banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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

Saturday, July 31, 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)

Fri July 31/42
21st trip

Took off from base at 0046 hrs with own crew and air craft. Bomb load 2 1/2 ton. H.E & incendary
Target Dusseldorf one of many important targets of Germany. Arrived over target flak wan't too bad search lights were numerous
We started down to bomb when our starboard motor conked out due to broken oil line pulled out of 350 M.P.H. dive. Starboard motor seized up. Skipper started to feather prop as A/C was shaking like an old Modle "T" ford. S.M. caught fire, pull extinguisher thus puting out fire. losing hight all time. Started throughing guns and ammunition over board to reduce weight, were at 3000 ft with only two guns crossing Germany & holland. search lights picked us out at Rotterdam but never fired flak. Suspected E/A/C in vicinity but never encounterd any we lost another 1000 ft evading search lights, crossed coast between Ostend and Dunkirk Jerry gun post fired M.G. at us tracer could be seen coming up behind my turret
Landed at Marston air drome with every thing in tac. Most hectic do I have ever had up to date.

Thursday, July 29, 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)

Wed July 29/42
20th trip

Took off from Base in own air craft and with own crew at approx 1145
Target Saarbrucken. had to cross France to reach target above 10/10 clouds Full moon Saw plenty of air craft, but were our own. Target was a cinch very little opposition
landed at approx 420 AM
We lost one Air craft in this do all told there were nine reported missing
No enemy air craft were encountered by us.

Electric car insanity

Peter Foster unloads on the Chevy Volt in an editorial in the Financial Post - The Voltswagen: The people's car the people pay for:
Ontario taxpayers should be grateful that the Chevy Volt is not due to appear in the province until next year. Put together a $10,000-per-car provincial subsidy with ultra high-cost solar electricity foisted on the public via feed-in tariffs and you have a level of economic insanity it would be hard to match. Indeed, perhaps the Volt should be renamed "The McGuinty" for the Canadian market. It would take the pressure off the memory of poor Edsel Ford, who gave his name to a tail-finned lemon.

GM announced this week that the Volt, as expected, would cost US$41,000, more than a loaded Cadillac. It will still lose money. GM's marketing chief, Joel Ewanick, when revealing the price, said the Volt was "starting the world on a different path." Would that be The Road to Serfdom? But let's not go over the top. The Volt will collapse under the weight of its own pointless non-viability. GM's future lies with new conventional fuel-powered models such as the Buick Regal, which by all accounts is a terrific car. The Volt is pure politics.
Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 28, 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)

Tues July 28/42
19th trip

Took off from base with own crew at 2245 hrs in own aircraft.
Target Hamburg. Visibility was very bad but clear over target, went in and got caught in search lights dropped our load and done a lot of tall weaving to get out flak was very heavy and close. I could see six different A/C caught in cones of search lights and another hit the deck and burst into flames
It was a very bad show for the R.A.F. tonight as there wasn't no organization of any kind quite a few A/C had to turn back due to weather conditions others raided the alternative Bremen And the rest who did go to Hamburg caught hell.
We returned to Base at approx 0430 Every one happy
We lost our C.O. and his crew in this raid. he may be a prisoner of war
I reckon his absence will be missed by all, for he was highly thought of.

Gay marriage didn't destroy marriage in Canada

It's been five years since Parliament legalized gay marriage, and according to Lorne Gunter "in that time the sky has not fallen in on traditional, opposite-sex marriage". He writes in today's National Post Same sex unions didn't kill marriage:
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. In that time the sky has not fallen in on traditional, opposite-sex marriage.

Or perhaps the more accurate thing to say is that same-sex marriage has not caused the sky to fall in on traditional marriage any faster than it was already falling before July 2005 when Parliament made same-sex marriage legal. Same-sex marriage has not sped up the deterioration of traditional marriage.


There are, to my mind, two aspects to marriage: the personal-commitment side and the public-policy side. Most marrying couples are looking for love, stability, companionship, commitment and a nurturing environment to bring up children. If they can split the family duties in a way that is acceptable to each and have some fun together until death parts them, that's a bonus. Governments have very little influence over whether marrying couples reach those goals, so most Canadians' personal interest in the public-policy impact of marriage is negligible.

Government's interest in sanctioning marriage has mostly been in registeringwhat churches and couples have already sanctified. It could be argued that the state can bolster the family. By creating the legal framework around marriage it can keep marriages intact and ensure children are raised by their birth parents together, all of which has a beneficial impact on social problems: Crime goes down, along with alcoholism, addictions, poverty, dropout rates, spousal abuse and so on.

But states no longer search for the right marriage laws and hadn't tried to for decades before Same-sex marriage became an issue.

For instance, the move to give common-law relationships the same standing in law as traditional marriages started in earnest in the 1960s. By the time the same-sex marriage debate began in the early 2000s, common-law couples had for two decades had nearly all the same legal protections as married couples regarding pensions, communal property, income taxes and insurance awards.

