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)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Communism's victims

The New York Times has published an article by Frank Dikotter, professor at the University of Hong Kong, on the carnage visited on the people of China by Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward":
The worst catastrophe in China’s history, and one of the worst anywhere, was the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962, and to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the “Great Leap Forward” that Mao Zedong launched in 1958.

To this day, the party attempts to cover up the disaster, usually by blaming the weather. Yet detailed records of the horror exist in the party’s own national and local archives.

...

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.
Read the whole article for the excruciating details.

Glen Reynolds at Instapundit has an interesting roundup of responses to the NYT article. Reynolds comments:
Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.

Remember that next time you see some naive socialist demonstrator sporting a Mao t-shirt & throwing bricks through a Starbucks window.

UPDATE: For commenter Brian Busby - here are two pictures from last summer's riot at the G20 summit in Toronto, which I found after a quick Google search. You could have Googled it yourself, you know.










Thursday, December 09, 2010

Letter from Toronto

I live in a rural area with no public transit system. None. You can't even take a cab out here; we depend exclusively on our huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks and carbon-spewing SUVs to get around. So, it's been with some amusement that I've followed Toronto's new mayor Rob Ford's first few days in office. I'm especially amused by the crib death of the city's elaborate and expensive Transit City project which aims to put dedicated streetcar lanes on major thoroughfares like Sheppard and Eglinton. I wondered why the citizens of Canada's World Class City were so attached to streetcars over the more proletarian buses that the rest of the province rides every day. I thought I'd better ask someone who lives in downtown Toronto and who doesn't own a car to explain it to me. So, I fired of an email to my friend and fellow blogger EMG, who writes at Edward Michael George. Here's our correspondence:
Dear EMG:

You live near the St Clair streetcar line that buggered up the entire neighbourhood for years and ran millions of dollars over budget. Was it worth it?

Can you explain to me what the big friggin' deal is about streetcars in Toronto? Transit City proposes to tear up major traffic arteries like Sheppard & Eglinton, disrupt commerce and traffic for God knows how long to replace two lanes of cars with expensive dedicated streetcar lines. Is this an improvement over regular buses that share the street with cars? Surely it can't be cheaper to build all these Transit City "LRT" routes than to just put more buses on the streets?

Is riding a regular bus such a hellish experience for the poor straphangers, and conversely is a streetcar such a quantum leap in cost, efficiency and comfort? I just don't get it. Why can't you urban elites just take the bus?

Can you explain this mystery to us poor hicks out in the country?

Eric

EMG replied:
Dear Poor Hick Out in the Country,

I don't normally condescend to speak to the turnip 'n' dirt people--in your case I'll make the exception. Buses simply aren't good enough for us. Buses are for you and all the other thick-fingered, dirty-eared, cannon-fodder types of your village. A place where, I suspect, everyone is related (and not distantly) to one another; a place that I'm vaguely familiar with as once I drove through it on my way to a fashionable vineyard and spa run by the most delightful homosexual couple (recently wed).

Don't streetcars remind you of metropolitan San Francisco? (Think Rice-A-Roni if this isn't ringing any bells for you ... Oh! Ringing any bells! A kind of a pun!) That's the sort of place I want to live in. And subways? New York City, surely. Though I'll admit that I like to stir the pot a bit with my bien pensant chums by referring to it contrarian-ly as "the tube." Cheeky! LOL.

Perhaps you are wondering how we pay for it all? A special talent that separates us cosmopolites from you potato proles: we've discovered huge reservoirs of cash way up our shiny white butts. A seemingly endless supply. And there's any amount of other useful things up there too. This reply for instance.

At an imponderable distance,

An urban elitist

I responded:
Dear EMG:

I expected that it was one of those "we're a World Class City" issues. Toronto is a World Class City; World Class Cities have "light rail" transit; ergo Toronto must have streetcars. It's a Richard Florida creative class thing - the creative class likes streetcars, and if Toronto wants to attract the creative class, it must have streetcars. Ditto for Gay Pride parades, a favourite of the creative class, which also squeeze government subsidies out of the hicks. I expect that Dalton McGuinty will soon use the same argument to announce tax breaks for Toronto's fair-trade coffee shops, organic arugula-mongers and sustainable solar-powered yoga parlours.

Thanks for enlightening me.

Eric

There you have it, folks - Transit City explained. Go to it, Mayor Ford.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Does the Toronto Star have editors anymore?

I was in a coffee shop today with nothing to read, so I absent-mindedly picked up a copy of today's Toronto Star that someone had left behind. It made me want to take a shower afterwards.

Case in point - the appalling Heather Mallick. How this woman has found a successful career as a writer defies explanation. She had two articles in today's Star - the first was an obituary of Elizabeth Edwards. We are treated to salacious details about her husband John, including this tidbit from his career as a trial lawyer:
“Help, my stomach hurts,” a five-year-old North Carolina girl named Valerie called out to her mother as she sat on a swimming pool drain cover that a company named Sta-Rite knew would be improperly installed. She was feeling her intestines being sucked out. John won lifetime care for that girl, and rightly so.
Good God, did we need to know that grotesque detail in an obituary of his wife? Of course no quality obituary of Ms Edwards would be complete without a graphic description of her husband's affair with Rielle Hunter while she was fighting breast cancer:
In 2004, he ran as vice-president on the John Kerry ticket (George W. Bush won), Elizabeth got the breast cancer that would kill her, John ran again in 2007 while sleeping with a crazy, rapacious woman named Lisa Druck, a.k.a. Rielle Hunter, who filmed him performing oral sex on her, and after she had her unfortunate baby he paid her off, for which he may go to jail. In the meantime, Elizabeth was herself excoriated along the lines of, “Elizabeth Edwards not as nice as thought.” It sounds like an Onion headline.
Yuck. Poor Elizabeth - she deserved better than this from Canada's biggest daily.

Later in the same issue, Mallick writes an opinion piece on Julian Assange & the Wikileaks scandal. The tortured sentences she composes are so long & full of gear-shifts that I lost track of what she was talking about by the time I arrived, exhausted, at the finish:
As WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange is jailed in Britain on weirdly convenient rape charges and denied bail lest he flee the charges of WikiLeaking he does not in fact face though every government security service is gunning for it—lo, he hath made truthful information available unto citizens of the planet—the scum is rising.
Huh?

Here's another gem, which somehow works a reference to JFK's assassination & Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin into the discussion:
I speak as a person who has still not recovered from the Daily Mail last week publishing online huge clear detailed photos from the littered rough pine interior of Lee Harvey Oswald’s empty coffin. I stared at the small oblong space where the American Dream went to die—how ironic that the death cavity should be so shabby—and was overturned by sadness.

But I’m not out to shut down the paper for publishing it. I’m not Amazon, Visa, Mastercard or PayPal—which have targeted WikiLeaks out of venom or cowardice—or even an irate subscriber. It’s my job as a writer to look at the photos and my duty as an adult.

