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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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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Damned lies and statistics

Last night on CTV News' 11:00 o'clock newscast, there was a story about the effect of Stephen Harper's pro-Israel stance on the polling numbers for the CPC. Host Ravi Baichwal solemnly intoned that Harper's position had resulted in a "dramatic decrease" in support for the Conservative Party, according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll. I waited for the numbers to see how "dramatic" the drop was, but to no avail, and went to bed thinking the Tories were in serious trouble.

So, here's what CTV considers to be a dramatic drop: national support for the CPC has dropped to 39% from 43% in May. Dramatic? Hardly. Especially if you consider the polling results that CTV didn't report - Harper's personal approval rating stands at 60 (that's sixty) percent, according to the same poll. Furthermore, the CPC is still way ahead of the Liberals, at 27%, and the NDP at 17%. And still furthermore, the 39% support for the CPC is three percent higher than the 36% of the popular vote they got in the last election.

In spite of the moaning and wailing about honest brokers, Harper's position doesn't seem to have hurt him at all, and the CPC only modestly. Dramatic, indeed.

Mel Gibson - shut the #$%* up

Amid all the attention in the media to Mel Gibson's drunken anti-semitic rant after his recent arrest in California, let's remember that he has a history of statements like this going back many years, and yet fans still flock to his movies. For example, here's an anti-homosexual rant given to a Spanish interviewer in 1992: ( from Independent Gay Forum

by Rex Wockner Outlines News
Service (Article filed January 1992)

Heartthrob actor Mel Gibson, asked by one of Spain's leading magazines what he thinks of homosexuals, launched into a tirade against gay men. "They take it up the ass," Gibson told El Pais as he got out of his chair, bent over and pointed to his butt. "This is only for taking a shit," he said. Reminded by the interviewer, Koro Castellano, that he workedwith gays while studying at the School of Dramatic Arts, Gibson added: "They were good people, kind, I like them. But their thing is not my thing." Castellano said, "But you were obsessed with the thought that if you were an actor, people would confuse you with one of them." "Yes," Gibson admitted, "but I did it. I became an actor despite that. But with this look, who's going to think I'm gay? It would be hard to take me for someone like that. "Do I sound like a homosexual?" he asked. "Do I talk like them? Do I move like them? "What happens is when you're an actor, they stick that label on you," Gibson said. "I go from playing rugby one week to taking dance classes in black leotards the next. Many of the girls that I met in school took it for granted that I was gay."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Teen angst poetry

I'm a connoisseur of high school yearbook poetry - you know, the kind that gets stuck in between the volleyball team photo and the prom candids to fill blank space. I love the forced rhymes, the narcissism, the anguished introspection, the naive world-view and the why-me nihilism. It's a powerful reminder of why lowering the voting age to 16 is such a bad idea. Here's a great example from a high school in Toronto:

With shields raised, defences up
I begin the walk of life.
No cowardice shall lurk in me
Arrogance sparks my stife [sic].

With shields up, defences down
I feel that I'm worth more.
More than nothing ever was
I cannot be ignored.

With shields down, defences gone
I search for who I am.
What I really want from life
With no answers I am damned.

Without a shield, without defence
I struggle from within.
For life is a mere farce
This reality is quite grim.

Without pretence, without deceit
I probe my inner soul.
This walk of life is now complete.
For within and without I am ...


Thursday, July 27, 2006

CNN - the lowest common denominator

There was a time when I would turn to CNN whenever a crisis erupted somewhere in the world, but now I can't stand to watch it. CNN has turned into a cult of personalities. Everytime something bad happens somewhere, CNN flies Anderson Cooper to the scene, puts a flak jacket or raincoat or pith helmet on him, props him up in front of some apparently dangerous backdrop and gives him all the airtime he wants. Their evening newscaster, Lou Dobbs, plays the part of a kind of Wallace Beery-esque curmudgeon who editorializes constantly throughout the newscast, which always features a story on one of his pet peeves (out-sourcing jobs, or more recently, border security). Wolf Blitzer, who I'm convinced has a some kind of speech impediment and stutters through his broadcast, always ends a story with a little admonition to the correspondent to "be safe". The talking heads who fill up the times in-between are usually drop-dead gorgeous women who don't have a clue what they are talking about, but are at least fabulously coiffed.

