2008-01-31

India and Quebec Share An Uncomfortable Existence?

I was reading about the 150th anniversary of the India Mutiny the other day in 'History Today'. One of the quotes that intrigued was by Lord Desai who said, "What a strange country India has become. Even after 60 years of independence (to say nothing of thousands of years of history), it sill lack self-confidence to feel comfortable in its own skin."

40 years after the Quiet Revolution is Quebec a mature society comfortable in "its own skin"?

Much points that indeed it is. However, an equal argument can be made that it is not the case. My observations lean me towards the former - when considering nationalists anyway.

2008-01-30

Word of the day...

Floccinaucinihilipilification

As in my obsessive floccinaucinihilipilification with this blog.

State Of The Union: The Aftermath

Some fact verification courtesy of Factcheck.org.

Historian Lewis Gould suggests abolishing the State of the Union address.

Here are some important State of the Union addresses from History News Network.

2008-01-29

An Alternate View on William Sidis


The prevailing belief that William Sidis had an IQ between 250-300 is part cultural folklore. However, is this another case not unlike Babe Ruth's famous "Called Shot" home run during the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago?

Immediately after the home run, a legend was born. Not surprisingly, it could never be proven that Ruth had indeed pointed to center field gesturing he would hit the ball in that direction. Nonetheless, the myth persisted. The camps of nay and yay clearly defined and divided.

In recent years, new film footage had been found about that famous moment. One definitely confirms he was pointing but in what direction remained unclear. A second film purchased by ESPN from the family who owned it seem to conclude that he was in fact pointing to the Cubs dugout. Why, who knows?

Cubs pitcher Charley Root went to his grave with the thought that Ruth did no such thing as call his own home run at his expense. History and new evidence seems to have vindicated him.


The closest thing we have on record about the moment is from Historian Donald Honig who later wrote this exchange between Root and Ruth:

Root: You never pointed out to center field before you hit that ball off me did you?
Ruth: I know I didn't, but it made a hell of a story, didn't it?

What if Sidis is just that? A helluva story? Sidis was undoubtedly highly intelligent. He probably was indeed a genius. Heck, he may well have been one of the smartest men in America - though the claim he was one of the greatest minds in world history seems a bit of a stretch. How in the hell do we measure intelligence spanning such a long period? How do we measure intelligence period?

The fact is that there is no evidence Sidis had an IQ of 250-300 but the Sidis Archives is sticking to it. To some it remains conjuncture and hearsay - much like Ruth's home run. Until the evidence presents itself it must be treated as a myth.

I discovered an alternative position about Sidis on a site called The Logic.

In any event, given Sidis' commitment to the principle of Okamakammesset (anonymous publishing) it's possible that something as trivial as an IQ figure would not concern him greatly.

After all, his mind was occupied with ideas and thoughts of higher importance and consequence.

2008-01-28

More Play on Words by Our Political Masters

Politicians are fond of saying, "I want to leave a cooler (literally) world for our children and grand children!"

I have a question: What about the great grand children? Why are they getting the shaft?

Article of Interest: Political Satire on American Affairs

Satirist P.J. O'Rourke has struck with a "Letter to Our European Friends" piece.

Here's an excerpt. Italics in parenthesis mine:

"Incidentally, there's a balanced position that all of America's presidential candidates could take on the controversial abortion issue. If they want votes they shouldn't campaign to make abortion illegal or legal. They should campaign to make it retroactive. If a kid reaches 25 and he or she is still jobless, feckless, and sitting around Starbucks (Second Cup in Canada) acting like a--no offense--European, then whack."

Heh.

Odysse Marine Exploration Discovers Finding Treasure Isn't The Hard Part

It's keeping it. While the boat claims it was found in international waters, Spanish authorities argue the loot may have came from a Spanish vessel.

What's the hubabub-bub all about? 500 million smackeroni's in gold and silver coins.

Pauline Marois Asks English Language Radio Shows To Speak French

That's just my imagination running wild but we're not that far from such ludicrous requests becoming a matter and subject of public "debates."

Ban "Um" and "You Know" From Our Airwaves!

It was just a thought.

Imagine if, um, you know um journalists, were, you know, allowed to write, um, this way, you know? Would you read, um, a blog, you know, that permitted itself to um write that way?

Not pretty, huh?

Ban "huh" too!

Ban 'em all!

Ban the word "em"!

I'm outta control!

Outta! Ban outta!

Where does it all end?

Go-Bama

I said,

Go-Bama!

2008-01-27

Article of Interest: Wink, Wink. Journalists Read Blogs...Shhh.

It didn't take a genius to figure that out. And the more resistant or dismissing of blogs a journalist is the more likely they use them to gain an idea or two. Some bloggers are smart Oreo's.

The links that follows this paragraph explores the reality that journalists and editors do indeed peruse blogs. It even attempts to assign percentages and figures. Wow. Polling has come to blogging.

I must humbly profess when examining IP addresses observed is a large number of government departments and academic schools spending quite a bit of time here. What it means who knows? Just as they can easily be browsing for entertainment and/or ideas they can be writing a paper about the destruction of civil society and the rise of blog-trash.

With a fair amount of certainty, we can now surmise that blogging is having an impact on communications. However, it would be best to caution that it does not get to the heads of bloggers. The fact remains there are many awful blogs that could use some form of professional ethics.

That will probably come in due course when applying them on a regular basis.

Smart journalists will cross over and bring with them the professional standards to blogging. This is good. It may serve as a natural barrier to entry of sorts. But where does that leave medium sized blogs? I can't help but wonder if one day there will be a massive purging and we'll end up with far less blogs. Sorta like what happened in the car industry after the Big Three wiped out many independent car manufacturers.

We all have to devolve and get bought out at some time right? It's the way of the free enterprise system.

2008-01-26

What If There's A Positive Consequence of Global Warming?

What if it unleashes many new resources and land masses that actually benefit mankind? After all, it's not the first time polar ice caps melt.

One we'll all be standing in the Arctic saying, "Well, I'll be darned...who woulda thunk it"?

2008-01-24

This...This Is Funny: Two Middle Fingers For Jerry O'Connell

Now This Is A Quote Worth Remembering

Though not memorized.

