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)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obligatory gay pride post

Another Toronto Gay Pride parade has come and gone, and as usual I stayed far away from it, preferring to spend the weekend with family & friends. The annual bacchanale has again prompted familiar criticism from conservatives, especially since the Conservative federal government spent $400 K subsidizing the event. I'm not going to say much this year that I haven't said before, other than to point out a lively discussion moderated by Joanne over at Blue Like You: $400 000 to Pride. I said this in the comments:
A lot of gay men & women are embarrassed by the antics at Pride parades – I know I am. The behaviour by some of the participants and the voyeuristic coverage by the media does not reflect well on gay people in general, who are mostly hard working middle-class citizens. Roman orgy excess at pride events also gives homophobes a club to metaphorically beat us up with.

Homosexuals by and large want to be treated equally and with respect. That means that behaviour that would not be tolerated at “main-stream” events like Caribana should not be tolerated at Pride events if we want to be considered part of the main stream. Sadly, some of the vocal leaders of the gay “community” don’t want to be part of the main stream, and political leaders outside the gay community won’t touch the issue for fear of being labelled homophobic. What politician wants to go on record as the person who cut funding to Gay Pride? Kiss the next election goodbye.

Change will come when gay people themselves start speaking out about the public image that Gay Pride excess unfairly attaches to so many of us. Our lives are not circus side-shows, so why behave like carnival clowns in a Fellini film on the one day of the year when everyone is paying attention?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good grief

This is getting out of hand:
“It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran's trajectory

Author & historian Paul Rahe has an interesting analysis of the future of Iran over at Powerline. An excerpt:
If the authorities manage to restore order (as, I suspect, they will), the pot will nonetheless continue to boil -- unless they resort to severe repression and purge those within their own ranks who lent support, open or tacit, to the demonstrators. But if they do this, they will at the same time seriously narrow the base of the regime's support, and that will only hasten the day of reckoning. As Reuel Marc Gerecht argues in a trenchant piece in the Weekly Standard, we are witnessing a game-changing moment.

From all of this, the supporters of George W. Bush's policy in Iraq should draw consolation, for the elections that took place in that country under the American aegis contributed mightily to the discontent in Iran. The people of Iran were witness to the emergence within Iraq of a secular republic sponsored by an Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, possessed of an erudition and an authority rivalling and arguably surpassing that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were witness to elections that were really free and to public debate open in ways that debate within the Islamic Republic is not. Morever, in Quom, the stronghold of the Shiite clergy, the clerics who most fully command respect have long rejected, as contrary to Shiite tradition and the interest of Islam, the path of direct clerical rule pursued by Khomeini.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why are the Ayatollahs mad at Britain?

Boris Johnson, the always-entertaining mayor of London, is flattered that the Supreme Leader of Iran thinks Britain is behind the unrest in the Islamic Republic. In an article in the Telegraph he writes:
Well, bless my soul. What an unexpected compliment. For the last few months, we British have had the terrible feeling that everyone else is having a snigger at our expense. Our once-vaunted Anglo-Saxon economic model has been derided by Nicolas Sarkozy; our currency is still suffering; our bankers have egg on their faces; our rugby team has lost to the South Africans; and our politicians are still convulsed with an expenses scandal that has seen the Home Secretary exposed for charging her husband's porn films to the taxpayer.


Just when you think that no one could conceivably take us seriously, up pops a hairy cleric and says the most amazing thing. This is not any old mullah: this is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the dominant religious and political beard, and in the course of a two-hour rant last Friday at Tehran university he lashed out at the foreign agencies he believed had a role in fomenting the pro-democracy protests. He mentioned Hillary Clinton; he had scornful words for the Zionist entity. But as he worked his way up to a frothing climax there was one nation he singled out for its baleful influence. Yes, he told the chanting students, the two-faced diplomats of the West had cast off their masks. They were exposed as wolves, bent on destruction. "They are showing their true enmity towards the Islamic state, and the most evil of them all is the British government!" At which point the student body of Tehran university began shouting "marg bar Ingles!" – "death to Britain!"

