Friday, October 31, 2008

India Assam Bombings: Whose Blood Is On The Street

"I looked back, ran to the shop and found my brother lying in a pool of blood. He was dead among seven others."

The aftermath of the October 30 serial bombings in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam brings with it stories from survivors, victims and families of those blown to bits by islamist terrorists. Of the thirteen explosions, one took the life of 32-year old Ajay Das on the eve of finalizing his wedding date:
His grieving family said Titon, as Ajay was fondly called, had dropped out of school at a tender age to help his father and elder brother in their family business in Kokrajhar town. After years of hard work, the Das family had just begun to lead a comfortable life and was planning to marry off Titon. But Thursday's terror attack dashed all their hopes.

Parents of younger children were panic-stricken when their frantic calls to elementary schools went unanswered; were their children safe? Had schools been targeted? Would they be? After the first bomb went off in Ganeshguri at 11:15 am, no parent could know how many more would explode before school was set to send students home later in the afternoon.
"With cellphone networks jammed, I was getting desperate with every passing minute," said Sonali Burman, mother of a kindergarten student. "I called up the school, but the lines were clogged."
Sudhin Paul, a businessman, was terror struck when he learnt that an explosion had rocked Panbazaar area — his daughter studies in a school there.
"My wife was the first to react. She took my scooter and rushed to the school," he said. School and college authorities were desperate to keep campuses free from the tension and chaos outside.

As police and other emergency responders arrived to offer assistance to the survivors of the 13 bombs that went off over a 45-minute period, they faced a crowd that unleashed all their pent up frustrations with their government's inability to keep them safe:

[A]ngry protesters hurled bricks and stones at policemen, screaming against the administration's security failure. "We want justice. The Tarun Gogoi government has failed to protect us," the crowd shouted every time they rushed in to confront the police.

"Why not? We have lost our near and dear ones," a young engineering student from Lichubagan area said. The blast had killed six persons from his locality.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the mobs. The smell of the gas, however, was not strong enough to cover the stench of burnt flesh that lingered in the area. Pieces of human flesh covered with flies still lay littered in the area.

As the days go on we'll learn more tragic details about the men and women, the children and the aged, whose lives were cut short from timed bombs hidden in automobiles, motorcycles, bikes and rickshaws, bombs hidden by monsters masquerading as civilized human beings.

As yet, circumstances make it difficult for the media to report such biographical details to any great degree:
Some victims were charred to death in their vehicles, and clouds of black smoke towered over Guwahati as the streets filled with the screams of the injured and the dying.

Many of the dead were literally torn apart and vehicles in the target zone were turned to charred heaps of metal.

Capturing the Spirit

Still my favorite pumpkin photo! Happy Hallowe'en and may a night of devilry befall certain Toronto bumpkins.

More Bombings In India; 77 Dead

More carnage in India, as several bombs went off Thursday across the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, killing 66 people outright, with another 11 dying from their wounds during the night. Indian media place the total number of wounded at a ghastly 450.

13 explosions rocked the districts of Guwahati, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta. Six bombs were set off in Guwahati alone, causing so many casualties that hospital driveways "turned slushy with blood as a stream of victims were brought in."

The descriptions of the aftermath of the bombings sound like reports from a battlefield... which, in a sense, they are:
Black smoke billowed from the deputy commissioner's office housing the district courts, which bore the brunt of the attacks in Guwahati, as vehicles, including a number of cars, turned into mangled heaps of metal. ...

"Bodies of the many of the dead were charred beyond recognition. The blast sites were stewn with severed limbs and blood of the victims.

India has seen many terrorist bombings this year alone (64 blasts in the last six months), but this week's explosions were followed by an ominous response from the citizens of the cities under attack: they vented their frustration in a riot:
People poured into the streets of Guwahati immediately after the blasts inspite of the curfew, and attacked policemen shouting slogans against the administration for ‘‘failing to protect the city’’. Several fire engines and police vehicles were burned. Police, who were themselves left shell-shocked by the blasts, struggled to rein in the mobs. They had to fire in the air at some places to disperse the crowds.

A television station received a message from a group calling itself the "Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen (ISF-IM)" on Friday, bragging about their successful slaughter, while warning of future slaughters to come:
"We, ISF-IM, take the responsibility of yesterday blast. We warn all of Assam and India for situation like this in future. We thank all our holy members and partners. AAamin" .

Godspeed to the grieving families of India... when will these massacres end??

For reports on some of the other recent attacks in India, please read our previous posts on India's war on terror:

The early September bombings in Delhi, and the email from hell taking responsibility for the destruction, as well as the price paid in blood for the butcher's bill.

Then there were the bombings in late September in Delhi, smaller in scale but no less horrible.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Calling all Palinites

Hey you! I'm a Palinite. I love Sarah Palin and at least a lot of what she represents, like middle class American values. You too? Well, even if you all show up this evening for coffee at VPL at 7:00 p.m. outside Blenz coffee bar to join us we'll till be a small crowd. Good. We've got room to grow.

Anyone who loves Sarah Palin is someone I want to chat with. Meet me and my friend in the atrium for coffee this evening. Sarah-talk. Come on, Palinites!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Role Model For Perseverance

For all of us who struggle to stay motivated, here's a young fellow giving us a timely example of faith and perseverance in the face of adversity:

Pretty transcendent moment at the end, when his friend arrives late and trivializes all the unseen hard work by pointing our hero and saying, "boy you're lucky".

The video cuts out before we get to hear the likely reply: "Hey, the harder I work the luckier I get."

Ezra: still holding the line for the rest of us

Ezra Levant has been hit by yet another lawsuit. Read all the pathetic details at: Disgraced Liberal lobbyist Warren Kinsella tries to destroy me - Ezra Levant

I think this is lawsuit number 19, or something like that, counting all the "human rights" and Law Society complaints against Ezra, along with the libel suits from "human rights" industry people. He sounded a little worn out when I heard him interviewed the other day at Brass Balls Radio. I mean Ezra is still full of faith in the fight and the rightness of our cause, but what keeps him going is the knowledge that people will donate money to fight his various suits, and no one likes to have to ask repeatedly for money, even when we have to do it.

But this is what those who would limit free speech in the name of "human rights" know, and they know Ezra Levant is a key figure to wear out. Ezra is exceptionally pugnacious for a Canadian in our post-Trudeaupian age. So read up on the latest SLAPP suit by a blogger who doesn't seem to agree that the Canadian Islamic Congress has an approach to Islam, Sharia, Iran, Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, Mark Steyn, Barbara Amiel, etc. that may well be considered "anti-Semitic", or Judeophobic. It will be very interesting, if this suit proceeds to trial, to see how the courts come to understand what is reasonably entailed by claims that someone is helping out "anti-Semites", in this day and age when apparently mainstream political parties run Islamist candidates, well-known politicians attend what are, essentially, Hezbollah rallies, and even Kinsella's Liberal party's last leadership race was influenced by an intramural campaign defaming a leading candidate for having a Jewish wife. Will Mohammed Elmasry's CIC be, effectively, labelled "anti-Semitic" by a Canadian court? Perhaps Kinsella is betting no judge in PC Canada will have the nerve or intellectual disposition. In any case, we need the ugly truth revealed as we move forward in the fight to renew a free society.

At the end of the day, consider how much unpaid work Ezra has done for the cause of free speech in Canada. Remember how he stood up to and revealed the evil that was at work in the Alberta Human Rights Commission when he was all alone and didn't know if others would come to share in his fight (as he mentions in the Brass Balls interview, he went into the AHRC interrogation telling his wife he didn't know how they were going to pay the $5000 lawyer bill). And send him some cash.

Jay Currie has further speculation on what might be motivating Kinsella: Panic Stations.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Simple Shadows

Funny how so many individual conversations can serve as perfect set-ups for the next one, sometimes… almost as if it was planned that way. Different people around us, different ideas discussed among the different people, yet for we who continue in the center of it all, it’s the same story thread continuing… as if, ultimately, it’s simply the same long conversation.

