A True Story

Today I called my lover with voice over signal. With this signal, I say the name of the person I wish to contact into the receiver of the cell phone. Try doing it in quiet public spaces. See the looks you get.

Sometimes the phone signal doesn't hear what I say and asks, "I'm sorry did you say?"

Generally, it'll go something like:

Mystery Cell Girl: Say a name or short cut.
Moron (Me): Raspberry Randy.
MCG: "I'm sorry did you say Raspberry Randy?
Me: Yes.

It wasn't the best of days. Naturally, I was annoyed she didn't understand my message. So when she asked, "I'm sorry - you know the rest," I replied,


Apparently voice over doesn't recognize the word "fuck" as the system shut down and brought me back to the main menu.


Always annunciate properly in life. You may get redirected.

Worm Malware Looking To Wreak Havoc

Some information on the Conficker worm malware thought to be dormant and ready to attack millions of computers worldwide.

Link Of Interest: Poetry And Culture

The thing I love most about blogging is discovering more blogs to read. One of my recent posts "Keep the dialog on capitalism open" was linked to Stillman's Blog.

An excellent place to spend some time learning and reading. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few minutes there and hope to do so on a regular (as much as time will permit of course) basis.

Thanks for the added traffic!

Although I didn't quite see it as "going after a leftist" since my main concern was "keeping a healthy dialog about capitalism." Mr. Ashbery just happened to get caught in the crossfire so to speak.

It was a great interview but his words about capitalism captivated me.


Shameless Plug

Read my latest post on e-Talian regarding a comment made on Montreal radio and a possible Fiat/Chrysler merger.

Rick Wagoner Fired By Obama: Scary

Very scary.

Question: How could the government fire the CEO of a private company? How is this remotely healthy for the free market system?

The automakers should never have asked for the cash. They should have restructured. All they've done is become slaves to the government and its agenda. It's inconsequential if Wagoner was seen as "incompetent" (GM has a pretty good shot at overcoming the mess), what's disturbing is the government essentially firing the CEO of a publicly traded company.

America is not on a good path.

Not from where I sit.

Freedom and the free enterprise system continues to be under attack.


Politics, Film, Music And Rio Bravo: A Great Mix That Works

From what I've learned, Rio Bravo (1959) was a film made in response to High Noon (1952) - a film that's regarded as one of the all-time great movies. It's an interesting debate in the ideological conservative versus liberal realm. I don't know if it was a John Wayne vs. Gary Cooper "showdown" but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. Film and politics converged in the 1950s and the result was interesting to say the least.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rio Bravo (Walter Brennan was a joy to watch) and the musical scene with Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson in particular left an impression. In today's context, it's difficult to ever imagine a musical scene in movies without it feeling out of place or downright lame. Although, if we tried hard enough maybe we could. Singing in film was a norm in the so-called golden age (Classic Silver Age) of film.

Rio Bravo is among the greatest of Western films and one of its enduring allure is its ability to leave you smiling.


Childish Decisions By The Canadian Government

First off, what the hell was our government thinking in asking for an apology from Fox tv show, 'Red Eye?' Let blogs and citizens debate and argue about it. To have the government step in wasn't necessary. It's a television show.

Next, British politician George Galloway. This blog defends the right to free speech and is against censorship. The decision by officials to not let MP Galloway into the country was an unfortunate one. Galloway is a loud mouth'd shnook with ridiculous ideas and comments but it doesn't mean he can't come here and babble. Let him I say.

It's not up to some bureaucrat to decide who gets to speak about what and where. Let the citizens decide on their own if they like his ideas. No doubt, some will but for the most part he remains a wannabe iconoclast with weak ideas.

Let him in.


Keep The Dialog On Capitalism Open

"Most poets have already been persuaded that war is horrible or that capitalism is greedy or any of the other things political poetry tries to beat into your skull. So, OK, we know this, let's talk about something else."

Interview with poet John Ashbery in The Believer, February 2009.

Really? Capitalism is greedy. End of story. There's nothing left to discuss? Odd claim for a poet, of all people, to assert.

I'm a little tired of listening to clinkers like "capitalism is built on greed." If you accept at its core capitalism is greedy then I suppose you would want to talk about something else. I don't think it is.

It's far more complex, I should think, than that. Is greed, for example, not offset by fear? Of course, the psychological aspect of capitalism is wide in scope.

Talk about selling something short. As I've mentioned in prior posts, it's all the rage to attack capitalism now. This is not to deny capitalism doesn't have its share of greed and corruption - but so do any of the systems devised by man up until this point.

A more appropriate thought would be: Capitalism leaves itself open to greed just like socialism leaves itself open to waste and coercion.

The concept of humans free to explore our personal interests under a free market system is a sacred one for me.

Capitalism does have, believe it or not, a "built-in honor system" in it. Anyone who runs a business knows what I mean.

I take offense with the notion if I start a business, my motives are based on greed. As a free-thinking individual, I possess strong personal morals and convictions. I do my best to live honorably with respect and desire.

So you see, to me, this topic remains open for discussion.

Give Yourself A Writing Chance

I never did and I'm paying the price in terms of "what the heck was I thinking?"

It's not like people didn't try. Here are some examples - and I loosely quote in some cases.

After grabbing me by the neck and shoving me against the locker my English teacher in high school said, "Why are you fucking around? You have a talent and you're messing it up."

High school, English teacher to my mother (my father was busy running a business) during parent-teacher night, "That boy can write. He can be destined for great things."

I said I loosely quote.

Private college (fancy way of saying prep school for boys doing the Titanic) English professor, Prof: "Can I speak with you?"
Me: "Sure."
Prof: "Just wanted to say this was one of the finest term papers I've read in a long while."
Me: "Burp."