Americans don’t care. You can go to the former School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas, and take pretend aim at JFK’s head, you can rent a floor of the building for your wedding reception, it’s all clean fun to them.
All this is bad enough, but Mallick holds herself to a higher standard. She's the self-proclaimed living embodiment of journalistic standards:
I recently turned down an offer to appear on a TVO panel to talk about the trial of Col. Russell Williams because the producer, the person responsible for mapping out the show, told me she hadn’t read the stories in the Star. She found the plea hearing gross and the news reports too icky for her sensibilities. “As a journalist,” she felt she didn’t need to know. She actually emailed me that.

I was embarrassed for her and politely declined to appear, me and my nauseating newsgathering. Then I banged my head hard on my desk until the pain went away.
Bang away, Heather.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rudolph vs Predator

The holiday TV special I wish had really been made: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer vs Predator:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homophobia at the UN

So, tell me again why not winning a seat on the UN Security Council was such an embarrassment to Canada? Jonathan Kay writes in today's National Post about the latest travesty from the General Assembly:
No one expects Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Liberia to start printing gay-marriage licences any time soon. But would it be too much to ask that these countries at least oppose the targeted murder of homosexuals?

As it does every few years, a committee of the United Nations General Assembly has been fashioning a resolution calling for states to prosecute the extra-judicial killings of people because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language or other identifying characteristics. In past years, sexual orientation has been part of this list. But thanks to an amendment supported by a group of African and Muslim nations -- which passed by a vote of 79-70 -- the reference to sexual orientation has been struck from this year's resolution. The effective message is that killing someone because they're gay isn't that bad.

...

Putting aside the disgust one feels at the manner by which the UN now has become a forum for organizing homophobes (to go along with the body's day-to-day role of promoting bigotry against Israel), the results serve up several lessons.

First, they show that a nation's attitude toward homosexuality can more or less be taken as a reliable proxy for the general health of its society. With few exceptions, the list of 70 pro-gay nations all are places where most of us would gladly work and visit, and perhaps even live; while the anti-gay nations tend toward corruption, dictatorship, rigidly patriarchal values and a lack of religious tolerance.

Second, they show that homophobia is not a "natural" form of bigotry, as some social conservatives suggest; rather, it survives in the modern age due to one of three very specific influences: totalitarian politics, retrograde religiosity and the primitive social superstitions that pervade very poor societies.

Third, they show up the fantastic ignorance and hypocrisy of radicalized gay-rights groups as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid -- which direct their hate at pro-gay Israel while ignoring the dozens of Muslim countries where gay bashing is common and, as these nations now effectively have informed us, officially tolerated. By the same token, Canadian labour groups such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers might tell us why they are telling their members that "Cuba needs our support" (that's an actual quote from a CUPW "international solidarity bulletin") now that the Castro brothers have voted down a resolution against gay bashing.

"You can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members," Gandhi once said. In many parts of the world, that means the gay population. It's sad that the UN's assorted, overlapping dictatorships, Muslim states and banana republics aren't just flunking Gandhi's test -- they're actually flaunting their failure at the General Assembly.

Liberals: "obsessing on the ephemeral while missing the substantial"

Joel Klotkin writes in Politico - How Liberalism self-destructed:
Democrats are still looking for explanations for their stunning rejection in the midterms — citing everything from voting rights violations and Middle America’s racist orientation to Americans’ inability to perceive the underlying genius of President Barack Obama’s economic policy.

What they have failed to consider is the albatross of contemporary liberalism.

Liberalism once embraced the mission of fostering upward mobility and a stronger economy. But liberalism’s appeal has diminished, particularly among middle-class voters, as it has become increasingly control-oriented and economically cumbersome.

Today, according to most recent polling, no more than one in five voters call themselves liberal.

This contrasts with the far broader support for the familiar form of liberalism forged from the 1930s to the 1990s. Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton focused largely on basic middle-class concerns — such as expanding economic opportunity, property ownership and growth.

Modern-day liberalism, however, is often ambivalent about expanding the economy — preferring a mix of redistribution with redirection along green lines. Its base of political shock troops, public-employee unions, appears only tangentially interested in the health of the overall economy.

...

Often eager to micromanage people’s lives, contemporary liberalism tends to obsess on the ephemeral while missing the substantial. Measures such as San Francisco’s recent ban on Happy Meals follow efforts to control the minutiae of daily life. This approach trivializes the serious things government should do to boost economic growth and opportunity.

Perhaps worst of all, the new liberals suffer from what British author Austin Williams has labeled a “poverty of ambition.” FDR offered a New Deal for the middle class, President Harry S. Truman offered a Fair Deal and President John F. Kennedy pushed us to reach the moon.

In contrast, contemporary liberals seem more concerned about controlling soda consumption and choo-chooing back to 19th-century urbanism. This poverty of ambition hurts Democrats outside the urban centers. For example, when I met with mayors from small, traditionally Democratic cities in Kentucky and asked what the stimulus had done for them, almost uniformly they said it accomplished little or nothing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So much for the "anti-gay Tories" narrative

I've been asked frequently how I can support a political party that "hates gays". In fact I was in a relationship once that ended because my partner couldn't stomach the fact that I was a member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Warren Kinsella pushed that button in his blog last July (sorry, link no longer works):
I was sort of wondering how you can be gay and a Conservative supporter at the same time.

I mean, not only do they deny your very existence - they think cabinet ministers should be punished for appearing in any way supportive of you, or those like you.

It's your life and all that, but I was just wondering how you sleep at night.

As I've indicated before, if the Harper Cons don't want you, we do.

(I responded to that post here if you're interested.)

Labelling the CPC as "anti-gay" is a convenient but intellectually lazy way for liberals to demonize their opponents in an attempt to frighten off voters, but it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

So, let's see how liberals spin this story: Minister backs refugee status for gay Iranians:
OTTAWA – The cause of gay refugees who flee persecution in Iran only to face harassment in Turkey has caught the attention of the federal immigration minister, who says Canada is willing to facilitate their resettlement here.

Jason Kenney wrote the Canadian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to urge quick processing of their applications after a story appeared last month in the Toronto Star.

That story centred on Iranian Arsham Parsi, now a Toronto-based advocate whose "Iranian Queer Railroad" project tries to help gay and lesbians in legal limbo in Turkey reach Canada or the United States.

"I can't imagine more legitimate grounds for protection than folks who are facing potential execution in Iran for their sexuality," Kenney said in an interview. "These are people who are clearly in need of protection, and Canada has already received a number of gay and lesbian Iranian refugee claimants through the UNHCR, typically through Turkey."

...

Kenney's letter to the UNHCR says "homosexual Iranians who have been granted asylum in Turkey are subjected to persecution (random beatings, harassment, etc.) in the country of asylum, and that homosexual Iranians are in a uniquely precarious position."

Kenney told the Star more gay and lesbian Iranians could be accepted here under current targets.

To paraphrase Kinsella, if Iran doesn't want you, we do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To liberals, the people are stupid

The shock and dismay from Toronto urban liberals at the election of Rob Ford as their mayor reveals yet again a revealing mindset they have when elections don't go their way: when conservatives are elected, it's because the voters are too stupid to understand what's best for them.

Kelly McParland nailed it on the day after the election with this column in the National Post: Crying into their frappucinos:
Across Toronto yesterday morning bleary-eyed residents grabbed their two-wheelers and cycled to Starbucks, ordered up a stiff frappuccino -- what the hell, make it 2% milk, I'll need it--and surveyed the damage.

