Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Surreal Christmas Lights

It's been rather warm here in Toronto today. The high was something like 16 C, but it's the end of November and Christmas lights have gone up all over. The night felt like early May... but with bright lights and inflatable Santas.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

In case you were wondering...

I saw this silly (and probably not overly precise) test on Nav Purewal's site. So, being that it appeared silly, I took it. Big surprise, I'm a liberal (definitely a small "l" there though). Actually, I don't know if even that is a way to describe me. I suppose to the gang of libertarians who created this quiz (note that libertarian is at the top), it's close enough...
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Happy Face Makes Me Frown

Disclaimer: I have a strong aesthetic bias against Walmart. Every one of their stores that I have visited has smelled faintly of garbage to my nose. Also, the happy face is vaguely creepy.

Nathan has posted an interesting link to some guy defending Walmart. The basic argument goes along the lines that working in sweatshops may not be pleasant, but compared to subsistence farming it ain't bad. Additionally, the author suggests that Walmart has put more money back into the pockets of poor people.

Now, I know that the bottom rung of capitalism is not a fun place to be. I wouldn't want to be there, but I know that it potentially represents a step up for some. The author says:
Labor conditions in the developing world may be offensive to the refined sensibilities of some western observers, but "bad jobs at bad wages" are preferable to the relevant alternatives.
This is what bothers me though. No one really explain what "bad" is or, moreover why it has to be as bad as it is. Based on my own reading, labour in the developing world may endure such conditions as 48-hour shifts (fuelled by amphetamines), forced abortions for those workers with the temerity to get pregnant, zero job security, and working conditions similiar to those that caused the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to be such a disaster.

I cannot say how many factories engage in all - or even some - of these practices. Look, I know that reality dictates that making garments in the developing is never, ever going to be somebody's dream job. I just do not see why the conditions have to be as bad as they are. If conditions have improved, it is only because Walmart's critics have shamed them into it.

One of things that characterizes Walmart is its extraordinary aggressiveness with suppliers, they ar cut-throat in getting the best price. For the same supplier, there is great incentive to get the Walmart contract for the sheer volume of the deal, even if the profit margin is razor thin, it'll still be a windfall. In turn, I have no doubts that the supplier will have little concern over the working conditions of employees. It is the foreseeable consequences of Walmart's practices that people will have to work long hours in death traps.

I've written a fair amount, I have not even touched on the domestic problems of Walmart. Maybe more on that tomorrow...
Image: Northland Poster Collective
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Friday, November 24, 2006

Oh the Irony!

A young man has been arrested for burning down an Episcopal Church in a town in New York state. Apparently Anglicanism is not sufficiently Christian for this bible college student. 20 year-old Caleb Uriah thought that Anglicans had strayed from the bible and he had to take action.

The response of the Anglican congregation whose house of worship had been burned?
"We never wanted retribution," said John Watson, a lay leader at Christ Church. "Our feeling is if Christ can forgive us for hanging him on a cross, there's not much we can't forgive."
And these are the ones the church burner said had strayed from Christianity? Listen Caleb, it ain't you that gets the Buddy Christ thumbs-up!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Long, sleep-inducing day

Sorry, but that's all I have to say today, I'm tired, I'm off to bed. I wanted to post about Harper's nation shenanigans, and Flaherty's income splitting, but right now, my body favours sleep. Tomorrow, I hope I can write something about those things, I also have an idea for something on 1980s cartoons - in a totally different direction. Anyway, I'm out, or else this explanation for lack of posts will be longer than some of the actual posts would have been.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One minute you're minding your own business...

...and the next minute, POP! You've been hit by a car. At least that's something that I witnessed today. I have seen similar things before, and in this case it happened at an EXTREMELY low speed, so there were no apparent injuries.

Such an event is undoubtedly shocking to those involved, but as a mere bystander it's disarmingly banal. I mean you have a normal street scene running along just like any day. There's maybe a fraction of a second where you realize, "hey, that guy isn't stopping" and then it happens. And there is no great Hollywood score, there is no slo-mo, no replay. All you have is a normal street scene, except the victims legs fly out from under them, the victim comes down to earth in a painful looking fall and then (mercifully) gets up.

