Monday, July 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

From Juan Cole:
"The only practical thing to do when you can't easily beat people into submission is to find a compromise with them that both sides can live with. It will be a hard lesson for both the Lebanese Shiites and the Israelis. But they will learn it or will go on living with a lot of death and destruction."
And that pretty much sums up where we are today.
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

How many Canadians does Israel have to murder...

...before Harper will do a damn thing about it?

The CBC is reporting that a Canadian UN observer is believed to be among the dead in the Israeli attack on a UN post. Of course our Prime Minister is totally useless in this matter as he makes an a priori assumption that the post was not deliberately targeted. Apparently he believes this because the Israeli leaderships says so. Now there are reports that Hezbollah fighters were allegedly in the vicinity. So what? Israel deliberately took out a UN target. Is Harper afraid to speak up because of the Bushies? It's not for votes, I live in one of the most Jewish ridings in Canada, and the Liberals took in a landslide last election. So I call bullshit on that one. Harper ran on the slogan "Stand up for Canada" but apparently it's also "Bend over for Israel." This is not about "self-defense" this is Israel just bombing the fuck out of whatever it chooses to hit. And we have a PM who is a weak-kneed coward not able to stand up for the 50 000 Lebanese Canadians or even Canadian soldiers in Lebanon.

While other countries are condemning the indiscriminate killing of their peacekeeping soldiers, Harper just stands there, grinning like an idiot. I have never like him, but this sort of impotence makes me think that I will actively work against him and anyone from his party. There will be no more passive head-shaking.

Many of my family members fought for Canada, when Harper does nothing to stand up for Canadian soldiers under attack by a foreign power, he pisses on that legacy.

Fuck you "Steve"
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


It appears that Borat's movie (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) will make its international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival! One can only hope that this means that Borat himself is coming to Toronto!
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Whither Iraq?

The Independent has an article saying that the dissolution of Iraq is now inevitable. What I wonder is, despite the fact that this seems to indicate the full, final failure of Bush's ill-conceived war, is this, in the long-run a bad thing?

Partitions of countries tend to be nasty things, ask anyone who experienced India/Pakistan, but in the case of Iraq, it may be inevitable. So what? It is apparent that relgious and ethnic identities trump the national identity in the post-Saddam Iraq. Is the breakup problematic? Absolutely. But why bother to keep this nation together when its parts do not wish to stay together?

Returning to India and Pakistan, they both have nukes and therefore there is an existential threat - but while that threat is serious, it is not acute, there is ongoing stability - albeit with tension - in that relationship. Even the Mumbai bombings have not seriously raised the threat of a regional war on the subcontinent.

Now what if some external powers forced India and Pakistan to stay together? I'm sure there would have been far more internal strife and the risk would have been far greater to average people in everyday life if the subcontinent was forced to be a single state. In some cases, maybe partition is not such a bad thing. Iraq may be one of those cases. The borders of the country were drawn by one empire (British) to manage the territories of another (Ottoman) empire with minimal attention paid to local realities.

Iraq breaking apart will be a nasty, nasty affair, I have no doubt. But perhaps, in the long run, it may be the best thing that can be hoped for in the region.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Homeless Terror

There is nothing in Canada that gets the right wing quite so excited as terror. They seem almost giddy for any opportunity to spot it - or in lieu of that, fabricate some terror plot and then spot that. One of the more egregious examples might be here on the blog of RightGirl. It seems that she is convinced that terrorists might disguise bombs as the possessions of homeless people. Then there is a rant that demonstrates a poor understanding of the causes of and solutions to homelessness. This is concluded with the coup de grace, a quote that really displays the author's feelings:
"And heartless is a crazy Muslim with a shaggy beard who could easily pass for homeless blowing himself up in front of City Hall where all the tour buses (often full of kids) park."
Elsewhere in this post RightGirl seems to relate anecdotes involving downtown Toronto, which really shows the mind-blowing ignorance of such a statement. First of all, not being able to tell a homeless man from a devout Muslim is an indication of someone that has not interacted with anyone from either group - way to ignore the city you live in. Second, since the tendency of bombers in London and Madrid was to blow themselves up, the risk of an unattended package is low. These extremists want martyrdom, they are not the IRA. So how this issue relates to either unattended packages or bearded men is incohorent. Thirdly, check out Mohamed Atta, or any of the other 9/11 guys, he's clean shaven and none of the rest really have "shaggy" beards. Surprise! The terrorists may know what the cops stereotype as the look of an extremist. They want to look clean, secular, and middle class, just like Atta on that Tuesday morning flight.

