Friday, September 26, 2008

Russia what?

With the collapse of Washington Mutual, the impending failure of Bush's bank bailout, and the purchase of AIG by the US federal government, not many people have heard anything about the current financial crisis in Russia. It seems most Westerners are nervously discussing the possibility of the return of an antagonistic and imperialistic Russia rather than the return of an impotent, imploding Russia. But all is not well in Putin's playground, despite his best attempts to keep us looking the other way.

A fair chunk of the Russian crisis is a side-effect from the American crisis. Some Russian banks have billions invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oil and other natural resources have also been trading for much less than earlier in the year. But then a lot of this insecurity comes from the neo-autocrats themselves. Take this for example: Putin's silly criticism of the steel company Mechel dropped it's stock by 38%. This in turn weakend market confidence, with foreign investment taking the worst hit. And then Putin criticized Mechel again, and after a slight rebound of 15%, its stock dropped a further 33%.

As of today, Russian markets are at the point of collapse. The federal government has injected $44 billion into the three largest Russian banks. Trading has been suspended several times. Things are not looking good at all. Just thought you'd like to know.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sarah Palin's interview...

... gives me the impression that she is fast approaching Dan Quayle level's of crappiness. And I thought Stephen Harper struggled with the press.

What the?

Justin Trudeau, a Liberal Party candidate, told CTV News on Tuesday that the Canadian 'arts and culture' industry is what defines Canada, and thus should continue to receive federal government funding. He also claimed that it is an $85 billion industry, that employs close to 1 million people.

So... should anyone tell the rest of the Liberals that this guy is an idiot, or should we watch while the Conservatives do it for us? If the arts industry was an $85 billion dollar industry, it would be the biggest 'arts' industry in North America and Europe. Bigger than Hollywood. Bigger than professional sports. Bigger than TV and video games.

And since when did the notoriously esoteric and gnostic arts and culture industry become a defining characteristic of Canada? It might be for the few folks involved in it, but for the vast majority of Canadians, it's just not. As for the foreign invasion argument paraded about by Jack Layton, who despite his claims to be a voice for ordinary Canadians immediately abandons that tune to come to the rescue of the status quo, doesn't hold water anymore: Canadians willfully choose to watch American programming when it's offered, and avoid the CBC's Canadian programming religiously.

More than anything else, it highlights the massive disconnect between self-proclaimed populist politicians like Jack Layton, the Liberal Party, and the needs of normal Canadians. I say this as a student of art history and visual arts, and the son of a hardworking mother who owned her own dance and performing arts school. Why not earmark the money for people training in the arts, like we do for everyone else, and then let them sink or swim on their own merits?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Man stabs priest after viewing The Da Vinci Code


My prayers go out to Fr. Canistri and they especially go out to the assailant, Marco Luzi. Christ, bless and keep them both in their hour of need. Santa Maria please intercede for the physical healing of both men, and particularly for the spiritual healing of Marco. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are the irreligious stupid?

The survey says... yes!

At least that's what some folks want to interpret from this.

I don't share the enthusiasm of some who want to point fingers at the 'new' atheist movement (just a bunch of legal positivists about 50 years behind schedule) for gifting us a generation and a half of complete spiritual morons. I know, they're not morons, they're just different. That's why we should happily accept their wholesale rejection of rational thought and traditional religious belief has a good thing. I digest...

But in reality my fellow Catholics have as much to do with this situation that anyone else. As far as I know, we're alone in having a clear duty to spread the Gospel to everyone, and as far as I know, we're, by the numbers, unusually shitty at it. How many times have we sat by while this anti-scientific tripe gets passed about as if it is honest Catholicism? Speaking for myself, many times. And now that I've read this survey, I hope I won't be such a sitztinkler the next time it happens.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Christmas in America!

I wrote a little while ago that it was the Democrats election to lose. In their excessive vitriol toward Sarah Palin, they managed to rally disaffected independents and discontented Republicans to her cause. These attacks against her personal life - especially those directed at her disabled new son and her pregnant daughter - did nothing but sell her to the electorate. So it wasn't all that unexpected when the official Democratic strategy switched away from her personal life and focused attention on her as a politician.

This new strategy was immediately effective. Palin's track record as a politician is light, though not as light as it would seem, but light nonetheless. Obama and the Dems scored easy hits against her rising star by simply bringing up her recent mayorship of the tiny Alaskan town of Wasilla. But these attacks were nothing compared to the damage Palin did to herself in her Charlie Gibson interview, which highlighted her greeness better than any Democratic attack ad. The Democrats were simply sitting back and letting Palin (and McCain's lousy campaign strategists) do the dirty work themselves.

