Thursday, August 31, 2006

Old-timey Top Gun

What if Top Gun was a product of the golden age of silent film? This is a question that I know that I ask myself daily. Fortunately, someone came up with the answer:

Tags: , .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Toronto's Expressway Hell Averted

Looking around the internet I found a cool article on proposed highways in Toronto circa 1966. It's an interesting read if you care about the city. If you enjoy Davenport, Little Italy, The Annex, West Queen West and whole host of other neighbourhoods, be thankful some of this stuff was never built.
Tags: , , .

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Iran's Leaders Are Saying

I think most people would assume that it is fair to say that the Western media is carefully watching every word coming from the mouths of Iran's president and its supreme spiritual leader. Except that it is not the case at all. A couple days ago, Juan Cole reported that President Ahmadinejad said:
"Iran is not a threat to any country, and is not in any way a people of intimidation and aggression."
In addition, Ahmadinejad went so far as to specifically denying that Iran threatened Israel:
"Weapons research is in no way part of Iran's program. Even with regard to the Zionist regime, our path to a solution is elections."
Were that not enough, Cole goes onto say that Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei pledges have carried the same sentiment:
Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei's pledge of no first strike against any country by Iran with any kind of weapon, and his condemnation of nuclear bombs as un-Islamic and impossible for Iran to possess or use, was completely ignored by the Western press and is never referred to.
What does all this mean coming from Iran's hardliners? I don't know. Why do we listen to their threats and not their more peaceful statements? On what basis does the media decide that this is not something worth hearing, but some more threatening words do bear repeating?

I don't know what Iran's leaders are thinking, I do not claim to "see into their souls" as Bush once remarked of Putin. What I do remember is the sentiment that many had in the Western media that Saddam was obviously lying when he said he had no WMDs and provided reams of documentation supporting the idea that he didn't. Whatever the West does with regard to Iran, it should not repeat the mistake of only taking aggressive words at face value.

A worthwhile additional note, according to Cole the "wipe Israel off the map" comment is an inaccurate translation. The real meaning is supposed to be something more like "vanish from the page of time" or something to that effect.

Again, I do not know what Ahmadinejad means by his words (nor Khamenei by his). I do not know enough about Shiite eschatology to know what effect it is having on him. I do not know what effect his involvement in the hostage crisis has had on him. What I do know is that we should not put dangerous words into his mouth as we did with Saddam. I also know that eschatogical fears in the months leading up to the dreaded Y2K problem (remember that?) prompted those who were truly afraid to assume an essentially defensive posture. No one was proposing a war of aggression be undertaken in December 1999 to pre-empt Armageddon. Instead those gripped with premillenial terror stocked up and prepared to defend their homes. It is not inconceivable that Iran is seeking solely a defensive deterrent.

Do I know any of this for sure? Of couse not. But based on what I've seen, if we look beyond Western media, a more complex picture of Iran's leadership starts to emerge.
Tags: , .

Eric Margolis on the term "Islamofascism"

Margolis has written a superb piece on the term "Islamofascism" here. I've long thought that the term was a mix of tremendous inaccuracy and unhelpful offensiveness. Money quote here:

The Muslim World is replete with brutal dictatorships, feudal monarchies, and corrupt military-run states, but none of these regimes, however deplorable, fits the standard definition of fascism. Most, in fact, are America’s allies.

Nor do underground Islamic militant groups (`terrorists’ in western terminology). They are either focused on liberating land from foreign occupation, overthrowing `un-Islamic’ regimes, driving western influence from their region, or imposing theocracy based on early Islamic democracy.

In several regards, these governments and militant groups may be despicable (treatment of women et cetera) but to call them "fascist" is a useless lie that helps no one. C.S. Lewis once described how the term "gentleman" once denoted a specific social rank but had mutated into a universal term for a polite sort of man. "Fascist" may well do the same at this rate. Picture it now, "That guy cut me off, what a fascist." Whatever emotional gratification we get for labeling our miscellaneous foes as "fascist" we also impoverish our language of a once potent and useful term.
Tags: , , .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Song for the Blogs

By a band called the Sprites, here's a song called I Started a Blog Nobody Read. Enjoy, all you bloggers.

Racism in 2006

I get the idea that many people feel like racism was a problem in the US up until that Dr. King fellow went up to Washington and gave that dream speech. After that, racism was ended because the speech was just so moving. While there is no doubt that it is a moving speech, racism has not gone away. According to this report, a school bus driver in Louisiana made Black children sit at the back of the bus.
Tags: , ,

Quote of the Day

Today it comes from Eric Margolis who writes,
"No sooner had bombing stopped than Hezbullah bulldozers were busy clearing rubble, and Hezbullah social workers resettling refugees. Perhaps President Bush should ask Hezbullah to take over rebuilding New Orleans and resettling all its refugees."
Sure they are committing war crimes, but really, they have that whole "hearts and minds" thing nailed.
Tags: ,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SimSweatshop: The Sims for the developing world.