Long before gays and lesbians began insisting on equal marriage rights, heterosexuals had stripped marriage of its public-policy special-ness. More importantly, we heteros were in no hurry to put that humptydumpty back together -- to make divorce more difficult, for instance, or strip those living together of their spousal rights.


So why aren't all those opposed to Same-sex marriage in the name of defending marriage for the good of children, not fighting common-law relationships every bit as energetically?

Over the past five years, same-sex marriage has done nothing to harm the personal-commitment side of heterosexual marriage and no more to harm the public-policy side than we heteros had been doing for decades.

Monday, July 26, 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)

Sun July 26/42
18th trip

Took off from base with own air craft and crew at 2215 hrs. with H.E. and incendary bomb load
Target hamburg second largest city in Germany
visibility 10/10 cloud full moon. hight 16 000 ft.
were 200 mi from Eng coast when I observed a fast AIRCRAFT, believed to been a fighter pass from port to Starboard. went to unlock turret to follow the A/C around and my lock was jammed tried in vain to release it but to no avail. turned around just 50 mi from danish coast arrived back at 0230
tough luck that we had to return every one felt miserable about it. But could not be helped. We dropped our H.E. into the sea.

Get rid of the census altogether

The Economist makes the case in an article titled Leviathan's spyglass that an expensive, inaccurate direct-count census is an anachronism that most countries would be well rid of:
GOD is, according to the Bible, in two minds about censuses. The Book of Numbers is so named because of God’s command to Moses that he should count the Israelites in preparation for war. Years later when King David does the same thing, the Lord wastes no time in smiting him for his trouble.

Perhaps God’s ambivalence springs from uncertainty about whose side He is on. Historically, rulers liked censuses, because they enable them to conscript and tax their people. Citizens disliked them for the same reasons. But, as governments became less malevolent, an exercise designed to extract value from the populace became one whose purpose was to improve the quality of administration.

Now this centuries-old tradition is slowly coming to an end. If statisticians in Britain get their way, for instance, the census planned for next year could be the country’s last. Instead, they are considering gathering information from the vast, centralised databases held by government, such as tax records, benefit databases, electoral lists and school rolls, as well as periodic polling of a sample of the population. It is a global trend, pioneered, inevitably, in Scandinavia. Denmark has been keeping track of its citizens without a traditional census for decades; Sweden, Norway, Finland and Slovenia, among others, have similar systems. Germany will adopt the approach for its next count, also due in 2011.

There are two reasons for the change. The first is that computerisation allows statisticians to interrogate databases in a way that was not possible when information was stored on cards in filing cabinets. The second is that counting people the traditional way is getting harder, and less useful. Rising labour mobility and the accelerating pace of societal change mean that information goes stale more quickly than ever. Since its last census in 2001, for instance, Britain has seen hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrive from new eastern European members of the EU. Local governments complain that out-of-date information ignores these newcomers, leaving schools overcrowded, budgets stretched and houses scarce. At the same time, filling in the forms has become more onerous: what started as a short questionnaire about who lived where has turned into an inquisition about everything from toilet and car ownership to race and religion. As a result, compliance rates are falling. The decline of deference raises worries about reliability: last time, when asked about their religious affiliation, 0.7% of Britons replied that they were Jedi Knights.

There is some resistance to change. America’s constitution requires it to conduct a shoe-leather census, which is why this year’s effort is going to cost it over $11 billion. The Finns, by contrast, spent about €1m ($1.2m) on their last one. That’s about $36 per head in America and 20 cents in Finland. Historians, and some statisticians, bemoan the impending loss of a continuous data series that, in some cases, goes back over two centuries. Civil libertarians with an eye on the historic misuse of census data—by everyone from the Nazis to the Americans, who rounded up and imprisoned Japanese-Americans in the second world war—worry about the growth of government-by-database, and fret that a database census is another step on the road to an omniscient state.

Government misuse of data is an ever-growing danger, certainly, but one to be combated by strong rules on freedom of information and eternal vigilance, not anachronistic and increasingly inaccurate headcounts. The prize is the goal of every sage and seer: self-knowledge. (And, more prosaically, better and cheaper government.)

Signs of the impending Dark Ages

Elton John is working on a musical stage version of George Orwell's Animal Farm:
Sir Elton John is reportedly working on a stage adaptation of Animal Farm, teaming up with the writer of Billy Elliot, for a musical version of George Orwell's classic novel.

"I'm deep into it, writing songs for pigs and other four-legged friends," Lee Hall told the Daily Mail. "I know that Elton likes to have the lyrics done and have them in front of him so [I] work on a batch before I give him anything to look at."


Animal Farm, ostensibly the tale of farm animals' revolt against their human masters, is an allegorical account of the Soviet Union's passage into Stalinism. Although an earlier stage musical was adapted by Peter Hall, it lacks Elton John's piano-man panache. After all, what will the man who brought us Hakuna Matata do with communism?

