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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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University of Guelph - Guelph, Ontario

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze, from The Walking Dead soundtrack

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: I Need Your Love So Bad, a very early song by Fleetwood Mac (1968)

Earth Hour 2014

I'm celebrating tonight by driving my SUV to an expensive restaurant that's keeping all its lights on and cooking with fossil fuels. Meanwhile in Pyongyang ...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Poison Milk, by Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Death of Statesmanship

It's hard not to draw parallels between the current crisis in Ukraine and the 1938 crisis in Czechoslovakia, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated the Munich Agreement with Hitler that surrendered the Czech Sudetenland to Nazi Germany and agreed to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.

What is most striking to me is the mediocrity of the leaders of the West in their response to Russian aggression in the Crimea. This is from a press conference President Obama, Leader of the Free World, gave today :
I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations but I don't think that's fooling anybody. I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.
Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up with this statement, telling the Russians that if they didn't back off
... then our partners will have absolutely no choice (but) to join us to continue to expand on steps we have taken in recent days to isolate Russia diplomatically, politically and economically.
Well, that's telling them. I bet they're quaking in their valenki over at the Kremlin.

When Neville Chamberlain sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938, Leader of the Opposition Winston Churchill gave this blistering speech in the House of Commons on October 5 1938. Here are some excerpts:
I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have.
The utmost my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been able to secure by all his immense exertions, by all the great efforts and mobilisation which took place in this country, and by all the anguish and strain through which we have passed in this country, the utmost he has been able to gain for Czechoslovakia in the matters which were in dispute has been that the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer [Sir John Simon] said it was the first time Herr Hitler had been made to retract - I think that was the word - in any degree. We really must not waste time after all this long Debate upon the difference between the positions reached at Berchtesgaden, at Godesberg and at Munich. They can be very simply epitomised, if the House will permit me to vary the metaphor. £1 was demanded at the pistol's point. When it was given, £2 were demanded at the pistol's point. Finally, the dictator consented to take £1 17s. 6d. and the rest in promises of goodwill for the future.
All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association with the Western democracies and with the League of Nations, of which she has always been an obedient servant. She has suffered in particular from her association with France, under whose guidance and policy she has been actuated for so long.
We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted. The road down the Danube Valley to the Black Sea, the road which leads as far as Turkey, has been opened.
I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week - I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies:
"Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."
And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine cannot stand, but the West is being led by pygmies. Come back Churchill - we need you.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Crimea then and now

As the crisis unfolds in Ukraine, it is enlightening to read accounts of a previous confrontation between the West and Russia - the Crimean War of 1853-1856, when Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire confronted Russia over control of Ottoman territories bordering the Russian Empire (including Ukraine). One is struck particularly by the mealy-mouthed response by western leaders to the current aggression compared to the belligerent oratory of the 19th century.

Browse through the Hansard record of the debate about war with Russia in the British House of Commons on March 31 1854. Here is Lord Palmerston, Leader of the Opposition:
The question we have to consider is this, whether Turkey is to lie prostrate at the feet of one great overwhelming Power—whether one Power is to bestride the globe from the north to the south, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, to dictate to Germany, to domineer in the Mediterranean, to have the whole of the rest of Europe at its mercy to deal with as it pleases—or whether that Power shall be taught that there are limits even to the ambition of a Czar—that there are limits even to the conquest of a military empire, of which one may say that the whole territory is one great camp, and the population one recruiting depôt—and that in spite of the power which a Sovereign may be able to sway—in spite of the military resources which he is able to command—that there does exist in the Powers of Europe a respect for the principles of national independence—that there does exist in the Powers of Europe a determination to resist the overwhelming encroachments of any Power, be that Power what it may—and that we are able, as we are willing, since resort to arms has become necessary, to maintain in arms, by sea and by land, the liberties of Europe and the independence of nations.
Compare that to alleged master-orator Barack Obama's speech today:
It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a human universal right to determine their own future.
Right now, the situation remains very fluid. Vice President Biden just spoke with prime minister -- the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment, the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.
I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations. We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies, we will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government, and we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.
Thanks very much.
There will be costs! Condemnation! We're going to continue to coordinate closely with our allies!  We'll keep you informed as events develop!

Good god, this guy's the leader of the free world and this is the speech he gives while Russian troop carriers are rolling into the Ukraine?