(Via Nathan)
This is an excellent tool to understand how much of the world lives and works.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Beavis and Butthead Model for Understanding The Middle East

I can't find the exact citation, but there is a line attributed to Beavis and Butthead that goes something like, "Just because one thing sucks doesn't mean that something else doesn't suck." And that, more or less is where we have ended up in the Middle East. Just because Hizbullah rocket attacks and kidnappings suck, doesn't mean that the IDF's arbitrary bombing of Lebanon doesn't suck, and vice versa. This is the simplest and clearest way that I have found to articulate how I feel about this whole thing.
Tags: , , .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back from Vacation

I have been suitably inspired with some half-decent new posting ideas, but in the meantime, I have an opening shift tomorrow, soooo, it looks like bedtime for me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Changing Things...

Just making a few more edits around here so this thing is a bit more user-friendly for me...

Kids in the Hall - The Gazebo

Okay, so I'm still on vacation, so let's not get into the heavy stuff again just yet. Instead, here is one of my favourite Kids in the Hall skits ever. Everyone remembers the head-crushing kid or Scott Thompson as Queen Elizabeth, but to me this stands up with everything else they've done. Judge for yourselves:

Tags: , .

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On Vacation

That's right, I'm just checking in from Honey Harbour up in Georgian Bay. I'll be back to the city soon enough. I'm reading Noam Chomsky's Failed States while up North though, so I'm being inspired to write too.
Tags: , .

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

This comes from a Catholic bishop named Dom Helder Camara via Nathan:
“When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist.”
Sad, but true. To this day, if you ask tough question about the injustice of poverty you get labeled as some kind of unpleasant radical.
PS: You will all be glad to know that I survived my birthday party, it was one of those affairs where I was lucky to have a diverse group of friends come out. The thing with these things is that I always feel like I'm swirling between different groups of people, never really getting to connect too long with anyone, I guess I'm more of a one-on-one type of person...


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

(Thanks to The Who for the post title)
After riding into power on an anti-corruption message, it has now come out that "Steve" Harper is dubiously invoking national security to basically pork-barrel new defence procurements. The wording of the new spending arrangement specifically allows the West, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada to get guaranteed alotments of defence spending. Given that the North really doesn't possess heavy manufacturing capabilities, this is basically a screw job for Ontario when the high dollar is already proving to be a challenge for my home province's large manufacturing sector. Given that we already have a former defence industry lobbyist as the Minister of Defence, I think it's not an unfair prediction to say that military contracts are the new sponsorship deals in Canada. Except that one can buy an awful lot of golf balls for the price of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster.
Tags: , , , .

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Today's Thousand-Word Picture

Via Bob Harris, this picture was first posted in the New York Times. It is a visual representation of Israel's "proportional" response. Does "Steve" Harper really think that Israel checked out every building on that city block to make sure that these were all Hizbullah fighters and leaders? There is evidence that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are getting help from Pakistan, in response to Canadian soldier deaths, should Harper do this to a couple city blocks in Karachi? I don't think that anyone in Canada would support that. I don't think anyone would have supported the UK doing this to Dublin in the 1970s and 1980s despite the worst attacks of the IRA either. Defenders of Israel's unchecked military policies have created this absurd argument that any criticism of what you see above constitutes support for Hizbullah. Criticism of this kind of military attack is not support for Hizbullah, it is a disbelief in the nostrum that Israel is rigorously trying to use careful targetting. This looks a lot more like Dennis Perrin's "punching bag" to me.

Tags: , , .

History Lessons

David Kaiser has a great post about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East being symptomatic of a larger dismantling of world order. Here's a clip:
"Just fifteen years after Hoover, however, the historian Charles A. Beard began his important and neglected work, The Open Door at Home, by stating the obvious: the worldwide depression showed beyond doubt that there were no immutable laws of human development leading inexorably towards progress. [Snip] From this obvious fact Beard drew another important conclusion, that ethics and aesthetics should play a role in designing the particular future that we sought."
Now go read the whole thing! I think by referencing Beard, Kaiser is onto something about the neocon's intellectual framework, i.e.: there neo-Hegelian belief in History as a force to create Freedom. Ironically, given the intense neocon aversion to communism, this is the exact same intellectual basis that Marx employed. This is an irony not lost on one of their former intellectual heavyweights, Francis Fukuyama, who wrote of the neocons:
"[They] believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."
I suppose the farce thing isn't so, uh, farcical to the thousands of dead and wounded, but Fukuyama makes his point.

Tags: , , , .