But its content is pretty much easy to remember. Man, I used to hate University and the corporate world for this. Even I'm guilty of this at times and hopefully moving forward I can avoid this on the blog. This comes by way of Nassim Taleb. An interesting feller to say the least. In all honesty, I did not know that what I instinctively felt and experienced was actually a philosophy. Taleb's expertise comes in dealing with randomness and knowledge and author of The Black Swan. Here's a review. I pulled this quote out from Wikipedia:

We love tangible, the confirmation, the palpable, the real, the visible, the concrete, the known, the seen, the vivid, the visual, the social, the embedded, the emotional laden, the salient, the stereotypical, the moving, the theatrical, the romanced, the cosmetic, the official, the scholarly-sounding verbiage (bullshit), the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicized crap, the pomp, the Academie Francaise, Harvard Business School, the Nobel Prize, dark business suits with white shirts and Ferragamo ties, the moving discourse, and the lurid. Most of all we favor the narrated.
Alas, we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters – we need context. Randomness and uncertainty are abstractions. We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial – and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort.
I know we hear a lot of this in sports. All the experts standing before us with ridiculous reinvented terms. Neo-athletic terminology stinks.

Time For Arab Oil Producing Countries To Spread The Wealth To Its Own People

On and off on this blog I have complained, argued (whatever) in the past that it was a shame that the Arab world was void of any practical or realistic leadership. Not only has this had an impact on the political level but an economic one as well.

A few Arab countries (Kingdoms) have been good at producing and building world class Hotels and other architectural beauties. But one can't help but feel that this is superficial. On the surface it looks great but what about the Arab society at the lower levels?

Here's a report from the McKinsey Global Institute that discusses, in part and in more adequate depth, this issue.

With oil prices tripling since 2002, one of the many questions to be answered is whether the new generation of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC - as opposed to the Grand Council of Crees) leaders will invest the money more wisely. Specifically, will they throw some pennies back into domestic economy while trying to keep unemployment low. The money can't stay circulating at the top forever.

The part of this report that interests me is the notion of building a sound economic base in this part of the world with the funds.

If they succeed in reconfiguring their economies and societies, this can go a long way in helping to curb if not defeat the temptation to join terrorist ranks.

If they don't, well, look at it this way. Let's take a worst case scenario. Let's assume oil runs out and/or oil prices revert back to the $25-$30 mean. That's a lot of wealth and opportunity that will have been squandered. Saving for a rainy is just plain prudent.

It is important for the GCC to build real economies. On the flip side, the massive investment injections expected to come into Western economies raises all sorts of interesting questions for policy makers on this side of the pond.

In any event, there is no excuse for leading Arab oil producing countries to not spread and share the wealth its own people.

Now That's Entertainment: The Deadliest Catch Boats Versus The Dene Rangers

This thought never occurred to me: That if the United States and Canada ever went to war over the Arctic.

You done laughing?

The Americans wouldn't have to worry about over-stretching their military. They could just send in the boats on the Deadliest Catch to deal with it. Why not? They have enough experience navigating and living through icy conditions. They could be sent in to negotiate frosty diplomatic issues. From what I read, the Dene Rangers protecting the High North on behalf of hapless Canada still remain small in numbers.

Why else would Denmark take a shot at claiming some snow and ice - and possibly oil?

Insert Hockey Night in Canada theme here.

I can just hear and see the tears flowing from hockey fans now.

For The Love Of God Do It For The Children! Oh, Won't You Please?

Yesterday we took my daughter to "Build-A-Bear." We had a gift certificate so...

When we got to the store it was oddly closed. Typical. As we stood around wondering why a store should be closed in a mall at 11am on Wednesday, I noticed two people sitting on a bench looking at us while we spoke. I headed over to the information booth and the kindly old gal told me that the gate opened was not operating.

Now that's a first. Anyway, no big deal. It is what it is.

So, we took off and went on with our lives. Following lunch my unit decided to go back and see if the doors open. They were working on it. Nice, progress.

This time I noticed the same to workers sitting on the bench. Only I was closer than earlier that day. We zeroed in on the uniforms they were wearing. It read: Build A Bear.

Now, you would figure that one of these fine, diligent employees would have walked up to us to explain what was going on the first time around. Nothing. They just sat on the bench like a couple of dimwits justifying why they earn six bucks an hour. All while watching a two-year old process the turn of events and stare at some dolls she could not reach.

Show some pride in the uniform! Do something!

There's no sense of anything among some people.

Since I am on a service rant I will discuss the restaurant business in my next post.

2008-01-23

History: Did the Romans have an Economic Method to Deal with Prostitution?

Well, from the society that seemed to have had a rather active and licentious sexual appetite (think Caligula and Messalina) it would not surprise me one bit if those administrative fiends managed the sex trade with ruthless and masochist efficiency.

Articles of Interest: International Politics, Society and Security

Now here's a surprise: Hugo Chavez not doing enough to curb drug smuggling in Venezuela. Shock!

Better to be safe than sorry at the Super Bowl. How long before a civil libertarian complains about his rights thus putting hundreds of thousands of people at possible risk? I just ask the questions. I sometimes comment.

Many feared an American attack on Iran (which still remains insane to me) but an Israeli one is more likely.

2008-01-22

Gilles Duceppe Has Selective Pronoun Syndrome

"We have to put an end to the mission (about Afghanistan) by February 2009." Gilles Duceppe leader of some party.

We? As in Canada? Gilles, please. It's not enough to steal a Federal pay check? Maudit, Federalistes indeed. Is it me or are Quebec independistes masters at using pronouns when it suits them fine? "We" in this case is fine for Gilles to table his opinion. But it suddenly and magically becomes "they" on other issues.

No doubt, I'm sure there are all sorts of justifications and theories for this in the Big Glossary of Quebec Political Terms, Theories and Usages-ges.

Yes, Quebec soldiers are fighting overseas but they fight under the Canadian flag - not Gilles imagined independent Quebec.

Us, nous, les autres, them - ooo ba-boy.

File under: Surrealism.

Besides, the idea of Canada leaving Afghanistan is completely unrealistic at this juncture. Especially since the United States is refocusing its efforts there by sending in the Marines.

Final word: John Manley should be leading the Liberals.

Is there such as thing as too much information?

During my time in the financial services industry I mused much about certain aspects of the business.