I spent a memorable part of my Sunday in stimulating company with a group of septuagenarian and octogenarian acquaintances. (I’m starting to get to “a certain age” where I appreciate being constantly referred to as “the young guy” of the group..!)

The beginning of the conversation consisted of each giving an update on their current health problems, and the ongoing treatments required for them. Pretty grim talk; seeing my sympathy, one of my older friends leaned over at one point and whispered, with a twinkle in his eye, some rather insightful advice:

“Charles", he said, "don’t get old.”

It was invigorating, however, to hear so many personal stories of fighting the clock, determined assertions that they were doing something, whatever they could do, despite their individual ailments, and increasing restrictions.

Notwithstanding the differences in their stories, there was always one thing in common, one thread linking all the stories into one story: a strong connection to their families.

Their children and grand-children were mentioned frequently, playing an important role in their lives, through the simple expedient of giving each of them a role to play in the lives of others. The simplest medicine, yet one making an overwhelming difference; a difference made obvious just by looking at them brighten up when they would talk about their families. Their backs would get straighter, the voices would rise, a light would come on from behind their eyes. On a deeper level than any visit to the doctor, the simple bond of family did more to strengthen their resolve to continue their combat against their bodies’ limitations, to tough things out for as long as they could… they would continue, for the long haul, for the sake of their families.

Today, another conversation, as by sudden chance I got to have lunch with another septuagenarian, a remarkably energetic man back in Canada after many years abroad, still active and productive now in what has turned out to be a third major career springing from his initial one. He brought along his younger (by a couple of generations) wife and their teenage son. And again I saw the positive influence of family; knowing what I knew about his business in the 1990s, I think the setbacks undergone by the company he so painstakingly built would have shattered him were it not for his wife’s support. I know those problems would have shattered me, that’s for darn sure, back when I was a supposedly “strong”, workaholic bachelor.

I may or may not see my lunch companion again after today, but his parting words couldn’t have been more effective had they been scripted for him to deliver; his main apprenticeship had been at the side of septuagenarians in his turn, back when he was a younger man learning his trade. He said that now that he’s reached the age that they were when they were teaching him, only now does he feel that he is beginning to understand, to really “get”, his trade.

The key is simplicity, he told me; it takes a lifetime to learn how to make, and keep, things simple.

Looking back over the lessons of these two separate yet connected conversations, I conclude: What’s simpler than a family’s love?

Head Scratcher: fake "human rights" make the world go batty

I'm still trying to figure out this choice of headline for a letter to the editor making fun, I think, of the BC "Human Rights" Tribunal and a popular BC restaurant chain that was founded in the 1920s: Some Muslim challenges to democracy won't go away


It came to my attention last day that I had forgotten the occasion of a deeply-held personal concern, and that the source of my thought originates in the mind of a Black American commenting on slavery. Neither he nor I have ever been slaves, though both of us have ancestors who were. We both share a common memory, and his informed mine, though I forgot about him as the key to my understanding.

Memory keeps the individual coherent in his own existence. Below are four coherent memories of America.

John Kaminski, "The New Evil Empire: America has become what Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used to be."

The evil empire, number one threat to peace in the world, is now the United States. No more Red Menace. No more Third Reich. Now it's a War on Terror executed by the biggest terrorist of all - America, the nation that killed its own people by the thousands in order to trigger World War III and capture all the world's oil fields.


And when the rest of the world comes calling to rectify this murderous tyranny and worldwide oppression that America now practices, what will you say to them when they aim their guns at you? That you didn't know?

"PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's To Use Human Milk; Group Says Move Would Help Humans, Cows." Waterbury, Vt.; 23 Sept 2008.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman."PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.

I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at the hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.

Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life."

[L]et us leave this small and barren country of our and take possession of a better. There are plenty to choose from-- some near, some further off; if we take one of them, we shall be admired more than ever....

Cyrus did not think much of this suggestion; he replied that they might act upon it if they pleased, but added the warning that, if they did so, they must prepare themselves to rule no longer, but to be ruled by others. 'Soft countries,' he said, 'breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too.' The Persians had to admit that this was true and that Cyrus was wiser than they; so they left him, and chose instead to live in a rugged land and rule than to cultivate rich plains and be slaves.

Herodotus, The Histories. Trans. Aubrey de Selincourt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books; 1965; p. 599.

We can't remember things we've never known. I often forget things I have learned. Still, I remember enough to remain more or less coherent as an individual through a long life-time. Above we have four memories of Americanism. They are, together, incoherent. We live in a pluralistic nation of many conflicting memories, united by something more than the details. Ernst Renan claims our nation is a daily plebiscite of agreement to live as a united nation; Johann von Herder claims we are an ethnic group united by climate, language, and ethnicity over the course of time. It must come to what we remember of our selves as nationals. We won't remember what we never knew; and we might forget much of what we did know. I venture the opinion that many Americans have forgotten, or worse, never knew, what America was and is. It seems that many have come to remember the memories of others, and taken them on as personal.

History is, from what I've experienced, an eternal dialectic. Nevertheless, one chooses much of what one remembers, and one acts coherently, if not necessarily rationally, to maintain the flow of the general movement. Still, it is a daily maintenance project for the person and the nation. Given what we have, we work to maintain it and expand it where possible. Memory, thus, is Will. Memory is also futurity. I will remember to remember what I remember in time to come so I remain coherent. So, history isn't simply what happened: it is what we will for the future. We keep what we can and move on to collect more later. Like chess, determined as it is, we are presented with life-Will nearly limitless in its options to move as we will. We can choose to remember what we will, even if such memories are not our own.

Americanism can be a Palinism. We can choose to remember America as our future by reifying the palin of American memory. We recreate America daily as we remember it privately. What kind of memory do we choose our future to be?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Looking at the Left: See Them Know Them Oppose Them

That's the title of a blog that has some must-see photos from a weekend Obama rally in Denver.

• Festival of Obama, October 26, 2008 · Looking at the Left

Return, Palinite

I'm a Palinite. No, I'm not an expert Palinite, but I have some good instincts and some experience in life that qualifies me to call myself a Palinite in good conscience. I want a return to America. I have no desire for the continuance of meaningless expertise in public lives. I want excellence instead. I want a return to average and normal: Saras.

"The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health Education and Welfare under JFK and author of "Excellence."

Two things I like? Plumbing and Philosophy. Maybe yes it's because I'm full of shit. Maybe certainly I'm no expert at either Philosophy or plumbing. But I do know something about both. No, not an expert, but still I have some idea of things, practical and plumb.

Below we have a number of stories on amateurs and experts and blogs and media pros. Maybe plumbers shouldn't have opinions about Philosophy; but if so, then one will hope philosophers don't ever opine on the nature of plumbing. Nor should novelists ever deal in fiction. In such a world, we'd all stay home, if we're carpenter, and freeze in the dark, assuming we're not electricians.

First, a book review, in media res, for all of our Latin speaking Romans:

Since Andrew Keen is so instinctively dismissive about amateur contributors to the internet - people like me - it's hardly surprising that I should instinctively dismiss his book, so let me declare an interest right away: I like Web 2.0. I've been a contributor to it - through Amazon customer reviews, Wikipedia, discussion forums, MySpace, Napster and so on - for nearly a decade now, and I've followed the emergence of the political movement supporting it, exemplified by writers such as Larry Lessig and Yochai Benkler, with some fascination. and no, I've never made a dime out of it (though I have been sent a few books to review, not including this one).

Andrew Keen is that classic sort of British reactionary: the sort that would bemoan the loss of the word "gay" to the English language, and regret the damage caused by industrial vacuum cleaners on the chimney sweeping industry. His book is an impassioned, but simple-minded, hearkening to those simpler times which concludes that our networked economy has pointlessly exalted the amateur, ruined the livelihood of experts, destroyed incentives for creating intellectual property, delivered to every man-jack amongst us the ability - never before possessed - to create and distribute our own intellectual property and monkeyed around mischievously with the title to property wrought from the very sweat of its author's brow.