Nothing changes, just that one second where things appear disordered - at least according to our expectations for a street scene in the suburbs.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


According to a Toronto Sun editorial (not exactly a bastion of intellectual rigor, but you take what you can get) its crosstown competitor, The Globe & Mail has "seen the light" on Harper. The Sun goes on to praise John Ibbitson's column (behind a firewall) claiming that it is Eastern Canadian elites that see Harper as
"a wrecker: a cold-blooded leader of a band of vulgar ideologues that, with every action, destabilizes the liberal consensus that has dominated our federal government for generations."
Really? Am I an elite now too? I'm waiting for a nice limo, because, if you read my prior posts, I'm fairly sure that I've described at least a few members of Harper's cabinet that fit that bill. And then there's the sneering , err... cheering section led by Ezra Levant - he's just like a yappy dog... but dumber. Anyway, Levant is certainly nothing if not a vulgar ideologue.

Lastly we are told that these Eastern elites (again, it's only elites that are supposed to feel this way) better suck it up, because the oil boom is going to make the West in charge of everything. Last I recall, it was still one person, one vote. Oh sure a few of us Easterners might move there, but who's to say that we won't take our "elitism" with us to your mecca. The funny thing with booms is that they often bust. Ontario is still a hell of a lot bigger, so is Quebec, you may have the money, Calgary, but we have the votes.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

Links & Stuff

The series of tubes known as the internets are just full of things!

Sadly, I'm sure you've all seen that Michael Richards is a stark-raving racist now. I guess Seinfeld reruns are sort of tainted now. I was never a big fan of Mel Gibson (I suppose by virtue of the fact that I am not a middle-aged white woman), so his tirade didn't really ruin any of my viewing habits. I did enjoy Seinfeld though, and Kramer was probably my favourite character.

Andrew Fulford writes about Buddhism from his Reformed perspective and then a theological/metaphysical debate ensues in his comment section. I note this only because I'm impressed at the civility of the debate thus far. I'm not a theologian but it's interesting to read a decent metaphysical exchange once in a while.

Lastly, Sir Ian McKellen lets us all in on his acting technique (as posted by Nav).

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Another Edition of What the Iranians Actually Said

Racist jackass... err, talk radio personality, Glenn Beck has said that he's convinced that if the US leaves Iraq, the Iranians will just be dying to move in and take over [I can't find the transcript right now]. This is the reason that he says he opposes any US pullout of Iraq. Of course that doesn't quite skew with what was said by an Iranian political scientist on Iranian state TV:
"The Americans can't simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving the mess as it is. Who's going to look for the safety of the Iraqis there? The Iranians can't do it. The Turks can't do it ... This is not a question of political rivalry between Iran and the West. It has to do with the fact that the society has to have a government structure in place,"
So yeah, once again, it's nice to see that no one is misrepresenting what Iran thinks. I'm not sure what's the best course in Iraq. I have seen sensible proposals for both staying and leaving, but the Iranians - or at least some of them - would like the US to stick around.

On another note, this is the first time I've sat through more than about a minute of Beck's show. He is disturbing to say the very least.
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Today's News: School to be desegregated!

No, I'm not trying to simulate what blogging may have looked like in 1954. This is apparently what has actually happened in Dallas. If Borat's film wasn't enough to convince you, there is all kind of racism still lurking just under the surface. In this case it wasn't even lurking, this was a public school that was allowing white kids to be put in all-white classes.
For years, it was an open secret at North Dallas' Preston Hollow Elementary School: Even though the school was overwhelmingly Hispanic and black, white parents could get their children into all-white classes. And once placed, the students would have little interaction with the rest of the students.

The result, a federal judge has ruled, was that principal Teresa Parker "was, in effect, operating, at taxpayer's expense, a private school for Anglo children within a public school that was predominantly minority."

And so it goes in certain enclaves in North America... (HT: Atrios)

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Just Asking

By the way, what does everyone think of the new chocolate colour around here? I liked it at first, then I was unsure, now I'm back to liking it. This may be the look the for the next little while.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Music Video

This was a great video from R.E.M. I'm kind of sad that they sort of fell off the map since the mid-1990s.

The song was a sort of campfire standard when I was in high school. If you didn't know the words, you could always chime in on the "yeah yeah yeah yeah" response in the verses.

Al-Jazeera in English

Well, it's here whether you like it or not. Al-Jazeera's English-language service is up and running. I know that there is a segment of the population that cannot stand Al-Jazeera, nonetheless, I feel like this is a step in the right direction. Al-Jazeera may be biased, they may get things wrong, so what? We in the West have spent the past five years trying to understand the Middle East, now they are talking to us. We have a new opportunity to listen, and to respond - even criticize - without the usual Western filter.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Liberal Autocracies?