(HT: Towleroad)

Sunday, July 25, 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)

Sat July 25/42
17th trip

Took off from base at 2345 hrs in own air craft and crew new navigator as our own was sick in hospital
Target Duisburg again this target has copped it five times now it has important submarine building base vis 10/10 clouds over target flak heavy observed one good huge fire burning dropped our load by T.R. and got out. landed at 0400 hrs every one happy.
No E/A/C encountered

Time for libertarians to stand up for Tony Clement

I'm the first person to admit that the Conservatives have made some boneheaded moves while in office, but the outrage being churned up over the census issue needs to be confronted head-on by libertarian Conservatives. This is a libertarian move by a government that often seems deaf to pleas that the state be made less intrusive in the lives of its citizens, so when they actually make a move in that direction, we need to defend it vigorously.

I can't frame this issue better than George Jonas did in Saturday's National Post. In a column titled None of their business, he wrote about his encounters with the Statistics Canada bureaucracy that assures us that the long-form census is a "necessary evil" and they only have our best interests at heart:
I'm making light of my conversation with Census Canada, but in fact it's not a laughing matter. For an official to suggest--and perhaps sincerely believe-- that it's not intrusive and impertinent for Census Canada to ask citizens their roommates' or common law partners' name (and therefore sex), or that the government "needs" such information for "statistical purposes," shows that by now our bureaucrats suffer from more than simple arrogance or insensitivity. They sincerely believe that if they "need" to know the name and sex of our roommates, we ought to tell them. After all, they aren't asking out of idle curiosity but for reasons of state. If that doesn't override our feeble rights to piffle such as privacy or dignity, what does?

Our social-engineering elites and martinets suffer from Sun-king-ism, the kind of megalomania that made Louis XIV utter "l'etat, c'est moi." Scary enough coming from the Sun King. When it starts coming from Assistant Chief Statisticians, it's time for the men with the butterfly nets.

Now that Tony Clement has started fixing up the asylum, a few candidates for the padded cells are coming to their senses. Oh, well, perhaps we went a tad overboard, they say. Maybe that long census form was a little too long. Maybe we don't need to ask all those questions. Hey, Tony, how about half? What do you say?

Evil, yes, in other words; necessary, not so much.

Call it half-unnecessary evil. I rest my case.

An obituary to die for

Some of the best writing is found in the obituaries of The Economist; they're quirky and sarcastic and always beatifully written. Reading them is like taking a master class in journalism.

The May 29 issue features an obituary for British economist Wynne Godley, who died on May 13th at the age of 83. Here's part of what The Economist had to say:
On the face of it, this was not a turbulent life. Yet Mr Godley said he had a lonely childhood, involving a violent maiden aunt and the “chamber of horrors of a British prep school”. Later, in his 30s, he lived life “through an artificial self” in “a state of dissociation”, which drove him into the clutches of a fiendish psychoanalyst. This in turn blighted his middle years.

His background, though it might misleadingly be called privileged, was mixed up. The first Lord Kilbracken had been a protégé of a Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, but was a Conservative; and the second, Wynne’s father Hugh, also a Tory, had been madly in love with Violet Asquith, the daughter of another Liberal prime minister. Hugh separated from Wynne’s mother about the time he was born, and was impotent, anti-Semitic and alcoholic. Wynne’s mother paraded naked in front of him and would tell him, as a child, of the intense pleasure she got from sexual intercourse. But he reached the age of 17 not knowing that women had vaginas.

He was supremely happy at Oxford, where his tutor was Isaiah Berlin, to whom he said he owed all his higher education. But, he wrote, “Nora [his stepmother] shot herself in the head with a shotgun; my father, his entire fortune squandered, died alone in a hospital where the nurses were unkind to him; my half-sister was committed to a high-security mental institution at Epsom; my mother had a bad stroke and lived out her last six years hemiplegic and helpless, her mind altered. She told her nurses that they were ‘lower-class scum’ and complained that I was ‘marrying the daughter of a New York yid’.”

Against a background like this, a little waywardness in the world of macroeconomics seems entirely forgivable.

Friday, July 23, 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)

Thurs July 23/42
16th trip

Took off from Base at 0049 with own crew and on A/C BH.604, with flares and bomb load.
Target Duisburg. visibiltiy 10/10 clouds clear over target which was lit up by flares.
reception was good. dropped our load and got the hell out. not a bad trip
landed at 0400 all safe and sound no E.A/C encountered.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Signs of the impending Dark Ages

Just in case you don't move in the elite circles of fine arts academics, here's a brief but terrifying glimpse of what cutting-edge artists are up to these days. Clearly the complete and utter collapse of western civilization is not too far away. Behold - the work of Keith Boadwee, adjunct professor of Fine Arts at the University of California, Berkeley:
Keith Boadwee was born in Mississippi in 1961 and studied at UCLA in the late 80s where he worked with Paul McCarthy and Chris Burden who have both been influential on his practice. Boadwee's work achieved some notoriety in the early-to-mid-90s when he was grouped with other artists who were working in the arena of "identity politics." Works of note from this period include his so-called anal targets and enema paintings. Boadwee's works have been included in the Venice Biennial, the New Museum's "Bad Girls" exhibition, MOCA Los Angeles' Portfolio of Photography, curated by Cindy Sherman, and Bay Area Now 3.

Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Peres Projects, Los Angeles, PS1's Into Me/Out of Me, and the John Waters curated Elimination at the Albert Merola Gallery, Provincetown, MA.
You're probably wondering - what, exactly, are "anal targets and enema paintings"? They involve a technique that Boadwee invented - the anal squirt method:
The professor part-fills his rectum with (non toxic) water-based paint using a rubber hot water bottle with an attached plastic tube. Then, by carefully positioning himself near a large blank canvas placed horizontally on the art-studio floor, he is able, at the appropriate moment, to eject and direct a constrained jet of paint. Thereby rapidly creating one-of-a-kind artworks with an appositely chaotic and spontaneous feel. The new technique was fruitfully employed in his 1995 series of works entitled ‘Purple Squirt’.
For a look at the artist at work creating the afore-mentioned Purple Squirt, check out his website here. (Caution - not for the faint of heart, and definitely not safe for work.) You might also be interested in his "photo-based work", including Old Glory (NSFW) and my personal favourite, Obama (also NSFW). These artworks "address his continued fascination with actionism, the every day, and the abject." Indeed.

Sorry if I ruined your dinner - don't shoot the messenger.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mugabe: polygamy is no slippery slope

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has given a new spin to a familiar argument used by opponents of gay marriage; allowing gay marriages inevitably opens the legal door to polygamy. Mugabe said the exact opposite in a recent speech - that allowing polygamy in Zimbabwe is in no way a legal precedent justifying gay marriage, reassuring the citizens of Zimbabwe that no one will be forced into a monogamous marriage:
Addressing a gathering of pilgrims from across Africa in Marange on Saturday, to mark the Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect’s annual Passover, Mugabe once again castigated gays and lesbians describing them as worse than pigs and dogs.

He said it was better to marry many wives than to engage in gay and lesbian relationships.

“Our Constitution allows polygamy. We will not force people into monogamous marriages. It’s there even in the bible - Solomon was not only given wealth but many wives,” said Mugabe who had children with current wife Grace while former first lady Sally Mugabe was still alive.

He said the apostolic sect therefore had a right to be polygamous.

Mugabe also apologized for comparing homosexuals to pigs and dogs, saying that this was an insult to pigs and dogs:
“At some point, I realised that I was reprimanding blameless dogs and pigs, which are aware that marriage is for procreation. “We say no to gays! We will not listen to those advocating the inclusion of their rights in the constitution,” charged Mugabe.

Well, Bob - thanks for clearing that up.

(HT: Towleroad)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Only libertarians believe in liberty. None of the main parties does any more"

James Delingpole of the Spectator reports on a debate held recently in the UK on the subject "Who holds the liberal torch in 2010: libertarians, liberal democrats or the liberal elite?" Delingpole has a go at Guardian assistant editor Michael White:
Most left-liberals, in my experience, are quite terrified of libertarians. They can cope with the more traditional, authoritarian kind of Conservative because they can glibly dismiss them as Daily Mail-reading racists who don’t give a damn about the poor. But with libertarians they find themselves on a much stickier wicket: how exactly do you outflank someone who believes that tyranny is akin to death and that we should be free pretty much to do whatever the hell we like so long as it harms no one else.

White had a stab. He said: ‘If you really believe like Delingpole that government’s such a problem, go and live in Mogadishu, then see how you like it.’ He must have been really proud of this line because he said it twice. A classic straw-man argument, both times. It’s small government we libertarians believe in — not no government. Of course we want stuff like property rights and the rule of law: how could we possibly enjoy our liberty without them?


But I do think it’s about time lefties like White realised that they no longer have a free pass to sneer at those of us on the right just because we’re on the right. They have been getting away with it for years, acting as though their moral position is so superior there’s really no need for them to engage in anything so sordid as a debate where they have to advance their argument using ideas and facts. But after 12 years of the New Labour disaster, it just won’t wash.

Liberal-lefties like White need to explain to us what’s good about a philosophy which favours bureaucrats and rent-seekers over strivers and risk-takers; which steals people’s hard-earned money and squanders it on ‘social justice’ projects; which despises human nature and seeks to remould it and force it to act against its own interests through social engineering; which stifles ambition, creativity, invention; which is the enemy of freedom and therefore the enemy of life. So far, they’re not doing a very convincing job.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hideous Public Art: Ottawa edition

Way back in 2008, Hideous Public Art visited the Dorothy O'Connell Monument to Anti-Poverty Activism, an eyesore installed near Ottawa City Hall. Today we return to the scene of that crime and examine another ghastly piece of moralizing civic finger-pointing just around the corner, the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights, located at the corner of Elgin and Lisgar Streets.

Ottawa has its fair share of hideous public art (see the National Capital Commission's catalogue of public monuments for some examples). Among the truly beautiful & stirring monuments that dot the capital such as the National War Memorial are a number of really ugly installations like the Never Again War monument in Gatineau, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Confederation Park and the Monument to Canadian Aid Workers at Rideau Falls. None can hold a candle in terms of sheer breathtaking ugliness to the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights - a colossal poke in the eye that assaults passers-by daily on one of Ottawa's busiest streets.