Specifically, how any piece of information - true or otherwise - would send the markets into a tailspin or skyrocketing. The attention given to quarterly results was especially an interesting study in human behaviour obsessed with short term results. I never could quite comprehend why companies, for example, in mature, stable industries (like banks) were slaves to this nonsense. "The banks reported .01 cents losses missing their targets by .001 cents!" Bang, $1 drop in the stock only to see it rise again a week later.

All that stress for Mable and Kurt.

Access to information without proper training has left us in fear (or impatient) with the long term and future. Patience is clearly no longer a value.

Companies seriously need to rethink their philosophical models.

Too often the perception was that workers were expendable. Duh. Humans pretty much are. The old saying in Canada is, "If Wayne Gretzky can be traded..." There's always someone in line. We're like toilet paper: Tear one and another square is available.

That's not the point. The point is how we value our workers - and I don't mean by talking about them in the company newsletter reading about what they do for downtime on the weekends.

The banks have a high turn over rate. In an industry that is predicated on stability and conservatism this fact is incongruent to its image. It's not proper to have to change financial planners (or other financial experts) on a regular basis. It sends bad vibes to the clients and investors. It also means reestablishing trust - which is very difficult these days - and more time consuming and costly training. It made little sense how the banks would let talent go.

They never figured out - thanks to indifference? - how to anchor them so to speak. Part of the reason, and this is just my best guess, is that they saw employees as an expense and not an asset. Of course, the rhetoric was just the opposite. They claimed to view workers as assets but when push came to shove - bonjour la visite. In practice workers were an entry in the accounting department.

Which brings me back - sorta - to information. If the markets are slaves to every piece of information that comes down the wire, what about political commentators and bloggers? Can it be that too much information can lead to rash conclusions? Are those not trained in handling important documents and bits of information giving them false hope or despair which inevitably affects their social and political ethos?

Here's how The Pen and the Spindle explains the art of dealing with information:

"...There are 3 basic steps (in handling information): how and where to find information; how to extract and process information (intelligently) from the sources; how to assimilate and apply information. My research in information literacy or, if you prefer, knowledge transfer (an aspect of)comes out of a childhood curiosity - and from training in ancient history source analysis and communication science."

Sweet.

I'll let the reader conclude their own thoughts.

2008-01-21

America's Wind Power Capacity Surges Ahead

More wind means an increase in bad hair days. I don't have much to worry about since I keep my hair short - clipper 3 and 2.

Vain grooming ruminations notwithstanding, these are impressive figures. Am I surprised by them? Nope.

2008-01-20

Since I Have No Editorial Standards...

Pauline Marois calls for Quebec ex-pats living abroad to speak only French in public

That includes all Quebec-born NHLers playing in the United States.

Article of Interest: Unlocking 9/11

Courtesy of independent journalist J.M. Berger:

Save Amazing Stories History Books

Historian and writer Christopher Moore posted on his blog that Altitude Publishing may be in financial trouble.

Altitude publishes those neat Amazing Stories history books most pass by in stores and to which I own a couple.

We often complain history is boring but Amazing Stories blows that nonsense out of the St. Lawrence. Thoroughly engaging and readable, AS happens to be one of those hidden gems on the Canadian book landscape and now it may be lost.

How much of a responsibility do large book corporations like Chapters-Indigo (pick a name already) have towards small Canadian publishers?

Link of Interest: Building Businesses in Afghanistan

Maybe I should hire Vigilant Strategic Services to help me navigate through the Quebec business landscape.

Article of Interest: Politics: Would be Canadian Martyr gets Reality Check

The question I have for Canadians is this: If and when the homegrown terrorists cell strike, will we turn around and blame American foreign policy or will we finally come to terms with the fact that terrorism and its roots go far beyond this?

As for the lad in the article, I guess the town of Ste. Catherines, Ontario didn't rub off on him.

Too, imperialistic perhaps?

Article of Interest: Politics: Osama bin Laden's ungrateful son

That son of a bastard. Omar, figures what the heck let's give peace a kick at the can. He should head on over to the drunken frat house known as the United Nations. There's all kinds of openings for him there. Notable human rights stalwarts Libya and Pakistan can show him the ropes. Add a little George Clooney (because we all are aware that celebrities hold the secret to effective and compassionate foreign policy) and I think the UN will undergo a remarkable improvement.

Oh, dear son how you've grown and changed.

2008-01-19

Don Wittman dies

I was saddened to see him go. Wittman was one of those unmistakable sports voices on the CBC. I remember him fondly for his work at the Olympics, curling, the CFL and NHL. A piece of Canadiana has been lost.

This hasn't been a good month for Canadian sports broadcasting. Not so long ago the voice of the Toronto Blue Jays Don Chevrier died without warning.

2008-01-18

Harper is connected to the American right. Shock! Arrest that man

Don't know how accurate this chart is but I would not be surprised. And so what anyway?

The WTF post of the week

I tend to shy away from calling out blogs or journalists to be called out lest I get into a blogging shouting match. Not good for business.

Besides, everyone is entitled to an opinion - I suppose. Sigh.

The internet is filled with blogs that leave me scratching my head. Though I don't literally scratch my head. It's more of a self-muttering "wha?"

Political blogs in particular drive all kinds of traffic. An apparent axiom to blogging success is ensure quality of content. Quite frankly, I haven't found this to be necessarily true. In fact, in many cases the opposite is true. Pure drivel'n crap equals high ratings.

Not that I'm a good judge of things. Whenever I watch court TV, I am reminded of this.

Plaintiff: "Your Honour, the defendants dog attacked...blah, blah...boring."
Me: "Right. I see. I...see. Do you have a contract?"
Plaintiff: "For a dog bite?"

Such digressions make these posts longer than they should be.

Sometimes some posts are so bad they are easy to judge. To get to the point, here's one of those absurd political posts I come across every now and then - and there have been many. I mean, ok, you dislike Ronny Reagan but the rationale and the general incoherence of the argument makes you wonder.

I am aware many people are too lazy to click links so here's part of the comment:

"Reagan was a psychotic man who nearly blew up the world and used paranoia and fear to change our culture and government in horrible ways. He also wasn't particularly popular, though as a politician, he's worth admiring for his raw political skill. Conservative ideology is based on greed and fear. There's no such thing as a good conservative leader, period. It is a fundamentally bankrupt, corrupt, and fraudulent ideology, and there is nothing laudable about people like Reagan who tap into the worst of America."