It couldn't be true. Rob Ford, Mr. Double-Double, a guy who never met a cruller he didn't like, had pulled it off. The man got himself elected mayor. All those angry suburbanites, the ones who were supposed to complain a lot but skip the actual process of voting, had turned up en masse and put the guy in office.

For Toronto's urban sophisticates, it was a wipeout. Total repudiation. Worse than the time they ran out of well oaked chardonnay at Vintages. What are they supposed to do now, move to Calgary? Buy a leaf blower, for Chrissake? Any day now they'll be erecting barriers at Pusateri's, checking IDs. No one gets in without a credit card from Home Depot.

Ann Althouse ponders the same phenomenon on display after the midterm elections south of the border:
Bill Lueders's Isthmus article is subtitled "The Triumph of Stupidity." He asks UW-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin how people could vote the way they did, and when Franklin answers "They're pretty damn stupid," he says "Thank you, professor... That's the answer I was looking for."
Frankly, it's an answer embraced by many people I know. One of my Isthmus colleagues sent me a study showing that Dane County, which bucked the trends on Election Day, is by far the most educated county in the state. "When conservatives cut support for education," she mused, "they do so to keep people dumb and their own interests in power."
Welcome to my world: Dane County, Wisconsin, home of people who tell themselves they are the smart people and those who disagree with them must certainly be dumb. They don't go through the exercise of putting themselves in the place of someone who thinks differently from the way they do. But how would it feel to be intelligent, informed, and well-meaning and to think what conservatives think? Isn't that the right way for an intelligent, informed, and well-meaning person to understand other people? If you short circuit that process and go right to the assumption that people who don't agree with you are stupid, how do you maintain the belief that you are, in fact, intelligent, informed, and well-meaning?

What is liberal about this attitude toward other people? You wallow in self-love, and what is it you love yourself for? For wanting to shower benefits on people... that you have nothing but contempt for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The real story behind GM's stock offering

Nick Gillespie at Reason cuts through the fawning media coverage of GM's multi-billion dollar stock IPO:
We've been down this road before:

Hey, didn't you hear that the GM bailout is working out just swell! Why, we're likely to make us a profit on the bailout, so let's not dawdle over details, such as whether the whole goddamn thing was even legal in the first place (because it wasn't!).

The first time we heard this happy-happy line was when then CEO Ed Whitacre took to the airwaves to lie about GM's payback of its TARP loans "in full and ahead of schedule." (See below for why that argument had about as much credibility as a Chevy Citation's cooling system).

Now GM has done its first stock IPO and everything is on track for a happy ending. Right? Right! Right?

GM sold about 478 million shares Wednesday at $33 each, a price higher than the company and its bankers thought was possible just days ago. An additional 71.7 million shares are expected to be sold by GM's bankers as part of an "overallotment" allowed when sales are stronger than expected. And it sold $4.35 billion in preferred shares.

So come on, tell us, how'd we (and by we, I mean the taxpayer/owners) do? The good news is that the sale will reduce the government's ownership stake from about 61 percent to 26 percent. The bad news?:

With Wednesday's sale, including the overallotment, the Treasury lost roughly $4.5 billion on GM shares it acquired at an effective cost of $43.84 apiece. The Treasury would need to reap $26.4 billion, or an average of $52.79 a share, on its remaining stake to break even.

...

But the important thing to remember is: The IPO proves the GM bailout wasn't just good politics, but good business. Got it?

All those questions about the rule of law, whether it's a good idea for the government to bail out a company that lost records amount of dough the very year it sold the most cars ever, whether the domestic-owned auto industry is locking in amber workers and resources that could be productively used elsewhere, or even whether the feds coulda made more money parking that $50 billion in a Bank of Iceland Christmas Club account -well, just forget 'em.

There's nothing to see here, just poor-performing tales that will continue to roll off the media assembly line like so many 2010 Chevy Cobalts destined for scrap heaps.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Liberty: it's an easier sell than you think"

James Delingpole on being a libertarian:
Easily the most intelligent, articulate political commentary I hear these days comes from people who class themselves as libertarian. It’s the most joined-up political philosophy I’ve ever come across. It’s attractive on a personal, emotional level because it’s pro-human, pro-freedom, pro-the-little-man-against-the-big-bullying-state; and it’s attractive on an intellectual level because it’s based on empiricism, on what actually works as opposed to what ought to work, on how real people choose to live their lives rather than on how government can best implement its latest whacko new scheme to help imaginary people live their lives in a way some interfering wonk thinks might be better for them.

The map of non-monogamy

"My husband the Senator is not having relations with his secretary." Franklin Veaux, student of sexual informatics, summarizes non-monogamous relationships in a handy graphic (click to enlarge):

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Gay voters & the GOP

This item from GOProud, an organization of gay Republicans, quotes exit polls which indicate that almost a third of self-identified gay voters voted Republican in the recent US midterm elections:
Exit polling reveals that gay and lesbian voters played a critical role in the Republican Party’s historic gains in the U.S. House on Tuesday night. According to CNN, 31% of self-identified gay voters supported Republican candidates for the U.S. House. This number is a dramatic increase from the 19% GOP House candidates won among gay voters in 2008. “Exit polling makes it clear gay voters played an important role in bringing conservative leadership to Congress,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud, the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies. “It also proves something we have been saying for months now – that the Tea Party’s message of limiting government is something that appeals to many gay Americans.”

“The gay left would have you believe that gay conservatives don’t exist. Now we see that almost a third of self-identified gay voters cast ballots for Republican candidates for Congress in this year’s mid-term,” continued LaSalvia.

UPDATE - Ann Althouse comments:
This doesn't surprise me. I think the split between the parties should be about the same as it is in the heterosexual population. I'd expect it to be somewhat skewed because the Democrats give the impression that they will do some things to advance gay rights.

But that shouldn't have too great an effect because: 1. Gay people are interested in all the issues, not just who purports to care about specific gay-related issues, 2. There isn't much reason to trust the Democrats to do more than pretend to care, and 3. If the GOP seems libertarian, it may appeal to those who mainly want the government to leave them alone to live their lives according to their own values.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"God how I wish I were American right now"

Britain's James Delingpole looks wistfully at the US midterm election results:
Arriving back at Heathrow late on Sunday night I felt – as you do on returning to Britain these days – as if I were entering a failed state. It’s not just the Third World shabbiness which is so dispiriting. It’s the knowledge that from its surveillance cameras to its tax regime, from its (mostly) EU-inspired regulations to its whole attitude to the role of government, Britain is a country which has forgotten what it means to be free.
God how I wish I were American right now. In the US they may not have the Cairngorms, the River Wye, cream teas, University Challenge, Cotswold villages or decent curries. But they do still understand the principles of “don’t tread on me” and “live free or die.” Not all of them, obviously – otherwise a socialist like Barack Obama would never have got into power. But enough of them to understand that in the last 80 or more years – and not just in the US but throughout the Western world – government has forgotten its purpose. It has now grown so arrogant and swollen as to believe its job is to shape and improve and generally interfere with our lives. And it’s not. Government’s job is to act as our humble servant.
What’s terrifying is how few of us there are left anywhere in the supposedly free world who properly appreciate this. Sure, we may feel in our hearts that – as Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe put it in their Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party manifesto – “We just want to be free. Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others”. And we may even confide it to our friends after a few drinks. But look at Australia; look at Canada; look at New Zealand; look at anywhere in the EUSSR; look at America – at least until things begin to be improved by today’s glorious revolution. Wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere run by a notionally “conservative” administration, the malaise you will encounter is much the same: a system of governance predicated on the notion that the state’s function is not merely to uphold property rights, maintain equality before the law and defend borders, but perpetually to meddle with its citizens’ lives in order supposedly to make their existence more fair, more safe, more eco-friendly, more healthy. And always the result is the same: more taxation, more regulation, less freedom. Less “fairness” too, of course.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"On being out, proud & conservative"

Gay conservative writer/blogger Tammy Bruce shares her experience in a column in The Guardian:
There's a little something I noticed in the reaction to my first article here at the Guardian – a question tucked in the midst of the hundreds of pithy and thoughtful reader contributions – I was asked: what is it like to be gay and conservative?

