Monday, April 30, 2007

A Green Plan Proposal

Something that I have not seen discussed in the legislation being considered to goad us into reducing our carbon dioxide emissions is the issue of root causes. In other words, why are we driving all over everywhere? Well, in part I'm sure it's because we are just lazy, I know I am. In part though I think it's also because stuff is so far away.

We don't live in very dense environments in Canada (for obvious reasons, this is still a country with lots of room). Inevitably though that means that for too many people in too many places the car is simply the sine qua non of modern life. Whatever price increases are incurred, we'll keep buying cars simply because many of us feel we have to.

Here's another problem: Canada's cities say that they are underfunded. They probably are. How about having the feds develop a fund that grants money to cities on the basis of hitting density goals? Denser cities are the ones that are more walkable, things are closer together. Encouraging efficient land use is surely a way to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions, isn't it? (Another way is make the tar sands people actually cut their emissions, but that's another, well-commented-on story.)

Is this sensible or I am way off?

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Bicycles Here and There

People who ride on Critical Mass rides in Toronto seem to be sort of the fringe here. Or at least that's the perception that I feel runs through the city about committed cyclists in general. They may be nice, conscientious, people; but just not in the mainstream. Not so much in Budapest where Spacing says even the president of Hungary goes on Critical Mass rides. We are content to wet ourselves with glee when an elected official shows up somewhere in a hybrid SUV.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Instead of the Dismal Truth...

Amuse yourself with the Nietzsche Family Circus!

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Won't get fooled again

Just seemed like a good video for this week:


Friday, April 27, 2007

FLICK Rex Murphy

I really cannot believe that people are still on about this "Flick off" campaign that the government has launched to conserve electricity. Whatever taboo that the word "fuck" once held has greatly dissipated over the past decade. The Globe and Mail routinely quotes people saying "fuck" without bothering to asterisk any of the letters. (My goodness, what could they have meant by f***?) Recently, Mark Steyn wrote the following for Macleans:
"Fuck!" "Fuck!" "Jesus Christ!" "Fuck!" Fuck-fucketty-fucketty-fucking-fuck.
Seriously, look it up - even writers who drone on about our decadence and moral decay don't bother to bleep it out anymore.

It seems everyone is okay with "fuck" in just about any context. Everyone that is, except Rex Murphy who used his CBC soapbox tonight to whine about it. Someone ought to buy Rex a FCUK t-shirt. Look, the way I see it, most of tune out government public awareness campaigns because they come off as so much sanctimonious nagging (come to think of it, Rex comes off that way too). Kudos to whoever had the idea to make this effort at least a little bit interesting.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

How bad it is in Iraq

The author of Baghdad Burning is leaving Baghdad. The post is worth reading as it gives you a sense of the agony that a soon-to-be refugee must feel about abandoning home.

Maybe she can rent out the family home to John McCain as a vacation spot. He can spend his downtime strolling the streets of Baghdad and taking in its markets. What do you say, senator?

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Innovative New Strategy for The Middle East!

That's right kids, the new strategy is to find a strong man and prop him up. According to this post the only thing is that the strong man should be more like a Musharraf than a Saddam Hussein. Minor detail, right?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leave Elvis in Graceland

...and if you can't, then at least don't put him with Celine Dion. American Idol, that was disgraceful. I'd rather fat Elvis by himself than skinny Elvis with Celine.

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Living Vicariously

Once again my friend Jam is making his annual sojourn to India and parts unknown (I only found out from his passport that he went to Bangladesh without telling anyone). Anyone the next few months of his blog should be awesome with weird stories and diverse adventures.

Meanwhile I can dream...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Late Night

Rock on with The Weakerthans:

Back to more political ranting tomorrow. By the way, what's all this about Jack Layton propping up Harper? Just as well someone does though, I'm not sure anyone is as ready as the Tories for an election.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


This sort of stupidity is bothersome on so many levels. It's mind-boggling to suggest that God isn't "allowed" in schools in the US. Incidentally, since when did Taber, AB become part of the US? Most US schools recite the pledge of allegiance (at least the ones in upstate New York) every morning - complete with the "under God" bit. Even if they didn't I'm not sure how this means that God isn't "allowed" in school. Surely believers of a variety of faiths do not drop their beliefs at the door.

There is a very wide gulf between proselytizing for religion or even granting it some kind of state recognition and not allowing it. As a believer I'm offended by suggestions that God is so weak or indifferent that Madalyn Murray O'Hair or even the US Supreme Court is enough to frighten God away.

The people who put out this garbage believe in a very weak and foolish god.

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Surprised he lasted this long

Apparently Boris Yeltsin is dead. In the West he was viewed as a sort of bumbling but almost lovable drunk (the Simpsons had an episode where the top reading on a breathalyzer test was "Boris Yeltsin").

I don't know if we should be so kind though.

Everyone will be quick to deliver an encomium that praises him for winding up communism. Fair enough, but the job he did in ending it was terrible, so completely terrible, that for generations it will be a case-study in how not to do economic transitions.

The people that conceived the program of "shock therapy" (such as Jeffrey Sachs) insist that the problem was that their prescriptions weren't properly followed. There are others though that insist that even perfect execution of shock therapy would have still resulted in a mess.

Let's not forget that what we ended up with was the worst sort of banana republic crony-capitalism where the lines between government, business, and organized crime were murky at best.

If anything Putin has simply fine-tuned and improved the management of Yeltsin's system of authoritarian rule. Putin is seen as a bit of pariah, but he's really just competent whereas we excused Yeltsin's excesses as a function of his perceived incompetence.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Earth Day Thought

Cars are symbols of freedom in our culture aren't they? You know, individuality and all that. No one hasslin' you, just you and the open road.