Keen thinks this is a bad thing; but that is to assume that the prior state of affairs was unimpeachably good. You don't have to be a paranoid Chomskyite to see the pitfalls of concentrated mass media ownership (Keen glosses over them), or note that the current intellectual property regime - which richly rewards a few lucky souls and their publishers at the expense of millions of less fortunate (but not, necessarily, less talented) ones, isn't the only way one could fairly allocate the risks and rewards of intellectual endeavour.

Keen's world is one where there is a transcendental reality; a truth, purveyed by experts, trained journalists, and in great danger of dissolution by the radically relativised truths of Wikipedia where the community sets the agenda, and if two plus two equals five, then it is five. So much Big Brother: Orwell's novel gets repeated mention, it apparently having escaped Keen that a media owned by a concentrated, cross-held clique of corporate interests - which is what the old economy perpetuated - looks quite a lot more totalitarian than publishing capacity distributed to virtually every person on the planet.

Keen laments the loss of a "sanctity of authorship" of the sort which vouchsafed to Messrs Jagger and Richards (and their recording company) a healthy lifetime's riches for the fifteen minutes it took to compose and record Satisfaction (notwithstanding their debt - doubtless unpaid - to divers blues legends from Robert Johnson to Chuck Berry) and seems to believe individual creativity will be suddenly stifled by undermining it. There's no evidence for this (certainly not judging by MySpace, the proliferation of blogs, Wikipedia, and so forth, as Keen patiently recounts), and no reason I can see for supposing it to be true on any other grounds.

On the contrary, Yale law professor Yochai Benkler in his excellent (and freely available!) The Wealth Of Networks has a much more sophisticated analysis: there is a non-market wealth of information and expertise - residing in heads like yours and mine - which the networked economy has finally unlocked, for the benefit of all, and at the cost of the poor substitute that preceded it. That this might have compromised the gargantuan earnings capacity of one latter day Rolling Stones (to the incremental benefit of a few thousand others) is far less of a travesty - and more of a boon - than Keen thinks it is. Now rock bands have to sing for their supper. Keen may regret that but, as a concert goer, I sure don't.

Keen also, irritatingly, keeps returning to the Monkeys and Typewriters analogy (writes your dear correspondent, a monkey). It is true there may not be much talent behind the infinite typewriters, but the evolutionary lesson is that there doesn't need to be, as long as we have tools, be they Google algorithms or manual reputation management devices (things like Amazon's "helpful review" voting buttons) to sort the wheat from the chaff. And like it or not, we do have these tools: they're the sine non qua of Web 2.0, the thing without which it would never have got off the ground.

And Wikipedia (or Linux, or eBay, or Amazon's customer review system) is potent evidence of that. That there are notorious cases, a few of which Keen recounts, doesn't detract from the fact that Wikipedia is largely comprised of brilliant articles, with helpful links and useful surrounding discussion, a complete history, and those articles that aren't so good are obviously not: all you need to pack for a visit is your critical faculties. Again, if the choice were blind faith in Encyclopaedia Britannica or a skeptical read of Wikipedia, I know which I'd have, and which I'd counsel for my children - especially since Wikipedia is automatically up-to-date, preternaturally following the zeitgeist, and replete with good know-how on things that Britannica would never have in a million years. Most of the time, we don't need a Nobel-prize certified article, and in Britannica wouldn't get one anyway, if what we wanted to know about was "The Knights who say 'Ni'."

Elsewhere Keen misunderstands Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Correspondence Theory of Truth, implies that traditional media isn't systemically biased, assumes his fellow men have no sense of skepticism whatever (because something is watched on YouTube, Keen assumes it is necessarily believed true), and constantly fails to see the double standards in his own arguments: Complaining that traditional media is losing out to a swarm of unpaid, under-resourced amateurs, Keen suddenly remarks "but in reality it's often those with the loudest, most convincing message, and the most money to spread it, who are being heard". Plus ca change, eh?

Lastly, Keen laments the passing of specialist record and book shops like Tower, whose "unparalleled" and "remarkably diverse selection" will be lost to us for ever. Clearly he's no online shopper then, since dear old Amazon would lick all of them put together - but Amazon, he says, lacks the dedicated expertise of sales assistants that could have stepped out of Nick Hornby's Hi Fidelity. Except that it doesn't, since it has literally millions of them - people like you and me - who can offer our tuppence worth gladly and without thought of recompense.

The thing is, there *is* a debate to be had here, though not quite the apocalyptic one that this author believes is necessary, and at times Keen touches on it, but his brimming prurience and needless moral disgust - at the cost of level-headed analysis and exposition - towards a community which has simply adjusted to the new social environment more quickly than traditional political and business models have makes this a poor entry for the purposes of kicking off that debate.

In the mean time, Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom and Lawrence Lessig's Code: Version 2.0 (neither of which Keen seems to have read) might be a better place for interested persons to start.

Olly Buxton

Now, as it turns out, I am a blogger, one of the infamous few who isn't making a killing from this business. Below we have a different take on blogging from that given by the most excellent Sir Whatshisname above.

Hannah Strange, "The final showdown: reactions from the blogosphere."

Bloggers may not be a homogeneous group, but they are an educated and affluent one, according to a new survey measuring the current state of the blogosphere. Seventy percent of all global bloggers are college graduate, half are between the ages of 18 an 34, and 40 percent have a household income more than $75.00.00, [a] survey found.

And while blogging has only recently exploded in mainstream popularity, at least 50 percent of the bloggers surveyed have engaged in online commentary for more than two years and, collectively, are now generating close to one million posts every day.

The survey was conducted by Technorati as part of a continuing analysis into trends and themes i blogging. As part of the 2008 report, a random sample of 1.2 million bloggers registered with Technorati were asked about: the role of blogging in their lives; the tools, time and resources used to produce their blogs; and how blogging has affected them personally, professionally, and financially.

While the survey was administered in English, responses came from bloggers who publish in 20 different languages in 66 countries. Highlights include:

  • Women make up only 34 percent of active bloggers, but are more sophisticated than male users about various means of driving traffic to their site.
  • The majority of resondants currently have advertising on their bogs, generating a mean annual revenue of $6,000.00 U.S.
  • One in five Asian bloggers is a student and more likely to write about music than politics; however, Asian bloggers are also three times more likely than bloggers elsewhere in the world to have paid advertising on their site.
  • American bloggers are four times more likely than Europeans to try to make money from their site.
Both personal and professional topics are equally popular, the survey found. Most bloggers write about multiple topics, and about half consider their style to be "sincere, conversational, humorous, and expert."

Gossip or tell-all tales fell to the bottom of the list in self-described styles among the bloggers surveyed. The majority of blogger reveal their identities on their blogs and recognize the positive impact that blogging has on their personal and professional lives. More than half are now better known in their industry and one in five has been on the TV or the radio because of his or her blog.

Personal satisfaction is by far the most popular measure of the bog success, the survey found, though, on average, bloggers use four distinct metrics to gauge their influence, including revenue generated and the numbers of subscribers or comments.

For the complete survey, go to

Here I jump in again briefly with an introduction to Th. Lifson's article on the MSM. [Boo! Hiss!]

Thomas Lifson, "Newspaper death throes (continued)", American Thinker; 26 Oct. 2008

The Newark Star-Ledger reportedly plans to reduce its newsroom staff by half, according to the Associated Press. The editor is quoted as saying that 151 out of 335 editorial employees have so far accepted buyouts.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post chronicles the troubles of the AP itself, in a piece by Jay Newton-Small. The article notes the increasing reliance of the AP on news analysis and and editorializing, as opposed to straight news gathering, but oddly focuses on Ron Fournier, who is a rare AP staffer not in the left-liberal camp.

Increasingly, the AP is becoming a competitor of the newspapers which own it as a cooperative). Major papers, including the Tribune Company biggies (LA Times, Chicago Tribune) the Star-Tribune, and others are dropping the AP, reducing its revenue base.