Private college history professor when asked by a student who among us dopes had a hope in University: "You, you..." Long pause. "And definitely you." Pointing at me.

At this point, I still didn't get it or bothered to listen. I remained indifferent because I was incapable of connecting to it. I still didn't know what the fuss was about. I just wrote. I took it for granted that everyone could do the same.

University Latin America history professor, "I would like to read out three very impressive essays." One of those was mine. Hee-haw!

University professor Early Canadian History, "I fail to understand what you're trying to do." Wait. Scratch that. Bitch.

University professor Canadian history to class, "You better know how to write if you want a high grade with me." I got an "A."

University professor political science, "Wow." "A+" German political science professor who held his students in contempt..."A."

National Post columnist, "you should write for us. Seriously. If not, in some medium because we need good writers in this world."

Education counselor, "I can't believe you're not employed in this field."

Radio show host, "Who are you? This is hysterical!" Jim Rome once picked one of my letters as letter of the day.

Magazine editor, "You've got the goods. I'll give you a shot." I'll forever be grateful. She saw beyond the raw talent and made my article a feature.

Montreal Gazette, "We can't use this." Bastards. Bull shit.

Local magazine editor, "You wrote this? Outstanding."

Legendary Hollywood script writer on my script, "There's a beat, rough and remarkable feel to this."

Former television show host on Bravo who upon reading my review of Andy Kim called Kim and claimed my post was the "finest rock review he's ever read." Kim felt it important to tell me.

"You write? You make money?" Construction worker. I answered in the affirmative even if it wasn't true. He was holding a drill and a two-by-four. I wasn't about to disappoint.

"Effortless, simple, concise communicative skills." I forget who said that.

An editor at Harper's actually took the time to send me a private note telling me how much he enjoyed one of my fiction stories but it wasn't right for Harper's. Moral victory.

I could go on and on. So far all I've got to show is this blog.

But don't let this be you! Head to tvwriter.com and get a move on! The person behind the site is Larry Brody (go ahead read his bio) and he happens to be a great friend to all writers. If you're thinking of joining the television ranks I strongly suggest you go here. I promise you won't regret it. You owe it to yourself to explore your inner-writer.

Go on. Get outta here.


What Were The Odds On That?

I spotted something inter-resting on comedian David Chappelle's political take on Bush and Clinton. At around the 2:45 mark he begins a funny bit about Bush's use of cocaine and that you can't have a President doing that.

Guess what? You know where I'm going with this.

I don't know when this took place but it surely was before the arrival of President Obama.

I betcha he'd never think a) a black (yeah, yeah I know mulatto to some) President would make it and b) he too would have dabbled in coke just like Dubya.

It seems it's not just mayors sniffing the stuff. The White House now has double meaning.

I wonder how many of those people who stood up and cheer voted for Obama!

Visiting St. Joseph's Oratory

On a recent beautiful March day, we took our soon to be four year-old daughter to one of North America's great Church's: St. Joseph's Oratory.

As we drove up the magnificent Church, I could not but help think about the contradiction of our times. With Anti-religious rhetoric reaching feverish pitch at times, am I not, as a progressive secularist, supposed to avoid such "ritualistic nonsense?" No. I differentiate between faith and organized religion. I refuse to attack and impugn religion as a whole.

It was interesting to watch my girl try with all her might to understand the significance of why people pray and why they look for guidance in the Lord. I too observed quietly.

We prayed to St. Joseph and did our best to tread the line between "faith and reason" for her.* Then it became clear to me while staring at Brother Andre's heart. When you come into a place like St. Joseph's - or any place of faith - you have to suspend all logic but for few precious minutes. It makes little sense to sit there and "hmpf" your way through demanding "proof" of all what we were taught about Jesus and the Bible.

I write this admitting I too asked questions wrapped in logic in elementary school. The Bible seemed more disjointed than following a Bat-Man comic series.

Was Descartes any less "logical" because he believed in faith - Catholic faith to boot? Like Voltaire, Descartes is often mistakenly believed to be an atheist.

When we told her it was time to go she took my hand and said, "I'm so happy, daddy."

I looked to my left and there was Jesus winking with delight.

*If St. Thomas of Aquinas struggled with this, there was no hope for me.

If Dick Cheney Was Fair Game Then...

So is Joe Biden and his gaffes. Put together by Reason Online.

Nemrits Roam Among Us


Remember this name.



Got it?

Visit Nemrits here.

My sister is the creator of these suckers (I helped contribute in my own small way) who landed her second prize at a major international BBC competition. She's off to Cannes, France to film an animation for it. Or something like that.



This Ain't The Simpsons That's For Sure

Here's the thing. I wasn't going to comment about some segment on Fox News called 'Red Eye' taking a "satirical" or "comedic" stab at our military. I really couldn't give a flying fruck what pipi heads think of Canada. I'm not one of those sensitive Canadian nationalists in case you haven't noticed.

But as I watched the panel of conservative posers pitifully pontificate, I noticed a familiar face: that belonging to one Monica Crowley.

Aside from the fact there's was absolutely no intellectual value to this segment, it baffled and bemused me (I can be both at the same time) how a person who sits on the famous McLoughlin Group would actually take part in this.

Crowley, as some of you know, is now a regular on that show - I think she replaced Tony Blankley as the conservative du jour. A better looking con du jour I might add.

Interestingly, it's not the first time Americans take gratuitous shots at us- and it's not just right-wingers. Recall after 9/11 Hilarious Hilary Clinton claimed Canada was a haven for terrorists and were infiltrating in from our borders. No mention was made that terrorists still had to get through tight and swift U.S. borders and patrol.

Paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan for his part, who I hold in high regard for his stunning political knowledge, once called us Canuckistan. I got a chuckle out of that.

Back to the video. No doubt, we're often a country of all talk and no action and we've certainly gone overboard with our stupid anti-American rhetoric in the past, but this video was especially disgusting given we just lost four soldiers this past weekend bringing our total to 116 dead.

That's 116 dead Canadian sons and daughters fighting on behalf of the West and the Americans in particular. It may not mean much to the folks in this video but it's our blood.

I'm not so sure I can take her seriously on that show anymore. Which brings it down to two people I will pay close attention to (Eleonore Clift is off her cliff) moving forward.

In the end, America and Canada sit on the same side of the fence. We may have our differences but I know many Americans of level headed composition appreciate our efforts in Afghanistan.


The Cinema Viewing Experience Has Changed

One of the many "not so popular in a mainstream way" magazines I read is 'The Believer.' For cinema enthusiasts, I trust an article titled, "Contemplating the new physicality of cinema" by C.S. Leigh will be of intriguing interest.

We've come a long way since Vaudeville I tell ya.

My thoughts to go along with a couple of excerpts from the article if you please.

"...I’m also talking about dark and damp basement cinemas in New York, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Berlin, and London, places like the Carnegie Hall Cinema, the Cinema Village, and the Notting Hill, where double features were the order of the day. They were cheap and they were brilliantly programmed and we flocked to them in droves. Sometimes you walked up three flights to get to these theaters but they still felt subterranean. You could buy candy and drinks and there was always a smoking section. It was a fetid, human experience."

"You could also have a very different relationship with a film depending on where and with whom you watched it. An audience at a university cinema in L.A. had a solemn, nearly funereal reaction to Pasolini’s Salò, based on Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom (they seemed uncertain whether they had just witnessed a film or a crime); later, I watched the same film at the Accattone in Paris with an audience that couldn’t stop laughing."

During my University days, I did the same thing - albeit with a much more local flavor. Montreal used to have "repertoire" cinemas not all that dissimilar to what is depicted here. I attended many international and genre festivals - usually to spend some time with a girl. Then we'd go off to some bohemian cafe where Che would get an instant standing 'O.'

I'm not sure if I liked or understood some of the films I saw ("you have to grasp the regional Spanish humorous sensibility!" one chick told me after I wasn't convinced a Spanish film we watched could be classified as "comedy") but it did enrichen our cultural awareness I suppose.

I still wonder what Cathy is up to these days. We had a great time loitering the streets of Montreal.

"A young woman who watched the film with me told me she thought those people who talked about their feelings and inner turmoil endlessly were “losers.

Which pretty much describes most of what's on television these days. It is irritating to watch the over-clinkering of inner turmoil. At some point you just have to conclude the flaky sluts on 'Sex and the City' are pretty much impossible to please. After a while it's like "dude, get over your narcissism. Ever consider you're the problem?"

"Bernardo Bertolucci calls what some directors are making today post-cinematic cinema, and cites Harmony Korine as a major exemplar of this tendency. Bertolucci stresses the importance for filmmakers of freeing themselves from the pressures of the great cinematic canon; rather than grappling with the anxiety of influence ad infinitum, he believes that practitioners of post-cinematic cinema should avoid it altogether. Korine—who still lists among his heroes Godard and Antonioni—expresses his ideas in a way that probably owes more to music video than to cinema.

Post-cinematic cinema, in other words, more or less takes its cues from reactions to and defenses against distraction and boredom. I’m thinking about the films of Michel Gondry, Paul Thomas Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, and, to a lesser extent, Sofia Coppola. They deal with the notion of offhandedness in a cool but structured way. Viewed through the prism of YouTube, it’s a cinema told from the left and right of the page and via footnotes, as if the essential documents telling the story have been lost, and someone is trying to re-create it. These directors make films you can watch while doing the many other things we do while watching movies now, but that still command our attention."

Which is why dialog has to be written in a way such that if someone is cutting an onion as thye watch something they can still follow the story. We no longer have the time to sit in a "fetid" and dingy artish cinema theater manned (or womaned) by outcasts and fringe characters for three hours.

Even if we did, those theaters are long gone now.

That is, unprofitable.

AIG Misses The Point

Another conservative view about AIG from "The American Thinker."

You can count me as one of those people who immediately didn't believe Obama when he said he was angered about the bonuses. In fact, this was a political gift for him. He's giggling like a school girl in the background.

Still, I don't think AIG should have done what they did. In the current atmosphere, it was ridiculous. You don't reward the clique who helped make the mess in the first place. As I wrote below, there's an oligarchy (a fancy way of saying organized swindling) in place and it's time to bust it up.

Man Wins $42 Million, Ontario Casino Refuses To Pay Up

Man: "I won? I won! I won!"

Casino: "Wow. Look at that. I'll be darned."

Man: "Where can I pick up the cash?"

Casino: "Wow. Hm. Right. You see, we can't pay. This machine is defective!"

Man: "Who cares? I won fair and square."

Casino: "Not according to us. Buh-bye. Oh wait, please enjoy a free coupon to our buffet."

All I can say is: Yeah, right. The OLG is so lame it's beyond belief.

In the backdrop of AIG, it really seems like there's a type of "monetary mafia" out there. It's to the point even if you legitimately win something at a casino it won't be acknowledged.

The excuse given by the OLG is such a joke I wonder how these people actually look at themselves in the mirror.


