Friday, April 29, 2005

Destroy Canada in Order to "Save" It?

In the Star today, Richard Gwynn makes the point that Stephen Harper would do a particularly bad job of fighting the separatists. I don't think that that's a surprise. I mean Harper makes the Vulcans look like an effusive and heartwarming race. Combine that charisma with his policies, and you don't exactly have a champion for Canadian unity. I have to wonder though, how much does Harper want Canada to stay together? By this I mean that he doesn't like "have-not" provinces like Quebec. But more than that, let's look at where his heart is in terms of ideology. Last year there was an article in The Walrus about something called the "Calgary School." Led by an American political scientist, Tom Flanagan, this Calgary School is the ground from which Harper has sprung. The article in The Walrus states:

Not surprisingly, most of the group's policy prescriptions -- from an elected senate to parliamentary approval of judges -- would have one effect: they would wipe out the quirky bilateral differences that are stumbling blocks to seamless integration with the Unites States.

But Shadia Drury, a member of the U of C department until last year, accuses her former colleagues of harbouring a more sinister mission. An expert on Leo Strauss, the philosophical father of the neo-conservative movement, Drury paints the Calgary School as a home-grown variation of American Straussians like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who share their teacher's deep suspicion of liberal democracy. Strauss argued that a ruling elite often had to resort to deception -- a noble lie -- to protect its citizens from themselves. To that end, he recommended harnessing the simplistic platitudes of populism to galvanize mass support for measures that would in fact restrict rights. Drury warned the Globe's John Ibbitson that the members of the Calgary School "want to replace the rule of law with the populism of the majority," and labelled Stephen Harper "their product."

There you have it. Flanagan, Harper, et al want to follow the lead of the American Neocons. Quebec, I think it is obvious to see, would form a substantial impediment to that goal. My theory here is this: Stephen Harper will say all sorts of things about how he wants national unity or this and that, but I don't think he does. He wants to make us all into to good little Red State Americans. I have no problem with Americans, I like a lot of Americans, but I am not one and I do not want to be one. If Harper does, and if he stops by Toronto ever, I can happily take him to the US Consulate and show him how to be one without ruining things for the rest of us.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

On a personal note...

Looks like I'll be doing some recording next week.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Remember that whole "war in Iraq" thing? How'd that turn out?

Not too good, according to this post by Juan Cole. Interestingly, it seems the level of insurgent attacks is the same as it was a year ago. Remember a year ago? When they were trying to pacify Fallujah?

My theory is that the Americans are going to bail out of Iraq and do so quietly, and, in another three to five years when the country is once again a mess, everyone will wonder what has happened. I can't remember who said it, but I recall someone say that a likely scenario for Iraq is something like Colombia today. That is, a somewhat functioning central government but one that cannot control vast parts of the country.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More Than a GOP Moneyman...

Great article in the LA Times about the Republicans and Jesus. A sample:
Broadcast media prefer to cast Christianity in the role of "right-wing values PAC" because it's so neat and tidy. They don't much like even to say the name Jesus on air because then we might have to talk about his ideas. "Evangelical Christianity" is much simpler because you can treat it as just another special-interest group, like the Teamsters or the neocons.

Leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson have used the media to redefine Christianity as the "Republican base" — all between commercials hawking family-values videotapes or pleading for more contributions.

Keep reading.

Another Thing...

Nineteen years ago today, reactor four at Chernobyl melted down.

Begging the Question in Middle-Eastern Geopolitics

On the TV today they were on about how the Syrian army has finally completely left Lebanon. What I've found fascinating about this story is how everyone points to the Hariri assassination as the trigger for the Syrian pullback. The official narrative went something like this though:

Hariri has been assassinated! How soon before Syria ends this meddling?

