banner photo:

"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


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

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.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"That's why I'm a 'small-L' libertarian"

Blogger Evan Coyne Maloney on why he held his nose, voted for the Libertarian Party and hopes McCain wins today's election in the US:

I consider myself a libertarian for two reasons.

First and foremost: for the betterment of the human race. True, these aren’t easy days to proclaim oneself an unashamed capitalist. But whatever governmental market distortions led to the current financial crisis, the simple fact remains that no single system has brought more material comfort to more people worldwide than capitalism.

In America today, people we consider poor have a standard of living that would’ve been thought of as middle-class a century ago. Sure, we can to do better for more people, but there’s only one historically proven way to do it: capitalism. By definition, government can’t create wealth. Only private economic activity can. The more economic activity, the faster the growth, and the richer even the poor become. The larger the share of the economy that flows through the government, the longer it’ll take for the engine of capitalism to grow poverty into extinction.

The second reason I’m a libertarian is because I believe that the individual should be afforded the maximum personal liberty in cases where no other individual’s rights are being abridged. In their private lives, people should be allowed to set whatever personal boundaries their consciences allow and require. And while I believe that people should abide by some form of moral code, it is not the function of the state to impose one person’s moral code on another. If you want to convince someone else to live by your rules, you’re free to do so in the private sphere. But government is too big a bludgeon to be used for such a function.

So, in a nutshell, that’s why I’m a (”small-L”) libertarian.


(ht: Classical Values)

Why we're in Afghanistan (III)

The National Post has a disturbing article in today's edition titled The perils of treating women in Afghanistan which anyone who is having trouble understanding why Canadian troops are in that country should read:
The Taliban had warned her repeatedly, but the veteran public-health worker insisted on carrying on work as usual at her clinic in rural Kandahar.

The midwife's defiance would prove fatal: Two months ago, the insurgents shot her dead.

What had enraged the Islamist rebels was a surprising issue, more often debated in the West than Afghanistan. As part of a fledgling family-planning program, the worker, known only as Zarghona, was distributing condoms and birth-control pills, something the insurgents called sacrilege.

"We took up arms against the Infidels in order to bring Islamic law to this land," said a chilling letter delivered later to her employer, bearing the seal of the Taliban military council.

"But you people are supporting our enemies, the enemies of Islam and Muslims.... Personnel were trained to distribute family-planning pills. The aim of this project is to persuade the young girls to commit adultery."

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Canwest News Service, noted the insurgents had warned Zarghona to stop distributing contraceptives "but she paid no heed, so we killed her."

...

Insurgents will issue three warnings before taking action against a health worker, he added. The Taliban have also sent threatening letters to clinics, saying male doctors should not examine female patients, though often women health workers are not available, Dr. Rahman said.

The clinics get female guards to interview women patients and pass on the information to the male physician, but that does not seem to satisfy the insurgents.

The Taliban letter about Zarghona's murder also addresses the male-doctor issue and concludes by warning, "Your activities are under close monitoring. If you do not pay heed, you will be punished."

Meanwhile, the insurgents have added to the challenges faced by polio vaccinators, said Dr. Karim Asseir, WHO manager of the program here.

Implementation teams made up of residents have been negotiating with the insurgents to win their approval, often with success. The Islamists are increasingly raising objections to what they consider, inaccurately, to be a program of the hated Karzai government, he said.

On Sept. 14, he watched, horrified, as a white Toyota Corolla swerved into the car ahead of him on an official trip to south Kandahar. Then it blew up, killing the two polio doctors inside the other vehicle. "What the anti-government elements are trying to do is to be recognized as the people who are in control of these areas," Dr. Asseir said.

I can't understand why Canadians of all political stripes can't support the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that indifference to the suffering of the people there is all the more astonishing coming from the left which purports to be the true protector of women's rights. Are you paying attention Jack Layton?

related posts here, here, here, here and here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"I still like George W. Bush. A lot."

I agree with Andrew Breitbart in the Washington Times: An election-day note: Thanks, President Bush
I have a dark secret to tell before the election so that it's on the record. It's something that is difficult to say to certain friends, peers, family and, lately, many fellow conservatives.

I still like George W. Bush. A lot.

For starters, I am convinced he is a fundamentally decent man, even though I have read otherwise at the Huffington Post.

President Bush is far smarter, more articulate and less ideological than his plentiful detractors scream, and, ultimately, he will be judged by history - not by vengeful Democrats, hate-filled Hollywood, corrupt foreign governments, an imploding mainstream media or fleeting approval ratings.

George W. Bush is history's president, a man for whom the long-term success or failure of democracy in Iraq will determine his place in history. He may end up a victim of his own tough choices, but the cheerleading for his demise when Iraq's outcome is yet determined has hurt America and possibly set up the next president for the same appalling partisan response.


Read the whole thing.

(ht: Ed Driscoll)