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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)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Please throw this cliche under the bus

The defining journalistic cliche of 2008 has to be the ubiquitous and annoying phrase "thrown under the bus", meaning to repudiate, reject or make a scapegoat of someone with whom one was previously closely associated. It was used so often during the US election - for example to describe Barack Obama's treatment of Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, his white grandmother - that no self-respecting journalist or blogger could avoid using it and maintain his "street cred". Now that the year is winding to a close & a new era of hope and change is dawning south of the border, here's a lonely plea: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE banish this irritating trite phrase to the ash-heap of history.

It's hard to pin down the origins of this metaphor. Urban Dictionary says:
A Boston radio station manager coined the term circa 1987-88 when canceling a radio network's services on his music-oriented FM station, stating that he was going to put the network "under the bus." The term was picked up by staff members to describe conduct in which one person would try to gain an advantage in company politics by speaking ill of, or doing something to reflect disfavorably on, another. In this context, it generally meant something that was a combination of sneaky, subtle and vicious. The phrase crept into on-air talk. In time, the radio station's owner acquired a sports-oriented station whose employees picked up the phrase and eventually began using it on highly-rated programs.
Newsweek reports a different origin:
William Safire, the author of "Safire's Political Dictionary," traced the popularization of the phrase back to Cyndi Lauper, who jauntily tossed her critics "under the bus" after the release of her debut album "She's So Unusual" in 1983, says Safire. But he suspects that the phrase has deeper roots in minor-league baseball, where players are almost always bused to away games. In fact, its original meaning could be have been quite literal: be on time for the bus, or you will be thrown underneath it, into the storage bays. He says the metaphor has also been used as a way to say "get with it, or get lost," as in "you're either on the bus, or you're under it." He isn't quite sure when the meaning of the phrase crystallized into the act of "summarily and decisively rejecting someone."
This cliche is stubborn - the election is long over but journalists keep dragging it out of storage like a comfortable sweater. Here's CNN's John Roberts in an interview on Tuesday with Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher:
ROBERTS: Joe Wurzelbacher, you probably know him better as Joe the plumber. He became a blue-collar talking point during the final leg of the presidential campaign. Well now, Joe is out with a new book with his take on American values. Joe Wurzelbacher, author of "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream" joins me now from Toledo, Ohio.

Joe, good to see you. I guess the book is available on your Web site which is secureourdream.com. It's coming out in stores I believe, first in the new year. In the book you say that the McCain campaign was, "fragmented and disorganized." And you go on to say, "I did not want him for the Republican ticket. I do not agree with a great many of his policies, nor do I care for aspects of his voting record." Now, he stood by you after you had said during an interview that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for the death of Israel. He was there backing you up, but you're throwing him under the bus now. Why?

JOE WURZELBACHER, AUTHOR: I'm not throwing him under the bus, the things I spoke about, his voting records, I mean that's factual. You know, we talked about -- he wanted to make other senators famous for having pork ,you know, in a bill, and yet he goes back to Washington, you know, suspends his campaign and goes back to Washington and votes for a $700 billion bailout, when Americans are in a time of need. You know we're taken advantage of and money is you know, ‘you wash my back, I'll wash yours.’ Money was thrown, you know, Michigan International Speedway got what, $250,000? So many other different organizations received pork.

So it's not that I'm throwing John McCain on the bus. I have said it in my book, I respect John McCain for the service he provided our country, and, but as far as his voting record, I mean, you know, he proposed the amnesty bill for the illegal aliens. And I mean, that got a lot of negative publicity, a lot of, you know, opinion polls you know, proved the American people don't want it, yet they don't listen to us. So I'm not throwing McCain under the bus. That's just factual and that’s what happened.

ROBERTS: But I guess the throwing him under the bus aspect of this Joe, comes in from the idea that you were out there on the campaign trail, you were stumping for John McCain, you didn't say anything about it then. He loses the election. Now you’re writing a book for profit, saying all of these things about him. Many people take that as throwing him under the bus. If you felt so strongly about it during the campaign, why didn't you say something then?

WURZELBACHER: Well no, it's not so much that people are saying I'm throwing him under the bus, the media is saying I'm throwing him under the bus. So you know, let's correct that. You know, let them make the decision when they read the book. You know, so far I have heard that and it's been written about in the last couple of weeks since the interview with Glenn Beck, that I’ve thrown him under the bus. But that's just what I heard from the media. It's not what I heard from the general populace of America. Like I said, so they read the book, they can decide if I have thrown them under the bus, I just stated facts. I just stated facts about other politicians as well. So it's not, you know, I'm not singling John McCain out, he just happens to be the one I got to meet and you know, work with for six hours. So he's a good example that I can use.

Wow - that's TEN TIMES in a minute or two of interview. Is that some kind of record? It's enough to make the little vein on my forehead throb in annoyance. For heaven's sake, have mercy - I'll take the waterboarding.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Homophobia doesn’t run rampant in the Republican Party, pandering does."

James Richardson, formerly the R.N.C's Online Communication Manager, has some interesting things to say about gay rights, homophobia and the "social-conservative base" in the Republican Party. In a recent interview - Yes, Virginia - there is a gay-friendly Republican - he raised some issues that are also applicable to the Conservative Party of Canada. Some excerpts:
The Republican Party has always been, or at least billed as, the “crusader” of limited government intervention and intrusion, which is why I’m baffled we’ve recently adopted this troubling gay-hostile rhetoric by way of appeasing a fraction of the “base.”

...

Social conservatives, despite their baggage, have earned significant political capital over the years – and you can be sure they know it. The party establishment is (justifiably) fearful that social conservatives will abandon us if we veer from their religion-dominated agenda. And so, we toe the line like good little boys and girls.

Here’s the GOP’s dirty little secret: Homophobia doesn’t run rampant in the Republican Party, pandering does. So many of my former colleagues are afraid they’ll be blackballed by the Don Wildmon’s of the world for voicing their honest-to-God opinions on controversial issues (see any reference to “the List” by social conservative leaders after the Foley fall-out).

...

While recent polls indicates a growing number of Americans support key equal rights legislation for gay men and women, the number of “base supporters” who favor such legislation is frighteningly low. Vilifying homosexuals is a successful base turnout, and candidates and strategists fully understand this (even if they don’t agree with it). The problem for Republicans now: The values constituency has shrunk, and this gay-hostile rhetoric does us no favors with suburban women and younger voters.

...

I view my support of equal rights measures as fundamentally in sync with the GOP’s cause of limited government interference, not to mention basic human values. Depriving simple rights like loving the partner of one’s choice is, in my eyes, a gross dereliction of human decency. It is only when we apply these asinine social conservative “culture war” filters that we run into problems of this nature…

Our collective willingness to jump to some biased and inflexible conclusions is a sad testament to the divisiveness of American politics. No one, it seems, is honestly interested in, or prepared for, a meaningful debate: “I don’t want to know you, and you don’t want to know me, unless, of course, you’re willing to admit you’re wrong.”


(ht: Average Gay Joe)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Libertarian relationship advice for gay Democrats

Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason Magazine has some advice for disillusioned gay Democrats in her article Rick Warren, gay heartbreaker. A sample:
Oh LGBTers. Don't cry. I know President-elect Barack Obama's breaking your heart. It sucks, doesn't it, when you hitch your wagon to a political party, but the party is just not that into you?

Obama's selection of Rick Warren to do the invocation at his inauguration is a tough blow. After all, Pastor Warren is the guy who recently compared gay marriage to incestuous, polygamous, and pedophilic marriage. Sure, he's not as bad as Jerry Falwell, but it's cold comfort to be told that even though homosexuality is "not the natural way" and is a sin, at least "in the hierarchy of evil...homosexuality is not the worst sin."

...

