Thursday, July 31, 2008
The American Hoover Institution research fellow Peter Schweizer is here to regale us with yet more tall tales and fanciful frolics in a binary universe composed entirely of liberals and conservatives. Thanks a bunch, W.S. Gilbert:
I often think it's comical – Fal, lal, la!
How Nature always does contrive – Fal, lal, la!
That every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la!
Fal, lal, la, indeed. Grab some sushi and a latte and listen up.
"Today's liberalism is completely wrapped up with the notion of self," Schweizer begins portentously. When I had managed to wipe the hysterical tears from my eyes as this classic bit of projection sank in, I began to realize that the cons do this sort of thing rather a lot these days. "I know you are, but what am I," in fact, seems to be the most over-used trick in the cons' dog-eared playbook at the moment.
Dallying with fascism? "Hey, you're the fascist." Espousing racism? "You're the racists!" Cons are selfish, individualistic, triumphalist about the less fortunate? "No, no, no, you're the selfish ones! We really care about others, unlike you, you greedy pigs."
Go to San Francisco, Seattle or Vermont--liberal enclaves all, says Schweizer--and you won't find a lot of kids. I'll admit that the addition of San Francisco gave me a bit of a chuckle, but Schweizer is in no chuckling mood. Conservatives have 41% more children than liberals. They're winning the culture wars through procreation. They're following the Nike Creed. (Next step: outbreeding Muslims? Mark Steyn would be pleased.)
A minor digression, if I may, because it's getting hot in here. Our southern pundit is only interested in same-politics marriages. He says nothing about mixed marriages. But maybe that's because they're doomed from the start:
Said the right-handed honeysuckle to the left-handed bindweed,
"Oh, let us get married, if our parents don't mind, we'd
Be loving and inseparable, inextricably entwined, we'd
Live happily ever after" said the honeysuckle to the bindweed.
To the honeysuckle's parents it came as a shock.
"The bindweeds," they cried, "are inferior stock!
They're uncultivated, of breeding bereft,
We twine to the right and they twine to the left."
A bee who was passing remarked to them then,
"I've said it before and I'll say it again,
Consider your offshoots, if offshoots there be,
They'll never receive any blessing from me".
"Poor little sucker, how will it learn,
When it is climbing, which way to turn?
Right, left, what a disgrace,
Or it may go straight up and fall flat on its face!"
Together, they found them, the very next day,
They had pulled up their roots and just shrivelled away.
Deprived of that freedom for which we must fight,
To veer to the left or to veer to the right!
Veering to the right, in any case, is just the ticket for Schweizer. And we'll get that on a national scale by continuing to fluff up our conservative demographics. "Come," he says (as it were): "[R]aising children is a difficult and selfless act that is also an important civic duty."
Ah, the joys of conservative sex. A passage from 1984 springs lissomely to mind:
As soon as he touched her she seemed to wince and stiffen. To embrace her was like embracing a jointed wooden image. And what was strange was that even when she was clasping him against her he had the feeling that she was simultaneously pushing him away with all her strength. The rigidity of her muscles managed to convey that impression. She would lie there with shut eyes, neither resisting nor co-operating but submitting. It was extraordinarily embarrassing, and, after a while, horrible. But even then he could have borne living with her if it had been agreed that they should remain celibate. But curiously enough it was Katharine who refused this. They must, she said, produce a child if they could. So the performance continued to happen, once a week quite regularly, whenever it was not impossible. She even used to remind him of it in the morning, as something which had to be done that evening and which must not be forgotten. She had two names for it. One was 'making a baby', and the other was 'our duty to the Party' (yes, she had actually used that phrase). Quite soon he grew to have a feeling of positive dread when the appointed day came round. But luckily no child appeared, and in the end she agreed to give up trying, and soon afterwards they parted.
Indeed we are in a looking-glass world once again. Repeat after me these conservative mantras: War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength.
Now, I always get a kick out of right-wing nutbars telling us what liberals think, and why they do what they do and don't what they don't. I'm not a liberal: I live in a parallel universe, I guess. But I'm not unfamiliar with liberals. My father was one. We argued for decades.
So when Schweizer tells us that liberals aren't having kids because they're pessimistic about the future, or because they regard children as a burden, or because they put their own well-being first (well, 28% of them do, we discover, but so do 15% of the conservatives), that allows me, in all fairness, the right to speculate in a similar psychedelic manner. Why do conservatives have kids? Because they oppose birth control, because kids keep the little woman tied down at home, because they're a great tax deduction, and frankly because they're a lot of fun to beat.
In any case, the fecundity of conservatives poses a real dilemma for liberals, Schweizer says, because 80% of children adopt the political attitudes of their parents. What are endangered liberals to do? He finds a professor somewhere to articulate his own classic white-guy fears: Darren Sherkat, a progressive, who might be having a little fun himself summoning up every conceivable conservative bugaboo. Increase immigration, Sherkat says. Enlarge the Black population (that one alone will have some cons I know on their fainting-couches). Take over the schools and the universities to mold the minds of the young without having to do the hard work of raising them. Write popular books. The lesson for conservatives, then, is clear: be on your guard against all of these hostile liberal takeovers, and keep on, ah, trucking.