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Our Endless Numbered Days

Thanks to Iron & Wine for the post title.

After studying my pants off since January 18th, I'm finally finished my classes for teachers college at NU. Beyond this, there's just the matter of a huge exam, some seminars, and student teaching. It is strange though to reflect on the last several months. I have grown accustomed to living half my life in Lewiston, with the group of people you see pictured above. I'll still see all them (I hope) but never all on a daily basis like this again.

It's strange, because I think we develop an illusion of permanence. That is, in order to get through life, we willingly set aside the fact that our lives are ephemeral. I had the schedule from the beginning, I knew that class would end in the beginning of August. And yet, here I am a little shocked that it's all over. There were times when it felt like this program would never end, and now - at least as far as classes go - it is at an end.

When I think about this I wonder how much this is a microcosm of life as a whole. We pass through often not really entertaining the notion that we are finite. Maybe here and there an event will shock us into remembering that fact, but most of the time our time seems endless. And yet it is not.

Since the beginning of the year, my life has been stretched over the length of the QEW it seems, with two poles, one in Lewiston and one in Toronto. It seems to have shrunk back all of a sudden. It seems smaller now.

Tags: ,

Thursday, August 03, 2006

YouTube: Kevin Spacey's Finest Moment

Yeah, yeah, the usual suspects and everything, suuuuuuuure, but this, this is genious! Walken? Star Wars? Enjoy!

Tags: , , , .

Quote of the Day

As usual, some of what Andrew Sullivan says is disagreeable to me (I have posted my disagreement with the notion that what Israel is doing constitutes an entirely legitmate defense of its interests elsewhere). Nonetheless, today he said something quite perceptive at the same time:
The biggest lie of our time is that fundamentalism is the only authentic expression of religious faith.
Tags: , , .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Cubans Want

Reading about Castro's failing health I start to wonder about some of things popping in the reports. Predictably, there is a sort of glee from the Cuban-American community and from their conservative supporters. I suppose, given the particular history of that community, this sort of thing is to be expected. What bothers me though is that there is already an office of the US State Department ready to help Cuba move towards "democracy" (however Rice's State Department defines that word).

The US government talks about how it is ready to "facilitate" a transition to democracy in Cuba. Several things bother me:

a) The US is not doing so hot with the "facilitating" in Iraq right now.

b) Cuba is an independent country that has not asked for this kind of "help" (no, the Cuban-Americans cannot speak for Cubans, any more than I can speak for Germans or Irishmen or Scots, or Englishmen - those are not my countries any more).

c) In practice, "democracy" has meant "unfettered market access for US companies" all too often in the language of the Bush adminstration.

I fear that what will happen is that Chalabi-esque elements of the Cuban ex-pat community will attempt to basically set themselves up as a new ruling class in Cuba and force all kinds of free-market reforms on Cubans. There are some things that Castro has gotten right, these things include decent health care and literacy programs. I imagine these sorts of things will be dismantled and Cuba will set up as a banana-republic client-state without the actual Cubans having any real say.

The people of Cuba should decide their nation's fate post-Castro. I fear that State Dept. meddling will be more of a hindrance than anything else.

Tags: , , , .

Thinking About Hatred

On the weekend Lesley witnessed an interesting exchange in the change rooms at a clothing store. Overhearing two people conversing in what was presumably Arabic, a young Jewish girl asked her mother what language was being spoken. The mother's reply was something along the lines of "Oh, that's the language of Hizbullah."

The language of Hizbullah?

That's it? Reduce all Arab people and all of Arab culture to one radical group. Do we call English the language of the KKK? No no no. What about Moses ibn Ezra, the great Jewish writer, who, given what he wrote and when, sure must have known some Arabic. Was Moses ibn Ezra a terrorist? What about his relative, another great Jewish thinker, Abraham ibn Ezra who would have known some Arabic? Had this particular Jewish woman even forgotten that Maimonides wrote in Arabic?

Heh, the language of Hizbullah indeed!

Yet this is how hatred starts. Someone defines The Other and starts telling the new generation how evil The Other can be. Mel Gibson recently said some rather stupid and hateful things, and he is fully responsible for his comments. But when I read that his father seems to say worse things sober than Mel does when he's a bit tipsy, I cannot say that I am surprised. I'm sure that Hutton Gibson explained the world in way that seemed to put all the blame for everything on the Jews. We all have the capacity to hate, and we all bear the responsibility for our hatreds, but that does not mean it isn't in part an inheritance.

As I return to that woman in the change room, I can't help but think how she is destroying her child's ability to understand the complexities and nuances of the world. Instead, that child will learn to group all Arab-speakers (including Arab Christians and the afforementioned medieval Jewish scholars) under the Hizbullah banner.

Tags: , .