Nunc Scio
Friday, June 24, 2005
  My Mayor is A Suphero. Is Yours?

Greatest. Mayor. Ever.

Not only is Toronto Mayor David Miller a progressive politician, an effective administrator and a champion for Toronto, he is also a lifesaver.

Yesterday, David Miller talked a suicidal, knife-wielding man off a railing in City Hall. Said a statement from the mayor's office:

"Mayor Miller spoke with the man and coaxed him off the railing. He also convinced him to relinquish the knife."

And, to top it all off, he didn't even take the credit. Said Miller:

"I would like to thank the Toronto Police Service for their speed, professionalism and compassion."

Read more in The Toronto Star.
  Stephen Harper is an Angry, Angry Man

Another jewel from the man who wantes to be Prime Minister so badly, his brain has imploded from the pressure.

Said Stephen Harper in the Globe and Mail after being owned by the Liberals for the 158th consecutive time:

"So I guess what it should remind Canadians is that when push comes to shove, the Liberals will make a deal with anybody. It doesn't matter if it's with socialists, or the separatists or any bunch of crooks they can find."

Really Stephen? Did you just equate two parties with 28 per cent of the popular vote between them to criminals? I guess the NDP voters are lost to him anyway, but if you're looking to sandbag your party's chances of adding seats in Quebec, you're on the right track.

Here's the real problem with Harper: his giant, all-consuming ego. He takes a bad beat in parliament, his adolescent brain can't handle it and he starts shooting off his mouth. His ego has apparently also blinded Harper to the fact that HE'S A TERRIBLE POLITICIAN. I mean, I'm sure he was a real crackerjack accoutant...why not just stick with that?

As much as I enjoy watching conservatives wandering around confused and weeping softly to themselves, I can't help but think our country- and our democracy- would be a lot better off with an effective opposition leader. You know, a statesman with some ideas and a genuine concern for this country. Power-mongers need not apply.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
  Poor, Poor Engineers.

I guess if you want to be an engineer, you can't have sex. This means one of three things:

1. Engineering cannot be a hereditary career.
2. All those engineers I knew at school were liars. Chaste liars, but liars nonetheless.
3. If engineering skill is dependent on never having sex, we're all doomed. Of course, this would explain why my toaster always %$&$*'s my toast.

Yet another compelling argument for liberal arts education. Employability, low. Carnality, you betcha.

 Posted by Hello
Monday, June 20, 2005
  Ontario Cabinet Shuffle: Predictions
Premier Dalton McGuinty is almost certainly shuffling his cabinet this week. After sifting through the rumour and innuendo, here are my predictions:

Greg Sorbara: Out of the finance portfolio.

Dwight Duncan: House leader, Minster of Energy, soon-to-be finance minister.

George Smitherman: Out of health.

Sandra Pupatello: New Health Minister.

Gerard Kennedy: New Attorney-General, anyone?

Mary-Anne Chambers: After making higher education his priority, unlikely McGuinty will move her.

Thoughts and comments welcome.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
  What The CPC Wants
There's been a lot of speculation on the Tory agenda over the last few months, with conclusions ranging from massive pro-business reforms to a fundamentalist Christian social crusade.

Both of these are incorrect. The answer is simple- all the Tories want is power.

While the tax cuts and anti-gay marriage hysteria are worrisome, they're just symptoms of the same political disease. The inner-cadre of Conservatives are so desperate to form government, they will hitch up to any cause- no matter how regressive or medieval- if it will garner them votes. We've all seen the same phenomenon at work in the Republican Party. I suspect the GOP masterminds aren't particularly religious, but rather view the religious right as a convenient means to a political end. As it turns out, it is easy to motivate these folks. Fundamentalist Christians are so desperately afraid of God, they'll do anything, even *gasp* vote, if it will get them into heaven.

And good luck with that.

Its basically the same mouthful of moutwash swishing to the other cheek here in Canada. The only problem is that there aren't as many fundamentalist Christians up north. That, coupled with an apparent lack of anything even remotely resembling 'skill' or 'strategy' or 'basic human appeal' on the part of the CPC leadership means the conservative drive for power in Canada is doomed to remain quixotic.

The CPC is not unique in this power drive. Since our democracy is polyarchic, various elite groups build coalitions, then shop potentially popular policies to the public to get elected. In other words, they're all after power, and will cobble together a 'vision' to ensure they get it. The Liberals are very good at this. The Conservatives are a train wreck.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
  Microsoft: Putting a Boot Into Human Faces Since 1975
Last week, I posted about the Chinese plan to censor blogs. A disturbing propisition, to be sure. Mind you, controlling the internet is a difficult thing to do...unless Microsoft has got your back.