Ummmmm, pardonez moi? I am fascinated how they've never actually shown that Syria did this. They haven't shown that the bomb was of a type that Syrian agents prefer, they haven't caught any Syrian agents in connection with this crime. Look at the effects of this event: Syria is isolated and weakened in the region, Lebanon is ardently opposed to Syria and even looking at the US as vaguely benevolent. Who does this benefit? I think it's pretty obvious. And I don't think that's it's a tinfoil-hat conspiracy to suggest that it's very possible that Hariri's assassins were operating under the aegis of the US government.

Now it's probably just as likely that Syria's leaders are inept and somehow thought that this assassination would somehow benefit them. But the utter lack of evidence linking Syria to the bomb makes me wonder.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Yeah sure nothings been proven as far as him breaking the law. All the same, with the partisan redistricting and all that, I feel a decent amount of schadenfreude seeing him get into deeper and deeper trouble. Poor bastard, looks like his own party is turning on him too...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Grasping at Straws?

So I missed Martin's big speech to the nation last night, but as I understand it, the gist of it was, "Puhleeeeeeze let me govern a little bit longer!" I really cannot imagine what he's going to be able to do between now and February that's really going to change things for him and his government. They are just dead in the water, I don't know what they are going to do to turn things around. Maybe they are working furiously to develop something like those flashbulbs that cause amnesia from Men in Black. The only thing that I'd be willing to predict is that prominent Liberals who had little or nothing to do with the Chretien government must be quietly looking at possible leadership bids (yes, Frank McKenna, I'm looking at you). If we are going to be realistic about this, that's what it will take to rehabilitate this party.


So today some company leaves a collection of business cards on the door handle of my house. Upon inspection I notice this:

Image hosted by

That's right, a professional flight simulator for your entertainment! Wow. After everything we learned about what the wrong person can do with a bit of time on a flight simulator, this is now a fun service that we are offering to the general frickin' public?! Has no one thought how colossally stupid this is? Now you don't even need to sign up for a professional flight school, you just have to give these people your money. I don't know, maybe I'm being paranoid, but making this kind of training available to the public at large seems to among the more foolish things that could be done.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What the Heck Happened?

Paul Martin did a good job in finance it seemed, even if you disagreed with his approach, it always seemed like the budgets were well put together. Why has he been such a dismal Prime Minister? The problems now faced by the Liberals are bad enough, but his management style seems to do nothing but exacerbate them. Looking at this trainwreck of a government makes me wonder how Canada Steamship Lines avoided going under with Martin at the helm. Sheesh.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Toward A New Superpower?

Actually I don't think that that should be a question mark. China is coming into its own, and it's going to have the military to back it up sooner rather than later.

Just Wondering...

What's with all these big political posts by me lately?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

In God's Country

Recently, various legal controversies in the United States have caused many conservative-types to assert that America is a Christian nation founded on Judeo-Christian morals. As someone with a degree in history, this has given me pause. In looking at the actual founding of the United States (as opposed to say, the imagined founding described in, say, The Patriot) there is a real confluence of different ideas at work.

The language of rights especially found in the Declaration of Independence bears a heavy debt to John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rouseau more than anyone. Certainly the central thrust of the Declaration of Independence was very much lifted from Locke's writings. The language of individual rights and the idea of a social contract were very much ideas of the 18th century Enlightenment.

The structure of the US government owed a great deal to Greco-Roman concepts. The Athenians and their democracy were surely an influence. The idea of separate powers balancing each other out is something that Aristotle would no doubt applaud. Interestingly, Machivelli also like the idea of a division of powers. The very use of the name "senate" to describe one of the houses of Congress is an echo of Rome.

As far as religious belief among the patriots, many of the founding fathers, Jefferson in particular, were deists. Thomas Paine, who wrote the famous pamphlet Common Sense was also apparently, at best, ambivalent about Christianity. Jefferson, you will note, refers to a "Creator" and not to God per se in his Declaration.

On the whole, the language of the American Revolution is that of the Enlightenment far more than it is that of the Bible. For a contrast, one can look at the abolitionists. In the wake of the second great awakening, both the abolitionist and their opponents put much of their argument into specifically biblical language.