In conclusion, homelessness and terror not any more related than say, distracted business men and terror (Heavens! What if they left a brief case in Starbucks? Didn't bin Laden once have a brief case?)
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The Cedar Dissolution

Those in the White House (and the Langevin block!) that are leaning on a broken and battered Lebanon to do something about terror after the roads have been bombed out piss me off. After playing up Lebanon as a great example of the democratised new Middle East, they let it go to hell ostensibly over just two soldiers. Anyway, there is so much that has been written about this that I just want to put up some links to some of the better sources.

As always, one of your first stops for Middle East news and information should be Juan Cole. This new war is no exception. Here he pulls apart Dershowitz's guilt-by-association attempt to de-civilianise, uh, civilians. And over here, he examines Israel's war aims and how Bush doesn't comprehend them (but Cheney and Rumsfeld probably do).

Dennis Perrin has been posting a great deal on this topic too. He's going all out on this topic and what he's been writing has been insightful.

David Kaiser reprints a prescient editoral with update commentary here. The article presents an interesting basis for comprehending history - 80-year cycles. (Quickie version: systems are set up to resolve problems in human affairs, after 80 years, all the people who were architects of those systems and recall the problems for which they were designed have all died off. Not appreciating the systems and the rationale that created them, the new generation breaks them apart.)

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Why no one buys an American car...

I am sorry to report that today the car I drive, a 1996 Intrepid, just ate it's 4th or 5th water pump in 10 years. Yes, I suppose that it's nice that it's still going reasonably well at age 10, but really that's ridiculous number of water pumps to chew through in a decade. On average this car destorys one water pump every two years.

Moreover, this was a line of cars that was introduced in 1993, Chrysler had three years to figure out that the water pumps on these things were bad. Yet they did nothing, no redesign, nothing. So owners of this car keep buying the same design of water pump that we know will be shot in two years. The engineers at Chrysler either didn't know or didn't care. All the incentive programs and 0% financing deals in the world won't matter until the product is better.

To sum this problem up in a paraphrase: It's the cars, stupid.
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why Guinness is the Best

Another Reason to Love Guinness:

As if there weren't enough reasons to love it, guess who's their spokesman?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pondering Blogging

Andrew Fulford has a post in which he ponders the point of blogging. I have the same feeling sometimes, I wonder whether my words have any kind of significance. I used to really struggle with the sort of egoism of the author. And make no mistake, there is a certain egoism in writing something with intent of publishing. Robertson Davies, through a combination of the Deptford Trilogy and some of his other collected writings got me a bit more comfortable with the idea.

I guess when I say that I became comfortable with it, I meant that it is inescapable for the artist. You are standing up saying, "Here, I have written/painted/recorded something and you should pay attention to it!" I am still somewhat uncomfortable with calling this egoism, but what else is it? The art need not be self-indulgent either, I mean you can paint murals in an orphanage pro bono (something I have done) but you are still saying that you have been blessed with the ability to express yourself that way. You know, some artists (grunge bands were a good example of this) try to deny their egoism. But in their case, they were signed to major labels! If you really didn't intend your music for such a broad audience, why did you sign with a major? Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing worse than egoism is egoism-denial.

Another part of Fulford's post also caught my attention:
It's sobering to think that I could write about anything and yet seem to have nothing worth saying, while thousands of people around the world would (and will) die for a chance to speak and be heard.
I wonder about this. I'm not about to attempt to rectify the myriad of free-speech issues around the world. But when you think about the number of people who have never accessed the internet, and/or only done it rarely, I wonder if one could create a blog for the blogless. You know, start simply, getting posts by taking down what people in the developing world wish to say. It might be interesting. Jam could you do this in your travels? Anyone else?

In other news, this is my first crack at tagged blogging, let's see how that goes...


Monday, July 17, 2006

Around the world...

