Monday, August 28, 2006


Over the weekend, I was having some difficulties with my network connection while logged into Blogger. And I was in the process of writing a lengthy post, which I thought I had properly saved. Apparently, that isn't the case. And while I have bits and pieces clipboarded away, it will take me more time to patch it all together than I wish to devote right now after a long day at work which included vacuuming up flood water. Don't ask. As you can imagine, my mood is a bit surly. But since I haven't posted something since last week, it's best that I check in with a few short takes.

As Gomer Pyle would say, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Was there a single intelligent human being who thought this would turn out otherwise. Then again, some did believe that the mission was accomplished in Iraq. The cable news channels got to air a whole lot of fraudulent pontification on both. I didn't catch Nancy Grace tonight, but I'll bet she was crestfallen. Aren't all suspects supposed to be guilty? At least the DNA test wrapped up in time for CNN and Fox to turn their attention to showing boffo pictures of Ernesto.

I haven't yet written much about the Liberal leadership race. There are eleven candidates in the running, although maybe three or four have a legitimate chance to make some noise by the time their convention rolls around in December. I'll have more to say about it in the coming weeks because it should be interesting. The Liberal Party of Canada is one of the last true "big tent" parties in the Western word, perhaps along with the Labour Party in Britain. All other parties are now so on message and frown upon dissenting opinion. Having said that, the Liberals view themselves as the natural governing party and have so much rot in their core that a few decades in the wilderness might be required to clean it up, but the country would have to suffer through Tory rule. The frontrunner at this point (based on caucus endorsements) appears to be Michael Ignatieff, the erstwhile Harvard professor who has decided to return to his native land for maple syrup, skiing and a shot at power.

Ignatieff is probably the most hawkish of the candidates in terms of the war on terror. Ever since he announced his candidacy for Parliament before the last election, some compared him to our country's first neo-con prime minister. Trudeau was far from perfect, but somehow I can't imagine Stephen Harper having an impromptu give-and-take with reporters to defend a controversial decision. I actually think there is a great similarity between Trudeau and George W. Bush in that both of them were stubborn as hell and stuck with policies even when they were going to shit.

Finally, after a long day, a smile. Whenever you do something dumb, be heartened by the fact that there is always somebody out there stupider than you.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Felis Tigris Freakis

There's a lot of bad stuff happening in the world, so this is a good time to step back and talk about one of the rare joys of our time which is watching Tiger Woods at the top of his game. To use the modern vernacular, the guy is sick. And I don't think I could find a better word to describe him.

Anybody who doesn't play golf has no idea what a freak of nature Tiger Woods is, because the game isn't as easy as he'd have you believe. And those who do play golf and watch him play wonder why we even bother. There are almost two different Tigers: the one who is not at his sharpest but can still do everything just well enough to beat you, and the one like we saw this past weekend who is firing on all cylinders and everyone else need not show up. Tiger shot 65 on Saturday, which tied the course record at Medinah. Mike Weir shot a 65 the same day, but there was a difference. Weir had a spectacular round, hitting shots to within a foot of the hole, or making long putts - the kind of special round that only happens once in a while. Woods made his round look as routine as walking the dog, not flashy but remarkably steady.

When the player with the most physical ability also happens to be the toughest mentally, it isn't a fair fight. Aside from being able to drive the ball a mile, hit shorter clubs when he needs to keep it straight of the tee, hit precision iron shots, make creative shots around the green, putt like nobody else and manage a course brilliantly, Tiger might be the only athlete I've ever seen who is choke-proof. There is never any doubt about him coming through in the clutch (as an individual - Ryder Cup is a whole other matter.) The scariest thing about him is that he is actually getting better, and despite the improving quality and depth of his competition he has returned to the level of dominance he experienced back in 2000-2001. In the PGA Championship he won by five strokes and posted 18 under par while barely breaking a sweat. And nobody doubts that if another player had gotten to that number, he'd have found another couple of birdies somewhere, just as he did at the British Open. He's like roadrunner who lets the coyote get close to him and then zoom! It was an awesome performance.

