Disaster Capitalism

   13 November 2007, terribly early in the morning

I’m barely a third of the way through Naomi Klein’s last essay for Harper’s, Disaster Capitalism, and I’m already seething with rage. I suspect the last two-thirds will be equally as good and as frustrating to read. I love Harper’s.

After each new disaster, it’s tempting to imagine that the loss of life and productivity will finally serve as a wake-up call, provoking the political class to launch some kind of “new New Deal.” In fact, the opposite is taking place: disasters have become the preferred moments for advancing a vision of a ruthlessly divided world, one in which the very idea of a public sphere has no place at all. Call it disaster capitalism. Every time a new crisis hits — even when the crisis itself is the direct by-product of free-market ideology — the fear and disorientation that follow are harnessed for radical social and economic re-engineering. Each new shock is midwife to a new course of economic shock therapy. The end result is the same kind of unapologetic partition between the included and the excluded, the protected and the damned, that is on display in Baghdad.

Consider the instant reactions to last summer’s various infrastructure disasters. Four days after the Minneapolis bridge collapsed, a Wall Street Journal editorial had the solution: “tapping private investors to build and operate public roads and bridges,” with the cost made up from ever-escalating tolls. After heavy rain caused the shutdown of New York City’s subway lines, the New Yark Sun ran an editorial under the headline “Sell the Subways.” It called for individual train lines to compete against one another, luring customers with the safest, driest service — and “charging higher fares when the competing lines, stingier on their investments, were shut down with tracks under water.”[It’s not hard to imagine what this free market in subways would look like: high-speed lines ferrying commuters from the Upper West Side to Wall Street, while the trains serving the South Bronx wouldn’t just continue their long decay-they would simply drown.

It’s a very good read so far. I imagine her book The Shock Doctrine on the same topic will be an interesting read. (It inspired Alfonso Cuarón to create a short film of the same name.) The October Harper’s is particularly good; this months not so much, though I did enjoy the Mitt Romney article very much.

(Also, Harper’s new web site continues to amaze me. I’m so impressed with what they’ve done.)

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Ontario Election 2007

   10 October 2007, early evening

Tony Ruprecht holds the lead at the moment with 50% of the vote — with 10 polls reporting. My man, Peter Ferreira, is in second place with 27%. It’s not looking good, but it is still early. 64% of Ontario are in favour of the current electoral system, first past the post. What the fuck people? Seriously?

Update: Every time a new poll reports in, Ferreira has a few more seats. He has 34% of the vote now, with 42.65% going to Ruprecht. Hopefully this trend continues, but Ferreira needs a few polls going to him for things to really flip.

Update: The Green Party is doing better than the Tories in this riding. Does that make them a proper party? I’d say so.

Update: Ruprecht has been sitting at 40% of the vote for a while now, Ferreira at 37%. I can’t believe it’s this close.

Update: Well it looks like Ruprecht has it, unless the last 36 polls decide to do things very differently. He’s up by 1000 votes. The split remains more or less the same; now it’s 41% vs. 36%.

Update: I just realized that if everyone who voted for the NDP voted for the Green Party (of vice versa) Tony wouldn’t be winning this riding. (Of course, if you add the Liberal and PC numbers up they’d come out on top.)

Update: Well, at least the season premier of Intelligence was really good.

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Some thoughs on Mixed-Member Proportional

    1 October 2007, lunch time

[ed. This is an edited version of a message I originally posted in response to a comment on the DigIn mailing list. If you haven’t been following the MMP debate on the news, it probably won’t make much sense.]

I’d like to say there has been a lot of discussion on the voting referendum taking place during the upcoming election, but really, there hasn’t been.

We’ve had how many governments in a row now where a 40% popular vote returns a huge number of seats in parliament? In 2003 the Liberals had 46.4% of the vote, which earned them 70% of the seats. We’d be moving to a system that would temper this sort of thing.

