Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Inspiration of Folly

Let it not be said that the Falconer Report is without merit. I have spent the afternoon reading the Executive Summary of that document and was seized with inspiration to pen the following:


'What is the school, O students?
It is I:
I, this incessant row,
This northern sty;
Students, this decrepitude
Through which we go
Is I.'

(With apologies to Walter de la Mare.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Problem of Euro- ... er, Asian-Centred Schools?

Some curious wording in the reports today of the official approval of an Afrocentric school in Toronto.

The National Post says:
The school board admits that a "disproportionate" number of black youth are failing in their schools. According to its statistics, 40% do not graduate, compared with about 25% board wide.

But advocates of the Afrocentric proposal say it is the existing "eurocentric" system that is failing black students, and believe that the alternative model being presented is an endeavor worth trying.

Likewise, the Toronto Star:
Twelve of the 20 speakers urged the board to open an alternative Africentric school as a way to fight an estimated 40 per cent dropout rate among Toronto's black students.

Longtime community leader Murphy Browne said she was alarmed at the high number of youth being "pushed out" of school by a European-centred system, who then get "caught up in the school-to-jail pipeline."

Did you catch it? (No! Not the Murphy Browne thing!--though that is weird.) I mean this Eurocentric/European-centred stuff?

Odd, wouldn't you say? No?

Oh, well then perhaps you didn't know that the average of 25% cited in the first article there does not (as it implies) refer just to white(/European) dropouts, but to an average of non-black dropouts in the TDSB. Which, obviously, constitutes a rather broad range of backgrounds. Non-European backgrounds, if my point isn't clear.

Now consider this (found here):
2001-2002 statistical data from the TDSB indicates the percentage of students from specific geograpical locations at risk of not graduating:

- 45% of Western African, Central and South American students at risk
- 39% East African
- 24 % of South Asian
- 23% Eastern European
- 16% Eastern Asian
I'll acknowledge that there's a bit of conflict between these numbers and the "25% board wide" figure given above, but it is hardly significant. What I should like to draw your attention to is this "16% Eastern Asian" dropout figure. Can somebody explain to me how a so-called Eurocentric system can discriminate against those of African descent, but not those of Asian? Indeed, can anyone explain why, apparently, Asians have a better record in a Eurocentric system than do those of European descent?

It seems to me that we have a pretty basic instance of the premises not supporting the conclusion here. By which I mean, it simply does not follow that a Eurocentric curriculum is to blame for the failure of students not from a European background.

But we've gone ahead and approved an Afrocentric school anyway?



Jay Currie (with whom I appear to be sharing a wavelength) dares to speak to the heart of the matter:
This proposal is pretty much the epitome of the soft racism of low expectation.

Now, if the Toronto School Board was actually serious it would take a look at setting up a school which took these children out of their neighbourhood for good long stretches starting as early as possible ... Anything to get these poor children out of the truly awful gang riven, largely fatherless “culture” they have been unlucky enough to have been born into.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sentiment and Socialism

Tragedy and comedy are dead as popular art forms. (That comedy or tragedy are sometimes achieved inadvertently--that is, counter to the intention of the artist--does not count. These are parody.)

The once exalted labour of making sense of Man In The World seems to have been replaced entirely by expressions of the tin-eared, vulgarian cults of Individualism and Realism; where feeling achieves its apotheosis in sentiment, action (and interaction) in socialism.

To wit--from an album that I don't entirely regret buying, but which has put me off my ambition to replace my analogue collection with digital:
You told me I was the original guttersnipe
But really I'm the original Isrealite
I live in a ghetto forever after
So you manufacture the ghetto blaster.
But I'm out now, I'm older
Don't carry music on my shoulder
You think I'm a wild terrier
Now I never could afford to live in your area.*

Monday, January 28, 2008

God's Outrageous Propaganda

Ballade of Illegal Ornaments

When that the Eternal deigned to look
On us poor folk to make us free
He chose a Maiden, whom He took
From Nazareth in Galilee;
Since when the Islands of the Sea,
The Field, the City, and the Wild
Proclaim aloud triumphantly
A Female Figure with a Child.

These Mysteries profoundly shook
The Reverend Doctor Leigh, D.D.,
Who therefore stuck into a Nook
(Or Niche) of his Incumbency
An Image filled with majesty
To represent the Undefiled,
The Universal Mother— She—
A Female Figure with a Child.

