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Thursday, August 22, 2002
YIKES: The Guardian has an alarming report on this month's U.S. war games, which simulated a U.S. attack against "the forces of an unnamed Middle Eastern state." The "wow" part of the story is that the U.S. Marine General who was commanding the pretend enemy forces claims that he quit the games in protest because they were rigged to guarantee a U.S. victory--but not before he managed to sink a big chunk of the pretend U.S. naval force with a sneak attack.
Even more interesting is that the story doesn't seem to have percolated into the national U.S. media yet, although online snoops like Joe Conason and Tapped have picked it up.
ENVY AND BOREDOM: High of my list of people who have what I want is Mark Kingwell. He's a philosophy prof at U of T who writes articles for classy magazines, has a national newspaper column, gives pithy quotes to the media on theories of culture and society, and can, on occasion, turn out a very elegant thought, as he does in this column on the nature of boredom. All he's lacking is tenure...
THE PM AS A GASTROPOD: An animalistic depiction of Chretien's S-L-O-W departure from a Quebecois cartoonist (who was charitable enough to refrain from drawing a slime trail).
FOR A WHILE THERE, I wasn't sure that I'd live to see the day: Prime Minister Jean Chretien has announced that he is stepping down as leader of the Liberal Party. Of course, he's not going to officially turn over the keys until 2004, which means another 2 years of fuzzy centrist coasting. Fortunately for the Liberals, their opposition is more likely to figure out cold fusion than to develop an electorally viable alternative during that time.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
WORRYING SIMILARITIES: I definitely don't make it a policy to surf or link to execrable sites like this one often (warning: hate site). But after stumbling on it, it did provoke a thought: let's see, tracking the occasionally whacked-out pronouncements of a Shas leader and deploying it as a badly veiled attack on Jews in general...Little Green Footballs' "Peaceful Religion Watch" anyone? (after that, I really hope not)
COUNTERPOINT: I can't frame the contrast in informed judgement better than Tapped has:
"Richard Perle, ideologue armchair general, says we don't need allies to win in Iraq. Wesley Clark, real general, explains why we do. You decide who to believe."
I KNEW it wouldn't take long. I stopped reading The National Post last year because its ham-handed, decidedly non-fact-checked right-wing columnists made my eyes bleed. But what's a political blog without a good takedown every once in awhile? I was confident that if I looked up columnist Mark Steyn (whom Americans might know from his syndicated column in The Chicago Sun-Times), it wouldn't take me long to find him exuding something ridiculous. And I was right--in his latest column, there's literally too much inanity to take on in one entry, so I'm just posting the most egregious parts (for now).
The biggest howler had to be Steyn's "evidence" for the proportion of rapes carried out Denmark:
"'Three quarters of rapes are carried out by non-Danes,' says Peter Skaarup, chairman of the [Danish] People's Party, a member of the governing coalition."
Describing the Danish People's Party as "a member of the government coalition" is a lot like describing George Wallace as "a Southern Democrat who campaigned for the presidency as an independent." Or Joerg Haider's Freedom Party as "a member of Austria's governing coalition." Odd that Steyn doesn't mention DPP leader Pia Kjærsgaard's position on party membership: "In the Danish People's party we don't want Muslim members."
Nor did Steyn choose to provide us with a different statistic gathered by another parliamentarian of the Party that is a Member of Denmark's Governing Coalition: "the principal industry in Poland is prostitution, excuse the expression, they say that 80 per cent of Polish women are whores."
To show us that isn't going to be topped by a few Danes, Steyn offers us this thoughtful piece of geopolitical/scientific/cultural insight:
"The 'Muslim world' -- the arc stretching from North Africa through South Asia -- is economically, militarily, scientifically and artistically irrelevant."
And here I was all worried about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and our dependence on Saudi Arabian oil. Seeing as they're irrelevant, I guess I can just kick back and relax by renting Children of Heaven.
It's telling that Steyn feels obliged to tell us that he is "not a racist, only a culturalist." That explains it: racists describe the Blacks, Asians, and Jews of North America as alien, dangerous, and spreading, whereas culturalists only describe the Muslims of Europe as "mysterious, swelling, unstoppable."
UPDATE: In the blatant lie department--Danish crime statistics (only available in Danish, but, hey, that's what Danish friends and Babblefish are for) report that in 1998, 17 of the 73 convicted rapists were of foreign origin, and in 2000, 25 out of 70 convicted rapists were of foreign origin. If, as with certain members of Denmark's governing coalition, math isn't your forte, that's 23% and 35% respectively.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
POT FLIP-FLOP: The road to decriminalization in Canada hits a switchback as Health Minister Anne McLellan made a surprise announcement during a speech to the Canadian Medical Association that seemed to indicated that the Federal Government would be retreating from its plan to sponsor the cultivation of medical marijuana. McLellan said that she first wants to hold clinical trials. Not an enormous setback for decrim proponents, but the first backward motion on the issue that we've had recently.
Monday, August 19, 2002
COULD PROGRESSIVES AND LIBERTARIANS AGREE ON THE ENVIRONMENT? They should at the very least be able to agree on the issue of corporate welfare. Norman Myers' and Jennifer Kent's book on Perverse Subsidies focuses on the issue from an environmental angle. Some promo text:
"Much of the global economy depends upon large-scale government intervention in the form of direct and indirect subsidies to support specific industries or sectors. Many of these subsidies can be characterized as "perverse" because rather than helping society achieve desired goals, they work in the opposite direction by damaging environments and economies. It is estimated that in the United States alone, perverse subsidies total more than $520 billion per year."
Sunday, August 18, 2002
I'D BUY A TICKET TO SEE THAT: In his interview with the NYT's magazine, Gov. Jesse Ventura was asked: "Who is the public figure you would most like to smack around the wrestling ring?" Answer: George Will. But after the beating Will took from Norman Mailer in March, is there anything left for the Body to work over?
In the same interview, Ventura cites the low pay as one of the reasons he's quitting, stating that he would have run again if his salery were $400,000 (although in fairness he would offset that salary with strict term limits and no pension plan for elected officials). That might not be such a bad argument for freezing political salaries...