People opposed to MMP seem upset by the party lists. We (the people) currently don’t get to pick which politician chooses to run in our ridings. The party lists represent a new group of people we also don’t get to pick. That said, if you want a say in who is running for the NDP, you do have an option: join the NDP party. More so, to pretend we don’t get to vote for this new set of people is misleading. You see the party lists before the election. You know who your “party vote” is going towards. All this talk about “non-elected” members making it to parliament is straight up scare mongering. If these people do a bad job of things, the party will need to think hard about including them on their party list for the next election, lest voters decide to give their party vote to someone else.

More so, from voteformmp.ca we learn:

“Conservative Party leader John Tory, NDP leader Howard Hampton, and Green Party leader Frank de Jong have already stated their parties would used democratic processes to nominate their at-large candidates should the MMP system be adopted in the referendum.”

The 3% popular vote barrier to get the party seats does shut out fringe parties for the most part, but this really is no worse than the current system, which gives fringe parties absolutely no venue to address this. Chances are the Green Party will break the 3% barrier this coming election. In the current system, that doesn’t matter, because they’ll probably never win a riding with those numbers; under the new system, this would get them a seat.

Also keep in mind that straight-up proportional representation is not without its issues, and would generally not be considered a democratic system of government. We don’t have referendums on gay rights for a reason.

I don’t think MMP is perfect, but it is certainly a step forward.

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The Saffron Revolution

   27 September 2007, terribly early in the morning

At the all-candidates debate a fellow from Burma got up to ask a question, but wanted to make a brief announcement before starting. He wasn’t allowed to do so, because the crowd really wasn’t in the mood to hear anything that wasn’t about the election. After he sat down, I asked him what he wanted to talk about: he said, “the protests.”

Unless you really don’t pay attention to anything whatsoever, you are probably aware that there are protests happening in Burma right now. Thousands of monks have been marching in the streets. Burma is one of those countries with run by a vicious military junta that no one seems particularly bothered about. People are calling the current demonstrations the Saffron Revolution. It remains to be seen what sort of effect they will have. The military has finally started cracking down on the monks, but I can’t imagine people look on to fondly when you shoot at people whose entire existence is predicated on a belief in non-violence. (Though, I’m always confused by the monks in Sri Lanka. Their asses are crazy.) Bloggers within Burma are helping get the word out about the conditions within the country. The Globe has been carrying AP stories for the past few days on Burma. You should be sure to stay abreast of what’s taking place. We live in a world where this isn’t that difficult.

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Bush's Brand New Viet Nam

   23 August 2007, terribly early in the morning

Bush has started going on about how Iraq is the new Viet Nam. Wait, I know what you’re thinking, why would you compare the new war to America’s most shining example of defeat? Well, Bush has been trying to argue that America shouldn’t have given up in Viet Nam when it did — I shit you not. This from the man who didn’t actually fight in Viet Nam. I’m sure if the US continued to bomb the shit out of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia for a few more years they would have “won” the war, whatever that even means.

Bush also thinks the Khmer Rouge would have cooled it with all the killing had the US won the war in Viet Nam. There are a few things to keep in mind here:

  1. Many historians believe that the US bombing campaigns in Cambodia are what pushed the Cambodian peasantry to support the Khmer Rouge. They certainly destabilized the country.
  2. This bombing campaign killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians. The bombings were stopped in 1973, at which time the US had dropped 540,000 tons of bombs on the country. If you are going to talk about genocide and mass killing, you can’t leave the US out of things.
  3. It was the Communists in Viet Nam who actually invaded and stopped the Khmer Rouge.
  4. The US itself has supported the Khmer Rouge. After Pol Pot was ousted from power, the US supported him and his insurgents for much of the 80s.

So yeah, fuck Bush.

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Why don't Americans riot?

   19 July 2007, terribly early in the morning

I’m reading through Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason — which I can confirm could be renamed An Assault on the Bush Administration — I just finished reading Nemesis, and I watched V for Vendetta again with Shima last night. I now feel like starting a riot, but then I live in the idyllic wonderland that is Canada: I’m not sure what’d I’d riot about. Why don’t Americans riot? This is what I can’t understand. You have a government that clearly operates in its own interests, not in the interests of its people. There is blatant cronyism in most everything the Bush administration does, from the laws it passes to the people it protects. Democracy is supposed to be by the people for the people. I don’t know what is up in America now, but it certainly can’t be called a Democracy. Now if the poor were getting less poor, they might welcome the slow march towards fascism, but as far as I can tell this isn’t the case. It is amazing what you can convince people they want. I need to read Manufacturing Consent one of these days.

