Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ben Folds! Such Great Heights!

How awesome is this? Ben Folds, with no electronic instrumentation, does a superb job on Such Great Heights. (Thanks to DJMonsterMo)

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Maher Arar

Once again, Andrew Sullivan reminds us that there is nothing, literally nothing that stands between you or me and the treatment that Maher Arar faced in Syria. Is it too soon to remind ourselves of Martin Niemoller's poem? You know the one:
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me."
I think as soon as the state (being the "they" here) starts coming after anyone simply for a religious or political association with just suspicion and no charges, we need to speak up. Many programs of state abduction and torture start out small - almost as a test of public tolerance - before ballooning to something that is out of control. Let's nip this in the bud.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good Local Stuff

Okay, there is something from the clothing show that I really wanted to mention aside from that silly Che chopper. Specifically I wanted to say something about the work of Yasmine Louis. Her silkscreen shirts were amazing, I picked up one of them, and believe me, it was hard to settle on just one of them. The images on these shirts were all from her original photography and I found that there was something about the aesthetic of these shirts that just really made them irresistable. Anyway, if you want a cool silkscreened shirt (or pillow, or what-have-you), I would highly recommend her stuff.

I also want to recommend Leslieville's Le Cafe Vert for eating (in fact, I wore my Yasmine Louis shirt to Vert, what a coincidence). Jam already gave them props, but I ought too as well. Neil, Jam, Lesley and I had a great meal there. Sasha (the owner) is clearly passionate about this place and it shows. Plus, Now gave them a good review, so that can't hurt.
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Tyranny of the Minority

One of the things that strikes me about the cutbacks that Harper's gang announced today was how it illustrates the increasing irrelevance of parliament. I think that most of these changes could not have been voted through the House. Had they been announced as part of any budget, they would have been revised to pass the same budget. Instead this is just something that cabinet announces as a fact to us, the plebians in the electorate.

This was the kind of thing that would have been criticised by people like Harper in the days of Chretien. While Chretien's Liberals never won a majority of the popularity vote, they could at least command a majority in the commons. Now we have a government that is not even close to a majority that is seriously altering spending priorities and nothing is to be done about it.

For someone that promised democratic accountability, Steve sure acts like an elected dictator once he has a whiff of power. This is a minority folks, a party that got what? 1/3 of the popular vote the last time out?
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Rumours of his demise...

With all the rumours that bin Laden got typhoid and has died, I do not feel like it has been some kind of victory. Indeed, if he is dead, then he has died the death of Mengele. Joseph Mengele, the Nazi concentration camp monster died an accidental death in Brazil.

So yes, Mengele died, good riddance, but, uh, we all do. Mengele was never brought to trial and never had to give any account of himself to the world. If bin Laden has died, he has died the same kind of death, never brought to justice.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

This is Planet Earth

Tonight I watched the Planet Earth documentary on CBC. I had not seen it before, and so I have no idea how far along the series is, but the section tonight on deserts was breathtaking. The high-definition beauty of this show was a sublime illustration of geological time. By that I guess I mean my own smallness and ephemerality was brought out again. Watching the sand slowly erroding these huge rock forms, seeing the forlorn spikes that once were composite pieces of plateaus. I can't conceive of that amount of time, and yet that's what it has taken to sculpt whole lands into these abstract statues in the middle of the desert.

We are small and our time here is brief.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Orwell beat me to it by 60 years

I had posted here about how fascism was losing any useful meaning with the Bushies applying the term "Islamofascist" to every Muslim not sufficiently servile to the GOP. George Orwell though, had the insight to say in 1946,
"The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."
That's pretty much how it is now. Actually, go read the whole Billmon post, Orwell predicts a great of the language being used in our age terror, or whatever we are calling whatever it is we are now experiencing.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Harper's Edifice Crumbling

Buckdog reports that Harper's fall agenda avoids mentioning anything about wait times. Apparently one of his five pillars has disappeared. When the Conservatives try to trumpet that they did what they said they would, we should not forget that they ditched their healthcare promises.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Open up a second front on Rumsfeld's torture policy

Today Andrew Sullivan has posted a clip of Miles O'Brien interviewing a retired US Army Major General. John Batiste did a superb job of reiterating the need for his country to maintain the moral high-ground. The moral imperative to not torture should, by itself, be enough to convince people that it is an evil. The torture proponents though seem to make a utilitarian sort of bargain where they say, "okay, torture is bad, but it could save lives!"