This kind of reporting, which is more about the reporter than the story, is one of the reasons why people are turning to alternate news sources to get information. 24 hour news channels were once thought to be a great innovation, but the problem is that there often isn't 24 hours worth of news to cover, and the gaps are filled in by personalities. I like the style of The Economist, which never identifies its writers, or has them ghost-write under pseudonyms like Lexington or Bagehot. Nobody who reads The Economist knows or cares who the reporter is - the story is the important thing. You know we're in trouble when we see Anderson Cooper on the cover of Vanity Fair, or Katie Couric's hiring at CBS is itself a news story.

Bring on the blogs.

Parallel universes

You know things are different in Ottawa when you read something like this (from the National Post):

News of a possible rate increase [at Canada Post] even prompted the Liberal Crown corporations critic to call for the abolition of Canada Post to stop its monopoly over mail service. "As long as you provided an efficient and cost-effective mail service which was regulated, where any price increase has to be justified, then I don't see the argument for exclusive monopoly," John McKay said.

The key phrase is Liberal Crown corporations critic. Liberal????? Proposing the abolition of a Crown corporation monopoly????? Didn't he get the memo? Substitute government-run health care monopoly for Canada Post and see how that argument flies with the Liberal Party.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

White liberal guilt

This is an excerpt from a story from an Eastern Ontario weekly paper, The Community Press: (July 21 2006)

Native ways talk informs audience

On July 6 the Tweed Heritage Centre was host to an informal yet informative and interactive evening. Native OPP officer Bryan Bowers, from Kingston, and friends Janice, Suzanne and Ken from Tyendinaga [Mohawk Territory] talked about Native spirituality, prophecies, lore and environmental concerns. They explained the Native way of being in touch with nature, understanding the use of herbal medicines and their harvesting, and healing rather than punishment.

One can perhaps be thankful that a few years ago Natives were allowed to practice their religion. In a time when all we hear about is pollution, war and the levels of toxins in everyone's blood Bryan Bowers gave the listeners the glimpse of a new hope. Wearing the Ribbon Shirt, Bryan and his friends seated themselves among the listeners and began a discussion that lasted for two hours.

The talk centred on paintings they have on display at the Heritage Centre during the month of August. The speakers explained the ancient prophecies of the Anisihnabe and how they felt that society has come to a turning point and that we must soon choose between industrialization and pollution or a deeper awareness and regard for the environment.

Suzanne talked about how the Earth is like a mother to people and should be treated with respect. Concerns were also expressed about the hazards of chemicals being poured into the rivers and oceans.

Probably the most exciting part of the evening was when the "Peacemaker" who likely came from the shores of Quinte was talked about.

Mention was also made of a university that is being planned where the educational system will be Native. It is not sure where the future university will be located, but Tyendinaga was given as one possibility.

Many of the listeners, at the end of the evening, asked Bryan and his friends to return and explain more of their knowledge.

I'm the first to acknowledge that natives in North America have been poorly treated by European colonists, but this kind of new age socialist claptrap drives me nuts. White liberals, wracked by guilt over the sins of their ancestors, lap this stuff up while enjoying the luxuries provided by the free-market capitalist economy that those very ancestors established. In addition, the assumption that natives are somehow genetically more in tune with "Mother Earth" and thus better stewards of the land lets native communities off the hook for all kinds of transgressions that are not tolerated in "white" society. Take a drive across the Canada-U.S. border through the Akwesasne reservation, past the tax-free gas stations, the casinos and the discount cigarette outlets, and then ask yourself whether the natives of Akwesasne are living a pure spiritual life in tune with nature. This kind of nonsense does little to advance the process of improving the lives of Canadian natives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Signs of the coming apocalypse

From an organization in the U.K. called "The Centre for Sex and Culture":

Coming to the UK!
The First International Masturbate-A-Thon London,
August 5, 2006 2 p.m. until 10 p.m.