Here I was just recovering from the MASSIVE POLL. Now this. And these guys accuse us of committing junk science? But never mind. Whatever one thinks of this zany Hoover fellow, he does offer a far more pleasant alternative to the death and destruction more popular conservatives appear to favour as their final solution to the liberal problem. For the Left, at least from a conservative perspective, our counter-strategy is obvious: we just need to stay in more.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Yesterday two Unitarians were shot to death in their church by a man who had clearly been paying attention--the latest victims of the American Right's bloody crusade.
Ann Coulter and her merry band of lunatics have been joking about killing liberals for years now. "Joking?" That's the alibi they always trot out when someone calls them on their incitement to decapitate, poison, burn, hang, gas or otherwise dispatch their political opponents and reporters they dislike. It's time, says one popular wingnut, for a "godly fumigation." And somehow I don't think he was cracking wise.
But we leftists are just too earnest. We take things so literally. We can't take a joke. We don't get it. Right?
On the contrary, we get it all right, even without the fatal wounds. From the Oklahoma bombing (Ann Coulter's "only regret" was that it hadn't happened to the New York Times building) to the church murders by a devoted fan of deranged loudmouths Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael "kill 100 million of them" Savage, there is blood on the hands of America's conservatives, and it doesn't get washed off by bogus appeals to our sense of humour.
Far too many on the Right (with a few honourable exceptions) are pathologically obsessed with death, with hurting and killing other people. Whether it's capital punishment, endless wars, waterboarding, easy access to handguns, knee-jerk defences of police brutality and sadistic, racist southern sheriffs, or shooting abortion doctors, they lap it up and howl for more. And in the US they take it that extra mile: they would literally rather have their opponents tortured and/or killed than discuss the issues.
Sado-politics is the name of that game, and it's just claimed two more innocent lives. The knuckle-dragging yahoos whose words incited the killings are the folks who, in ages past, packed a lunch and went to watch the public floggings and executions. (Think I'm kidding?) Now, from the safe perch that the media and other bully pulpits afford them, they can communicate their insanity to the masses. And it's obviously working.
Killing those with whom you disagree is part of the American bumper-sticker culture now. "Warning: driver will shoot liberals." Here's Rush Limbaugh, playing the moderate: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for." (Denver Post, 12/29/1995) Here's Senator Phil Gramm: "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." Even families of the targets aren't safe: the National Review's John Derbyshire has called aloud for Chelsea Clinton to be killed. (And the National Review, shall we say, attracts an interesting crowd.)
It's too bad these lynch-mob leaders can't be rounded up by folks in white suits with giant butterfly nets, certified and treated with sympathy and concern at a laughing academy where their fellow patients will get their jokes, guaranteed, and tell a few themselves. But in the Land of the Free they're still at large, popular and powerful, recruiting their legions of robotized killers, making their country, and the world, unsafe for democracy and civil discourse.
Here at home we do have our own jokers--but, for now at least, they're nowhere near the mainstream. Let's do what we can to keep it that way. Because our lives may quite literally depend upon it.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Way to go, Ann.
UPDATE: (July 29) The Rev Paperboy has more, with exterminationist quotes from Coulter and the aptly-named Michael Savage. Inside the killer's house were found copies of Savage's "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder," "Let Freedom Ring" by Faux News talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by another Faux News mainstay, Bill O'Reilly.
"Shopkeeper Din Mohammad said foreign soldiers had better stop accidentally killing civilians or they will suffer the same fate as the defeated Soviets.
"'They must stop this,' said Mohammed, who was visiting his son at Mirwais hospital when he saw the children's lifeless bodies carried in.
"'Otherwise the day will come when everybody will stand up against the foreigners in a holy war - a jihad.'
'"'It's happened once before (with the Soviets). If things continue like this, history will repeat itself.'"
Canadians, according to a recent Ipsos-Reed poll, are an angry lot. Whether it's gas prices, inaction on the environment, taxes, neighbourhood crime, the Afghanistan mission or Tibet, we're royally pissed off. Or at least a goodly number of us are. More than half of us are furious about domestic issues, while nearly half (47%) are irate about our Afghanistan adventure and 43% are torqued about Tibet.
A total of 55%, in fact, are en crisse about at least one of these issues. 26% of us, however, are "content," and a sad 18% are "resigned."
This is where it gets interesting. Within that 55%, one segment--20%--are actually planning to do something about their pet peeve(s). The remaining sector--35%--are keeping it bottled up.
A quiet, civilized, do-as-you're-told society? Maybe not so much. One-fifth of the population consists of seething activists. And another 35% might just become so:
Ipsos Reid senior vice-president John Wright says the second group was an unexpected discovery.
"We found something that I think is deeply concerning - this pent-up frustration. It's out there, it's a significant proportion of the public who don't have an outlet for their concerns or their anger," he says. "We expected to find fed-up people, but not pent-up people.
"It's like having natural gas in the air, and if there's a spark of some kind, it can explode."Why do I suddenly remember Honey clapping with delight and saying "Violence! Violence! Oo-hoo!" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
And Martha, come to think of it: "Oh, I like your anger. I think that's what I like about you most. Your anger."
And let's not forget George: "Then, all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? 'Up yours'."
Put a different way, the problem, as always, is that we core activists spend a lot of valuable time at each other's throats. The folks patrolling their neighbourhoods with shotguns to keep down crime might not be the same folks exercised about Afghanistan and/or the environment. And that's too bad. Big tent time? What say you, Progressive Bloggers?
