banner photo:

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


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

Saturday, November 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.