But wouldn't you know it, the Democrats and their supporters are forgetful. Even with Palin's star fading as fast as it rose and with Obama's call for a end to the rumour-making, they just couldn't help themselves. Enter Charles Rangel, a popular Democrat out of New York, who had the foresight to call Palin a 'disabled politician'. That might be an accurate assessment from his point of view, but his choice of words couldn't have been worse. Saturday Night Live jumps in too, showing a skit that insinuated Palin's husband indulged himself in an incestuous relationship. And on top of all of this, you have several supermarket tabloids, greeting shoppers every day with more ludicrous rumours about Palin's personal life.

And so we start the week with the GOP still in close contention and the final results of the election anyone's best guess. Well done, guys.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jeremy Hinzman: Stay or Go?

Wtf? Jeremy Hinzman volunteered to join the army. He volunteered to join a part of the army that was specifically combat based. If he didn't want to go to war, he shouldn't have voluntarily signed a contract with the f***ing army.

And so it is that I'm torn between caring for Hinzman and not giving two shits about his duplicitous ass. He's father of two and a husband, so there's that little gumball for my empathy to chew on. He's also the one who decided to sign a contract with a group of guys in the government who could at anytime send him somewhere to kill someone. He's also the fellow who undermined his own conscientious objector claim by stupidly announcing that he would participate in defensive combat operations, but not offensive ones.

To some he's a hero, to those with a brain he's a insolent man-child. Seriously.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Jack Cafferty of CNN asks his readers, will Barack Obama’s race cost him the White House? The posted answers offer up the response Cafferty is looking for: Yes, people don't like him because he's black. Cafferty gives us the statement that the only attacks that 'hurt' Obama were the ones that associated him with Jeremiah Wright, the now infamous racist preacher Obama listened to every Sunday for over 20 years. Cafferty dissects the info for us, letting us know that the 'angry black man' image that popped up during the Wright scandal didn't sit well with whites.

There are two things about Cafferty's assumptions that I think are deeply flawed. First, there is nothing specifically racist about not liking the 'angry black man' image that Wright personifies so emphatically. Wright preaches a twisted version of the Gospel that allows no room for repentance, reconciliation and the salvation of humanity, all on the assumption that race trumps all. I don't think most people, of any race or creed, Christian or otherwise, wouldn't find it healthy to ingest Wright's gospel on a weekly basis. Obama was hurt by Wright because Wright is an asshole, not because Wright is black.

Second, there's no question that some white, Hispanic, and Asian voters will avoid Obama's name come November because of racial prejudices. The burden of racism has been with us all of time, in varying forms, and it's not going to magically disappear or get worse because of this election. But it's a stretch to say that these racist voters represent a large enough margin to gift the presidency to McCain. These voters, who I assume are automatically generalized as Republicans, have supported a presidency with two major black members: Condi Rice and Colin Powell. These folks have also supported a Hispanic attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, and elected Bobby Jindal, of Indian ancestry, in Louisiana, and Mike Steele, the black vice-governor of Maryland. The proof is in the pudding, no?

Lastly, Cafferty speaks of racism as the elephant in the room. That's true, but not in the way Cafferty thinks it is. If anything, this election could be decided by black folks voting for Obama over McCain because of race. It's not as difficult to digest of course, blacks choosing a candidate because of his blackness, because of the checkered history of race relations in the US, we can have some empathy. But it's still racism.

PS - Another poster from the site, Pliny, makes a good point: "If race were still a factor with the ability to swing elections Obama would never have been able to become the Democrat nominee. If Obama loses it will be because of his liberal ideology and bad policy positions."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How to lose an election

I've always said that this election is Obama's to lose. And lost it he may, thanks to the recent contributions of liberal bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, Us magazine, Joe Biden, and now South Carolina Democrat Carol Fowler.

Remarking on Sarah Palin's nomination, Fowler had this wonderful contribution: "[McCain chose a candidate] whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Yea, so... Fowler later offered up an apology, stating that her comment was actually an attack on single-issue voters (ie, pro-life folks), as opposed to anything else. Single-issue voters, eh? I suppose Obama supporters who find him singularly appealing because of his black father (Oprah and her book club), or the supporters who chime that he will bring 'change' (everyone), are single-issue voters too then? I doubt Fowler and every other Democrat that is perennially bothered by single-issue voters, is actually bothered when those single-issues happen to coincide with the Democratic Party's platform.


Vernuft at The New Skeptic has had enough of this election. Me too. It's easy to say that it's saturation has everything to do with the machinations of two of the self-styled agents of change of the Democratic Party. Thanks to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, people were talking about this election long before they really should have, or so we like to say.

That's a fair enough assessment which holds a kernel of truth: Obama and Clinton knew that their campaigns would need to be quickly off the mark in order to capitalize on the ever-slowing decay of the GOP. They also knew just what kind of beast their opponent was, and so the race to win the hearts of the disaffected electorate and the mainstream media, which was once decidedly pro-Clinton, was launched months, if not a year, before official campaigning began.