The open road. That's where the whole individuality thing comes to an end. That open road is a big government project. Here's a take from one Daily Kos writer:
"Worst of all, we've accepted the idea that spreading concrete is an intrinsic responsibility of government. When counting the responsibilities of those in Washington (or the state capitol), roads are often mentioned right after defending the nation. Why was the last federal highway bill so plump? Because the primary way in which politicians bring home pork to their constituents is in miles of concrete. Governors and congressmen stick their names on signs beside highway projects so you'll know who funded this new bypass, bridge, or expansion. There's barely a stretch of highway not tagged with the name of some former legislator."
Now I know what the standard response is to that line of thinking: cars bring in all kinds of revenue (taxes on fuel, registration, licensing, all that) so a good portion of that should be reinvested in highways. Using that logic though, all tobacco taxes should be reinvested as subsidies for the tobacco industry.

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Sympathy for the Devil

A lot of really stupid things are being said in the wake of the VT tragedy, but some of the stupidest are contained in quotes from Camille Paglia in this column. If I understand Paglia correctly, she's essentially sympathetic to the killer's manifesto. An extended example:
“Young men have enormous energy. There was a time when they could run away, hop on a freighter, go to a factory and earn money, do something with their hands. Now there is this snobbery of the upper-middle-class professional. Everyone has to be a lawyer or paper pusher.”

Cho is a classic example of “someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race”, Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

“Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again.”

Of course it's only natural that this would cause someone to kill. Bullshit. The problem here is that we had someone with a screw loose (or whatever the medical term is) and that person had access to the means to seek redress for his imaginary grievances. No one likes shallow, promiscuous rich kids (except the same), but most of us are able to deal with that by calling them "bitches" and "assholes" behind their backs. Call it class warfare on the cheap by the apathetic, but that's usually enough to get us through the day.

Incidentally, young men can still "run away" regardless of class snobbery. In fact it's bizarre to suggest that class snobbery is somehow a new innovation to ward off young men keen to get there and do stuff. Young aristocrats tried it en masse in 1870s Russia as part of a radical student movement at a time and in a place when class lines were far more rigid

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Morning

7/4 Shoreline, rock on:


Friday, April 20, 2007

Another Useless Clue

The Washington Post has found a Korean movie that might have been some kind of supposed influence on VA Tech shooter.


No seriously, that's my reponse, whatever. Does anyone really think that knowing this is somehow significant? We can send out some tough-talking reporter to ask rhetorical questions of the director with that cut-eye glare that investigative journalists all seem to master. Maybe some video stores will ban this particular movie. The movie will be a convenient prop whenever family-values people make presentations to lawmakers.

Then we'll forget it.

Why? Because any one of hundreds of movies would have done in the place of this film. The output of Quentin Tarantino alone could have been used to give the killer some kind of aesthetic gloss. If you purge all movies from our culture, maybe he'd model himself on more literary killer, like Raskolnikov, or Judge Holden.

The Post article attaches great importance to finding out which specific movies Cho was into. It will tell us next to nothing about him.

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About Me

This blog usually doesn't say much about me - at least about my personal life in any particular detail. I'd sort of prefer to keep it that way, but I should mention that I got myself a much more involving job (teaching) than what I'd previously been doing.

I really dearly want to keep this up, and I'm planning to, but the next two months will be hectic.


Mark Steyn: Armchair quarterback for school shootings

The Poor Man has a really great take on Mark Steyn's tasteless blame-the-victim approach to dealing with the VA Tech massacre.

Unfortunately we can't all be manly men like super hero Mark Steyn who would have totally rushed the guy and caught all the bullets in his mouth and spit them back at him. Look at Mark Steyn's manly visage, he has a beard, like Chuck Norris or Shipwreck from GI Joe.

As usual, any number of groups have piled on to turn VA Tech into a soapbox for their issues however tangentially they may be related. But for Steyn to harp on university kids for not being all manly and butch like him and other high school drop-outs is particularly odious. (Note: I am not intending to tar high school drop-outs by association with Mark Steyn, most of them do NOT become far-right columnists.)

Incidentally, right now Mark is preoccupying himself giving sympathetic coverage to Conrad Black at his trial. Black is so manly that he throws fancy parties where he dresses up as Cardinal Richelieu and other really macho characters. Thank you for pointing us to the pinnacle of manliness, Mark, I'll go buy a Richelieu outfit and start buying shoes for a crazy lady.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho Seung-hui: Media Sensation

Or at least it looks that way given the air time he's gotten. They are broadcasting his rants and his photos after he sent them into NBC. Why? It's exploitation, it's really that simple. I can't imagine what might be gleamed from such displays in mass media. Wow. What a surprise, he photographed himself with guns, he wrote a manifesto with a list of supposed enemies.

It's kind of sad though, rereading the above, that the school shooter is now fairly easily profiled. That says something.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lurching Contrasts

The BBC World Service followed up a report on the Virginia Tech killer with a quick blurb on a car bombing in Baghdad. In a way we have a sort of perverse luxury here, don't we? Mass killing is rare enough here that we can pour over all the morbid details whereas in Iraq it's another day, another car bomb in a crowded street.

In both cases I think we can know profiles generally. Like most school shooters, the VT killer appears to have been a bit of loner who was into guns and left a body of disturbing writing and pictures. But we won't stop there will we? In the coming days this shooter's life will be picked apart. What music did he like? Video games? Movies?

We will know everything and yet it will tell us nothing we didn't all assume the first minute we heard about this killing. Meanwhile the suicide bomber toils in anonymity - another easy profile, just not picked apart to the minutiae.

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Always keep it loaded!!!

I was thinking about the predictable response of the gun lobby what happened at Virginia Tech. The argument goes roughly like this: Nothing terrible will happen so long as law-abiding gun owners are packing heat.

Leaving aside the question of whether that makes Iraq or Afghanistan the world's safest society by this logic, we have a problem with this premise. One of the few things that we do know about the shooter in this case is that he was a resident alien in the US on a student visa. Since I'm pretty sure that a felony is probably one of the easier ways to get such a visa revoked, up until two days ago, this individual was most likely a "law-abiding gun owner."

