Monday, February 27, 2006

What Literature Classic are You?

I don't normally find these web-quizzes very accurate, or well-done. As well, how do we know how comprehensive the list of genre used is - deep down in the recesses of the quiz matrix?Having said that, I encourage you to try this one - and do let me know how accurate you found your "answer" to be. nb: I am in no way affiliated with the creator/owner of said quiz.

Here is my "answer." I found it to be fairly accurate. Or so I would like to think ...

"You are Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a mystery novel dealing with theology, especially with catholic vs liberal issues. You search for wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that learning is essential in life."

Many thanks to for bringing it to my attention.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gresham's law

George W. Bush has fumbled and stumbled in a very serious way in the War on Terror. He has taken a necessary task - and perhaps doomed it, with his needless foray into Iraq. Of course, this is not a new observation on anyone's part, but it is a timely one for Canada - now that the Canadian Forces have taken-up the overall Command of Allied operations in Kandahar.

The fact that a clear majority of Canadians now seem to oppose the Canadian participation in Afghanistan is due in full part to Bush's incredibly stupid invasion of Iraq. Iraq was NOT part of the Al Qaeda network responsible for 9/11, and in fact, Saddam Hussein's regime was anathema to Bin Laden and the AQ leadership cadre. These are facts.

Because he has undertaken a highly dubious war in Iraq, the entire mission that is the "War on Terror" is now jeopardised. The average Canadian voter was generally supportive of our initial commitment to Afghanistan, but now that the waters have been muddied by the large sideshow in Iraq, they are confusing the two as being part of the whole unjust & sordid package.

But the truth remains: Afghanistan and the Taliban were fully integrated into the AQ network and were providing men, facilities, and safe haven for AQ terrorists. Thus Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the inherent and historic instability of Afghan society are a fair and just target in this War. We need to be there. We need to stay the course.

Canadians were murdered on 9/11. Canadian domestic security is at risk as long as AQ remains intact. We belong in Afghanistan. We also carry our share of the burden of the defence of Western Civilisation in participating in these Operations. Such participation - and even Leadership - is part of the Canadian tradition. We did not shy away from our duty in Flanders in 1914, nor in our obligations to the war against Fascism in 1939. We went to Korea to fight Communist expansionism. We are committed and founding members of NATO.

The war in Iraq is an unjust war - even though Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator in the mode of Joseph Stalin - and was the wrong direction to take after the initial action in Afghanistan. I despise Jean Chretien for many reasons, but he was right to keep us out of the morass in Mesopotamia.

The war in Afghanistan is a just war.

We need to make clear distinctions between the two wars - and quickly.

Bush's stupidity has confused the two actions, and is now endangering the entire mission. This is the most egregious of all of Bush's many blunders. History will judge him harshly on that basis. The Americans will get what they deserve out of all of this. It is just too damn bad that they will drag most of the West down with them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Team Canada Loses to the Russians in Ice Hockey

At the end-of-the day, Canadian Hockey fans expect their Olympians to win the Gold Medal in Ice Hockey. Silver and Bronze Medals are okay, but are generally perceived as failure when it comes to the National Game.

Of course, the navel-gazing is about to start, and in fact started 60 seconds after the conclusion of the game. My own contribution to the analysis will be seen by some as trite, but I contend that it is the real story behind the Team's failure to deliver.

We did not include young scoring stars like Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal on the team - something many of us do not quite understand. Team Canada lacked offensive punch, and also seemed to lack the "legs" required to excel on the larger Olympic ice surface. I guess Wayne Gretzky valued experience more so than Youth this time around, but the fact remains that the only way Crosby and Stall could gain the requisite experience would have been to include them on the Squad. They certainly would have provided the scoring punch that this Year's edition so sorely lacked.

Given that Gretzky was once a young scoring phenomenon himself, and was included in the 1981 Canada Cup at the tender age of 20, it astounds me to think that he thought of both of these Players as being too young to be a positive force in the drive for the Gold Medal.

Wayne Gretzky was one of the top five players of all-time, in my opinion, but I think his record as a Manager/Coach is proving to be a mixed one. Not too many Superstars make the grade as Managers/Coaches and I think that the very nature of athletic exceptionalism has something to do with this evolving record.

Kudos to Cindy Klassen however !

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The American Taliban

I picked-up on this link over a year ago, and while it is dangerous to always take statements out of total context, it remains that these statements are so over-the-top whacko that they deserve a public airing from time-to-time.

This Fascism in NO WAY should ever be equated with Conservatism.

These people are not conservatives ( and certainly not Tories).