Thanks to a new software module designed specfically for China by the computer giant, Chinese folks will be unable to use words like "freedom", "democracy", and "human rights" in their online posts. Said Microsoft Spokesman Adam Sohn:

"Even with the filters, we're helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here."

Great. Well, as long as people are able to post pictures of their Bichon Frise and ramble on about how drunk they were last night, I guess no one will care if the can't TALK ABOUT ANYTHING THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS. Read more about Microsoft's involvement in The Guardian.

This is no surprise coming from China, who already employs something like 30,000 Internet Police. And I guess I'm not surprised by Microsoft's involvement either...of course, if I were a suspicious man, I would be somewhat piqued by the apparent contradiction between the company's actions and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's avowed goal of promoting education and access to information around the world. If I were a suspicious man.

I'm just glad I use a Mac.
Monday, June 13, 2005

The New Face of Christian Politics in Canada: Inflammatory and with bad grammar. Rev. Tristan Emmanuel (not his real name) pictured in today's Globe. P.S. He's waiting for something called the 'Great Rescue'.  Posted by Hello
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
  What's Barbara Really Talking About?
I have no problem with pleading your case by proxy. Unless your proxy is Michael Jackson.

In this week's Maclean's, Barbara Amiel recounts the twisted saga of Michael Jackson. Now, I have never been a find of Amiel, her lifestyle, her politics, or her contribution to the Canadian journalistic canon. However, my first reaction to the article was reasonably positive. Well written and comprehensive with only a few lead sinkers like:

As the tape was played, Michael slumped in his seat. His life seemed as wrecked as his face. Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again. Indeed, nothing can be as it was for Jackson.


He seems stuck somewhere in the emotional landscape of adolescence. Uncannily, he resembles in every detail Peter Shaffer's notion of Mozart in his film Amadeus.

But these small literary crimes can be forgiven. She is, after all, painting a portrait of a sad and disturbing epic that has thoroughly captured the public consciousness, so perhaps some hyperbole and clunky, cliched metaphors are acceptable.

Unless, of course, the whole article is actually about something else. Which it almost certainly is.

It suddenly dawned on me what Amiel is doing in this article- lashing out at her and Lord Black's own detractors under guise of some thoughtful examination of Jackson's legal woes. Consider these passages:

Before guilt or innocence is established, his money will have been divided up by the legal system for the benefit of the legal system and the government.

The prosecutors and police who seek to make their careers out of convicting high-profile defendants have had their glory.

And the kicker:

It is not a crime to be a carrion vulture or scavenger, and the sight of a rich vulnerable person brings out the jackal in a lot of people. I suppose this case simply filled a feeding frenzy of our times. It's not an edifying spectacle.

Hmmm...does this strike anyone as eerily familiar? Is Amiel bemoaning her own treatment at the hands of prosecutors, police, media and stockholders? Is she not, in her own mind anyway, a 'rich vulnerable person'? She has turned an article on a weird, possibly criminal pop star into some strange tirade against the same forces gathering around her husband's business empire. Not because he's done something wrong, mind you...he, like Jackson, is the victim of some anti-rich predatory drive in our culture.

Why else would Amiel try to minimize the seriousness of the crime Jackson is alleged to have committed? For her literary charade to work, Jackson must appear to be a somewhat innocent victim of some amorphous societal drive to strike down the rich and powerful. Here's how she explains the child molestation charges:

Is there really any doubt that he had children in his bed for his pleasure? And what was the damage to them? Child molestation of any sort is not a desirable thing, and I can't think of any culture that has viewed it so, or even viewed it as a neutral sexual orientation. But in the absence of violence, fear and physical coercion, in the total absence of penetration, what actual harm has he done? These children have received millions for their moments in his bed.

Now that is crass. Child molestation is not a desirable thing? Brilliant deduction, Amiel! And I could easily cite a slough of research that any sort of sexual abuse, even if devoid of coercion and fear, is pretty god damn damaging to a child- whether or not they get paid for it in the end. To even suggest that the psychological trauma of sexual abuse can be fixed with large sums of cash is disgusting, and reveals a great deal about how Amiel views the world.