His Bishop, having read a book
Which proved as plain as plain could be
That all the Mutts had been mistook
Who talked about a Trinity
Wrote off at once to Doctor Leigh
In manner very far from mild,
And said: "Remove them instantly!
A Female Figure with a Child!


Prince Jesus, in mine Agony,
Permit me, broken and defiled,
Through blurred and glazing eyes to see
A Female Figure with a Child.

--Hilaire Belloc

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Compound Complicity

Lorne Gunter makes a good point in today's National Post ... But he also makes a bad one.

The good:

I think the pro-lifers' case at the UBCO campus was particularly weak. It rested on their argument that they had been denied club status because of religious discrimination when, indeed, they and their views were affiliated with no particular religion or denomination. Moreover, the student council had approved several overtly Christian clubs.

What the UBCO pro-lifers are is victims of political or ideological discrimination-- not religious.

Correct. I mean, I quite understand the temptation of the Students For Life (SFL) to take this tack--to fight fire with fire and use the mincing claim of discrimination to counter an equally mincing claim of offensiveness. (Perhaps fighting wet blanket with wet blanket would've been a better analogy.) But the problem is that by doing so, they 1) lend credence to the BCHRT-reasoning that 'offensiveness' or 'discrimination' are valid grounds for the suppression of rights, and 2) they turn abortion into a concern of faith rather than (what they claim it is) a concern of fact. They are, in effect, conceding that an unborn fetus really isn't a human being but for the totally subjective criteria of our given religious disposition. A thing they really don't want to be doing; else the "genocide" they have made it their purpose to remind us of becomes a kind of superstition. (Doing my damndest here to resist any allusions to babies going out with bathwater. Not succeeding, obviously.)

The bad point?

I have read scores of anti-abortion pamphlets of the kind given out by campus pro-lifers, and while I passionately defend their right to distribute them, I have a friendly word of advice: Get new tactics.

Your efforts to use graphic photos of mutilated fetuses and claims of "genocide" aren't winning you any mainstream supporters.

... In a word: So?!

I don't say this flippantly, but to draw attention to the fact that Lorne seems to have thrown the steamroller of his reasoning into reverse. He's just told us that the SFL shouldn't pretend to be victims of religious discrimination when it is so clear that they are victims of political/ideological discrimination. He has, in effect, just warned the SFL off taking the easy--the, dare I say it, mainstream--course of using means that, of their essence, contradict the presumed ethicality of the sought-after ends. But then he suggests that the SFL would be better serving its cause--i.e. anti-abortion--by distancing itself from, well, abortion ... Thing is: without the whole business of the mutilitated fetuses and genocide there wouldn't be any problem, would there Lorne?

Sheesh, if those anti-abortionists would just lighten-up on the whole dead babies thing I might be a little more likely to listen to them!

But I'm curious now. What other tactics could they use? I'm imagining a Schindler's List a little lighter on the death camps, and a little heavier on the wasted-cheap-labour-opportunities angle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


In a thing I wrote a little while back, I suggested that people might not take such an 'open-minded' view of racially segregated schooling if, in the name of choice, someone were to suggest opening white-focussed schools. Regarding this Jay Currie wrote me the following (and which he repeats in essence here):
Ah, but they have in Vancouver. They call them French immersion but they are, in effect, lily white private schools. No Chinese kid's parents are going to let him waste his time learning French so no Chinese kids (or East Indians for that matter) clutter the halls of these bastions of Trudeaupian purity. And, rather quickly, the serious subjects end up being taught in English.

It's a lovely wheeze. The lineups go round the block. But it is not about any sort of racism or anything, just the beau idee (I can't be arsed to find the accent) of cradle to grave bilingualism.
The more I think about this, the more brilliantly insightful I realize that it is (though, perhaps it should read "belle idée"). Well worth some examination along the lines of Liberal Xenophobia: An Uncontroversial Provision for Future Generations of the Elite.

From: Conversations with Snook (The Younger)

Of Multiculturalism's Shortcomings

Why is it that the only people I ever see with kids are these exhausted looking Filipino women in the lobbies of high-rise apartment buildings? I mean, do they actually want the things, or couldn't they afford the birth control?

Whichever it is, we clearly have a long way to go in equitably realizing the Canadian Dream.