Jerry Malone, a veteran journalist "who truly bleeds ink when I'm cut" laments the decline and fall of American journalism, declaring himself ashamed to admit he's a journalist now. He suggests that the dying industry may be sacrificing its integrity by blatantly shaping the news to support Obama for reasons of its own:

I learned a long time ago that when people or institutions begin to behave in a manner that seems to be entirely against their own interests, it's because we don't understand what their motives really are. It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide - especially when, given our currently volatile world and economy, the chances of a successful Obama presidency, indeed any presidency, is probably less than 50:50. [....] are facing career catastrophe -- and desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play. Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here. After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway - all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.

And then the opportunity presents itself: an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career. With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived Fairness Doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe, be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

And besides, you tell yourself, it's all for the good of the country . . .

Oh, the world is ending and it's all a big catastrophe, not anything like when I was a boy, back in the good old days. Polio and the Cold War and famines in India. Great.

Then came the hippies, and look at the mess we have now. So we do what we do, and we do our best, expert or no. Personally, I have more faith in you than I do in Obama. You, who are likely like Sarah Palin, (if you are) inspire me. No experience? Come on!? I might not want you changing my car brakes but I think you're likely as well-informed as the next person about things that matter in life. If hundreds of Sarah Palins would go to Washington--as our representatives-- then I'd feel good about America for the duration. We don't need your expertise in foreign affairs. We need a return to America. We need palin, "again" a "return." That's why today I'm not an expert but that I am in spite of that at least a minor Palinite. Return my America to the people. Any decent person can do it. Expert or no.

You can do it, excellent Palinite.

Montreal's New Religion: Their Hockey Team

I laughed when I first read this, and then I thought for a moment, and now I conclude: this professor is on to something.

Beginning in January, the [University de Montreal]'s faculty of theology will begin offering a graduate course titled "The Religion of the Montreal Canadiens." Olivier Bauer, the professor who conceived the course, said that since moving here from Switzerland in 2006, he has been struck by the parallels between Montreal's hockey team and religion. When he saw that the team was about to celebrate its centennial season, he decided the time was right "to finally address the question that nobody dares ask: whether the Montreal Canadiens are a religion," he said.
Mr. Bauer is persuaded that the Canadiens have the characteristics of a religion, beginning with the devotion of their fans. Since news of the course was first reported in Le Devoir, Mr. Bauer has heard from people saying, "Yes, that is me, hockey is my religion." A young woman commenting on Le Devoir's web site said she considers it a sin to miss a Habs game. Last season, when the team was facing elimination in the playoffs, she said she sought to bring the team luck by climbing on her knees the 283 steps to the St. Joseph Oratory.
Mr. Bauer also sees significance in the motto that adorns the Canadiens' dressing room, taken from the poem In Flanders Fields: "To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high." It is in keeping with the idea of redemption through suffering, and he sees a parallel with Christ on the crucifix. "It's not a club where strength is put forward but rather failing hands," he said. ...

Religion is part of what it is to be human, and we make it the most important part of our lives no matter what form it takes. We tie ourselves to something we consider more important than ourselves, and use it to lift us out of ourselves. For only a few it's church, for many it's politics, and for others it's sports. But it's always something... our passion for religion doesn't need a god as its focus, it just needs belief in a sacred ritual of personal elevation.

Having grown up in Montreal, I understand the attraction; and I guess there are worse things to worship, to work for, than hockey. Maybe, however, if they take this class, Professor Bauer's students will rekindle their cultural memory and re-learn that autrefois, Quebecois used to believe there was a treasure more important, and more uplifting, to tie oneself to, than skates...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sympathy For The Devil: Bill Ayers' Approval Rating

''Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,'' says former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers in his 2001 book Fugitive Days.

When New York Times reporter Dinita Smith interviewed Ayers about his new book for an article published on September 11, 2001, he admitted:
''I don't regret setting bombs,'' Bill Ayers said. ''I feel we didn't do enough.''

He writes that he participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972.

Even more chilling was Ayers response to a question about whether he would bomb again.
''I don't want to discount the possibility,'' he said.

So what to make of a recent Rasmussen poll, identifying a number as large as 13% who can somehow hold "favorable" views about this callous, unrepentant terrorist bomber?
[William Ayers], now a college professor in Chicago, was part of a domestic terrorist group in the 1960s and remains unrepentant for his activities during that era. Just 13% of American voters have a favorable opinion of him while 62% hold an unfavorable view. Twenty-five percent (25%) don’t know enough to have an opinion either way.

Among political liberals, 25% have a favorable opinion of him while 44% give Ayers negative reviews. Seventy-three percent (73%) have an unfavorable opinion of Ayers, including 59% with a Very Unfavorable opinion.

It boggles the mind; after all that's been revealed about this awful man, there are still so many people who can, somehow, like him. Rasmussen tries to dampen the bad news by introducing it with a "just", but the revelation that "just" a little more than one out of ten Americans can find room to morally accomodate this man's evil is one out of ten too many.

Is this sympathy for the devil the result of their paying attention, and approving of what they learn? Or is this from not paying attention at all, reflecting simply the knee-jerk reaction of one out of four liberals that if Ayers also wants to spread the wealth around, then it follows by extention that he must be a fine fellow.
"And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stol'n out of holy writ,
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil."
___ King Richard III (I, iii, 336-338)

New Obama Times: Running on empty.


New York Times endorses Obama for president NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Times endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for U.S. president on Thursday, saying he had "met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change."

Yeah, and now for some news:

New York Times Company sinking faster -

Thomas Lifson
The death spiral accelerates, as NYTCo earnings fell by 51.4% in the third quarter. As AT predicted would happen after it was raised, the company now recognizes it is unable to sustain its dividend. That's critical because Sulzberger family members control the board of directors, and many of them depend heavily on dividend income for their lifestyles.

"Our board of directors plans to review our dividend policy before the end of this year to determine what is most prudent in light of the overall market conditions," the company's chief executive, Janet Robinson, said in a statement.

Pinch Sulzberger hiked the dividend from 17.5 cents to 23 cents a share to buy family support, whatever the cost to then company's ability to cope with the maelstrom of economic forces it must navigate. He clearly put his own tenure in office above the survivability of the company, in effect liquidating it in slow motion.

When the brighter among the staffers of the New York Times realize that Pinch has sacrificed the viability of the company in order to keep himself in office, they will turn on him. But that will probably be after the family tosses him out (it will be called voluntary retirement), now that (presumably) they have caught on themselves that Pinch has been scuttling the Good Ship New York Times through decades of disastrous business decisions. Those smaller checks are really going to pinch, now that the stock market and real estate are down.

Anticipating the dividend cut, investors are dumping the stock and it is below $10 for the first time in many years.

Yes, many people have stopped subscribing to the NYT for the simple reason that they use the Internet to read at Covenant Zone instead; but many must be plumb fed-up with the pimping for Obama that the Times tries to pass off as news and intelligent editorial. More than Obama: people are likely just disgusted by the leftard vision the Times presents as the way of sophisticated people. It ain't; and in a world where people have to choose wisely how to spend their limited time, they are decreasingly opting to spend their time and money on the NYT. The market tells, the smart money seeking new visions, regardless of how "stupid" we are, those of us who have abandoned The New York Times.

There will always be the NYT, but it'll be an obvious joke, like a fancy version of a street-corner give-away paper. The people speak. They say: The Times, they are a'collapsing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calling BC Wine lovers and lovers...

Harsh Words: Debating the Middle East Conflict on the Streets of Canada | Currents

Jonathan Narvey has a video of a demo and counter-demo outside of a BC liquor store. The cause? Israeli wine.

As he says, it provides some further insight into what the "anti-Israel" protestors are really on about. Something to keep in mind if you're shopping for a bottle of wine this weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarkozy: no free expression for voodoo rites

Sarkozy fights back against voodoo doll

What are they afraid of?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a publishing company unless it withdraws a Sarkozy doll that comes with a "voodoo manual" instructing readers to plant pins in it, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The doll is emblazoned with some of Sarkozy's most famous quotes such as "Get lost you pathetic arsehole" -- his words to a bystander who refused to shake his hand at a farm show last year. Readers are encouraged to plant pins in the quotes.