If you're upset at the way you've been treated, Babs, write a column about it. Don't try to downplay child abuse or construct a flimsy allegory to plead your case. As you say, it's not a very edifying spectacle.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
  Blogs: Not terribly powerful, just powerful enough to upset autocrats
Some interesting news out today on the political impact of blogs.

First, the Chinese government has required all blogs to register or face a 1 million yuan (about $150,000) fine. Apparently the Chinese is a tad concerned about all that free information floating around.

Conversely, an American study reveals blogs only have a marked political impact (as with Rathergate) in conjunction with a variety of other political factors.

The study did find many journalists in conventional media rely on bloggers to break big stories. So write on, blogger-brethren. Apparently, we've got all the best news.
Monday, June 06, 2005
  Chomsky vs. Foucault/Justice vs. Power
Excuse me while I nerd out for a minute.

For years, and in endless footnotes and citations, I've read about this debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault on a French television program in 1971.


Anyhow, I've been desperately looking for a transcript of this damn thing for a while now. Fortunately, Prof. Chomsky now has an 'official' website and, lo and behold, a complete transcript of this historic exchange is now available. Read it here.

Love them or hate them, Chomsky and Foucault are theoretical giants. An enlightening read, to be sure.
  O'Brien A Closet Homophobe, Apparently
Theocons come in all packages, I guess. Pat O'Brien has left the Liberal caucus over his objections to the gay marriage legislation.

Maybe it's just my education and committment to civil rights speaking, but I cannot understand why certain people are having so much trouble with gay marriage.

"It's because we're Christian!" they plaintively cry. OK, except that if you've actually read what Christ said (like in the beatitudes, fr'instance) you'd realize that the man would probably be fine with two gay folks getting hitched. You know, judge not lest ye be judged and all that jazz.

I mean, I understand that the Old Testament is very exciting, with all that vengeful god stuff. But I figure if you're going to call yourself a Christian, you should at least have a passing familiarity with his teachings. Just throwing that out there.

Equally irritating, O'Brien's 'moral' defection will get Tory hearts beating once more in the vainglorious hope that they can topple the government and usher in a brave new era of 'me first' politics. And of course, prevent the government from, you know, governing.

Nice move, O'Brien.
Friday, June 03, 2005
  Promoting Freedom by Arming Sociopaths...Another George Bush Policy Innovation
A new study by the World Policy Institute further illustrates the utter hypocrisy of the GWB White House. Claiming to bring peace, democracy and freedom to the world, all they really do is export fancy news ways for dictators to kill and repress their citizens and neighbours.

Some highlights of U.S. WEAPONS AT WAR 2005:

-In 2003, the United States has transferred weaponry to 18 of 25 nations involved in an active conflict.

-In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government" or that right was seriously abridged.

-When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003-- a full 80%-- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

The study goes on to say these arms exports seriously undermine the credibility and integrity of the United States, making it difficult to hold other nations to high standards of human rights conduct. Moreover,
"These blows to the reputation of the United States are in turn impediments to winning the "war of ideas" in the Muslim world and beyond, a critical element in drying up financial and political support for terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda."
So basically, US foreign policy achieves the exact opposite result from their stated purpose. Awesome.

I'd like the the Bush Regime to come up with some kind of dictionary so I'll know what their use of words like 'freedom' and 'democracy' really means. They're sure not using any dictionary I've ever read.
Thursday, June 02, 2005

Woodward and Watergate-Era editor Lee discuss the Deep Throat story and, as it turns out, journalistic integrity. Posted by Hello
  The Real Story
I was a bit disappointed when Vanity Fair broke the Deep Throat Story, mostly because I'm not a fan of their whole "One good story hidden behind three profiles of moron celebrities and the latest clap-trap by Dominic Dunne" formula. I also thought Woodward and Bernstein should get to do the big reveal.

Bowed but undefeated, the Washington Post is cranking out some fascinating coverage which far outstrips Vanity Fair. In particulat, read Bob Woodward's account of his relationship with Mark Felt.

Also, read this explanation of the Post's scooping. Rather than a loss to Vanity Fair, it was an integrity move. They kept their word. Tom Rosenstiel, director of the nonprofit Project for Excellence in Journalism, said in the article:

"You have your word, and the words have to mean something literally. Your credibility with all the future sources you might deal with, and the credibility of your organization, depends on people understanding that. The Post looks better today because Woodward and Bernstein allowed themselves to be scooped."