Because people do love their anger. Just check out the blogosphere, especially the commenters at the less salubrious joints on the Rive droite. But it's a wasteful emotion. In fact, I suspect that we aren't seeing anger at all, which is first and foremost the urge to destroy, but simply a little righteous indignation. We're Canadians, dammit. We get neither mad nor even.
So the folks who act on their sources of vexation don't bother me all that much, because I guess I'm part of that community myself. (There's that word "community" again. The gay community. The Muslim community. Now the angry community: don't we all look alike? Well, er, no. If we did, we wouldn't be angry with each other, would we?) We aren't out in the streets with machine-guns; we hold meetings and attend usually decorous demonstrations. We join political parties, and write letters to the editor, and create Facebook groups. We start blogs.
No, the folks that worry me are that 35%--more than a third of the population--whose head of steam doesn't have an outlet. William Blake has a poem on the subject. "The Poison Tree," that seems apropos:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I summoned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.
Somehow, rather than merely exploiting pent-up anger in a populist fashion, we need to find ways that it might be positively transformed: the urge to destroy is also a creative urge, as Bakunin observed, but I don't think this is invariably true. Anger tends to corrode its vessel, like a powerful acid. The destruction is everywhere evident; the creation, not so much.
In any case the realization that more than a third of my fellow citizens might be in the "quiet person who kept himself to himself before opening fire on a bus" category has me concerned, but only, I'll admit, to a certain extent. Thank goodness we're taught good manners in this country. The very thought of cleaning up afterwards is probably enough of a deterrent for most.
Hence it's probably safe to observe at a proper distance the impotent, screechy, shrieking anger of our blogopolitical enemies, both aggressive and passive-aggressive, and even to use it to our advantage. Treat them like research assistants: get your heads-up about their latest cible du jour and rally to the cause. George, again: "Oh-ho-ho-ho, beautiful! My god, you gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are!"
Or, instead of rising to debate (some implied self-criticism here)--why not simply enjoy it?
In some cases, the survey found, Afghan government officials can drive without armed escorts into districts where a visit by Canadian troops routinely provokes a firefight. [Emphases mine--DD]
Under the noses--some might say the thumbs--of foreign occupiers, Afghans are going about their business, solving their problems in their own way. The two (actually many) sides are working things out. Remember all that dishonest "Taliban Jack" nonsense? Then, late last year, there was "Taliban Hamid" urging talks with the enemy. Now government workers and ordinary Afghan citizens are talking to the Taliban. So are our own media, if at a safe remove. The presence of foreign troops, however, may be a hindrance to a highly delicate and complex set of negotiations.
Alexander, a former Canadian diplomat, poses the central question thusly:Lives have been lost. Thousands of Afghan lives a year, hundreds of foreign soldiers. What has been gained?
Despite his own words, he is one of the "incremental progress" experts who defends our involvement, while the insurgency continues to grow. And what progress would that be? It's all infrastructure: clean water, education, a growing economy. Eventually this will break the country's dependence on foreign aid, he predicts. Well and good: keep that infrastructural support flowing, by all means. The result of stopping the flow would be catastrophic at this juncture, a point he underlines--not that anyone appears to be arguing for such a thing.
But left unanswered is why the Taliban appears to be gaining strength. And why, when it's Afghan government officials who are venturing into Taliban country instead of foreign troops, the dangerous zones become calm. Is there perhaps a lesson or two to be learned here?
Saturday, July 26, 2008
- It came to pass that in the cold land there was weeping and gnashing of teeth: for the Evil One had anointed his chosen.
- And the anointed one went into the land crying, "I am proud, and will wear on my breast a snowflake." And his legions cried, "Verily, he shall do so; and it shall not melt."
- And those of the army of the LORD were thrown into confusion, for the people spake in favour, and there was much rejoicing. Chaos reigned in the land, and there was no law.
- But there came into the land a soothsayer, a caster of lots, and he spake unto the faithful: "Behold, I shall conduct a Massive Poll. And the people shall have their voice, and they shall turn out this false prophet and cast down his works."
- And the faithful praised the LORD and said, "Our deliverance is at hand, for surely the numbers will favour the people of God."
- And it came to pass that the lots were cast for many days. And the multitudes did turn their faces away, but some were asked, "Do ye verily worship Satan’s gift?" and they did reply.
- And children did come unto the caster of lots when their mothers were at the well. And some were at their meals, and did choose in haste. And the wayward were there, choosing in darkness; and the righteous were there, choosing as the LORD bade them. For is it not written that the ways of Satan are evil, and his works must be thrown down?
- And after many more days the caster of lots brought forth a table and said, "In excess of a moiety of you did renounce the works of Satan. And I shall send forth the results of the Massive Poll unto the multitudes, that they might rejoice unto the LORD."
- But the Evil One rose up in terrible wrath. "Who is this stranger," asked he, "who questioneth the snowflake I have bestowed upon my anointed?"
- And behold, the people were seized with a mighty doubt, and did ask among themselves, "Who is this caster of lots that hath made his Massive Poll in our midst?"
- "He hath always been among us," quoth the faithful. And behold, there stood his house where only barren land had been before.
- And his house was ill-fitted, and a man said, "That is like unto the house of the Southern casters of lots, who are not here." And a woman cried, "There is no number on his door, and his door openeth not upon a street."