After all, those conservatives hate the homos, don't they? It must be very, very difficult for me, one concerned reader noted, to be among the intolerant and hateful.

Well, I do suppose I would rather bask in the unbridled sunlight of liberal values of fairness, tolerance and love so eloquently on display in many of the comments made on my first contribution here. I know, it seems like such an odd decision, to reject the Eden of the liberal establishment. Yet strangely, after having been on the left for so long myself, I began to wonder: how much love and understanding can one person take?

Presumably, "batshit crazy"is an English liberal term of endearment, right? When I read another commenter's description of American conservative women politicians as "a bunch of petty, incoherent shrews", I was filled with joy at realising how great it was to be among authentic feminists once again.

Having made my point, I trust, I'll now slip out of my snark suit and share a little secret with you. The real story of bigotry and intolerance is the fact that it lives and thrives on the left. As a gay woman who spent most of her adult life pushing the cart for liberal causes with liberal friends in a liberal city, I found that sexism, racism and homophobia are staples in the liberal world. The huge irony is liberals spend every ounce of energy promoting the notion that they are the banner carriers of individualism and personal freedom, yet the hammer comes down on anyone who dares not to conform to, or who dissents even in part from, the liberal agenda.

...

So, when it comes to my comfort level as a conservative who happens to be gay, here's what I know: while many conservatives are people of faith and their religion promotes a very different point of view than mine on homosexuality (and a few other things!), I have found conservatives to be more tolerant, more curious and more understanding of those who are different to them than I ever did when ensconced in US liberal leadership.

...

As you might have gathered, I prefer the honest, decent and genuinely accepting friends and family I have in the conservative world. We don't always agree on everything, but isn't that the point? – being able to be yourself, make choices that best suit you, without fear of punishment or retribution. My friendships and relationships in the conservative world are not predicated on political correctness and enforced conformity of thought. They are based, instead, on mutual respect, honesty and understanding – concepts many modern liberals should consider revisiting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The consummate Liberal"

The National Post opines on the subject of George Smitherman's mayoral bid in Toronto's upcoming election:
Mr. Smitherman is the consummate Liberal. He does what it takes to win. It's all too believable -- especially as left-wing endorsements pile up from the likes of Councillor Joe Mihevc, former mayor Art Eggleton and even Montreal MP Justin Trudeau -- that he might run from the moderate right in order to capitalize on the zeitgeist, and then simply collapse to the status quo if elected: begging Queen's Park and Ottawa for crumbs, refusing to fight the tough spending battles lest the unions revolt, content to watch the city self-righteously stagnate for another four years rather than risk losing his job.

"This is not an election ... this is a restraining order"

P.J. O'Rourke writes about Democrats at the Weekly Standard: They hate our guts - and they're drunk on power:
Perhaps you’re having a tiny last minute qualm about voting Republican. Take heart. And take the House and the Senate. Yes, there are a few flakes of dander in the fair tresses of the GOP’s crowning glory—an isolated isolationist or two, a hint of gold buggery, and Christine O’Donnell announcing that she’s not a witch. (I ask you, has Hillary Clinton ever cleared this up?) Fret not over Republican peccadilloes such as the Tea Party finding the single, solitary person in Nevada who couldn’t poll ten to one against Harry Reid. Better to have a few cockeyed mutts running the dog pound than Michael Vick.

I take it back. Using the metaphor of Michael Vick for the Democratic party leadership implies they are people with a capacity for moral redemption who want to call good plays on the legislative gridiron. They aren’t. They don’t. The reason is simple. They hate our guts.

They don’t just hate our Republican, conservative, libertarian, strict constructionist, family values guts. They hate everybody’s guts. And they hate everybody who has any. Democrats hate men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays, straights, the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

Democrats hate Democrats most of all. Witness the policies that Democrats have inflicted on their core constituencies, resulting in vile schools, lawless slums, economic stagnation, and social immobility. Democrats will do anything to make sure that Democratic voters stay helpless and hopeless enough to vote for Democrats.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Diversity vs sustainability

Peter Wood has an interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the shifting ideologies of politically-correct ivory-tower academics. The article, called From Diversity to Sustainability: How Campus Ideology Is Born, describes how "sustainabilty" has replaced "diversity" as the new shibboleth on campus:
Recently I came across a photograph of students at an event gathered around a cake that bore the iced command, "Celebrate Sustainability!" Clearly the candle had been passed. For more than a generation, cakes at campus events have tutored students to "Celebrate Diversity!" Something has changed—besides the frosting.

The pursuit of diversity on campuses remains a highly visible priority, but it is being subtly demoted by enthusiasm for sustainability. As an ideology, diversity is running out of steam, while sustainability is on fire. This month hundreds of colleges will mark the eighth annual Campus Sustainability Day, with activities to include a Webcast offering "social-change strategies and tools" to help campuses lower carbon emissions.

How did this happen? Partly it is the Macy's-window effect: Ideologies have to be replaced from time to time to attract attention. But sustainability is gaining ground also because it offers college students a stronger sense of personal significance than diversity does.

Diversity and sustainability are the two most characteristic ideas of the modern academy. Diversity asks us to focus on group identity and personal affiliation, and it puts race at the center of the discussion. Sustainability asks us to focus on humanity's use of natural resources, and it puts climate at the center of discussion. Outwardly, diversity and sustainability belong to separate narratives. They deal with different topics and might, in principle, have no more friction between them than typically exists between English departments and physics labs. Or between polar bears and tropical fish. But in fact, diversity and sustainability have a complicated, decades-old rivalry.

They vie, in effect, for the same conceptual space and the same passions. Both are about repairing the world; both invite exuberant commitment; both are moralistic; and most of all, both are encompassing ideas that crowd out other encompassing ideas. They also compete for the same financial resources.

...

Diversity is a story of a once-fresh ideology that swept through higher education in a spirit of triumph but that quickly seems to be losing its status as the sexiest ideology on campus. Diversiphiles would like to keep the adrenaline flowing, but it is hard. Freshmen now arrive on campus already having sucked on multicultural milkshakes from kindergarten to senior prom. Diversity for them is just the same ol' same ol'.

