Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Old 'In and Out': How the end justifies the means

Stephan Dion observed accurately if somewhat tritely that
"you don't cheat for nothing.You cheat to have an effect".

Obviously, the flouting of the Election law could be justified if one believes that the greater good is served by the Conservative party forming the government. How charmingly marxist.

The cynic in me can't but believe that some where the calculation was made that the Canadian public wouldn't take an interest in what could be perceived as an accounting error. A general policy of stonewalling the media and the legal tactic of filing civil suits when facing opposition has obsfucated various issues, including the afghan detainee file, the medical isotopes file and the Cadman affair, among others.

The belief in the Tory party, that the benefits of a Conservative government out ways any costs of achieving electoral victory, reveals a fundamental deficit of integrity; That is to say the Conservative party does not think, act and speak in concert, with clarity and frankness.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Best of 2008- music that is...

so far this year...according to all Music Guide:

American Music Club - The Golden Age
Autechre - Quaristice
Autistic Daughters - Uneasy Flowers
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War
Beach House - Devotion
The Black Crowes - Warpaint
Black Milk - Caltroit
Black Mountain - In the Future
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies
Los Campesinos - Hold on Now, Youngster…
Chessie - Manifest
Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Sheryl Crow - Detours
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
Ray Davies - Working Man’s Cafe
Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
Raheem DeVaughn - Love Behind the Melody
DeVotchKa - A Mad and Faithful Telling
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull
Liam Finn - I’ll Be Lightning
The Five Blind Boys of Alabama - Down in New Orleans
The Fleshtones - Take a Good Look
Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
Howlin Rain - Magnificent Fiend
Alan Jackson - Good Time
Junior Boys - Body Language, Vol. 6
Kelley Polar - I Need You to Hold on While the Sky Is Falling
The Kills - Midnight Boom
Justus Köhncke - Safe and Sound
Charles Lloyd - Rabo de Nube
Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin’
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Bob Mould - District Line
Nada Surf - Lucky
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
David “Fathead” Newman - Diamondhead
Panic at the Disco - Pretty. Odd
Connie Price & the Keystones - Tell Me Something
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust (US Bonus Tracks)
The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
School of Language - Sea from Shore
Sons & Daughters - This Gift
Kelley Stoltz - Circular Sounds
Otis Taylor - Recapturing the Banjo
These New Puritans - Beat Pyramid
Times New Viking - Rip It Off
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Larry Willis - The Offering
Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers
Yip-Yip - Two Kings of the Same Kingdom (CD/DVD)

I'lllet you know my read later...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Preaching to the converted

The failure of the NDP to rise federally is reflected in this article:

"My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him."-Lee Harris, 'Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology' in Policy Review

The desire to stand "at the right hand of God" seems to trump rationality and common sense. I suppose it arises from a human desire to raise one's social capital by showing a disingenuous commitment to the causes of one's companions. A support of the party rather than the policy. And at risk of generalising, this emotional drive informs religious fundamentalists, social activists, political ideologues and self-righteous prigs.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Polls; lies, damn lies and statistics

the major polling companies publish their poll results and those results are duly reported in the media.

The Ipsos Reid poll, published in the CanWest group of newspapers, put support for the Conservatives at 35 percent, unchanged from a poll in March. But support for the Liberals fell to 30 percent, from 32 percent.- from Reuters

However a summary of headlines based on this poll includes:

Tories and Liberals remain deadlocked, new poll suggests The Canadian Press

Tories hold on to poll leadNational Post, Canada

Then a poll released about a week ago gives

Ten-Point Lead for Conservatives in Canada Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research, April 02, 2008
Outlying statistics are loudly reported, but the boring fact that the published 3 week averages produced but generally under reported show little variation from Tories with 34%, Grits with 30% Dippers with 16%. The Greens are slowly growing and the Bloq slowly waning. The big issue is that with the current stable popularity of the various parties, the Liberals will gain seats, and the Bloq and NDP will lose seats if an election were called. The Conservatives will remain a minority government.

I'm not sure why the Liberals don't force a confidence motion, since they'll gain seats in an election, and probably the NDP and Bloq will prop up the government lest they lose seats in any current election. Currently, an election would help then Liberals and the greens, because both would gain some seats. The Conservatives would look like half-milers because they'll still be in minority.

Expect the election when the snow melts. A gain in seats would strenghten Dion's position(I think his nuanced positions will gain currency against that of the bully-boy, backroom Tories). I think the Greens will be the big winners next time around because the parlour pink socialists of the NDP and the psuedo-left Bloq will melt with the late spring. Knowing that the next government will also be a minority should help relieve the pressure for strategic voting.