- And there came a certain woman clad in blue raiment who said, "The people have spoken through this Massive Poll." But the scoffers scoffed and the mockers mocked, saying, "Bring us then this stranger who walketh among us! Where found he the numbers that he beareth?"
- And the voice of the woman was lost in clamour, and she did retire to her house in much confusion. And the scribes were elsewhere, and the Massive Poll was burned in a great fire. And behold, the Evil One did once more triumph, and the caster of lots was nevermore seen in that land.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Paul at Celestial Junk had thrown out a kind of challenge to the Left on the Afghanistan intervention. He says he doesn't understand our point of view. He stops short of accusing us of collusion with the Taliban, for which I guess he should receive due praise, but claiming that our position is incomprehensible is a bit much. I made a couple of comments over there, and attracted the wrath of Damian. So let's review.
- I do not think that the promotion of Serge Labbé to the rank of Brigadier-General says much good about our involvement in Afghanistan. Contrary to what Damian says, this isn't just about the career soldier involved. It has policy implications. These promotions don't drop from the sky.
- The civilian death count in Afghanistan from aerial bombardment is possibily four times the rate of the Balkans (Kosovo and Serbia) aerial bombardment. Ordinary people are being destroyed. Coalition forces are killing more civilians than the Taliban.
- The Taliban were (and are) misogynistic monsters. The deaths of thousands of people are on their hands. But the Northern Alliance, which is the core of Hamid Karzai's support, has the blood of thousands on its hands as well. In a nutshell, we have a struggle between rival gangs of hard men. I doubt that too many Kabul citizens remember their liberation with much pleasure.*
- The current Western-style democracy in Afghanistan has been imposed by outside forces. Damian concedes that this mode of governance would not remain "if we abandon them." It's an empty shell: officially, Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic; the head of its Supreme Court is an Islamic extremist appointed by Hamid Karzai. His group knows how to play the game--pretend to be some kind of Jeffersonian democrats while foreign muscle does the dirty work, and reap the foreign aid rewards. Not that they play all that well, mind you.
- So either we're going to be nannies for the foreseeable future, and get more of our young men and women killed as year follows year, or we're going to stop playing favourites in a gang war.
Eduardo Galeano once referred to Soviet-style Communism as "orthopedic," and, once the shoe was removed, so it proved to be. I see no evidence that the foreign governance style imposed upon Afghanistan has been internalized. Outward signs of progress? Yup, we've got lots of girls going to school now--but they were doing that when Afghanistan was Communist and our side was supporting the folks who eventually became the Taliban.
The war isn't about feminism, or ultimately about democracy. Afghanistan happened to play host, once upon a time, to Osama bin Laden. If it hadn't been for 9/11, the Taliban would still be running the joint.
Meanwhile, civilians continue to die, and the opium crop this year promises to be a bumper one.
*Mark Collins makes a strong retort about the occupation of Kabul here.
According to today's Ottawa Citizen, one Serge Labbé has been promoted to Brigadier-General, and the appointment will be made retroactive to 2000. Formerly a Colonel, Labbé was the senior officer in charge of Canadian forces deployed to Somalia as peacekeepers in 1992. Under his watch, a Somalian youngster was tortured to death by Canadian paratroopers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, and other civilians were shot in the back after being lured within firing range with food and water "bait."
The Somalia Commission of Inquiry (before it was abruptly stopped by Liberal PM Jean Chrétien in 1997) had a good deal to say about Labbé's negligence at the time. In fact the Inquiry excoriated him:
Col Labbé's cavalier approach to ROE [Rules of Engagement--DD] training amounts to little more than lip service and, in effect, denies the sanctity of human life. It is irresponsible and an affront to the concept of modem military training that a commander of Canadian overseas forces would suggest that such a training method was acceptable.
Although his lack of knowledge of the state of training at the time of deployment and his view of the nature of ROE training are profound shortcomings in a commander, even more lamentable and inexcusable is Col Labbé's failure to take action to determine whether his troops in fact trained adequately on the ROB [sic] developed by the Chief of the Defence Staff and understood them properly. He erroneously placed his trust in the sufficiency of a readiness declaration issued before the ROE were prepared and relied unduly on casual or incomplete comments regarding readiness from his subordinate, LCol Mathieu. Col Labbé performed no independent inquiry to determine whether any deficiencies in training existed and required correction. He failed to ensure that the members of Canadian Joint Force Somalia were trained in the ROE and understood them properly.
There's a lot more of this sort of thing in the report, for those with strong stomachs. The mission was a colossal failure, and some of our troops behaved...well, like Nazis. The Canadian Airborne Regiment, now disbanded, held a mess dinner to honour Marc Lepine in 1995. Nearly 20% of the Regiment had a police record of some kind.*
In Somalia, Labbé was alleged to have offered a case of champagne to the first soldier who killed a Somali. This he has vigorously denied. With reference to another comment, however, that he was "looking forward to my first dead Somali," he claimed that the remark had been "misinterpreted."
In 2001, defence critic Art Hanger, speaking for the opposition Canadian Alliance, denounced the Liberal government for having sent Labbé to Kosovo as a NATO negotiator. According to Hanger this indicated that the Liberals were "unwilling to make hard decisions on leadership." But bygones, it seems, will be bygones.