Wha?

To assert this, of course, can imply (and there is no reason to think this is what is assumed by the author) that Liberalism are the exact opposite. Insert the light of ray of hope here. Phooey.

This guy is going places.

2008-01-17

Looks like England could use some pointers on reasonable accommodation

Hmm.

It's all I could muster.

Muslim clerk refuses to serve a customer in England trying to purchase the Bible.

Hmm.

What would have made this story unique and ironic is if the customer hit the Muslim worker with the Bible. And then, the aggrieved ran to get her Koran...well, you know the rest.

Turn the other cheek: Bam!

Political parties and their coy name calling

Can a party that includes "post-fascist" members really use the word "freedom" in its name? Why do parties in Europe who hook left and contain former communists are found of calling themselves "democratic?

That's the case with Italy. The Freedom Party was a product of a merge between Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia party (which always reminds me of the Italian national soccer team) and the National Alliance headed by the far right (post-fascist) Gianfranco Fini. While former communists and progressive Christian Democrats (though we have know idea how they get to determine what progress is) joined in political matrimony to create the Democratic party.

Italy is not the only country who mixes their political metaphors. Or is it adjectives? My grammar sucks.

Here in Canada we had "progressive" conservatives and "New Democratic" socialists. What the hell does that mean? Socialists, it stands to reason, should hate democracy. Remove the power of the individual and place it in the hands of a few on behalf of the collective. Now there's a big juicy filet mignon type proposition.

I love political labels. I think I'll start a somewhat off-center right on Wednesday's and left on Friday's party.

As of now I am officially recruiting. Norwegians need not apply.

2008-01-16

Careers in history do exist

Don't do the same mistake I did. When I came out of university lightly armed with a Major nothing in History I shrugged my shoulders and headed straight to St. Laurent street to act cool. I had no clue in what capacity I could have used my history skills - which apparently I possessed according to a couple of professors.

In one class - history of Latin America - the professor decided to read two exams she thought were very strong. One was from a guy we kinda hung out with named Victor. Vic was from Ecuador so no surprise that his paper was selected. He also happened to be a very smart and cultured guy. A little leftist - who isn't down there - but we had a superb time sharing an espresso or beer with him.

The other happened to be courtesy of the writer of this lousy blog. I sat reading a magazine when my interest was aroused by her sultry voice reciting my exam. I looked over to my buddy of now 25 years and smiled, "that's my paper". He didn't believe me at first. Still suspicious, all apprehensions were laid to rest when she called my name right after reading it.

I was eager to see my grade because I was convinced I bombed the multiple choice part of the exam. I never did quite understand why the hell history professors in university loved the fricken multiple choice. Historically, excuse the shameless misplaced pun, I have always stunk at the multiple choice. I don't know why. I just did - and probably still do. And this was not just any typical garden variety MC. It was one of those "there is not wrong answer just choose the most accurate one" MCs.

C-

Or thereabouts was my overall grade. The written part was an A+. The MC was, well, really bad. I rarely ever went to a professor to complain about a grade in my life - except on certain occasions where I absolutely felt I had a legitimate shot at redemption. I thought this one merited at least discussing with the gal. All I did was silently place the exam on the desk.

"You're the one!"

"I'm the one."

"What happened?"

"I have no clue."

"Tell you what. I will forget the multiple choice part if you can repeat this performance on your final paper."

Nice lady she was.

I got an A on the course.

Man, it's 1am and I almost forgot the purpose of this post.

Let's wrap this trip down self-indulgent memory lane. I took my degree and ended up in the financial world. By the time I was in my late 20s I realized I would have felt at home as a corporate historian. But by then I had no clue how to go about it. I meekly tried to inquire but it proved unsuccessfully.

The end.

However, if you have aspirations of having a career in history I strongly recommend this post over at the The Pen and the Spindle.

It mentions corporate historian and provides a great illustration of how diverse history as a practical and artistic discipline can be. Yes, you can even earn a pay check with it. And you don't even need a locked-jaw and a tweed jacket.

2008-01-15

Genuinely American

American Idol's Simon Cowell said something very interesting and perceptive tonight. It went something like "You know what's strange about this country? That you are genuinely happy when people succeed."

I've also always found this to be true. Personally, it always felt Americans were genuine in their shouts of encouragement and compliments.

The English FA and Fabio Capello are not an anomaly

As usual, leave it to Rob Hughes to eloquently educated and enlighten soccer and sports fans alike.

I've taken the position that it's quite open minded of England to consider their options abroad. People need to let go of this "inventors" of the game mindset. It turns their brains to nationalist mud. Soccer belongs to the world now. Move on.

Canadians fall prey to such drivel too when it comes to hockey. Every time we lost or fell behind we'd comfort ourselves that we invented hockey. That we did. But hockey too, like soccer, is a sport that has been embraced elsewhere. It no longer belongs to one place.

Italy indeed did have a foreign coach or two once upon a time. Once long ago Swedes, Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Austrians were among the best and brightest soccer had to offer. It's natural teams sought the services of coaches from the countries.

The famous Argentine coach Hererra - who skipped the dominant Internazionale Milano in the 1960s - in particular had a lasting impact on Italian soccer. Recall, it was by way of Helenio Herrera Italians became the masters of defensive soccer using a dead-bolt system known as catenaccio.

In this light, there is no shame in England's decision. It's in the context to which it was arrived that concerns people. The problem is that the English themselves can't seem to get their act together. The FA is about as competent as the Toronto Maple Leafs ownership group. For his part, Capello's task is not only at the club level but at a cultural level as well. The disastrous English system needs an overhaul. A clear and committed plan is necessary. That probably entails Capello revolutionizing the mentality. If there's one proven winner who can do it it is Capello.

If Wenger, Fergurson, Mourinho and Benitez - all foreigners - could revolutionize English soccer at the club level, why shouldn't Capello succeed at the national level?

No one cared that Zico coached in Japan. Hiddink in South Korea, Australia and Russia and so on. Suddenly, high profile England even has Sepp Blatter commenting and spewing inaccuracies like a bad Hollywood movie.

Hughes lays it out splendidly.