Fancy that, eh. Even allowing for variations in the translation, which has also been given as "most vicious" and "most dark-hearted", it is obvious that President Khamenei thinks of us as a potent force in the region. Indeed, he thinks that we are the most ruthless and manipulative of all foreign powers.

That's right: little old us! Doesn't it make you almost burst with pride? For decades, we have got used to the idea that we are a dowdy middle-ranking sort of country that long ago abandoned any pretensions to influence east of Suez. We thought we were wholly dependent on America for our nukes and our cryptography – and here's this top mullah who seems to think that the Tehran protests are being staffed by swarms of burka-wearing Bonds, and that the whole thing is being orchestrated by Dame Judi Dench from her lair on the South Bank.

(HT: Michael Totten)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Barack Obama, superhero

Who says it's hard to make jokes about President Obama?

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eating custard while Tehran burns

Remember in 2008 when George W. Bush was raked over the coals by Keith Olberman (among many others in the press) for saying that he had stopped golfing because doing so would send the wrong signal during a war? How dare he equate giving up golf to the sacrifices of the soldiers dying in Iraq? Here's what he said then:
Q Mr. President, you haven’t been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it really is. I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.

Compare & contrast with the media's breathless reporting of President Obama's busy schedule yesterday:
Obama and daughters snack on frozen custard

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The first family was in the mood for something sweet — something like vanilla custard, fudge and sprinkles.

On a muggy Saturday just before Father's Day, President Barack Obama took Sasha, 8, and Malia, 10, to The Dairy Godmother, a frozen custard shop just outside Washington.

The president snacked on vanilla custard with hot fudge and toasted almonds in a cup, said the shop's owner, Liz Davis. Sasha ordered a brownie sundae treat with vanilla custard, hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles. Malia walked out of the shop, eating the remains of a waffle cone with vanilla frozen custard.

During his 15-minute stay, Obama also shook hands with customers and posed for pictures. Obama left the shop with some puppy treats for the family's dog, Bo.

Meanwhile, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller covered the President's trip to the custard shop on Twitter:
Reports on the Obama's treats from Liz Davis, owner of The Dairy Godmother in Alexandria, Va, in business for 8 yrs.

about 16 hours ago from web Malia had vanilla frozen custart in a waffle cone.

about 16 hours ago from web Sasha had a Brownie sundae: vanilla frozen yogurt, hot fudge, cherry, sprinkles and whipped cream (which she asked Dad to scrape off)

about 16 hours ago from web Obama had vanilla frozen custard in a cup with hot fudge and toasted almonds. The girls went more elaborate. (more)

about 16 hours ago from web You're gonna laff: Obama & the girls actually bought Frozen Puppy pops for Bo: flavors: pumpkin, peanut butter and yogurt…

about 16 hours ago from web Surprised by the outrage at the ice cream outing. What is it you expect or want the US to do about Iran? Attack? War?

about 16 hours ago from web The Obama outing last 54 minutes. The Secret Service used the SUV instead of the limo for the pres and daughters.

about 16 hours ago from web Obama and the girls are back at the WH after their quick outing for frozen custard.

So Mr. Knoller is surprised by criticism of his coverage of Obama's custard excursion during the Iranian crisis:
Surprised by the outrage at the ice cream outing. What is it you expect or want the US to do about Iran? Attack? War?"

Now I'm not saying that President Obama shouldn't take his daughters out for custard during an international crisis- he is a father and a family man after all, and he surely is capable of being President and having a family life at the same time. My criticism is of the press and their treatment of Obama. Try to imagine if President Bush had gone out for frozen custard under similar circumstances. It's hard to believe he would have received the same teen girl adulation from the White House press corps.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama's silence on Iran

John Hinderaker at Powerline speculates on why President Obama is "so hapless in this crisis, potentially the best opportunity for peace and progress in the Middle East for a generation". I'm inclined to support hypothesis number three:
Obama has no idea what to do about Iran, and he knows it. Our President has always resembled Chance the gardener in Being There. It is easy to imagine that he is acutely aware that a few short years ago he was a State Senator in Illinois and that he is utterly unqualified to deal with matters as weighty as what is now transpiring in Iran. On this theory, his silence manifests an appropriate modesty. The problem with this hypothesis is that Obama has never exhibited modesty in any other context and, frankly, seems immune to the sentiment.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Where is this place where only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world?"