I have to also say a word about my favourite Canadian lefty golfer, Mike Weir. Weirsy has had a rough go of it the last couple of years, ever since losing the 2004 Canadian Open which he should have won. Injuries were a factor last year, but I don't think he has ever mentally recovered from letting that tournament slip away, seeing how important it was to him. He has never again been in contention to win a tournament coming down to the last few holes. Despite playing pretty good golf this year, he has had some very poor final rounds when he started out with a chance to win. To his credit, he held it together yesterday until Tiger pulled away, but then he seemed to lose his focus. I think he needs to realize that you can't always control what other players are going to do but you have to grind it out right to the end. While sixth place is a good result in a major, there was no reason for him not to have finished second yesterday. He really needs to try to finish as high as possible to earn world ranking points. With the President's Cup at Royal Montreal next year, it would be a shame if he didn't make the team or had to be a captain's pick. (He's currently 15th on the International team.) On the positive side, he performed well in the majors this year and his statistics are getting back to the same levels they were at in his brightest days. Hopefully it will all come together at the Canadian Open this year and all of those demons can be exorcised.

As for Tiger, I guess he'll wrap up a few more wins before the next major rolls around in Augusta next April. The question now is how many majors can he bag before he calls it a day. Barring injury, you'd have to think that he has, conservatively, another ten years of prime golf. It's not hard to see him averaging a major a year over the next ten years. In several of them he will likely win two or more, and he might have another "slump" or two along the way. Knowing the kind of shape he's in he could easily play much longer than that, but he might get bored or want to enter politics or something by then. And he'll probably want to walk away on top. It's hard to imagine who will finally take his number one spot and keep it. It will probably have to be someone who isn't on the scene yet, because everyone who's there now is completely psyched out. The man is sick.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Now I Can Breathe Again

BREAKING NEWS: A suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case has been arrested in Thailand. I guess it's now safe to let kids roam the streets, and we can bring mouthwash onto airplanes again. Combatants of the world can lay down their arms, hold hands and sing "Kumbaya". Apparently, all of the world's problems have been solved - or so it would seem if you rely on television news channels, because this is all they have been talking about. It's the latest non-story of the century.

John Karr is clearly a few fries short of a Happy Meal, and has a sick obsession with children. But I know I'm not the only one who thinks this whole arrest business stinks worse than day-old kippers. This schmuck gets picked up in Thailand, and we're to believe he's responsible for JonBenet's murder? The fragments of the story that he has told make no sense with regards to this case, and his ex-wife insists that he was with her in Alabama at the time of the murder (and she would remember because it was at Christmas time). He was obsessed with the Ramsey case, and it's not hard to see someone like him have delusions of physical involvement and then tell his story to the world because, in his twisted mind, he'd want recognition for earning that notch on his belt. Judging by the accuracy of his online resume, it seems that he has fantasized about his whole adult life. Furthermore, even with his love of child pornography and his teaching experiences close to young children, there haven't been any other accusations against him other than being "too affectionate" with the children, and it's rare for murderous pedophiles to stop at one. I could be wrong, but I'll be very surprised if any more compelling evidence comes out on this guy. Whether he is eventually convicted is another matter entirely.

Never in a million years would I have expected to blog on this subject. But since this latest development is so bizarre, I had to get that out of my system. My main point is how the media create importance out of things that should be much lower down the totem pole, particularly certain criminal cases that aren't really unique except for what the victim looks like. There are plenty of child abductions and rapes and murders in which the victim isn't beautiful and they get no attention, yet their parents grieve just as much. As sad as it is for the families, there is no way to argue that extensive national coverage of any of these cases is in the public interest or anything other than sick titillation. My first reaction to the new focus on the Ramsey case was that this was a flashback to the 90's and the frivolous, pre-9/11 days. Then, of course, I remembered that we never really left those days - there have been plenty of abduction cases, celebrity trials and runaway bride stories in the news in the last few years. In fact, the JonBenet headlines barely took attention away from the rumours about Vince and Jennifer. Ultimately, it's the public who is to blame for lapping this stuff up and not demanding something better.