One of the terms that we use when we talk about the West and/or the developed world is "liberal democracy." That is to say that we have classic liberal values (personal freedoms et cetera) and democratic structures (voting and the like) as the basis for our government. My sense is that we used to believe that these things went hand in hand. Liberal democracies were the antidote to illiberal autocracies (absolute monarchy and similar forms).

Sounds good, right? What then are we to do about something the news that Pakistan may be changing its dreadful old laws on rape? Pakistan is clearly under the military dictatorship of General Musharraf. Where there are any democratic forms remaining, they cannot touch the power of the General. Predictably, some of the more extreme religious groups are up in arms. Sharia law has been interpreted harshly by them, and the religious groups would like to maintain those rules. Would any leader of Pakistan facing the wrath of motivated and organised religious voters relish the prospect of fighting an election with this kind of platform? In other words, would such a reform of the law taken place if Pakistan had a democratic leader.

Even under Saddam Hussein, probably a far worse species of dictator than Musharraf, Iraqi women enjoyed better civil liberties than they'd likely enjoy under a government led by a religious Shiite coalition.

I'm not a fan of dictators though. I'd rather the citizens of Pakistan work to resolve such issues democratically. Yet if I am honest, my first response to reading this while perusing the beeb's website was joy. Not blaming the victim for a rape is an improvement. Yet we owe this improvement to a dictator. I don't have any kind of universal truth to take away from this story, no prescription for our attitudes toward dictators, not even a nifty moral. I am not sure what our response to this sort of news ought to be.
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Something Funny for a Change

This is Russell Peters, a great local comic:

Apparently he has some development deal, so you might be seeing him in the US sooner or later.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

WTO, WTF? or Is this a joke?

...if it is, then it's a sick one. Apparently the WTO is proposing slavery as a solution for Africa. No, I am not kidding. Is this 2006 or 1606? Is this a parody (edit: yes it is) by The Onion? The money quote:
"This is what free trade's all about," said Schmidt. "It's about the freedom to buy and sell anything—even people."
Oh, well, it's nice to know where the WTO stands. I'm still flabbergasted, someone tell me that this some kind of error. They seem to be putting a well-intentioned spin on it, but still, it's slavery. (Edit: This whole thing was from a satire site, there is still slavery in the world, just not explicitly condoned by the WTO, mea culpa, read more here about real slavery still happening today) (HT: Le Revue Gauche)
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Smashing Godwin's Law to Bits

There is a rule that is said to apply to online debating that is known as Godwin's Law. For those of you not wanting to click the link, the basic idea is that whoever compares their opponent to Hitler or the Nazis first loses the debate. Of course there exceptions where, perhaps, you might have a valid comparison to make.

Anyway, all this brings me to the utterly ridiculous title of Jonah Goldberg's new book. Can anyone really believe this? The Clintons were in power for eight years, there was no fascism as a result. Hitler, while Chancellor only took two years to consolidate his power. Incidently, at this time his party did not hold a majority of seats in the Reichstag. I say this so that no one will be inclined to say that Newt Gingrich saved the US from fascism in 1994. The fear-mongering and hysteria implicit in a title and cover of this nature has also been shown impotent by the recent US elections. The GOP's attempts to cast Democrats as a tremendous threat to liberty and the like have finally come up short. The premise of a book like this is stupid at the best of times. Now after the midterms, it has missed its moment too.
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Me vs. html

I was trying to make this site a bit more pleasant look at, but so far, it's been to no avail. I hate being able to have a clear idea in my mind of how I want things to look, and yet a fumbling inability to make it happen. Does anyone know how to stretch text to fit without consigning the sidebar to the bottom of the screen. I've spent too much time with it for now, but any html people are welcome to advise me. Sigh.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Citizen Haggard

There have been numerous responses to Ted Haggard's scandal. I don't know if all of them are complete, or even if all of them are rational. Like the film Citizen Kane, what we have here seems to be a series of incomplete views of Haggard.

Let me first dispense with the most egregiously stupid one: David Frum has argued that Haggard's hypocrisy is actually an indication of great strength and moral courage. That's why Jesus advocated it... oh wait, never mind. However well-intentioned Haggard was, he needed to come to some kind consistent position on his sexuality.

Andrew Sullivan has (predictably, for someone who is gay, Christian, and conservative) a great deal to say on this situation. Sullivan reveals that Haggard's sexuality was an open secret among the top evangelicals. Additionally, he reminds us that this is what we can expect from those in the closet.