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President Bush has commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby

    3 July 2007, early morning

There are so many things I wanted to write about today, including my brand new transformer, and a visit from my cousins, but instead I’ll mention that unsurprisingly, President Bush has commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby.

I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

This isn’t all that surprising. I don’t think anyone actually expected him to spend any time in jail. You can almost feel the rage on MetaFilter. I wonder how much press this will get today, or over the course of the week. Any of you in America have a sense of how people are reacting to the news?

This quote from the Times sums things up nicely:

Presidents have the power to grant clemency and pardons. But in this case, Mr. Bush did not sound like a leader making tough decisions about justice. He sounded like a man worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell.

Of course, in the grand scheme of crap things the administration has done, this barely ranks. I’ve been reading through Nemesis now, a book Martha bought me for my birthday last year, which is a pretty neat and tidy account of why America is constantly fucking up, and why it is probably totally fucked. I think it’s well worth checking out. There is so much truly evil stuff Bush has got up to since taking office, it’s hard to get worked up about Libby being let off the hook for outing Plame — more so since in all likely hood he was covering for Cheney.

I wonder if anyone in the US will ever get charged as a war criminal. They’ve certainly got enough of them running around living it up.

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Hamas takes Gaza

   15 June 2007, terribly early in the morning

The cover of the Globe and Mail features a Hamas fighter standing on a table in Fatah’s intelligence headquarters, brandishing a Kalashnikov and a Qur’an. It’s a pretty amazing photograph. Gaza is now under control of Hamas. The West Bank remains under the control of Fatah. There are reports of gun battles out there though, so fighting may flare up in the West Bank next. How did we end up with Palestinians shooting at Palestinians? Somehow I doubt this this will lead to Palestinian self-determination.

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More on the Lansdowne Narrowing Project

   12 June 2007, early morning

Kevin Beaulieu, one of Adam Giambrone’s assistants, has posted a pretty long and detailed message on the DigIn mailing list about the Lansdowne Narrowing Project. I am still of the opinion this will be a good thing. (I’ve highlighted what I think is important — all the emphasis below is mine.)

Read the rest of this post. (421 words)

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Peter Brimelow is a Broken Man

   19 April 2007, early morning

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law. — James Baldwin

VDARE wastes no time when it comes to exploiting the dead of Virginia Tech. The bodies aren’t even in the ground, but that doesn’t stop Peter Brimelow with blessing us with this little gem:

There is one indisputable fact about Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech: if Seung-Hui Cho had not been allowed to immigrate to the U.S. in 1992, he would not have been able to murder 33 innocent people here in 2007. — Virginia Tech Massacre: Gun Control—Or Immigration Control?

Whose earliest reactions, after learning 33 students are dead, is to rush to write a diatribe against Koreans? Besides being stupid, it’s incredibly callous. Of course, it’s the sort of reaction one would expect from the people of VDARE. VDARE is anti-immigrant, which just happens to make them anti-immigration. To pretend the organization is not composed of a bunch of racists trying to legitimize their racism is disingenuous to all parties. As such, stories such as this are what they live for. You can be certain this story will be a bullet point in all future stories they write about Koreans.

Now I have no interest in writing about how Koreans aren’t all killers in training, criminals, prone to violence, etc. I certainly hope Koreans don’t take it upon themselves to do so as well. This is a stupid argument to be forced to make. You don’t have to defend yourselves to anyone, least of all White Americans. If they have a problem with Koreans because of the actions of one person, that is their problem; they are the ones who are fucked up.

What I did want to say is that Peter Brimelow and his ilk are broken — and I mean that quite literally. To be unable to look at another human and get past the fact they aren’t White is sad. It takes effort and willful ignorance to live ones life that way. It takes a rejection of your own humanity.

Michael’s turned off comments on his weblog, which is why all this stuff has spilled over to my own site, and for that I apologize. I like linking to random crap much more than writing about wing-nuts, but people such as Brimelow need to get called out for being dumb asses.