Labbé's promotion was recommended by the former chief of defence staff, General Rick Hillier. He will no doubt continue to be a key player in the Afghanistan mission.
*Sources: "Soldier Confirms Airborne Held Massacre Party," Ottawa Citizen, November 9, 1995, A3; Pugliese, David, "Almost 20% of '85 Airborne Unit Had Police Record, Report Found." Ottawa Citizen, October 4, 1995, A4.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Abdelrazik's story began in August 2003, a few weeks after he had arrived in Sudan to visit his ailing mother. On Canada's request (as classified documents bear out) he was snatched off the streets of Khartoum and imprisoned by the kindly folks who brought us the Darfur genocide. He was tortured, and he was interrogated by CSIS operatives who suspected him of having links to al-Qaeda.
Abdelrazik, now in poor health, is presently living in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, having been granted "temporary safe haven" by the Harper government on April 22. He is unable to return home, although he desperately wants to. Why? Because he found himself on a UN "no-fly" list, placed there at the request of an unidentified country:
He remains on international and Canadian “no-fly” lists because some unidentified country – likely the United States or France – blocked Canada's effort to have him removed from the UN Security Council al-Qaeda blacklist.
Getting blacklisted on the so-called 1267 list, named for the UN Security Council Resolution originally co-sponsored by Canada, is easy. Any UN-member country can finger a suspect. Getting off is almost impossible and once listed all UN countries are required to seize the assets of any individual and enforce a travel ban, although returning home is explicitly permitted. [Emphasis mine--DD]
Abdelrazik has never been charged with anything, but that doesn't matter to the folks wielding power in the post-9/11 panic era. Even the Sudanese government finally exonerated him of terrorist involvement, on July 20, 2007--and the US government helpfully picked up the slack by labeling him a terrorist threat on the very same day and putting him on a "no-fly" list of its own.
(As an aside, a "no-fly" list makes very little sense as a concept. Do we not have the technology and other resources to search an individual thoroughly before he boards a plane?)
A Canadian federal judge was recently asked to rule on the matter of Abdelrazik's considerable legal expenses to date. In a frankly disgraceful comment from the bench, Madam Justice Anne Mactavish told him to hit up his Muslim supporters, his family or Amnesty International if he needed money to pay the bills.
Recall that these expenses were not of his making. He would be home this moment if it hadn't been for the complicity of the Canadian government, both in his original jailing and torture, and now in its refusal to get him back to Canada.
As revealed in a new Koring story today, Canada will not fly him back because it might offend the Americans. Isabelle Desmartis, director of security policy for Transport Canada, and Debra Normoyle, director-general of security and emergency preparedness at Transport Canada, stated in a classified memo on April 30, 2008, that:
Transport Canada and other senior Government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik's return to Canada as he is on the U.S. No-Fly List and the Department of Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals and blocked Persons.
Odette Gaudet-Fee, a senior Foreign Affairs official in Ottawa, fussed back in May, 2005 that Abdelrazik "has reached the end of his rope, he has no money, no future, very little freedom and no hope. Should this case break wide open in the media, we may have a lot to explaining to do."
You betcha. Keep chewing, Mr. Koring.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
A dictionary of Māori computer terms may be downloaded here.
Let the essence of that beautiful language be written on the skies, indeed.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Four RCMP officers killed the unarmed man in the Vancouver Airport last year. The Mounties lied about it afterwards. Inquiries are on-going, thanks to a quick-witted cellphone user who got the whole miserable episode on video. But the fix, as I reported earlier, has apparently been in from the start, with an orchestrated containment strategy and back-channel reassurances to the officers involved.
The purpose of the RCMP junket was quite simply to dig up as much dirt as possible on the victim, precisely as POGGE predicted last November. This has produced a strong reaction in his home town, where he was laid to rest last Saturday. If there is any justice, it should produce a bigger one here in Canada.
Are there as-yet unplumbed depths to which the wretched, discredited, horribly broken RCMP has not sunk? Disband. It. Now.
- Update on the giant lobster of Shediac: two "free the lobster" Facebook groups, competing auction bids to save it or cook it, and a groundswell of animal-rights fervor later, and the decision has been made--a true Canadian compromise. Big Dee-Dee* won't be eaten, but it won't be released into the ocean either--for that (you just knew this, didn't you?) you need a permit. The Atlantic titan will see out its golden years in an aquarium run by a research station.
- Women have found a new way to make their feet silky smooth. Not advised for the ticklish.
- A small python was found under a bed somewhere in Montreal. The bed's occupant felt "movement," and soon discovered the metre-long snake. The gendarmerie were duly called in, and one "alert police officer" grabbed it by the tail (but a snake is pretty well all tail, isn't it?) before it could escape though a hole in the wall. Which officer? A police spokesperson replied: "The bravest one. Or as we say, 'the one with the least seniority'."
- Can animals sue?
- From time to time I've idly wondered how Kate McMillan came to choose the name of her blog, Small Dead Animals. Subtitled "The Roadkill Diaries," it seemed to point to the ephemeral nature of news items. But judging from most of the visitors who left their, ah, deposits on my "Open letter to 'progressives'" thread, Small Live Animals might be a better choice. Small dead animals? "Not dead enough."