There, there, LGBTers. Remember who was there for you in Florida on the gay adoption thing? Libertarians. Remember who stood by you when Virginia tried to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment? Libertarians. Mainstream political parties may come and go, but we'll always have each other. Sure, we've fought about anti-discrimination and hate speech laws, but you know we just want what's best for you.

...

I know you're probably going to go crawling back to the Democrats, LGBTers. The single life can be tough, and God knows it's not like Republicans are showing that much interest in you. You'd think they'd at least want to take you out to dinner and get to know you better. Oh well. All it's going to take is for Obama to repeal "don't ask don't tell" and adopt a pug and you're going to fly right back into his arms. And I don't blame you for it.

But don't let him treat you so badly, OK? You deserve better. Just don't act surprised when he does it again, either. You know how politicians are. Dogs, all of them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Recycling is bullshit

Penn & Teller look at recycling in this episode of their show Bullshit (1/2 hour video). Summary: "Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America; a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources."

Governments all over the world are pouring tax dollars into a program that is worse than useless but makes everyone feel good. I participate in my municipality's recycling program for the sole reason that it costs me money to NOT recycle - the municipality charges a per-bag fee to collect household garbage but collects recycled garbage for free. I wouldn't complain but for the fact that our recycling program costs more to collect, transport and process recycled material than dumping it in the local landfill, and results in negligible economic or environmental benefits.


(ht: Classical Values)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prince of Wales for US Senate?

Steve Chapman at Reason Magazine has a suggestion for New York Governor Paterson: appoint HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, to fill Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat instead of Caroline Kennedy:
Really, what assets does Jack Kennedy's daughter have that the son of Elizabeth II doesn't? Both owe their prominence entirely to their ancestry. Both are immensely rich thanks to the sacrifices and achievements of people who went before.

Both have often represented their families at the funerals of prominent people. Neither has ever had to stress about finding a job, meeting a payroll, or keeping government functions going during a budget crisis.

And here's the most newsworthy similarity: Both expect to attain a high office without the bother of having to submit themselves to the voters. And both will probably get their way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Russian film: America is so gay

Cathy Young, writing in The New Republic, reviews a new Russian film Strangers:
The film, Strangers (Chuzhiye), was released last month in Russia with the slogan, "The most topical movie of the year!"--presumably in reference to Russian-American tensions in the wake of the war in Georgia. A bizarre mix of over-the-top agitprop and equally over-the-top melodrama, Strangers is indeed quite topical in its own way--for what the movie itself and the events surrounding it reveal about the state of Russian culture and attitudes toward the United States. But what it reveals is not what you might expect--and probably not what the creators of this film expected, either.
The only sympathetic American characters in the movie are a gay couple, "Mike and Bill":
The two remaining members of the motley crew--a gay interracial couple, Mike and Bill--might look like an exception to the parade of grotesques. Despite Mike's occasional vanity and snippiness, the men seem kind-hearted, decent, and clearly devoted to each other. But that's not how they are meant to be seen by audiences in Russia, where nearly half of the population still opposes equality for gays in areas other than marriage. Apparently, Grymov's idea is to show--according to the synopsis on the film's official site--"how an unnatural relationship can become a norm in the eyes of modern society." The group's acceptance of Mike and Bill is thus intended as an indictment of American political correctness. At the end of the movie, a young native boy who has innocently befriended the duo is horrified and repulsed when he peers through the window and sees them in bed, kissing. (Interestingly, the linkage of "American" and "gay" is part of the mindset of hardcore America-hating in Russia: the preferred anti-American slur of recent years, pindos, bears a strong resemblance to pidoras, the Russian equivalent of "fag.")

The movie has apparently bombed at the Russian box office. Young concludes:
Their best chance to make some money with this movie might be to package it to U.S. audiences, as a straight-to-DVD cult hit. With a little luck, it just might become the Plan 9 From Outer Space for our time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Milk star Sean Penn loves anti-gay dictators

Author James Kirchick of The Advocate discusses the contrast of actor Sean Penn's recent portrayal of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk in the recently released film Milk with his support for anti-gay dictators like Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe. In his article Sean Penn's blind spot he writes:
It’s not surprising that Sean Penn, thanks to his star turn as Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk, is becoming a hero to gays. His performance is moving and, judging by the archival film footage, flawless; Penn simultaneously renders Milk as a figure of historic importance and a vulnerable individual with a sparkling sense of humor. Aside from the acting prizes he will surely win (and deservingly), Penn is likely to earn himself the iconic status of “straight ally,” a heterosexual who goes out of his way to take a stand for gay rights and is thus showered with praise from gays. A GLAAD Media Award, honors from the Human Rights Campaign, and a slew of prizes from other prominent gay rights organizations are only a matter of time.

Which is a shame, because Penn’s political activism, irrespective of his views on gay rights, negates the values for which a movement based upon individual freedom must stand.

The same week that Milk premiered in theaters, The Nation published a cover story by Penn based on interviews he conducted recently with Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, the dictators of Venezuela and Cuba respectively. The article is a love letter to the two men, defending them against all manner of Western “propaganda.” It hearkens back to the notorious dispatches penned by Westerners fresh from the Soviet Union who reported on the amazing progress of the workers' paradise. These worshipful epistles, often published in The Nation, neglected to mention anything about the gulag, the “disappearance” of political dissidents, the Ukrainian famine, or any other such inconvenient truths about communism. Lenin termed the individuals who delivered these apologetics “useful idiots,” and Penn and his enablers are nothing if not that.

...

The lack of interest in individual liberty, hardly surprising for a far-left fellow traveler like Penn, is nonetheless ironic given the Cuban regime’s treatment of gay people, a subject that one suspects Penn might have some interest in given his critically acclaimed performance in Milk. Not long after the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro ordered the internment of gay people in prison labor camps, where they were murdered or worked to death for their “counterrevolutionary tendencies.”

Over the gate of one of these camps were the words “Work Will Make Men Out of You,” an eerie homage to the welcome sign at Auschwitz instructing Jews on their way to the gas chambers that “Work Will Make You Free.” (The plight of gays in the Cuban revolution is movingly told in the novel Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas, made into a film starring Javier Bardem. Playing a gay character in a film that has both an antitotalitarian and pro-gay message, Bardem is an “ally” less morally compromised than Penn.) In the early years of the regime, Raul Castro was notorious for ordering the summary execution of its opponents, including people whose only crime was their homosexuality. This is the man with whom Penn was “in stitches” knocking back glasses of red wine.

While homosexuality has since been decriminalized in Cuba, the communist government bans gay organizations, as it does any organization critical of the regime.

“There isn’t a single individual that is taken seriously in the human rights community — whether you’re talking about Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or Freedom House — that would describe the Castro brothers and their regime as anything other than a police state run by thugs and murderers,” says Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, which focuses on Latin America. “That Sean Penn would be honored by anyone, let alone the gay community, for having stood by a dictator that put gays into concentration camps is mind-boggling.”


(ht: Independent Gay Forum)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advice for straight married men

How to stay out of the doghouse this Christmas.

(My father once got my mother an exercise bike for Christmas - this video would really have helped.)

(ht: Tom Palmer)

"Killer Chic" - the marketing of Che Guevara

Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine has a fascinating video documenting what he calls "Hollywood's sick love affair with Che Guevara":
It's something that baffles Cuban jazz legend Paquito D'Rivera. "Che hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?" Turns out the rebellious icon that emblazons countless T-shirts actually enforced aesthetic and political conformity. D'Rivera explains that Che and other Cuban authorities sought to ban rock and roll and jazz.

"Che was an inspiration for me," D'Rivera tells reason.tv. "I thought I have to get out of this island as soon as I can, because I am in the wrong place at the wrong time!" D'Rivera did escape Cuba, and so far he's won nine Grammy awards playing the kind of music Che tried to silence. But D'Rivera says Che's crimes didn't end with censorship. "He ordered the execution of many people with no trial." Che served as Castro's chief executioner, presiding over the infamous La Cabana prison. D'Rivera says Che's policy of killing innocents earned him the nickname-the Butcher of La Cabana.

"We're rightly horrified by fascist murderers like Adolph Hitler," says reason.tv's Nick Gillespie. "Why aren't we also horrified by communist killers?"


Watch the video here:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The religious case for gay marriage

Newsweek magazine's cover story this week, Our Mutual Joy, examines the religious & scriptural case for gay marriage:
The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

Voters should decide, not political parties

Distinguished historian Michael Bliss has an editorial in Saturday's National Post which perfectly and eloquently refutes the argument that the Coalition has legitimate parliamentary & constitutional powers to toss out the Conservative government. His article Ignoring our constitutional tradition should put to rest the canard that governments can be installed by the backroom machinations of MPs and political parties without seeking the approval of the people in an election:
Canadian public opinion was outraged by both Meech and Charlottetown. Eventually, the politicians were forced to take the Charlottetown accord to the people in a 1992 national referendum, where it was massively defeated. Canadians didn't want constitutional change -- and they said so once they got a vote on the matter.

Sadly, instead of taking the lesson from this precedent that, in a modern democracy, the will of the people trumps Parliamentary deal-making, the architects of the 2008 coalition trotted out the same old assumptions about Parliamentary freedom, and how little the popular will matters. Their conceit has been that they can legally succeed in what millions of Canadians see as the overturning of the outcome of a democratic election, and do it without giving Canadians the ultimate say in the matter.

This is a huge error of both political and constitutional intelligence. Constitutions are living bodies of precedent, convention, comity and adaptation. Canada has evolved a long way since the era when Sir John A. Macdonald opposed universal suffrage and condemned democracy as an American disease. No constitutional expert -- certainly, no governor-general--can ignore the democratic conventions that have emerged and evolved throughout the 20th century. These conventions have been moving constantly in the direction of shifting sovereignty from Parliament to the people.

Just as it was finally realized that the Charlottetown Accord had to be taken to the people, so the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition proposal would have to go to the Canadian people before it could be legitimately implemented. I am certain that if Mr. Harper loses the confidence of the House at the end of January, and chooses to request a dissolution of Parliament and an election to test voters' will, the Governor-General will grant it. The coalition-without-election idea, I believe, is as dead as the Charlottetown Accord, not least because, now as then, so many Canadians have been deeply angered by the arrogance and egos of parliamentarians whose understanding has failed to evolve beyond the pages of out-of-date constitutional textbooks.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Time to rethink the institution of Governor-General

Poor Mme Jean - she holds a post that is largely ceremonial and is suddenly thrust into the unaccustomed spotlight and asked to make a precedent-setting decision with massive constitutional ramifications. Regardless of how you feel about her decision, it's clear to me from the current constitutional brouhaha in Ottawa that we need to rethink the process that has given us the string of non-entities that have lately inhabited Rideau Hall.

Think back to recent Governors-General and try to remember a single one of them who inspired pride, patriotism or even enthusiasm. Ed Schreyer? Jeanne Sauve? Ray Hnatyshyn? Romeo Leblanc? Adrienne Clarkson? With all due respect to Mme Jean, who I think is doing a competent job, she's certainly not in the same league as Governors of the past - Vincent Massey or Georges Vanier, or the previous British office-holders like John Buchan (Baron Tweedsmuir), Field-marshal Viscount Alexander of Tunis, or Lord Byng of Vimy. We used to have war heroes or distinguished men of letters in Rideau Hall; now we get washed-up politicians or politically-correct CBC personalities.

When the current Governor-General's term expires, I have a modest suggestion for whoever chooses her successor: it's time for someone who can inspire us. Admittedly that will be difficult in a fractious & diverse country such as ours, but I have a few ideas.

The Constitution is vague on how the Governor-General should be chosen; Section III of the Constitution Act simply states that "the Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen." (par. 9) and "the Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General in Council shall be construed as referring to the Governor General acting by and with the Advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada." (par. 13). In additon, the Governor-General is to be commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces: "The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen." (par. 15) The Queen has the power to appoint the Governor-General but nowhere in the Constitution is it spelled out how the Governor-General is to be selected. That perogative rests with the Queen, but there is a long-standing convention that she appoints whoever is recommended to her by members of the Privy Council of Canada (in effect the government of Canada). So in effect, the Prime Minister chooses the candidate and recommends that person to the Queen.

How should we improve this process short of abolishing the office altogether (which would require the unanimous consent of the federal government and all ten of the provinces)? Since the Queen appoints the GG, all we need to do is codify a method of selecting the candidate, which could be done without any constitutional amendments. Here are two suggestions:

1. Elect the Governor-General

The candidate to be recommended to the Queen could be elected in a nationwide vote for a fixed term (currently five years). To avoid the partisan bickering that infests our multi-party Parliament, the successful candidate would have to receive 50% of the vote plus one. If necessary, a run-off election would be held between the top two candidates if any candidate failed to receive a majority; this would ensure that the winner had the support of the majority of Canadians. This method would also re-invigorate the institution of the GG and provide us with a representative of the Head of State and a Commander-in-Chief who had some respect and admiration. It would silence critics who are unhappy with the current institution and its un-democratic colonial overtones while still maintaining the link with the constitutional monarch.

2. Use an Electoral College

For those who think that directly electing the GG is a tad too republican, how about imitating our republican neighbours to the south and establishing an electoral college to choose the GG? The federal government and each provincial legislature could appoint electors who would then select the GG from a list of candidates put forward by the federal and provincial governments. The provinces would decide how their electors are selected. Or, if that's too radical, allow the Privy Council to select the candidate. The Privy Council consists of all living current and former federal cabinet ministers, the Chief Justices of Canada, and all former Governors-General, plus the Leader of the Opposition and often leaders or other members of opposition parties; definitely an experienced and diverse group.

I'm not a constitutional expert, but surely either of these methods would be an improvement over the current system. The institution of Governor-General is worth preserving, but if it is to command any respect from Canadians, especially in constitutional crises, it has to be seen as legitimate. So - Stephen Harper, or whoever is PM when the time comes: if you need my advice, call me.

The freedom of the right winger

Ann Althouse, on being labelled a "right-leaning blogger":
And let me say now that one thing I love about being a right-winger in the sense that I'm said to be a right-winger is this amazingly wide range of freedom of opinion it provides. There is no such liberation for the lefty.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How to reduce your carbon footprint

From The Onion: a handy flow chart explains how carbon offsets work:

click to enlarge

Gay marriage & social conservatism

From a comment to a post at Hot Air about the Republican party & its stance on adoption by gay couples:
On a semi-serious note, the fundamental problem with this debate is that conservatives have forgotten the reason they support traditionalism.

They see the trees but miss the forest. Sure, they remember to prattle on endlessly about gays and the media and abortion and sex on television … but somewhere along the line, they forgot why they do it.

Here’s a clue: the foundation of social conservatism is both strong and fundamentally correct. Traditionalism is embraced not because it is right or because somebody’s God tells you to act that way … but because it WORKS.

Basic civil values, the core family unit, holding onto foundational principles, respecting tradition … we don’t do these things for no reason. We do them because they WORK as building blocks of society.

But too many conservatives forget this … so they join together as equally evil things like rampant drug use and mindless promiscuity (bad) with homosexual marriage or gays wanting to start families (bad?).

It’s the ultimate irony. On any logical basis, a stable, solid, committed, monogamous gay relationship is infinitely better than a string of broken, abusive heterosexual relationships.

Yet it is gays wanting to marry - in other words, gays wanting to embrace the core of social conservatism - that conservatives get upset about.

We have countless single heterosexual mothers and deadbeat heterosexual fathers and cracked-up burned-out waste-case parents abusing their kids (but all perfectly heterosexual!) …. and somehow we think its conservative to keep children needing parents in institutions (or in the hell of foster care) rather than let them be adopted by gay couples?

It’s madness. It’s ironically an assault on conservatism.