Certainly, ending the government by fiat of Stephen Harper's Tories would allow us to go forward in a more kindly and effective way as a nation.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's the story: Facts and journalism

"look, don't try to get me to say something I don't believe in"
-Wolf Burnett, marathoner and former Olympic torch bearer.

I heard an interview with Wolf Burnett on the CBC local morning radio show. The host, Mike Finnerty had been trying to get Mr.Burnett to admit there was a political aspect to the Olympic torch relay. This of course in reference to the protests on behalf of Tibet.

The point is that journalist frames the story, rather than reporting. The most egregious example is the Fox news slogan "We report.You decide" Fox regularly beggar's the question by their choices of what they report. But virtually all news gatherers recontextualise news to suit their own "tribal" bias.

Although I feel Mr.Burnett is mistaken that the Olympics is about peace and freedom, I don't appreciate hearing 84 year old holocaust survivors being badgered by journalists. The truth is, the CBC couldn't get an interview with anyone else, say a spokesperson from the Chinese consulate, who would offer a more germane argument as to why the Olympics isn't political. Again the the Olympics have always had political biases . The Third Reich used the 1936 Olympics to promote its racist ideologies(and failed), and the Warsaw Pact nations used them to trumpet its social successes under communist rule.

But the interview this morning was a cheap shot. I'm glad Wolf Burnett called the interviewer on it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Magical realism, indie rock and the automobile

I've noticed that car commercials on televison seem to increasingly use magical realism as a trope. The ad for the Nissan Versa features the vehicle magically bouncing over traffic. The theme to that commercial is "Quality of Armor" by mystical indie rockers Guided By Voices.

Oh yeah going to drive my car
Oh yeah going to go real far
Beyond a shadow of a doubt
Beyond the power of your clout

The rather stolid characteristics of personal vehicle as personal armor have featured in both the design and marketing of north american cars in the last few years.
the worst offense is intelligence
the best defense is belligerance

"Quality of armor" satirises these attitudes so it seems appropriate that it is helping introduce smaller and more sociable vehicles. But marketing these vehicles still seems to offer freedom and control.
Oh yeah going to drive my car
Oh yeah going to go real far
Beyond a shadow of a doubt
Beyond the power of your clout
Beyond the secrets of this world
beyond the Montezuma Halls

Still I like the crunchy rhythm of the song. And hope I can convince the wife to ditch the car.

"Quality of Armor" written by R.Pollard. from the album "Propellor"1992 http://www.gbv.com/music.html downloaded April 6, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rolling the Dice on Climate Change

I just read this

Dangerous games: selfishness v altruism on climate change

on the Enviroment Blog over at New scientist magazine. The thrust of that post was that people tend to risk all if they think there is an even chance of personal benefit. This means that if people think they have a 50/50 chance of coming out ahead by not doing anything about climate change well, bring on the Hummers and coal fired generators(even my so-called environmental activist brother idles his truck in summer to keep the ac working, and burns logs in his fireplace year round).

When you consider the proportion of popular press articles arguing for or against climate change(50/50) versus the peer reviewed scientific articles(100% the climate is getting warmer, we are responsible, and the consequences, conservatively speaking, look bad).

Journalistic "Balance" in a broader sense is guilty of a logical fallacy - an appeal to authority(Govier, 1988). The arguements or claims of individuals and organisations that have limited knowledge or a vested interest in presenting false information are give the same weight as that of those whose knowledge is expected to be accurate. Another logical fallacy- an appeal to ignorance("How are we supposed to know, we're journalists, not scientists, so we gave them equal billing) is even more despicable, because it serves to hide bias- 'We report, you decide!"

I admire the polymath, the jack-of-all-trades, those with broad talents- but a press release is not the same as a body of careful scientific research. The individuals presented to give balance, individuals who often are very accomplished in many fields, are not the same as the scientists who do specialised research into this, and other fields of inquiry. Journalists are pandering to our own worst instincts when journalists give equal weight to climate change deniers.

Govier, Judy. A Practical Study of Arguement. Wadsworth, Belmont,CA 1988, p329

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tory souverainistes; Is Harper just Mulroney redux?

In todays Globe and Mail:

Tories plan to bolster Quebec in Constitution

Is this another cynical tory ploy to boost their fortunes in quebec by making an alliance with those that would eviscerate our country? Remember that Brian Mulroney used a similar alliance with the Parti Quebecois in the 1980's to gain power. That political strategy raised the fortunes of the PQ and lead to the rise of Lucien Bouchard, the Bloc Quebecois and the 1995 referendum.

This cynicism, on the part of the current government, has brought Canada to an existential crisis before. It must not be allowed to happen again.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster