Thursday, May 31, 2007

Really Poor Reasons to Stay in Afghanistan

Right-wing blog, Celestial Junk argues that we should be in Afghanistan because the soldiers like doing the work there.

Well, that's good for the soldiers. No seriously, I mean it, it's reassuring to know that we have a well-trained military that has recruited people who are well-suited to soldiering and that they are able to function under tough conditions.

As long as we live in a world that seems to require nation states and their attendant militaries, it's nice to know that ours can do its job.

That does not stand as a reason though that we ought to be in Afghanistan. You see what Mr. Junk has done is contrast "soldiers" with "whining" Canadians. Soldiers don't mind being in Afghanistan, but their work is threatened if the great bulk of this country wants to pull out.

Guess what, that is as it ought to be. We do not, despite Hillier's fantasies, live in a military dictatorship. If the majority of Canadians take the "whining" position then it's too bad for the military, we'll bring 'em home. Civilian oversight, that's how it works. Of course soldiers like to be in the field, that's what they've been trained for, but the rest of us decide when they are needed to do that.

A final thought, I have read stories (can't find a link) suggesting that the Canadian military really wanted to go to Iraq in 2003 too. Good thing we didn't go along with that idea, eh?

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Very funny, now get to work

So I saw the Young Liberal Mac-parody ads. I admit they are credibly funny (certainly more watchable than what Harper has put on TV). Anyway, one ad does not a campaign make, so I hope that the Grits (and the Dippers for that matter) are busy in their mountain fortresses (or wherever strategy is done, I don't know for sure, so I'll assume fortresses it is) concocting something that topple Harper.

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Homophobia increases terror risk

"I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."
-Jerry Falwell after 9/11
Falwell later retracted this statement, and its easy to see why. It's an idiotic thing to say, not mention tasteless. One's opinion on gays really has no impact on the likelihood that you will b e victimized by terrorists. Or does it? The interesting thing though is that if anything, homophobia is making this a more dangerous place.


Well indirectly through the firing of gay linguists, something that is still happening in the US. Now the military says that it's just trying to uphold the law. I don't buy it, and moreover, I don't care about that particular law. Many of the gays that have been discharged have insisted that they were trying to be discrete. I don't care if those intercepting terrorist communiques are the gayest gays ever. It doesn't matter. Being able to speak the language of the enemy is simply too valuable a skill.

Don't believe me? Remember that here in Canada the Air India bombing could have been prevented if Canada's spy agencies had anyone who could speak Punjabi to translate the intercepts that had already been recorded.

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Training Terrorists

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Et tu, Hugo?

There's something about Hugo Chavez that makes him a guilty pleasure. His speech at the UN that got all those Bushie noses out of joint? Classic. I like that he's serious about sharing Venezuela's oil wealth around a bit. That's something that I highly doubt his opponents would do. The alternative to him is very likely another Latin America oligarchy.

That said, I was more than a little concerned about Chavez's latest shut down of opposition media outlets. Larry Gambone posts a rebuttal on the topic in Sisyphus' comments section. I understand where Larry is coming from but I'm still leery of this new authoritarian lurch from Chavez.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

You down with MMP?

That's Mixed-member proportional representation. James Calder has come up with another sensible reason to back it. Meanwhile, Greg Morrow finds another professional pundit against it.

To me MMP makes sense, I hope that it carries the referendum in October.

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Guns in Schools

It now appears that the kids that are being charged for the murder of 15 year-old Jordan Manners last week were probably friends of Jordan and not gangland thugs carrying out an execution to protect their drug racket or whatever gangs want to protect.

It's too soon know if these kids had prior brushes with the law, but assuming they didn't, we have a case where you have two law-abiding (albeit evidently stupid if this was their friend they killed) kids in a dangerous school (C.W. Jeffreys does not enjoy a good reputation in Toronto) arming themselves. Isn't this what the John Lotts of the world want?

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Who are the "perverts" here?

Are they the gay activists who peacefully brought a petition to the mayor of Moscow requesting that they be allowed to hold a parade?


Are they those in the leering mob who assaulted said activists as well as the police that beat up the activists and arrested them?

Can we just start calling the leader of Russia Czar Vladimir I?

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Why (Global) Villages Suck

Think about that term, "global village," it sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn't it? We all like villages, there's Santa's Village in Bracebridge, Value Village to buy your hipster skinny pants for $2, and the Village People who'll tell you where you can hang out with all the boys.