Woodward and Bernstein are truly great journalists, professional to the end.
  Immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and very, very dangerous
Great piece in The Guardian today from Kennedy/Johnson Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. There's also a similar piece in Foreign Policy.

He argues the United States' current nuclear policies are extremely dangerous. And after taking the US to the brink and back during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he would know. Between the risk of accidental launch, the hundreds of tonnes of unsecured fissile material around the world and a renewed era of proliferation, the Bushies are putting all of us in danger. Its pretty difficult to ask Iran and North Korea to give up the bomb when you're busy building new and more efficient nuclear weapons yourself. Smacks of hypocrisy, don't you think?

Quick example: do you remember last month's NPT meeting? Probably not, since it was almost completely ignored by the western media. Not surprisingly, nuclear power insouciance and a lack of public profile ensure the failure of the conference. With the NPT slowly eroding, roadblocks to a new nuclear age are slowly falling by the wayside. Seems like eliminating fillibusters isn't the only 'nuclear option' being pursued by the Republicans these days.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
  Education Makes You Smarter. Who Wouldda Thunk It?
The rabid ideologues at the Leadership Institute have released a study that shows US university faculty disproportianately donated to John Kerry's campaign over Bush.

Predictably, the LI feels this is compelling evidence of a 'liberal' bias in academia. Certainly, the evidence is difficult to ignore. But as usual, conservative logic is all wrong.

They seem to think that these liberals have somehow managed to infilitrate higher education, and are now free to foist their "radical leftist" views on unsuspecting students. According to pundits, liberals arrive on this planet full-formed and ready to corrupt.

Here's a thought. Maybe the more educated you are, the more progressive you become. When you've learned about the world, perhaps it becomes more difficult to be intolerant and reduce the world into black and white compartments. Perhaps a professor has a hard time agreeing with the kind of zero-sum logic reflected in a statement like "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists". Maybe these folks donate to Kerry because they are intelligent enough to understand what the lesser of two evils actually is.

This may be a reason why the last election didn't just break down into red state/blue state. Votes for Kerry generally corresponded to educational attainment rates.

Maybe progressive values really are the smart choice.
  Strong anti-intellectual tendency, anyone?
I think if it were possible to distill 'intelligence' into some kind of gelatinous compound, and if this compound were placed in the same room with many conservatives, there would be some kind of a violent explosion.

Human Events, the oh-so-enlightened conservative weekly, has released its list of "The 10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century". I should say first off I agree wholeheartedly with their number two pick - Hitler's Mein Kampf. Not so much because of its discreet impact, but because it was the literary manifestation of the most viruently evil individuals and movements the world has ever known. I could also see my way to agreeing with the selection of Mao's little red book...but again, it's deleterious effects are more tied to the man than to his words.

Beyond that, the rest of the list is a train wreck. Calling the works of J.S. Mill, Nietzsche, Adorno, Darwin, de Beauvoir, Rachel Carson, Friedan, Gramsci and Dewey betrays a paleolithic understanding of the world of ideas. True, many of this books are now somewhat obsolete. But they are vital stepping stones in humanity's long march to...well, humanity. Human Events seems to be marching in the other direction.

As a side note, Marx's Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto made the list. While I'm not saying I advocate his political program, his materialist critique remains relevant today and should be read by anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of capitalism in its formative stages.

All of this begs the question, "Who are these books 'harmful' to"? And once again, I exclude Mein Kampf and The Little Red Book from this humble analysis.

The short list:

-Men who like subjagating women
-People who accept the impoverishment of others as a means to their own gain
-People who endager the lives of others to enrich themselves
-People who sacrifice environmental sustainability for profit
-People who reject man's ability to understand the world through any means besides a creator-god.
-People who don't believe in science.
-People who believe in magic (see also: creationists)
-Authoritarians, and those who aspire to be authoritarians
-Up-tight social conservatives, evangelical Christians and moral dogmatists
-The selfishly rich

I imagine if you fall into one or more of the above categories, you'd really agree with Human Events' list. And probably be dumb enough to enjoy that rag, too.
Welcome to the Nunc Scio blog. Politics. Media. Culture. Now you know.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jack of all trades, master of none, Graeme is many things to many people. Unfortunately, none of them find him very life-affirming in any capacity. He is a freelance writer, broadcaster, amateur cryptozoologist and occasional political commentator late of London, England and now based in Toronto. Most of the time, he's confused. And a little hungry. But mostly just confused and somewhat uncomfortable writing in the third person.

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