Alastair is some guy (or girl, who knows, it's the internet) of whom I know little other than that he seems to be theologically inclined. He posted on Haggard's affair being the possible result of the "feminization" or "infantilization" of Evangelical Christianity. Since our definitions of masculine and feminine seem to be so related to culture, I'm not sure we can pronounce on this. After all, Haggard would be the pinnacle of classical Greek masculinity - he had money, influence, a family, he was active in the temple life (church) and he had a gay lover on the side. I don't think that we can honestly pin down a definition of masculinity or femininity that would conclusively allow us to say that this is the problem.

Steve of Stupid Church People has written a great open letter in three parts to Haggard. The thing stood out to me was how Steve pointed out that pastors are held to insane standards, and how he, as former pastor felt constant pressure to be a "deceiver and a liar" in front of his congregation. I don't know whether Steve's missive slides of the edge of brutal honesty into the abyss of cynicism, but I can appreciate where he comes from.

Anyway, there are few more things I might want to add to this post, but I just wanted to start covering some of the different interpretations this story has invoked. Finally, I do not believe that homosexuality is a choice (and this case ought to prove that), but I am sure that Haggard does have many tough choices ahead of him - pray for him.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rumsfeld Poetry Redux

I was looking at the Rumsfeld "poems" again, and this one stood out:
A Confession
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.
Indeed Rummy, many of us wondered the same thing.
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Friday, November 10, 2006


BAGnewsNotes has some wonderfully creepy pictures of the Bushies.

Buckdog on the one thing that seems to unite holy warriors.

Finally, let's get that Rumsfeld poetry out there once more.


Canada's Legal System for Dummies

Ironically, in this case the dummy is the Justice Minister, Vic Toews. In the papers today it is reported that Toews wants to have police on the committees that help to select judges. We appear to be taking another step towards having a wretchedly politicized judicial nomination process, like the US. What kind of police are going to be on these committees? My assumption is that most decent cops realise that their primary job is catching bad guys. That leaves hate-filled assholes in the vein of the thuggish former Toronto Police Association boss, Craig Bromell. The types who will probably want to spend all kinds of time looking for anyone devoted to a quasi-fascist view of things for Canada's courts.
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Daily Show and Haggard

Jon Stewart on Haggard:

Haggard's "wife" quote was what struck me. The blackmail, was he talking from experience? What a terrible life this man has been living. I can imagine his insides being eaten out by this - uhh emotionally. Really though, the most damning thing was how fast the other TV Christians ran away from him. Great bunch of friends to have, eh? (tip: Andrew Sullivan).
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Quote of the Day

In which noted atheist, Richard Dawkins opines on God in Time (behind firewall):
"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."
A statement to which I sort of added my own silent amen. This was part of a debate between Dawkins and Francis Collins, a leader in the field of genetics who is also a devout Christian. Oddly, I think the most fundamentalist strains of religion are the ones that shrink God the most from this incomprehensibility. Of course incomprehensibility leaves room for doubt, and for deviation from a narrow agenda. Never mind that even St. Paul hinted at a similar idea.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mid-term Watching...

There is something mildly addicting to American politics.

To me at least.

Monday, November 06, 2006

... in which The Killers overplay their hand...

This is what The Killers' frontman said:

WTF? Sam's Town is, charitably, a decent sophomore effort by a competent band, it is not the sort of monumental original work that the other two albums are. (By the way, notice the clever poker metaphor? The Killers are from Vegas, get it? Okay, I'll shut up about it now.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

City Without a Soul?

It seems trendy to point to Toronto in that way these days. I mean, if you read about us not being able to get a bid together for a World's Fair, and now on Sunday, the Star was on about the whole thing where Toronto is home to so many writers, yet the city is never in their works. Sigh.

So yeah, if you read the press, it seems like a city without a soul, a city of defeatists. Allan Fotheringham once described Toronto as the sort of place where people move to earn a buck, then they retire somewhere else (I think that's Fort McMurray now).

Of course that's great press. Of course we are Harper's whipping boy now. In fairness, our waterfront still looks like hell. But about all us living here. All of us born here. All of us growing up here, falling in love here, wanting to stay here. What is wrong with our city? By extension, what is wrong with us?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Skeletons aren't the only things in the Closet

It's far too early to say anything conclusively about this story. But if there is something to it, it would not be the first time that something like this has happened. Everyone who comes in riding a moral high-horse seems to be cut down this way. Remember,
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
(Emphasis mine). Every time someone comes in trying to tell us how we're all going to hell, and how the moral high ground is exactly where he or she is standing, they end up like this. Bill Bennett's gambling, Foley, the televangelists of the 1980s.

Like I said above, it's to soon to tell if there is anything substantial to these allegations, but it does fit a pattern.

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