I checked out the Yahoo!, CNN and Fox News home pages, and between the three of them I saw zero headlines about what is going on in Iraq, and just one about Lebanon. What should be the most important issues are now on the back burner, just as Afghanistan has been for about four years in the U.S. The Ramsey case isn't even the biggest legal story of the day. This would have taken the lead in the news on most other days. Coincidence? Maybe. But that's why people wear tin foil hats.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Potpourri For Two Cents, Alex

A few random thoughts from the weekend that was:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a ceasefire. After all the blood and carnage, you have to wonder whether it was all worth it for this largely toothless document. There is already a delay on the part of the government of Lebanon to get its army in place. There is little to stop Hezbollah from just firing longer range rockets, as the rules of engagement for UNIFIL troops don't allow them to pursue Hezbollah aggressively. I imagine that things will be quiet for a time because Hezbollah, with their political influence in Lebanon, will not want to be seen as rocking the boat. But you can bet that any perceived "provocation" will get the rockets flying again. Meanwhile, the fact remains that after a month of a ground incursion and bombings, Israel didn't even slow down the rocket attacks. One would have to suspect that despite the daily assurances from the IDF that they were making great headway, they barely put a dent into Hezbollah - otherwise, the government of Israel would never have signed onto this ceasefire. The pacifist movement may be wrong about a lot of things, but they are dead accurate about the fact that you can't win the war on terror by try to go out and kill all the terrorists because the factory will just keep making more.

I caught Mike Wallace's 60 Minutes interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I really would have liked to see Wallace conduct this interview at age 58 instead of 88. Mike tried hard, but I imagine a younger version of himself would have been more pushy (as much as you can be with a head of state in a hostile country) to get his questions answered and not allow Ahmadinejad to go off on his tangents. No amount of smiling and charm could get Ahmadinejad off the hook when it comes to explaining his prior statements about Israel and the Holocaust. Did he really think he could use this interview to win the PR game in the U.S.?

Speaking of the Holocaust... an interesting thought occurred to me. In much of Europe, Holocaust denial is a crime. Yet the West's biggest ally in the Islamic world is Turkey, whose government to this day still denies the Armenian genocide by the Ottomans in 1915.

Finally, here's something to make us feel even older. Kimberly Kim, 14, is the U.S. Women's Amateur champion. Michelle Wie is now washed up at 16, no longer the most accomplished golfing teenager from Hawaii. I might as well start practising bocci.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A New Manifesto

A few months ago, during my blogging hiatus, The Euston Manifesto was created and published online. It was written by a group of intellectuals in the UK who, concerned with the direction the modern Left was taking, called for a "progressive realignment" and an establishment of the principles that should encompass the liberal left while maintaining ties with others who share the same values. The statement of principles is pretty wide ranging, including topics from affirmation of democracy to support for open source. While I believe the idea behind the manifesto to be a noble one, I cannot sign it in its present form. I will elaborate more on that in a future post. For now, I must address another item which relates to one of the principles in the EM, and it is also relates to something I brought up in my last post.

Here's an example of where the EM is on the mark:

The recent resurgence of another, very old form of racism, anti-Semitism, is not yet properly acknowledged in left and liberal circles. Some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of "anti-Zionism". We oppose this type of racism too, as should go without saying.


"Anti-Zionism"has now developed to a point where supposed organizations of the Left are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups... We stand against all variants of such bigotry.

I don't really mean to harp on the topic, as I have addressed anti-Semitism in recent posts. Anybody who knows me can tell that I'm not one of those types who wears World's Most Persecuted PeopleTM on a t-shirt as a badge of honour, but this needs to be heard. I was sent an e-mail containing photos from a rally in Montreal that was organized as a protest for peace in Lebanon. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, this event attracted a number of Hezbollah supporters and plenty of anti-Israel (as well as blatantly anti-Semitic) signage and chants. (Photos can be seen here. I don't endorse everything on that site.) I've always maintained that racism and bigotry is its own ideology and cries out for a chance to be heard, and this was a great opportunity for this stuff to be aired. I've also stated that I believe opposition to Israel's actions in Lebanon can be taken reasonably. The problem is that the reasonable protesters are unwilling to confront the extremists, and partisans (whether in politics or on issues) get caught up in the quantity of support without regard to quality. The Montreal rally was organized by political parties and trade unions, yet I have not seen any denouncement by them of the Hezbollah supporters among them who were advocating violence against Israel at a rally for peace. This is where I think the Euston folks got it right. I believe the Left gets a lot of things wrong, but the Right gets even more wrong, and it's scenes like this that turn people off other good ideas. Guilt by association may be a logical fallacy, but that matters little in the real world. The "decent Left" really needs to step forward and disassociate itself from this crap.

