Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An Early Spring Night

It was warm last night and the walk down my street didn't require any huddling at all. It would be a stretch to call it warm but it was certainly nicer than it has been. Winter in Toronto is long enough that sometime by February you get to believing that it's just a permanent state of affairs, that the weather here will forever suck. In that sense, just being outside the last couple of days has been so completely pleasant. Last night whilst walking, Prince was on my discman. (Yes I know, still no iPod, how gauche of me!) It's nice to know that the utter hellhole of a Canadian winter is not a permanent problem in Toronto. In actuality, the winter is the only thing that has ever made me want to pack it in and leave this town. Now I know that people all over Northern Ontario will say that what Toronto gets is "nothing" compared to what they have to endure. Well I don't care, it's still more than I would care to tolerate. So in that spirit, I'm happy to say that spring seems to be settling in at last.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Experts Agree...

...that Bush is completely and utterly wrong on just about any policy matter of consequence.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I Heart Huckabees

I finally saw it on the weekend. Good film. I liked the juxtaposition of the dinner at the African bellhop's house. Mark Wahlberg's firefighter character debating the whole family was interesting. The idea that the daughter puts forward that God doesn't care what we do so long as we have "Jesus in our heart" seems to be at the root of so much that ails Christianity. St. Augustine suggested that one could love God and then do what one wanted. The idea behind this being that, if one first loved God, their actions would be pleasing, whatever they were. The tendency though is to invert that logic. People do what they want and then try to work out after the fact how that is loving God. In doing so, people seem to be able to justify anything that they enjoy. By this method, you can be as greedy and selfish as you choose. Anyway, that was just a moment that I pulled out of that film, there is lots more too...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Worst of America

That's what we've seen with this Schiavo case, and I think I'll leave it at that.

Monday, March 21, 2005

But The Americans Insisted They Were The Good Guys...

It appears that the number who have died in US captivity during the alleged war on terror are fast approaching the number of Americans who died in North Vietnamese hands during the Vietnam War. (via Atrios)

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Right now it the two issues that are most vital to the US congress are baseball players on the juice and a single braindead woman in Flordia. That's it folks. The US has a huge budget deficit, a huge trade deficit, an occupation of another country, terror threats, and who knows what else besides; and all that they can think of to talk about are juiced ballplayers and one poor woman in a vegetative state. Wow, these guys have their priorities straight...

Why Blogs

A lot of media commentators other sorts of pundits are all on about why blogs are this big phenomenon. Much of this is nothing but the sort self-absorbtion that we are used to in the media. Some of it though is valid. As for my contribution to this rising heap of blog opinions, I think the value in them comes down to this: point-of-view journalism.

The way I see the blogs is in conjunction with the new popularity of documentaries and the rise of Fox News. All of these events are linked by their presentation of a certain point of view. Now there are certain problems with POV journalism. At its worst, POV journalism can be outright propaganda. At the same time though, everyone has their own perspective. The idea that a news source can be unbiased is ridiculous. There are all sorts of ways to corrupt the presentation of information just through word choices. For example, the unelected leader of a foreign state, if a network likes them, they can be "president" so-and-so. If the station doesn't want to present them favourably, they become "the dictator" of such-and-such country. This is just a tiny example, this sort thing happens all the time, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Bloggers and documentary filmmakers are upfront though. You know how Michael Moore approaches things, you know how Andrew Sullivan approaches things. It's the same with Fox, it works because everyone knows where they are coming from. I personally think that they are ill-informed and their ideologies are oppressive, but they are entitled to be that way. The thing that vexes me about Fox though is its insistence that it's "fair and balanced" only the most deluded person would believe that Fox is balanced. They have a right-wing perspective and they should admit it. It's part of POV journalism, own up to it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Incomprehensible Stance of the Anti-Abortionists

I've been reading about this in the US and I find it curious. Why would anti-abortionists want to cut sex-ed and constrain emergency contraceptives? It seems that if you want less abortion, less unwanted pregnancies would be a good place to start. Would it not?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Perimeter Idiocy

So the big story in Canada has been all these proposals for an integrated North America. The integration would primarily affect such things as security and trade primarily. There are several reasons why wholesale integration is a terrible idea. The primary problem though is that this whole thing is predicated on the notion that Canada, Mexico, and the United States would be equal partners. Let's not delude ourselves here. Look at trade rulings, the US just ignores NAFTA when it is in their interest to do so. The US would enter such a deal looking to be able to make all the rules and ignore the ones it didn't like. We have seen in trade, and this kind of a solution would apply it to security and immigration. The US would bully Canada and Mexico into accepting its definition of who is a good guy or a bad guy. Does anyone think that it could be any other way?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Democracy in Iraq?