Ottawa's hideous public art often has an added layer of political messaging that can make it difficult to criticize. Poke fun at the Aboriginal Veterans Monument and one is open to accusations of racism; criticize the Never Again War monument and you're a bloodthirsty imperialist warmonger. So let's get this out of the way right off the top - I'm a big fan of human rights. Love them. Everyone should have them. However, this monument to human rights is flat-out hideous, in spite of carrying messages in 47 First Nations languages and the cachet of having been unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1990 and sanctified by a visit from Nelson Mandela in 1998.

The NCC's website gives us some background and a helpful guide to enhance the art-lover's appreciation of the work:
Enter the Tribute. A path traces a symbolic procession through a portal inscribed with the first words of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The Tribute is the first monument in the world dedicated to universal human rights. A bold sculpture in the nation's Capital, it symbolizes Canadians' commitment to live in peace in a society based on fundamental rights. It was unveiled by the Dalai Lama of Tibet in September 1990. The Tribute was designed by Montréal artist Melvin Charney, winner of a national design competition for the work of art. The project was initiated in 1983 by people wishing to create a special place that would symbolize the historic struggle of all people of the world to assert and preserve their basic human rights. Carved on granite plaques in the "House of Canada," within the monument, are the concepts of Equality, Dignity and Rights in 47 of the more than 70 languages of the First Peoples of Canada. These plaques bear witness to the vital role of languages in the preservation of cultures.

The monument is made mostly of unfinished poured concrete, but has a huge granite slab at one end leaning on an angle against the concrete part. Carved on the granite (in both official languages, of course) are words from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". Noble sentiments indeed, and certainly worthy of memorializing, but what has Ottawa erected to project this message? A weird jumble of vaguely humanoid concrete pylons that looks like a parking garage under construction, or an unfinished highway overpass. The whole ensemble is prominently located on the lawn in front of (and blocking the view of) a beautiful 19th century convent which is now part of City Hall. This visually jarring juxtaposition gives a vaguely unpleasant look to the whole block, like it's permanently under construction, or in the process of being demolished.

The humanoid concrete Lego figures are carrying granite slabs inscribed (in both official languages) with the words rights, dignity and equality, just in case you forgot the monument's omnipresent message. The words are also reiterated in "47 of the more than 70 languages of the First Peoples of Canada", although why members of Canada's First Peoples are especially important to "the historic struggle of all people of the world" (more so than, say, North Koreans, Iranians or Cubans) is lost on me. And why only 47? Are the other 23 not significant enough to be represented? Isn't that sort of - what's the word ... unequal?

The whole thing vaguely resembles a scale model of the ruins of the ancient Temple of Luxor in Egypt, or the Temple of Dendur now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The ancient Egyptians, though, took some care constructing their temples; they weren't made of cheap concrete, stripped of every decorative element and with multiple iterations of a cloying political message. Plus, the monument in Ottawa is unlikely to survive for five thousand years.

The Human Rights Monument is meant to be interactive - it is installed in a prominent location which partially blocks the sidewalk. Viewers are encouraged to climb a flight of stairs to enter the Portal of Universal Human Rights and then walk through the House of Canada, emerging with a new-found respect for human rights. I think it has the exact opposite effect - it's so ugly and forbidding that while I was there, most pedestrians chose to walk around it rather than through it, the way one would walk around a construction site to avoid falling debris. Occasionally someone from City Hall emerges on a break to sit on the plinth and drink a coffee or smoke a cigarette an officially-sanctioned nine meters from the nearest building entrance - no doubt they are filled with uplifting thoughts of human rights.

The monument is effective in an unintentional way - it certainly is a metaphor for the fact that protecting human rights around the world is an ugly unfinished business. Its brutal, dehumanizing and totalitarian appearance is definitely a visual metaphor for the greatest worldwide threat to human rights - authoritarian governments (although I'm willing to bet that the artist, deep down, believes that an impersonal, intrusive and paternalistic bureaucracy is necessary to guarantee human rights). In this sense, I guess it's successful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Homosexual Menace

Here's a handy YouTube field guide to homosexuals. An excerpt:
"Homosexuals, or 'fancy gentlemen', are manufactured in Greece by Satan himself, and then shipped all over the world to infiltrate society ... Once settled, they reproduce by the process of mitosis and begin their nefarious exploits."

(HT: Towleroad)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The natural libertarian

Lee Harris of the American Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think-tank, examines the phenomenon of the "natural libertarian" in an article titled The Spirit of Independence: The Social Psychology of Freedom. He argues that the ideology of libertarianism arises from a natural tendency towards independence and self-reliance that is always found in a certain segment of the human population. Natural libertarians ("internals") are constantly fighting the forces of external control and compliance in the form of the over-powerful state. Some excerpts:
In order to encourage a population rich in internals—i.e., natural libertarians—a society needs cultural traditions that emphasize the value of independence and ethical agency. It must teach the young that they are responsible for their own actions, and to never regard themselves as victims of circumstance. Anthropologists who have studied the huge variety of human cultures have encountered quite primitive societies, such as the Nuer of the Sudan, which raise children to be feisty and independent. They are taught from an early age to resist being bullied by others and to fight back at the first attempt at dominating them. But wherever it may be found, at the heart of the tradition of independence lives a set of imperatives. Be self-reliant. Don’t take other people’s word for something; think for yourself. Never become anyone’s follower. Bow down before no one. Stand up for your rights. Don’t let bullies intimidate you. Don’t permit yourself to become the slave of an addiction and thereby forfeit your all-important self-control. And do whatever you can to make sure that other members of your community uphold and cherish the same tradition of independence.