Someday we’ll remember the reason for social conservatism. Until then, we’ll continue to waste time on meaningless, counter-productive arguments, and continue to harm the very social values we pretend to uphold.

And as an unfortunate consequence, we’ll keep losing elections, too.

I agree - gay marriage is an issue social conservatives in Canada should be able to support for traditional conservative reasons. I posted on this at length here.

(HT: Average Gay Joe)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Coalition precedent permanently stacks the deck

A lot of ink has been spilled regarding the recent shenanigans in Ottawa, and I've been tempted to just sit back & enjoy the show. However, I would like to point out a result of a Liberal-NDP coalition that should worry everyone regardless of one's position on the political spectrum. If this coalition sets a Canadian parliamentary precedent, it will permanently stack the deck in the House of Commons in favour of the Liberals and make it practically impossible to change governments unless another party gets an outright majority.

In the Westminster tradition, the party that can command the confidence of the House of Commons has the right to form a government. No quibbles there - the rule is clear. However, things get dicey in a multi-party parliament where no party commands an outright majority. Tradition dictates that the Governor-General call on the party with the most seats to form a government. It is this tradition that is at risk here, and that may result in a permanent Liberal hegemony.

In the current House there are four parties. Only one, the CPC, represents the centre-right of the political spectrum - the rest are crowded on the left. If, as in countries like Italy or Israel, the governing party has to rely on a coalition with another party, the CPC is handed a structural disadvantage. Since no other party in the House is ever, under any circumstances, willing to support the CPC and the remaining three parties are politically allied with each other, it becomes impossible for Conservatives to form a government in a minority situation even if more voters support them than any other party. Similarly, the Liberals can automatically form a government with the support of the other two parties even if their voter support is a fraction of that of the Conservatives.

I can forsee the comments already - "Them's the breaks, majority rules, more people voted AGAINST the CPC than for it". True, but voters don't vote against parties, they vote for them. They cast their ballots in Canadian elections knowing full well that the party with the most seats gets the prize even if they're shy of an outright majority. It happened to Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin, after all - the tradition holds when Stephen Harper is in the driver's seat. How many voters who chose the Liberals in the last election would have voted otherwise (especially in Quebec) if they had known that a vote for the Liberals meant that the NDP would hold six cabinet posts and the Bloc Quebecois would hold the balance of power?

Coalition governments are NOT the tradition in Canada, regardless of what goes on in other countries with parliamentary systems. Citizens of Canada do NOT vote under the assumption that minor parties will form a coalition government. In a healthy democracy, it should be relatively easy to defeat the governing party regardless of its political ideology. A coalition precedent gives the Liberals a structural advantage that now gives them power with a mere 26% of the popular vote. If we can't kick out a party that only gets a quarter of the support of the electorate, how is that democratic? If voters had been told in the last election that a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition was a likely outcome, the results would have been very different.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"A shopping Guernica"

Ed Driscoll opines on an unfortunate lapse at the New York Times, which recently compared the trampling death of a WalMart employee during a frenzied Thanksgiving sale to the fascist attack on Guernica during the Spanish Civil War:
I'd excuse a high school or sophomoric college newspaper journalist making such an overwrought analogy. But if the New York Times and its writers and editors can't see the difference between an unfortunate shopping incident and the Spanish Civil War, one wonders what value the newspaper has as an information source to be trusted by their readers.

Australia's 1975 constitutional crisis

It looks like Canada may be in the midst of a constitutional crisis whereby the role of the Governor-General is suddenly and unusually in the spotlight. Canadian pundits often cite the so-called "King-Byng affair" as a precedent in situations like this, but Australia's parliamentary government went through a similar crisis in 1975. Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and appointed the Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Fraser as "caretaker Prime Minister" on the assumption that Fraser would ask for a dissolution of Parliament and advise Kerr to call an election. The incident cast light on some unwritten and often vague conventions in the Westminster parliamentary tradition, specifically the defacto supremacy of the lower house of Parliament and the ability of the Governor-General to act independently of the advice of the Prime Minister. Wikipedia has a good outline of the crisis here. Some excerpts:
Constitutional precedent had long established that the Governor-General was expected to take no action except upon 'advice' (de facto direction) received from the Prime Minister, and Whitlam confidently assumed this would be the case during the crisis. However, according to the Australian Constitution, and in accordance with established practice in other Westminster style constitutional monarchies, the Governor-General still possessed wide ranging reserve powers to dissolve parliament and sack the government on his own initiative, in certain limited circumstances. These reserve powers had not been carried out by any monarch since King William IV in 1834, and it was a matter of academic and legal debate as to whether they still existed in reality.

It would later become apparent that Kerr and Whitlam were at odds over whether the Governor-General had the power to act independently of the Prime Minister in times of crisis.

On 30 October, Kerr proposed a compromise solution to Whitlam and Fraser, in which Fraser would let the budget pass in return for Whitlam abandoning plans to call an early Senate election, but Fraser rejected this. On 2 November Fraser offered to pass the budget if Whitlam would agree to call an election before the middle of 1976, but Whitlam in turn rejected this, citing the constitutional convention that only he, as Prime Minister, could advise the Governor-General to call an election. There is considerable evidence that Kerr had discussions with Fraser independently, against Whitlam's advice. When Whitlam rejected Fraser's proposal, it seems, Kerr decided that Whitlam was the one unwilling to bend.

By November, Fraser and the Opposition began to ramp up pressure on Kerr to take action against Whitlam, threatening to criticise him publicly if he did not do so. Around this time, Fraser and Liberal MPs began calling for Kerr to use his reserve power to dismiss Whitlam, claiming that this was the only constitutional option if a Prime Minister who loses supply does not call an election or resign.

...

On the morning of 11 November, Whitlam arranged to see the Governor-General at Yarralumla. The Prime Minister arrived without the knowledge that Fraser had also been summoned but had arrived earlier. Whitlam also carried with him a letter requesting official approval for a half-Senate election in order to break the deadlock.

However, just as Whitlam was formally tendering his advice that Kerr request the State Governors to issue writs for a half-Senate election, Kerr cut him off and asked him if he intended to advise a House election as well. When Whitlam said no, Kerr stated that there was no prospect of the crisis being resolved otherwise. He then informed Whitlam that he was terminating his commission as Prime Minister and handed him a pre-written letter to that effect--thus preempting any plans Whitlam might have had to advise the Queen to dismiss Kerr.

A few minutes later, Kerr summoned Fraser. At this point, Kerr asked Fraser whether, if commissioned as Prime Minister, he would 1) pass the budget; 2) advise a double dissolution election (in which both the House and Senate would be up for election) and 3) enact no new policies, make no appointments and initiate no inquiries into Whitlam's government pending the election. When Fraser answered "yes" to all questions, Kerr commissioned him as the caretaker Prime Minister of Australia. Years later, Fraser claimed that Kerr had asked him the same questions earlier in the day over the phone, something which Kerr adamantly denied in his memoirs.

Fraser then instructed his Senators to pass the budget and advised Kerr to call a double dissolution election for 13 December. The Liberal and National Country Party Senators voted to pass the Supply bills, along with the Labor Senators. However, the Labor Senators were largely not yet aware that Whitlam and his government had been dismissed (because Whitlam, plotting to defeat Fraser on the floor of the House of Representatives, had omitted to tell them). In any case it would have been useless for the Labor Senators to vote against supply. Fraser advised the House that he had been appointed Prime Minister. The House passed a motion of no confidence in Fraser, who had left the House shortly after his announcement and did not participate in the debate. The Speaker, Gordon Scholes, suspended the session in order for him to call on Kerr to advise him that Fraser did not have the confidence of the House, and to request him to withdraw Fraser's commission and invite Whitlam to form a new government. By the time Kerr received Scholes at 4:45 p.m., however, Kerr had already given Royal Assent to the Supply bills and dissolved Parliament on Fraser's advice, so the no confidence motion was rendered null and void.