"Nicolas Sarkozy has instructed me to remind you that, whatever his status and fame, he has exclusive and absolute rights over his own image," lawyer Thierry Herzog wrote to publishers K&B in a letter published by newspaper Le Monde.

Confirming details to Reuters, Herzog said Sarkozy would sue the publishing firm if it didn't respond and pull the product. K&B has issued 20,000 copies of the manual and doll.

The company has also issued a Segolene Royal doll representing Sarkozy's rival in last year's presidential election. Her lawyer said she was also considering legal action.

CZ meets

By the way, and although I have tired of announcing this each week, and my colleagues have not taken up the task, the Covenant Zone bloggers invite local readers to join them in their weekly meetings in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library: in front of Blenz Coffee, Thursdays, 7-9 pm, look for the blue scarves.

There is no perfect system: Ed Morgan on hate and free speech

Blazing Cat Fur brings our attention today to an article by Toronto law professor, and former Canadian Jewish Congress top official, Ed Morgan. Professor Morgan explains his about face on the question of Canada's "human rights" hate speech laws, from a supporter to an opponent.

What is noteworthy in Ed's narrative is not that he came through some application of careful legal reasoning to turn on the laws that the CJC has taken a lead in supporting. Rather, his revelation, perhaps like all real revelations, came through an experience of why such laws are not compatible with the pragmatic truths of human interaction in one's time and place.

In other words, there are actually very few opponents of the "hate speech" laws that hold some absolutist position on "free speech", a position defended by some philosophical argument they take to be unimpeachable. The cause of freedom of expression is ultimately a pragmatic one (and I hear no serious arguments against things such as libel laws or the criminalization of incitement to violence, or threats.) I think most defenders of free speech realize that any concerted campaign of vilification against any individual or established group of fellow citizens that was not simply a reasonable or sincere argument against an ideology, religion, or failure to share in the cultural basics by which a free society renews itself, but a campaign against their very existence, would be intolerable.

But the question, best addressed by pragmatic experience and intuition, is how should we respond to intolerable hate speech. The common gut reaction that "there ought to be a law..." appeals to our sense of primitive justice. And I do not mean to be condescending to this "primitive" sense, for I think it is in touch with something true and fundamental to our humanity, as is any honour/shame code, notwithstanding the historical limits (the restraint on freedom and social-cultural growth) of all such codes when taken very much to heart.

Such limits are illuminated by the example in Morgan's article:
This past spring, I was asked to defend the leadership of Hasbara Fellowships at a York University discipline hearing. Hasbara is an activist Jewish student organization that decided, in the face of relentless anti-Israel events at York, to fight bad speech not with censorship, but with more and better speech. Instead of asking for a ban on anti-Israel activities, they counter with strong pro-Israel events – often with a dose of in-your-face chutzpah. Fighting bad speech with good speech has turned out to be the right way to go, and I’m happy to say that we’ve had some legal success with the strategy.

The complaints filed against Hasbara allege that the very image of the blue-and-white Israeli flag appearing on the group’s pamphlets is hateful and must be banned. The complaints filed against Maclean’s allege that the very discussion of radical Islam contained in that publication is hateful and must be banned. That anyone can take either complaint seriously shows how dangerous the suppression of speech in the name of anti-hate can be. It turns out, if we read our history correctly, that the Holocaust began not only with words, but with book burning. Once we go down the road of censorship for the sake of promoting tolerance, we may soon be standing at the heights of intolerance.
How can university officials (not least at a university that once identified itself as a Jew-friendly institution) even entertain the argument that the Israeli flag is a symbol of hate? I know real thinking has been in short supply in our universities for some time now, but seriously...

This kind of thing happens because once we institutionalize the concept of hate speech laws, in an otherwise free society of many identity groups, it becomes extremely difficult, and I think probably impossible, to hold the line to insure those laws are used only in extreme circumstances (circumstances that would not likely ever emerge in a society keen to protect its shared freedoms) and not corrupted by a human pride and arrogance that would understand "justice" as the insuring that every group has an equal go at humiliating or scapegoating its enemies.

After all, human conflict is an inescapable fact of life, and in certain respects all the more so the freer and more complex our society. The temptation to have a go at restraining the other, towards whom we feel conflict or resentment, with such laws becomes almost impossible to refuse because we know that the very same temptation is being entertained by our others. Tit for tat, honour and shame, get them before they get us... all the true, but primitive, human intuitions about justice and reciprocity come into play.

Since conflict is a fact of life, and since resentment only increases in scope and scale the more free and socially or culturally complex one's society, the pragmatic question of seeking relatively non-violent ways of deferring this conflict become paramount. And if the pragmatic choice, some kind of muddling through, or some new kind of conversation that defers tensions without trying to find any permanent "solution", can increase the overall freedom in our society, we need to favor it even if it seems contrary to our more basic intuitions about justice. We cannot necessarily appeal to our core desire for more formal justice and lust after more laws to restrain people, especially where the application of such laws is inevitably politicized.

From this realization comes the pragmatic argument that Ed Morgan offers today, the realization that the best way to fight bad speech is with good speech. If we want a free society, it is our responsibility to stand with those who are unjustly hated, and not make it into a matter for constant intervention from centralized authority, be it the university administration of the national state.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

21st Century Reading

Around 1995/96 I taught myself speed-reading, using a simple technique outlined in a simple book, describing methodoloy developed by Evelyn Wood. What a sense of empowerment... all of a sudden I could read a book in a short evening, instead of over several days, or weeks. I went through about a book a day for years; well not every single day because of work duties or other obligations... let's say about four or five books a week, on average.

I read a lot of books for a while, there..! [Sigh........ the good ol' days..]

It was so enlivening: I could read faster, and retain more of what I read. Those were heady times... too much so, as it turned out, because I got cocky and set about to speed-read the dictionary, of all things. I thought about how "smart" I could become if I could remember every single definition in a good-sized dictionary. [Haha!! I always break out laughing whenever I revisit this memory, at the sheer lunacy of the idea. Like a lot of silly decisions we make in our lives, we often look back in wonderment at who this person was who temporarily commandeered our body and our mind and took us for a joyride.]

Anyway, my little experiment with the dictionary so totally burned me out that I lost my speed-reading "powers", and have struggled in vain to recapture them ever since.

Well: I accidentally found a battered copy of the glorious old book I had used over ten years ago to first teach me better reading skills, and I'm setting aside some proper time this weekend to sit down and figure out once and for all why I can't seem to reclaim the same mental skills I had so effortlessly taught myself that exciting weekend 13 years ago (yikes! 13 years... time flies).

Given the very smart commentors we're lucky to have here at Covenant Zone, I was wondering if anyone has some practical tips of their own, on how to improve speed of reading and ability to recall the information read. (I'm more concerned about the latter these days than the former, to be honest... I perceive my memory failing me at an alarming rate.)

IfIstarttowritelikethisnextweek,thenyouwillknowmysppedreadingskillhasreturned! ;)

I was also wondering if my regular reading online is having some negative effect on my reading and my recall. Have any of you noticed any change in reading abilities or habits as a result of shifting so much time towards online reading, and away from book-reading?

Will the Real Sarah Palin Please Stand Up.

Given the nature of the passion this election is raising among people who think about politics, one might not be surprised that some readers miss the point of the stories below. We have one main piece by a Washington Post columnist recording the plain facts of Sarah Palin's wardrobe "as a Palin political/fashion statement," in other words, that Palin is a pretty plain gal. Interspersed with the main story there are quotations from Palin-haters. One must needs slow down if only slightly to see that this is a comparison between Palin as she is-- and Palin as seen by, or more accurately, Palin as she is ranted about by, haters from the Left. Look, then, at what Leftists write about Sarah Palin. Compare it to what a columnist writes. Decide for yourself who the real Sarah Palin is. It'll define you, too.

