A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, October 25, 2002
CDN. DEFENSE MINISTER PUSHES OWN GOV'T TO SPEND MORE ON MILITARY: John McCallum says he's prepared to deliver for Canada's ragged military:
"If you ask me if we should do more or less than we are currently doing in the defence of our country and our continent, I would say more," he said in a speech prepared for delivery to the Toronto Board of Trade. "If you ask me if we should do more or less in deploying our forces to the myriad trouble spots of the world, I would say more."
I'm inclined to believe him on this, since he speech wasn't delivered to people who would obviously want to hear that, but rather to some of the people who would have to bear the cost of more spending (i.e. business folks who'll have to forego tax cuts).

This is good stuff, since the Canadian military is one that generally does a lot more good than bad in the world, even accounting for the ugliness of the airborne during the Somalia mission.

I have a longer argument tucked away on my laptop, but in short it says that progressives in Canada and other middle-power OECD countries are foolish to copy the position of American progressives in their attitudes toward their nation's militaries. Whereas U.S. progressives have very good reasons to advocate for the contraction of their military--which is ridiculously huge and underpins the further expansion of an often disturbing American hegemony--progressives in Canada and other middle powers should push their governments to expand military spending so that their nations can get more say regarding the international security agenda.

Right now, because of the shortfall in the military capacity of multilateralist countries, the U.S. gets to set the agenda on common security issues like Iraq, as well as other issues that should be warmer to progressive hearts, such as peacekeeping and the prosceution of human rights offenders.

If you don't believe me, then you you should ask Lloyd Axworthy, who argues for gaining more leverage over issues like the ICC by "building a capacity for peacekeeping that doesn't rely on the Americans," or Samantha Power and Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who can provide you with a heartbreaking and compelling account of how the world could have saved 800,000 Rwandan lives, if the decision to reinforce the UN's Rwanda mission didn't depend on overcoming the Clinton administration's and the Pentagon's desire not to suffer more American casualties in another African peacekeeping/-making mission.
THE WORLD--OR AT LEAST THE NEWS--SUCKS: The world seems to be having a pretty awful life-day. Found out about Sen. Paul Wellstone's death (along with his wife and daughter) in a plane crash from Max Sawicky a few minutes ago.

And there's that looming ultimatum on all of those Russian civilians being held hostage in a Moscow theatre. Considering how hardcore both the Russians and the Chechens are, it's looking grim for everyone in there.


Yeah, there's probably lots of other terrible stuff going on, both normally and today, but these two events struck as somehow more tragic than average.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
For the hell of it...

Check out the hilarious Viking Kittens. I didn't want to bury it right away on the Diversions roll (though it will be there eventually). And let me add -- I am a big Led Zeppelin fan...but man, at their worst, they could go toe-to-toe with any blowhard blogger at the Pomposity Olympics. LZ III wasn't their best work anyway -- aside from "Gallows Pole", a hiccup between bluesy II and rock radio staple IV.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, ANYONE? A number of rightish bloggers got hot and bothered because MSNBC had, in its mealymouthed sort of way, noted on its Weblog Central blogroll that "some might find" the content of Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs "hateful or even racist." MSNBC seems to have folded under this pressure, because it has now changed the qualifier to "controversial."

Meryl Yourish and others call this libel:
MSNBC, remove the "hate" label from LGF on your page. Will Femia, you are libeling Charles Johnson's reputation and weblog... MSNBC, stand up for freedom of expression.
Note to Meryl: what MSNBC said wasn't libel. It is completely true that there is a significant number of reasonable people out there (like, say, me) who find LGF and especially what its proprietor tolerates in its comments to be hateful. And their claims aren't baseless: as I've noted before, LGF's M.O. regarding Islam and Arab people is disturbingly similar to that of other sites that almost everyone would find hateful. Mr. Johnson's reputation deserves all of the pounding it gets.