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Getting worked up over scarves: it's not just for soccer anymore!

   16 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

I don’t want to get into religious issues. I’m not a racist. I understand they’re disappointed. We’re not shutting the door on the Muslim community, we’re just enforcing the rules and regulations that are there to be respected. — Jean Flacher, Tae kwon do team knocked out for wearing hijab

I don’t know him Jean Flacher, but I am sure he’s a nice fellow. Still, using rules as an excuse for discriminatory behaviour is lame to say the least. The girls aren’t wearing baseball caps, they are wearing scarves required of them for their religion. When you don’t let them participate, you are effectively shutting the door to them and their community. (Also, people need to get over the idea that there is a giant global Muslim community. You’d look like an idiot if you started prattling on about the Christian community, but talking about all Muslims like they were a homogenous unit is quite reasonable in the West. People seem unable to get past the fact that Muslims from Pakistan are probably different than Muslims from Africa who are probably different than Muslims from Saudi Arabia.) I’m left wondering how long this rule will stay in effect. I’m also wondering if such a ban exists on turbans.

All of that said, why little girls are being asked to wear scarves? It seems a bit off from my understanding of what head scarves are for, and what they mean. I don’t see why an 10 year old needs to worry about modestly before god after all. Maybe a Muslim reader can chime in. I notice Shima thinks that is a bit off as well.

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Zero-Tolerance

   12 April 2007, early morning

Over at the Hogtown Front, I learned that the ‘Liberals plan to abolish zero-tolerance policy. Too many black students being expelled.’ There are two reasons the Liberals may have wanted to scrap the policy: the first, Michael points out; the second, and the more obvious one, is that it’s a stupid idea. People need to ask themselves, “How does removing problem children from the school system help them?” Oh wait, it doesn’t. (I suppose that very well might be the point.) Zero-tolerance was a bad idea when it was proposed, and i’m glad to see it gone now.

It is clear Jared Taylor and his fan boys will hold this up as an example of black inferiority, and attempt to use this as another means of stigmatizing blacks. (In fact, if you read Michael’s article, Taylor already has done this; he moves fast.) I was going to respond at length, but he isn’t worth my time.

All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.
— James Baldwin

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Immigration Watch Canada: Saying Nothing 24/7

    4 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

Please indulge me while I discuss the brilliant writing behind Immigration Watch. In particular, today we will talk about, The Mother Of All Fraud Marriages.

There is a desire in a number of immigrants to retain cultural purity. … This is a very common practice in Canada and in European immigrant-receiving countries. … it often results in continued lack of integration with the host population.

There is a desire in a number of Canadians to have sex with animals. I’m not going to say what that number is, but I will continue talking like it is most certainly substantial. It’s a very common practice. How common, I won’t say. Surely you already know how common it is. This practice often results in Canadians who don’t play nice with others. How often? You know, often.

Fraud marriage is not an isolated practice. A large number of immigrants enter Canada every year as sponsored spouses. Some of this pactice (sic) is legitimate, but the law is abused …

Kicking cats is not an isolated practice; I am pretty sure there are at least two people out there in Canada who do so. I’m not trying to be a jerk mind you: lots of Canadians treat their pets kindly. Now that I’ve mentioned that point, let’s never speak of this group again.

… According to several oprganizations (sic) trying to stop fraudulent marriages, …

According to several organizations I won’t name — but trust me when I say they exist — Ramanan Sivaranjan is the most awesome person ever. Update: I’ve just received several notice that I am also the most handsome person ever. Update: Several sources have said that in a fight between me and Tony Ja I would win.

As the following story illustrates …

Everyone loves stories. They are nice, and simple, and let you think about complex problems in simple terms. They are good because you can take what you learn about a particular person or event and extrapolate from that sample to a much larger population of individuals. Some of you may doubt this claim, but trust me, several organizations have said that it is a fact. Many people think so. It is often the case that a sample size of one is enough to make judgments about huge groups of people.