Robin Givhan, "Palin in comparison." 22 Oct. 2008

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's style is exceptionally ordinary. Nothing about it connotes authority. No detail announces that she is in charge. And that's what makes it so powerful.

aronus Says: August 31st, 2008 at 10:35 am

"Fuck this bitch. She's like the female Hitler. She has no respect for life at all (except for little fetuses, of course)."

The rimless glasses that dominate her face are as banal as spectacles come. The goal of their design is to have them go unnoticed. They are crafted to avoid detracting from her big brown eyes.

"Evil. Aerial gun hunting of wolves. She's a huge advocate for it. Some of her other offensive positions (choice, etc.) I can at least see the arguments for. Harassing wildlife from a helicopter and killing them with (non-"clean") gunshots is just f'ing evil."

Her clothes are unpretentious, but they are also unremarkable. They have nothing to do with fashion. It's fashion show season now, with designers unveiling their spring 2009 collections in New York, Milan and soon Paris. So far, none of them have suggested that the next new thing for the power-wielding woman is a straight black skirt with a boxy blazer, which is what Palin wore when she accepted the vice-presidential nomination.

Average Viewer: "Good lord, this woman is dumb as a tulip bulb. The very idea that the Yanks would put her in charge of anything but her own vibrator is rank insanity. You can tell by the way she hedges her answers that she knows feck all about politics, and has developed little more than a coping mechanism when asked questions she has no clue about. Alaska may well be stupid enough to give her public office, but it's pretty obvious that she's more of a backwoods carny huckster than a responsible and educated political figure. Stepford Wives and Klan mothers will love her even if it was revealed that she ate babies, but hopefully the rest of the US will choose not to elect another retard to federal office."

In the narrow confines of political style, the accepted rule is to dress in a manner that implies empathy for one's constituency - so don't wear anything too expensive - but also conveys authority. Palin has embraced the former and utterly ignored the latter. Nothing about her style jibes with the image of power. She does not dress like a boss lady, an Iron Lady or the devil who wore Prada.

Eduardo said... "[T]he hypocrytical, lying tool that is Sarah Palin. Watch her wave her sick baby in front of the stupid christians and the supposedly "liberal media" will go wild!"

Her clothes don't have the aura of sophistication like that of Michelle Obama's sheaths and pearls. They do not have a patina of glamour like Cindy McCain's heiress wardrobe. And they do not announce themselves with the confidence, assertiveness and listen-to- me-ness of Hillary Clinton's bold pantsuits. Palin's clothes are common. Everyone knows someone who dresses like her, which is partly why so many folks seem to think that they know her.

Posted by PerceptionManagers.Org at 9/06/2008 12:40:00 PM:
"But being openly racist is only the tip of the Palin iceberg. According to Alaskans interviewed for this article, she is also vindictive and mean."

Palin likes to wear a super-size Old Glory brooch that shouts with as much patriotic bravado as one of those monster flags that wave from a car dealership. And for the record, it has no kin among the statement jewelry currently being championed on the runway.

Posted by PerceptionManagers.Org at 9/06/2008 12:40:00 PM:
"Sarah Palin is a racist cunt."

The ruby slippers she wore on the campaign trail, the ones she paired with the black jacket and skirt that pulled just so across her hips, churn up images of another small-town girl who'd suddenly landed in Oz. A peep-toe pump is coy - but not an emblem of gravitas.

The Singing Revolution: "Sarah Palin is a racist piece of shit."

Palin is the girl next door. And yes, much about her attire emphasizes youthfulness, most distinctly her hair. Highlighted, teased and scrunched, it is a standard-issue, mommy-is-in-a- rush style. Since motherhood has been laid out by her campaign like one of the pillars of national service, the mop-top hairdo is practically a battle scar.

Disgusted with Republicans: October 22, 2008

"More perks for Palin: $150,000.00 wardrobe. If you gave money to the RNC was it to help get McCain elected? or was it to buy a fancy schmancy wardrobe for Sarah Palin and her kids? The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September."

Executive women tend to avoid wearing their hair in ponytails or looking like they have it tacked to the top of their head with a chip clip. Like a good female news anchor, they get themselves a haircut that falls no further than the shoulders, is feminine and easy to maintain. They do not want to be wind-blown and tousled when they walk into a boardroom. Hair shouldn't be a distraction.

Washington Scandal: Media Darling Sarah Palin About To Become Scum Sucking CRIMINAL and Ruination of Republican Party

"tsk, tsk, tsk...seems that little Ms. Media Darling Sarah Palin is about to be burned at the stake for ethics violations...or is the old Bush Guard going to attempt to squelch those who might dare to speak truth to evil?"

Palin doesn't have Maria Menounos' Pantene hair. But it is chestnut brown and long and is the antithesis of what most women do with it as they come into their own. They typically become more polished and controlled, not less so.

Candy said: September 2, 2008 at 20:19

"How about . . . how about we just let them have Alaska? Let Alaska peacefully leave the union. Of course, this means all those earmarks they survive on will be gone, but maybe they can petition for some foreign aid. The military will disable all the missile silos. She can keep her Praetorian Guard. We'll arrange for all the batshit crazies in the lower 48 and any who might reside in Obama's home state and the territories to move there, free of charge. McCain and Palin can be supreme rulers of the Country of Alaska, at least until Palin has McCain fired and she becomes sole ruler.

Damned shame about the wildlife and the environment, though. However, about two thirds of the Southern wingnuts will freeze to death the first winter or be eaten by bears or die in weird grilling accidents - I'm looking at you TIDOSy - and that will ease the drain on food and heating oil and stuff, so maybe it will all even out. I really don't want to share a country with them any more. I just want them to go away. They get what they want, and I get what I want. Yay."

Palin has been referred to as America's hottest governor by sources as varied as Alaska Magazine and button-wearing Republican conventioneers. But her power isn't in her physical looks as much as in the packaging.

Fickle Goddess: "Why I Hate Palin. Governor Palin has a Down's syndrome kid."

She seems to dress for pretty rather than powerful. She is willing to be sexual, with the occasional fitted jacket and high heels. She wears dangly earrings. Campaign photographers can't seem to resist shooting her legs.

Palin Graphic.

She talks tough. She doesn't blink. One thinks of a waitress in a bar who knows that if she pretends she doesn't notice when a guy's ogling her legs and gives as good as she gets when it comes to off-color jokes, life will go along more smoothly. She's not one of
the guys, but she doesn't confront them with either a lawyer or women's studies rhetoric.

With Video Link: "Sarah Plain is a M.I.L.P" - Mother I'd Like to Punch."

Palin's style serves as evidence that a woman can look powerful without having to manipulate her wardrobe into some torturous costume calibrated to make her look authoritative but not threatening, feminine but not sexy. She proves that a woman can wear red patent-leather shoes and still take questions on foreign policy and the economy.

THE WASHINGTON POST and a random sampling of people who will vote for Obama.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Blind Faith Of Politics As Religion And... Romance?

Louis Farrakhan said the following at a February speech to a nation of islam convention...

“You are the instruments that God is gonna use to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the youth,” Farrakhan said. “And he has involved young people in a political process that they didn’t care anything about. That’s a sign. When the Messiah speaks, the youth will hear, and the Messiah is absolutely speaking.”

The person to whom Farrakhan was referring, made a campaign speech in New Hampshire this weekend, where he "humbly" vowed to change the world:

"I want you to believe," said the candidate, clad in an open-necked shirt and barn jacket. "Not so much believe just in me but believe in yourselves. Believe in the future. Believe in the future we can build together. I'm confident together we can't fail."

There was a carnival atmosphere among the crowd of some 4,000, who almost drowned Mr Obama out as he reached his crescendo and said: "I promise you. We won't just win New Hampshire. We will win this election and, you and I together, we're going to change the country and change the world."

After the event, a 69-year old supporter gushed: "We feel we're on the brink of a whole new life in this country".

Ain't that the truth...

Thomas Sowell's latest column helps to clarify the new trend, by revealing its roots in the most ancient of human behavior: love.