The Christian roots of America are certainly there, but only in the sense that most citizens of the US were Christians at that time. There is little in the documents of America's revolution and her subsequent constitution to suggest that the creation of an American republic was an inherently Christian undertaking. For a curious contrast Canada, that's right, post-modern, post-Christian, secular Canada has a constitution specifically mentioning God. A constitution drawn up less than a quarter of a century ago no less! The US constitution contains no such reference.

If various groups in the US want to increase the role for their religious beliefs in public life, they are welcome to make their case for doing so. At the same time though, the claim that the United States was founded as a particularly Christian nation is something from American myth, not American history.

Postscript: Anyone want to explain how the American founding fathers squared their revolution with Romans 13 (using primary sources preferably)? If they were in fact such devout people, surely this would have been an important relgious concern.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I still don't get this argument...

In Macleans this week, some guy named Stanley Hartt (who apparently worked for Mulroney) makes this argument on same-sex marriage:

But here's the rub: to millions of Canadians, the concept of same-sex marriage is terminologically oxymoronic. Their status as married persons is something they elected, often in the context of a belief system, intending it to emphasize a specific social status. They are not reactionaries or rednecks or insensitive or out of date, and resent being cast as such. They are generally hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying, God-fearing people who believe there is no need for social progress to be made on their backs.
What exactly does Mr. Hartt mean by this? I still don't get how same-sex marriage constitutes progress (or even regress, if that's your view of it) on anyone else's back? I said it before and I'll say it again, I am straight and someday I may just get married, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how gays being married will somehow impinge on my own marriage. How does the fact that gays and lesbians might do the same thing hurt any future marriage of mine? What's more, this argument is being made by conservatives! I'm no expert but I thought that conservatives were big on, you know, personal responsibility and individual autonomy and all that. But no, not with marriage, according to Hartt's argument, the minute any gays get married, all hetero marriages are in grave danger of flying apart due to the centrifugal forces of gayness. There is nothing that straight couples can do!

Maybe I've misunderstood what he's saying, offer me a better understanding of it if you can.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Finally it looks like a group of lawmakers have passed some sensible legislation. Idaho's state legislature has approved the Napoleon Dynamite bill! (via Fark)

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I wanted to write something tonight, but I'm too tired to come up with anything that is terribly worthwhile. I think by Tuesday I'll have had the chance to properly catch up on my sleep. In the meantime, I got nothing... On a supremely trivial note, I was impressed that Tiger actually won the Masters, he was kind of sucking the big one throughout the first round.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Adscam: Politics Past and Future

I've voted in every election for which I was eligible to vote since I was 18. That doesn't mean though that I'm not cynical about some of the types of people involved in politics in Canada. In that sense, I am somewhat bemused by the opposition parties saying that they are shocked, shocked (!) that there is dirty politics (in Quebec no less) in the Liberal Party. Let's pause and think back to the last time that the Conservatives, oops, sorry, Progressive Conservatives were in power. I do not seem to recall that government being squeaky-clean by any stretch of the imagination. Now Brian Mulroney did sue the government to clear his name, but his business partner, Karlheinz Schreiber now seems to be dirty player not unlike the Groupaction types we are hearing about today.

My point is that this is behaviour of type that is endemic to politics. It works the same with any system in any country. Look at the embattled Tom DeLay, too much money and too much power swirling around one guy. (DeLay is a good example for those hardcore conservatives with the type of selective memory that leads them to think that other conservatives always play it on the straight narrow. *cough*Richard Nixon*cough*) My point is that I'm cynical about politicians of all stripes. I mean this in the narrow definition of cynical, i.e., I suspect that those in office have suspect (selfish) motives for the things that they do.