But what if there were other law abiding gun owners that didn't all go bonkers on the same day that this guy did? Well, it's one thing to own a gun, it's another to know how to use it. Sure you might go to a target range every week, but shooting a human being is not the same as shooting a paper target. For another gun owner to stop this sort of assault they need to be prepared to use deadly force.

Now maybe you're thinking that yeah, you could kill if it was to stop a murderous rampage, but are you ready to die? You'd be risking your life here too.

So, the profile of the sort of person who ought to be armed to prevent this (other than off-duty cops or soldiers - two special cases where I'd say specific training makes them effective) is the type that can use a firearm in a dynamic real-world environment, is not squeamish about killing, and has a disregard for his or her own life.

What's the profile of a school shooter again?

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Really, really important discovery!

Jason Cherniak has claimed (in this blog's comments section no less) that Stephane Dion is a Monty Python fan. For a pop culture nerd like me this is fascinating. We the anarcho-syndicalist peasants demand to know!

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Who is at "fault" if May does not win her seat?

I'm not a member of any political party (and I'm really not planning to change that) so I've sort of treated the Dion-May alliance/fiasco as a kind of spectator sport (albeit one with potential long-term consequences). Naturally all kinds of opinions have been flying, particularly between Grits and Dippers. My attention was caught today though by something that Jason Cherniak said:
"...if Jack [Layton] were smart he would agree to not run a candidate against Elizabeth May. Then Dion would gain much less from his deal and May would no longer be able to attack the NDP. As things now stand, if May loses and MacKay gets less than 50% of the vote, then Layton will be solely to blame. How many non-partisan progressive voters will like that one? I suspect May understands that she needs to take down #3 before she can even think about Green Party government."
I suppose, given Jason's roll in the Liberal party, he's just doing his job. That said, let me give a response to his rhetorical question about what "non-partisan progressive voters" (like me) would think about May losing Central Nova. First of all, it's one seat. I don't see how Layton would be "solely" to blame anyway. If May runs a mediocre campaign is that Layton's fault? What if the NDP candidate finishes ahead of May, is it then solely May's fault that the NDP lost? Moreover, the NDP never insisted that May run in Central Nova - a riding where the NDP was competitive (at least more so than either the Greens or the Liberals).

Now I don't want to sound like someone who's adopted NDP talking points or anything, so let me just reiterate: I don't think that anyone could point to a single individual and say that they are at fault for an undesirable outcome in an event as complex as a Canadian election.

This is starting to remind me of the bickering liberation fronts in Life of Brian, remember, what the "non-partisan progressive voter" (i.e.: me) wants is for Harper to go away.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Churches need a lesson from bars

Nathan caught this tidbit about churches that are attempting to reach out to men by being more, uh, manly. The article starts with this:
"No hymnals. No pews. No steeple. No stained glass windows. And no women."
While I don't know about pews or hymnals, I had always thought that the best way to fill a room with men is to put women in it first. Am I being sexist? I don't think so, I'm just observing how many bars and clubs always charge a cover for men while giving women the option of a "ladies night" where they get in free. It may not seem fair, but it is a proven business model.

Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I must confess I don't really *get* this idea of churches trying to appeal to macho men with all these manly men things to do. If anything they are creating churches for boys, I mean, how puerile is a "no girls allowed" rule?
Picture: Buddy Christ doesn't care if you're a manly man, everyone gets a wink and a gun!

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Undemocratic reform of, err, democracy

I was reading about the electoral reform that has been proposed for Ontario and, well, it sounds pretty good. In riding like mine where it's only ever been a two-way race (Liberal versus Conservative) it would be nice to know that casting a vote for another party isn't the functional equivalent to spoiling your ballot. So this seemed like a sweet deal, at least it did until I got to this part:
"The referendum will have a high threshold in order to pass. It needs at least 60 per cent of the votes cast, along with at least 50 per cent of voters in a minimum of 64 individual provincial ridings. There are currently 103 ridings."
I was vaguely aware that some "super-majority" was required for this stuff to pass, but this is just ridiculous. I bet I know how MMP opponents will cast the proposals too, they'll say it's too complicated and by virtue of its complexity it will somehow be disenfranchising. Admittedly, a cursory glance at what MMP looks like may render it confusing, but in practice all you do is vote for a candidate as well as party.

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Dystopia? What Dystopia?

Andrew Sullivan takes time today to refer to Sao Paulo as a "post-capitalist dystopia" since the city had banned billboards. I looked at the group of Flickr photos myself and, well, it doesn't look so bad. I mean the light boxes (or whatever they call them) where the signs used to go obviously look empty, but if the boxes themselves were taken down, who would miss them? I wonder what the folks at would say about this "dystopia?" At least no one would be suing them.

For the record, most of the futuristic dystopias produced by our cultural imagination have an oppressive amount of advertizing (see Bladerunner) or at least some kind of massive visual propaganda (see 1984). I also fail to see how this makes Sao Paulo a "post-capitalist" society either. Local governments put all kinds of restriction on capitalism - e.g.: you cannot open a slaughterhouse in a residential neighbourhood.

I do not know how any of this renders Sao Paulo a dystopia.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

On the Income Trust folks

I'm not quite sure how I ought to feel about these people. I love it when they punk Conservative MPs in public - at least for the cheap thrills. I like that they seem to be able to bring out a well-organized and well-financed opposition against Canada's Newest Government Ever. All this I like, and I understand their feeling of being lied to by Harper.

The thing is I really do feel that the income trust loophole had to be closed in one way or another. As long as we are running a capitalist economy, we should at least be doing it well - income trusts sapped money out of companies in a way that limited that. The real problem is probably that Harper made a promise that he reasonably should have known that he might have to rescind. So while I hope that this loud, organized group of investors is able to make a dent in Harper's poll numbers I can't really get behind their agenda.