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Vaharai

   23 January 2007, lunch time

My dad mentioned over the weekend that Sri Lankan troops have taken the key town of Vaharai. This is a pretty big win for the Sri Lankan army. As I understand things, Vaharai links the North to the South, and was used as a supply route. The town was basically under LTTE control for quite some time. It sounds like the fight was messy to say the least. Reports indicate there is a serious refugee situation in the area. (People are being internally displaced due to the fighting.) Post 9/11, catching terrorists is more important than human rights or anything else — both within Sri Lanka and abroad. The war in Sri Lanka doesn’t look like it will end till the government has wrestled control of the East back from the LTTE. Then where will Sri Lanka be? Where will the Tamil’s of Sri Lanka be? After 30 years or so of fighting, pretty much nothing will have changed for the better.

Update: Another good article at the BBC on the conflict in Vaharai.

Comment  

Torture? Hearsay? It's all good

   19 January 2007, terribly early in the morning

The Globe discusses America’s latest attempt to deal with the prisoners in Guantanamo:

The Pentagon has announced rules for the trials of alleged terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay that allow hearsay evidence and testimony extracted through coercion, including torture, in cases that could result in the death penalty. — Green light for coerced testimony

I think at this point the US government should just march from cell to cell, shooting each prisoner in the head. That seems to be the direction they want to go in, so why they are dragging their feet on the matter I do not know. I wonder how the US populace would react to these sham trials? My guess would be with indifference.

As a general matter, hearsay shall be admitted on the same terms as any evidence.

Yeah. I was trying to think of something snarky to say to that, but i’m at a loss.

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Capitalism Will Eat Itself?

   22 December 2006, early morning

Cheap Polish labour is pushing British workers out of the construction industry. I’m curious what the British workers bring to the table that the Polish ones don’t? If the answer is nothing, then I don’t see why they should expect to be payed 20% more just for being British.

These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.

In a capitalist society, if you are a worker, you need to remain competitive. That’s cold, but it’s basically how the system works. It’s the big reason why big box stores like Walmart can move into a town and destroy all the mom and pop shops that used to operate there. It’s why companies choose to outsource to places like India rather than operate locally. It’s why capitalism will eat itself.

The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus, the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

Actually, I lied, I don’t really think capitalism will eat itself anymore. Most governments put in place just enough socialist policy to keep the system working. Most developed countries have some form of unemployment insurance, health care, welfare, etc. Even if you are living in squalor, its hard to rage against the machine that is paying your way. So who do you get mad at? Who do you demonize? I think that answer should be clear.

(All quotes are from the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels.)

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IQ Scores and Junk Science for Racists

   12 December 2006, terribly early in the morning

Or, all about Ram’s Low IQ

Occasionally I will comment on the Hogtown Front till I learn something new about the world I live in. Over the last day or so I learned I’m part of an ethnic group with a low-mean IQ. Sucks. I also learned that I’m also apparently bringing this average down. Double-suck. There is a part of me that seems to search out obnoxious people to argue with. I think it’s because i’m also obnoxious.

IQ scores seem to have replaced brain-mass as the junk science of choice for racists. The only other group of people I’ve seen so obsessed with IQ scores are grade school gifted kids. Even then, it didn’t take long for most gifties to learn that calling kids reggies isn’t actually a dis — I guess it’s because they’re gifted and learn things quicker. It’s not fair to expect the same thing from the sorts of people that think Blacks are genetically predisposed to dumbness. How do you argue with that kind of stupid? I’m not sure I know how. That’s not to say I didn’t try and argue. I posted twice on the Hogtown Front on why this particular study on IQ and the GDP of countries seems poorly thought out and why its use by racists like Sailer is more or less bullshit: That’s not what the study shows… and the study does compare countries, not racial groups…

If this post is a bit snarky and conceited it’s because I’m gifted and I can’t help it. The fact I can’t help but read these websites that make me crazy goes to show how little that label means.

ed. I filled this post out. It was just a link before.

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Gays Can Still Have Hot Gay Married Sex!

    8 December 2006, early morning

The front page of the Globe and Mail informed me that homosexuals can still get married in Canada. (Was anyone really worried?) More than that, it looks like this issue won’t be brought up again by the Tories:

After a Conservative motion calling on the government to restore the traditional definition of marriage was defeated yesterday by a resounding 175 to 123, Mr. Harper said he will not bring the matter back before Parliament.