I've been following the Iranian crisis on Nico Pitney's excellent live-blog at the Huffington Post. Pitney posts numerous YouTube videos sent from Iran which give an immediate citizen's-eye view of the turmoil. One of the weirdest things going on over there is the nightly chanting of "Allah-o Akbar" from the rooftops of Tehran - it's very eerie and moving.

In this video clip a woman weeps for her country while the chanting goes on in the dark background of the city - her lament is amazingly poetic. Here's a transcript:

Tomorrow, Saturday, tomorrow is a day of destiny.
Tonight the cries of Allah-o Akbar are heard louder than the nights before.
Where is this place?
Where is this place where every door is closed?
Where is this place where people are simply calling God?
Where is this place where the sound of Allah-o Akbar gets louder and louder?
I wait every night to see if the sounds will get louder and whether the number increases.
It shakes me.
I wonder if God is shaken.
Where is this place where so many innocent people are entrapped?
Where is this place where no-one comes to our aid?
Where is this place where only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world?
Where is this place where the young shed blood and then people go and pray?
Standing on the same blood and pray ...
Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?
Where is this place?
You want me to tell you?
This place is Iran.
The homeland of you and me.
This place is Iran.

The gay generation gap

Kelvin Brown has a good article in today's National Post - Being gay has come a long way - about his journey as a gay man in his fifties compared to what young gay men & women experience today. Even though I came out relatively late in life, I would agree with Brown that "being young and gay is different than I experienced it 20 years ago."
Lucky me, a 55 year-old gay guy seated next to a thirtysomething hunky gay banker at a fundraiser. It soon became apparent, however, the evening wasn't going to be titillating but instead educational. Being young and gay is different than I experienced it 20 years ago.

"How's work?" I asked. Recalling my experience 15 years earlier as an executive at a bank, I suggested it couldn't be an easy place to work. Homophobia was tolerated, as were the prejudices of anyone making the company money. "They're very supportive at my bank," he said. "The VP came by yesterday to see if I was enjoying myself and ask if I could talk to the retail people about marketing to the gay segment." I quickly assumed he wasn't interested in my stories about the sniggering behind my back on the trading room floor or bosses who could barely shake my hand because they were so anti-gay.

I didn't know where to go next with the conversation. I fell back to the classic gay icebreaker, "When did you come out?" "I've never needed to come out," he said. "I knew I was gay forever. I've never been anything but gay. My friends in high school were all very supportive." I can't quite recall what he said after this. I was so stunned, since being openly gay in high school wasn't an option for me. I think he said something about being captain of the football team and valedictorian of his high school, or other proof that being gay in the Maritimes was vastly different than my memories of growing up in a small town in B. C.

I asked how his parents felt about him being gay. "Never an issue. They always want me to feel good about myself. They've liked all my boyfriends." He anticipated my next question: "My brothers and sisters, all six of them, have always been great, really great."

I was beginning to feel like the boring neurotic who always has issues. "It's been a different experience for older gays," I said. "I've heard that from my husband," he said. "He's a bit older." For me, this different experience was one generation ago. The way he said it, it sounded like ancient history: Prejudice, ridicule, hiding your life from your parents and friends.

Husband? "Yes, we married last year. We're planning to have kids soon." Kids? "Yes, I don't know if we'll adopt or have them with a surrogate." I certainly didn't say gays with kids were once typically the residual of straight guys who came out late, not the status symbols of progressiveness they've become today. And he was so nice I didn't want to mention my doubts about testosterone-riddled 20-year-olds maintaining stable relationships for child rearing when their instincts make them want to explore the world. I didn't mention it, because who wants to be accused of self-loathing?