Of no less importance to the tradition of independence is the seemingly paranoid fear that power will fall into the wrong hands. The great nineteenth-century champion of liberty, Lord Acton, coined the famous maxim: “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This obsessive fear of power is key to understanding why natural libertarians will automatically rebel when some overbearing elite threatens to rob them of their cherished tradition of independence. They rebel because they instinctively understand the high cost of not rebelling.


On the other side of the clash are those who stand to benefit from encouraging others to rely on them instead of relying on themselves. Those who seek to exercise power and influence over others will naturally be hostile to the independent attitude of the natural libertarian, simply because this attitude is ultimately the one thing that stands in the way of achieving their own ambitions to rule, manage, and govern others. Today, far too many people in governmental circles, in our universities, and among the custodians of mass culture all share the goal of encouraging ordinary men and women to stop being self-reliant, cease to think for themselves, embrace their status as victims of circumstances, and to blame others for their own misfortunes instead of rousing themselves to overcome difficulties ...


We are in the midst not of a war of ideas, or even a cultural war, taken in its usual superficial sense. We are fighting an old battle all over again. On the one side stand the natural libertarians, Rotter’s internals, furiously insistent on defending their integrity as ethical agents. On the other side stand those in power who naturally find such people troublesome nuisances, and who would prefer to rule a society made up of individuals who have been properly educated to know they were really incompetent to manage their own affairs, and to regard themselves as the victims of circumstances.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NOW everyone's mad at Mel Gibson?

So Mel Gibson's in deep shit over "racial & sexist slurs" delivered over the phone to his ex-girlfriend, but it's taken this episode to make him persona non grata in the entertainment industry?
"It is shocking to hear from this man, who has such charm and seeming intelligence in his film roles, but has emerged as a dastardly anti-hero," said editor Bonnie Fuller. "Guess what? Mel doesn't know 'what women want'."
What the hell? Where was the career-ending outrage in 2006 when he let fly with this antisemitic outburst?
Upon getting arrested for drunk driving, in his inebriated state, he allegedly said something to the effect that "fucking Jews are responsible for all the world's wars." In his anger, he asked the arresting deputy if he himself was Jewish. And, of course, he spent $25 million dollars of his own money arguing that the Jews killed Jesus. Well, there you have it. Drink, anger, and money all lead Mel Gibson to alleged acts of anti-Semitism.
How about this homophobic rant to a Spanish newspaper in 1991:
"They take it up the ass ... this is only for taking a shit,” he said at the time. "With this look, who's going to think I'm gay? I don't lend myself to that type of confusion. Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?"
This time he calls his ex-girlfriend a whore and threatens to burn her house down and NOW his career is over because he's a misogynist? Please.

Tuesday, July 13, 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)

Mon July 13/42
15th trip

Took off from Base at 0035 with own crew in H
Bomb load:- one 4000 lb bomb.
Target Duisburg on the edge of the Rhur district
Visibility 10/10 clouds thick haze over target. Dropped our bomb visually on town, lit up from flares opposition was fair No enemy a/c encountered returned to Base in very bad visibility at approx 0410 hrs
every body happy?

Thursday, July 08, 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)

Wed. July 8/42
14th trip

Took off from Base at 2350 hrs with own crew A/C H. with one 4000 lb bomb
Target:- Wilhelmshaven on the Northern Coast of Germany. This is a dock area turning out submarines and mine layers.
flak was pretty fair but not concentrated.
We had to stooge around before entering target as we arrived too soon.
No E. A/C encountered all our aircraft returned to Base approx. 0430 hrs.

Tuesday, July 06, 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)

Mon July 6/42

This was not counted as an operational trip because we never reached the enemy coast.
We took off from base at 2336 hrs in AX3404 Skipper P/O Higham With two mines aboard each weighed approx 1200 lbs But we only got about sixty mi when our starboard engine stopped on us. We jettisoned the mines which landed in some woods (safe) The skipper turned around to try to get back to Base but we were losing hight all the time and we had to land at Steeple Morden. It was very dark out and we were unable to see much coming in we passed low over a town and nearly clipped the church steeple off and also nearly ran into the tops of some trees. With our wheels down we hit the aerodrome at about 100 to 120 mph. We bounced about 20 ft and came down again and was going along swell. The skipper thought he saw a hedge looming up in front of us so he cut the switch and puled the wheels up. And we slid along on our belly for about a hundred yds Then we made a jarring stop. No one was hurt except the air craft which was a glorious end to a very good kite.
The sqdn has been very unlucky this day for one of our kites crashed and burned killing eight and two walked away from it.
Another crashed on return from ops the same night and five were killed at Boscomb.
The other was 1 1/2 mi from Molesworth.
The C.O. came down the following day to pick us up and his hydraulics in the undercarraige gave way but he was O.K. another kite was sent for to pick us up.

