happened on the market. Nope. No one ever gets burned by it. The point here is not so much that the market is evil. The point is more that it simply cannot be the solution for everything. This is especially true for the small-scale investor. Does anyone honestly think that the average worker saving for retirement will have the knowledge to invest well? Look at all the people who got burned by the dot-bombs and Enron. At best the market is a sort of casino for the small-scale investor, so get ready America, you're going to be putting your retirement on the table...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bush's Favourite Political Philosopher: Nietzsche?!

I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I've been meaning to write this, so here goes.

During the 2000 election, Mr. Bush made the comment that his favourite political philosopher was Jesus. This is of course the obvious answer that his base wanted to hear, and really, who can fault a politician for playing to the home crowd? Who else could he mention, suspected homosexuals Plato or Aristotle? The risk of him mispronouncing Kant's name was probably too great. None of that wouldn't play in the red states, now would it? In the meantime I started to wonder about this comment. First of all, Jesus didn't have a whole lot to say about politics. His big pronouncement seems to have been that one ought to pay one's taxes (Matthew 22:21). Other than that he seemed to disdain the idea of secular rule, the kingdom with which he was concerned was, after all, not of this world (John 18:36). It seems then that Jesus didn't really have all that much to say about political philosophy.

Perhaps all of that meant that Bush just flat-out didn't have a political philosophy? But surely that couldn't be the case. So I decided to look at the Bush administration and see if I could figure this out based on its actions. You know, just so George W would be able to give a better answer if anyone asked him this question again. Well based on the last four years, I think I've found the guy for the Bush administration:

Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Look at the middle initial, isn't that just so perfect! Now this may seem a little counterintuitive at first. I mean, Nietzsche was the guy who went on about how God was dead and all that right? But the more you look, the more it makes sense, stay with me here... If you spend any time reading Nietzsche you quickly figure out that one thing he's not big on is "slave morality" and the idea of the weak binding up the strong. Nietzsche thinks that the strong should basically stop listening to the weak, I mean they're weak, right? Instead it's all about the will to power and all that. Well looky here, what a great fit with the Bush administration! Look at them, fearless in the face of the herd mentality of the UN! Those Bush administration ubermensch types are ready to overthrow treaties, obviously another devious way for the weak to undermine the strong! They don't even need proper armour for their military vehicles, because the US army is, after all, the army of the supermen!

Now some of the more perceptive critics are, at this juncture, probably ready to point out that Nietzsche also had a flair for Dionysian themes. Well, America isn't too big on that, still being the nation founded by the puritans and all that. The substitute is an orgy of blood and of violence. I mean really, look at the entirely unjustifiable war in Iraq, how else can that be categorised? No non-conventional weapons found and a daily bloodbath. This is not the march of truth and light that was promised now is it? All this has forced me to conclude that Nietzsche is the best contender we have when it comes to finding Mr. Bush's real favourite political philosopher.

A Word About the Title

Yes, this is an all-too-clever reference to the Dostoevsky book, it's a good book, and you should read it. It's shorter than a lot of his other works and yet contains all the clues for his acknowledged masterpieces. If you were curious, or heard someone mention Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov, this is a good place to start....