Time To Rethink How We Deal With Incentives And Bonuses

The Financial Times published "How bank bonuses let us down" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - author of The Black Swan.


"...Take two bankers. The first is conservative. He produces one annual dollar of sound returns, with no risk of blow-up. The second looks no less conservative, but makes $2 by making complicated transactions that make a steady income, but are bound to blow up on occasion, losing everything made and more. So while the first banker might end up out of business, under competitive strains, the second is going to do a lot better for himself. Why? Because banking is not about true risks but perceived volatility of returns: you earn a stream of steady bonuses for seven or eight years, then when the losses take place, you are not asked to disburse anything."

"...If capitalism is about incentives, it should be about true incentives, those resistant to blow-ups. And there should be disincentives to remove the asymmetry of the free option. Entrepreneurs are rewarded for their gains; they are also penalised for their losses. Now, by comparison, consider that Robert Rubin, the former US Treasury secretary, earned close to $115m (€90m, £80m) from Citigroup
for taking risks that we are paying for. So far no attempt has been made to claw it back from him – only UBS, the Swiss bank, has managed to reclaim some past bonuses from its former executives."

There is something rather obscene when a CEO takes a bonus in a bad year - contracts shmontracts. You make money you earn the bonus, you lose it don't take one. That's fair capitalism.

The earlier paragraph by Taleb reminds me of what's going on in sports. After one great season and not much else, an athlete will probably sign a huge contract. They can jump from $500 000 to $2 million just like that - snap. Of course, if, say, an offensive player's production slips the following year, he's not expected to give back his money. I have no idea why sports doesn't have more (or move to) a more prudent mixed "incentive" and guarantee based contract. For instance, "You reach such and such plateau you get X dollars. You don't you get Y" on top of your base. I know sports contracts, which have become complex endeavors, do have this but I'm suggesting something else - albeit awkwardly. If a player hits .234 one year, he shouldn't be bumped up in salary because his union or the "market" says so when compared to other comparable player. Often we hear agents say, "pay market value" but who's determining the actual value?

Moreover, the current financial structure is set up in a way even mediocre players can earn a remarkable living. Mind you, many mediocre people earn a lot of money in life too. The system is out of whack because too many players are not worth any where near the rich contracts they managed to get.

Nonetheless, there's something strange going on when an athlete's salary has skyrocketed to the point where some of them have become small business empires onto themselves while the average salary in North America (possibly Europe) has either been stagnant or modest in its gains. In other words, what happened in sports that allowed it to explode relative to the rest of the economy?

He closes:

"Finally, I was involved in trading for 21 years and I can testify that traders consciously play the free option game. On the other hand, I worked (in my other job as risk adviser) with various military organisations and people watching over our safety. We trust military and homeland security people with our lives, yet they do not get a bonus. They get promotions, the honour of a job well done and the disincentive of shame if they fail. Roman soldiers signed a sacramentum accepting punishment in the event of failure. This is prompting me to call for the nationalisation of the utility part of banking as the only solution in which society does not grant individuals free options to look after its risks."

No incentive without disincentive. And never trust with your money anyone making a potential bonus."

I'm not sure I agree with his call to nationalize the utility part of banking but I can be convinced for when all is said and done, Taleb gets to the heart of the problem. However, I've observed a similar phenomena in many sectors and it doesn't necessarily have to involve money. In a different vain, I wonder if a meritocracy even exists anymore.


I Need A Bonus

Contratimes has a different (conservative) take on the AIG bonus story.

Forgetting Our Freedoms

It perplexes me how people demand liberty and more government interventionism at the same time.

Aren't the two mutually exclusive?

Far left liberals and far right conservatives both make no sense on this front. On one end, liberals fear loss of freedom but habitually call for government interventionism to protect us from "privatization" while conservatives lament freedom's disappearance but also run to the government to protect us from "socialism."

In other words, they're both right freedom is on the run but both completely miscalculate the reasons for it and misjudge the solution.

Our mindset is such that more government involvement makes perfect sense. Either we've redefined liberty or we've completely forgotten what it means.

Be Wary Of Calls For More Regulation

Hello, my name is The Commentator.

Where have I been?

None of your business but check this out.


Over the short term the recently-announced economic stimulus package will stimulate economic activity and distort the pricing structure in some economic sectors. Much of this activity will occur while the market will still be rife with distorted signals caused by the earlier round of economic stimulus that caused the boom in house construction. The upheavals in the housing sector and automobile manufacturing sector are essentially market corrections that attempt to liquidate malinvestment. The high-tech bust and the dot-com meltdown of 2000 were also market corrections to the massive malinvestment that occurred in the high-tech sector. I was an investment advisor during this period. That's exactly what it was. When crazy things happen it's extremely important to stand back and soberly assess the problem. Rather, our first reaction is to always demand more regulation. What astounds me is to listen to politicians act as if a)they can do something about it and b) speak as though their own hands are clean in the mess. Naturally, their only unimaginative solution is to, well, regulate. Yawn.

During the 1990s the government and Central Bank of Japan tried to stimulate an economy that was rife with malinvestment. The Japanese economy remained essentially stagnant despite state efforts to stimulate economic activity through a variety of public works projects. An economy that remains essentially stagnant while the government prints and spends new money on a variety of projects defies Keynesian economic theory, which provides no explanation for such economic events. Again, for most of my time in financial services, Japan was a stagnant economy. While I'm far from an expert on Japanese economics, his position was one often cited by some economists at the time.