Friday, July 02, 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)

Thur July 2/42
13th trip

Took off from base in own air craft and crew at approx 2338 hrs. with bomb load of three ton.
Target:- Bremen. Night was very good No cloud moon was behind us. target was hot tonight, we dropped our load and got out. Run into an ME110 I opened up on him first he broke away and came in again Skipper turned into him so that the front gunner could take a crack at him. He dove down and got away. However we confirmed damage done to E. A/C. No return fire. Landed at base at approx 0420 hrs. All returned safely.

The best architecture since 1980? Yikes.

Vanity Fair has a slideshow of "the top 21 most important works of architecture since 1980". You've got to be kidding me - apparently we have lost our collective minds. I notice Daniel Libeskind's ROM Crystal didn't make the list (but his Jewish Museum in Berlin did, and it's essentially the same building).

James Lileks comments on Vanity Fair's architectural tastes:
The second one makes me laugh, because it’s a 1987 building that uses every single played-out cliche from the early 60s. The rest are mostly machines for advancing careers; once you get a Leibeskind or a Gehry or a Koolhaus you’re a real city with real architecture, even if you got a library that has no relation to its function or its surroundings – or, for that matter, a front door. The most amusing may be the Parc de la Vilette, which has chairs that prohibit both comfort and conversation, and a fire-engine-red . . . thing that either serves as a piece of playground equipment on loan from hell, or an object adults can use to contemplate the futility of endeavor.

I do like the addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri – it’s like the chrysalis for a building, and at least it respects its neighbor; unlike the rest of the structures, it seems to be made by people from my species.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

When bread is assured, circuses fill men’s minds

Theodore Dalrymple on sports in general and France's World Cup humiliation in particular:
Knowing the dangers of snobbery, however, is not quite the same as eliminating it from one’s own heart and mind. I admit that, in the inner recesses of my being, I am a fearful snob. For example, I feel nothing but contempt for people for whom sport is important. This is particularly pertinent at the moment, because the greatest sporting event in the world by far, the football (soccer) World Cup, is taking place in South Africa as I write this. There could be no greater snobbery than to feel contempt for the hundreds of millions of people world-wide for whom this event is of consuming interest. When bread is assured, circuses fill men’s minds.

Nowhere has this been more so than in France, where a veritable crisis has been caused by the utter failure of the national team. That team played lamentably badly, failed to win a single match, lost against the most mediocre opponents, was eliminated from the competition at the first hurdle, and worse still behaved abominably.


It seems to me very odd, and not at all reassuring, that a country such as France, with a practically unrivalled history of achievement in all the major fields of human endeavour, should have been precipitated into an orgy of self-examination by something as trivial as a failure in a football competition, when it is utterly indifferent to questions of incomparably greater importance: for example, why it is completely incapable, after a continuous and millennial history of wonderful architecture, of erecting a decent building, one that is not an eyesore? (It is not alone in this, of course.) I have never seen this question so much as raised, let alone answered, though I do not think any reasonably alert person could drive through France without asking himself it.

The decerebrating effect of football (and no doubt other sports as well) is illustrated by a story that my French brother-in-law told me recently. A couple of months after France won the World Cup in 1998, he went to Tibet. He went to a Buddhist monastery that was two days hard trek from the nearest road. There he met young novices, some of whom spoke a few words of English. They asked him where he was from and he told them.

‘France,’ they said. ‘World Cup. Zidane.’

The glory and civilisation of France was thus reduced to eleven men on a field successfully, and admittedly with great skill, kicking a ball about. Zidane, incidentally, was a player of Maghrebian descent, the great hero of the 1998 competition and a man who looks considerably more intelligent than any of the players today; he blotted his copybook slightly when he head-butted another player, an act that he explained by saying that you can take a boy out of a slum, but you can’t take a slum out of a boy.

On the subject of football, I am a snob. I do not detest the game as such, for I accept that it can be played with skill and achieve a kind of beauty, but rather the excessive importance attached to it by millions and hundreds of millions of my fellow beings. Try as I might to expunge the thought from my mind that this enthusiasm is a manifestation of human stupidity, I cannot.

Life in the closet still a reality for many gay men

Kelvin Browne has an editorial in Wednesday's National Post about the sad fact that many gay men still find themselves unable to come to terms with their sexuality. I know myself that this is true - I didn't find the strength to come out until I was in my late forties. Here's Browne's article, The closet still isn't empty:
During Gay Pride celebrations in coming days, gay men will openly celebrate being themselves. Casual observers who attend such events may believe that the last, obsolete taboos against homosexuality have been lifted. Sadly, though, even in 2010, not every gay man is open about his sexuality.