Finally, it's fascinating that Meryl's cry to MSNBC to "stand up for freedom of expression" involved gagging MSNBC, whereas MSNBC never took down its link to LGF, which--however it described LGF--indubitably enabled LGF to obtain a greater readership than it previously enjoyed. Namely, it's fascinating that Meryl could write that without being strangled by the irony.
BUFFY TACKLES THE IRAQ ISSUE? I challenge anyone who just saw tonight's episode to deny that the debate between Buffy, Willow, and Xander as to What to Do About Anya (Buffy says: "kill her," which is a strike against my and Ampersand's theory/hope that she's a liberal despite her affinity for destroying stuff) is practically a direct retort to this Buffy Blogburst post by NZ Bear that was highlighted and critiqued by Alas, a Blog. If my allegorical aim is true, then Buffy, who has the singular and overwhelming power of the slayer is the U.S., while her friends are the Euros and the rest of the world. Meryl Yourish will no doubt hate that last part.

The bottom line is that moral clarity is always a damned hard get, even in a world with demons, if that world is at all interesting because it remotely resembles ours. The truths morality reveals are tragic and difficult. You're either a fundamentalist or a moral prepubescent if you don't realize that. And in our world, the bad folks aren't even soulless demons--something that we should keep in mind before making any comparisons between our situation and those that occur in fantasy narratives.

CAVEAT: I'm a novice (but burgeoning) Buffy follower, so please don't smack me too hard if I've made hermeneutic errors as a result of my inexperience...I have watched enough to be really relieved that Anya made it through that ep, though...
THOUGHT ON THE DEATH PENALTY, COURTESY OF A MURDEROUS SOCIOPATH: The following comment on the usually fiercely progressive Maxspeak caught my eye:
Another shooting a couple of blocks from one of the first ones (Connecticut & Bel Pre), about ten minutes from my house, near where I buy groceries and gas. Not clear if I can even drive to the metro, what with the roads all blocked up. On to Iraq! Did I mention I'm not against capital punishment?
I'm a Canadian progressive, so I have a pretty strong ingrained instinct against the death penality. It has always struck me as irrational and more than a little barbaric.

But living in another country--even one whose culture is very similar to that of my homeland--can give you a different perspective. I was talking to my roommate the other day--he's a moderate Republican who's against captial punishement mainly for religious reasons--and we agreed that the most reasonable stance to take toward the death penalty in the U.S. would be to advocate geting rid of it EXCEPT for the symbolically most powerful cases.

So it would still apply to this sniper nut, terrorists, and really shocking serial cases like Dahmer. And maybe really bad cases of treason too--although "really bad" cases of treason would be hard to distinguish from terrorism anyway (e.g. McVeigh).

What's my reasoning for this? Well, people don't always like to say it explicitly, but the desire for revenge and purification are affective factors that large parts of many communities--especially communities in the U.S.--think should count for something in sentencing. And affective (that's a nicer way of saying "irrational") community desires and values should count for something, especially when they're as powerfully expressed and deeply held as the values that underwrite the death penalty in the U.S.. It's these kinds of values that hold communities together. I think that acknolwedging that these desires have a part to play in determining the community's sense of justice--so long as they're properly constrained by other important imperatives of justice--will result in the most reasonable compromise available when comes to the death penalty in the U.S.
Monday, October 21, 2002
There's an interesting article in Mother Jones on the National Security Strategy of the United States, recently announced by GWB. I haven' t read the National Security Strategy and only know what has been reported in the media, but if this article is correct, the strategy has less to do with the security of American people than opening up the world for American business interests. While I think a country is entitled to pursue its economic interests in the world, linking them to a military agenda is worrying, to say the least....
TAKE THAT, YOU ACCURSED LIMEY SERVER!!! I finally came to my senses and decided to stop using a comments server that's on another continent and switched to Haloscan. So to everyone who has commented and who just had their comments blown away, sorry!

But on the other hand, things will be much faster, now that we don't have to wait for the data to go across the Atlantic and back....
WHAT I THINK ABOUT N. KOREA VIS-A-VIS IRAQ IN TWO GRAFS: Despite my sarcastic suggestions to the contrary below (which in any case seems to have gone unnoticed by everyone including Manu, at least the first time around), there's obviously a whole bunch of good reasons for not attacking North Korea that don't apply to Iraq. Two of them being the suckiness of mass death in S. Korea and Japan (corollaries of the more general reason that N.K. is in much better shape defensively and militarily than Iraq) and another being the huge irritation it would cause China if we caused muchas chaos in its backyard.

