Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Disco Sarko!

I love it!

Why is it that the politicians that you get excited about are never the ones you get to vote for?

(Link via Andrew Potter)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Makes You Want To Buy A Hummer or Two

"Global Cool is very aware of how tiresome a bunch of rock stars and movie actors can appear when trying to tell the public how to run their lives. "... but they're going to do it anyway!

There's nothing quite like Sienna Miller advising you to "Try Not To Fly". Here's Ms. Miller in New York yesterday, and here she is at Sundance last week, and at the Golden Globes the week before. No wonder the girl manages to stay so slim, that's an awful lot of cycling!

(Link via WWTDD)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sudan Not to Chair AU

Sudan has been stopped from assuming the leadership of the African Union by other African nations.

This can hardly be seen as a victory as it was preposterous that it had ever been promised to them in the first place. Apparently the terms they were given last year was that they needed to make progress "progress in bringing peace to Darfur".

That's a pretty low standard for leadership. "Try not to kill anyone for a little while and we'll put you in charge."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sudan to Chair AU

Sudan is set to chair the African Union. Some are lobbying to prevent them taking the leadership of the AU, but the decision to give the genocidal regime the chairmanship was made only last year when the atrocities in Darfur were already well documented.

"Countries with peacekeeping contingents in Darfur, such as Senegal and South Africa, are among those opposed, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks."
"Whatever you do, don't let anyone know my government opposes genocide!"


“We hope that today’s announcement brings a small amount of comfort to Mr. Arar and his family, however, the Official Opposition will continue to hold this government accountable for their actions with respect to Mr. Arar,” said Mr. Dion.

If the Liberals had been in power in 2002, they would never have let the Syrians torture a Canadian citizen!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ryszard Kapuscinski, RIP

Ryszard Kapuscinski died on Tuesday in Poland. Kapuscinski was among my favourite authors. It is rare to find a book about civil war or dictatorship that is hard to put down, and yet he managed time and time again.

Of course, not everyone is convinced of Kapuscinski's genius. Today in Slate, Jack Shafer accuses him of being a liar.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another Good Reason to Support Sarko

As if the fact that Jacques Chirac despises him (and my school girl crush) wasn't enough, Nicolas Sarkozy's main rival for president, Segolene Royal, has declared her support for Quebec separatism.

Then again, I suppose if a declared separatist is allowed to be the Viceregal Consort of Canada then it's hypocritical to demand higher standards from the potential heads of state of other countries.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The BBC is a "reputable news organisation"

I was (belatedly) reading the obituary of Hrant Dink on the BBC's website. The article explains that the murdered journalist wrote about the "genocide" of the Armenian Turks. I am somewhat confused, as I was under the impression that he actually wrote about the Armenian genocide.

The obituary is sprinkled with "alleged" and "Armenians say" and ends with the line "Ankara denies the allegations, saying the death were a part of World War I in the dying days of the Ottoman empire." Which is another way of saying, "we feel obligated enough to honour the memory of a fellow journalist with a brief little article, but not nearly obligated enough to piss off the Turkish government."

I'm really starting to believe that there is a Zionist conspiracy. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doubts the Jewish genocide, the whole world erupts in outrage. And yet major news organisations regularly question the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians and nobody seems to care.

Then again, maybe they're just afraid of getting shot.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

You have got to be kidding me

Mayor Miller has a solution to the problem of crime in Scarborough: the media should stop making reference to Scarborough when reporting crime. Instead, a crime should be said to have occurred near the closest intersection to the event. After all, (thanks to David Miller's BFF Mike Harris) Toronto is one big city! As we all know, the second major cause of crime, after poverty, is low self esteem. In no time, the people of Scarborough are going to be feeling much better about themselves, and the need to hurt somebody just so that they can feel something (anything) will be gone.

Come on everyone, give Scarberia Scarborough a hug! Do they have a ribbon yet? They should get a ribbon! Everyone wear ecru for Scarborough!

Link via Torontoist

Not quite enough rope to hang him by

It seems Saddam's half-brother's head fell off when they were hanging him. Ooops! Now, I know that I'm supposed to be morally outraged by this, but I will confess that my reaction was "I hope it hurt!". In general, I am opposed to the death penalty, but when it comes to disposing of remnants of a genocidal regime I can't seem summon the compassion to care.

Having said that -- and I realise that I am extremely late in commenting -- Saddam should have been made to stand trial for his other crimes, particularly the Anfal campaign, before he was put to death.

However, I don't buy the argument that the chaotic nature of his execution made Saddam into a victim or significantly increased sympathy for him across the Arab world. It certainly highlighted the sectarianism within Iraq which is a problem for reasons that extend far beyond bringing the Baathists to justice. However, if you are the sort of person who is capable of seeing a victim in a genocidal dictator, are you really going to be swayed by bureaucratic order at the gallows?

Of course both Saddam's trial and his execution could have gone much more smoothly, and I wish that they had. But then I remember that Ratko Mladic is still living as a free man in Europe, and given the choice between imperfect justice and no justice at all, I know which I will pick.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Video Surveillance

A few months ago, it was decided that they would put video surveillance cameras in my neighbourhood to protect visiting suburbanites during the holiday season. The business community wants to continue with this practice because they have the idea that this will make the area seem safer to outsiders. While I personally love nothing more than filthy consumerism, I think that taking the "no really, it's safe here!!!" approach keeps the memory of the 2005 Boxing Day murder fresh in everyone's mind. Torontoist weighs in on both sides of the video surveillance debate here.