... Anyway, Mom, I was just calling to wish you a happy birthday. Lates.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Delicious Ironing

So Benedict XVI found himself punted from a lecture he was going to give this week at Rome's La Sapienza University--founded some 700 years ago by, well, a Pope actually, Boniface VIII--and, as with the last time His Holiness was embroiled in such a scandal, the righteous ire of right wing commentators has managed to miss the obvious.

The complaint against Benedict's speaking at La Sapienza, made by certain factions at that university, is summed up thus:
... 67 professors at the university signed a letter saying the pope should not be allowed to give the inauguration speech for the academic year.

The professors accused Benedict of being opposed to science, and cited a speech he gave two decades ago. They argued that the pope would have supported the Church's 17th century trial against Galileo for claiming the earth revolved around the sun.

David Warren gives us a typical conservative reaction:
... [We] see [here] exposed the grounding assumption of every politically-correct proposition in the post-modern, so-called “liberal” mind. The speaker assumes there is an official "open-minded" position, that must be protected by law or force. He then insists on banning any deviation from this official “open-minded” position.
Which, incidentally, I think is absolutely correct. But! But, but, but!--This is to miss the point; it is to miss the real jelly-filling of irony at the centre of all this left-liberal intellectual dough.

Kevin Jones, of Philokalia Republic--who, I should like to point out to you, in the absence of an official translation of the Pope's more recent lecture undertakes to provide his own!--explains that the lecture that the Sapienza 67 use to indict Benedict was, in fact, a vindication of Galileo and, what's more, it was a condemnation of the legacy of the Inquisition that has found its spiritual home in the post-modern intellect. (I mean! The blistering irony of it all!) Indeed--calling to mind the recent absurdity of Mark Steyn's having to defend himself against accusations of inciting hatred against Muslims for quoting, directly, a prominent Scandinavian Mullah--Mr. Jones points out that Benedict was not speaking for himself when he said that the Inquisition's verdict against Galileo was "rational and just," but was quoting post-structuralist philosopher Paul Feyerabend ... in order to attack the position!

A good explanation is given here:
They accuse him of having said - in a lecture he gave at La Sapienza on February 15, 1990 {cfr J. Ratzinger, Wendezeit für Europa? Diagnosen und Prognosen zur Lage von Kirche und Welt, Einsiedeln-Freiburg, Johannes Verlag, 1991, pp. 59 e 71) - a statement that was actually from the philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend: "In the time of Galileo, the Church was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The trial of Galileo was reasonable and just."

But none of them bothered to read the lecture in full and carefully. Its theme was the crisis of faith in itself that science has, and he cited as an example the changing of attitudes about the Galileo case.

If Galileo had become - in the 18th century, the century of the Enlightenment - emblematic of the Church's 'medieval obscurantism', the attitude changed in the 20th century when Ernst Bloch, for instance, pointed out that Galileo never showed convincing proof of a heliocentric cosmos, to the statement by Feyerabend - described by Ratzinger in the lecture as 'an agnostic-skeptic philosopher' - and by Carl von Weiszsacker who said there was a straight line from Galileo to the atom bomb.

These citations were not used by the cardinal to seek vindication or to make justifications: "It would be absurd," he said "to construct a hasty apologetics on the basis of these statements. Faith does not grow out of resentment or the rejection of reason."

The citations he made were clearly used as proof of how much "modernity's doubts about itself have now involved even science and technology."

In other words, the 1990 lecture could well be considered - by anyone who reads it with the minimum attention - a defense of Galilean rationality against the skepticism and relativism of post-modern culture.
Surely this is the real story! That either the given interests at La Sapienza are intentionally misconstruing the Pope's words in order to advance a nakedly anti-Catholic agenda or, far worse to my mind, they have misunderstood them--and, needless to say, to the detriment of their own goddamn cause!


... I sometimes worry that conservatives have as little faith in reason as the left does.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tom Wolfe on Anti-Fascism

"Fascism" was, in fact, a Marxist coinage. Marxists borrowed the name of Mussolini's Italian party, the Fascisti, and applied it to Hitler's Nazis, adroitly papering over the fact that the Nazis, like Marxism's standard-bearers, the Soviet Communists, were revolutionary socialists. In fact, "Nazi" was (most annoyingly) shorthand for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. European Marxists successfully put over the idea that Nazism was the brutal, decadent last gasp of "capitalism." Few of their colonial cousins in America became doctrinaire, catechism-drilled Marxists, but most were soon enveloped in a heavy Marxist mist. The Marxist fable of the "capitalists" and the "bourgeoisie" oppressing "the masses" - "the proletariat"-took hold even among intellectuals who were anti-Marxist. Prior to the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939, the American Communist Party had great success mobilizing the colonials on behalf of "anti-fascist" causes such as the Loyalists' battle against the "fascist" Franco in the Spanish Civil War. "Anti-fascism" became a universal ray gun, good for zapping anybody, anywhere, from up here ... on the intellectuals' Everest of Indignation.