Despite Keynesian economic theory having repeatedly been debunked and refuted by numerous free-market economists, it is the theory to which western governmental economic advisors wholeheartedly adhere. They are therefore almost predestined to follow Japan’s failed attempts to revive an ailing economy. They will invariably follow the economic path of Julius Nyerere (PhD in Marxist economics—London School of Economics) who after becoming head of state of a then-newly independent Tanganyika, tried to improve the idyllic economy of the new Tanzania using Marxist theory. The result was an economic catastrophe that included famine." Marxism is misunderstood is the excuse no doubt. It's not flawed, just misused and abused by the wrong people. Funny how Marxism always manages to attract the wrong thinkers.


Hezbollah: Making Friends; Maintaining Enemies

There you go. Hezbollah has made it clear it will never accept Israel's right to exist.

How is peace supposed to be achieved?

Just as disturbing is London decision to directly engage in secret talks with Hezbollah angering the Americans in the process.

No kidding.

Given the way Britain is showing no stomach to face its own Muslim extremist population, this is not comforting to say the least.

Fractured Minds

This is downright bizarre. Mississippi removed decimal paces and fractions from its mathematics curriculum?

It happened nearly a decade ago. I wasn't blogging then so I didn't report it.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with religion," she told reporters at a press conference Friday morning. "We're simply seeking to make mathematics more accessible to schoolchildren by de-emphasizing the elements that so many of them find confusing. It makes no sense to try to train our students how to think logically, then present them with nonsensical concepts such as 'irrational' and 'imaginary' numbers."

Senate minority leader Cora Tull indicated that religion did play a part in the passage of the legislation, however, maintaining that "if cardinality is good enough for the Catholic church, it ought to be good enough for the children of the great state of Mississippi." She added that "'improper fractions' have no place in any respectable school system, public or

Wha happened? Huh? Come again? Wha?

I didn't exactly excel in math but these dudes sure take their suspicion and ignorance of math to another level.

I wonder how this is working out.

A whole generation of kids will be taught to be hooked on creationism while not being able to comprehend mathematical nuances .



Word Of Advice To Coffee Shops

Stop making cappuccino's so bloody HOT! Boiling espresso mixed with milk is not a good thing. By the time it cools down, the milk tastes burnt.

The proper way to serve a latte or cappuccino is warm or lukewarm. That way, you enjoy both the espresso and milk.

Blog Of Interest: Islam In Europe

Islam in Europe is an interesting blog covering Muslim communities in Europe.

Creating Jobs Is Easy

One way government creates jobs:

Let's have a study to study the studies and then study it some more!

This means opening up more departments and hire more people!

Presto! Job creation!


Wise Words

"Commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic."

"...If industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out."

Pretty smart that James Madison.

But apparently these pass as "stale" ideas now.


It Keeps Getting Better For Obama

I must admit, judging Obama on the economy this soon in is a little much. That said, the report is in strict regards to the bail out plan. It shouldn't surprise anyone he gets a failing grade.

Readers on this blog know where I stand with Obama but this post is sort of a defense. Bail out packages are care packages based on misguided fear. "We have to do something, anything" is not a good excuse to spend like wild teenagers equipped with a credit card with no limit.

Let me explain.

First, saying "he's trying to fix the mess left behind from past administrations" is tenuous at best. That applies to all leaders. Most of the time, they inherent a "mess" that they must "fix." In reality, all it means is they take over policies they opposed. Big difference in semantics there.

Using this line also suggests constructive criticism of Obama is unfair. Nonetheless, one can view this as a plane trying to find its altitude. Maybe he'll get it going on the path he wants - problem is, what exactly is his path? Is he winging this?

To me, politicians get too much credit when the economy does well and too much blame when it tanks. Economics go well beyond the realm of politics. Yes, government does have some pull and influence through fiscal and monetary policy but as a whole they don't control the psychological side of the coin. Markets are (or at least should be) free and dynamic. The greatest economic periods in history have always taken place when there was limited government. This is a fact. It's not disputable. It's not an opinion. It's reality.

The best analogy I can think of is in sports. Managers get way too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. The proverbial "you can't fire 20 players" prevails in sports and this is unfortunate in my opinion. Which make for better coaches? Instinctive ones who improvise along the way or those with controlled and clear game plans?

The truth is organizations often make mistakes in their hiring selection and this is why problems arise. Improvisation or going on "hunches" takes a special person. Come to think of it, creating an action plan and executing also takes special talent.

Same with politics.

So, for Obama we should be careful on two fronts: credit and blame. And his apologists should be courageous and free to criticize him if need be.

Oliver Stone's Delightful Turkish Apology

I was reading about the film "Midnight Express" on wikipedia and came across a perculiar paragraph about (paranoid?) director Oliver Stone:

"When he visited Turkey in 2004, screenwriter Oliver Stone, who won an Academy Award for the film, made an apology for the portrayal of the Turkish people in the film."

Oh, but pasting and lambasting Americans with conspiracy tales is ok? Yes, yes. I forgot. We need to hear the "truth" about Americans. Styuupid moi.

The striking stupidity of some people in Hollywood is boundless.


Buffet Wonders About Obama's Bailout Measures

Personally, I have no clue how the business community could possibly support Obama. It looks like heavy hitters like Warren Buffet are rethinking their support. Buffett has a problem with Obama's ideas on the bailout. Gee, you think?

I've heard pundits say silly thing like, "it's ok to nationalize the banks temporarily. The government will go in, stabilize things and leave."

If anyone really, truly, really believes this please raise their hands.

I can't see.

What If The Great Philosophers In History Could Blog?

Sometimes when I read the comments section on sites and blogs, I could only nod my head in disappointment. It's tough to find a truly civil intellectual environment offering stimulating conversation in life let alone the internet.