As Bette Davis said in All About Eve - "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection:  Blow With Ry, by Nicky Hopkins, Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Dust Bowl by Joe Bonamassa, recorded in a live acoustic performance at the Vienna Opera House

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: What You Gonna Do About Me, by Buddy Guy and Beth Hart:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Justin Trudeau's Senate gong show

Apparently Justin Trudeau got up this morning, drank his latté, and without consulting anyone involved, decided to abolish the Liberal Party's caucus in the Senate. He's being cautiously hailed by the confused punditry for his "bold move" that "seizes the agenda" on Senate reform. Really? Has he thought this out, or does he just make things up as he goes along?

This move has serious implications that I fear have not been considered. Who is now the opposition to the Tories in the Senate? Who is the Opposition Leader? What happens to the budget for the Senate Opposition? Who sits on Senate Committees? I'm not a fan of the Liberal Party, but Trudeau has just abdicated his responsibility to provide principled opposition, debate and criticism in the upper chamber - now the Tories are virtually unopposed there. This is an agenda?

Senate reform is a necessary and serious business. It has to be done by consultations with the provinces and regions that the Senate is supposed to provide with a counterbalance to the domination of large populations in the House of Commons. Various proposals have been put forward for the reform or abolition of the Senate which have to be carefully considered before embarking on the long and difficult process of amending the Constitution. Changing the Senate is difficult on purpose - it forces politicians and political parties to articulate a plan and sell its merits to the voters, then seek compromise to achieve a new model that is acceptable to the House of Commons, the Senate and the majority of people in the majority of provinces with the majority of the population. Senate reform should NOT be done on the whim of a single person who happens to be the leader of the Third Party when he has a light-bulb-over-the-head moment while staring at himself in the mirror one morning.

Trudeau's proposal is idiotic. However, it may serve a greater purpose. I think the best Conservative strategy for dealing with the Liberals from now until the next election is to let Justin be Justin. The more he preens in front of press scrums in the Commons lobby and theatrically tosses out poorly-thought-out policies off the top of his head, the more even his star-struck fans will realize what an airhead he is. The Tory campaign attack ads will practically write themselves. Since he's been leader he has only articulated two major policy proposals - legalizing marijuana and firing Liberal Senators. The best is yet to come, folks - stay tuned.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection - Jeep's Blues by Duke Ellington. This song was prominently featured in an important scene in the new movie American Hustle where the characters played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams meet for the first time. It's a fantastic movie, by the way - especially if you grew up in the 1970s like I did.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Deep thoughts from Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau was interviewed by Calgary Metro News recently, and produced this answer when asked how he would deal with requests from municipalities for help in public transit funding:
Remove a lot of the politics from it. … There’s a lot of politicking around perception and short-term advantage but not necessarily a larger plan of what’s actually going to serve, not just in the short-term in terms of construction jobs, but in the long-term in terms of what a growing city is going to need. So, very much an approach that looks at facts, data, best practices, and a real vision for the next decades rather than just the next electoral cycle.
Good grief - Wilfrid Laurier must be spinning in his grave. I can't wait for Trudeau to go mano a mano with Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair in the leadership debates in 2015 - it's going to be a train wreck.

Harper's Knesset heckler becomes leftist celebrity in Canada

A story from the Jerusalem Post  features one of the Arab members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) who heckled Prime Minister Harper during his speech this week:
MK Ahmed Tibi became an overnight celebrity in Canada this week after he heckled Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his address to the Knesset.
Since heckling Harper on Monday, Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) has given 15 interviews to Canadian media outlets and has been invited to speak at universities in multiple provinces.
Tibi said he would go to Canada in the spring to lecture and give more interviews.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Mr. Tibi's heckling on his Facebook page:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu boasted on his Facebook page that Harper’s heckling was proof of the vibrancy of Israeli democracy.
Netanyahu’s speech before Harper’s at the Knesset was also heckled by Tibi, who shouted that Abu Arar had no electricity and water in his village.
Netanyahu then posted a picture of Abu Arar’s three-story home on his Facebook page with proof that it has both electricity and water. Tibi responded on Netanyahu’s Facebook page that posting the picture was childish and intended to hide Israel’s embarrassment over the state of unrecognized Beduin villages.
I'm sure Mr. Tibi will be greeted with open arms at Canadian universities, which are after all celebrated bastions of free speech. Recall that PM Netanyahu was prevented from speaking at Montreal's Concordia University in 2002 when an antisemitic mob rioted at the campus venue where he was to speak, assaulted some members of the audience and vandalized the building.