2008-01-14

Tabloid journalism alive and well in parochial Quebec


People are getting all worked up about a lousy "investigative" cover story printed in today's Le Journal de Montreal. LJDM is tabloid trash. Anyone who sites it to push a political position should be summarily dismissed. It panders to the lowest common denominator in Quebec. The average moderate Quebecer probably does not think this way.

I am not interested in battling the contents of the article - which is pure crap. All it does is galvanize the already vulnerable nationalist mind into proclaiming, "I knew it! We need more laws lest we whither!"

Nonetheless, it defies logic how this is a progressive piece of journalism. Nor can we ignore the fact that there are many influential people in the province who believe all this. We all know and heard the reasoning as to why they feel "under siege." How far need it go one may ask? We have not gone far enough. The fact is that anything that comes from TQS (a television station) or the aforementioned paper is bound to create needless and sensationalized drama.

However, it is best to remember that it took a "Quiet Revolution" for French-Canada to rise from its slumbers. They will need a second one because they are once again falling behind.

Please take note the following is an attack on nationalists and independistes - not necessarily the average Quebecer. So spare me the "racist"comments should they come my way.

Nationalists simply do not keep up. Even as they benefit from generous government funding that has made their schools and hospitals superiour to English ones (which have all but been destroyed) they seem to be in the process of refusing to evolve gracefully. Parochial power politics always gets the better of them. Remember, Bill 101 discriminates against French-Quebecers more than it does established ethnic minorities. Jake Parizoo (Jacques Parizeau) couldn't have said it better: keep them like lobsters in a pot.

When will they learn? In today's modern world acquiring knowledge is key. It's the saving and storing of intellectual assets that will propel you to the front of the line. It's no longer about French vs. English (though clearly English remains the universal language of business) it is rather about the acquiring of knowledge and applying it to a modern context. Remaining myopic will cost you dearly.

Here's the confusing if not unfortunate thing: some Quebecers think this is important stuff. Not in a global context it is.

But if this is to elicit a response it's this: complaining about getting poor service in French to buy apple juice is regressive for the advancement of a society. It will not further or enhance French.

Now, be a recently landed American immigrant or English-speaking Quebecer who speaks French as a second language and try to get an important civil servant or high position job in this province. I defy you to prove to me that such groups have an equal shot at any of those posts. Try and call a government agency and get decent English services when filling out important government documents that deal with your health and taxes. I try to avoid government outlets at all cost. To be fair, and I have mentioned this in the past, they have made great inroads in attempting to provide more English services but given the English fact in Quebec it still remains inadequate if not embarrassing.

We're now in a position where people who can't speak a lick of either language are defensive and standoffish. This is normal; you fear what you don't know. The question is this: should this be happening here?

I didn't want to get into this because quite frankly I spiritually live beyond these borders - thank God. But hard-core and soft nationalists here sure are caught up in their own cocoon. They have become adept at justifying all kinds of things under the guise of protecting their culture. Truth be told, Quebecers at large are not a united front. Ask any Chinese, Jew, Italian or Greek who know what constitutes a culture. Communities to which nationalists are woefully ignorant of. Quebec is an immature, wannabe revolutionary society that has no money, muscle or profound grasp of what it means to be independent. Asking to retain the Canadian currency and passport points to this all too well - indeed they have rationalized this too.

In my opinion, sophistry and soliloquy's aside, Quebec nationalism is parochial. A world that is not united and not very good at looking in the mirror. Indeed, its "theories" and "ideas" remain firmly rooted in 1848 neatly repackaged for the 21st century under the ribbon of neo-nationalism.

In Quebec intellectual circles, everyone is a racist - except Pierre Felardeau. In Quebec, if one challenges the accepted political and cultural ethos , they will be chastised in the universities. In Quebec, they claim they are democratic yet they accept (or seem to be in denial) an outfit like L'Office harassing tax paying citizens. They say they are tolerant and understanding but could care less about the impossibility of finding proper English-speaking public servants for essential services - who cares we're in Quebec and Quebec is French right?

Here, petty politics trumps the rights of the individual. I see no redeeming qualities in Quebec intellectualism.

It's intellectually depraved really. The odd thing is that they actually see themselves as progressive; as open and tolerant. Yet, their ideas and theories are not exportable.

I love Quebec. But I have learned to loathe it as well.

Canada is a nation of whiners. Quebec is a wannabe nation that adds a twist of paranoia to its whining.

From Dean's wail to Clinton's tears the Democrats have a soft touch

Um, why are people impressed by Hilary's cry? It really wasn't a cry per se. It was more of a "talk amongst yourselves" moment.

Still, is that how you want the leader of a super power behaving? I don't. I know there have been leaders who have cried in the past (usually after they've crushed a rebellion or just won a war) but gosh darn it I'm a regressive macho barbarian.

Moment of human tenderness my infested pimples.

First it was H-Dean letting out a wail that sounded like a platypus clamping down on a dingo's penis and now Hilary's touching moment. Take it to Little House on the Prairie.

Hilary: "Honey, I can't get the chipotle to taste right, the I-ranians are crazier than I thought and now Chelsea is having anxiety attacks being a Presidential daughter again!"

Chokes back tears.

Bill: "I can't hear you honey. I'm, er busy...signing autographs."

That said, she has managed to "rally" women by her side. Dean simply creeped out a nation. She certainly gets the upper hand there.

Geez, and then to make things even more bizarre Terrell Owens sheds salty tears defending QB Tomo Romo in a post game press conference. Yikes, what is happening in America?

Nonetheless, will Americans voters chose Obama's lack of experience or the manufactured Hilary machine that leaks tears?



Just a question

Why do people think,when faced with problems of any kind in the economy, that a tax on something is a solution?

The 'Deadliest Catch' and Blogging


What does the show "Deadliest Catch" and building a blog community have in common?

Well, I'm going to tell you.

But first I'm going to have a bowl of cereal.

Back.

Ok. So, like, last I checked there are no bloggers who fish for Ophelia crabs in the high arctic. What can we possibly have in common?

Ever notice how boats that head out to sea and settle on a spot hurl those cages into the water only to have them come back up empty?

If the captain is going to drag four or five people with him onto icy waters those suckers better get filled up - fast. Of course, it takes the experience, determination, patience and skill of the captain to figure out where the mother load is. Eventually, smiles are all around as the cages are filled with tons of crab. It's hilarious. To me anyway.