I think villages though are overrated. I think villages (and indeed all smaller centers, be they "hamlets," "corners," or "towns") are overrated for reasons that are now becoming apparent in the aforementioned global village. In a smaller center, everyone knows what everyone else is doing and what everyone else is saying. Harper (or at least his lackey, Stephen Taylor) is freaking out that his minions are saying things on Facebook that might somehow reflect badly on his government.

Until Facebook (which IDs everyone by their real name) the internet was far more akin to a metropolis than it was to a village. You could make up a name and commit the digital equivalent of flipping off another city-dweller in traffic. Your blog/myspace/whatever was the political/musical/cultural equivalent of yelling "nice turn-signal use, asshole!" out the car window on a crowded street. No one would know who you were or what you did.

Now your every Facebook utterance is traceable to you. It's a village, and now we are finding the idiots.

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Why Shakespeare still matters

From The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene II:
"In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,"
If I were to write a book on the political culture of the US under the Bush administration, this would probably be on the shortlist to be chosen as the epigraph.

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Charest's Great Flame-Out?

Jean Charest has never really lived up to the hype that surrounded his early career. If he's really really going to trigger an election over his huge tax cuts (courtesy of Harper's generosity) I think he'll go down. I don't know whether the people of Quebec want tax cuts badly or not, I don't know if he's offering the kinds of tax cuts they want, but I cannot imagine anyone is eager for back-to-back elections. Charest will get blamed over this and he will go down in an early election. Either that or Mario Dumont may get to be premier. One way or the other, I think we are witnessing the last act of Charest's career.

(Picture: Jacques Boissinot/CP)

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Never cave to the kid who cries too easily

This is an important thing for anyone who works around children and teenagers to remember. That is though exactly what John Boehner does on the floor of the US Congress. Most recently he did this as a response to the possibility that *gasp* the Democrats may want some clear targets and timelines for the Iraq war:
"The top of our list is to provide for the safety of the American people," said
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), choking back tears on the House floor as he debated
in favor of the war bill. "After 3,000 Americans died at the hands of these
terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on?"
(Side note: conservatives have this old saw about running government more like a business. Doesn't a good board like to set clear targets for its divisions so that it knows when to cut its losses?)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

30 Years of Star Wars

Sadly I think it's safe to say that Lucas is now well into his "fat Elvis" period of creative output (i.e.: repackaging the same stuff to cash in but with creeping lameness). Nonetheless, Star Wars, was a fixture of my childhood.

For all the ill that one might argue that Star Wars has done (and you can construct a pretty damning case these days) these movies, taken by themselves, with Han shooting first, were awesome.

Happy 30th Star Wars. Oh, and George Lucas, please give all your fans a birthday present, retire.

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Extreme Reactionaries II

Apparently this site has been set up to promote Sam Brownback's campaign for US President. What kind of people support Brownback for GOP nominee you ask? These kinds of people:
"I can’t say I’m sold on this yet, and I can already envision the reaction the Helioleftists (hat tip: Marcia P.) will have to this post. But I’m serious. I think we need a dialogue- how do we know that NASA has, in fact, been into space? If they haven’t, how can we prove the world is round, instead of being (for the sake of argument) a flat disk with all continents perched on top? I know this sounds crazy, but at one point in time people thought the idea of splitting the atom was crazy, too. Or, probably, slicing bread. Or controlling fire. Or building an Ark just because God told you to."
I'm still not even 100% convinced that this isn't a parody. I mean the ancient Greeks knew about the earth being round. (H/T: The Poor Man)


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Dirty Wars

There's a lot you can say to criticize the current government in Iran. Murdering journalists, arresting academics, executing homosexuals, giving a platform to Holocaust deniers, all of these are legitimate reasons to take a dim view of Iran's leaders.

Just don't call them nuts for wanting a nuke and more influence in Iraq's affairs. Is there any other sane reaction when you read that the CIA is authorizing a series of actions designed to destabilize the country? Someone should force those that run the CIA to read a little of the agency's own history. This is an organization that seems to pretty much feel it has the unilateral right to overthrow any government that it dislikes. In virtually every case, the results are a disaster.

The Iranians must have been anticipating this as the CIA did the same with Mossadeq in 1953. The CIA sucks at playing king maker, they should realize that.