Telling a friend that the love of his life is a phony and dangerous is not likely to get him to change his mind. But it may cost you a friend.
It is much the same story with true believers in Barack Obama. They have made up their minds and not only don't want to be confused by the facts, they resent being told the facts.
An e-mail from a reader mentioned trying to tell his sister why he was voting against Obama but, when he tried to argue some facts, she cut him short:
"You don't like him and I do!" she said.

End of discussion.

Those last two sentences sum up what politics have become in the New Age of Obama. You can't get into a meaty political discussion without it turning into an attempt to convert someone to another religion, and they won't convert because they are, quite literally, in love with their candidate.

Well, just as true faith makes room to include doubts, true love involves truly seeing what one is looking at, warts and all. "Blind Faith" is to leave stuff out; true faith, like true love, keeps things in, good and bad, exhausting our reason and judgement by forcing us to constantly re-examine the good in light of the bad, our hopes in light of our doubts.

In his autobiography "Mark It And Strike It", comedian Steve Allen explained why his first marriage failed so miserably:

"We were in love with the idea of being in love, and not really in love with each other".

I think that's an even better way to summarize the 2008 US Presidential election.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CRTC looking to build evil empire

I don't have a lot of time to comment on this just now, falling behind in other writing work. But I want to make a note of this now for further action soon. Canada's broadcasting regulator, the CRTC is floating a balloon in an attempt to justify its entering into the business of regulating the internet. This idea should be completely unacceptable to any Canadian with a regard for freedom and who knows that the idea of a "balanced" media environment is the quintessence not of neutrality but of the liberal world view: a world regulated by "balanced" elites who get to define what is respectably "right" and "left" and what cannot be heard because too "extreme". Others have already made some observations as to why we must quickly start protesting this move towards growing thought control:

Deborah Gyapong: The CRTC wants to control the Internet--don't let them:
Let's make sure they don't put the kybosh on the last free speech zone there is and use Google the way China does to suppress dissent. Let's make sure that the Mainstream Media does not make sure that only their portals to the Internet are available and those that have a conservative or traditional or Christian or otherwise religious viewpoint are no longer available or only at a higher cost to state-registered "approved" sites. - ESSAYS ON OUR TIMES
The latest power grab is through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the antiquated regulatory authority for broadcasting and telephony. It was established in its present form, with a social-engineering mandate to promote "Canadian unity," by the Trudeau government in 1976. Such decisions as its recent one to deny broadcast rights to two Ottawa-area Christian radio stations, 11 days after approving a new "Canadian-content" pornographic TV channel in Alberta, are typical of the commissioners' judgment.

This week, the CRTC announced its intention to break the promise made by its then-chairperson, Françoise Bertrand, in 1999: "Our message is clear. We are not regulating any portion of the Internet." In a "notice of consultation and hearing" on Wednesday, the commission suddenly gave Dec. 5 as its deadline for submissions about expanding the CRTC's jurisdiction into "new media."

That this announcement was made by the CRTC, rather than by Parliament, is an indication of the degree to which the CRTC is a law unto itself.

In the time-honoured, mealy-mouthed way, the CRTC will soon be explaining that its intentions are innocent, that it is merely trying to keep up with the convergence of broadcast and Internet technologies. Only a naive fool will believe that. The regulator has created a strict broadcasting environment in which Christian and all other views that do not conform to political correctness are effectively kept under siege. The left hungers for the ability to create a similar tightly regulated environment on the Internet, to bring the free reporting and opinions of bloggers and other citizen-journalists under its ideological jackboot.

The citizens' response to this imposture should be short and sharp: "We were not born yesterday. We know your game, we know where you are going with it. Do not try to insult our intelligence. This is Canada, this is a free country, and to keep it free we must stand on guard against commissars like thee. Take your filthy stinking hands off the Internet."

But while I recommend this as a defensive half-measure, a much bolder approach is required over the longer term. No one wins playing only on defence. The CRTC already has powers of regulation over broadcasting content that are offensive to a free people; powers that go far beyond the simple and once-necessary task of apportioning finite broadcasting bandwidth.

Advances in technology have made it less and less necessary to impose rationing on the airwaves. We have got beyond the "rabbit ears" age. Digital technology for cable and satellite have moved far beyond this, and the Internet itself becomes capable of delivering a range of material unimagined only a generation ago. Nor is telephony what it was in past generations. The CRTC is a fossil relic from an antediluvian era.

Digital Home Canada - CRTC initiates proceedings into its regulation of the Internet
In a written statement this week, the federal bureaucrats said the review was required now because Canadians are now spending more time watching video over the internet and mobile devices. The Commission, therefore, wishes to consult on the "the appropriateness of the Commission's exemption orders for new media and mobile broadcasting services."

Career Options

"We're here to save lives. If anyone tries to harm them, we fight."

Or words to that effect. I can't recall, all these decades later, exactly what the medic said. But that's exactly what he said, if not in those exact words. Medics with guns. Sometimes I argue, from the same understanding, for school teachers with guns.

Douglas Stone "Terrorism as a Career Option," American Thinker. 11 October 2008

Among the greatest underrated factors energizing the tides of history is boredom. Boredom and peer pressure and the love of personal power and wealth, and all the other mundane and often ugly personal drives that have a force that can exceed the most profound political or religious beliefs -- and for that reason have often built or broken empires.

It was partly boredom that urged young men onto ships to explore the New World and later prompted them to join wagon trains to settle the West. In the early days of the Civil War, peer pressure worked on state legislatures to prod many former Union stalwarts to embrace the Confederacy. And in our own time, in the 1960s, rioting in the ghettos and among students was often motivated by nothing more than a testosterone-fueled sense of power and a desire to loot and destroy.

In the Middle East today, it is often boredom and peer pressure, and -- among the leaders especially -- the desire for sheer power and wealth, that entices young men into radical politics. Many of the top Palestinian "militants," for example, may cloak these motivations in politics or religion, but ultimately they are little more than gangsters whose venality conveniently coincides with the prevailing public orthodoxies.

Pssst! Wanna job? You're in the occupied West Bank or Gaza; there's massive, entrenched unemployment; you're young and not particularly educated. What do you do?
How about a "job" that may after a few years yield a substantial bank account and serious power; in fact, the power of life or death. Joining a terrorist outfit is not only somewhat expected, but you can take care of your family and cousins and friends, and have women swooning in their nijabs and men shaking in their Nikes.

One of the largely unremarked facts of life in the Palestinian territories is that the life of a "militant" often isn't such a bad deal, and there's reason to believe that some of the ongoing troubles in that benighted place are due to the simple fact that for the sociopathic personality being a militant can be a great job opportunity.

A number of the terrorist leaders are men in their 40s without skills or the prospects of decent employment. What's the appeal of a clerk's job in the local equivalent of a 7-11 when you can have money and power and be in service to a nationalist political cause that makes you the toast of the Arab world and left wing salons from Paris to London to, yes, even New York.

Great job being a freedom fighter, if you can get it -- and keep it. This is often true for the leaders, of course, but it can also be true for mid-level operatives. There is no doubt that for some there is a real belief in the cause, but for many it is merely a job.

The same way of thinking that allows one to eschew democracy, lord it over one's fellows or simply to kill political opponents, is the same mentality that allows a former "idealist" simply to begin killing and stealing -- and prevents him from embracing peace.

Money. Power. Fame or popularity. These are the rewards that go to those who keep the pot boiling. Keep it boiling or agree to a settlement that will yield peace and increased prosperity for your people but to the now-aging militants might only mean the drudgery of performing the mundane duties of a real politician in a poor backwater.


Imagine a group of guys holding down a little girl and cutting off her leg. It's enough to make you weep. It's hardly better when you know the guys are medics saving the girl from death. It's a hard job, and it's not for those who weep at the sight of suffering. It's a job that transcends sentimentality and goes deep into the heart of Human goodness.

You can carry that leg all your life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plato: Biggest Scammer in History.