*I have no idea how this moniker was chosen, and I'm rather afraid to ask. But as I learned from my kids who caught a mouse in the house and called it Herbert, once you name an animal it makes things infinitely more difficult.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Since Jay Currie and Mark Collins insist, I'll begin with Jonathan Chait, who's supposedly one of us, although he's just launched a bitter and oddly tardy assault on Naomi Klein. (Chait writes for Peretz's centrist New Republic, and on occasion the Wall Street Journal.) Don't worry, though, I'll get to the other folks by and by, including the Know Nothing from Delisle and the rabid post-Cathaholic from who-cares-where.
The first thing that shines through in Chait's lengthy piece is his thinly disguised envy, a bit like Kathy Shaidle's perennial sniping at Antonia Zerbisias (because the latter has a column in the Toronto Star and the former doesn't, but did.)
She remains the darling of the left in the United States, where she writes for The Nation and The Huffington Post, and abroad, where she is even more popular. A poll of readers of Prospect and Foreign Policy in 2005 ranked her eleventh on a list of the hundred most influential public intellectuals in the world. And we can see the culmination of her intellectual synthesis in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The reception accorded this book has been staggering. It was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for distinguished prizes, a favorite of "best book" lists in the newspapers. It has even been made into a short film. It has been reviewed favorably in The New York Times, and hyperbolically elsewhere. In These Times called it "The New Road to Serfdom"--that is, the left-wing equivalent of the classic right-wing Hayekian tract. The San Francisco Chronicle said it "may have revealed the master narrative of our time." Not bad for a marginal dissenter.
Note the last sentence. You can almost see the barely-known Chait stamping his foot and crying, "It's just not fair. I'm not a marginal dissenter!"
In his critique of Klein (yes, he finally gets to her work rather than her person), he sneers at his own digest: "The 'shock doctrine' is the conservative plan to implement pro-corporate policies through the imposition and exploitation of mass trauma." Now, there's nothing very, ah, shocking about that: it's hardly tinfoil-hat stuff. Roger Douglas, the New Zealand Finance Minister who ushered in deregulation in the 'nineties, explained how to head off opposition: "hit them hard and hit them fast." Milton Friedman, who saw serious catastrophes as opportunities to advance the right-wing agenda, is quoted by Chait in the article. Those of us in Ontario remember Education Minister John Snobelen under the Harris regime and his infamous remark about creating a "useful crisis."
But Chait doesn't really argue about the usefulness of crises. In fact he says the Left has advanced through crises too. His quarrel, it seems, is with the moral condemnation that accompanies Klein's "banal" observations about crisis-creation and crisis-opportunism. He accuses Klein of a simplistic "economicism," reproducing her arguments like a triumphant schoolchild saying "There!" without any genuine intellectual engagement. Perhaps Klein might be wrong about developments in the Middle East being directly related to corporate interests, for example. But it's an interesting hypothesis, and one doesn't refute it simply by shouting "economicist!" or name-calling ("doctrinaire").
Indeed, with respect to Klein's on-the-ground analysis of the Third World fall-out of global corporatism, he is in general agreement. He claims to oppose Klein's economic reductionism by arguing as follows:
All these things [that Klein outlines --DD] are true. And all these things are enormous outrages and significant problems. It's just that they are not the same outrage or the same problem. And Naomi Klein's relentless lumping together of all her ideological adversaries in the service of a monocausal theory of the world ultimately renders her analysis perfect nonsense.Well, no, it doesn't. What is interesting, at least to me, is the confluence of neoconservative and neoliberal strains in US foreign and domestic policy. I think this bears a good deal of further analysis. In any case I agree with Chait that we should certainly not confuse the two. But that doesn't mean that both approaches have no convergence of interests. Chait claims that corporations are risk-averse, for example, and don't like wars very much, which is no doubt true up to a point; but corporations that are not directly profiting from wars do like the aftermath of wars, when they can grab lucrative contracts for reconstruction with little oversight, not to mention private soldiering.
Finally, though, Chait really offers very little cause for the right-wing jubilation that appears to have broken out over his review. If Klein's book, intended for a popular audience, skips over some of the nuances he might have preferred, it turns out that he is nevertheless every bit as trenchant a critic of global corporatism as Klein ever was:
Klein, no armchair radical, jets off to wretched places in the Third World and paints a picture of the reality of free trade in chilling detail. That picture ought to give pause to the most committed free-trader, even if she is hardly the only one to have noted these consequences.
The last two decades certainly have seen the global spread of absolutist free-market ideology. Many of the newest adherents of this creed are dictators who have learned that they can harness the riches of capitalism without permitting the freedoms once thought to flow automatically from it. In the United States, the power of labor unions has withered, and prosperity has increasingly come to be defined as gross domestic product or the rise of the stock market, with the actual living standards of the great mass of the population an afterthought. Corporations, which can relocate nearly anywhere around the world, have used their flexibility as a cudgel against workers, who do not enjoy the privileges of mobility. Domestic policy has aggressively sharpened income inequalities, and corporations have enjoyed unfettered influence to a degree not seen in a hundred years. And the president did start a war without paying the slightest bit of attention to the country that he would be left occupying or how its people would react.
Moving, then, from the relatively sublime world of ideas to the truly banal world of screechy far-right ideologues:
I don't really have much difficulty with deliberate misinterpretation of my words by the barely literate pests who inhabit right-wing blogsites, and swarm out from time to time to infest ours. Let them bombinate impotently forever, for all I care. But it is instructive to see what passes for commentary in those venues.