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Extreme Reactionaries

Something Awful dredged the Free Republic discussion forums in the way that only Something Awful can. What they found was alternately disturbing and hilarious.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On Israel, The Palestinians, and The Media

Jason Cherniak has written a post about his dissatisfaction on how The Toronto Star portrays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was going to just leave a brief comment, but I ended up writing the jeremiad that you see below:

On the specific matter that Cherniak claims was under-reported: I was aware of the Fatah-Hamas conflict, no I don't recall if I read it in the Star, but I was aware. I'm sure that the National Post reported this affair in a far more Israel-sympathetic way so it balances out.

I have to say that there are vicious war criminals on both sides of this conflict. Any honest inquiry will lead you to that conclusion. I am sick though, so sick and tired of reading one-sided, myopic commentary from either party. I'm sick of the ex-pat peanut gallery on both sides engaging all manner of rhetoric and conspiracy talk to suggest that they are the forces of shining truth and it's only those idiots in the media that ruin a glorious narrative.

Why do I say "war criminals?" Well, neither side in this conflict has the faintest idea what a proportionate response is, one side shells and bombs randomly, the other claims a "targetted" response that often involves bombing the hell out of an entire building, neighbourhood, city or UN Peacekeeping post.

On that note I see the slogan on pro-Israel fundraising signs that reads "We don't leave our sons behind." Sure, fine, but you'll bomb the fuck out of Canada's sons too. I don't care that Israel apologized or that Harper eagerly accepted, if one of the premises of Israel going to war was to contrast some kind of IDF "leave no man behind" ethos with suicide bombers, I really think that killing the soldiers of other countries to make that point sort of undermines it.

I don't know if I've made a coherent case here, about anything, but I'm so sick of this. I want to believe that ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are too. What fuels this conflict in part has to be the aforementioned overseas cheering sections. Everyone from US evangelicals to Saudi financiers has taken an interest in this conflict. It reminds me of Bono talking about Irish Americans who hadn't gone back to Ireland talking about the glory of the "revolution":

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What is Torture?

I have to give credit to Andrew Sullivan for sticking to this issue relentlessly. Anti-torture conservatives are important allies on what has to be one of the most vital moral issues facing the West right now. It makes it harder to deflect criticism on the grounds that this is just the whinging of the usual bleeding hearts - even if I think us bleeding hearts are 100% right on this one.

Anyway, today Sullivan quotes Greg Dejerejian on the need to have tough questions posed to both the sitting president and all the candidates about this matter. When is it torture? When is it enhanced interrogation? What is the difference between those two.

I'll save everyone some time and give you the working definition of the torturephiles: When we do it, it's enhanced interrogation; when they do it, it's torture.

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After Victoria Day

Having burned lots of hydrocarbons to get away for a bit in the name of celebrating the birthday of a long-dead imperialist, I'm ready to get back to blogging!

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blaming Women

There was an item on CNN this morning (I was bored, okay?) about how childhood obesity is linked to more women in the workplace. The line goes something like, since women don't have time to make dinner or foist exercise on their children, the kids are consigned to a life of Burger King and XBox.

What about men?

At no point did the story suggest that, well, maybe fathers are just as capable of cooking meals as mothers are. The central premise that women ought to cook every meal was sort of assumed in the article. I don't know whether it was deliberate or not, but it's something to ponder the next time that you hear that the media has some sort totalitarian "feminazi" agenda that it is eager to enforce.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

George Stroumboulopoulos

I saw George Stroumboulopoulos today on Queen West and what struck me about him was that he looks EXACTLY like he does on TV. Some people look prettier, uglier, shorter, taller, thinner, or fatter on TV, but George looks exactly the same in person. He even wears all black, just like on TV. I don't think that I can say the same about any other celebrity I've seen in person.


Gaza's "Riverbend"

Dennis Perrin stumbled on the blog of a Palestinian single-mother trying to raise her son in Gaza. I haven't really even had a chance to read it, but I'm interested already. If there's one benefit we can derive from blogs on a global scale, surely its that we can look beyond the talking points of Israeli settlers or Hamas or whoever the media goes to for a sound-bite.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Eazy E and the Surge

There's a line in "Straight Outta Compton" where Eazy E says:
"But I'm smart, lay low, creep a while
And when I see a punk pass, I smile"
And that's what seems to have happened with the surge in Iraq. For all the talk of a drop in sectarian killings in April, they are on the rise again this month. What happens is of course, like street thugs, the insurgents of every stripe know when the heat is on. They lay low, creep a while, just like Eazy says. As soon as the US troops pass by it's back to kidnappings and sectarian honour killings, and whatever else can be done to visit misery on others.