It seems no one can write anything without being besmirched by ad hominen attacks. No matter how reasoned or eloquently presented, a point of view is bound to incite angry, sarcastic remarks.

The trick to reading other opinions is to allow for it to flow from your skin. Most responses I see have less to do with the content and more with the fact it contradicts a persons prevailing belief or perception.

How many times I've seen people blast the writer not on the merit of the argument presented but on the writer themselves.

It's a shame.

Which got me thinking. What if Aristotle, Socrates, Cicero, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Bacon, Machiavelli, Pascal, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hobbes, Vico, Diderot, Paine, W. James, A. Smith, Pareto, Humes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Mill, Kant, Gibbon, Hegel, Jung, Schopenhauer, von Clausewitz, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Popper, Friedman and so on maintained their own personal blogs?

Ooo, would it make for lively discussion and debate or what?

My money would be on Darwin, Machiavelli and Hegel for most popular (if not wacky in the case of Hegel) blogs on the net.


Of which I have a few.

But one that stands out for me is never taking my piano lessons seriously when I was a teenager. Four years of lessons and nothing to show for it except the Purina cat food jingo. And they don't even play that anymore.

My sister belts out Chopin and I...forget it.


Religulous: A Review From A Layman

Bill Maher's Religulous is one ambitious project. It's not surprising then it ultimately fails to amount to anything substantial.

The basic premise of Religulous is to explore the ridiculousness of religion and "blind faith." Setting about with a camera in hand, in case you haven't noticed, is the new pink for documentaries, Maher does his best to be a modern comedic Doubting Thomas. Along the way, it becomes apparent he has way too much of an axe to grind to be trusted with a sensitive and complex topic. I never got the feeling he was interested in taking the film onto a different plane beyond his position - you know, in case he's wrong.

Maher relies too much on the words of fringe extremists to get his message across. Interviewing quacks is one thing, discussing matters with scholars and academics is quite another. One leads to laughs, the other tends to slow things down to a screeching halt. To be fair, he does interview a couple; but one he treats with little respect (what? A Catholic scientist who believes in faith? How can that be?) and the other we don't see enough of.

Like most anti-religious secularists Maher is found of quoting passages from the 'Book of Revelation' (which is fine since most nutcases do. Like those who irrational attack on science and evolution through the creepy world of Creationism ) but I don't see how this relates to moderate religious people with valuable and deep spiritual conviction.

Maher (who now falls into the category of philosopher-comedian) left me borderline queasy in parts. The line between being stirring the pot with and without a point is a delicate one. Going into to somebody's church and begin questioning their beliefs (like he did in the Trucker's Chapel scene), while necessary, can prove hollow. It is what it is. People believe all sorts of stuff.

For example, like the Dutch dope-cultist Maher spent a little too much time with in Holland. I suppose Maher was trying to equate organized religion with pagan-drug induced cults.

Maher is convinced - if not obsessed - with the notion that faith and reason can't be complementary. His position is a fair one but he makes no attempt to explore this important aspect. I say important because philosophers and great theologians like Aquinas built marvelous models exploring this issue. Logic, faith, reason - these are not easy things to ponder in theological and philosophical life let alone a 1 1/2 hour documentary.

Maher said in an interview about faith, "This the last taboo. For the longest time people have not even broached the subject because when you said, 'Well, that's his faith,' everyone just backed off. Faith, well you can't talk about that, that would be insulting to question someone's faith. Instead of saying, 'Let's examine the faith,' or even the more basic question that I ask in the film, 'Why is faith good? Why is it good to stop thinking?' "

But does one really stop thinking if they have faith?

Now if he means blind faith, then this is another matter. Nonetheless, I would submit faith has a far deeper and psychological dimension sometimes best left alone. If I'm not mistaken, this is something Kierkegaard posited.

But Maher believes this is dangerous (to ignore faith) since religion is the root of all evil and wars. He seems to automatically assume faith and religion are partners in crime.

My contention, in a previous post, is war is a condition of man. Religion is just a smokescreen.

To his credit, Maher doesn't single out Christianity alone. He holds no punches with Islam and Judaism as well. He even took a bold stance and asserted indeed most "religious murders fall on the side of Muslims." He even visited the Netherlands and the UK to explore this further. He could have added France to the mix. These three countries have serious home grown Islamic extremism problems.

Other comments and scenes that left me with my own questions and observations:

-He claims 16% of Americans are non-religious and are "too scared" to speak out. I don't know enough about this but something tells me he probably didn't explore this enough.

-His use of quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers was confusing. I'm not so sure the FF's would be against faith. I think they were too wise, worldly and witty to be dismiss it.

Let them revere nothing but Religion, Morality, and Liberty - John Adams

Duty is ours; results are God's - John Quincy Adams

-A caption disclosed 93% of scientists to be agnostic or atheist. Which reminded me of an old philosophical axiom : What if the 93% are flawed? Anyway, I'm not a fan of flashing statistics as a means to an end in a film. This on its own does little to contribute to his overall point. Who knows for what reasons and in what context this 93% represents?

-He talks about how "he doesn't know" (which fits in nicely with the tag of this blog) yet I got the distinct feeling he did know - or acted as if he did. For example, he's convinced Jesus didn't exist. Scholars and religious people are not so certain. I hope he's not looking for a birth certificate.

-In the "shamelessly misleading to make my point" category, Maher tries to pull a fast one when he claims a "gay gene" had been found. In fact, this is an on-going study and debate among scientists.

"A heated debate over the existence of a "gay gene" emerged from a 1993 report published in the journal Science by then-NIH researcher Dean Hamer, PhD. That study linked DNA markers on the X chromosome to male sexual orientation. Since then, questions arose regarding the validity of those results."