That doesn't stop the diversicrat establishment from trying to pump new excitement into the project. California State University at Chico, for example, recently circulated a new "action plan" titled "To Form a More Inclusive Learning Community," in which the university president sets his sights on placing "diversity at the core of our mission, vision, and priorities." The practical goal is to get Chico State listed as an official "Hispanic-Serving Institution" by 2015, which requires substantially increasing Hispanic enrollment past the university's current 13.5 percent. (Chico State serves mostly a local population in a part of the state with relatively few Hispanics. Hispanics are already "overrepresented" at Chico from a purely demographic standpoint.) The federal designation "Hispanic-Serving Institution" would bring access to additional federal support. But the diversity game is never about just numbers and dollars. It is also about ideology and intimidation, and Chico State is actively pursuing those, too. As part of the new campaign, it invited the "Diversity Guru" Lee Mun Wah to provide workshops including "Unlearning Racism in the Classroom." Faculty members get the message: Openly expressed doubts about the diversity program will be treated as racist conduct.

Sustainability hasn't yet achieved this level of intimidation, but not for want of trying. AASHE keeps a directory of "peer-to-peer sustainability outreach programs," or "eco-reps." These are the busybodies who do things like go through students' trash to make sure that everyone is diligently recycling, and who hector everyone to squeeze into a tighter carbon footprint. The Green Gator at Allegheny College is promoting dorm-based compost bins and planning to map energy usage. It urges lights out in the bathrooms and laundry. Bard College students, meanwhile, are working on "the psychology of fostering sustainable behavior" and are promoting "Recyclemania." If it sounds like the "psychology" of sustainability is akin to OCD, maybe that isn't far off. At the University of California at San Diego, the enforcers posted a shocking discovery complete with photos: "Sadly today we found a bunch of recyclables in the GARBAGE!" A happy ending, though: "We rescued all the recycling ... and got them in the recycling bin."

The power to enforce something, of course, always finds takers, no matter how petty the rules. Sustainability, however, seems especially suited to the rise of student enforcers. They might best be described as sustainabullies. Why does this have the power to light up the imaginations of so many students? How did it become the distinctive banner of this generation?

I view this changing of the ideological guard with wariness. Diversity was pretty bad; sustainability may be even worse. Both movements subtract from the better purposes of higher education. Diversity authorizes double standards in admissions and hiring, breeds a campus culture of hypocrisy, mismatches students to educational opportunities, fosters ethnic resentments, elevates group identity over individual achievement, and trivializes the curriculum. Of course, those punishments were something that had to be accepted in the spirit of atoning for the original sin of racism.

But for its part, sustainability has the logic of a stampede. We all must run in the same direction for fear of some rumored and largely invisible threat. The real threat is the stampede itself. Sustainability numbers among its advocates some scrupulous scientists and quite a few sober facilities managers who simply want to trim utility bills. But in the main, sustainability is the triumph of hypothesis over evidence. Its scientific grounding is mostly a matter of models and extrapolations and appeals to authority. Evoking imminent and planet-destroying catastrophe, sustainatopians call for radical changes in economic arrangements and social patterns. Higher education is summoned to set aside whatever it is doing to help make this revolution in production, distribution, and consumption a reality.

Sustainability combines some astonishingly radical ideas with mere wackiness. Many sustainability advocates want to replace free markets (a source, as they see it, of unsustainable growth and exploitation) with some kind of pan-national rule with little scope for private property rights. On the other hand, sustainatopians also busy themselves with eliminating trays from cafeterias and attacking the threat of plastic soda straws. Sustainability thus unites vaunting political ambition and comic burlesque. Both are at odds with patient and open-minded intellectual inquiry.


Read the whole thing and weep.

David Miller: worst Toronto mayor ever?

Robert Fulford tears a strip off Toronto Mayor David Miller in a column in Saturday's National Post - The sins of David Miller. As a frequent visitor to Canada's World-class City, I share Fulford's anger at Toronto's sad decline during Miller's tenure at city hall:
Mayor David Miller of Toronto, who should be hiding his head in shame over what he has done to my beautiful city, instead had the outrageous chutzpah on Wednesday to endorse one of the candidates running to replace him. He chose his deputy, who thinks Miller has been a good mayor.

Miller probably agrees. That would make two people. Otherwise, in every department from street cleaning to budget control, from transportation to union relations, he's done a wretched job. He may be the worst Toronto mayor ever. Certainly he's the worst in several generations. His predecessor, Mel Lastman, was far from universally popular but after a couple of Miller years many of us began yearning for Mel's return.

Somewhere, Cole Porter is rolling in his grave

As if anyone needed any more evidence of the degradation of popular culture and the vapid inarticulate banality of the titans of modern entertainment, there's always rapper Eminem. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, he defends his frequent use of the word "faggot":
That word was thrown around so much, you know? Faggot was, like, it was thrown around constantly, to each other, like in battling, you know what I mean?" he asked, before insisting that he doesn't hate gay people. "I don't have any problem with nobody, you know what I mean. Like, I'm just whatever."

We've come a long way since the Algonquin Round Table.

(HT: Towleroad)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"The greatest & most successful pseudoscientific fraud"

Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, resigns from the American Physical Society over the "global warming scam":
The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’ĂȘtre of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

read the whole letter at James Delingpole's blog

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Gay, conservative & proud"

Ben Smith at Politico reports on this weekend's Homocon conference in New York, sponsored by the gay Republican organization GOProud. Homocon, to much consternation from the gay left, featured Ann Coulter as a keynote speaker.
GOProud is the tea party of the gay rights movement, with well-tailored dark suits in place of revolutionary war garb. The event, complete with lithe young men in black “Freedom is Fabulous” t-shirts guiding guests to the elevator, marked a new high tide in the shift of the Republican Party away from “social issues” and toward a broader complaint about Democratic management of the economy, national security, and the idea of America. GOProud is an explicitly gay group that isn’t particularly focused on gay rights, and Coulter’s speech – full of conservative red meat, and only the occasional Judy Garland joke – reflected its focus.

The gay right is thriving at a moment that the mainstream gay rights movement faces a profound crisis.

...

“Gay and lesbian voters are small-business owners, mothers and fathers, taxpayers who deserve representatives who will stand up for them and succeeding generations,” said its deputy executive director, Christian Berle.

Attendees at “Homocon” universally attributed the rise of the gay right to the rising conservative tide generally.


RELATED:
Christopher R. Barron of GOProud writes at the Daily Caller:
What strange bedfellows politics makes; take the curious case of gay conservatives. Both the gay left and the professional anti-gay industry in this country would have you believe that the gay community is homogenous. Both the gay left and the anti-gay-for-pay right want Americans to believe that the gay community is uniformly liberal, slavishly loyal to the Democratic Party, and unquestioning in their allegiance to the “progressive” agenda. Both treat the idea of gay conservatives as a novelty, political unicorns. The reality, of course, is nothing near what this political odd couple would have you believe — indeed 27% of self-identified gay and lesbian voters chose John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008. That’s a figure that translates to roughly 1.7 million gay votes for McCain/Palin. If gay conservatives are unicorns, our herd is huge.

...

Instead of talking to people about our lives, our families, our beliefs, and our values, the gay left has taken the easy way out — preferring to attack, criticize, and demonize those who may disagree with us on issues like marriage. Instead of working to win new friends, the gay left seems hell bent on creating new enemies.