Rats. I'm using an analogy here and not actually describing what bloggers and the Cornelia Marie ( a boat on the show) have in common.

Whatever. For starters, blogging isn't anywhere like fishing for crab. Well, I'm sure philosophically we can come up with a theory or model that it is. Notice the ominous water in the background of this picture. It certainly feels that's what bloggers who want to be heard are up against.

Regardless, seeing those empty cages reminds me of the difficulty of building a loyal audience. It takes the same skill, determination, patience and experience as the captain on a boat.

But how many manage to hit the jackpot?

2008-01-12

Off the cuff rant:The Montreal Gazette delivery services stinks

Please allow me to rant for a moment.

From our experiences, the Montreal Gazette delivery service is atrocious. An embarrassment. A joke.

I lived both in the city and the suburbs and always had trouble getting the paper on time. Some days I wouldn't even get it outright. My parents did not get their Gazette three times this week and it has come late several times during the last few weeks. Each time they have to annoyingly get on the phone and demand for it.

What makes it all the more irritating is that when you try and call them to discuss the issue no one seems to have an answer. Apparently they have mercenaries delivering their papers. I have never been serviced properly and when I did manage to get a hold of someone it was clear that indifference settled in over there. It certainly feels like the people in charge have no clue what they are doing.

Like I said, pure joke.

I wonder if it's the same with other papers in other cities.

No woman is illegal ergo no thief is a criminal?

So. I was watching a report on Clinton's campaign and this (no woman is illegal) was Hilary's intellectual come back in response to a person who shouted out that his wife is an illegal. Aside from the strange fact that this person was emboldened to proclaim his wife was a essentially a fugitive, it is quite remarkable that Americans are actually afraid to stand up on this issue on the side of the law.

Surely she jests? Did they pass a law that suddenly declared "No thief is a criminal"?

Later in that same clip a kid was holding a sign the read "No human is illegal." Well, perhaps in a utopian way they are not but within a nation-state framework there can be I suppose.

Talk about twisting the issue and words.

No one is suggesting that people as a species are "illegal." The issue is, as far as I can tell, people arriving into the United States illegally. How is this remotely fair or just to people who use the proper channels?

It seems to me, and I'm just a Canadian, that a sovereign nation has every right to govern itself however they see fit. In Italy, for example, Albanians are shipped back by the boatloads and this is considered a normal occurrence in Western Europe dealing with immigration issues. Italy is among those nations with some of the toughest immigration laws in the EU. Now whether Albanians are attempting to enter illegally is another matter; one an Italian would know.

It may as well be -stringent Italian immigration laws - since governing its own citizens has proven to be something right out of la commedia dell'arte.

I doubt any European nation would tolerate illegal immigration like Americans have in the past.

What's done is done. The issue is now a hot button political one. There are millions of illegals in the U.S. They'll have to come up with something that is practical and fair to all - including those legally waiting patiently in line. The sad thing is that politicians knew this was going on and did nothing and now they face a serious human problem.

Granting amnesty for its own sake is not a good idea - unless it comes with immigration reforms. If it doesn't this will send all the wrong signals. The truth is that illegals willingly chose to circumnavigate the law. The Americans need to uphold their laws. Think this to its logical end if they don't: not pretty.

I really don't see much choice here.

2008-01-10

Articles of Interest: The latest on Autism

Autism is back in the news with the latest research in the scientific community. Since there is no cure for autism, the community is divided as to what the causes are and the recent findings may not be enough to sway some.

2008-01-09

Values don't always convert to power

Setting political cynicism aside for a moment, let's briefly stare at the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Are we done? Great.

Obama, Richardson and McCain (perhaps even Ron Paul) seem to be the ones who carry the least amount of personal and political baggage. While at the same time, they have been effective in conveying their values consistently.

The other group, which includes Clinton, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee and possibly Edwards carry maximum baggage. Compared to the above group, they have not been as concise in displaying their values enough.

But the real question is: Who will serve the masters best?

The live free or die state goes to Clinton

New Hampshire chose Hilary? Interestingly, the "young" vote did not come out enough and this apparently may have hurt O' Bah-ma.

44% went independent which I suppose ties in well with NH's state motto.

Rush Hour 3 has a political message?

I watched Rush Hour 3 tonight. It was pretty decent as far as action films go. But here's a gem of a line in the film I plucked out:

"I will never know what it feels like to be an American; to kill for no reason."

I know. 90 minutes of adventure and I just had to nitpick about an inconsequential line.

Or was it?

The protagonists (Lee and Carter) in the film head to Paris (pronounced Pah-ree) and encounter a cab driver who proceeds to scold James Carter for being American. It seems he had a philosophical problem with American use of power in Iraq and dismissed them as a violent nation.

Tomato, potato.

Whatever. It was a dumb exchange and blatant in its "political" overtones. I'm not sure why the writers just had to insert the aforementioned line. It was sophomoric and pointless.

The twirp cabbie ended up being the hero and killing the bad guy for a "reason" American style. What to make of this? It's interesting that the French character killed with a purpose and not the American. Or is there an underlying point here that sometimes we have to kill to let freedom and peace prevail?

Heck, come to think of it, even the criminal Chinese antagonists in the film always kill for code and honour. Only the Americans are aimless.

Is it me? Or does anyone out there notice this too? Does it really matter?

Am I just bored?

Hasn't anyone heard of The A-Team? I mean, they did good work, right?

Note: A lady friend read this post and reminded me that they mentioned this twice in the film.

2008-01-08

Article of Interest: Wall Street Journal and American politics

Thoughtful piece in the WSJ

It came by way of Contratimes blog.

The tenets held in the piece is one I have fluttered around awkwardly around these parts in the past. The vociferous outrage by opponents on either side but let's single out the Democrats here (and this applies to Canada with any opposition party in Canada) always left me uneasy.

How?

Well, I just apply it on a personal level. It takes one confident person to dismantle another person's ideas from the peanut gallery. The question is: how much of a better job can that person do in the same position? Think of how sports fans always know better than a General Manager - and in some cases this is probably true. Perhaps there are some talented people talented to govern effectively better than any President. On average, though, this may not be the case.