Harper had said reopening the debate was a campaign promise, which I suppose he has fulfilled now. Its nice to know Harper isn’t going to keep beating this dead horse of an issue. This has been the 6th time since 2003 that the house of commons has voted in favour of letting gays marry. This was a free vote no less; MPs were allowed to vote how they felt irrespective of party lines.

The globe reports that some social conservative groups are unhappy with this result — shocking I know — and are also unhappy that Harper isn’t going to raise the issue again. I’m not entirely sure what they want Harper to do. I mean, he could bring this issue up again in the House of Commons next week, but I can’t see the results being any different.

As far as I can tell, our society hasn’t fallen apart since homosexuals started tying the knot. There are clearly more married gay people having hot gay sex, but it’s not something that keeps me up at night. I think the government’s energy is better spent trying to deal with more important issues like poverty, health care, foreign policy, etc, etc. That’s just me though.

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We have clear and compelling evidence that government forces are helping Karuna forces abduct boys and young men

   28 November 2006, early morning

The LTTE are particularly infamous for their recruitment of child soldiers. It is the most common criticism hurled against them. For quite sometime now the LTTE has contended they don’t have child conscripts in their army — whether you believe them or not is a choice you need to make. Recently, a representative of the United Nations accused the government of being complicit in the recruitment of children into the Karuna Group today, Human Rights Watch has also made this accusation.

We have clear and compelling evidence that government forces are helping Karuna forces abduct boys and young men.
— Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate at HRW.

That’s one hell of an accusation. Whether it gets any play whatsoever in the press remains to be seen. The government of Sri Lanka has gotten off fairly easy despite the fact it has an equally poor record when it comes to protecting children. Unrelated to the war you have a very bad child pornography problem. With respect to the war, you have the way the army handles itself in the pursuit of Tigers. The government has no qualms when it comes to shelling civilian areas in the hopes of hitting some LTTE cadres. For example, they blew up on orphanage not too long ago. It’s easy for people to argue away criticism like this; you can call it the cost of war or something equally stupid. (A little known fact: It’s even easier to argue this sort of thing away if it isn’t your children being blown up.) It’s hard to defend recruiting child soldiers: it’s premeditated and malicious; you’re preying on the truly helpless. I’m curious to see how the government will respond to the charge. [Update: Parthi lets me know the government has called the charge village gossip.] I’m curious to see how the world will respond to the charge.

HRW is also in effect agreeing with the LTTE’s accusation that the Karuna group is another arm of the government’s military apparatus. The LTTE have accused the government of waging a hidden war against them through the group for some time now, and it would appear these charges have a lot of merit. When the LTTE claim they have no choice but to wage war with the government, it’s hard to argue against them. The government involvement with a paramilitary group like this is beyond reproach. How can you be involved in a cease-fire agreement, while supporting a group whose goal is to goad the LTTE into violating that very agreement.

So I am left wondering why here in Canada, the US, and Europe the LTTE marked as terrorists and not the government of Sri Lanka? Both groups are vicious and undeserving of support.

An aside: Sepia Mutiny felt mocking Prabhakaran’s wardrobe was a better use of their time and resources than covering this topic. That’s their prerogative; they have no real obligation to anyone. I just find it hard to take them seriously when they get all fired up about racism in the US or whatever their issue of the moment is. (In their defense, he does look pretty ridiculous. All of the photographs of various Tamil rebel leaders I’ve seen make them look like they could be my uncles.)

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Steve Sailer is my favourite junk-scientist

   27 November 2006, early morning

The racial gap in average IQ is one of the most important factors in modern American life. (via The Hog Town Front)

I’m pretty sure it’s not — I’m not an American though. It is quite possible that American’s think paying credence to dubious test scores is an important part of living in America, I just don’t think it’s that likely. I think American’s have more important things to worry about. Steven Sailer is my favourite junk-scientist. He likes to write about Black people and White people. If you read enough of his articles you’ll quickly learn White people are the best people ever: better, stronger, faster. Yeah…

Occam’s Razor would suggest that the simplest and thus most likely explanation for the persistent gap in achievement is the equally persistent gap in aptitude.