The real point isn't the (completely justified) asymmetry between the Bush admin's responses to the two countries' WMD threats. Rather, it's the Bushies' bass ackwards priorities when it comes to the amount of concern and energy that they choose to devote to dealing with Iraq and N. Korea respectively, considering that the latter seems to pose a much greater threat to peace and security. Although the argument that "it's hypocritical to attack Iraq instead of N. Korea" is a lame one, the argument that "it's stupid to spend so much time and energy messing about Iraq when N. Korea seems a lot scarier" certainly isn't, and it's this argument that anyone who's skeptical about how the Bush admin is conducting its foreign policy should be pushing.
YES VIRGINIA, THERE STILL IS FREE STUFF AND GENERAL GOODNESS ON THE 'NET: Leftbanker has taken it upon himself to spread some gratis Glenn Gould, which I thought I should highlight, given the canuck connection.

If you're wondering if the offer's legit, I just got my CDs in the mail on Friday, and my quality of life went up just like that. Thanks, dude!
PREP FOR A GRACEFUL WITHDRAWAL FROM AN IRAQ INVASION? Is it just me, or does Dr. Rice sound positively Clintonian in this recent op-ed for The Daily Telegraph?

Call me a sucker (hmm...maybe that's not such a prudent invitation), but my gut says that Condi's being sincere and is trying to ease invasion-ready Brits into the idea that the time may not be right to roll--see especially the last two grafs, each of which features the word "patient." Typical fans of Lord Black's daily tubby could not have been terribly thrilled...

(thanks to Tom Roberts for the link)
Sunday, October 20, 2002
The first two paragraphs of this G&M article sum up why the Liberal government simply must go -- drunk on nearly ten years of uncontested power, it has neatly conflated the interests of itself and its friends, with the interests of the country. Now, this failing isn't uniquely Liberal -- long-time Tory governments in Canada and Britain also collapsed under the weight of their moral decrepitude. But in this case, the Liberals are responsible, and I'm not sure that merely changing the name at the top of the letterhead will make a spot of difference.

Which brings us to the pitiful state of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Stephen Harper, to his credit, took over a party that resembled a carnival sideshow and gradually restored its respectability, if only by staying completely out of the news; problem is, his seven-month-long disappearing act has left Paul Martin as the de facto Opposition Leader. M Bloquiste (is his real name Duceppe? Does anyone, inside or outside of Quebec, care any more?) carries the torch for a political strategy that was curious nine years ago, and utterly irrelevant now. Joe Clark barely averts the internecine humiliation of his youth; he'll be gone, though he still might change his mind. Who the hell is Alexa McDonough?

Now, at least the PCs and NDP will be choosing new leaders in the coming year. On the New Democrat side, there are some interesting options in Jack Layton and Svend Robinson. You may not agree with either (and Svend's stock has dropped somewhat, since his dabbling in Middle Eastern affairs), but at least they would breathe life into a moribund party. The big challenge facing the New Dems is defining their raison d'etre; do they embrace the Seattle, anti-WTO protest crowd, or do they try and pin down the elusive Third Way? I say go for the former; it would be more exciting (even in failure), and the Liberals have a century-old monopoly on the Canadian mushy middle. Hmmm...the Liberals as a Krispy Kreme donut...has poli sci thesis written all over it.

Now, the prospects of the PCs look a little brighter, in that their new leader could very well come from the provincial level. Lost in the 1990's collapse of the federal PCs was the fact that Toryism is alive and well across the country -- five of the ten provinces are governed by Tories. Both Ralph Klein and Mike Harris could make a splash, though I would tend to believe that their abrasive, us-against-them style of governing would not play well coast to coast. Plus, Harris carries a ton of baggage from the Walkerton tainted-water scandal.

So, what do you guys know about Bernard Lord? Is he competent? Is he a consensus-builder? Is he fiscally responsible? Hell, is he a higher mammal? 'Cause I'd take the Rally Monkey over what we have right now...