To me, and this has always been the the crux of the criticism hurled at the Democrats since the invasion of Iraq, is that they chose to play a divisive game that lead to the (or at least perception) of a corrosive and seemingly unworkable body politic. Was it all empty rhetoric and chest thumping? It is one thing to disagree and quite another to take the leap and claim "we would do a better job."

The Democrats may achieve power this year. Let's see what they do with it. I've seen an awful lot of hollering and unimpressive ideas and resolutions from them.

2008-01-07

Canada should value the individual more

There's much talk about the GST cut back these days and specifically the attempt by Quebec to somehow prevent Quebecers from benefiting from it. I don't know what they're up to but it wouldn't surprise me one bit. Quebec is desperate for cash.

Let's be clear: I'm no tax expert (but I play one on a blog) however I am a "I know what's in my wallet" expert and this is what I know: it's better to cut personal income taxes.

The whole idea of taxes is rather simple for me. Either you believe the strength and spirit of the individual to do what's right and how they see fit or you are willing to let government make that decision for you.

In Canada, we have concluded that sacrificing income in the name of collective compassion is acceptable. We've effectively outsourced the job of compassionate existence to the government.

What has it got us? No closer to a just society than most countries and one gigantic bureaucracy run by civil servants who lack imagination and innovation. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah we're lucky not to be the United States.

Most reasonable people would have no reservation in paying taxes on certain programs that we all benefit from. Pool our assets to ensure we maintain a social conscience. I'm cool with that.

We all have a stake in the overall health of the collective good. Where most inquiring minds break is with the excessive demands put on us to manage social problems we can't possibly solve. This means examining public policy with a clear and objective mind free of preconceived notions about romantic idealism. It means critically and soberly assessing if we're getting bang for our buck. Throwing money at something because it is ordained "good" is not necessarily progressive.

It's one thing to say "tax me to ensure a just society" and quite another to turn a blind eye on how we progress and deal with human flaws and vices. Quite frankly in Canada, that's what we seem to do. Check it out, we have a larger bureaucracy than France and Italy with half the population.

We often joke among my friends that Canada is nothing but one gigantic legalized organized crime unit - without the killing of course. Um, that we know of.

But here's the difference: you can run from the mob. You can't run and hide from big brother. We further find it a rich exercise in intellectualism whenever we read Canadians smugly scold Americans for various problems - loss of civil liberties for example - present in their country while never giving thought to the shortcomings and near communist state of our own affairs. Canadians don't have that much individual and free choice when one ponders it hard enough.

The omnipotence and omnipresence of the government that tell us what to do and think on a constant but subtle level should be cause for concern even for mild mannered liberals.

It does seem as though we open up a department for every social problem we want to fix. This is where I break with all the rhetoric. I believe that the individual has to - no wait, MUST - step in. To constantly rely on government retards innovation and personal growth. It prevents us from truly creating a self-sustaining and free standing civil society.

I don't know what goes on in the United States. I don't live there. What I do know is what I am told by friends and family and from what I read. It's not unreasonable to conclude they are no worse or better than us. They simply have a different and imperfect system that reflects their cultural and historical experience. That they don't have "universal health care" doesn't mean they are less compassionate than Canadians or Europeans for that matter.

What they lack in government intervention (which make no mistake has increased over the years) they make up for at the individual level. I think this is where people become attracted to the United States. The opportunity for innovative solutions to problems is far higher than it is here. Americans rely less on government to tackle problems - though there is an army of people who want to change this.

To me, bigger government under the guise of superiour social conscious is a long term myth.

Time to apply an old Chinese adage" "store the wealth within the people." That applies not only to income but culture as well. A lost concept in contemporary Canada indeed.

Canada has done well. It can do better.

Much better.

2008-01-05

Finding room and spaces for history

It's a while I've been meaning to increase the history content on this site either through my own writing or by outsourcing to more able minds.

The only reason, to be frank, I haven't done so more often is directly linked to the time needed to write a lucid and well thought out history post. Little of it that is. My brain - to say nothing of a jittery leg - goes into several directions at once.

The other option for me was to find history blogs dedicated specifically to the art and discipline known as history. That too takes time as there aren't that many.

So why do I have a fetish for history? First off, I don't know why. Second, I earned a degree (to what I am not sure) in history and hope to one day continue my education in this field. For now, I will have to be simply remain content to exist as a slightly above average amateur who happens to know how to read history. I say "know" because it is quite possible to read history and still not quite grasp it. Especially if a reader insist on letting perceptions drive the intellect - assuming one is exercised.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Without further long-winded ado and personal blah, blahs I came across this post - for the second time - on The Pen and the Spindle. It conveys vividly the thought process necessary when intellectualizing and interpreting historical events and figures.

And it fits nicely into my objective of increasing history content.

"I love it when a plan comes together." Hannibal - RIP.

2008-01-04

The magical dysfunctional carriage reserved for me

It never fails. Why I always seem to end up with the crippled carriage at a grocery store is beyond me. Tens upon tens, if not hundreds, of carriages and I end up with the one with a jammed wheel.

Of course, the ones I get don't reveal themselves up front. No. That would be too easy. If it were, I'd change it immediately and let some old lady deal with it. By the time the little caged suckers decide to veer off into the pickle jars, I'm too late into my route. It's too much of a hassle transferring garlic and kiwis.

So there I am, by free will, battling to keep control of a fricken carriage while trying to look as though it's not bothering me when in fact I am puzzled by the absurdity of it all.

Wait. It gets better. If I have more than one bag, I leave them in the carriage and push it to my car. Try doing that in heavy wet snow - and a crippled carriage.

Don't get me going on the parking.

I'm just saying.

2008-01-03

I am Puppet

We should start all articles regarding North American relation with a statement made by a 19th century Mexican leader and patriot Porfirio Diaz:

“Poor Mexico, so far from God, yet so close to the United States.”

For our purpose here please replace Mexico with Canada.

Over and over we hear that PM Stevie Harpie - excuse me for just a minute. "Yes, hello? Oh, Ste-VEN Har-PER. Got it - is a "puppet" of George Bush. Worse, not even a puppet just a mime who copies everything he does.

Boy, Bush is some genius. Not only is he the mastermind of the greatest crime in human history (plotting 9/11 to control oil. Brilliant) he even has the time to make Canada the first cloned nation. Just brilliant.