If Maher is a true rational and logical being, he would have avoided this. Instead, he doesn't seem to believe in empiricism in science. READ MORE ABOUT THE GAY GENE DEBATE HERE ON WEBMD.

-In the trucker's chapel, one man tried (in vain of course) to explain why he believed in God. God saved him from literally engaging in satanist activities and all sorts of immoral acts. I've met people who have been "found." To me, all I can say is if you're happy and it keeps you away from the bad stuff all the power to you. Better you hang around in a Church than sipping blood somewhere in an abandon building screwing hookers and robbing people at gun point. Who are we to judge? Does Maher suggest such people, to his logical end, are a danger?

-I did find the analogy with ancient cultures and the origins of Christ's birth interesting - Vishnu etc. There seems to be a common thread here. Again, I will have to explore this further myself because by that point Maher hasn't proven to me he's capable of taking on the subject matter.

-He claims that "religion impedes progress." Again, religion is a broad term and I'm not sure he's entirely correct on this front. Scientists and academics (atheists included) with a political agenda, weak-minded politicians and special interest all play a part.

Ironically, lest we forget, it was Christendom that allowed the West to unleash some of its greatest intellectual movements and events that ultimately led us to the Enlightenment and our liberal and secular construct.

By the end of the film, to any neutral observer, Maher took the easy way out. Interviewing fringe characters to make his point is like pitching to a Double AA hitter. He should have accorded more time to scholars (and avoid the temptation to sneer at people of faith) and have a real intellectual debate.

I recognize some will take a harsher stance than me about the film, while others will just take it for what it is. Despite my observations, Maher did his job adequately. But I don't think it succeeded in achieving its ultimate goal: have people question faith. This is not his fault. This film can have sequels in perpetuity and still not arrive at any conclusive (or at least perhaps satisfactory) end point.

Ironically, while Maher is adamant about his own position, he failed to sway me in any significant way.

Still, for a light-hearted (with a heavy topic) documentary, Religulous is worth renting. The film brings up flawed but interesting arguments. See it for yourself.


It's Not So Easy As It Looks Afterall

When I read this I immediately though about George W. Bush. Imagine the reaction had he been the one to make all these blunders.

Seriously. Think about it and try and tell me otherwise. Go ahead.

Oh yes, of course, it's the "right-wing" media to be blamed for this.

Look, forget the blame game. Forget it all. This is why the hatred for Bush was way over the top. It went from harsh criticism to something beyond the realm of healthy debate as far as I'm concerned.

On this day, Hilary Clinton, the savior to so many, a hero to Democrats, was no more "smarter" than Bush. Heck, she was part (though not entirely at fault. Still, one would think someone in the Democrat camp would have done their homework. She looks like she hasn't be kissed in months. Speaking of failing your homework, here's an example in Diplomatic Gifting errors made by the Democrats at The Hegemonist) another error that was under reported. One where Israeli president Shimon Peres innocuously kissed Clinton. An act in which will be met with suspicion in the Arab world.

This is a symbolic reminder of how messy things will get for Obama if he doesn't tread carefully. With his call for dialog with Iran, this will ruffle Israel; especially with the leader of the coalition in the Knesset hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu who will be a huge test for American leaders.

So much for Democrats being more attentive and more intelligent on foreign policy matters. Given the rhetorical attacks on Bush, the Democrats set themselves up nicely for a fall. They're off to an amateurish start.

Shit happens. I won't jump on them for this. But it should humble them and their supporters. It won't, but it should.

This should also once and for all quell the notion once and for all as Bush as an incompetent, narcissistic "monkey."

It should. But again, it won't.

Improvised Comedic Brilliance

The Christopher Guest mockumentary "franchise" are nothing short of hilarious and brilliant works of comedy art. Here are some scenes from what I consider among the best comedies I've ever seen. What makes these even funnier is the scenes are improvised.

From This is Spinal Tap (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean):

"D is the saddest key."

"These go to 11."

Top scenes from A Mighty Wind (written by Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy):

From Best in Show (co-written with Eugene Levy):

'We Met at Starbucks."

Hotel Scene:


Top 100 Universities

This is a Top 100 list for Universities/Colleges in North and Latin America.

Some facts:

-The list is dominated by American universities.
-No Canadian universities in top 10.
-The first Canadian institution to make an appearance is University of Toronto at #19.
-McGill ranking is 42. Third among Canadian Univ. (Univ. of British Columbia is #28.)
-Six Canadian Univ. made the list.
-Three from Latin America made the list - Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Demand Accountability For Banks

Given the economic environment we're in and the fact we're about to spend our way into health, the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) is an organization you may want to support. To me, Canada's banking sector is efficient but it stinks of an old boys network.

It's an informative site. Here's a teaser:

Myth #3 : Canada's Big Banks serve customers fairly and well
Fact: Our Big Banks treat many customers poorly
Surveys in 1996 and 1997 by the National Quality Institute of over 8,000 Canadians regarding satisfaction with 21 industries found banks ranked in the bottom 5 both years. In addition. at least 400,000 adult Canadians do not have a bank account, mainly because banks often make it hardto open an account by requiring customers to provide many pieces of ID, to have a job or to keep a minimum amount of money in the bank. Also, the banks' own statistics show that lending to job-creating small and medium-sized businesses decreased between 1995 and 1997. Of the $100 billion increase in bank business lending over this 2-year period, over $80 billion was loaned to big businesses in loans of $5 million or more. Banks loaned more to big businesses despite losing almost $200 million more during this period from big business loan defaults ($543 million lost) than from small business defaults ($371 million lost).