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Gordon O'Connor on CBC

He just described Canadian Forces as finding some of the IED's "at the last minute" and that is when troops are killed - is that what he calls it when the IED in question blows the hell out of a LAV III? That's not a "last-minute discovery," that's a successful bombing by the Taliban, sir.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Did Canadian customs actually hold a man because of Wikipedia?

Or at least in part because of Wikipedia? That's what is being claimed by one Taner Akçam, a professor who has written about the Armenian genocide. Akçam writes:
"As a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in Turkey, I should not have been surprised. But my recent detention at the Montreal airport—apparently on the basis of anonymous insertions in my Wikipedia biography—signals a disturbing new phase in a Turkish campaign of intimidation that has intensified since the November 2006 publication of my book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility."
The story as it is laid out is worth reading, in part as a reminder that if you make a enough trouble for a government, you are never truly free from harassment, but really, are we considering Wikipedia as a source for terror watch lists?! Yes I use it (and probably you do too) as a quick-and-dirty reference tool, but then nothing I've used it for will get anyone detained. In Wikipedia's defense, it appears that the offending passages are now purged from Akçam's page.

This is a travesty. If you'll excuse me now, I have to go edit Stephen Harper's Wikipedia biography.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Perhaps May can win?

Greg Morrow of democraticSPACE crunches some numbers and shows a way that Elizabeth May could actually make a play for Central Nova. My instincts (such as they are) make me skeptical about this (more so than Scott is at least), but it is at least plausible. Put another way, right now, I'd still put money on MacKay, much as I'd prefer he'd lose.

One wonders though, how much money the Greens will have to spend in Nova Scotia that they might have spent in those BC ridings where we are always told they might make a breakthrough.

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Desperate hook-ups and the sad man with the dog

Well, he of the sad dog is probably staying put. I hope he's not pouting for photo-ops today. Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May (it's everywhere in the Canadian blogosphere, I'm too lazy to link to it) have forged a little alliance against MacKay but I doubt it will unseat him. (Go to the results and do the math yourself.)

I can't help but feel as though the Dion-May thing was set up like a last-call one-night stand, all bets are off after the next election I suppose. That's not to say that such an agreement couldn't work - it just comes off as, I don't know, a tad desperate for both of them. I doubt it will have the longevity of the Harper-MacKay shotgun wedding of a few years back (an up-and-comer married into a storied old family for some respectability - and connections), and I'm not sure what, if any, results it will produce for either party at the ballot box.

In extending all these relationship metaphors, the NDP is playing the part of the sanctimonious single type - disgusted by its skanky acquaintances but secretly really REALLY hurt that no one asked it to roll in the hay. Even if it would have totally said "no" such an offer.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm sorry - sorry that you're so stupid

The apology that some social conservative groups made to the world for Canada has been commented on in the blogosphere. There are variety of things about this stunt that merit comment, there is one though that I would like to point out here. The apology includes the lines:
"Our government and courts only considered adult 'rights', failing to consider the "impact on children's rights, children's education, parental rights, religious rights, adoption, the economy and family law."
It's nice to know that these groups asked every single judge, member of parliament, and government lawyer what factors they considered when they decided what they were going to do on the matter of same-sex marriage. But hold on a second, what impact do these groups fear there will be on the economy?!

One imagines that if all these people are coming to Canada to get married then there ought be a substantial boost to our often-moribund tourism industry. As a group, gays and lesbians statistically have higher disposable incomes, these are tourists that are good for the economy. Please tell me what dire economic scenario would counteract this kind of benefit. How on earth is same-sex marriage bad for the economy?

I'm all for debate, I'm all for freedom conscience, you can hold whatever beliefs you want on this issue, but don't pull stuff out of your ass to make an argument. Economy? Give me a break.

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Words about a man I never read

I was told, perhaps sometimes even admonished to read Vonnegut. I never did though, I don't know why, but I never did. He's on a very long and distinguished list of people I've never gotten around to reading despite my intentions. Dennis Perrin's eulogy for him today though might just push Vonnegut to the top of the should-read pile:
"Thousands upon thousands of words will be typed and uttered on Vonnegut's behalf, most of them useless, many attaching grand themes to his work and philosophical outlook. But it's really simple: Kurt Vonnegut had a first-rate imagination, wrote clear prose, and proposed that people be kind to one another. He distrusted authority and painted those looking to rule us as clowns."
That sounds like someone worth reading.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Corporate Thuggery

The Globe and Mail has more today on the saga of versus Clear Channel (Clear Channel tried to sue the site's owner for having the temerity to inform the city that Clear Channel's billboards might be illegal). Spacing's Dale Duncan expands on the theme here.

Really I'm disgusted by Clear Channel. Get out of Toronto, Clear Channel, we don't want your bullying here. Also, I've heard from Americans that your radio stations suck - so there.

Edit: I just saw that Astral, another billboard conglomerate that wants to bid on Toronto's street furniture is also wanting to sue Astral, you aren't any better.

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Military Contracts Under Investigation

Here it is (via Bourque) the military police are now investigating irregularities in military contracts. I wonder how far such an investigation will go? Is it any surprise that this is happening under a government that made a defence industry lobbyist the Minister of Defence?

Right now they appear to be looking at series of transportation contracts, but who knows what they might find when they start looking at the really big sole-source contracts that the Conservatives have been announcing like they're going out of style.

Another possible case of Conservative waste, mismanagement and corruption.
Picture: Gordon O'Connor - lobbyist turned minister may very well have friends in all the wrong places

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Is Atheism a Religion? Convenient Truths from Christianists

One of the most helpful things that Andrew Sullivan has done for political debate was to coin (or at least popularize) the term "Christianist" to differentiate religious belief from a specific political agenda that (in its current form) wants to fuse authoritarian state power with the certainty of evangelical protestant belief.