So where does this leave us today. Well, it's too early to tell frankly, and the historian in me prefers looking at the past over making predictions for the future. Nonetheless we may be seeing the inception of the sort of political storm that throws the Liberals out of office. That said, part me of thinks that this may be the sort of thing that gets a narrow band of Ottawa types and some media outlets wound up while falling on deaf ears throughout the country. What concerns me though are the alternatives. I've posted about this before (well attempted to, you can read it, but it ended up being a rant on the sartorial sense of certain redneckish Conservative MPs) but allow me to revisit the subject. In Quebec the only alternative seems to be the Bloc. Swell. This is perhaps something that should give the other (federalist) parties pause before forcing an election too early.

(Sidebar on Quebec politics: What is the deal in this province, they seem to change from federalist to separatists like most people change clothes. A few people in one party allegedly played some dirty pool and now the whole province wants to talk about leaving Confederation?! Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath!)

Outside of Quebec, the most likely alternative for many, many people will surely be the Conservatives. Many potential NDP voters may be scared into voting Liberal yet again by fear of the Tories, so this may be another lean electoral harvest for Jack Layton's gang. Now the Conservatives are in large part the old Reform bunch (let's not let the name deceive). While the Tories are now taking tentative steps towards (feigned?) concern about Quebec and its issues, this is still the party of Calgary's hardcore rightist elite. It may make itself the party of Bay Street too, but it's not going to be the party of Quebec anytime soon.

So now we have the potential for a Conservative minority or majority with a strong Bloc among the opposition parties (or in a coalition with the Tories?!) At the same time, prospects are dim for Charest's Quebec Liberals. Thus, it is conceivable that in the next few years there will be a Conservative government that cares little for Quebec in Ottawa, a strong Bloc presence, and the pequistes once again running Quebec. The prospects for separation under such a scenario should disturb any Canadian.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Daylight Savings (Fun)time

I like longer evenings and the sun staying out longer, so, as usual, I'm a bit happier this first week of DST... Now back to our regularly scheduled darkness and gnashing of teeth...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Looking at Bikes

I did some of that today, and wow, I haven't been on one since last fall, but it seems like forever. Nonetheless, for all my out-of-shape weezing, it was actually fun.

John Paul II's Legacy

As Republicans in the US and other (often protestant) conservatives try to cleave to John Paul II's legacy, Juan Cole presents another side of it. Let's remember that this is a pope who was also a pacifist, an environmentalist, a death penalty opponent, and an advocate for the rights of workers and trade unions. The legacy of John Paul II does not square readily with any political ideology, and to attempt to make it do so demeans the man and his life.

Monday, April 04, 2005

But What's the Alternative?

I've been reading around the internet (sorry W, I mean internets) about this adscam. A lot of it is noise being generated by hard-right types salivating at the idea of an unleashed Conservative majority. Now obviously no one likes to see their hard-earned wasted. But stop and look at the alternative before reflexively electing Harper's goon squad. Look at these guys really carefully, Randy White belongs in some bar in a two-bit redneck town, not in any government. Myron Thompson looks like the biggest yahoo idiot with his absurd cowboy hats. There, I said it. If you are going to run a country you shouldn't wear anything quite so stupid as a giant white cowboy hat. Who do you think you are? The Lone Ranger? Stop pretending to be a wild west hero or something, not even Western ranchers wear those things much anymore it seems. Myron Thompson, you look like a small-town village idiot and frankly it's embarassing. These people would still end up create a government that would make Canada a laughingstock.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Old Albums...

I was driving home last night and I was dead tired and "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M. came on the radio. I had sort of forgotten about that song. Not that I didn't remember the tune or the lyrics (I did) but rather I had just put it out of my mind I guess. It's a good song and it got me to thinking how the entire Automatic for the People album is a very solid album. In thinking that, it also occurred to me that I haven't listened to it at all in quite a while. I don't think I overplayed it ever either, I just must have phased it out of my listening habits. I can think of other albums where it's the same thing too. It's not that I'm consciously tired of them or that I feel like they are no longer good albums, I just sort of stop listening to them. So my experiment for tonight will be to listen to Automatic for the People again, just to see how I hear it now.