Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lebanese evacuation

I'm tired of hearing about the Lebanese evacuation, and the 'failure' of the Canadian government. The media is having a field day, airing stories of inconvenience and incompetence and personal helI. t's not hard to find someone to bitch when they are stuck out in the sun and under a lot of stress. I really can't tell much difference between these people's stories and the usual sob stories the media love to publish about stranded travellers griping with Air Canada at Christmas. But try and find the story about the person who understands how difficult the situation is, and cuts the government and Foreign Affairs some slack.

Some opinion pieces are starting to trickle down, finally, defending the government's response, and asking who exactly these 40,000 Canadians are (among 500,000 others), and why they expect the Western governments to achieve overnight what 700 ships took over a week to accomplish at Dunkirk in WWII.

Margaret Wente takes a stab at it. And although he's a right-wing bastard, Terence Corcoran nails the issue in today's National Post.

There's a slightly uncomfortable tone to their commentary on the issue of who it is holding the Canadian passport, with a suggestion that dual citizenship is somehow of less quality than a single citizenship. But it is worth discussing the obligations of government to their citizens, especialling when citizenship is blurry.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush the Frat Boy

Well, Dubya was certainly on form at the G8 Summit.

From speaking in fratboy ("Yo, Blair!"), to his "It takes him 8 hours to get home. China's a big country. Russia's a big country" to groping the Chancellor of Germany(!!!!!!!!), what sort of statesman is Bush?

Can you imagine the shame that would be felt anywhere in the rest of the world if Tony Blair or Stephen Harper or Elizabeth II behaved like that? Calling leaders of other countries by their last names, as if it were a briefing document or newspaper article? Marvelling, like some astounded child, at how big the world is? Putting your hands on another head of state? I mean, we thought it was cool when Chretien throttled that protester, but that's a little different. Does anyone remember the humiliation of Mulroney singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" with Reagan?

But here, oh no, we re-elect him!

Stupid Congress--Gay Marriage

Okay. I'm really, really, really over hearing how unelected activist judges are going to ruin the world and bring about gay marriage. Because they're not. What they mean, as Daliah Lithwick (who I'd switch for - Daliah, Marry me?) pointed out on NPR this morning, is "unelected activist judges from Massachusettes." Because really, in the last two weeks, we've lost in Tennessee, in Nebraska, in Georgia, and in NEW YORK. In New Bloody York! That really means the only place where there's any sort of chance of anything happening is here in California where, it should be pointed out, the Legislature PASSED a same-sex marriage bill and Schwartzenneger vetoed it.

Iraq is a mess. So is the entire Middle East. Iran's making nukes. DPRK is firing missiles. New Orleans is gone. The budget deficit is $300billion. Osama's hiding somewhere. Indonesia's drowning. Everyone hates us. 40% of the population has no healthcare. The minimum wage is below subsistence levels.

But no, the single most important thing to do is to amend the Constitution. Most Amendmends do good things, like letting women vote and abolishing slavery and protecting us from searches and seizures and giving free speech. That kind of good thing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

George Bush has the Answer

As I'm sure everyone knows, Dubya was picked up by his mic making the following Churchillian pronouncement on the Middle East:

See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.

Well. There you have it.

First: the "irony"? What exactly is ironic about this situation? Moreover, even if there were something ironic in the whole thing, it certainly wouldn't be getting Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.

Second: This little sentence perfectly encapsulates Dubya and his cabal's approach to diplomacy. Recall when Cheney said that the Iraqis would just have to start governing? Didn't Condi say the same thing: basically, if we tell them to just stop fighting and get along, they will.

Maybe it works for kids - you can tell them to take a time out and stop pulling each other's hair. That's not how governance works. Telling the Iraqis, with so much pent up sectarian hate that's been fanned for months now, to just "sit down and start getting along" is a pathetic approach to solving the world's problems.

What does Dubya think - if we just call up Syria, they're going to say, "okay, we'll just give Hezbollah a call and get them to stop, no problem, it's over"?

The Frat Boy President, who prior to his presidency had been to what, Mexico once for some cheap beer?, now purports to solve the worlds problems with simple solutions: "Just stop."

And didn't everyone love the moment when Bush lectured Putin on democracy being built in Iraq, and Putin told him that Iraqi-style democracy wasn't exactly a good idea for Russia? That was the best line ever.

O My!

Sitting with some friends yesterday sipping a bloody mary at Basix, we saw a bus go by with one of the new Snickers ads that are floating around the city. They all involve some play on words and peanuts and hunger of some sort. The one we saw:


Clearly this is trying to get across the idea that it gets rid of your hunger, like an appendectomy or something. However, clearly the person who approved this ad didn't have the dirty mind of a gay man, because we immediately saw:

Hung. Erect. O my!

(hat tip to toometa for the pic)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Carolyn vs. the Elephant

Liberal leadership candidate Carolyn Bennett writes in the Globe today, warning against 'the elephant in the room': shady membership recruitment

She's right of course. But it's not the membership recruitment process that is shady. It's the recruitment of members, period.  I never understood leadership races the way they are run now, signing up members to get the most delegates at the convention.