They are neo-fascists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ezra Levant and the "Western Standard"

This guy, is not my kind of guy.

Ezra Levant and the "Western Standard" are representative of the worst in Canadian public life - namely, the tendency of some to identify with American civic values rather than with Canadian civic values - in the interests of trying to edge us closer and closer to that republic.

If these types love America so much, then why the f**k don't they just move there?

Levant could not be more of an American neoconservative if he tried. Unless he changed his name to David Frum, that is. The fact is, I support Israel as a bulwark of civilisation and democracy in the Middle-East, so I cannot be accused of anything remotely anti-Semitic, but I have to say that he is not really helping the just Israeli cause in being so radical. And of course that is what he is - a radical.

And let me tell you something friends, you cannot be a conservative and a radical at the same time. If you're radical, fine - just don't call yourself conservative.

I am really quite sick of these neocons high-jacking the name of a political tradition that has existed in England and Canada since the late 17th Century.

My point at the end-of-the-day is not that Ezra Levant does not have the right to publish what he wants, or should live in fear of publishing what he feels he needs to. That is not my issue here at all. Freedom of the Press is just that, and it is more than valuable. It is essential.

What I object to is how tasteless this man and his agenda appear to be.

The fact is, even if some people say such things about Colleen Klein (and I am no fan of Ralph, believe me ...), then just explain this to me:

HOW and WHY is this Considered "NEWS?"

The short answer is merely this: It is not News. It is not meant to be news.

At best, it is merely muckraking; at worst - yellow journalism. It has no redeeming value.

Like his recent publication of the "Allah cartoons" from the Jutland Post, there is no point here - other than to tick people off. Well, I should really reconsider that statement for a second, because I do feel that while he has the right to reproduce the Jutland Post cartoons, he did not do so as an expression of his freedom of speech - but rather more in the interests of fanning the fires of conflict between Judaism and Islam in order to further his neoconservative agenda.

In my opinion, he is a tasteless boor.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Emulating Nero ...

Canada is a wealthy country, but it is increasingly reliant on US trade & investment for its wealth. Of course this is not a revelation of great discovery, for we all know this to be a fact of our contemporary life. Of course, it was my reservations about increasing free-trade that led me to leave active political life in 1993-4, and since then I have watched Canada become more comfortable - and less sovereign - before my eyes. People like John Manley could not talk about things like "deep integration" back in 1980.

I got to thinking about this the other week when it came to light that Jerry Zucker had purchased the Hudson's Bay Company. I was a loyal Bay shopper in the same way that I always supported Eaton's - and in fact, I was probably more loyal to the Bay, as at least they kept quality goods on the shelf, for the most part.

Consider this:

"After 15 years of free-trade with the United States, fewer than a dozen major, widely held Canadian companies are left listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. More than 10,000 Canadian companies have been taken over by U.S. owners."


You read that right - 10,000 Canadian Companies.

Perhaps some benefits are not worth the cost.

On the David Emerson Affair ...

(I have been in Vancouver on business all week, and just arrived back home tonight ...)

The righteous indignation of those clamouring for David Emerson's scalp is pretty discouraging to those of us who understand how the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy functions. Emerson can, and should, cross the floor and join another party - or sit independently - if he feels he needs to.

His mistake - and he did make one here - was in crossing the floor so soon after the General Election. Tradition and Custom in such matters dictates that such a reassignment of party affiliation takes place after at least a month or so, and in the context of some sort of general disagreement within the original (in this case, Liberal ...) caucus. There should be some form of public break with the original party prior to crossing the floor. And of course, by switching parties so readily after the election, he opens himself up to charges of opportunism; and deservedly so I might add, but there is no doubting that he has the right to switch his political allegiance. For you see my friends, in Canada we elect members. We do not, and were never intended, to be casting our votes purely on the basis of party affiliation.

At any rate, the great thing about our system is that he will be held to judgment in the next election, and if he chooses to run in a "safer" seat to avoid facing his current constituents, then it will be up to the Electors of the other riding to decide his fate.

I think many out here have forgotten that we live in a Representative Democracy, and not a Republican Democracy. John Stuart Mill wrote about this very issue, and of course the contrast was drawn between the two forms of modern democracy much earlier, by Edmund Burke.

Here are some snippets of Burkean common-sense as it relates to our form of Parliamentary Democracy:

"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

"To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to consider. But authoritative instructions, mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest convictions of his judgment and conscience-these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our Constitution."

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest - that of the whole - where not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not Member of Bristol, but he is a Member of Parliament."

Feel free to replace Bristol with Vancouver-Kingsway ...