Miles does a version of that argument in the clip and Batiste countered by maintaining the need for the moral high ground. Again, I think that Batiste is correct that the moral imperative ought to stand on its own. That said, I think that a populace kept in fear (as the American one has been since 9/11) may be swayed by the "torture saves lives" argument.

The truth is though, that, at least according one recent Time article, torture doesn't work. That's right, torture only got us all those dumb false alarms back '02. Remember Tom Ridge telling people to buy duct tape and stuff? Yeah, all those stupid things were a product of torture.

I've read most (if not all) of Sullivan's anti-torture posts, and I've never seen him use this argument (maybe he has though). I can understand why he might not want to use it, as it might imply that there is not a moral injunction against it. The way I see it though is that the torture gang considers its tactics a "necessary evil" and the reply has been to play up the evil. I think that the argument is strengthened when we say that torture is evil and completely useless.

Just my $.o2 in fighting against a new gulag.
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Motorcycle Diary

Today I was at the clothing show at the Ex and I noticed a chopper in the parking lot. Now like so many custom bikes, this one had a "theme" to it. But one that I have never seen or imagined before. I am now able to say that I have beheld the Che Guevara chopper. It was in red and black with Che's iconic face on the gas tank as well as his signature in chrome.

I really don't know what to say. There is so much Che-imagery and I'm sure his face has made many capitalists rich, but this is a new level in the realm of conspicuously consuming a revolutionary.
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chucky Sleaze (aka: Charles McVety)

A couple days ago Charles McVety the president of a relatively obscure Pentecostal college debated Tory MP, Garth Turner on Michael Coren's show. McVety came off, as usual, as a smarmy asshole. This man is two-faced in the extreme and has an incredible persecution complex. Garth Turner - of whom I'm no particular fan comes off as Winston Churchill compared to this jackass. Keith once pointed out to me that McVety is - or ought to be - a relatively minor figure to Christianity in Canada. The problem is that he refuses to play that role. The man is making a name for himself as some kind of marriage "defender." I worry that his schtick may some day pay off, that he's set on becoming some kind of national voice for Christianity - or at least his brand thereof.

This man disgusts me. He slammed Turner for making slurs against him, but called Garth "undemocratic" and labeled him as an atheist simply because he claimed to not be religious. It simply does not follow that "not religious" = "atheist." Antony Flew, a longtime atheist philosopher, recently postulated that there was, in fact, a god. So he seems to be a theist (more precisely, probalby a deist), but he still disagrees with anything that most organised religions would say. Oops, sorry Chuck. I have no idea if this is what Turner believes, and really, I don't care. The point is that McVety blubbers on about Turner being this or that.

McVety is entitled to his views, he is entitled to say them where and when he wants. But I am entitled to my view too, and my view, Mr. McVety, is that you are a despicable, small-minded man using your CCC fiefdom to attack your crippling fears of homosexuality.

(HT: Jim)
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld and the Underpants Gnomes

One of the most iconic South Park episodes (to me at least) is "Gnomes," the one that involves the Underpants Gnomes. The gnomes are most notorious for their business model which works something like this:
1. Collect underpants
2. ?
3. Profit!
No one in the entire gnome enterprise is able to explain step two. They steal underpants from Tweek and then something, and finally, profit! In light of the revelations about Donald Rumsfeld deploring any attempts at post-conflict planning, I present the Donald Rumsfeld democracy model:
1. Military invasion
2. ?
3. Democracy!
At least the gnomes tried to figure out what step two was...
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Mission Creep

Via Progressive Bloggers I came across this little bit of info:
A warning order was issued earlier this week to the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) in Edmonton to prepare for the deployment. Twenty tanks are being readied for the operation and about 300 personnel will be heading to Afghanistan.
Great. If there is one thing that I'm really looking forward to it's the idea that we are now having Canada's (antiquated) main battle tanks in Afghanistan. This is mission creep, we need to have a serious discussion about this.

First of all we need to ask ourselves if we can even provide something that looks like a solution for Afghanistan. How will we know if things are better there? Is there a goal that the government has in terms of GDP-per-capita, murder rates, human rights conditions or anything else? Afghans seem profoundly resistant to the idea that they organise their society as anything other than a loose confederacy of tribes and clans. Can we really make them like the idea of a central government?
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teacher Man

Well, I've started student teaching (though the school likes to call us "teacher candidates" and not "student teachers" so maybe I've started my teacher candidacy). Anyway, the next few weeks and months will probably be busy ones for me. I am not trying to work through this time though, so that makes life vastly easier. Anyway, I plan to offer up more observations on this new phase of my life... when I get the time.