Tom Wolfe In the Land of the Rococo Marxists

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

Of Rotten Tricks

Here's a thing.

I was having a post-funereal feed at the local Legion Hall just now--along with all the other mourners (whose collective contributions, I should say, made up our feast)--and a woman who I didn't know approached me to inquire whether the deviled eggs were any good. (I supposed at the time that she had seen me bolting one or two at the serving table before putting another fistful atop the teetering pile of my plate ... Death for some reason always puts the glutton in me. No doubt because of the recent reminder that, one day, he'll take it out again and altogether.)

I told the woman that I was no aficionado of eggs, deviled or otherwise, but that I thought these more than passable.

"Phew," she said, and drew a pantomime hand across her sweatless brow. "I was worried they weren't any good."

"No, no," I said, not getting it yet, and going so far as to pop another in my mouth to reassure her, "they're quite tasty. Eat!"

"Oh no, thank you," she replied. "I had my fill making them. I think I'll just try some of the potato salad."

... It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people will go for approval.

But I ask you: what if the eggs had been awful? And what if I had told this Jezebel-in-a-dowdy-frock that they were so? What then?! I'll tell you what! She would have sniffed at me, and said in a defiant but trembling voice that she was sorry, that that was the best she could manage on such short notice and under such trying circumstances, and then she would've rushed from me, whimpering, making a great show of wiping at her eyes. Mrs. Snook would've been mortified past reckoning, and I should've been reminded of her humiliation for months, indeed, likely, for years to come! Dish and cat-litter duty doubled and, needless to say, no more egg and bacon breakfasts on Saturdays.

That I so narrowly missed this unpleasantness left me giddily light-headed the remainder of the meal, and it took some doing persuading the people with whom I was sharing my table that I hadn't overdone the wine--in spite of the fact that there wasn't any--as well as the food. (I've had experience with this sort of thing before; after a certain age all you need do is repeat "Oh dear!" once or twice, loosen your collar, rattle a Tic-Tac box in your fist a bit before shakily swallowing a few. Bob's your uncle.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

La Terreur

My father prefaced a link to this that he sent me the other day, with this:
All good revolutions/coups d'état are followed by 'terrors' or purges, and it appears that the New Anglicanism is at least 'orthodox' in that sense.
It certainly is hard to interpret recent events otherwise.
[Cyrus Pitman,] Anglican bishop for Labrador and eastern Newfoundland has called on his priests to disclose any involvement with a breakaway organization led by his predecessor, and do the right thing by resigning, giving up their licences to serve as ministers.

In a letter to parish priests in the diocese last month, Bishop Cyrus Pitman wrote that all ordination licences would be reissued with a mandatory renewing of vows in St. John’s Jan. 21.
The Bishop's predecessor, one Donald Harvey, is indeed the leader of "a breakaway organization"--called the Anglican Network of Canada--currently working in Canada under the authority of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. However, to call it a breakaway organization is, really, to mislead. The Anglican Church of Canada, being one of a loose-ish association of national churches aligned with the Church of England, does have its own authority and, strictly speaking, is not accountable to the Anglican Churches of other regions. But to the extent that it remains in communion with those other churches, one can no more call them "breakaway organizations" than one can call the governments of countries allied to ours "breakaway governments."

Now, why Bishop Harvey should feel the need to seek the authority of a national church outside of the one under which he lives, no doubt, complicates things. We get an indicator of the reason why here:

Pitman is not doing interviews about his letter, although a senior official in the Newfoundland and Labrador church indicated that support for Harvey's views is small.

"It needs to be noted that there is not a single priest that has left our church. Not a single congregation, not a single parish," said Geoff Peddle, executive archdeacon of the Anglican Church in eastern Newfoundland.

"There has been not a single departure from our community," Peddle said Friday.

Peddle said Harvey's decision to break with the church has had no immediate effect on other clergy.

"At a personal level, it's rather hurtful, and I'm not the only priest who feels somewhat hurt [and] a little confused by [Harvey's] actions," Peddle said. "But life goes on."