Jam has posted some interesting pictures of India, while Deb reminds us that the Middle East isn't the only place with religious strife.

An Inconvenient Truth

For those of you unaware, that's Al Gore's global warming film. I finally got around to seeing it on the weekend, and it was really quite impressive and rather convincing. I must say, I didn't think that I would have ever expected a film that is essentially Al Gore giving a power-point presentation on science for an hour and a half to be quite so entertaining. In short, this is a film worth seeing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sadly, David Kaiser seems more right now than ever...

This post by David Kaiser has, among other things, an interesting and insightful comparison between US policy today and Imperial German policy in the early 20th Century:
But the political atmosphere within the US, I regret to say, has many parallels to what developed in Germany from 1914 through 1918, and this does not bode well for our future.
In watching the news today, the same parallels are coming back to me. Watching the Israeli air strikes into Lebanon, I am reminded of the Austro-Hungarian pretext for escalating a crisis in the Balkans into World War I. Israel is bombing Lebanon because it cannot control the Hizbullah elements inside its own borders. Just like A-H wanted to invade Serbia for Serbia's inability and/or unwillingness to control radicals in its own borders.

This whole thing is worse than that too. It troubles me, it troubles me that Israel is now prepared to trade the last shred of moral justification - i.e.: that suicide bombers are indiscriminate while Israeli air strikes are somehow targeted. These strikes today into Lebanon are just random attacks on civilian targets. The civilian airport? Come on, that's no different than a civilian bus in Tel Aviv. Whatever moral legitmacy Israel had, has been traded away today for a punitive attack that did nothing for anyone.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


This post (via Atrios) just killed me. Apparently the targets that the Department of Homeland Security is concerned about include "Mall at Sears," a "Mule Day Parade," and "Bean Fest" among others.

Yes, Bin Laden is sitting there plotting how to strike the infidel where it really hurts - at Bean Fest! Or at least that's how people in some of these places that are thinking. I can picture it now, all these small town sherriffs with delusions of grandeur being eager to put their town on the terror watch list. You know, they look around, and they just can't find any skyscrapers or significant military installations, but they are certain, just absolutely certain, that the terror will hit their home town. So they start grasping for anything - anything at all, so they can put their little towns on the map - the terror map! "Jasper, ah reckon th' tarrists is gonna wanna hit us hard - at, umm, at.... th' tackle shop!"

And just like that, another one-stoplight town is on the list, all while NYC's anti-terror funding is cut.

The Drugs Work.... So What?

All over the internet, there has been some story bouncing around about a study into the effects of Magic Mushrooms. Apparently researcher found that they really do lead to these spiritual sorts of experiences. So what are the implications, aside from a bunch of stoners saying "duh" to the researchers? Well Juan Cole came up with this:
The human mind has the capacity to feel the oneness of things, to put aside selfish ego and the violence, psychic and physical, that it promotes. The drug just demonstrates that the capacity is there. This was known. The question is, what one does with it. A peak experience can just be an experience. Or it can be the beginning of a more fulfilled, kind and giving life. The drug by itself is no more important than a parlor trick. As with anything in life, it matters what is done with it. And, the true mystic does not need mushrooms to have peak experiences.
Indeed. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

How Gay Marriage Strengthens Straight Marriage (?!)

I have never once bought into this idea that legalising same-sex marriage will weaken heterosexual marriage. I have always maintained that the one will have no effect on the other. Apparently though, there is an impact, just not the one that opponents of it have envisioned. According to this post by Andrew Sullivan, straight marriage benefits from gay marriage. One of his readers writes:
"Why aren't you married?/When are you getting married?/You should get married" became a socially acceptable comment even in the most liberal of circles, and those opinions started getting air time. At my former employer the first year of gay marriage, I felt like we had some sort of wedding shower every other week - the gay couples got married and then all the straight ones started planning weddings too.
Interesting... It will be something to watch statistics on marriage as well as on divorce in the next decade or so in jurisdictions that allow same-sex marriage. Many opponents of gay marriage would like nothing more than the strengthening of the "traditional" family (which is not all that traditional, but that's another post). What if gay marriage, over the long term actually strengthens straight marriage? Will Jerry Falwell's head explode?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why do I have to look at this every time I come to the US?

