Showing posts from 2007

Canada - in six words or less

National Post ran a contest recently asking readers to submit their suggestions for a new tagline for Canada. Here are some of the better entries:

"If countries are clothes, we are cardigans."

"Like America, but with poutine."

"Life, liberty and pursuit of hockeyness."

"Canada: Birthplace of mediocrity" and the similar "Canada: Mediocre and reasonably proud of it."

"Canada - your mother would love us."

Ooops, I did it again ...

My Letter to the Editor was published in the National Post 10/5/07. Not sure how long the link will be live but here it is:

So far I have about 4 out of 5 hit rate for letters submitted to the Vancouver Sun or National Post. They must have some slim pickins to deal with if I get that hit rate...

Having a way with words

I have always been impressed by and envied folks who have a way with words. The most recent example is from an interview with Camille Paglia:

On Hilary Clinton - "stridently partisan" with a "pretend marriage". "No emotional intelligence, no real instinct for the stage ... a thoroughgoing Methodist, a grim social activist" with a "mafioso attitude".

On Al Gore - "a mournful character," who is "much too vulnerable to the women around him" and "lacks a masculine identity".

Russian history "Do-Over"

There is apparently a new manual being distributed to Russia's history teachers that hopes to put a more positive spin on the nation's history and give a bit more upbeat and "feel good" view of Russia's past. It has the explicit support of President Putin and is part of the broader effort at defining the Russian national identity.

Some of the more interesting nuggets:

Stalin is apparently described as "the most successful Soviet leader ever" and the guide explains his purges and the system of camps for political prisoners as a function of his desire to make the Soviet Union strong.

Mr. Putin in a meeting with teachers apparently stated that killing at 700,000 of one's own fellow citizens at a time of peace and for political reasons is not as bad as the US use of the atomic bomb in World War II.

The manual says "The democtratic political culture that has formed in Russia over many centuries (emphasis added by MH) has become the main instrument of it…

It's neither poverty nor democracy, stupid

The recent terrorist attacks in the UK may have at least some positive effect if once and for all they serve to puncture the delusion that Islamic terrorists are a product of circumstances of poverty and lack of liberty.

The liberal crowd would like to think that people doing evil can be "explained" by the fact they were poor and desperate. These doctors were not poor or desperate by a long shot.

The conservative crowd like to think that if only democracy is spread through what today may be totalitarian autocratic states, the magic potion of democracy will convert potential terrorist into humanistic, benevolent citizens. The UK terrorists of last week had all the benefit of liberty of the UK and the spread of democracy to Palestine gave us a Hamas government. So it's not really working according to the script.

The problem really is religion in general and in particular a religion which allows for extremist notions of killing everyone who does not believe the same. If there …

"Understanding Islam"

In recent years there has been a huge proliferation of books, news coverage, TV shows giving the non-Muslims an education in what Islam is all about. The implication is that unless we understand Islam better, we will not be able to figure out how to .... and there the thing breaks down because it is not clear exactly what we are after.

Having read and listened to much of that, where I come out is that I don't want to "understand" Islam any more than I want to "understand" cannibalism. I don't buy into the notion that only if we understood the Muslim religion better, we would be able to live side by side better. And the more I understand about it, the less I am inclined to view anything about it favorably.

The fact that Sunni and Shia groups split in 7th century over next to nothing is no more an "explanation" or a justification for car bombs exploding in Baghdad than is whatever happened in history between Serbs and Croats a reasonable grounds for …

Everyone is entitled to their customs

In his book "America Alone", Mark Steyn gives the following account -

"General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: 'You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom that when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And the we will follow ours."

Reminds me of an editorial years ago entitled "In Defence of Cannibalism". Just another custom.

"Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris

Recently reading the above was a useful reminder that when it comes to religion, not everybody can be right. Either the world was created over a few days 6,000 years ago as the Bible says, or it was not. The factual evidence of the Earth and many things on it having existed for over 6,000 years if beyond overwhelming.

Makes one wonder if there is perhaps a good point that Harris and Richard Dawkins make (although I have not read his most recent book "The God Delusion"), about religion in general being anything but a benevolent "everybody can believe what they want" s0cial phenomenon and is on the contrary a profoundly negative factor in any society and the world as a whole.

The "intelligent design" proponents often managed to shift the conversation in the direction of "reasonable doubt" such as arguing that things don't quite hang together with Big Bang explanation of origin of everything. It is true, there are some monumentally difficult to a…