People, listen. It's very likely that somewhere among 330 million people from similar regions (last I heard Alberta and Texas was renamed Abertexas) two people will share similar views. In any event, I'm not so sure the assertion of mimicry is accurate or all that fair. Sure there has been somewhat of a realignment of American and Canadian policies (some would call it normalizing) but hardly enough to run around freaking out and thinking Harper is Bush jr.

Americans have no clue how tough it is to be a Canadian leader navigating through Canadian-American relations.

Then it got me thinking. My mother had to use the fire extinguisher to clear the smoke.

For the last 20 years Canadian leaders were either seen to be too close to Team America or too far. For example, during most of the 1980s and early 1990s, Mulroney and Reagan were the best of buddies publicly singing Irish ballads while Trudeau was seen as the pain in the ass nit-picker standing up for Canadian interests.

Generally speaking, under the Liberals Canadian American relations were strained. It's as if the Liberals did it on purpose to upset the Americans to avoid being tagged "puppets." There was no real philosophical reasoning as to why so many of their minions in the party were freely spewing anti-American rhetoric under Chretien. Now it’s swung back to being “too close” under Harper.

As far as I can tell, it's really annoying to be a leader in Canada. Not only do you have to battle with nine other self-serving Ministers but you have to stand on guard for thee against being compared to Jim Henson.

The reality is that Canada is a neighbour of the U.S. thus there are two extreme options Canadian leaders have had to be wary of through the years: 1) nurture the relationship to the mutual benefit of both and run the risk of people perceiving us (mostly insecure Canadians) as giving into the Americans and 2) give in to pseudo-nationalism and reactionary anti-Americanism in the name of Canadian "sovereignty." The recipe for instant hero in a cup.

If I was a leader I know where I would stand. I'd first stare down the Norwegians. I don't know what they're up to but I don't like it.

That said, I'm not reactionary or emotional by nature. Sure, I get passionate watching 'Corner Gas' or some soccer games but hardly to the point where one Kleenex could not wipe a tear away (and some mucus.) I know using ONE whole Kleenex to wipe a whole tear away seems wasteful. But if I keep the tissue it just aggregates in my pockets until it ends up in the wash.

However, it would be prudent and pragmatic to, you know, defend Canadian national interests where it matters most and not just to "go against the Americans" to make sure we still have a pulse.

For Canadians it’s best for us to let a simple axiom guide us: You can't have your cake and eat it too. The media and special interest fanatics want us to believe we can. Some, not all, engage in a sort of writing whenever something goes against Canada it is taken as proof of some evil American plot. If you want to bid for contract on U.S. soil don't bitch about the terms. Just be glad you're getting a shot. If the Americans come to the great nation of Canadus - with all our puppetteering might - and consider national security an issue just counter with a "Ok. We understand. Here's what we think and what we need."

It’s a two-way street, see? Cooperating does not necessarily mean being a gimp to the U.S. Sure they are a tough bunch to please and deal with but Canada need only worry about what is best for Canada.

That sometimes means standing firm or having the maturity to agree with the United States.



It's 2008 and all I got was this lousy blog

If I read correctly, the Jews are in the year 5769 (or thereabouts) while the rest of us wallow something like 3761 years behind. I really, really, really didn't know that the Chosen people were also from the future too. They got it all.

2008-01-02

Documentary: Jesus Camp

'Jesus Camp' certainly makes you think. While the documentary does not shed too much new light on the subject of evangelicals and fundamentalists in the United States, it does poignantly portray how powerful and dedicated they now are.

Tellingly, it is easy to draw an analogy between Christian fundamentalism and its Islamic counterpart. While, America's version of the "Madrassa's" pale in scope, violence and rigid organization found in the Middle East, that doesn't mean they won't try. Indeed, it does seem the fragmented and dynamic nature of Christian sects in the U.S. will prevent them from ever speaking as one cohesive voice.

How much of a singular voice do you need when the usual "our enemies" and "we have the truth" (as used by the Pentecostal Minister in the documentary) radical rhetoric resonates with so many?

At it's most basic core, their message isn't necessarily inherently wrong. Who would deny love of God and the need to rid politics of corruption? It's just that they mangle and skew it to the point it is rendered unrecognizable and digestible for the mainstream or moderates. Furthermore, how they administer and convey their message is somewhat disturbing if not frightening.

"Jesus Camp" deliberately targets children in the war to win back America. They are the future generation that will lead America and judging by the demographics they may very well be directing the American body politic in the future.

Using kids as pawns in this "war" is plain wrong and immoral. You can make a kid believe anything if you want to.

Why such a growth in fundamentalism? I have friends who went from being Italian Roman-Catholic to Baptists preaching essentially the same things I saw in the documentary.

There had to be a tipping scale at some point where a switch was turned on and people just began to get turned off by liberal secularism. Did the forces of secularism go too far somewhere? Was it Roe vs. Wade? Gay marriage? The removing of Christian symbols in public spheres? Certainly, the rise of radical Islam (which is the same thing as fundamentalism but without the suicide bombing and in a different language) only hardened the fundamentalist world view - a view that is hostile to anything global. Is this a way of society pushing back?

America is slowly falling into the wrong hands and some are feeling it may be too late to save the Republic from extremists. If this is accurate (and it's looking like it is), it would be ironic considering that Americans are fighting for democracy in distant lands. Notably, in the Middle East and this means preventing those governments from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.

On one side of the world, the threat of radicals is real and now domestically Christian extremists are consolidating their power and with this comes enormous influence. Is this what Huntington was speaking about in his 'clash of civilizations' theory? Or is it really more about "traditionalism? vs. "modernism"? Either way, can the radical elements on both sides make this irrelevant and force us into an unnecessary and messy battle in the name of God? Who has a more committed army?

Will moderates be sucked in and forced to choose sides?

As I watched, some observations did come by. First, I do pray - excuse the damn pun again - for those kids. It was sad to see their little minds get messed up that way. They'd better stay in that cocoon because if they come out of it the cold harsh reality of life will destroy them.

A couple of those kids struck me as obvious candidates to not "live up" to the word of God. Some will stray and others will probably lose their identity. One thing is for sure, I hope a comedian was watching it because there was prime material for a stand up routine.

'Jesus Camp' was entertaining and served to remind Americans that something is changing in the nature of politics and secularism in the mightiest of nations.

Worth checking out.

2008-01-01