Neil Postman rightly refers to Plato as the world's first systematic fascist. Making mention of that usually raises the ire of those who don't have any idea of Plato's philosophies. Most people seem to highly regard the name "Plato," though they can't really say why. They defend him with no knowledge of what Plato was about. Some, such as that utter fool, I.F. Stone, confuse Plato with Socrates, and not only don't know there is the one and there is the other, but argue that Socrates is Plato. Stupidity knows no bounds, especially among our intelligentsia. Some thinkers, real thinkers, as opposed to the Conformity Hippies who rule the Academy these days as well, real thinkers such as Ernest Gellner, know Plato very well. Gellner, writing after Karl Popper, who wrote on Plato, The Open Society and its Enemies, puts Plato on the table for a nifty dissection, briefly thus:

"The profound paradox of Platonism proper is that it preached a return to, or a fortification of, the closed communally organized society: but it did so by means which themselves illustrated, highlighted, and sprang from that liberation from traditional ritualism and communalism. Plato represented dogmatism pursued by liberal means, an authoritarianism with a rational face." Ernest Gellner, Plough, Sword and Book. London: Collins Harvill: 1998; pp. 84-85.

Taken in, that's what too many of our intellectuals have been are to this day and beyond. We'll see one of them below. And a shameful example of a typical intellectual conformist he is. There is no excuse for an expert in the field to be so wrong on the facts as is the writer below. But if he were merely a fool, and a sloppy one at that, who would care? No, dear reader, it's far worse than that. The writer below is a danger to human freedom and to free people everywhere. We must confront him and those like him, stop them by making known the realities of history and literature from the texts as they are, not as one thinks they must be or should be, or should be thought so by the "average" man.

Kimon Valaskakis, "Media-enhanced 'dumb democracy' is the fastest road to totalitarianism." Globe and Mail; October 13, 2008.

It's shortly after this that I begin to lose my temper. The whole thing is here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Will Japan Become The Next France..?

Is an 80-year old novel, and the best-selling comic book adaptation of it, influencing a generation of Japanese youth to embrace the waiting arms of Japan's communist party?

What many young Japanese view as an erosion of their economic security and employment rights, combined with years of political stagnation, are propelling droves of them into the arms of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the nation's fourth largest political party.

New recruits are signing up at the rate of 1,000 a month, swelling its ranks to more than 415,000. Meanwhile a classic proletarian novel is at the top of the best-seller lists, and communist-themed "manga" comics are enjoying soaring success.
And the job losses, financial insecurity and social dissatisfaction that are expected to go hand in hand with the current global credit crisis are expected to increase the ranks of the party further.
Spearheading the lurch to the Left are young Japanese in their twenties and thirties, who have become increasingly disillusioned with changes to employment laws which they blame for creating a climate of insecurity.
The [communist] party's charismatic chairman, Kazuo Shii, triggered a rush of new recruits with a rousing parliamentary speech attacking the "exploitation" of young workers, which has become cult viewing among young Japanese on video websites.
Another sign of the growing allure of the Left is the sudden surge in popularity of a classic Japanese novel, Kanikosen - the Crab-Canning Ship ­- about embattled factory workers who rise up against their capitalist oppressors.

Nearly eight decades after it was written by Takiji Kobayashi, a communist who was tortured to death for his political beliefs aged 29, its sales have leapt from a slow annual trickle of 5,000 to 507,000 so far this year, unexpectedly catapulting it to the top of the nation's bestseller lists.
A "manga" comic book depicting the same Marxist tale is also winning over young Japanese, with 200,000 copies sold in a year. Kosuke Maruo, editor at East Press, which publishes the manga version, said: "The story succeeds in representing very vividly the situation of the so-called working poor today.

"They cannot become happy and they cannot find the solution to their poverty, however hard they work. Young people who are forced to work for very low wages today may have a feeling that they are in a similar position to the crew of Kanikosen." Kyudo Takahashi, 31, a freelance writer from Tokyo, attributed the popularity of the story to a growing sense of displacement among his generation.

"Kanikosen was a textbook in school but we didn't read it seriously then," he said. "Now, we're reading it again because we're frustrated with the government.
"In the book, people are exploited again and again. They are not treated like humans, more like cows at a hamburger factory. That is how many people feel today. When we find work, someone is always exploiting us. We cannot feel secure about the future."

As we grow older, and live to see the death of our family and friends, humility should teach us that a tragic vision of life includes the reality that there can be no guarantees. People aren't perfect, therefore the systems they build, being imperfect extentions of their imperfect selves, will be flawed in their turn. People's reasonings, attitudes, and judgments, are as likely to fail as the light within them is likely to one day flicker, and dim. One day the candle goes out for each of us, in one way or another.

In a culture haunted by the specter of Karoshi , "death from overwork", lurking at one extreme, it is probably a natural, human reaction to swing to the opposite extreme, in order to perceive to be re-balancing the material world. They also see an emptiness within themselves and seek to fill it, they take their own lack of faith and project it onto the population as a whole, hoping that the state may bring about a new man, one filled with faith in his fellow men, that each shall share willingly of the fullness of their abilities, to each according to the least of their needs... or else.

Who decides these needs, or the extent of these abilities, who is the new super-man with sufficient brilliance that his light of reason will never fade? Who is this infallible God walking the earth whose will is forged of such perfect wisdom that it should replace our own? I can only hope the marxist Japanese start asking themselves the same questions that I once asked of myself, when I threw away my red books and false hopes in a rising sun that would shine on new men... that they start learning how to love the flawed fool they see in their mirror, and teach him how to put faith in himself.

Obama Madness

Somehow, the following has to be read alongside Charles' earlier post.

But I don't really understand this. I know most of humanity is motivated by what they want to believe. For example, people are willing to recognize debts of no legal standing and pay out thousands to erase their carbon footprints. But a bookmaker, paying out a million euros to recognize early what it seems they clearly so desire to be inevitable, an inevitability that is by no means certain....? Surely such a business should be the last to allow such insanity to enter its decisions...
Bookmaker to pay out early on Obama victory | Oddly Enough | Reuters

Or is this just a clever publicity ploy, cheap advertising for a bookie who recognizes that the way to appeal to the fools who make up a good chunk of his customers is to appeal to their politico-religious vanity, to pretend to share, as it were, in the comradery of Obamamania?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Clever Horses And Accurate Polls

Fascinating article today from Zombie about Clever Hans, political polling, normative conformity and the potential effect that behavior from the likes of this fellow will have on voters in the upcoming US Presidential election.

Zombie's essay includes a recreation of the Asch experiment, and it reminds me ever so much of listening to people at work talking about politics...:

Enraged Obama Fan Beats Woman With Stick For Supporting McCain In NY

He beat her with a stick. He saw her McCain signs, and that was enough to make him go berserk. She was a petite, middle-aged woman volunteering for the McCain/Palin ticket, and this big tough Obama supporter took her measure, and evidently decided: "There's only one response to this". And so on Lexington Street, in mid-town Manhattan, on September 15 of this year, he ended up beating her over the head with a stick because of her political views.

Pajamas Media carries the story today, including the district attorney’s complaint:
“Defendant grabbed the sign [informant] was holding, broke the wood stick that was attached to it, and then struck informant in informant’s face thereby causing informant to sustain redness, swelling, and bruising to informant’s face and further causing informant to sustain substantial pain.”

The Silent Majority gives more details of the victim's side of the story:
“He tore up a McCain campaign sign (unprovoked) and then took the stick from the sign and HIT me across the side of my head and face when I reached for our sign.
I reached for the torn sign and he started beating me with the stick about my head and face as I tried to stop the blows with my right hand.
While I put my glasses back on my face, the attacker and started down the stairs to the subway. I followed him yelling that he should be stopped. He grew calm and stopped only when he saw that I had found two police officers at the end of the stairs to the subway. I pursued him even though I was still stunned from the attack. I had been hit across the head and face with a stick by a red-in-face stranger who was screaming “You people are ridiculous” (Over and over.)”

Imagine what his reaction will be should Obama lose in November...