We do not believe that disagreeing with us on same-sex marriage or openly gay service makes someone a homophobe or a bigot. Many of the people who don’t understand our lives don’t know us, or at least don’t think they do. Poll after poll shows that people’s opinions on homosexuality, gay marriage, and openly gay military service are all inextricably linked to whether or not they know someone who is gay or lesbian.

We recognize that simply being in the room is not enough, but you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. The truth is that we simply cannot win the hearts and minds of serious conservatives — hearts and minds we need to win — without the work of gay conservatives.

"What drives these people to their delusions?"

Prompted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN, the National Post's Jonathan Kay wonders what motivates conspiracy theorists:
What drives these people to their delusions? There are different psychological factors at play. Some conspiracy theorists are undergoing mid-life crises, or have experienced life-changing medical tragedies. Others are web addicts who've lost the ability to discern legitimate news from internet flotsam.

But by far the biggest category of conspiracy theorist is what I call the "failed historian." He is someone who views human history through a rigid and all-encompassing ideological template. Some are Marxists. Others are Islamists, or Chomskyites, or radical Tea Party conservatives, or white supremacists. Whatever the details of their belief system, they all have a shared need to reconcile everything they know about the world with their totalizing world view. A conspiracy theory is a tool that lets them do that : It allows them to eliminate the painful cognitive dissonance that inevitably arises between fact and theory.

The most obvious example here in Canada is the militant left-wing campus radical, whose ideology requires him to trace every species of evil in the world to Washington or Tel Aviv. For these extremists, 9/11 caused a significant psychic wound -- since it was an act of horrific evil that plainly was the work of America's enemies. Conspiracy theories alleging that America actually perpetrated 9/11 on itself act as a balm for these people: Having told this lie to themselves, they can sleep soundly, knowing that the world is as it should be, with America as the world's monopolist on the creation of all human suffering, including its own.

Many left-wing JFK conspiracy theorists are motivated by similar inclinations. Lee Harvey Oswald was a socialist, and an admirer of the Soviet Union. For fellow travellers, it was far more comforting to imagine that the evil he performed could be laid at the feet of the CIA. Some left-wing conspiracy theorists are similarly drawn to the theory that U.S. astronauts never landed on the moon, since they instinctively reject any historical episode that serves to glorify America.

The same goes, on the other side of the political spectrum, for Holocaust deniers, who typically are admirers of the Nazi power cult and its associated doctrine of Aryan racial purity. By using conspiracy theories to wish away the Holocaust -- the signature evil of the 20th century, and Hitler's greatest crime -- they subconsciously rehabilitate their precious Nazi ideology in their own damaged minds.

Because the engine of conspiracism is the psychic gulf between what is wished for and what is, conspiracy theories are especially prominent in Islamic societies such as Iran. This is because the Koran, the associated doctrines of Shariah, and the entire arc of early Islamic history have created the expectation that Muslims will rule over infidels as conquerors -- and that Muslim societies, having been enlightened by the Seal of the Prophets, always would be more militarily successful and technologically advanced than infidel societies. But the real world that Muslims see in the Middle East and Central Asia is precisely the opposite: Their societies are poor and backward compared to those of the West. (Tiny, successful, infidel Israel epitomizes this reality, which helps explain why so many Muslims refuse to acknowledge its existence.)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

An RCAF Flight Sergeant's Diary

From "My Diary of Ops" - the notebook of Flight Sergeant E. Burnett, 419 Squadron R.C.A.F.
(part of a series)

[NOTE: Although there are no pages missing from the notebook, Sgt Burnett's journal has a one-month gap between July 31 and September 1, and the entries jump from "21st trip" to "23rd trip"]

Tues Sept 1/42
23rd trip

Took off from base Topcliffe Yorks. in Bal 887 H harry Skipper Jimmy Clark.
Bomb load one 4000 lb bomb.
Target Saarbrucken coal and pig iron centre in Germany.
Partially cloud cover on way in clear over target Half moon to-night
Started huge fires and left whole town ablaze on return half way between coast and target. I was looking around when suddenly I saw an air craft about 100 ft below and 75 yds behind moon was dead astern. A/C passed out of sight under neath us I told the pilot to whip our A/C over he did so and levled out. I was looking around for other A/C unknown as to what it was at the time but later identified it as a ju 88.
All of a sudden tracer started coming at us from our starboard quarter about 200 yds away I told pilot to turn to starboard E/A.C. was lost to my vision due to evasive action. We levelled out again and I was searching for E/A again when I spotted him about level with us on the starboard quarter about 200 yds away I think Jerry and I opend up at the same time. I gave pilot evasive action to starboard, he did and as he saw tracer hitting our port wing he ducked and accidently pushed the stick fore ward. our A/C went into a 350 mph dive from 7000 ft. Jimmy had both feet on the dash board yanking back on the stick, and much to every ones relief she started to pull out. We did at 500 ft. very close indeed and for a bit Jimmy didn't think that he could do it. But thanks to him and good fortune he did we climbed to 5000 ft and weaved like hell all the way home. Every one was pretty well shaken up. We never saw E/AC again thank God.
The W/OP. who was standing in the astro dome was hit by a splinter in the fore head. but only a super fitial wound. We landed at Mildenhall very low on petrol as our Port tank had been pierced by cannon shell also received a machine gun bullet through one prop blade Port wing flaps were in shreds.
Every one was indeed very happy to see good old Terra firma once again
This is my last trip although I volunteered to go as fill in for the regular gunner of this crew who was sick.
[ILLEGIBLE] I wouldn't step into another A/C to save my life


This is the end of Sgt Burnett's Diary

Monday, August 30, 2010

Urban immersion in Toronto

I spent the weekend in Toronto doing a little shopping and enjoying a few beautiful late-summer days before fall sets in. I love Toronto, but my periodic visits also remind me why I'm glad I don't live there anymore.

To start, here's my recurring complaint about the TTC. Toronto needs to get a grip on its transit system - the subways are run-down and filthy, and surface transportation on its vaunted streetcar network is intermittent and frustrating. Instead of pushing elaborate expansion schemes like Transit City, the TTC needs to clean up its existing facilities and improve its service. Relying on the TTC to get around is becoming an ordeal.






The annual Busker Festival was happening on Front Street near the St Lawrence Market - the place was packed with families enjoying the beautiful weather, and vendors were hawking all kinds of delicious street food while all sorts of musicians, acrobats and magicians entertained the crowd.
























People dress funny in Toronto. I frequently saw young skinny men clutching man-purses in manicured hands, slouching down the sidewalks with their pantlegs rolled up to mid-calf, giant aviator sunglasses hiding their bloodshot eyes and unkempt hair hanging out from under cheap fedoras. If you want to stroll the streets of your own hometown in the latest cutting-edge Toronto fashion, this is the look. Of course you have to weigh less than 150 lbs to pull it off.