Peddle, though, said Harvey is dramatically overestimating how interested ordinary Anglicans are in the same-sex ordination controversy.

"This issue just doesn't seem to have legs in this diocese," Peddle said. "We are not hearing an outpouring of concern around this issue."

Well, no, you wouldn't, would you. Not when Anglicans who practice the historic faith are being asked to leave if they do.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Dr. Howard Fuller, Director of the al- chemically named Institute for the Trans- formation of Learning at Marquette University and former Superintendent of the Milwaukee School Board, comes to Toronto pleading the case for Afrocentric (or Africentric) schools.

You will notice, however, that he is at pains to avoid mentioning too often Afrocentrism or Black-focussed schools specifically, preferring instead to persuade us of the righteousness of his cause by invoking the universally acknowledged value, indeed virtue, of choice.

Dr. Fuller, clearly, is no fool. At least not in the political sense. Given, that is, that his record on the Afrocentric file is far from stellar. To wit: during his tenure as superintendent of the Milwaukee School Board, he was responsible for the opening of two Black-focussed schools, one of which has since been closed, the other, apparently teetering on the brink.* At best, then, that would make it a 50% failure (sorry, success) rate for Afrocentric schools in the Milwaukee School Board. Not quite the stuff, one assumes, that even the TDSB's dreams of social engineering are made of.

So, as I say, Dr. Fuller has decided to shift the focus of his agenda to that of choice. He says:
The issue isn't African-centred education versus not. The issue is still learning. [Erm ... what?!--ed.] And it could very well be that for a number of kids, that type of environment might provide the educational stimulus that they need to do better.
Clear as mud, Doc. But go on.
For me, that fight [in Toronto] is about parents having options, so it fits in to the broader framework of choice for me.

... In Toronto it's clear that you have a variety of different schools that offer curriculums to different types of kids and I guess I don't know why [an Africentric one] should be so controversial.

... When you have other types of schools that cater to families who want a certain experience for their kids, and no one seems to think that is divisive.
Well, I think they might if someone proposed, say, White-focussed schools--
I just also think that you ought to also have these other options, because the public system simply doesn't work for a whole lot of kids. And yet, they're trapped in it because they don't have another possibility.
Ooookaaay ... But this suggests a degree of rigidity in public schools that, I'm afraid, contradicts the experience of many of the people who have worked in them (as, I should say, I have--four in total), i.e. that they are so flexible as to be amorphous ... Did it occur to you that maybe that's your problem right there?

Well, I think it's a safe bet that this was at least one of the causes of the complete and utter failure of Dr. Fuller's experiments in Milwaukee (... I suspect, also, that the inevitable reductio ad absurdum of the man's ideology--in effect: one school for every one student--might've also had something to do with it):

He noted that when offering more choice came to the fore in Milwaukee, many believed a competitive system was going to make everything better. Seventeen years later, Mr. Fuller admitted the district as a whole is not faring any better academically.

However, access has improved immensely, he said, and "thousands and thousands of kids who would otherwise not have had an excellent educational opportunity have gotten it."

He offers up the example of a small Christian high school that opened for children growing up in poverty in Milwaukee.

The first graduating class in June of last year sent 11 of 12 students on to college. He said that without the school, seven of those graduates would not be anywhere near a college. "That to me is the value of choice."

No, Dr. Fuller, I think it's rather clearly the value of a Christian education, given that nothing else, by your own admission, has made any difference whatsoever. (Never mind the fact that the progressive tide in Ontario would appear to be working against the likelihood of this particular experiment being reproduced.)

Still, turning this into a matter of choice was a masterstroke. Look what it has done for something as ongoingly contentious as abortion--whoops!--a woman's right to choose.

Sure segregated schools are bad! But we're not talking about segregated schools, are we!? No. We're talking about choice!


*CTV says that the closure was due to "declining enrollment," the National Post says (and Dr. Fuller gives a similar impression himself) that it was because of "a lacklustre performance."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

From Cynicism, Hope

What is described is appalling. How it is described is divine. An oasis of a review.

... The adolescents in the movie speak through so many layers of sardonic detachment that it is impossible to like them or care what decisions they end up making. Even this oldest of teen crisis gags is shrugged off with zero emotional depth, as if everything in their lives is just one big postmodern spoof that they need only respond to with the appropriate ironic youth jargon. Their sole motivation in life is to produce flippant commentary about it. It is difficult to conceive of a more profound emotional disassociation.