Amongst general din and shouts from hecklers amongst the crowd that had quickly gathered as the news had spread, the Official Secretary to the Governor-General, David Smith read out the proclamation of the dissolution of Parliament from the steps of Parliament House. The proclamation ended with the words "God Save the Queen". Whitlam then addressed the assembled press and onlookers:

Well may we say "God save the Queen" because nothing will save the Governor-General. The proclamation you have just heard read by the Governor-General's Official Secretary was countersigned "Malcolm Fraser", who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr's Cur.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Open the pod bay doors, Hal (2)

Researchers at Hewlett Packard Laboratories have created a computer chip that mimics the architecture of the human brain:
Snider unveiled a design that used memristors in their analog mode as synapses in a neural computing architecture. Memristor crossbars are the only technology that is dense enough to simulate the human brain, Snider claimed, adding that the HP Labs crossbars are ten times denser than synapses in the human cortex. By stacking crossbars on a CMOS logic chip, variable resistance could mimic the learning functions of synapses in neural networks.

Says Hal: "I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you."


(HT: Classical Values)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Predictable gay outrage"

Tammy Bruce, a lesbian conservative writer in the US, talks about the "malevolent" response to an article critical of Barack Obama which she wrote for the gay publication The Advocate:
As you can imagine, up until now the gay press hasn't exactly gone out of its way to present alternative POVs to the gay community especially when it comes to politics. When that happens people get the false impression that everyone, remarkable in a certain group, all think the same. I've always found this comfort with conformity in the gay community disheartening and certainly hypocritical.

So I wasn't surprised at all to find on the Advocate's website comments on my article that were vicious, misogynistic and even somewhat threatening. Even just one letter of dissent is apparently too much for a community which demands acceptance from everyone else. I also know because moderate or conservative POVs are not usually offered by the gay press, moderate and conservatives gays simple don't read magazines like The Advocate, leaving a ghetto readership of leftists and liberals, hence, the malevolence in the response to my article.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is America at the cusp of "the Libertarian Moment"?

Nick Gillespie at Reason Magazine believes that the US, like it was in 1971, is "about to get a whole lot freer" and that we may be entering "a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives":
Yet if 1971 contained a few flickers of light in the authoritarian darkness, 2008 is chock full of halogen-bright beacons shouting “This way!” Turn away from the overhyped prize of the Oval Office and all the dreary, government expanding policies and politics that go with it, and the picture is not merely one of plausible happy endings to our current sob stories of mortgage-finance meltdowns and ever-lengthening war, but something far more radical, more game-changing, than all that we’ve grown to expect.

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clich├ęd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.” Due to exponential advances in technology, broad-based increases in wealth, the ongoing networking of the world via trade and culture, and the decline of both state and private institutions of repression, never before has it been easier for more individuals to chart their own course and steer their lives by the stars as they see the sky. If you don’t believe it, ask your gay friends, or simply look who’s running for the White House in 2008.

...

The Libertarian Moment is based on a few hard-won insights that have grown into a fragile but enduring consensus in the ever-expanding free world. First is the notion that, all things being equal, markets are the best way to organize an economy and unleash the means of production (and its increasingly difficult-to-distinguish adjunct, consumption). Second is that at least vaguely representative democracy, and the political freedom it almost always strengthens, is the least worst form of government (a fact that even recalcitrant, anti-modern regimes in Islamabad, Tehran, and Berkeley grudgingly acknowledge in at least symbolic displays of pluralism). Both points seem almost banal now, but were under constant attack during the days of the Soviet Union, and are still subject to wobbly confidence any time capitalist dictatorships like China seem to grow ascendant in a time of domestic economic woe. Though every dip in the Dow makes the professional amnesiacs of cable TV and the finance pages turn in the direction of Mao, there is no going back to the Great Leap Forward.


Read the whole thing, and cheer up libertarians.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Colorado noise bylaw violaters forced to listen to Barry Manilow

Creative sentencing from a Colorado judge:
Fort Lupton Municipal Judge Paul Sacco says his novel punishment of forcing noise violators to listen to music they don't like for one hour has cut down on the number of repeat offenders in this northwestern Colorado prairie town.

About four times a year, those guilty of noise ordinance violations are required to sit in a room and listen to music from the likes of Manilow, Barney the Dinosaur, and The Platters' crooning "Only You"

"These people should have to listen to music they don't like," said Judge Paul Sacco for a segment about the program that aired Friday on Denver's KUSA-TV.


(HT: Tammy Bruce)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kuwait TV: death penalty too good for homosexuals

From MEMRI TV (video here): Kuwaiti cleric Dr. Sa'd Al-'Inzi in an interview on Kuwait's Al-Rai TV on December 10, 2007:
Dr. Sa'd Al-'Inzi: When a person commits an abominable act, like homosexuality, for example, or lesbianism, in the case of women's parlors – this constitutes "spreading corruption in the land," and should be punished by death.

[...]

Moderator: Other than life imprisonment and the death sentence, what can be done?

Dr. Sa'd Al-'Inzi: According to Islamic law, a homosexual should be thrown from a tall building.

Moderator: What would you do with them?

Dr. Sa'd Al-'Inzi: To be honest, death is too good for them. They should be gathered in a public place, where they would be flogged and tortured, so the truth about these people is made clear and they serve as a lesson to others, because they are an epidemic plaguing society.


(HT: Little Green Footballs)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The ROM Crystal: a building that tries too hard?

Wytold Rybczynski, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, discusses the phenomenon of superstar architects whose "iconic" buildings fall short of expectations. Some buildings become iconic masterpieces, like Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House or Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Cities all over the world are attempting to reproduce the "Bilbao effect" - erecting buildings that become destinations that define and revitalize their communities. Toronto, not wanting to be left behind, is in the midst of a frenzy of construction of "iconic" buildings of its own - Daniel Libeskind's ROM Crystal and Gehry's AGO renovation among others.

Rybczynski pronounces the ROM crystal a qualified failure:
Daniel Libeskind is another architect who, following his universally acclaimed Jewish Museum in Berlin, was considered to have the Midas touch when it came to signature buildings. Yet his recent crystalline addition to the Denver Art Museum has failed to attract the expected number of visitors, and another crystalline -- and slightly scary-looking -- extension to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has not exactly set the architectural world on fire. None of this bodes well for cities that are counting on instant icons to save them in a looming recession.

However, he has much praise for Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts by architect Jack Diamond - a building I love.
Another example of a building that responds to its setting is Toronto's new opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, designed by Diamond & Schmitt Architects. The traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium is situated within an unprepossessing blue-black brick box whose chief feature is a glazed lobby facing one of the city's main streets, University Avenue; dramatic, but hardly iconic. "It's easy to do an iconic building," says Jack Diamond, "because it's only solving one issue." The Four Seasons Centre addresses several issues: On the exterior, the building responds to a busy downtown site with transparency and openness; on the interior, it creates a multi-use lobby that includes an informal performance space and a remarkable all-glass stair; and in the 2,000-seat hall, it provides intimacy, excellent sight lines and exemplary acoustics. At $150 million, the cost of the Four Seasons Centre is relatively modest as opera houses go, but more important is how the money was spent -- on the hall and the interiors rather than on exterior architectural effects. There is something very Canadian about this hard-headed reticence.

Buildings such as the ... Toronto opera house seek to fit in rather than stand out, and to enhance rather than overwhelm their surroundings. While hardly shy, they don't stand there shouting, "Look at me!" Being in it for the long haul, they approach fashion gingerly, leaning to the conservative and well-tried rather than the experimental. They are handsome, beautiful even, but they don't strive to knock your socks off. Anti-icons, you might call them. Or just good architecture.

My prediction: In fifty years, the ROM crystal will be seen as an embarassing mistake and millions of dollars will be spent tearing it down & restoring the ROM to some semblance of a proper working museum. Meanwhile, the Four Seasons Centre will be studied by architecture students trying to replicate its success.