Put another way, the Sunni-Shi'a thing is over a thousand years old, no one is going to forget it during a six month troop surge.

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Watch Tony Blair's face as George W tries to defend him against *horror* reporters asking questions.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Having solved all other problems, Harper frets about strippers coming here

Yes, that's right folks, the biggest problem left for Harper to tackle is foreign strippers. The Conservative government explains that these women will be put in situations where they are "vulnerable to forced prostitution and other exploitation."

Since when is it okay to put local girls in this situation then?

Moreover, we seem to allow immigrants to do all manner of other jobs which may be plenty exploitive. There are all manner of ways to exploit a nanny or a fruit-picker, but we don't bat an eye. We justify it by saying that people in these jobs are able to earn a better wage than they could at home and that they choose to be here. I don't see how the logic differs.

This isn't about immigration, this is about appearing a certain way to a certain base of supporters. Let's be honest.

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Our Betters

I get this vague sense sometimes that the possession of wealth is somehow interpreted as a sign of moral goodness by the lazy folk-version quasi-Calvinism that permeates our culture. On the other hand we have this millionaire couple allegedly practicing slavery on Long Island.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How not to do Geopolitics

Every time I read that someone is trying to use the Bible as a basis for foreign policy decisions, I cringe. This has to be, on some level, a great exercise in laziness. Let's not investigate the history of colonialism, let's not bother with the whole Sunni-Shi'a thing, let's overlook the economic interests in the region (read: oil), and finally, let's avoid any attempt to understand things from several points of view. No. Instead let's just read one chapter in the Bible and assume that it is not talking about the time in which it was written but rather that it is talking about this particular moment in history.

Whatever insights might be gleaned from studying the Bible, I can almost guarantee you that foreign policy guidelines are not among them. Dobson should actually go out and, you know, read some modern history, or Middle Eastern cultural studies, or, well, you get my point.

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What's wrong with economics?

Atrios explains it quite well here. A sample:
"My problem with economists is that even many of the smart ones tend to instinctively equate the social welfare of a country with its per capita GDP. This is absurd, and it isn't as if they don't actually know this, but nonetheless it tends to be how people operate."
Of course there are a whole bunch of rich and powerful people in any country who are quite pleased to see that this is adopted as orthodoxy. So long as the overall economy grows, they can damn anyone who points out that the share of the wealthiest one percent may be growing faster than the total GDP (i.e.: everyone else's share is shrinking). That those in the media elite from the owners to the top-tier anchors to the commentators-at-large are almost all in the top bracket only serves to reinforce the big GDP = good mentality.

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Bad Day

It looks like Stockwell wants to have special security powers again. According to the Star, the Bloc and the NDP are both opposed to this, the Liberals seem to be on the fence. I suppose that there is a well-founded fear within the Liberal party that Harper will roll out the terror-sympathy canard again.

Big Deal.

This is a chance for the Liberals to stand up for human rights, for individual liberties. This is a chance to stand for the Charter and against a police state. Non-partisan progressives are watching.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Tragedy of Errors

(with apologies to William Shakespeare)
I humbly submit that this is what they ought to call the final report of the Air India inquiry. Today we learned that the bomb-sniffing dogs couldn't have found the bomb because all of them, all of them, were at some training thing in Vancouver. Ask a child what is wrong with this, did the RCMP really think that the terrorists would respect this training day?

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Quote of the Day

From Northrop Frye:
"...most of our ideas of beauty are pure convention, and even truth has been defined as whatever doesn't disturb the pattern of what we already know."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

For Gilles Duceppe

You should have answered Mick Jones' question before you said anything, M. Duceppe:

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Branch Plant Under New Management (?)

Canada has been described by more than one observer as having a "branch plant economy." We don't design much, we don't raise the capital, market it, et cetera, we just build it. Ontario in particular has a reputation for making cars. The associations though run very strongly with American brands, GM in Oshawa, Ford in Oakville, and Chyrsler in Windsor.