A quick word, to start with, about the aforementioned Kathy Shaidle. The post that I linked to really needs no comment from me. She is simply beside herself with fury, which, to be honest, I rather enjoyed. But the mention of traffic at the end of it bears a closer look.
Traffic? You bet the hockey-helmet painter from Delisle has traffic. It's a non-stop information superhighway-jamming parade of yahoos in Corvettes with too-loud radios competing for road space with pickups full of armed yokels looking for Injuns and darkies and multicultural-left-lib/commie/gay/Islamist CBC radio listeners. You can smell the hemp they're twisting in their hands.
Kate simply provides a black hole that pulls in a truly impressive number of far-right hammerheads. Somehow this is supposed to be something to envy. I'm reminded of flies. No, vinegar won't do the trick, but we all know something that works a lot better than honey.
Here is a judicious and I think fair selection of comments about me from the buzzing little critters at her place. Head over there if you must, but please do not look for anything that rises too far above this level:
Why does anybody take that hideous little man seriously for any reason other than mockery? He's a Usenet reject, the very definition of an internet troll.
I lived in Phoenix for three years, Sheriff Joe ROCKS! ...Dawg is an uninformed bigot-of-the-Left.
Dr. Dawg is and will always be a morally reprehensible piece of shit. [bolding and italics in the original]
We need to stop using their words and go back to calling them by the proper term of what they are:pinko-commies!
Sooner or later these commie-pinkos are going to hissy-fit themselves out of existence.
Leftards are the most illogical, delusional and hateful people the world has ever seen. Spanish conquistadores have nothing on this lot.
For a second there I thought Dawg's rant was an Obama speech. Needless to say as far as lefoids[sic] go; It's Dawg's way or the highway. I love it when progressives turn on each other. It just shows how shallow and self-centered they really are.Oh yeah, Go Sheriff Joe. The leftards use the word progressive and then they refuse to debate "Certain" issues and subjects because they deem them unprogressive. My perseption [sic] is they are moral and ethical cowards, and their ability to debate is quite pathetic really....Dawg there is nothing "Progressive" about you, commuist [sic] yes "Progressive" not a drop of it resides in your soul.
I don't get much traffic like this.*
Just to clear up ex-professor "ET"'s misconception, by the way, I'm still a member of the Progressive Bloggers blogroll, and have absolutely no intention whatsoever of leaving. But being a moderator implies at least a general acceptance of the contents of the 'roll. The word "progressive" is pretty loose, as I've said before, but it doesn't include everyone, any more than Blogging Tories does. Besides, if I'm going to take on some of the dizzier folks who hang out at ProgBlogs, it's probably best that I'm not a moderator anyway.
It's true that I wanted a blogger dropped from a "progressive" blogroll for defending a far-right sadistic hero-figure, capital punishment and the former Aussie PM John Howard's use of the army to occupy Aboriginal territory. But that's a far cry from allegedly being intolerant of all opinions other than my own. Visitors can see rather quickly that my combox is hardly an echo-chamber, to put it mildly. Sometimes I feel like a minority of one, even on my own blog.
I might conceivably have been tempted, in fact, to reply directly at Kate's place to the bone-heads who think I'm unwilling to debate those with contrary political views. Alas, however, I don't have that option. I'm banned from her site.
*Except on my "Open letter to 'progressives'" thread: thanks for the link, Kate. You really needn't have bothered.
Much of the nonsense has already been cleared up by Globe and Mail correspondents. The key point, of course, is that harm reduction is only one of the so-called "Four Pillars" strategy to combat "drug abuse." (I detest that latter term: it makes me think of sadists torturing the inanimate. It's meaningless, and loaded. Addiction is an illness, not a crime.)
Wente carried disingenuousness to new extremes by ignoring the strategy and pretending that the harm reduction folks don't have one. The four pillars, in fact, are prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. Law-and-order types are heavy on the last. If I had the time and inclination, I could probably write at least five columns on how enforcement by itself is a dismal failure anywhere it has ever been tried. But that doesn't stop the punishers. In Canada, we spend four times more on drug-law enforcement than we do on prevention. (Single E, Robson L, Xie X, Rehm J. 1996. The costs of substance abuse in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.)
Prevention and treatment, Wente says, "have been neglected," and she's right, but the neglect isn't on the part of the harm reduction people, as she rather dishonestly suggests. We do-gooder, touchy-feely types have cried aloud for prevention and treatment for years, but the de-tox centres aren't going up, and the root causes of addiction aren't being addressed. For conservative governments, these things are a very low priority indeed. So the money, expertise and treatment options just aren't there.
Wente gets a little hazy and confused about the legalization option, too. She does the requisite pearl-clutching about the tactics of the legalization folks, but for once spares us the selected studies indicating that this would be a Bad Thing. I'm speaking hypothetically: such studies might not even exist. In the UK, as a correspondent in today's Globe and Mail reminds us, there was once a cheap program that involved registering heroin addicts and providing their drug legally. There were fewer addicts in all of Britain at that time than there are today in Vancouver.
Certainly a skirmish of statistics is currently going on. I've read a few papers, some indicating that needle-exchange programs are effective, and some presenting arguments that they aren't, or even that they actually cause more transmitted infection than before. There is on-going debate about selection bias and confounding variables--diffusion effects through secondary exchanges of clean needles amongst the intravenous drug-user population, for example, or the concentration of high-risk users among IDUs who use the exchange sites, or the possible formation of new networks at such sites, exposing isolated IDUs to more risk.