I am against public video surveillance, but I never seem to agree with the publicly stated arguments against it. Here in Canada, those that oppose it tend to focus on the fact that a certain class of society will be targeted (i.e. the types of people that commit crimes. Which may involve racial, gender, age and socioeconomic "profiling"). While, there is probably a partial truth in that claim, regular people aren't likely to be swayed by an argument that says "these cameras will only target people who are statistically most likely to commit violent crime". Sadly they also rely on the fact that video surveillance isn't effective. This approach is wrong for two reasons: 1st as technology (particularly facial recognition) improves, video surveillance will become more effective (as most people actually don't want to walk around wearing hoodies and baseball caps, that level of protection is only useful to a certain subset of the population) and the argument becomes invalid; 2nd it assumes that were it effective it would be worth doing and causes people to look for better ways to monitor the public.

For example, while prohibitively expensive, the state could hire someone to follow us around at all times whenever we go out in public, keeping track of what we do. At first this would seem strange and intrusive, but eventually we would get used to it and continue to act as we did before we were tracked by human monitors. We are not required to interact with these people, and they can't follow us into our homes so what's the big deal? It keeps all of us safe, and is far more effective than video cameras. Unless I'm doing something wrong, why do I have reason to be worried? Private companies do it all the time, hiring plainclothes security guards who follow suspicious lookin' folk as they walk through stores.

Now, most reasonable people would agree that human monitors are a decidedly bad idea. But why? If video cameras are allowed to record every move that we make when we are outside (and when people start making reference to how effective it has been in London, that is essentially what we are talking about), the state could have a person remotely watch everything we do in public at all times. Whether or not this is actually what would occur, they would have that ability. I suppose that you could argue that because the media of the lens and the screen intervene, it is not the same thing (what a good little McLuhanite you are, do go on....).

So yes, Walmart may choose to track every move I make while I am in their store, but this is very different than the state tracking me as I walk the streets to work. First of all, Walmart is private property and I don't actually have a right to be there. And, despite their everyday low prices, I don't actually need to go into a Walmart. As a Canadian, I am allowed to walk the streets at will. Since I have decided not to be a hermit, I am required to walk on public streets at least some of the time. Walmart allows me to enter their establishment with the understanding that I am likely there to buy things or at least browse what they have to offer. Should I have a reputation as a trouble causer, they would have every right to ask me to leave. Despite what the Naomi Kleins of the world think, the fact that we treat private establishments like public places does not actually make it so. Unless there is a warrant out for my arrest or I am breaking the law at that time, the fact that I am a known 'trouble causer' would not be a perfectly legitimate reason to ask me to leave Yonge St.

Furthermore, should I take something off the shelf at Walmart, they have every right to stop me from leaving their premises unless I pay for the item or put it back on the shelf. If I do not do so, they can call the police and have them look into the matter. Walmart cannot, however, get a description of me, investigate, take me from my home, put me on trial and lock me in a cage for a year until I learn my lesson. Because we give the state this right (and, like most people, I think that it is good that we do to maintain order in society), we have to limit the power that we give them in general.

When I hear that video cameras have helped to capture terrorists or people who raped and murdered small children, there is certainly part of me that feels that is temporarily swayed by the "surveillance = protection" argument. But the fact remains that installing video cameras on public streets means that we have given the police the power to monitor the movement of free people through society at all times. There are many ways that we could let the government intervene in our lives to make us safe, but that doesn't mean that we should (I'm looking at you New York City). Every time we give them more power, we deny ourselves rights. No, I don't have the right to go out in public unseen, but I should have the right to participate in public life without being under constant monitoring by the state.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Have We Learned Nothing in Over 40 Years?

ABC's Primetime News has replicated the Milgram Obedience Experiments. The findings are quite troubling.

It seems that they were able to find 40 well educated people who, when asked to obey an authority figure and administer increasingly painful electrical shocks to another human being as part of a study on learning and memory, did not respond "hey, wait a minute, isn't this the Milgram experiment?".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Germany Backs Out of Worst Idea Ever

Germany has come to its senses and pulled out of a research project to build a European search engine that will compete with Google (hee!). The French remain committed to the search engine that is to be named "Quaero", which apparently translates literally as "I seek" in Latin, but is better defined as "boondoggle".

The project which was initially expected to cost between 1 to 2 billion Euros, and therefore likely to cost between 10-12 billion Euros before it gets off the ground, will take an innovative approach to search. Like traditional search engines, it will allow users to type their query into a web based search box. However, rather than instantaneously returning a list web pages or "hits" (which we can all agree is a decidedly Anglo-America approach to search), a committee of French intellectuals and civil servants fresh out of ENA will determine the best source for a particular piece of information and send it to the user by mail.

Link via Passport

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Believe it or not I didn't forget that I have a blog. I was in Paris for a week and have spent the time since I've been back relaxing. New Year's resolution: more frequent posts.