This is the flag of the state of Mississippi. Every time I cross the border (something that I do at least once a week these days) I see the flags of all fifty states above the US customs checkpoint. Among these flags of course is this one you see here. Now I know that there are all kinds of Southern Civil War apologists who would be all too eager to tell me all about how this flag really represents chivalry or something, but come on... For better or worse this flag is associated with slavery and the hundred years of legally-enforced racial discrimination that followed it. I'm sorry White Southern conservatives but I see this flag, and I think that it is a disgrace to the United States. That's right, a disgrace. In my time in the US (incidently that's where I'm posting this from) I have encountered so many decent and generous people and yet, to have this holdover from a sorry part of American history as part of the first impression that is created for visitors is a travesty. The citizens of Mississippi owe it to themselves and their fellow citizens to get a better flag.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Hate Statistics

After fighting them as part of an assignment for school, I have had enough about now, I'm going to bed. I'll never understand all you math people and your crazy numbers and symbols.... sigh.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Curmudgeonly Nostalgia

Well here's something to get upset about: The term "Dominion" insofar as it relates to the Dominion of Canada has fallen out of use. Nearly 24 years ago, parliament moved to rename Dominion Day, thus giving us what we now call Canada Day - same great summer holiday, but with a new name. Blogger Tim Denton seems to be uniquely upset about this turn of events, and he seems to link it to a larger "disassembling" of English Canada.

Ummm, okay...

He goes on to say that "[t]his was not the only symbolic suicide of the English-speaking culture of Canada."

Well, well, Tim, I was not aware that English Canada had committed suicide. In fact, the English speaking culture of Canada is, I would venture, stronger today than it ever has been. In the years since the renaming Dominion Day. The authors that English Canada now boosts are proof enough that English Canada is alive well. We will do just fine, no matter what you call our national holiday (so long as we do, in fact, get the day off).

It's okay so long as they don't mutilate you?

Well it appears that that's the standard set out by the, uh, Western Standard's bloggers. In this particular post the author seems upset that Canada is dragging its feet as there is a risk that the accused may face the death penalty. (Bias alert: I unequivocally oppose the death penalty.) Anyway, I suppose this blogger is okay with capital punishment, but then he offers up this tidbit:
It is not like they will be shipping him to China where the possibility exists that his eyeballs will be cut out and sold on the blackmarket.

Oh. So how is it that one blogger gets to decide what is acceptable punishment? I am no friend of the Chinese regime, and I know that it is terrible on so many fronts, but that does not excuse capital punishment. Just because no eyeball-removing is involved, does not make it okay. In fact, the introduction of this grusome (and unreferenced) fact seems to be a ploy. The author's instincts tell him that Canadians won't like his breezy attitude towards capital punishment, so he throws in something that sound far worse by comparison.

Look, killers deserve justice, but the death penalty is deeply flawed and really can't be shown to have any positive effects on society. Just because there is no eye-harvesting going on, does not mean that the practice of capital punishment is not odious.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lost in the frame of a summer day...

This weekend my family celebrated my grandmother's 88th birthday. We celebrated it, but I'm not so sure that she did. I'm not sure if medical science has assigned a name to her condition - because I know it isn't Alzheimer's that she has (or that's what I'm told), but there is something there. In another time they just would have called it "old age."

In a sense I've gotten used to this, it's not like the first time - I remember that. I don't know how many have had the experience of a relative you've known all your life staring at you like a stranger, but it's an experience of lostness. By that I mean you are the one that feels lost - that you have been cut away from your own family, from your own past.

We tend to think of all the people around us, our family, our friends as this great web, or chain, or some form of connectness. And it is, I suppose. But we are also all alone, what keeps those bonds? Are we only a community so long as we exist in the mind of the other? What happens when that awareness is all one-sided?

It's all too much to contemplate on a summer day in the sun, so I didn't, but I'm left with these same thoughts. And I wonder what my grandmother saw, what she's now. All the voices, shapes, and colours of the day moving over the contours of nearly nine decades of memory and imagination. How much of that memory endures? What parts of it are faded and threadbare?

I guess all I can do is wonder, as I did while watching my grandmother - the calm centre of four generations all around the lawn of a farmhouse.