Now though it appears that Cerberus is going to hack Chrysler down to size after months of speculation about who would have that unenviable task. Meanwhile Ford may or may not be up for sale. Of course before we board up this province and abandon it for the oil patch, we should remember that there have others quietly setting up shop here. Will the new Ontario be one of Toyota in Cambridge and Woodstock, as well as Honda in Alliston, and the like? If I were Dalton McGuinty, I'd be placing some more calls to Japanese manufacturers looking to set up assembly plants in North America.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Mother's Day

LL Cool J:

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rex Murphy's Continued Ignorance

Today I read in the Grope and Flail Rex Murphy's sanctimonious take on Jeffrey Monaghan. In this case Murphy makes a big deal about how Monaghan showed up at a news conference in a shirt tie since Murphy insists that no punk would ever wear that anywhere.

Uhhh, Rex, it's been done. Yes there have been punk bands more than willing to rock dress shirts and ties. Care to try any other embarrassing generalizations about musical subcultures?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

For Jeffrey Monaghan

There's been a lot written around progressive blogs in defence of Jeffrey Monaghan after Harper's sic semper whistle-blowers moment. Read it if you want (I'd encourage it), but here's my gift to the self-described anarchist. Rock on, Jeffrey:

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O'Connor Needs to Quit

Canada's Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor needs to step down. It seems like he's gotten himself into another scandal. Every scandal, every misstep by O'Connor merely serves to weaken him. The problem is that we need a strong Defence Minister now to counterbalance Rick "MacArthur" Hillier who seems to be perturbed at every hint of civilian oversight.

Of course it is entirely possible that Harper is simply quite comfortable to give Hillier a free hand to make up illegal detainee transfer deals or whatever. Hillier - like any general in a free society - needs to have strong civilian oversight. I have doubts about Harper ever wanting to provide that, and I have even greater doubts as to whether O'Connor is capable of providing it.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

et tu Ice Cube?

Sometimes when I see a trailer featuring Ice Cube starring in another family friendly film (Are We Done Yet being the latest I think) I watch this video and wonder how we got here from there. Not that Cube can't have a somewhat sappier second career, but still...

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NATO in Afghanistan

Tony Bows Out

...and I'm not talking about New Jersey's favourite mobster either. A lot of progressive/left types are correctly chastising the man for his enabling of George W. Bush's misadventure in Iraq. Having the UK on board for something like Operation Iraqi Freedumb lent a veneer of credibility to a poorly considered act of (depending on your level of cynicism) either insanity or criminality.

That said I think the man deserves credit for his shepherding of the Northern Ireland peace process. Even two years ago I thought it inconceivable that so staunch a loyalist as Ian Paisley would ever be part of anything like a unity government. As the grandson of a refugee from the Irish Civil War I am relieved that this conflict might be winding down.

It still doesn't excuse being party to a new war, but Blair's efforts for peace are part of his legacy.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cyclist assaulted by a cop?!

I saw the story yesterday about some kids who caught a driver on tape punching a cyclist in downtown Toronto. Now it turns out that this guy is a cop.

I'll go to bed now and fight the urge to read anything into that.

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Blogging Miscellany

I don't know if you've all noticed but Sitemeter appears to have completed a nice redesign. It no longer looks like the portal to 1998 when you check your stats. (But I mean who ever checks stats? It's not like blogging is a vanity project on some level, is it?)

I also see that Haloscan has had another one of its hiccups on my site, I'm sure it'll be back though...

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Slouching towards Integration

At least that seems to be what we are doing in this country. While Europe may have bigger and smaller players, there are enough countries to counterbalance the big guys (France, Germany). In North America no reasonable person could deny that the US would absolutely dominate the political discourse. Would we have the power to stay out of another Iraq war? Probably not.

At the same this is off the radar here. We are more concerned about whether the leader of a political party with no members in parliament may have incorrectly invoked World War II. We are more concerned about whether Harper's stylist can see the future. Right now integration is our national blindspot.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Homeland Insecurity or The Right Profile?

...with apologies to The Clash for that title.

The story of some kind of plot to assault Fort Dix is all over the news tonight. What is interesting to me is that the guys accused of doing this are Albanian Kosovars.


Well, Kosovars, despite being Muslim have a stubbornly European appearance. Seeing these guys on the street, I suspect a lot of people might have thought them Russians or something. Those that call for swarthy looking middle-easterners to be singled out for attention would have missed these guys. Sure they have beards in the court drawings, but to those who would profile bearded men I should hastened to point out that Gillette (among others) have an entire product line devoted to thwarting this reasoning.

Profiling, aside from being racist, doesn't work because, among other things, the terrorists can figure it out. Think that all suicide bombers are men? They start recruiting women. Think that they all have funny-sounding names? They get a guy like Richard Reid. Think they are all from the Middle East? They get some Kosovars.