Bob Rae: down the memory hole

Liberal leadership candidate and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, to whom the National Post recently referred as "one of our greatest living experts on how not to run a government when times are hard", has an astonishing memoir in today's Post: Lessons learned from a life of public service. The erstwhile socialist who practically bankrupted Ontario in the 1980s and who now wants to be the Prime Minister of Canada claims to have learned his lesson. He looks back on his tenure in Ontario with a "that was then, this is now" shrug:
I gained essential experience in governing when the economy recedes. Today, under similar circumstances, I would do some things very differently.

Oh, all right then.

Ontario: "Singapore of the North"

George Jonas has a good editorial in today's National Post - Dalton McGuinty's Singapore of the North - which sounds an alarm over the creeping loss of personal liberty in the province in the name of safety & security. Some excerpts:
Singapore is a modern, clean, prosperous city-state of about 5-million. Ontario is a modern, clean, and (until recently) prosperous province of about 13-million. Singapore has progressed from a cultural tradition of despotism to mere authoritarianism, which is an improvement. Ontario is reverting to authoritarianism from a cultural tradition of liberty. This is hardly an improvement, although some people may think so.

...

The issue is paternalism. How far can the state go even in the best of causes before it crosses a line? Where does a parliamentarian end, and Big Daddy begin?

“We owe it to our kids to take the kinds of measures that ensure that they will grow up safe and sound and secure,” the Premier was quoted as saying this week. “If that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then as a dad, I’m more than prepared to do that.”

Had the Premier of Ontario been speaking as a dad, it would have been one thing, whether or not his proposals made sense. But he was speaking as the Premier of Ontario. It wasn’t Daddy McGuinty restricting the freedoms of his children, modestly or otherwise, sensibly or not, but a provincial leader proposing to eliminate the freedom of some Ontarians to have a sip of wine at lunch or to decide how to distribute themselves in their own vehicles.

...

Once liberal democracy becomes a mere veneer on the surface of a Singapore-style autocracy, common sense and equity, let alone respect for individual liberty, vanish. All that remains is the public policy ambition of paternalistic politicians who, at best, can no longer distinguish between their roles as dads and parliamentary leaders.


Read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"1974 Detroit is back again - with a vengeance"

The inimitable Iowahawk looks into the crystal ball at the future of Detroit's auto industry and sees .... the 2012 Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt: "the only car endorsed by President Barack Obama":



It's in the way you dress. The way you boogie down. The way you sign your unemployment check. You're a man who likes to do things your own way. And on those special odd-numbered Saturdays when driving is permitted, you want it in your car. It's that special feeling of a zero-emissions wind at your back and a road ahead meandering with possibilities. The kind of feeling you get behind the wheel of the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition from Congressional Motors.

All new for 2012, the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition is the mandatory American car so advanced it took $100 billion and an entire Congress to design it. We started with same reliable 7-way hybrid ethanol-biodeisel-electric-clean coal-wind-solar-pedal power plant behind the base model Pelosi, but packed it with extra oomph and the sassy styling pizazz that tells the world that 1974 Detroit is back again -- with a vengeance.



Read the whole thing - hilarious.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The 10 most annoying phrases in the English language

According to Oxford University, they are:

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hell hath no fury like a gay liberal scorned

What happens when gays have the audacity to announce that they support the Conservative Party of Canada? They get compared to black klansmen and Jewish Nazis, called "Uncle Toms" or compared to black minstrels tap-dancing for "massa". They are subjected to the most outrageous, condescending and offensive smears I can imagine.

You think I'm joking? A few days ago Fred Litwin, who blogs at Gay and Right, announced at the Conservative Convention in Winnipeg that he had started a new organization called Gay Dominion to act as a resource for gay and lesbian conservatives in Canada. I had a modest role in helping Fred get this started, and in fact suggested the name as an homage to the historical name of Canada ("the Dominion of Canada") as a way to draw attention to the fact that gay conservatives support traditional conservative values of liberty, freedom, equality, property rights, personal responsibility and respect for the rule of law. Well, some liberal bloggers have blown a gasket at the thought that some homos have wandered off the liberal plantation and are cracking the whip of gay orthodoxy.

Take Montreal Simon for example. He refers to Fred as "Uncle Fred", complete with a YouTube clip of happy tap-dancing negroes. Here's what he has to say:
I hate blogs with the word Dominion in them. They remind me of tea and crumpets, and thanks to Free Dominion, of racists, and homophobes, and other nasty crawling things.

So imagine my shock when I came across a new Canadian Con one called Gay Dominion.

Gosh is that a pink triangle in their logo or a martini glass?

Now look.... I have to admit my first reaction was to wonder whether we could HUSH it up. Shove it back in the closet. So straight people wouldn't find out that some gays support the Conservatives. Like the 27% of gay Americans who apparently voted for John McCain and the Christianist homophobe Sarah Palin.

You know the gay IDIOTS.

The ones who want the gay rabble to be like them. i.e. buttoned down, boring and BOURGEOIS. The ones who embarrass us all the time by supporting Conservative parties full of raging racists,sexists,and homophobes.

But then I realized that Gay Dominion was only the work of Uncle Fred of Gay and Right.

And he's been embarrassing us for YEARS. Whew!!!

If he's not denying global warming, he's going after the Mooslims, or blasting lefty gays for being politically correct, or joining the homophobes in the wingnut crusade against the Human Rights Commission. Or putting down the gay rabble for being too strident or flamboyant.

That's why me and my friends call him Uncle Fred. As in EVERY family has one. You know the crazy but harmless old uncle you have to watch like a hawk at a community gathering. In case he unzips himself...and starts pissing in the punch bowl. Or stirring the macaroni salad with his PENIS.

But look I don't want to be too hard on Fred. After all he IS gay, so he is part of the gay community he hates whether he likes it or not. Because the homophobes don't care whether you are left-wing or right-wing. And we accept ANYONE.

Unfortunately.

So I want to wish him and Gay Dominion all the best. I hope it serves as a flaming forum where crabby old Conservative queens can discuss their favourite subjects. Like Global Cooling ....political correctness....the monarchy....Stephen Harper's irresistible manly manlyness....how to mix a good martini... and of course, why can't those young faggots be as respectable and BORING as we are?

So on behalf of the gay lefty rabble I just want to say.

Now that I've seen these gays Cons in action.

I think they're......um..... TERRIFIC !!!!

And Dr Dawg, who is not gay as far as I know, blogged from the Conservative Convention about Gay Dominion, comparing Fred (who is Jewish) to "Jews and blacks who have reportedly joined the KKK":
But I may as well confess that it bothers me when I see gays, people of colour and so on attach themselves to a party whose ideological core is so antipathetic to who and what they are. Fred has launched a group called Gay Dominion, which at this point has four members. (Montreal Simon, for one, is less than kind about this initiative, and I suspect, from the other side, that some of Fred's compatriots might fuss about the notion conveyed by the title.) Pigmentation on the convention floor was scant, but it was in evidence nonetheless.

"False consciousness" comes to mind, but for a number of reasons I'm not attached to that concept. I see it simply as profound confusion. Now, the Right always pounces when we make that kind of observation--somehow they see it as imposing leftist ideological correctness upon women and minorities. Not guilty. I don't expect all human beings to be ideologically coherent. There have even been Jews and Blacks who have reportedly joined the KKK, after all. But the contradictions, at least from my perspective, seem excruciating.


I have posted on the subject of gays in the Conservative Party before (here and here if you want to read more) but I'll just leave it at this: I have never encountered from Conservatives who know I am gay the animosity and vitriol directed at me by gays who find out I'm a Conservative.

UPDATE: I get a love letter from Montreal Simon which nicely illustrates my point. Wow - that's a lot of intolerance from someone who purports to be "Against H8".