I don't like the CPC either, but this is a non-issue, or at most a breathtakingly bad example of poor-timing. To make it more than that, is just ridiculous.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Islamic Overreaction, and the Conflict with Modernity

I should state up-front that I have a tortured relationship with modernity (I take "modernity" in the Grantian sense ...) which has seen Western man evolve from a social and political being into a mere medium of exchange within a technologically-driven world. Liberalism and technology go hand-in-hand - as it is individualism, a market-orientation, and secular-humanism that has driven us to a mere "existence" in the technological age.

To a large extent, I accept Grant's thesis on modernity, and one of the reasons I do so, is the fact that as a beneficiary of the technological age I have derived benefit from it, and continue to do so - even whilst recognising its inherent and problematic contradictions, and sense of moral chaos. In other words, I come to accept it as it demonstrates a worth that I can live within, and perhaps even thrive in - all while maintaining deep reservations about the very system that provides me with such comfort.

I have long been on record as stating the post-Cold War conflict would be between the Western Democracies and the Islamic world. I first made this connection back in 1990, while still a Graduate Student. With the destruction of the old bi-polar world, I had a strong sense that much of the terrorism I had observed - via the News, since 1970 - was not without a discernible pattern. If one zeroes in on the post-1948 history of Israel, one will see that its history has been one of a people under siege. In 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 Israel was attacked by neighbouring Islamic states. Terrorism has been used against Israel in every year of its existence. Think about that for a moment ...

So in light of all this, I have developed a certain empathy for "both sides of the issue." Or at least I hope that I have. 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated by the Nazis, and 47,000 Canadians died fighting that odious regime. I sympathise with Israel, and although I cannot agree with all of its positions, I respect them as the only working democracy in the Middle-East.

I have tried to have some empathy for Islam, which is - in theory - a very benign and communally-oriented theology. I try to tell myself that Islamo-Fascism is relegated to a minority within the Islamic world, and that this world is not monolithic. I try to accept that - rightly or wrongly - some Islamic people are resentful of their colonisation. I then remind myself that Africa, as a whole, got an even worse deal out of the "scramble for colonies." Despotism in Africa there may be, but the people of that continent do not seem to want to make war on us (not that they could).

So I have spent the last week observing the wild overreaction by many Muslims to the Editorial Cartoons published in the Jutland Post last September; while I can understand the religious sensitivity as regards the public breaking of the tenet on idolatry, I cannot accept, nor can I empathise with, the people who are offended. Especially if one has been exposed to the virulently anti-Semitic cartoons that appear all across the Islamic world.

Be that as it may, there are many things about liberalism and modernity that I do not like. I also derive great benefit from liberal-democracy and modernity. The pact that we all make consciously or not, is simply this:

If you live in a Western liberal democracy, you must subsume your
passions in the name of individualism, and the market.

Liberal-democracies are based on Individual Rights and the primacy of the Individual. Constitutionalism and Market-Economics mandate that we place rationality and exchange on a higher level than spirituality and command.

Hirschman wrote extensively about this in The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph. It is one of the best books that I read in Grad School.

for more see:

Orthodox Muslims and Islamo-Fascists are fooling themselves if they really think that the West will abide by Islamic mores, just because some of them may take offense. Just how unasimilated some of these groups are, is best indicated by the outrageous violence, property destruction, and ultimately the razing of the Danish Embassy today in the Lebanon.

Or are they fooling themselves?

There is an alternative tendency in the West with regard to the grievances of minority groups, and it has reared its head consistently over the last twenty years. On the one hand, many Western democracies limit the speech of racists, Nazis, Christian Fundamentalists and many other extremist groups, while at the same time placing the agenda of feminists, Homosexuals, atheists, and secularists into a protected status. We have come to label this tendency "political correctness." Much of its intentions are noble - in the liberal sense - as they seek to subsume belief and replace it with rationality, in the name of social peace and order. However, one man's rationality is another man's apostasy. It is the seeming one-sidedness of the PC approach that most angers its detractors. I see this one of the main contradictions of the liberal age.

So, how will the Western democracies respond to what is cleary an overreaction to what - after-all - are merely Political Cartoons? Will the West stand its ground and say that Freedom of Expression is a higher good? Or will the Journalistic organs of the West begin to self-regulate their content, lest they become the target for mass protest and arson? Which West will we be living in - in the aftermath of all of this?

Will the West seek to appease its Islamic citizens, or will it stand on liberal values and demand that they relegate their passions to the private sphere? Upon this issue, believe it or not, may hang the future balance of liberal-democracy itself.

Are we a liberal-democratic or a multi-cultural society? The two are - eventually - mutually exclusive.