When a group needs to pick a leader, the existing members of the group pick one. They don't run out and grab as many extra people as possible to artificially inflate their power to pick the leader. It's rather bizarre.

Anyway, Bennett takes great pains not to name the elephant. It gets rather comical. But then she lets fly at the!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Changing the rules

Well, didn't we guess that this was going to happen? Supreme Court slaps down Bush. So Republicans want to just rubber stamp what Bush did and say, see, now it's legal! Awesome quote:

"This could be easy," said Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.), who proudly announced she has neither a law degree nor a college degree as she denounced the high court's 5 to 3 decision against the tribunals as "incredibly counterintuitive." "We could just ratify what the executive branch and the [Department of Defense] have done
and move on."

Right. A woman who probably knows nothing about the law says that the Supreme Court was wrong, because she thinks it's counterintuitive. I'm sure that by "counterintuitive" she means "isn't what I want."

But more importantly, what on earth are we saying to the world? "We signed the Geneva Conventions, and now we're going to back out of them." Or is it "we do what we want, how we want to."

Of course, I'm sure the other option is a signing statement by Bush to the Geneva conventions.

But it doesn't give us any moral highground any more. When Americans are tortured by insurgents or whomever, we have no standing to complain. When Americans are thrown into dark cells for months on end, we have no right to complain. Some people will say that there's a difference - we're Americans, they're terrorists, and we're doing it to terrorists and they to Americans, and thus it's different.

Nonsense. The salient thing is the act, not the person doing the act nor the object of the act.
Just because we're a democracy doesn't mean we can torture - if anything, it means we can do it less. Just because they're alleged terrorists doesn't mean anything. If the capacity to torture or the capacity to be tortured flows from a label, then it's all too easy to slap a label on someone and then do what you want.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The president is always right?

This is scary. Sen. Leahy questioning a DOJ lawyer on Bush:

LEAHY : Was the President right or was he wrong?
BRADBURY: The President is always right.
Of course he is. Always. (Hat tip: Green Knight.) Much better, I think, were the comments in the House by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Il)

"Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President said we continue to be wise about how we spend the people's money.

"Then why are we paying over $100,000 for a 'White House Director of Lessons Learned'?

"Maybe I can save the taxpayers $100,000 by running through a few of the lessons this White House should have learned by now.

"Lesson 1: When the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State say you are going to war without enough troops, you're going to war without enough troops.

"Lesson 2: When 8.8 billion dollars of reconstruction funding disappears from Iraq, and 2 billion dollars disappears from Katrina relief, it's time to demand a little accountability.

"Lesson 3: When you've 'turned the corner' in Iraq more times than Danica Patrick at the Indy 500, it means you are going in circles.

"Lesson 4: When the national weather service tells you a category 5 hurricane is heading for New Orleans, a category 5 hurricane is heading to New Orleans.

"I would also ask the President why we're paying for two 'Ethics Advisors' and a 'Director of Fact Checking.'

"They must be the only people in Washington who get more vacation time than the President.

"Maybe the White House could consolidate these positions into a Director of Irony."

And the scary thing is, people still support him. This administration is a charicature of itself. If you wanted to design a regime of a cartoon state, this is the regime you'd design. The purported "best democracy" in the world has an administration that believes itself above the law, that believes it is never wrong, and that pumps out soviet-style newspeak propaganda (In response to the Supreme Court telling us to START following the Geneva conventions, responding with "we've always followed the Geneva conventions.).

(Hat tip: Americablog)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Music Update

Okay. I may have been just a touch hasty in my assessment of the Gorecki Harpsichord Concerto.

It's still not a concerto. It's just not. There's no solo in the first movement. There's no interaction between the "soloist" and the orchestra, except that, you know, they're playing the same piece. And the first movement ends on some silly major chord, when the entire movement has barely modulated at all within the minor keys. The final chord, which comes from nowhere, sounds like the noise my iMac makes when I turn it on.

And the last movement is strange - there is some "interaction" - the harpsichordist plays a glorified version of chopsticks, the orchestra responds - it sounds like a train motif would in some sort of Wagner-inspired silent movie accompanied by an orchestra - the "train leitmotif." The first movement is briefly hinted at it - maybe a half bar, one bar before the end. Dumb.

But the first movement, in hindsight, has some value. It has a certain urgency, an ominour brooding, a sense of gathering menace. That might be left over because I read it while reading about civilian life in East Prussia during the end of the Second World War, and maybe had I listened to it while sipping cocktails on the beach, things would have been different.

But it has something - some deeper emotion that maybe I didn't pick up on the first time. I sort of like it. I still visualize some sort of Goetterdaemerung Berlin-in-flames closing scene from a movie, but no matter.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Screwy Music

Okay. I'm a really, really big fan of Henryk Gorecki's 3d Symphony (well, the 1st movement is a bit boring, but the 2d and 3d are wonderful). I particularly recommend the 2d movement when you're stoned.

But I just downloaded his Harpsichord Concerto, and it's just plain silly.

First, it only has 2 movements, both fast.