"It was different when I was your age." Oh yeah, AIDS, he said. For him, AIDS is a serious but chronic illness. No one he knows has died from it or was expected to. A startling contrast to memories of what was, at first, an unfathomable plague and, then, a terrible death sentence that killed friends.

"Must have been awful then," he said. Not all bad--being gay was a bit of a secret club, I explained. A wonderful camaraderie with your fellow gays no matter who or where they were. And sometimes the outlaw aspect was exciting, too.

I told him we shouldn't take this freedom for granted, all this newfound acceptance. After all, look at the United States: They can't legalize gay marriage, and so on. He confidently said it will come in time. I didn't want to sound negative, mired in the past or paranoid, but I had to say it could change, the pendulum could swing back. "I don't think so," he said. "Our rights are legally entrenched."

I didn't want to tell him about some of the places I'd just visited in the U. S., like Atlanta, where it still felt like the bad 1980s. Not to mention countries in the Middle East. He could be my son, and it's wonderful he sees the world as welcoming. I always wanted this for myself. But human nature is fickle. I hope he's never surprised one day, and that being gay becomes again what truly matters about him for others.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blogging the unrest in Iran (II)

Nico Pitney at the Huffington Post has been live-blogging the Iranian election crisis for the past week. Amazing stuff - if you've been relying on network broadcasts to follow the situation in Iran, you're missing most of the story. Pitney's coverage is top-notch - check it frequently as this crisis unfolds.

Ahmadinejad & Sarah Palin

James Lileks, in a post inspired by his decision to cancel his subscription to HBO, writes about David Letterman's apology to Sarah Palin and the left's obsession with the former vice-presidential candidate:
One of the things I found interesting about the matter was the position Palin continues to occupy in many people’s minds; it’s as if the Right was making Geraldine Ferraro jokes deep into the opening measures of the Reagan administration. As I may have said before, I’m less interested in Palin herself than what she does to other people, because it’s funny. Today’s example comes from Matt Yglesias, (h/t contentions) blog, and it has to do with the real story of the day, Iran. It’s interesting to see people unwittingly demonstrate that they don’t spend a lot of time dealing with disparate opinion:
Ahmadinejad is in most ways a classic right-winger, a demagogic nationalist and cultural conservative. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of a Sarah Palin, however,

You’ll be forgiven if you bale out at that point, be you left or right; it’s like a conservative commentator ruminating about whether Kim Jong-Il uses the rhetoric reminiscent of Rev. Wright. Perspective. Proportionality. But note how “cultural conservative” becomes conceptually elongated, so “right-wingers” who may, for example, not wish to redefine marriage become bunkmates with someone who denies the existence of homosexuals, and whose regime hangs them from lampposts. Well, we know the right-wingers here would, if they could, right? It’s only the possibility of bad PR that keeps Dick Cheney from setting his daughter on fire. As for demagogic nationalism, one suspects that Yglesias finds demagogy in anyone who talks about love of country and the great things America has done without landing with both feet on a big wet BUT, and then goes on read the syllabus from a Howard Zinn course.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blogging the unrest in Iran

More than any recent event, the post-election crisis in Iran has demonstrated, to me anyway, the difference between news coverage by the MSM and by local bloggers. It's practically impossible now for an authoritarian regime to suppress news coverage of an event that casts it in an unfavourable light.

Charles Johnston at Little Green Footballs observes:

The amazing thing about all the footage we’re seeing from Iran is that, in nearly every photo and every video clip, you can see people recording the scene with digital cameras and cell phones and camcorders. And then a lot of those people connect to the Internet and use web services like YouTube and Flickr and Brightcove to make their images and recordings available to the whole world, almost instantly.

When the regime’s thugs open fire on a crowd, the video hits the net within minutes. It’s more difficult for despots to do their dirty work when the world is watching.