This case was solved apparently because a video store clerk was asked to copy a jihadist video. He didn't like what he saw and he called the cops. In other words it was NOT solved because the Patriot Act lets the FBI check up on your reading list at the local library. It was NOT solved because we put all the Arabs in concentration camps.
Picture: None of Kafka's ideas were used in the solving of this crime.

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Karl the Grand Inquisitor

There is a section of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov where one character tells a story about a church official (The Grand Inquisitor) whose interest in religion only goes to the extent that he can use it to control people.

In that sense it would seem that Karl Rove is the Grand Inquisitor, at least if you believe Christopher Hitchens and/or Wayne Slater. Whether Rove is agnostic, atheist, or something else, I think you have to put him in the non-believer column on this one. It certainly casts his attempts to get evangelicals to vote GOP in another light.

It's probable that this will simply add to the evangelical disillusionment with the GOP in the US.
Picture: Dostoevsky hadn't seen anything yet!

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Monday, May 07, 2007

How will we know when to leave Afghanistan?

In respect I think the war in Iraq has to be easier than the war in Afghanistan. That is, at least in Iraq there is a sort of benchmark - that is to say no one can call the Iraq war a success until things are at least where they were when the war started. There was a rotten authoritarian government and a hated dictator, but at least there was some kind of civil society. You may have had to watch what you said, but at least you could go out in the streets. At the very least, the idea should be to get Iraq back to where it was. Increasingly I think that's all that the US will be able to manage - if that.

What about Afghanistan? Here we aren't starting with any elements of a modern society, instead there is a tribal culture that thrives on the opium trade. So when are things good enough in Afghanistan to pull out? More so than in Iraq, Afghanistan threatens to be war without end. The border with Pakistan will probably fester for some time to come, the Taliban's support will ebb and flow. We can dig all the irrigation ditches we want, we can rebuild whatever we want, none of that provides us with some kind of warranty against ideological defects.

In this vein it makes sense that neither Harper nor Hillier wants to talk about when to leave Afghanistan. As long as we are there, our military and political leaders can claim that they need our help. I doubt there will ever be an event that can clearly indicate that we are no longer needed. Mullah Omar is not going to walk into Kabul to sue for peace. In the meantime any call for a withdrawal date can be construed weakness. Make no mistake though, our withdrawal will be an arbitrary date, no matter who sets it or for what reason. There will be no neat conclusion of hostilities.

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It's the cover-up, stupid

Tory cabinet minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn has been trying to hide some of his travel expenses. I don't think anyone begrudges him his traveling, Canada is a far-flung place. What is disturbing is that Blackburn was apparently trying to hide it. Peter Van Loan seems to think that it was no big deal, if that's the case, why hide it? What else is being hidden? Another case of Conservative waste, mismanagement, and corruption?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Never play poker with this man

Sarkozy has won the French presidency. What a poker face this man has. This is his "I won the election" face. I'm not sure if anyone else in politics is quite this emotionally opaque.

Does his election, along with Mario Dumont's popularity in Quebec, signal some kind of neo-liberal moment in la francophonie. I suppose it will take time to figure that out, but it may indicate something akin to Thatcher and Reagan 25 years ago. Or it may not.

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Paris in Jail

I really don't like to waste my time posting on celebrities. There are other things that I'd much rather waste my time posting. That said, I take a certain amount of satisfaction from seeing that she's going to get jail time. Her defence appears to be that she doesn't read her own mail, I suppose by extension perhaps she thinks her assistant should get jail time for not properly informing her.

Willful ignorance as grounds for leniency. Nice Paris, nice.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Education as some kind of holy icon

An angry reader of Andrew Sullivan wrote a letter that Sullivan posted. In it the reader tries to bolster his argument on politics with his credentials:
I am a Hindu, Indian American, more educated than you (B.A, M.D., double board certified in subspeciality surgery, giving his specialty services for free for over 30% of my patients)
While I have a vague understanding that board certification is quite an achievement for a doctor, I'm not sure how this improves the political pronouncements made by such a person. I have my Masters degree, does that reflect on my general knowledge of everything? Put another way, should you trust me or my mechanic (who is a genius under the hood but, to my knowledge, not holding any kind of advanced degree) when it comes to mechanical advice.

I'm in favour of education generally. I think that everyone needs a good grounding in a variety of subjects, but at the same time we live in probably the most hyper-credentialist culture ever. "I'm a doctor, a good one, my political views are better than yours."