Drop Studios First Floor 50-54 Clerkenwell Road London EC1M 5PS UK

The US Masturbate-A-Thon is hoping to see new challenges to the current record of eight hours and thirty minutes. We hope to maintain the US record—but we just may lose it. The event begins at 2:00 p.m. on August 5, 2006, and continues until 10:00 p.m. There will be three communal areas—mixed, men=only, and women only—but each of these will have screened areas for private masturbators.
The record currently stands at eight hours and thirty minutes. If the winner of the English event goes beyond this time it will mean a new international record. If they do not then a first British Record shall be established.

Maybe it's the absence of burning cars ...

In the midst of the crisis in the Middle East, Jews are emigrating to Israel in record numbers. Recently, 650 French Jews arrived to start new lives in Israel, in spite of the violence. From the Jerusalem Post:

Julien Daham, 29, who arrived from Nice, agreed that Israel was the place he felt most at home. He said he planned to move to Ashkelon, a city recently put in range of Hamas-fired Kassams, a situation that didn't deter him.
"I don't feel unsafe here," he said, describing France as more dangerous than Israel. "The streets are safer here, even with all the attacks."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Support the P.M.

Alarmed by all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from liberals and Liberals (and of course predictably from the NDPand the CBC) about Prime Minister Harper's position on the Lebanon conflict, and all the hot air about honest brokers and Canada's peace-keeping tradition, I fired off an e-mail to the PMO to express my support:

Dear Mr. Harper:

I am writing to express my support for your position on the current conflict in Lebanon, and your outspoken support for Israel in this crisis. I appreciate your leadership on this issue, both at home and internationally at the G8 conference. You have been taking considerable heat from critics at home, accusing you of abandoning Canada's traditionally neutral role in the MiddleEast, but in this case I think the choice is obvious - Canada must stand up for the only liberal democracy in the region, and must support the fight against extremist groups like Hamas & Hezbollah who have hijacked the situation.

Critics aside, Canada's position as you have expressed it is in line with most western countries (and some Arab countries) - the choice is clear. Please stand firm on this, and resist calls to distance ourselves from President Bush and our other allies. This is a turning point in the Middle East, and the future and security of the entire region and the world in general is at stake. Keep up the good work.

Politicians of all stripes give letters and e-mails from constituents a lot of weight when making policy decisions; support the P.M. and send him an e-mail at

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Steve Nash's hair

I'm not much of a basketball fan (or a sports fan for that matter), but one can't escape Steve Nash in the media - especially since Canadians have embraced him as embodying everything that is nice about this country (including, of course, the fact that he fled to the U.S. to make a living). Nash signed a six-year, $65.6 million contract - so why can't the guy get a decent hair cut? Everytime I see him on a TV commercial, I wonder "What's that high-school dropout who pumps gas up at the ESSO station on highway 7 doing on TV?" He's ranked 46th in the NBA in terms of salary - he can't drop ten bucks at the Superclips in Phoenix?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Teen's frontal lobe permanently disconnected

Brain researchers believe that the bizarre, inexplicable, antisocial and often dangerous behaviour of adolescents can be due to a lack of neural connections between the frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for, among other things, judgement and risk evaluation) and the rest of the brain. These connections are not fully developed until a person is in their early twenties. Exhibit A:
"Teen crushed by train while fleeing police in B.C."

VANCOUVER - A teenager was crushed under a slow-moving freight train while trying to escape from police yesterday.

Police are still trying to identify the youth, who is believed to be about 16 years old, who fled New Westminster police after he and two others were caught allegedly damaging property, detective Terry Wilson said...

Det. Wilson said the incident began at 3:10 am when police responded to a call of three youths damaging cars. Officers arrived four minutes later and approached the teens. One of the young men made a break for it, fleeing downhill towards the train tracks. A CN train was running along the tracks, and the youth tried to roll under it.

"He was caught under the train and fatally injured," Det. Wilson said...

The youth's body - with its head either crushed or missing - lay beneath a tarp for six hours as the investigators did their work. Regional coroner Vince Stancato said an autopsy is being done to determine how the youth died.