But I like to think that it just wasn't the Obama or Clinton's power grab, or the media's hard-on for Democratic candidates. I think the weakness of the Presidency, from mid-2005 to early 2007, had as much or more to do with the saturation than anything the Democrats did. My idea follows as such: Since the Republicans were in a state of disarray, they quickly became a side-show the much more positive developments in the Democratic Party. It wasn't that there was a vast, left-wing conspiracy - people just don't like hearing about the collapse of one political party, whose members were breaking rank and back-stabbing each other just to retain a modicum of a positive public image. The catastrophes of Mark Foley, Larry Craig and Jack Abramoff aren't exactly the type of news most people like to hear about everyday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Clarifications on a Wednesday morning....

With a few moments to spare (2 hours until work, baby & wife swimming at Y), I'd like to revisit those poor, pathetic thoughts I threw out in my last post. In no particular order, by the way.

Russia: Many commentators in the West seem to agree in general that Russia's invasion and subsequent annexation of South Ossetia heralds the former Soviet empire's return to the world stage. Coupled with this idea is the assertion that the United States somehow failed to make good on it's self-assigned role as protector of its allies.

Russia's actions against Georgia, are not representative of its abilities on the global level. This is first and foremost an unfortunately typical conflict between a core post-communist state, and a former satellite post-communist state, played out within a tiny, isolated geographical area. An American style 'rebuilding', a la Iraq, this is not. If comparisons help, and they often work for me, think of this as the US invading Grenada, as opposed to Afghanistan or Iraq.

As for the reaction of the United States, it's easy to call it a tactical and political failure. But then this assumes that the United States is the only guarantor of state-sovereignty, and completely ignores the role of the European super-powers of Britain, France and Germany. Certainly one of the main criticisms of American interventions has been their lack of unilateralism, and yet when push came to shove, everyone, looked to the United States to check Russia's power. So far only France has take major steps toward addressing the threat of a militaristic, aggressive Russia, which says a lot more about the ability of the EU and it's member states than it does about America.

Sarah Palin: Being of the conservative flock, I'm extremely partial to Sarah Palin. Only two weeks after she popped up on the scene, she's taken a lot of abuse and, so far, stood steady. If she makes it through this election without embarrassing herself (those veep debates will have a lot to do with that), I could see her rising far above any other female politician has, including Senator Clinton.

That said, I'm less convinced that she was a poor veep choice than I previously thought she was. She's taken a lot shit, more shit than any male politician would take, and is still standing. That's a good sign. I thought that once the torrents of abuse came in from Obama's supporters - which is often alarmingly misogynistic, sexist, and out right cruel (see the rumours/comments about her son, Trig) - she'd wither and withdraw from the race. Now I don't really see that happening, especially since the abuse is drawing a lot of sympathy from soft-conservatives and liberals who otherwise would have completely ignored her.

Stephane Dion (and Lizzie May): As I said before, I could see Dion winning a minority government this election. I don't feel the CPC has done enough out East to win over disaffected members of the LPC, and I certainly don't feel they've made enough progress in urban centres in British Columbia. But now things may not been as they were last week when I was almost certain Dion would win. First off, he's looking like an idiot for supporting Lizzie May's quest to be included in the leadership debates - the same Lizzie May, the leader of the GPC, who has made her partiality toward Dion public, and even made a non-compete agreement with him in one riding.

I've some empathy for May's demand to be included in the debates, but there are more hurdles the GPC needs to jump through before they deserve to be invited. They need to win - win in a contested election - a single riding. I don't care if they have 'official party status', or that a former Liberal MP conveniently defected to their cause, to be at a leadership debate you should have at least one riding that was won in an election.

UPDATE: Lizzie May and the GPC will be represented at the televised debates after the network commission in charge of such things reversed its earlier decision. I'm happy they're there, but I am skeptical, or maybe cynical, about the GPC's ability to contribute anything to the national conversation at this point. This is not to say that the GPC doesn't play an important role in Canadian politics, but that without any sort of the federal experience to draw upon, it will be difficult for them to articulate their policies more than they already have in the few media soundbites they've already given us over the past two years. Nevertheless, I'm of the 'more democracy = better democracy' mindset, so more discussion is for me always a positive thing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

There's just not much to say...

I've been busy lately. Actually, I've been busy all year since the little baby surprised us all by being born last December. And with this business comes complete and utter apathy toward blogging once the sun goes down. This despite all the news that's fit to blog on. What can I say?

Well for one, I could say that I think Sarah Palin has a lot potential to become a major influence in American politics and the GOP, but is a weak veep choice.

I could also say that Russia isn't a 'world power', rather a regional one, despite it's recent and many claims to the contrary.

And I could also, and finally, say that Stephane Dion may win an election, but will lose government soon after.