Occam’s Razor would suggest that if you spend all your time trying to figure out how White people are the best peoples EVAH you probably have some issues you need to deal with.

Jonothan Kozol’s Still Separate, Still Unequal is a more interesting and well reasoned take on this subject. I would agree with Kozol: putting Black children in crap schools, and White kids in nice schools is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Sort of like the Gifted Program here in Toronto.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if ridding the SAT of analogies backfires and lowers the average black score because African-American humor is quite oriented toward analogy, simile, and metaphor: “Yo mama is so fat, she’s …”

Clearly Sailer has a deep understanding of the Black-psyche.

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The Political Party

    7 November 2006, the wee hours

Miller and the Panel at the Political Party event

The Political Party was packed. The Revival, a fairly big space, was full to the brim of people. I arrived around 8:00, minutes before Jane Pitfield took the stage, and was stuck at the very back of the building. Considering the place was so packed, I was surprised to bump into Himy Syed again. He was filming the event on his little camera, and gave me a flyer for an event for Un-Incumbents. It takes place tomorrow at 10:00 AM — so I’m not exactly sure who’ll be free to attend. I imagine it should be interesting, as it showcases several challengers for city council seats. We spoke briefly as Pitfield had already started talking when we noticed each other.

I felt a bit sorry for Jane Pitfield. She was clearly in Miller territory. No one would really clap for anything she had to say, regardless of whether it was sensible or not. People were pretty rude as well, snickering and laughing at some of the things she said. Most of the time she was on stage, a stupid bicyclist wouldn’t stop ringing a bicycle bell. This really took away from the event as a whole: it was a big Mayor Miller love in, which is kind of boring. Clearly people were there to support Miller and hear him speak. I think most people were annoyed Pitfield was there at all. I don’t agree with Pitfield on a lot of issues, and I won’t be voting for her, but the fact she gave up a safe seat on city council to run against a very popular mayor is something that deserves some respect.

Jane Pitfield said what she had to say, and then there was a short intermission. I used this time to try and move up as close to the front as I could get. (I made it right to the front.) On the way there, I spotted Sanaz and Yasmine. Right behind them were Colin and Lakme. I seem to bump into Colin at all sorts of random spots in the city. We all chatted while waiting for David Miller to take the stage.

Miller took the stage after the short break. He is a commanding and charismatic figure. His opening speech was quite good, and he did an excellent job of answering the questions presented to him by the panel. He was lucky in that he didn’t have to deal with the same sort of crowd Pitfield did: people laughed at his jokes, and clapped at what he had to say. I agree with pretty much everything Miller has to say, and clearly the downtown crowd did as well. At one point he was asked about placing a toll on the Gardiner and DVP, to which he gave a long answer and well thought answer on how doing so would be unfair. This didn’t play well to the crowd who probably don’t use the DVP all that much. This was one of the few times during the night where Miller had to deal with a negative reaction from the crowd. Rather than pander, he reiterated that he wouldn’t put tolls on the roads. It was nice to see him stick to his guns. More so, I agree 100% with his reasoning. If you are from Scarborough, taking the TTC into work really isn’t the better way at all. We have such crap access to transit that many people are compelled to drive to get anywhere. After hearing them both speak, Miller is still the person I hope wins on the 13th. Miller struck me as being in a totally different league than Pitfield. I agree with his vision for the future of the city. My hope is he get more of it done in his second term in office.

I’m betting Emm Gryner and her new band were wicked awesome. I probably should have stayed to see them play; I’m such an idiot.

I’ve posted photos from the event on my Flickr account.

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Wearing a Veil

   26 October 2006, early morning

Wearing a veil in the west really has the opposite effect it is supposed to have: It draws more attention to a women, not less. This is the argument Zaiba Malik tries to make in her op-ed, The veil: too obviously hidden . I don’t think she makes a good case though. All she seems to discuss is how much more racist British people were towards her while she was wandering around covered up. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to not wear such restrictive clothing. Personally, I don’t consider trying to appease ignorant people one of them. “Avoid Racism: Blend in!” That’s a slogan they should print on posters and hang up in East London. I am left wondering what exactly her article is supposed to be a comment on.