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Gag Rule and Politcal Name Calling

I've been reading Lewis Lapham's book Gag Rule these days and even though I'm only 2/3 of the way through, it's already impressed me. One point that struck me is Lapham's description of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" in the book:
"The meanings of the words 'liberal' and 'conservative' have been so mercilessly abused over the last twenty years that they offer more information about the person who employs them as insults than they do about the person on whose head they fall like stones. To say that A is liberal or B conservative is to say nothing intelligible about his or her politics, conduct, occupation, place of residence, or record of prior arrests."
I have had the discussion with at least one person and, when you push those words at all, most definitions collapse. The most coherent thing I can come up with is something about the epistemological foundations for a person's thought. Of course the so-called neo-cons are a lot closer to classical liberal thought (rooted in rationalism more than tradition/empiricism) in that sense, thereby limiting even that description.

What are "liberals" and "conservatives" today? We all seem to know them when we see them.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Further Thoughts on Protesting

Since I seem to have caught the attention of at least a few of the parties involved in the Caledonia dispute, I feel like I should clarify a few things:

I'm absolutely in favour of protests. A free society should not make decorum its primary concern. Like I said in the original post, this issue must make everyone involved frustrated beyond belief, I would probably protest too.

While I'm in favour of protests, there needs to be focus and proportionality to them. Bringing a message to Queen's Park may entail blocking off the traffic circle around the provincial parliament and even University Ave to the south. That makes sense, you are bringing your point to your audience.

I would even say that make a visible convoy down the QEW makes sense. It raises your profile. What I don't see the point of is deliberately slowing traffic on that highway. It's a sort of approach that irritates people in a way that I don't believe wins them to your side. I don't normally drive the QEW but I do have to commute to work. I can imagine that if I faced such a situation my response would be "get these people out of the way!" more than "let me investigate the underlying problems that have caused people to launch such a protest, if their cause is meritorious, I shall join myself to it."

Punishing anyone on the highway (wage slaves rushing to jobs et cetera) is probably not a successful long-term strategy. There are more innovative, effective ways to drum up support, I assure you.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Friendly Advice to Caledonia Residents

Nice of you folks to come to Toronto, our tourism industry can use all the help it can get. Unfortunately, you made a bit of a faux pas. You see, driving slow on our roads is not a way to earn our sympathy. We understand your pain, really we do. I mean you're caught between the feds and the Six Nations in a dispute that, while legitimate, must make daily life a mess. Worse yet, you have out of town professional village idiots like Gary McHale coming down to stir things up.

Anyway, we in Toronto don't really get sympathetic to slow driving on highways during the middle of the week. The impression that it gives is that you are unemployed (why not on Saturday?) jerks who like to piss off commuters. It's probably not the impression you wanted to create, but we can't help thinking that way. I don't care if the Six Nations did it to you, it didn't exactly make you sympathetic to them, so don't expect that result from us.

Toronto is not a government town really. Yeah the parliament is here, but there's so many other things going on that frankly we sometimes forget. In that way it just seems like "here's another bunch of out-of-town jerks pissing us off to make a point to Dalton." There's not a great swath of civil servants here (proportionate to those employed in other sectors) so it's not as though they carry your message into their place of work.

The same thing goes for sundry farmers' groups that show up here. Making us late for work, or to get home from work, does not make us sympathetic. We understand that you have legitimate grievances, so do we, but we don't drive our cars all over your towns and snarl traffic.

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Right Wing Sedition

There has been a great deal made of this quote by Thomas Sowell:
"When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup."
There are no caveats on the coup idea either, this is apparently the belief of Mr. Sowell.

What I wonder about are the quick accusations of treason and/or sedition that are applied to anyone on the left for far less. The right can muse all it wants about overthrowing the government, if the left wants to withdraw troops, is ashamed of a head of state, or wants to attempt talks with an enemy, these are not opinions or policy choices, these are acts of treason!

I'm waiting for right wingers to condemn this new nakedly seditious comment with the same vigour. I suspect that I'll be waiting for a long time.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

That's Quite an Accomplishment

Juan Cole disassembles Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech four years later. Taking the most cynical, bleak view of the Bushies' Iraq misadventure has proven to be the most prescient position. Gary Trudeau is rerunning some of his pre-invasion Iraq cartoons this week and they are pretty much entirely predictive.

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