UPDATE II: Some sanity & decorum from the gay left: this from Matt Guerin at Queer Liberal:
I do want to congratulate the founders for launching this movement. I'm not one of those liberals who thinks queers can't be conservative. I've always seen great value in having queers inside the palace gates, so to speak. Once queer equality gains acceptance among the country's conservatives, that's it the battle is won (on a national scale) for queers and their allies. I know that gay conservatives, through their personal connections with fellow party members and other conservatives, do have a major influence.

So I wish gay conservatives well. We can agree to disagree on prosecuting hate speech, but I still respect them.

Thanks, Matt.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"A new home for gay conservatives in Canada"

I am very pleased to pass on this press release from Fred Litwin. Fred is a native of Ottawa and blogs at Gay and Right. Fred's blog had a big influence on me when I came out and was struggling with the fact that many of my friends & acquaintances (especially in the "gay community") found it hypocritical for me to be both gay and a conservative. I searched a long time for a community of like-minded individuals like that of Log Cabin Republicans in the U.S. and Fred was a big help. Fred is active in the Conservative Party of Canada and announced the launch of a new organization at the Conservative Convention in Winnipeg - Gay Dominion, a website to serve as an internet meeting place for gay conservatives. If you share that space on the political spectrum, check it out and contact Fred with your support and suggestions.

Fred's press release:

Winnipeg, November 13, 2008 – Gay Dominion is a new home for gay conservatives in Canada – and allied with no political party. Contrary to public belief, gays in Canada represent a broad cross-section of opinion, and the default political position of many Canadian gays and lesbians is not liberal.

Gay Dominion stands for limited government, low taxes, free markets, the merit principle, personal responsibility, AND the equality of gays and lesbians. Gay Dominion is against rampant political correctness, myopic religious intolerance, moral and cultural relativism, anti-Americanism, and the tearing down of western civilization.

“I am delighted to launch Gay Dominion in Winnipeg at the Conservative Party Conference,” said Fred Litwin, who is also a blogging tory under the name GayandRight, “While we have no formal links with the Conservative Party of Canada, I am hopeful that we can help turn the party into a welcoming home for small ‘c’ conservative gays and lesbians.”

For more information on Gay Dominion, please visit our web site at www.gaydominion.ca

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hideous Public Art (5)

Today's Hideous Public Art draws your attention to an eyesore that was recently unveiled in Toronto. Erected a musket shot away from historic Fort York, Douglas Coupland's Monument to the War of 1812 is not only gimmicky, childish and banal, but it is in astonishingly bad taste for a sculpture meant to commemorate a formative event in our nation's history that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the burning of the city of York (now Toronto). Not only that, it panders to an unfortunate tendency in Canadians to go out of their way to thumb their noses at our American neighbours - it's a $500 000 flip of the bird disguised as art. But what can one expect from Douglas Coupland, the writer and aesthete who gave us Generation X - the novel that elevated that nihilistic slacker generation from mere annoyance to cultural icon?

The Battle of York was fought on April 27, 1813 when an American naval fleet carrying a force of about 1500 troops under Zebulon Pike landed on the shore of Lake Ontario west of the town. The defending British force at Fort York abandoned both it and the nearby town. When American troops took over York, many acts of arson and looting took place, and the Upper Canadian parliament buildings were burned to the ground. The later British attack on Washington DC and the burning of the White House was said to be in retaliation for the arson at York. In all, 132 people were killed and over 300 wounded on both sides during the action.

So what has Mr. Coupland given the good burghers of Toronto to commemorate this event? A styrofoam & resin installation depicting two huge toy soldiers - a victorious British soldier looming over a toppled American.




















The work is described in a November 3 National Post article thus:

The two soldiers are made of styrofoam over a steel armature, then blanketed with a resin hardcoat. They were built in Calgary, and transported on an open air flatbed truck to Toronto. The Monument to the War of 1812 cost about $500,000, and was commissioned by Malibu Investments, which developed the Malibu at Harbourfront. The sculpture is located on its front steps.

What the hell? Surely this is a joke. Someone from the Christmas-window display team at the downtown Bay store is using up some leftover Christmas decorations for a seasonal display, right? This can't be a monument to an actual war where people died to protect their country, can it?

Well, here's what our betters have to say about it (again from the National Post):

Deputy Mayor of Toronto Joe Pantalone said he is not worried about offending American tourists.“It’s really a statement about the nature of war, as much as about the War of 1812,” Mr. Pantalone said after the launch. “It’s not in my personal interpretation, it would not be that one side won and one side lost, it’s just that both sides would be affected by it, and both sides moved on.”
...
Toronto historian Ron Fletcher, who was at the unveiling, said his first reaction was that the monument was comical. Then he worried if it trivialized the war.
But he noted that the plaque attached to the monument describes “two abandoned toy soldiers.”
“Now that you see the word abandoned you get a little sympathy towards them, which is a different attitude than, isn’t’ this disrespectful. I kind of like controversial art because it makes you think. A lot of war memorials don’t make you think ... what does the War of 1812 mean to me?”
...
Former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson called the sculpture a “wonderful thing, by not only a great visual artist, but writer.”

Mr. Coupland himself had this to say about his masterpiece:
“I grew up thinking the Americans lost the War of 1812, and it turns out there’s this creeping revisionism happening. Americans are saying maybe we didn’t lose. Maybe we won it,” Mr. Coupland told a crowd of onlookers gathered to see his first permanent installation... The monument is not meant to rub Americans’ noses in their loss — rather “gently” remind people of what actually happened during the War of 1812 “because history is a fluid notion and it can be rewritten.”

Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. Excuse me, Mr. Coupland, but didn't we lose the Battle of York? If this thing is installed a few blocks away from the site of the garrison that failed to protect the city from destruction by an invading American army, isn't it a bit, oh, I don't know, arrogant to show a British soldier victorious over a fallen American? I guess history is a fluid notion and it can be rewritten after all.

You know, the War of 1812 used to be a big deal in Canada. We used to take pride in the fact that the British army and Canadian militia held the attacking Americans off for almost three years and preserved Canada as an independent nation. The men who died in that war used to be considered heroic figures. We used to erect monuments to them that were, well, monumental and heroic. Take, for example, the monument in Queenston, Ontario to Major General Isaac Brock who died on October 13 1812 while defending the Niagara frontier from an American attack at the Battle of Queenston Heights. A huge statue of Brock, uplifted arm pointing across the river at the threat from across the border, surmounts an enormous classical column guarded by stands of armour. The bones of Brock himself and his aide Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell are interred in a crypt in the base.
















The current monument is in fact the second one on the site - the original was considered so important that it was blown up in 1840 by anti-British terrorists. The re-burial of Brock's remains in the second monument was done with great pomp and ceremony, as this contemporary poster attests:





















Other War of 1812 monuments show the reverence we once had for this period in our history. Consider this magnificent tower commemorating the Battle of Stoney Creek:




















Or this memorial to the Battle of Fort Erie:




















Or this simple but elegant obelisk at the site of the Battle of Lundy's Lane:




















So this is Toronto's contribution to commemorate the upcoming 200th anniversary of the Battle of York? What an embarassment. And what do Americans in Toronto think? A spokesperson from the American Consulate politely told the press that the Consulate had no comment on the monument, but said the U.S. government is committed to freedom of speech. Well, what else can one say?

(Thanks to one of my two regular readers, Ted at Edward Michael George who e-mailed me to say "not only is it mind-bogglingly ugly, not only is it graspingly anti-American, it is clearly meant to belittle the historical role of the military. Words fail.")

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day 2008




















For the fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon 1919

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Five myths about the Great Depression

From the Wall Street Journal article Five myths about the Great Depression: "With the vitality of U.S. and world economies at stake, it is essential that the decisions of the coming months are shaped by the right lessons -- not the myths -- of the Great Depression."

a sample:
Enlightened government pulled the nation out of the worst downturn in its history and came to the rescue of capitalism through rigorous regulation and government oversight.