Anyway, today Sullivan finds another great Christianist quote:
"I don't believe there's such a thing as the separation of church and state. In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution actually calls on the United States Congress to make sure, to ensure that people are allowed to practice their religion."
Or so says Leo Berman, sponsor of a bill in Texas to create a mandatory bible-study elective in all Texas schools. In this case, it appears that Berman does not consider atheism to be religion, it is the absence of religion in his eyes. At the same time though, one of the more common statements that those pursuing Christianist goals will make is that atheism is just another religion.

It seems in fact that the rhetorical divide is entirely obvious, when attempting to fuse religion with state power, Christianists determine that atheism is not a religion (therefore denying that atheists' rights are infringed by such attempts). When attempting to limit the presence of ideas that they consider proxies for atheism in the public square (most often this means evolution), Christianists resort to declaring atheism "just another religion."

For the record, a query of atheist websites reveals that most atheists do not consider what they believe to be religion (I guess my little business idea of selling Richard Dawkins icons is a bust now). I thought about this and remembered that many protestant Christians are also fond of making the claim that they have a relationship with Jesus, not a religion. I suspect that neither group though would want these assertions to undercut their legally defined religious freedoms.

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Haiti Can't Get a Break

Even if you want to leave the place, don't try the US, they'll send you back.

One part of me wants to say that it's really a shame that North America does the bare minimum to assist this troubled nation on its doorstep. Another part of me is wary of what the consequences of a large-scale intervention might be. Would we look like imperialists - even if our intentions were honourable? Would the Haitians even trust us? There is evidence that the latest round of coups and unpleasantness was sponsored by the US.

So what sensible, constructive approach can we take? (Aside from not fomenting another coup d'etat.)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


This was an internet meme a couple months ago. You had to put iTunes (or whatever) on random and write down the results as a sort of soundtrack for your life. Anyway, here's what I had (but never got around to posting). As with all these sorts of things, some of them fit, others not so much.
  • Opening: Explosions in the Sky - First breath after a coma
  • Waking up: The Weakerthans - Uncorrected Proofs
  • First day of school: Panic! At the Disco - Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off
  • Falling in love: k-os - Fantastique
  • Fight song: Broken Social Scene - Stars and Sons
  • Break-up: Metric - Wet Blanket
  • Prom: New Order - Regret
  • Life is okay: Broken Social Scene - Almost Crimes
  • Mental breakdown: Manic Street Preachers - A Design for Life
  • Driving: Nine Inch Nails - Sin
  • Flashback: Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)
  • Get back together: My Bloody Valentine - Sometimes
  • Wedding: M.I.A. - Amazon
  • Final Battle: Jimmy Eat World - If You Don't, Don't
  • Death Scene: U2 - Vertigo
  • Funeral: Tom Vek - The Lower the Sun
  • Credits: King Cobb Steelie - Mayday
Actually, only the Explosions in the Sky track really fits well. Go figure.


Tim O'Reilly has never been in a car with me

There are some attempts being made by the Wise Old Men of the internets to regulate what people say on blogs (h/t Dennis Perrin). I won't delve into the obvious the problems of such a code of conduct (Mr. Perrin did a better job of that anyway) but one line stood out to me:
"We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person."
Well isn't that a charming statement, but what does "in person" mean? In person drunk at a bar? In person in church? In person at a sporting contest of some sort?

The term "in person" is one that is deeply contextualized. By way of my title, I have a confession, while I am often very mild-mannered, when driving I tend to make frank remarks about drivers around me. I use slang terms to describe those that cannot move out of the left lane while doing 80km/h on the 401 or those that cannot figure out how to turn their vehicles or use the appropriate signaling devices.

Often times these slang descriptions may attack said poor drivers by way of suggesting that they ought to engage bizarre sexual acts, I may also assault the reputation of their mothers, or suggest that they lack certain reproductive organs. On several occasions I have suggested that their relatives may be sex-trade workers (I feel I must apologize for this as I'm sure that many sex-trade workers who have whole families of commendable drivers).

Is this the kind of "in person" language that I am supposed to use on blogs?

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Monopolizing Jesus

This morning I came across this post on the word "Christian" and how it is used. The problem is that the media has tended to pretty much go along with the evangelical protestant vision in which evangelicals get to own the word "Christian" and therefore exclude mainline protestants, Roman Catholics, et cetera.

Rome has always claimed that it's the one true church, but it hasn't got the sort of uncritical press support that the evangelicals have gotten:
"It made news when James Dobson said of Fred Thompson, a baptized member of the Church of Christ, that 'I don't think he's a Christian.' But his spokesman explains Dobson's point: “We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians.” So it's not just Catholics and Mormons: now all of mainstream Protestantism is "non-Christian" in the view of the Republican ayatollahs. It would be nice if political reporters made that clear to their readers."
There is a real danger here that evangelicals with their politcal clout and their media savvy could make a new protestant orthodoxy that would become increasingly unrecognizable in mainline churches. All this would be aided by press whose ambivalence about understanding (not necessarily endorsing, just understanding) religion allows it to take everything that Dobson says at face value.

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Three Strikes vs. Unintended Consequences

Jason Cherniak has posted on Conservative attempts at putting in some kind of three strikes anti-crime legislation. Of course this is a great way to play up their "law-and-order" image.

After three serious offenses, you'd think that someone ought to be put away for good, right? Well the problem is that even the dumbest criminals can count to three, as a result, police wanting to arrest someone who already has two strikes tend to have a real devil of a time with it in the US. If the guy fears he's going away for good there's a much better chance he'll engage in a shoot-out, high-speed chase or something else that risks civilian and police lives.