In one of the movie's few unintentional ironies, it is the neurotic yuppie couple who are the most human and consequently the most sympathetic characters in the story. Jennifer Garner, in a surprising performance, is painfully anxious about her prospective adoptive motherhood, having been burned once before by another presumably less formulaically jaded teen mother. Jason Bateman's comic timing is on display, as highlighted by the movie's trailer, but also of note is his understated portrayal of a failed husband.

But the movie's good points end there. It is all resolved in a tidy, feel-good ending that manages two saccharine lies where it could have got by with only one. It is moreso an affront in that it pretends to offer some serious or credible perspective on its subject matter, where it really has only glib patter and counter-patter, like a long cocktail party conversation as imagined by a narcissist with himself.
You find yourself in the awkward position of almost being glad that the movie was so bad that it should have inspired such outstanding critique.

Hat tip to Kevin Grace for sending me the link.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Sneezedex

Witness one of the small ways in which the decline of civilization can be measured: our treatment of the sneeze.

You'll have noticed, firstly, that when you sneeze in company it is unlikely to be followed by a chorus of Bless yous anymore ... Given, however, that the politeness of this gesture has always--at least in my mind--been outweighed by its considerable fatuity, it's difficult to think of its absence from common manners as much of a loss.

But you might have noticed, too, how few people excuse themselves after they sneeze now. They just explode at you, or near you--blasting a hole in the flow of your conversation, or shattering a peaceful quiet--then mop at their noses, groan perhaps, and go on as though nothing happened. (You, needless to say, are expected to do the same.)

The reasoning here is, I suspect, that because a sneeze is involuntary--because it is not your fault--you should not be held accountable for it. But see how the litigious mindset--our ersatz common sense--veils a significant portion of the same truth: that while a sneeze may not be my fault, it is still unquestionably my responsibility.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Is this the end of coherent English?

Not too long ago, in the pages of the Telegraph, A.N. Wilson bemoaned a significant possible consequence of the smoke-free society. Unable to think of a single writer of merit who didn't, at some point, smoke, he predicted this of the smoking bans that had just swept Great Britain:
This attack on basic liberty, which was allowed through without any significant protest, might mark the end not merely of smoking, but of literature.
Ah, what charming naiveté! Would that we had the luxury of worrying about the loss of a few books, A.N., old darling. No, rather, I fear it's a great deal worse than that: the end of smoking would seem to mark not only the end of literature, but of the written word altogether. As a means of conveying basically coherent ideas, anyway.

Take this column by Micheal Den Tandt. The man fluctuates so rapidly between condemning smoking and then condemning anti-smoking zealotry that it is quite literally impossible to say what his position is, or indeed what the issue is.

He says that smoking stinks, that it is "disgusting," that doing so in a car with children is "stupid, selfish and irresponsible." But then he says that when he used to smoke he "liked it," and that he'd take it up again if it wasn't for the risks to his health. He mentions the proposed ban on smoking in cars, asking rhetorically "but surely we don't need a law?" only to suggest ten sentences later that "the best solution would be to ban tobacco outright."

From which follows this:
What does it all mean? Here's a stab at an answer. Our governments are not serious at all about stamping out tobacco smoking. But we live in a golden era, relative to other times and places, in which real health scourges are few. Politicians must do something, mustn't they, to justify their existence? "Battling" smoking fits the bill.

Our habit of addressing every social problem with new regulations and rules is slowly turning us all into simpletons, without volition or the capability of judgment. Enough already. Parents are responsible for their kids' health and safety, and must be held accountable for their choices.
Let us be grateful, for Mr. Den Tandt's sake, that he is not competing in any stabbing competitions. I mean! The blistering irony of this man, this doofus illiterate ninny, delivering that third to last sentence there--after having just suggested that parents should have their heads examined for daring to smoke in a machine that produces the equivalent of 30 cigarettes worth of exhaust every goddamn minute! (Never mind that his last sentence would appear to contradict, totally and utterly, his point ... Again: which point am I referring to? Who knows!)

J.M. Barrie (author of, amongst other great works of literature, this) said that with the introduction of tobacco to England "the glory of existence became a thing to speak of." Michael Den Tandt bears out the threat implicit in this: that without tobacco, we would be well advised not to speak in the first place.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Proper Hitchens on an Important Distinction

Let us not speak ill of the dead, but can we please also stop exaggerated praise of them? Benazir Bhutto was not the saviour of Pakistan, if anyone is. Can we please also learn to distinguish between 'democracy' and liberty, and -come to that - the rule of law.