To the contrary, the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations -- in disregarding market signals at every turn -- were jointly responsible for turning a panic into the worst depression of modern times. As late as 1938, after almost a decade of governmental "pump priming," almost one out of five workers remained unemployed. What the government gave with one hand, through increased spending, it took away with the other, through increased taxation. But that was not an even trade-off. As the root cause of a great deal of mismanagement and inefficiency, government was responsible for a lost decade of economic growth.

Hoover was destined to fill the role of the left's designated scapegoat. Despite that, the one place where he and FDR truly "triumphed" was in enlisting the support of leading writers and intellectuals for government planning and intervention. This had a lasting effect on the way that generations of people think about the Great Depression. The antienterprise spirit among thought leaders of this time (and later) extended to top business publications. "Do you still believe in Lazy-Fairies?" Business Week asked derisively in 1931. "To plan or not to plan is no longer the question. The real question is who is to do it?"


Read the whole thing. It's deja vu all over again.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Understanding the financial crisis

Watch this video (about 8 min) which effectively refutes the argument that the current financial crisis was caused by unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism and lack of government regulation. The money quote: "A market system is a system not only of profits, but of profits and losses. Good decisions should yield profits; bad ones should yield losses. Interventionism removes the discipline without which markets cannot work."



(ht: Tom Palmer)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The BBC has an Obamagasm

The coverage of Obama's victory by the BBC has been beyond embarassing - they never hid their dislike of GW Bush much, but their coverage last night was like a schoolgirl with a crush on the captain of the football team. Take, for example, reporter Gavin Hewitt on Obama's acceptance speech:
I watched him closely as the crowd rode every word with him. Afterwards, he stood alone between two bullet-proof screens. For a second, he seemed isolated and one could glimpse the loneliness of power and the burden of expectations that cannot possibly be fulfilled. It may not get any sweeter than this moment.
Or this from Kevin Connolly:
The setting sun sliding down the glass faces of the great downtown skyscrapers marked the ebbing of the final hours.

As darkness came, the makeshift open-air stage in the middle of Grant Park became a bowl of light - the campaign which began with the poetry of hope and triumphed through the power of the internet ended at last with the blazing magic of theatre.

Laser beams fanned out into the sky across the park from the stage, forming an arch of blindingly intense light - probably the first political celebration in history that would have been visible from the Moon.

Mr Obama, who all through the campaign has enjoyed the luck to match his undoubted brilliance, was even lucky with the Chicago weather.


For heaven's sake, people - go take a cold shower.

Gay Republicans

Interesting analysis of exit-poll data from last night's election at CNN. Apparently 27% of gay/lesbian voters chose McCain. According to Log Cabin Republicans, that's up from 20% in 2004.

Very interesting. Influential voices in the gay community are almost unanimous in their support for the Democrats and their loathing of the Republicans, yet almost one in three voters who identified their sexual orientation in exit polls supported McCain.

Food for thought.

RELATED:

Check out this farewell post by Kevin over at Citizen Crain - "We interrupt this fairy tale for a dose of reality":
But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend. The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays. And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.

...

The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all. That's about all I can be hopeful about now.

I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations. The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level. That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party. Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.

But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts. It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress. The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012. Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years. And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.

...

I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care. To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore. Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism. When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you. It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation. Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us. I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this. I am, in fact, ashamed.

Strong stuff.

The silver lining in the Republican dark cloud

Now that it's all over and the Republicans are fated to wander in the wilderness for at least the next four years, let the entrail-reading begin. Things are looking grim for conservatives south of the border, but all is not lost. This may be an opportunity for the Republican Party to do some serious soul-searching and to emerge once again as a credible force on the right.

There are some benefits in being taken to the electoral woodshed. Most significantly, the Democrats are now in control of Congress and the most liberal President since FDR is in the White House at a time of global economic turmoil and geopolitical upheaval. The party that purports to have all the answers now has its hands on all the levers of power, and they will likely prove as incapable of dealing with the country's problems as the current administration. Although President Obama will likely blame George W. Bush for all his shortcomings over the next four years, that excuse will wear a little thin as he fails to deliver on promise after promise. When it becomes apparent that Obama can't solve intractable issues like health care, education, energy independence and the environment merely by the force of his messianic personality, his devoted followers will grow increasingly disenchanted with The One. This will be an opportunity for the Republicans to propose a serious alternative to Democrat left-wing policies if they can get their act together by 2012. The Republican Party needs to rediscover its pro-freedom, small-government libertarian strengths and present these as an alternative to the coming left-wing regime, and they need to rally around a leader who can articulate these values to the voters.

The election of America's first black president is also a historic opportunity for a rethinking of the role of race in American politics. It hopefully will mean the end of the influence that crackpot black leaders like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan have had in American public life. The accusations of systemic racism that have made both parties pander to these demagogues will be less effective now that the United States of AmeriKKKa has elected a black president.

It's also going to be harder for leftists to accuse the Republicans of being the party of big money & corporate interests now that the Democrat juggernaut has opted out of public campaign financing and outspent them by a factor of six to one. The Republicans can use the next four years to rebuild their grass-roots organization and be prepared for another funding onslaught next time, but it's going to be hard to float the argument that money buys elections when it's the Democrats doing the buying and not the stereoptypical top-hatted, monocle-wearing plutocrats in the Republican Party.

The role of the media & its coverage of politics is due for a serious self-examination after this election. Some commentators in the main-stream media are already questioning their ability to present the facts with any pretense of impartiality, and the self-appointed job of the traditional media as gatekeepers of information is over. The degree that the media have helped or covered for Obama because they are invested in the outcome of this "historic" election is disturbing, and hopefully four years of an Obama administration that fails to live up to the media expectations will prompt a serious re-evaluation of their role in the election outcome. This should present an opportunity for the Republicans to get their message out by bypassing the traditional gatekeepers, and use the internet & grass-roots organizations more adeptly like the Democrats have done in the last cycle.

Much has been said lately of the opportunity that a President Obama will have to repair relations with foreign countries and to burnish America's image abroad. The long Bush nightmare is over, and the world yearns for Barack Obama and the Democrats to usher in a new era of peace, love and understanding. Boy, are Democrats in for a surprise. Obama will likely get a honeymoon with foreign powers (much like Bush had after 9-11) but the ugly truth will eventually be revealed: most foreigners have anti-Americanism encoded in their DNA, and it makes dealing rationally with these countries difficult. The sooner Obama's supporters realize this the better, and then they can stop bending over backwards for the UN and countries like France and get on with the American project. They can do it alone if necessary, and potentially led by an envigorated Republican party.

As far as the gay community is concerned, the love that the gay press and gay bloggers have showered on Obama is likely to go unrequited after an Obama victory. Obama is on the record as opposing gay marriage (his policy on that issue is virtually identical to McCain's) and when, after four years in office, an Obama administration has still not taken a stance on gay marriage, the federal Defence of Marriage Act or the Pentagon's "don't ask don't tell" policy on gays in the military, maybe influential gay Americans will take a hard look at their monolithic support for the Democratic Party and their vilification of gay Republicans and right-wing gay organizations like Log Cabin Republicans. It's a nice thought, but I doubt it will happen.

Finally, now that the decision has been made, we can be spared the purple prose that we've been subjected to for the past few months. We won't have to listen to hoary cliches like "drank the Kool-Aid", "in the tank", "working families", "board-room table vs kitchen table", "economic tsunami" and my personal pet peeve "Wall Street vs Main Street". Eventually when disillusionment sets in, we won't have to remain silent at social events while liquor-lubricated liberals rhapsodize about the Great Black Hope. We won't have to listen to bombastic talking heads like Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly pontificate about the election anymore, or wise sages like Jon Stewart and Tina Fey lecture conservatives about their lack of political sophistication - at least until the mid-term election in 2010.