I watched coverage by the BBC and by ABC News tonight and was surprised by the casual wait-and-see attitude that pervaded their stories from Iran; none of them seem to grasp the immense significance of what's going on there. It's pretty clear from bloggers what's really happening. Check out Michael Totten's website; he's blogging on the situation from neighbouring Iraq. For really astonishing videos and still photos of the demonstrations, try the Iranian blogger who posts at Tehran 24 - amazing. This has the feel of a truly historic event, but you wouldn't get that sense from watching traditional news broadcasts.

Imagine how Tiananmen Square would have been covered if bloggers had existed in China twenty years ago.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Jon Voight on "the false prophet, Obama"

Actor Jon Voight gives Republicans a piece of his mind at the Republican Senate-House Fundraising dinner:

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Are you a good husband?

Take this quiz from a 1933 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (courtesy of James Lileks).

My favourite "demerits":
Belches without apology, or blows nose at table.

Talks of efficiency of his stenographer or other women.

Writes on tablecloth with pencil.

Eats onions, radishes or garlic before dates or going to bed.

Kisses wife just after her make-up has been applied

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Western civilization's debt to Islam

I guess I'm not the only one who found these statements in President Obama's Cairo speech a little jarring: "throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality", and "it was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment."

The Charlotte Capitalist makes the case that Western Civilization's debt to Arab Muslims in fact stems from the Arab world's preservation of ancient Greek knowledge:
This is the common ground between the Arab world of one thousand years ago and the United States of America. It is the common ground of transmitted Greek thought (reason) taken from idea to action. And for this, we should be thankful to certain Arabs of that time period. We should be thankful for many pro-Aristotelian Arab philosophers including Averroes.

However, the Arab world in the 10th century underwent a purge of un-Islamic philosophy and thinkers. The result?
The consequence of this was the complete lack of progress in the Arab world for the next eight hundred years. With the vanquishing of Aristotelian logic and the rise of Islamic ideology and theocracy, most of the Arab world stood in a primitive state. The only advancement in the Arab world occurred in the last 50 to 100 years -- due to the re-introduction of Aristotelian logic via Western engineering in the oil fields made productive by American and European corporations. The current accomplishments in Arab lands, just as the accomplishments of one thousand years ago, are due to Greek thought. They are possible, not because of, but in spite of Islamic thought.

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Classical Values)

Adam Lambert - not gay enough?

Deborah Weiss at Big Hollywood has an interesting take on the media's feeding frenzy over American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's sexual orientation:
... as soon as the winner was announced and the finale was over, the left-wing media started bashing Adam for not being gay enough. Adam has admitted that the explicit photos were of him, and he has not been at all shy about anything including his sexuality. (To date, interviewers have beaten around the bush and have not put the “gay question” to him directly.) But neither has Adam made his sexuality a political issue…at least thus far. Still, the photos and Adam’s behavior, which are about as “out” as can be, still leave some dissatisfied. As is often the case with leftists, words are more important than actions, and one isn’t truly “out” until he mouths the words “I’m gay.” Adam hasn’t done this and thus will suffer the wrath of leftist activists.

No sooner had he walked off the stage than criticism has befallen him — not for his performances, which were controversial but fair game, but for his alleged “silence” on his sexuality. Indeed, Entertainment Weekly Online dedicated four whole pages to chastising him for failing to announce his orientation. But, making one’s private life fodder for public consumption seems to be something the gay community does often. In the recently released film “Outrage,” the filmmaker assumed that if he outed gay Republicans, they would change their votes on gay marriage. The presumption seems to be that gay marriage is the world’s most pressing issue, and everyone who is gay should prioritize this about all else. To hell with national security, the arts, or whatever else one might be interested in.

Adam has acknowledged feeling pressure from some quarters to use his sexuality and “alternativeness” to influence how America views related social issues. Contrary to helping those in the gay community, they are doing Adam and the gay community a disservice. By pressuring Adam to act differently than his straight counterparts, they separate him out rather than allow him to integrate and be accepted as equal. They are also denying him the right to define himself as he wants to be defined and decide for himself how his talents will be used.