Of course most "tough-on-crime" politicians just go for emotionally satisfying ploys based on the rules of a sport. The problem is that there are enough people (mostly Toronto Sun columnists) who get swept up by this incredibly stupid rhetoric. It will get most police officers injured, many of the US jurisdictions that have such laws are starting to turn away from them.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Bad Idea of the Week: Elected Judges

The Globe and Mail is reporting today on a poll by the Strategic Counsel suggesting that two thirds of Canadians would like to see elected judges. Who are these people? What is wrong with them. Politicizing the judiciary is problem one of the things that is fundamentally wrong with the US justice system. Let's not go there.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Complete Ignorance of the Middle East

Once again we have a right-winger demonstrating just that quality. Andrew Sullivan linked to Michael Ledeen's suggestion that Iran is harboring bin Laden.

Once again people, why is there a civil war in Iraq?

A: Sunnis and Shi'as are engulfed in sectarian violence - there are centuries-old grievances between the two sects.

Okay, so what sect does the Iranian government belong to?

A: They are Shi'a.

And bin Laden?

A: He's a Sunni.

So why, when both al Qaeda and the Iranian government consider each other heretics, does anyone think they would work together? Let's look at Ledeen's own logic:
"it certainly fits; the Iranians love "disappeared" leaders. Their messianic leader is the 'vanished Imam;' they "disappeared" bin Laden after he was routed from Afghanistan"
Oh, so I guess that the Iranians are also working with Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart. Ideology doesn't matter, theology doesn't matter, Ledeen's figured it out, the Iranians just love anyone who has "disappeared" by some means. Who listens to this guy? Moreover, who does not understand how crucially, crucially important the Sunni-Shi'a divide is to understanding the Middle East after the past four years?

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Another attempt to post my thoughts on Vimy

I get the sense that so far I've not really been able to convey what I mean by the posts I've put here expressing my skepticism about the commemorations of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

What I want to do is to sort of separate out the gauzy soft-focussed nationalistic version of Vimy from what I think Nietzsche might call the dismal truth (I think it was Nietzsche who used that phrase).

The soldiers who fought World War I went through hell, I cannot imagine it as much as I read about it. The Canadians (including my great-grandfather) fought under severely incompetent British leadership (Sir Douglas Haig) in conditions that boggle one's mind.

I don't think that is uncontroversial.

What does bother me is this proxy valorization of the cause for which the soldiers fought. It was an imperial-powers clusterfuck. I'm sorry, but that's the best way to put it. There was no common cause for freedom or anything (the British were allied with Czarist Russia). While remembering the losses incurred by Canada in that conflict (some 60 000 dead, many more wounded), we need to be conscious of the danger of uncritically accepting a sort of my country right-or-wrong, war-is-a-force-that-gives-us-meaning mentality.

I can feel that sort of ideology is going to be verbalized in some form by you-know-who tomorrow.

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National Myths

I've been thinking more about Vimy, and I've sort of realized that it's about the only national myth that Canada has. What else is there? The 1972 Canada-USSR hockey showdown?

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

I got nothin'

Once again, I turn to YouTube to provide content:

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Towards a More Mature View of Vimy

I was pleased to see, amid all the drum-and-trumpet coverage of Vimy, Michael Valpy's article, "Vimy Ridge: The making of a myth" in the Globe today. Valpy points out that if the British of the French had captured Vimy, it would have been a footnote in history. The myth Vimy is that it marked some kind of significant turning point, World War I's Stalingrad if you will.

Interestingly, Valpy does not touch on the stupid, enmeshed reasons why we were there in the first place. At Vimy we scored a point for the British in a European clash of imperial powers. That's all we did. The German Empire was hardly ever a threat to Canada, or even Britain. There is substantial evidence that, right up until the start of hostilities, the German leadership assumed that Britain would remain neutral.

I suppose that none of this takes away from the bravery required of Canadians who carried out British Field Marshal Douglas Haig's tragically stupid orders in France and Belgium. Nonetheless, we must be careful and very clear-eyed when it comes to considering exactly what we are commemorating this weekend.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

LifeSite Divorced from Reality (Again)

I'm sure that there are many ways to make credible and/or principled arguments for things that LifeSite advocates (whether or not you agree with them). This is not one of them. Ian Hunter writes for LifeSite an article titled "A world without children a result of worldwide 'demographic death spiral'" and uses Mark Steyn's dubious demography to suggest that the whole world, starting with Japan, is on the edge of a demographic death spiral.

That's odd, because, well, the last time I checked, on a global level, human population is still exploding. One or two regions of population decline has done little to alter that reality.

Hunter's article is consumed with this panic that there will be no more children anywhere - kind of a sad thought I suppose (unless you've been on a jetliner with a crying baby recently). But if you look closer, that's not the problem for Steyn or Hunter, the real problem seems to be that there will not be any white babies in the future:
"In some places in Europe, birthrates are even lower; these countries look to immigration -- increasingly from the Muslim world -- to bolster a shrinking workforce. But grief awaits anyone who warns that this might be sowing the seeds of our own destruction."
Oh, so its not a problem of no babies then is it? Hunter predicts that anyone suggesting this would be called a "racist." Okay, Ian Hunter, tell me what you would call someone who holds the position "white babies are preferable to brown babies." Of course he'd discard me as the sort of snooty person who is "more concerned about careers and possessions than about replenishing the Earth or continuing the species."

Let me counter that by saying, if there's one way to "replenish the Earth" and continue with our species it's surely to limit our populations. Unless of course you are in denial about just how taxing humans are on the planet. For the rest of us though it isn't clear how LifeSite expects to ever be taken seriously.

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A Good Friday Thought

I'd like to think that we've progressed in significant ways over the past couple millenia. Slavery is mercifully constrained, women are no longer considered property. Nonetheless, I can't help thinking that, as Christians comemorate the subjection of an innocent man to a show trial, torture, and execution in the middle east by an occupying army, so very little has changed.

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Blogging against theocracy, sounds good to me. In the same post skdadl has a decent looking (I haven't tried it yet, so I can't comment on taste) hot cross bun recipe.