Or you could try this look - a canary-yellow fedora and matching trenchcoat sported by a young hipster in a coffee shop on King St:


















Mayor Miller's Toronto is relentless in pushing its environmental agenda - sometimes a visitor feels like he's trapped in some green ghetto where the environuts are constantly watching for infractions. Yonge Street was closed to traffic from Gerrard to Queen for the Livegreen Toronto Festival - a sort of trade show for companies hawking "green" products and services. Of course this completely disrupted north-south traffic, causing backups where cars sat belching CO2. It was pretty clear that there's a lot of money to be made in the enviro-guilt market if you can somehow market your product with the words green, eco-friendly,sustainable, responsible, or local attached to it:






















Various groups were tripping over themselves to establish their green bona fides. There were the green doctors:













the green bankers:















the green brewers (whose beer is sold in green bottles!):













the green artists















No green bakers or candlestick makers, but there was a contingent of green lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. I had no idea that being gay made me environmentally friendly. Well, there is a green stripe in the flag, after all.












An alt-rock band entertained the true believers. Hippies generated electricity with stationary bikes to power the amplifiers.

















Meanwhile, over at Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall, the party faithful were gathered for Toronto-Cuba Friendship Day. A sparse crowd of lefties was demanding that Canada end the U.S. blockade of Cuba (how Canada is supposed to do that was a little vague). The communists were out in force extolling the virtues of the Cuban Workers' Paradise.






























Clearly there was only one type of Canadian this crowd was interested in engaging:

















All this leftist agitprop can tire a guy out, so the next morning I decided to replenish my spirits with a big greasy breakfast at my favourite Toronto diner - Fran's on College Street. I've been eating breakfast there for years ever since my dad used to take me when I was a kid when we'd been to see the Leafs play at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.






















I strolled past various leftist territorial markers













and took my seat beside a table of skinny young men discussing how eating meat was bad for the environment. I ostentatiously opened the National Post and ordered my usual Fran's breakfast - The Maple Leafs Forever - an artery-clogging feast with the carbon footprint of an entire African village. I tucked into this monster with enthusiasm while my neighbours at the next table ate their whole-wheat vegan waffles. They didn't look like they were enjoying their breakfast like I was mine.


















So, fortified with factory-produced eggs, red meat and non-fair-trade coffee, I headed home to Eastern Ontario and relative sanity. You know how the saying goes - nice place to visit ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Former top Republican comes out

Ken Mehlman, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has publicly confirmed that he is gay in an interview in The Atlantic:
Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.

Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.

"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."

Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush "was no homophobe." He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called "the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now."

Mehlman's leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities -- such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party's platform ("Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country..."). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.

Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.

"It's a legitimate question and one I understand," Mehlman said. "I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally." He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: "If they can't offer support, at least offer understanding."

"What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn't always heard. I didn't do this in the gay community at all."

He said that he "really wished" he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, "so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]" and "reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans."

Mehlman is taking a lot of criticism; check out the hateful comments at the end of The Atlantic article. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin shows some class, however:
I think this is a good time for me to interject my own thoughts here. I definitely think that Mehlman should have come out earlier, and I fully believe that harsh criticisms of his tacit support for GOP gay-bashing during the 2004 and 2006 campaigns are fully warrented. I further believe that Mehlman has a lot of ground to cover in order to make up for his past sins.

But the first step in making up that ground comes in his coming out. Ambinder likens it this way:
The disclosure at this stage of Mehlman’s life strikes one close friend as being like a decision to jump off of a high diving board: Mehlman knows that there is plenty of water below, but it is still very scary to look down and make the leap.
I’m no longer religious, but this reminds me of a proverb in Luke, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Any time someone serves as a stumbling block to LGBT equality and dignity changes course, our best response would be to welcome the good news. Unfortunately, we’re not always up for our best responses. Mehlman does have a lot to make up for, but this first step is not insignificant.

And his second step isn’t small potatoes either. He is chairing a fundraiser for Americans for Equal Rights (AFER), the organization behind the lawsuit which has successfully challenged Prop 8 in Federal Court. That fundraiser has already needed $1 million for the effort.

...

Mehlman has a lot to make up for. The 2004 and 2006 campaigns that he was directly involved in — and in which he colluded or directed terrible vilificaiton directed toward fellow LGBT people — caused considerable damage to to his fellow Americans, and they will rightly demand accountability. In order to truly heal those wounds, that does need to be his next major step.

But as we wait for that to come (and we shouldn’t have to wait too long for it) , let me say this: welcome out, Ken Mehlman. And let the rejoicing — and acts of contrition — begin.


UPDATE: Dan Blatt at GayPatriot comments:
My hope (and prayer) right now for Ken Mehlman is that he can count on his friends and family for the next few days until the hullabaloo about his coming out has passed. It’s never easy to have your private life become public information.

To be sure, as a public face for the Bush Administration and the GOP, he’s used by now to the bile of the left, so he should be prepared to face their taunts and attacks. But, I wonder if he’s thinking, “If I could just show them I’m not the demon they believe me to be, maybe then, by golly, they’ll like me, they’ll really like me.”

No, Ken, no, they won’t. We’ve all thought that. Or at least most of us on the gay right have. We’ve all wondered what we could do to end the animosity coming at us from certain segments of the left. To be sure, some (many, perhaps) gay liberals will surprise you and will treat you with decency and dignity despite disagreeing with you on matters political.

All that said, unless you do a full David Brock, you won’t end the bile coming from the gay left. And to do the full Brock, you not only have to toe the line on gay issues, but also publicly, prolifically and regularly repudiate the right.

Remember, most straight conservatives won’t treat you any differently once you’ve come out as gay. We don’t expect ideological rigidity from our allies nor demand social conformity from our friends.

Meanwhile, many gays on the left of the political spectrum are showing no sympathy for Mehlman’s journey and tossing out terms that one reserves for one’s bitterest enemies — and tosses out when throwing a temper tantrum. They’re not interested in Ken as a person; they just need someone on whom to project their own animosities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Final Solution to the gay problem in Uganda?

Jeff Sharlet of The Advocate reports on virulent homophobia in Africa and the involvement of American evangelical Christian missionaries. He interviewed missionaries Tom and Teresa Harris in Kampala:
“Spiritual war” is a theological term, but in Uganda — ground zero for an explosion in violent homophobia across Africa — it’s taking increasingly concrete form. For the Ugandan government, that’s a pragmatic strategy as much as a spiritual one. Since 1986, Uganda has been ruled by an autocrat, Yoweri Museveni, who correctly guessed that American evangelicals eager to do good works and to save the heathen could be a big source of income for his regime.

“We have a primary, a secondary, and a high school,” Tommy said of Faithful Servants International Ministries. “Four hundred and fifty children, two meals a day, and we go into two hospitals and three prisons. We can’t do all that ourselves of course, so we have nine ministers. And our own seminary!”

“There are 54 employees,” Teresa said.

“Sure are,” Tommy replied. He was proud of their size but he liked to be nimble. “My thing is witnessing. Going to the villages and telling them about Jesus.” Uganda is overwhelmingly Christian, but that doesn’t stop Americans from trying to make it more so. A landlocked country with a population of 32 million and the second-highest birth rate in the world, it looms large in the American evangelical imagination: a project for purification, a case study in revival to be held up as a model back home. “Ten thousand souls were saved last year,” Tommy said. He meant through his efforts alone.