The closet makes strange bedfellows. There's the 55-plus set, leftovers from the bad old days when homosexuality was illegal and classified as a psychiatric illness. Some are confirmed bachelors who have neutered themselves; they have no sexuality left after repressing their gay feelings for decades. Others are married with grown children, badges of their heterosexuality and camouflage at the country club. These guys may have furtive sex occasionally, and the Internet makes clandestine trysts readily available. Their wives may suspect nothing. If they're suspicious, or know, most choose to say nothing.

For many wives of closeted men, the angst derives from the fear of hubby's potential exposure. They hope he doesn't do anything to involve the police or public-health authorities. It's handy that wives in this generation traditionally lose interest in sex and become golfers. Their husbands are relieved they don't have to perform in the bedroom anymore. Ancient gay guys understand that coming out late in life may not be worth it: Your partner options are limited or expensive. (There are a few who claim to be "bi". I've never known a bisexual who hasn't morphed into gaydom as he's aged. I don't buy this spin.)

Some zoomer closet cases have active dual lives: married and proper by day, bad and gay by night. Few can sustain this charade. Typically, they become more and more flagrant, wanting to be outed, wanting wives to discover the truth so they can stop pretending. I knew one married gay fellow who finally came out at 50. It was odd to see him start his gay life where he left off, when he was 16. He'd been in sexual suspended animation, and it took him years to have partners close to his own age.

What about gay 20-and 30 year-olds who have grown up taking gay rights, and now even gay marriage, for granted? All out, prosperous and happy, we presume. Wrong.

There are lots of reasons to be in the closet today -- work, for instance. It's not only the construction site or other real-guy workplaces that are full of prejudice: Many white-collar corporations remain homophobic, too. They profess tolerance, hire consultants to inculcate it and PR professionals to advertise it, but they have a pink ceiling.

Religion still keeps a lot gay men in the closet. How can you be honest with yourself if coming out equals eternal damnation? Even gays in mainstream faiths -- Anglicans and Catholics for instance -- have a hard time dealing with their sexuality. Their guilt inhibits gay sex unless they're completely drunk or stoned.

Extreme right-wing politics is a kind of religion, too, and it forces men who subscribe to hide their proclivities. Gay men who do well in this environment suffer a different kind of damnation: Their gay friends consider them a variety of Uncle Tom. Better to be a closeted gay right winger, because that way, at least you know who you're lying to.

Family expectations twist gays in knots, particularly if you're unlucky to have a cultural background where gay means outcast. However, even the most accepting families send mixed messages. Lots of guys grow up hearing the real prejudices of their parents around the dinner table at a formative age: Parents talk about the embarrassment of the next door neighbours when they found out their son was gay, what a terrible life he was going to have, and so on. They remember this, and don't believe the "we'll love you anyway" 10 years later, when they announce they're out.

It's the most brilliant, ambitious gays who injure themselves the most. I know a fellow whose eyes involuntarily look you up and down. He claims not to be gay but remains unmarried in his 40s. His life is a perfect storm of reasons to be in the closet, combining a high-profile job, religious prohibitions and an uptight family that doesn't approve of fags. Friends make excuses that he's never found the right person, and then gossip about his ambiguous sexuality behind his back.

When you're deeply repressed like him, you may not be conscious that workaholism, constant business travel, compulsive athletics and lots of church time are all avoidance mechanisms. If some man ever got too close to his feelings, I suspect he'd find a girl to marry right away. In his social set, gay isn't a reason for women not to marry you (at least not one as compelling as being poor).

This problem will not go away anytime soon: As more people move to Canada from traditional societies, there will be even more men in the closet. All of which to say: Enjoy Gay Pride celebrations, by all means--but don't think that the fight for complete acceptance of gays is over.

Canada Day in small town Ontario

The Queen is going to have to sit through a big-budget, multi-cultural, bilingual & politically correct extravaganza on Parliament Hill today, but in my little village we have a more grass-roots approach to celebrating what many people around here still call Dominion Day. There's a parade through the village which lasts all of ten minutes, followed by fireworks later tonight up at the lake. There's no government funding, no bureaucracy involved, just regular people allowing themselves a brief expression of reserved patriotism before returning to their backyard barbecues to grill some steaks and enjoy a few beers with friends and family.

The parade always starts with a procession of local veterans, proudly wearing their Legion uniforms. They get older and more frail every year.

There's a strong strain of nostalgia for the British Empire around here, so the parade invariably includes an appearance by one of the many local marching bagpipe bands. This year featured the North Hastings Highlanders from Bancroft:

Local businesses proudly display their wares, all decked out in red and white:

Pet owners march through town with their companions:

The Shriners are always good for some entertainment. Here they march in their fezes, for some reason displaying the flags of Mexico and the United States along with the Maple Leaf:

Of course the Shriners never appear in a parade without clowns on little motorcycles, miniature trains and weird Arab characters on camels:

Members of the village council appear in disguise:

Local church congregations affirm their patriotism and their faith:

The parade is always closed by a procession of the forces of law and order: the local fire department, the paramedics and the OPP:

Happy Canada Day and God Save the Queen.