The first movement is all power chords - the strings playing open fifths that changes notes. In the background, the harpsichord plays arpeggios. Ritornello form it is not. It does have some interest - particularly because I was listening to it while reading a book about the end of the Second World War and it seemed ominously appropriate. But it's just not a concerto.

The second movement is even sillier. Maybe my ear is lacking but I can't detect any thematic relationship between the two, apart from the fact that the harpsichordist is carrying on like a squirrell on speed.

It honestly sounds like a practice composition: "Write some chords and then write a series of arpeggios overtop of them to test your knowledge of harmony."

That's the price you pay when you impulse buy on iTunes after having a few drinks.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Well, DUH

"The president [Dubya] looked right at me and said, 'You know, your prime minister is a very direct man ... I like that because I know what he's saying. I don't like this nuance stuff,"' [Candian Ambassador to the US Michael] Wilson told CBC television on Sunday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

They finally got their man

The two gay mounties are finally married. This follows after the military allowed gay weddings on its bases. And look--nothing bad has happened. People in rural Nova Scotia don't give a damn.

Meanwhile, you can't be gay and a yankee scout, you can't be gay and serve in the yankee military, and you certainly can't get married anywhere other than Massachusettes.

As the Globe said it its Canada day editorial, the sun is truly shining on our beautiful little country. No deficit, vibrant politics, competent government, tolerance, justice, peace:

What a day that was. What a day this is. Just look around you, and marvel at what we have. Prosperous and free, well governed and well defended, open to the world and accepting of change, this country has found its place in the sun. Yes, we have troubles, plenty of them. Those are for other days. Today is the day to sit back and enjoy the sunshine streaming down on this blessed country, Canada.
When Pierre Trudeau became Liberal Leader and Prime Minister, he said in his acceptance speech (at around 2:00), "Canada must be unified! Canada must be one! Canada must be progressive! And Canada must be a just society!" And we are there. His final words as Liberal leader and Prime Minister: "Our hopes are high. Our faith in the people is great. Our courage is strong. And our dreams for this beautiful country will never die."

As the chaplancy of the Canadian Forces states, in its instructions that same-sex couples are to be treated equally: "The caring, compassionate response of Canadian Forces chaplains, based on genuine Love and the Grace of God may well be a prophetic voice both to the church in Canada and to the nation." Indeed. Is this not the true Christian message, rather than what you hear from nutcases?

Has there ever, anywhere, been a better place to be gay?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Globe's Canada Day Editorial

Stirring stuff. Stuff to make you proud.

Marvellous times for a lucky country
Have we ever had it so good? Taking a look around on this day of national celebration, it is hard not to be awed by how fortune shines on this country. By almost any measure, Canada in 2006 is in wonderful shape.

The economy is humming along and has been for several years, pushing the unemployment rate to its lowest in more than three decades. We just set a new record for the number of jobs created in a single month: 150,000. Just about everyone with some kind of skill can find work these days. Never in our 139 years has life been so good for so many.

Our economic growth is vying with that of the United States for bragging rights as first in the G8 group of industrialized nations. Even better news, the picture is bright right across the country.
Luck is part of the reason for the new prosperity, but good management plays a part too. It may surprise jaded voters, but Canada is remarkably well governed. Beginning last decade, Ottawa began getting its red-stained books in order, and today its finances are the envy of the world, with a falling debt ratio and surpluses as far as the eye can see. The provinces, too, have embraced fiscal responsibility. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell tamed British Columbia's deficit and Quebec's Jean Charest produced his government's fourth consecutive balanced budget this spring. Those who still run deficits, like Ontario under Dalton McGuinty, make plans to wipe them out before they dare face the voters.
The provinces are reinvesting too: Alberta in schools and hospitals, Ontario in education and power generation, the Atlantic provinces in job training. In Toronto, with government and private help, a beautiful new opera house has just opened its doors, and the art gallery and museum are undergoing spectacular redesigns. In every major city, house prices are up -- sometimes scandalously -- and homeowners are renovating like mad.

But money isn't everything, and Canada is doing splendidly other ways too. Take politics. The unhealthy monopoly enjoyed by the Liberals thanks to a divided political right came to an end in January and we now have two solid national parties again, one to the left of centre, one to the right, with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to keep things interesting.
Multiculturalism, that great Canadian experiment, is thriving. The 17 Ontario men accused of plotting terrorist acts are a rare exception in a good-news story: the integration of millions of newcomers from around the world. No other country has managed mass immigration so well.

It may be tiresome to boast about our tolerance, but Canadians have also managed rapid social change with remarkable equanimity. Just look at the two Mounties, both men, who were married yesterday in the town of Yarmouth, N.S., taking their vows wearing that symbol of Canada, the RCMP red tunic. What's the big deal? they asked. Most Canadians seem to agree.

What a day that was. What a day this is. Just look around you, and marvel at what we have. Prosperous and free, well governed and well defended, open to the world and accepting of change, this country has found its place in the sun. Yes, we have troubles, plenty of them. Those are for other days. Today is the day to sit back and enjoy the sunshine streaming down on this blessed country, Canada.

America and Jesus

Honestly, more and more I think this country is becoming Jesusland.