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Tragic Irony: WMD Edition

There are more reports this morning about the growing facility that insurgents have with chlorine gas as a weapon. Their latest attempt has killed at least 27. Chemical weapons are making a comeback in Iraq thanks to the US-led invasion.

On some level I hoped that I was wrong about the Iraq war because, well, the idea of having a secular democratic Iraq remains so appealing. Looking at the history of invasions, occupations, and colonial administrations though gave me the sense to predict the worst scenarios. It's just tragic that the most morbid predications about this war have been right.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Car vs. Bicycle

This post reminded of when I was hit by a car. Or, more properly, when a car backed out right in front of me. I was riding in a straight line down a residential street and I clearly had the right of way.

Once I had gotten up the driver protested that he "didn't see me" as I had "come out of nowhere" or something. This was on a road that is dead straight its entire length. It's not enough that they hit me, their initial impulse, despite the overwhelming evidence was to attempt to suggest that I had appeared from nowhere as to invite an accident on myself.

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Self-Hating Canadians at Macleans

The folks at Macleans have delivered another jeremiad about what's wrong with Canada. There's no link on the website yet, but this recent one is on page 32 of this week's issue. After articles in recent weeks about how we aren't competitive in the global economy and how we take too much vacation time, now we get scolded for not having any global brands. Author Andrea Mandel-Campbell twists a Chinese proverb about a tiger and a fox so as to call our nation an economic squirrel. Really.

According to the article, most of the brands that Canada does have are run by immigrants and/or transplanted American executives. I'm not sure why immigrants don't "count" as Canadians in this tirade, but Mandel-Campbell says it is so. Applying this to other countries, does Andrew Carnegie not count as an American success story as he was from Scotland?

Anyway, once again Macleans has another article scolding Canadians as a bunch of timid losers, do they think that this will turn us into a nation of entrepreneurs. Floggings will continue until moral improves.

One final addendum: What about Harper's brand of Conservatism? It's drawn heavily on Harper's mentor, Tom Flanagan, one of those transplanted Americans that Ms. Mandel-Campbell was so concerned about.

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Neocons Alone

Juan Cole has a most excellent piece today on how Nancy Pelosi's visit with Bashar al-Asad represents not only Democratic Party attempts to revive a full spectrum of foreign policy tools (not just bombing and invasions) but also mainstream opinion in Israel. Why? Well, as Cole writes,
"So since the Neocons' Iraq War has turned into a catastrophe that poses an asymmetrical security threat to Israel, since the Lebanon war they so strongly backed turned into a fiasco, and since their plans for overthrowing Bashar are likely to even further endanger Israel, then the Israeli political and military elite must be fuming and seeking a way to outmaneuver the Bushies and their wild man Neocon allies."
Arguably the most aggressive attempt at building a new conservative coalition since Nixon's "Southern strategy" has been centered on convincing Jews in North America that neoconservative foreign policy is best for Israel. It is apparent now that the strategy is not really working. Of course such a position was formulated in part because on the surface it fused well with Evangelical premillenialist beliefs about a Jewish state being necessary for Armageddon. If you read most premillenialists, you'll see that the Jews end up mostly getting wiped out in this scenario.

All the stuff is now getting thrown out (I hope) for a more sensible foreign policy. You know, one that doesn't see hard power as the only power.

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Pay no attention to the man behind the shrubbery

I found this image on Atrios' site. I'm not sure what to make of it, did Dick Cheney not realize he was in the shot?

You could write a whole novel about this image. There's Bush at the podium, trying to salvage the last shreds of his presidency, while over there in the middle distance, Cheney looks on.

What is that look? Is it the envy of the balding, heart-disease-riddled man with the permanent sneer who knows how unelectable he is?

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The Word "Hero" is Now Meaningless

If you didn't already know this, there is further proof on the Sun's website (the UK Sun). There is a caption that reads "Hero sailors free!" This is perilously close to the way in which Stephen Colbert routinely refers to his audience as heroes.

While I'm sure that the last two weeks have not been terribly pleasant for said sailors, I'm not sure if getting your ass caught makes you a "hero" either. Granted, this is not as bad as calling everyone who showed up to work on time on September 11th, 2001 at the trade towers a hero, it's still a misuse of the word.

Am I being callous? I don't think so. One might endure misfortune or tragedy and one might do so very well, but that is more rightly called fortitude or courage even, but not heroism. I don't want to diminish how frightening such an ordeal might be, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time is not heroism.

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Sounds like a good idea

Late night with Belle & Sebastian:


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

How much is this war costing us?

It's been in both the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star over the last couple of days that Canada's tanks are outdated and not very good for Afghan summers. Today the Star is reporting that Canada is set to lease and/or buy new tanks.

Swell, so what is this going to bring the cost of the war up to now? Moreover, while I'm sure that Flaherty will continue to insist that the budget is balanced, you have to recall that he was part of the Eves government. Remember them, the ones who played a trick on Ontario's voters by pretending that the budget was balanced.

While I'm sure most Canadians don't want to send our troops out into combat with the Taliban unprepared, I think we need to have a frank discussion about what exactly we are prepared to spend on our military. You, know the navy has a wishlist of its own. What about our new transport aircraft? Aside from the purchase price for all this fancy stuff, what will it cost to maintain it all? Parts? Where will we store it all?
Picture: Leopard tank

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You Read it Here First

It looks like the Iranians are going to release those British sailors and marines after all. No giant military invasion was required, no commando assault, no airstrikes. On March 24th I said:
"Either way I suspect there will be a week of intense negotiations, followed by
the release of the British soldiers."
I was slightly off on the timing (it was more like two weeks) but that seems to be the gist of what has happened. All you warmongers are going to have to find a better pretext next time.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What we fought for at Vimy

I can't help but think that Stephen Harper is going to use Vimy as a platform to promote his open-ended, ill-defined committment in Afghanistan. One imagines - as J.D.M. Stewart does in the Globe today - that he will try to draw a parallel between Vimy and Kandahar. He'll talk about bringing freedom to people around the world.