Canwest News Services

Canada's Lost Balls Located ...

... found in the vicinity of Stephen Harper's spine

A year ago I was in despair about the state of Canadian politics, and resigned myself to living the rest of my life in a perpetual one-party state, governed by the (at best) incompetent and (at worst) corrupt Liberals. Canadians get the government we deserve, I thought. Well, what did we do to deserve the astonishing performance of Stephen Harper this week? I thought I'd never live to see the like.

The headline in today's Globe and Mail: "Harper refuses to budge". From the National Post: "Harper nixes call for peacekeepers - Israel the victim". Fresh from a meeting with French president Jacques Chirac, who labelled Israel's conduct in Lebanon "aberrant", Harper had the temerity to reject a French suggestion that the U.N. send peace-keepers to its former colony or to negotiate a ceasefire between Hezbollah and the Israelis, saying " the ceasefire is one element of the action plan that's called for in the G8 statement, but I would point out it's not the first thing called for, nor is it the only thing". Further, when asked to comment on an accusation by the Canadian Arab Federation that he was personally responsible for the deaths of Canadian civilians in Lebanon from Israeli bombing because he labelled Israel's military action a "measured response", he responded "I don't think that warrants a response. It's a bizarre accusation".

Predictably, liberals and Liberals are up in arms. Lloyd Axworthy is spluttering about Canada's abandonment of its role as "honest broker" in the Middle East by taking sides in the conflict - a role which, as Andrew Coyne pointed out on CBC news last night, we last had in 1956 during the Suez Crisis, and have been tripping over ever since. One can only imagine Paul Martin's response to this situation - the dithering, the stuttering mumbled bromides about peace-keeping and root causes, the frantic consultations with Bono, Bob Geldof, and Kofi Annan, the dispatching of Alexandre Trudeau on a fact-finding mission, and finally the dumping of truck-loads of money on Arab NGOs.

My god - Canada at last has a coherent foreign policy that supports the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. I don't know how long this will last - maybe Canadians don't, in fact, deserve this government - but it's fun while it lasts.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Revenge of the Undead

Sweet mother of god - please, no....

Pierre Trudeau's life has been turned into an opera in five acts, according to the National Post. The work, Trudeau: Long March/Shining Path, by librettist George Elliott Clarke and composer D.D. Jackson, features duets between Trudeau and Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela. Some sample lyrics:

I did what I liked
Loafed in Quebec and motorbiked
So cool, with a Prussian helmet on
A rich man's son, crying "Revolution!"
But how embarrassed soon I was
Spying the photographs of Holocaust
The ovens and bones of Aushchwitz
While I lounged, comfy, in swank ski chalets.
To make up for the war I missed
I toured a globe quite blown to bits.
In 1948, I saw
The birth of Israel, that awe
From genocide emerge and stand
Embattled in the desert sand.
In China now, I follow Mao
His Long March through civil war.

I'm sure this opus will be in continuous repertoire at the Hell Centre for the Performing Arts.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Creepy Grandmothers

I was in Ottawa on Thursday to attend the Blues Fest for the first time. We saw four live acts, culminating in the headline act, Etta James. I've been a big Etta James fan for years, and this was an eye-opener. She is now 70 years old, but she was still carrying on like a raunchy sex-starved teenager; even though she could hardly stand up and spent most of the concert seated, she occasionally staggered to her feet and hobbled around the stage, shaking her rump suggestively, smacking her dentures, and making lewd gestures with the microphone. It was kind of repulsive - like watching your grandmother drunk at a wedding reception. She has also lost a lot of weight and looks like she just got out of the hospital. Not only that, out of her vast repertoire, she sang the most forgettable songs; mainly tunes like Stop the Wedding and others from her Motown days. There were hardly any of her challenging songs, like Burn Down the Cornfield or Randy Newman's The God Song - ones that really pushed the envelope in their day. It was a shame - I hated seeing her like that. It's time to retire with some dignity.
However, she was backed by a great seven-piece band, including an actual Hammond B-3 organ, which covered for her very well.