Once again, Juan Cole has the straight goods on this one. The reason that the Iraqis can't seem to get their government underway is the bizarre 2/3 "super-majority" that the Americans have set as a requirement. I think the initial idea was to protect minorities or something. The effective outcome in Iraq though is that the Kurdish minority is making demands that will continue to find no traction with the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

Postering on the Radio

On the CBC this morning they interviewed Toronto City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Minnan-Wong is the councillor leading the charge against postering in Toronto. I was curious to hear what he had to say on the subject. What his opinion came down to though was nothing other than the fact that he doesn't seem to like posters. That's it, he doesn't like them and he wants Queen Street to be "clean." What is so perplexing is that Minnan-Wong is the councillor for Don Valley East, a ward that is far away from the urban core where postering is most common. Here's a suggestion councillor, go to Fairview Mall, it's just north of your ward, and it's nice and clean and antiseptic and dull! As I said before in this space, if people don't like the aesthetic of Queen Street or Kensington or elsewhere in downtown, they shouldn't go there. I can't imagine what kind of pathological obsession with neatness drives a suburban councillor to demand that an entire city look like an outdoor shopping mall.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Interesting Article

I found this article to be interesting comment on the Christian right in the United States. It paints a dark picture of the motives of some Christians in the public square. Part of me wants to say that this article is just too cynical, but another part of me knows that this sort of thing is part of human nature. Regardless of that the question still stands, if conservative Christians are so worried about little babies, why does that concern seem to evaporate in some of them once the babies are born?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Updates Around Here

Check it out, I added some links on the right here.

Neatniks of Toronto 1, Culture and Community 0

That's the sense I get upon reading that the city has approved a new anti-postering bylaw. The only reason I've ever heard for such a law is something to the effect that some people don't like the look of posters on utility poles. As far as I can tell this is section of society that simply does not like anything messy. It reminds me of a time I was downtown on Queen Street and I overheard a middle-aged couple complaining about Queen Street and wondering why it couldn't be more like Yorkdale Mall (ie: neat and tidy with ample parking). Queen Street is not Yorkdale nor should it be. If you want to shop at a mall go to the mall people. Anti-poster legislation is something that uptight whiners from the suburbs want to foist on the whole the city. I have news for these sorts of busybodies, some people like posters, some people want to know what's going on in their community! Apparently the city council doesn't care though... This is disappointing.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Terrorism and the Islamic World

Once again Juan Cole has an excellent post on the roots of terror. The gist of it is that terrorism develops as a response to foreign occupations and colonialism more than anything else. But don't believe me, go read the whole thing.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Stop Illegal Grow-Ops

The only way to do that is to legalise, tax, and regulate marijuana. In the meantime, like with the prohibition of alcohol, the prohibition of cannabis will simply lead to more tragedies like the one in Alberta this week. No prohibition of pot and you take the gangs and the thugs out of the equation. I don't think that a lot of racketeering happens among the tobacco farmers of southwestern Ontario, and I don't think that Molsons is paying protection money to anyone either. I'm not a particular fan of the reefer myself, but when you compare to it alcohol, I don't think that the damage done is any worse. I don't buy the "gateway" argument either. Sure someone who gets into heroin or whatever is more likely to have smoked weed. But I'm sure that they were also likely to have smoked tobacco and consumed alcohol. So why not ban them too? I'd also note that potheads are probably less likely to beat their spouse than alcoholics. And while driving under the influence of anything is probably unwise, a mellowed toker is probably less harmful than an angry drunk.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Canadian Political Blogs?

Does anyone know of any good ones? I seem to find American ones at every turn, which is fine, American politics affect the entire world and I like knowing what's going on down there, but I would like to read about my own country from time to time too.

Syria and Lebanon put in Perspective

Juan Cole illuminates the current situation in Lebanon with some historical context here. It seems that both Israel and the Americans had an interest in actually keeping the Syrians in Lebanon as a check against militants operating from the Southern part of the country. Of course you don't hear anything like that on the news. All you hear about is how Syria's presence is disruptive. By the way, has anyone definitively linked Syria to the assassination of Hariri? Sure they seem a likely suspect, but so far nothing concrete. In a region with so many different conflicts and subplots intertwining, sometimes it isn't always the most obvious suspect is it? But I digress...

What I want to talk about here is the idea of context and history in understanding current events. Professor Cole's post reminds me of how sorely lacking our sources of information are when it comes to providing this sort of information. It reminds me of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting in which Milan Kundera returns again and again to the idea of official forgetting. His context is Czechoslovakia under communism, where enemies of the state are deleted from pictures among other things. The West is under its own spell of forgetting though. In this state the governments and their media enablers (Fox News et al) simply overlook the past. We are not presented with any perspective, all we are told is that those dastardly Syrians have occupying forces in Lebanon and that something must be done! (For what it's worth, terming the Syrian regime dastardly is not something I do facetiously, I have not forgotten what they did to Maher Arar, nor that it was done with American help.) When the media is so eager to acquiesce to the official government narrative it is, to say the least, disconcerting.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations

This is what I've been reading the last week or so. I read once several years ago that the Stoic philosophers are a good antidote to some aspects of our age. I am inclined to agree with that sort of sentiment. We live in an age which is obsessed by the desire for fame and for material wealth, things which are fleeting and meaningless in Meditations (here Marcus and the author of Ecclesiastes are in agreement). Now as I say this, I also hasten to add that I am no daydreamer with delusions that things were all great circa AD 167 when Marcus wrote his Meditations, and that we should just reinstate the classical Roman values of his day. No. That is idiotic. I am also aware of the irony of an Emperor calling fame and fortune worthless. What I take from this text is Marcus' call to be aware of how short our time here is and how fleeting fame and fortune really are (see Ozymandias for further confirmation of that). Knowing that we cannot change the past and that our future is not assured (at least not our earthly one); and knowing that we all will one day be forgotten, how then shall we live? That is the question that Marcus Aurelius poses to us.