How nice.

Let's be clear though about World War I was about. It was the collapse of a system of complex secret alliances that were designed to preserve and expand imperial holdings. Canada sent an expeditionary force to Europe not because we felt strongly about bringing "freedom" to Europe or something, we sent our forces because the British Empire made us. Canada did not have an independent foreign policy until 1931. We were ostensibly there to protect Belgian neutrality, but really, we were there because Britain felt threatened by the German Empire's growing navy.

At least in World War I we knew when it was over, the German government - at the behest of the general staff - sought an armistice. One doubts that the Taliban would ever seek such terms with NATO.

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Iraq is Safe Enough - For Photo Ops

The New York Times has an article on what went into McCain's little walkabout and what the locals thought about it. One Abu Samer saw through the whole thing:
“He is just using this visit for publicity. He is just using it for himself. They’ll just take a photo of him at our market and they will just show it in the United States. He will win in America and we will have nothing.”
Welcome to electoral politics, Mr. Samer.

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The Case for The EU

While acknowledging it faults (bureaucracy, et cetera), Eric Margolis reminds us what the EU has achieved in 50 years:
"The greatest miracle I have ever seen is today’s French-German border. Nothing now demarcates this long-disputed frontier, over which so many fought and died. This blood-drenched border that evoked such madness and violence has almost vanished. You only know you’ve crossed the border by seeing billboards in French or German."
On the eve of the commemorations at Vimy, I think it's safe to say that three generations ago hardly anyone conceived of this happening.

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How War is Reported

A great quote by John Hockenberry as posted by Jonathan Schwarz:
'I was very happily employed at NBC. I wasn't like, running around, trying to stuff toilet paper into the plumbing and sabotage the place. [...] But I was interested, because we had a lot of meetings at NBC about, you know, if you're doing a story and the person you're doing the story about offers to buy you a drink, you've gotta say no. If you're doing a story and they send you, after they see the story, some napkin rings -- silver napkin rings that are monogrammed "Thank you, Jon, for the story," you've got not only to return those, you've got to report those to the standards people at NBC because there's a whole ethics and conflict-of-interest thing.

So at one of these ethics meetings -- I called them the return-the-napkin-ring kinds of meetings -- I raised my hand and said "You know, isn't it a problem that the contract that GE has with the Coalition Provisional Authority [...] to rebuild the power generation system in Iraq [is] about the size of the entire budget of NBC? Is that kind of like the napkin rings thing?" And the standards people said "Huh. That's interesting. No one's brought that up before."'
Why was it again that the media sort of accepted the party line on Iraq?

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Good News

I pretty much just use this as a platform to complain about stuff, but this can only be regarded as good news!


Michelle's Stasi

Michelle Malkin has proposed some kind of manifesto in which, well, everyone keeps an eye on the suspected "Muslim Terrorist Plotter/Planner/Funder/Enabler/Apologist" yes - even apologist - who might be in our midst. I'm not sure what the term "apologist" means in this context but one shudders to think how wide a net she could cast with it. Much of the response raised the spectre of the type found in dystopian novels.

A much better comparison might be made though to the past:
"It has been estimated that by the time the wall came down in 1989, the Stasi had 91,000 full-time employees and somewhere around 200,000 to 300,000 civilian informants (by comparison, Hitler's Germany had 30,000 Gestapo officers for the entire country)."
The Stasi (the East German secret police) were notorious for relying on civilian informants. Is this the kind of network that Ms. Malkin would like to build? There are all kinds of anecdotes about nosy neighbours who made other people's business their business in the old East Germany. One wonders what this sort of activity did to even the most basic social interactions. Everyone and everything could be held as suspect. Of course for a supporter of internment, this ought to be no big deal.

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McCain's Entourage

Apparently Baghdad is totally safe if you have one hundred US soldiers, three Blackhawks, and two Apaches guarding you. Oh yeah, and wear kevlar just in case. In broad daylight. One hour limit.

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Drawing Really Stupid Conclusions

Those crazy folks over at Brain Dead Animals have concluded that the Iranian capture of 15 British sailors and marines is causing Argentina to think that this is an opportune time to have another go at the Falkland Islands. (This is all of course reading into a comment from Argentina about pursuing the issue with "more firmness")

Gee, I suppose it could be that, or maybe it's the fact that the British military is now tied up in Bush and Blair's war in Iraq.

What do you think? Would Argentina talk tough because of the 15 Brits in Iran or the 7100 Brits in Iraq?

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Who's Afraid of Anal Sex?

This item from Towards a Just Society reminded me of another incident in Texas. I can't imagine why we even think that we could credibly regulate anal sex. Maybe Stephen Harper's government will lead us in an enlightened debate like the one that happens about four minutes into this clip:

Incidentally, Warren Chisum, the state legislator who is in a lather over anal sex also believes that the sun goes around the earth. For real.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Late Night

I'm off to bed, watch this. You wouldn't have much fun in Stalingrad either:

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Last night we were off to Queensway to catch a film. We weren't sure which one, but we wanted something in the light, popcorn-y vein (Blades of Glory was a contender). Anyway, for no apparent reason, once we got there we decided to check out Sharkwater.

We didn't know it at the time but the filmmaker, Rob Stewart was actually at the cinema, he had done a Q&A session after the early showing and he did a brief talk before the showing that we watched.

Anyway, enough of the set-up, this film was incredible. It will change everything you thought you knew about sharks. Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, Open Water you realize that they have done for sharks essentially what so many fairy tails did for wolves, turn a natural part of an ecosystem into a caricatured monster focused on preying on the flesh of humans.

Sharkwater counters that with images of sharks as beautiful almost poetic creatures that are more victims of commercial fishing than monsters of the deep. What we do to them is far more destructive than anything they could do to us. Watch this film.

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