“What do you make of this Anti-Homosexuality Bill?” I asked. It was one of the hottest debates in the country, and a rare occasion when Uganda made international news. Said to be inspired by Americans, the bill would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death or life in prison. But Tommy heard only the word “homosexuality.”

“I do not believe in homosexuality!” he said, rearing up with indignation as if I’d just put a hand on his knee. “Absolutely not!” He crossed his arms over his burly chest.

“Of course,” I said, “of course.”

Teresa rubbed his shoulder. “Shh,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what he meant.”

I explained that I was interested in their view of the death penalty for homosexuality. Tommy shook his head. Tough one.

“Well, I’m totally against killing them. Because some of them can be saved, and changed. But the thing is, you can’t force them to stop. It’s been tried! But it don’t work.” He shook his head over the problem on all sides — the homosexuals, themselves, and his Ugandan friends, so on fire for the gospel that they’d gone too far in an antigay crusade. That’s how it is with Ugandans, he explained. They’re a bighearted people, but they get ahead of themselves sometimes. That’s where Americans could help.

“What they need,” Tommy proposed, “is a special place, like, for people doing homosexual things to learn different. A camp, like.”

“Keep them all in one place?” I asked.

“Yes. I think that’s what we have to try,” he said. “Because the thing is, the Bible says we can’t kill them. And we can’t put them in prison because that’d be like putting a normal fella in a whorehouse!” Teresa chuckled with her husband. A camp in which to concentrate the offenders — that was the compassionate solution.


(HT: Box Turtle Bulletin)

Friday, August 20, 2010

France's malignant influence

In today's National Post Lorne Gunter discusses the question of "who's to blame for failed states?" According to Foreign Policy magazine, the UN and France shoulder a large portion of the blame. I particularly loved Gunter's skewering of France, whose insufferable national smugness is a constant source of irritation:
More surprising even still was the selection of France as one of the key contributors to failed states, particularly in Africa. That's right, it turns out smug, sanctimonious, moralistic France -- which delighted so much in denouncing U.S. aggression in Iraq -- remains deeply involved in the affairs of its former African colonies. To an extent that would shame other former colonial powers, the French remain very active behind the scenes controlling who is in office so French companies can continue to exploit resources cheaply.

So much for France's sanctimony about hands-off Third World hotspots.

Five of the magazine's 12 most-failed states are former French colonies: Chad, Central African Republic, Guinea, Haiti and Ivory Coast. Niger (#19) "may well be the poorest country in the world. The government lacks any ability to provide services such as education and health care," and infant mortality and illiteracy are "rampant." The French, who continue to meddle in Niger's affairs, doubtless could help, but seem uninterested so long as the country remains a stable source of cheap uranium for French power plants.

Britain (which also must count five of its former colonies among the 12 worst regimes in the world) has a remarkably hands-free approach to its former empire. As do the former Cold War powers, the U.S. and Russia, when it comes to their old surrogates.

But according to Boubacar Boris Diop of South Africa's Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, "France destabilizes and destroys the countries of Africa, as if nothing in the world had changed."

In the post-colonial era, France has asserted itself militarily in Africa no fewer than two dozen times, more than any other Western power. For instance, it sent troops to Ivory Coast in 2004, in part to protect the lucrative cocoa trade.

"No death for chocolate!" This doesn't make France worse than other Western nations, just undeserving of the ethical superiority it wraps itself in.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Populate or perish

This article in The Australian takes a swipe at politicians campaigning in Australia's current federal election on platforms of halting development and population growth. Canada shares some of Australia's challenges - a relatively small population spread out over a huge area and largely concentrated in a few big cities.
Australian politicians at state and federal levels have obviously failed to create the right conditions for infrastructure services. But instead of admitting the mistake and doing something about it, they blame the people for just being there. It's not me, it's you.

It would make for good satire if it wasn't so serious. If the country is to get more wealth and choices and better services, it has to become bigger, not smaller. The economy needs population growth and a constant inflow of innovators and workers. For a scarcely populated country far from the rest of the world, it's still "populate or perish". The discussion should focus on the changes that it takes to keep a bigger Australia functioning.

That political leaders shrink from this challenge reflects a worrying lack of ambition and vision. Defensive ideas about halting growth and shrinking society are traditionally symptoms of a civilisation in decline.

And if it wasn't enough that stopping growth is economically destructive, it's also boring. Sure, crowds can be irritating. I'd much rather visit a multitude of bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and shops without being pushed around and waiting in line. But that is a bit like wanting to swim without getting wet. The choices are there only because the crowds are there.

When I listen to these expressions of enochlophobia I can't help but think of a passage in Bill Bryson's hilarious travel book Down Under. Bryson is a card-carrying believer in small Australia. When he visits Canberra, he writes admiringly about how the city has managed to avoid the awful urban sprawl, shopping malls and eight-lane roads that he is used to in the US.

And yet, when Bryson walks from his hotel to find a bar or just someone to talk to, he doesn't find anything. The only thing worse than a crowded place is a place that is not crowded.

In the end, Bryson returns to his hotel and gets drunk all alone in the hotel bar.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"The ghosts that haunt modern architecture"

In today's National Post Robert Fulford reviews a show called Yesterday's Tomorrows, now running at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. Fulford relates the story of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his battles with a client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. The tale of the Farnsworth House nicely illustrates the disconnect that frequently exists between modern architects and the people who have to endure their buildings:
The doctor decided in 1945 that she wanted Mies to design her weekend retreat beside the Fox River, southwest of Chicago. That led to a bitter power struggle.

She believed the power of her money entitled her to a comfortable house. Mies believed the power of his genius entitled him to build as he wished.

When the house was finished, in 1951, admirers of Mies were delighted. Maritz Vandenburg, an architectural historian, wrote that Mies had been feeling his way toward this goal for three decades: "All of the paraphernalia of traditional living rooms have been virtually abolished in a puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence." Critics agreed that this was a brilliant exercise in the art of structure and space.

But the client found all those huge glass windows intolerable. She felt exposed, with nowhere to hide. Other complaints piled up. She suffered from bugs, and not the metaphorical kind: The brilliantly lit interior attracted every moth and mosquito in the county. She learned that rust never sleeps: The steel columns needed repeated sanding. The heating bill was atrocious. She demanded a closet and Mies argued that a weekend house didn't need one. She added window blinds, which Mies hated.

As the Montreal catalogue points out, the Farnsworth House has become "one of the ghosts that haunt Modern architecture, embodying the disjuncture between the ideals and aspirations of its practitioners and the reality of its users' lives."

Farnsworth paid $75,000 for her retreat, $10,000 more than budgeted. In a memoir she called it "my Miesconception." She sued Mies and lost. She told a magazine that Mies was "colder and more cruel than anybody I have ever known." But the house ended up in scores of books on architecture, praised for its purity and grace.

Farnsworth sold it and the next owner could find no one who wanted to live in it. He spoke of destroying it. Phyllis Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, said that this possibility left her speechless. "I cannot believe," she declared, "that Chicago cannot organize itself to save one of the greatest houses that's ever been. It's putting civilization on the block."

Money was raised. When it was auctioned at Sotheby's in 2003 the National Historic Trust acquired it for $7.5-million and turned it into a museum. That was a happy ending for everyone except those who were interested in houses rather than the perfection of design.