Along the same lines, there's another theme in the document that is worthy of support:
No apology for tyranny. We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently 'understand', reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy - regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.
That is just as crucial as condemning racism. The manifesto specifically mentions the Left's follies in the past of being apologists for oppressive Communist regimes, and that extends to today's embracing of "leftist" dictators and "resistance movements". Again, I don't believe these to be the majority of left-leaning people, but they are the ones who are the most vocal and are over-represented in the media because the media like a freak show. Terrorism and tyranny have no place in the discussion for the sensible Left. Leave that to the Right. Let them make excuses for all of the oppressive regimes they have embraced over the years and continue to embrace in the name of spreading democracy(!). Just as with racism, tyranny has no ideology, and let nobody be fooled. We should all stand for freedom and human rights. There is no socialism without humanism.

Feel free to read through the whole manifesto and, by all means, sign it if you like. I think it's a great idea to create a rallying point for those of us who share a certain way of thinking but dislike the reactionaries associated with it. However, I have a number of problems with its language as it is presently written. Stay tuned for my criticisms. (BTW, I won't be titling that post "Euston, we have a problem". Google will tell you that's been overused.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

With Friends Like This...

What does it mean to support Israel? In the modern parlance, it has come to mean supporting the positions of the government in power there or, specifically any military or security measures taken. This seems to be an extension of rightist idea that hawkish=patriotic. But I would argue that to truly support a country is to be concerned about the security of its people. I know a number of people who aren't anti-Israel or anti-Semitic but have serious problems with the way the current situation in Lebanon is being handled. They feel that the Israeli people will not be safer as a result of this. In my opinion, that is a perfectly valid and arguable position, even if you think it's wrong. But such individuals will automatically be labeled as anti-Israel or pro-terrorist in some circles. (Unfortunately, because there are genuine anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist factions who have hijacked the peace movement and the left in general, rational arguments have been obscured. I'll have more on that in my next post when I discuss the Euston Manifesto.)

What about governments or political parties? Stephen Harper claims to support Israel, and his government has been clear in their statements that they are on Israel's side, eschewing the appearance of neutrality that other parties advocate. His commitment to have Canada vote against frivolous anti-Israel UN resolutions is a refreshing change from the previous government. But just like those resolutions are merely symbolic and have no pragmatic consequences, his support for Israel has, so far, been symbolic and without anything tangible. No military support. No increased financial aid. Just a few photo-ops in synagogues - but I'll grant him that he looks good in a yarmulke.

In the United States, it's harder to draw delineations between the two major parties where Israel is concerned. The Republicans claim to be more Israel-friendly, and they use that meme to try to attract more Jewish voters. But are they really? The Bush administration has certainly shown itself to be closer to the Israeli hawks, but both parties support the present incursion into Lebanon. Having said all that, the question has to be raised about how good Bush has been for Israel. Ronald Reagan asked the voters if they were better off than four years earlier, so it's fair to ask if Israel is better off now than it was when Bush came into office. In the previous administration, Bill Clinton tried to broker a peace deal. Yes, the process was flawed, and Yasser Arafat wasn't the ideal partner for peace, and there was a loss of momentum and mutual respect after the senseless murder of Yitzhak Rabin, but at least there was a good long time when there weren't any rockets flying or suicide bombings. Terrorism requires a lot of volunteers from the grassroots, and to carry out that type of dirty work you really need to be motivated. When there is hope, that motivation is diffused. For a time there was hope, because a huge effort was made to get the deal done. The effort failed, but not from neglect on the part of the U.S. On the other hand, Bush has taken a laissez-faire approach to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and the results have been disastrous by any measure. But I guess the road to Hell was paved with good intentions.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

See Ya Mel, It's Been Swell

Here's a good piece by Christopher Hitchens on Mel Gibson's recent faux pas. And it got me thinking about all the things that we're more likely to see than another Hollywood-financed Mel Gibson movie.

  • Middle East peace
  • a cure for the common cold
  • a non-leaking restaurant teapot
  • a commercially viable solar car
  • fat-burning chocolate eclairs
  • the invention of the orgasmatron
  • Ishtar II
Feel free to add your own to the list. I was going to include the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup, but that's a little farfetched.