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Architecture, Urban Design and Toronto

   20 October 2006, late morning

The pannel at the Active 18 Planning Talk

I thought this wasn’t a political debate.

Shima and I attended a talk last night at the Theatre Centre — it’s part of that gorgeous building at the corner Dovercourt and Queen. In attendance were 2 candidates from our ward, Adam Giambrone and Simon Wookey. Shima informed me that the remaining guests were also worth paying attention to: they were John Sewell, who is apparently a bit of a planning superstar, but is better known for being a former mayor of Toronto (before my time), and Adam Vaughan, who was a journalist for City TV.

It was a very interesting discussion…. which i’ll write about not later today.

You can see more photos of this talk over at my Flickr account.

Himy Syed

Himy Syed

The night ended with Shima and I meeting the infamous Himy Syed. He makes some very cool outdoor art projects. It’s strange meeting someone that you met online through your weblog. He used to post the occasional comment here.

Right now Himy Syed is putting all his energy into running for deputy mayor, and councilor for Ward 19. And does the man have some energy. Shima and I chatted with him for a good while; he told us about all the things he wants to do in the city. He’s a very creative and unconventional politician to be. I’m really hoping he wins the ward. It’d be nice to have some different voices in office. (If you live in Ward 19, vote for him. I’m not kidding.)

It’s interesting to see how contenders find ways to challenge the incumbents. Himy has no where near the funds of the incumbant Joe Pantalone. He argues there isn’t much point trying to campaign the same way as Pantalone, because its a game he can’t win. Instead Himy’s campaign has been very grass roots. He goes to events like this, meets people, and encourages them to talk about him. His website is slowly being filled to the brim with information. He has PDF files you can download if you want to make your own flyers to advertise for him. (You print them out at 8 by 10, and they can be arranged in various ways to make bigger posters.) His buttons are all made out of older buttons. (I think Shima’s friend Tiff would love how he is so mindful of waste and the environment.) It will be interesting to see if this approach works; I think it could in a ward like Ward 19. It certainly will be a tough race, as I understand Pantalone is well liked.

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Informed Discussion on the Tamil Canadian Terrorism Arrests

   24 August 2006, late evening

The Globe and Mail lets its readers comment on its stories online. No doubt this readership will have something informed to say on the recent arrests of Tamil Canadians trying to buy arms, bribe officials, and fund the LTTE.

Read the rest of this post. (661 words)

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The Pakistan Ball Tampering Scandal

   21 August 2006, early evening

Whenever I go back to Scarborough I get to watch Cricket. This weekend the Pakistan-England test series was coming to a close. Pakistan looked like they would win the last game in the series after some excellent bowling, and even more brilliant batting. That was until Darrell Hair charged the Pakistani team with ball tampering.

In Cricket, you play with the same ball for much of the game. (For example, unlike in Baseball, when the ball is batted into the stands the fans are expected to throw it back on to the pitch.) As the ball gets rougher over the course of a game, the effectiveness of your spin-bowlers increases. The wear and tear on the ball will effect how it will spin in the air. This is why there is an incentive to tamper with the ball. Natural wear and tear on the ball is to be expected, but it is illegal to tamper with the ball by scratching it with your finger nails or other objects. When Hair accused Pakistan’s team of ball tampering, he was calling them cheaters. This is not the first time Pakistan has been accused of ball tampering, which is why I suspect the captain felt obliged to take a stand.

Hair is well known for being an overly harsh and stubborn umpire, particularly when dealing with South-Asian cricketers. In fact, Pakistan had objected to his being an umpire during this series. Hair gained a lot of notoriety for declaring Muralitharan’s bowling action illegal 7 times during an Australia-Sri Lanka game back in 1995. (Muralitharan is probably one of the greatest bowlers ever, and his action has been defended by some of crickets greatest players, including Australian Bradman.)

This is the first time ever that a Test has been decided by a forfeit. Over the next few days I expect more information to come to light as to what Hair saw (or did not see).

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