Myth #2 : Our Big Banks are threatened by foreign competition
Fact: Global competition is not a threat, despite bank claims
There are now fewer (43) foreign banks in Canada than in 1987 (when there were 59) and their combined assets amount to only $92 billion (7% of total banking assets in Canada), not much compared to the $1.1 trillion in assets of Canada's Big Five Banks (86% of total assets). Foreign banks have faced significant barriers to entering Canada for over 30 years, and continue to face barriers even after changes were made under a 1997 World Trade Organization agreement. The costs of setting up branches, advertising, training staff, and attracting customers mean that, as former federal Finance Minister and Prime Minister Paul Martin has stated, foreign banks will never offer serious competition to our Big Banks or offer service in the vast majority of communities across Canada.

Comment Of The Day

Here's a comment I left on Neil McKenty's blog (link in box in sidebar):

"American right wingers think Canadians are socialists and Canadian left-wingers think Americans are fascists.

North American centermen know better."

Hey, I like it.

"Shrugs" shoulders. Meh.


A Few Words About Tobacco And Smart Centers

As some of you have already seen and noticed, stores are required by law to hide cigarettes behind a board. Aside from the sore eye it gives from an aesthetic point of view, this strikes me as both a cynical and stupid law.

For me it's simple, it cigarettes are so evil then ban them outright. Enough of this trampling on civil liberties for PR.

You won't win a war on vices.

I mentioned aesthetics earlier, as I've ranted about in the past, has anyone noticed the blithe Smart Centers have become on our urban landscape? Generic and impersonal, these centers give the impression of poor thoughtful design. Worse, it's the same circle of stores that litter these places. I can understand if each had its own unique design and stores, but to have all of them share the same characteristics makes things boring. No?

Originality gives way to urban practicality?


Man Causes War

As I've mentioned over the last few years, religion is not the sole source or root of war. It's usually the scapegoat.

Too often we hear the statement, "religion is the root of all wars" or replace wars with "evil."

Many times, the people who assert this are fond of citing the Crusades. While Popes and other men of spirituality no doubt partook, the root of the Crusades (Wind Rose Hotel discusses here) was not in religion. It was a mix of convoluted and complex issues and events that led to it. The Middle Ages, while dark to some, was far more revolutionary than we think. It was, the West in its puberty stage if you will.

Apparently, only religion (and to leftists, Christianity in particular) can cause war. But I wonder about pre-religious times. Ancient society was by no means religious but yet war existed. More proof that war is a natural condition of man? Fear, greed, economics, security all play a role in the dimension of war's dementia.

In the 20th century, the Great Wars were not religious but imperialist in orientation.

Atheists should also sit down. The greatest crimes against humanity came by the hands of communists and socialists - who often claimed to be atheists.

Terrorist groups are madmen cloaking as men of God. In reality, they're murderous bandits seeking to consolidate power and gain access to cold hard cash. They're cold, callous and calculating, unelected politicians without borders.

So let us tone down the anti-religion rhetoric.

After all, it was Christendom that allowed the proper conditions for the West to explode into the age of the Renaissance, Exploration, Reformation, Scientific and Industrial Revolutions and the Enlightenment. Each having a massive and incalculable impact on world history.

Note: I write these periods knowing and acknowledging debates exist for each. Was there a scientific revolution? Did the Renaissance ever end? Blah, blah, bling.


McNuggets And 911

Sick pup that I am, I enjoy perusing the pages over at Smoking Gun for you never know what will show up. This one, in fact, comes via a friend who lives in Florida. Thanks Robert.

For the record, I did the same thing only it was for Timbits.

I can just see a documentary in the works about the degradation of American society. The girl just wanted her McNNuggets. Sheesh. Cut her some honey mustard, ok?

Terms I Don't Get


As in "denying" climate change.

Does being a denialist imply a denialist can never have a valid point? If so, doesn't this mean thoughtful debate is discouraged?

Who are the real denialists?

Best Before Date Expired

It's a few times I hear a few emboldened (in the context of power returning to the Democrats) leftists (let's call them that) claim the belief in small government, less taxes and individual liberty as being "stale" ideas.

As opposed to bloated bureaucracies and inefficient welfare monstrosities that have created a society dependent on government? The trend is to go this route. Which, in turn, reminds me of 1984.

Some things never go out of style. Take a Ferrari. Are Ferrari's out of date? No. They are reinvented. Redesigned to meet contemporary sensibilities.

The message of smaller, efficient government and social advancement predicated on people progressing freely is one that can easily connect from generation to generation. It's the best way to ensure concepts of responsibility and accountability remains at the personal level. Passing off our duties as citizens to government and its endless forests of departments and offices is a cop out. We will always be disappointed in its results. Better to face our flaws and vices dead on.

I'm skeptical that a social contract between government and individuals can ever truly be an equitable partnership.

That being said, government is here to stay. It's a fact of our existence. We just have to remain diligent and vigilant its power does not continue to erode our freedoms - our essence.

When I listen to people turn to government I don't hear a voice that believes in the power of the people. I hear a voice that believes people need to live vicariously through government.

And that's the real stench of staleness.

Phew! That Was Close

Asteroid just misses earth. From National Geographic.

We're so busy yapping away at the other asteroid (Obama's Chocolate Money Factory) we forget about the ones which remind us of our petty insignificance.


"Mexico As A Viable Country Is Uncertain"

Mexico is an ailing nation. The drug cartels threaten its very existence. Mexico's situation is grave.

The importance of Mexico is directly connected to American security matters. The last thing President Obama needed was a Mexican state heading for failed-state status.

How will the United States deal with this?