But all of this, valuable discussion though it be, obscures the main issue. The long-term war against addiction and its virological, social and personal consequences will not be won by statistics, nor by vigorous law enforcement, nor by Wente's "tough love." It will be won, or greatly mitigated, by a mixed strategy like the Four Pillars, a strategy that is carefully balanced and properly resourced in all respects--and one that is enhanced by a 21st century approach to outmoded and harmful anti-drug legislation.
*UPDATE: Dan Gardner, author of the recent book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, notes that the restriction of access to heroin in Britain didn't begin with Margaret Thatcher. His own article on drugs and the history of their legal/illegal use may be found here.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
He's an old-school cop, and by that I mean that for him policing is about power and throwing one's weight around. None of that namby-pamby liberal pabulum like community policing, reaching out to minorities and that kind of nonsense: might makes right. He has always been a hyper-macho loudmouth, a swaggering bully who likes to let people know who's in charge.
Fantino first came to public prominence as a staff inspector back in 1989, at a period when Toronto cops were embroiled in controversy over the shooting deaths of two Black men
In the natural course of events, Staff Inspector Fantino became Toronto's police chief in 2000. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects loved the guy. During his tenure, he maintained a poor race relations record, axed community liaison committees, opposed civilian and even Special Investigations Unit oversight, and demanded that antiwar protesters should be required to obtain police approval to hold rallies. Particularly memorable in the latter connection was his statement at the time that "a problem is now arising where portions of the public believe that Dundas Square is a public space."
A raid on a lesbian club by a number of his officers in 2000 ended with the charges tossed and their behaviour excoriated by the presiding judge. Despite that, city councillor Kyle Rae, who had dared to utter public criticism of the cops involved, was successfully sued for libel. Fantino had nothing to say about the behaviour of his troops.
(Legal action cuts both ways, of course. Between 1998 and 2005, the City of Toronto had to shell out $30,633,303.63 to settle lawsuits against the Toronto police. More than 8,000 cases. Yes, you read right.)
After not having his contract renewed by the City, Fantino was made OPP Commissioner in 2006 by Premier Dalton McGuinty. You just can't keep a good man down.
Now, thanks to an Access to Information request that has allowed transcripts of a questionable wiretap to be made public, we learn that he played a potentially catastrophic role during the June 27, 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action.
The Crown's desperate moves to keep this information under wraps is a story in itself. Having lost the first round, it managed to get an ex parte ruling in its favour, overturned a mere hours later after the judge found that "the information upon which I granted it was inaccurate and incomplete." That, of course, is always a danger when only one side of a story is presented.
Well-known Mohawk activist Shawn Brant, and a group of supporters, had blockaded Highway 407 in Deseronto. The transcripts reveal that Fantino blundered into that situation like a bull in a china shop, sidestepping negotiations that were already under way, blustering and threatening Brant in his trademark manner. The evidence indicates that the OPP were within minutes of moving in, their snipers at the ready. The protesters, however, removed the blockade peacefully, preventing what could have become another Ipperwash.
But Premier Dalton McGuinty is standing by his man:
I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Commissioner Fantino. That confidence remains.
He has performed heroically, arguably under some of the most difficult circumstances when it comes to our province’s relationship with our aboriginal communities....How nice to have friends in high places. But not so nice for Native people. And not for any Ontario citizen, in fact, who values civil liberties, accountability and transparency in our police services.
We don't need this kind of paramilitary, accountable-to-no-one, authoritarian and frankly dangerous style of policing in 2008. We never needed it, but now is the time to put a decisive end to it.
Julian Fantino, for the good of Ontario, step down.
*Reader James Goneaux points out that Donaldson was 45 years old: a youth only relative to me. In Lawson's case, the laws of physics were suspended, and the officers charged in the case walked:
The jury agreed that the stolen vehicle driven by Lawson was approaching the officers head-on in a life threatening manner and that their actions were justified.
An autopsy conducted by the Ontario Coroner's Office showed that the teenager was struck by a hollow point bullet to the back of the head. This type of bullet was considered illegal at the time, as ‘hollow point bullets’ were not authorized for use by police officers in Ontario. [emphasis mine--DD]
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I do so love this silly old place.
Today the BC Supreme Court ordered a family in Vancouver to tear down their kids' tree house. They had refused to comply with a City of Vancouver order to get rid of it. They now have ninety days to remove it, and both Mom and Dad were fined, $250 each.
The couple had applied for a "developmental variance" (do you need these for bird houses too?) but were turned down flat because it had a "tree fort front" (and back, I presume). Their next-door neighbour had complained to the city. The family had tried to accommodate the neighbour (no pun intended) but no luck.
The two defendants argued that a building permit should not be required because the word "structure" in the applicable city by-law was vague. The learned judge disagreed.
I had a tree house once. My old man put it together out of scrap wood. But Vancouver being Vancouver, this one cost $2000. The couple are planning to auction it off for a children's charity.
In other news, a movement is building in Shediac, New Brunswick, to free a century-old lobster from a local fish market. The lobster, too, is to be auctioned off. The high bid so far is $3500.
Did I happen to mention that I love Canada?