Voting is not a sacrament, conferring automatic goodness wherever it happens. The conditions under which it takes place, and the system of government in which it is to be found, are decisive. Elections can be rigged or improperly influenced by money or intimidation. And many votes are rigged or improperly influenced - yet still get approved by powerless, easily fooled international observers who see little and are powerless to intervene. Such votes prove nothing and help nobody. If only one party has any serious hope of victory, then the vote merely serves to confirm that party in power. If the votes are on purely clan, tribal or ethnic lines, then the election confirms that division and often worsens it ...

Yet, if there is freedom of speech and of the press, if there is an independent judiciary with the power to defy the government, if law is respected and observed, a society which has no 'democracy' can be remarkably free and rulers remarkably accountable ...

Democracy can often be - and often is - the enemy of freedom under the law ... I am baffled by the way so many commentators act as if democracy by itself offers much hope to any country. Britain was free long before it was democratic, and it can be argued that it has become less free since it became more democratic - and that it has survived democracy better than most because of the strength of its freedoms and its laws.

Peter Hitchens, Pakistan and Kenya

Star daringly holds Provincial Liberals accountable for ... Federal Conservatives

You might have noticed that there's been some classic, classic stuff at the Star lately. On the first day of the New Year we were treated to this (via SDA which has some worthwhile links). Yesterday this.

I love the first line:
If our political leaders muster the will to act, 2008 could very well mark the year in the history books when the appalling but silent enemy of poverty in Canada was finally engaged.
What?! The Toronto Star wishes to engage the enemy of poverty?! Have they gone mad?! Their ailing readership finally driven them to this suggestion of impending editorial suicide? ... No, no, no. Not to worry. Turns out it's just the sort of sloppiness that's bound to occur when you're too busy fellating the federal and provincial Liberals.

... Other scintillatingly brutal sentences include:
To his credit, Premier Dalton McGuinty has made a credible, albeit modest, start to raise the incomes of the poor.
(Surely we could have fit some mention of credit cards, credit hikes, and the federal government's lack of credibility in there too?)

But with a federal election almost a certainty this year, it will be difficult for Harper to keep ignoring a problem, which Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has termed "an immense human tragedy."
Dude! Look out!

Jeez! What was that?

I can't be certain, but I think it was an immense human tragedy. It had the same hooked beak, but I didn't get a look at the markings on the wings.

And this is just outstanding:
Nowhere is the need for swift, concerted action more urgent or pressing than in Toronto. A groundbreaking United Way report last month found that nearly 30 per cent of Toronto families with children – almost 93,000 families – now live in poverty, up from 16 per cent in 1990. That rate is far higher than in the rest of the Greater Toronto Area, the province and the country. For single-parent families, the poverty rate in Toronto comes close to an astonishing 50 per cent.
Oh for God's sake! 93,000 families?! I couldn't be less convinced of this figure--given my understanding of what poverty is--if they had said a million-gazillion families.


ADDENDUM (January 3rd)

Canadian Blue Lemons links to this treatment of the deficiencies of the LIM and LICO methods of poverty measurement (Low-Income Measurement (LIM) being the method used by the United Way in the above-mentioned "groundbreaking report"). Essential reading if you're fuzzy on the means by which poverty is determined in this country.


ADDENDUM II (January 8th)

Chris Selley digs nice and deep and turns up this fantastic nugget, from a story by Peter Shawn Taylor, regarding UNICEF's claim that child poverty is up 3.3% since 1989 (my emphasis):
[A] line graph purports to show child poverty in Canada rising from 14.4 per cent in 1989 to 17.7 per cent in 2007. None of these numbers are right. The figure for 1989 was changed after Maclean's pointed out an error. And StatsCan has not yet published 2007 figures, so where did that come from? Lisa Wolff, UNICEF Canada's director of advocacy, explains that she inserted a 2005 figure for 2007 in order to make the graph appear up-to-date. But this too is wrong — 17.7 per cent is actually the 2003 number. Presented with the evidence, Wolff claims she'd rather not be "quibbling over numbers." The chart in question is designed to tell a story, she says. "The line is not a precise calibration. It is supposed to be a picture of intransigence . . . [in] child poverty rates. The story is valid."