How do you get past paragraphs noting first one, Thomas Friedman, then, Richard Florida, both popularizers of trendy “half thoughts” to determine if there might be anything of value in an essay? Swallow hard and grind on, I guess
How do you get past paragraphs noting first one, Thomas Friedman, then, Richard Florida, both popularizers of trendy “half thoughts” to determine if there might be anything of value in an essay? Swallow hard and grind on, I guess
Posted at 07:45 PM | Permalink
on neo-liberalism as I've sorted out a starting point, at least, for myself in the testing of the quality of my reading and thinking in regard to the slippery concept of liberalism and it's new bastard child. But, after getting roughly organized last night, I became restless or, maybe shy, about starting to actually put my jumbled thoughts on paper, so-to-speak, so I looked for a diversion before hitting the sack and avoiding making a start. Trials have been on my subconscious mind lately, having just finished a 3 week stint of jury duty at the local court house, thus I thought of continuing my watching of the series Garrow's Law online.
The series takes place in the 1780's, maybe 100 years after the glorious revolution and the enshrinement of, for some males, a bill of rights in the UK. But, as portrayed in the TV drama, the "justice" institution, at that time, is struggling to get marginally close to what we now might consider an appropriate structure. The program makes for reasonable drama, if nothing else, I think, and certainly amuses me, for awhile, when I watch an episode or two.
However I was distracted from even watching Garrow last night as I wandered off to search the files of cases from the Old Bailey via a link the BBC had put up on the website of their TV series. It was bizarrely fascinating to rummage around in the old case files and to trace one or two individuals through their various run ins with the courts, some to simply disappear from the files, after a point in time, and others to eventually run out of luck and get death.
An example of the latter would be John Creamer, by all accounts not a particularly bad person, and someone who today, as long as we can maintain some semblance of our modern humanism against the longing of conservatives and pretend elite progressives for the return of a form of feudalism, would likely be considered a credit to any nation of which he was a citizen.
Creamer was convicted of theft in 1769 and sentenced to death - death prior to the early 1800's was administered by short drop hanging, a bloody lovely way to go. However, he "received his Majesty's [George III] most gracious pardon" in 1770 on condition that he be transported for 14 years. Prior to 1776 - you must know the significance of this date - transportation was to the Americas i.e. the now USA [hmm Aussies celebrate that their nations' founders were the then riffraff of the UK but I've never seen it mentioned that the USA was a dumping ground for more than half a century for the UK's "criminals" prior to 1776; maybe it doesn't quite fit into a particular part of an elaborate national myth].
Poor John seems to have gotten word while in the Americas that his wife and little ones were in even more dire straits then the time he committed his first "crime" to care for them. So somehow John managed to get back to the UK and hide in the country side outside London being a family man - this feat of the poor soul is, I think, in itself a friggin adventure untold.
But John, though Irish, didn't seem to have our luck and someone recognized him while he was out for a drink - ah the bloody Irish, eh; the drink always does you in - and in September 1772 he is again before the beak at the Old Bailey and returning from transportation before time allotted was death.
John took the short drop on October 14, 1772 just across from one of the numerous Pret a Manger shops that dot modern UK. Actually you can go into the shop pick up a very good sandwich and head over to check out the massive horse head and look towards the Marble Arch and know that's where the convict John Creamer straggled at the end of a rope about 240 years ago.
After reading the Old Bailey files I'll not so easily have lunch by the Marble Arch.
Posted at 06:24 PM | Permalink
*I’ve come to think of the hilarity known as a US presidentially elect as simply an old fashion sack race with the exceptional characteristic, seemingly only really present in the USA, where the race is between a sack of bull-shit and a of horse-shit.
I somehow found myself on this page in my morning reading and, of course, immediately noticed the graphic showing the last 5 POTUS with a Roman name associate to them. Hmm, where to start: does anyone who knows even a little think the elder George Bush could be vaguely considered the great Augustus the first actual Roman Emperor. The problem with the graphic is the USA hasn't yet descended into the pit of chaos far enough to give an Augustus his opportunity to have a "revolution" and replace the Republic with an old fashion empire.
I thought at one time BO might be the USAs Augustus, no such luck. Remember when Augustus actually shifted the republic to an empire there was a massive blossoming of the arts, culture and all things I really like.
Likely I should just recognize that in my life time it will be just like Roman times and centuries of chaos and internal conflict before we get a real Augustus - if we should live so long, eh.
Posted at 08:16 PM | Permalink
from seeing a friend from the North. Just a quick coffee but great to see her. When I walked over to meet the beauty I followed my usual route: past St. Pat's Cathedral and the row of houses used by the Irish workin men who built it; I cut through the World Exchange Plaza to check on the belugas and narwhales suspended from the high high ceiling then past the stag outside the Manu Life building and on to the British High Commission to make sure the Stump Girls are still O.K.. The Girls were stolen back in 1999 when they hid out in amongst the shrubs in the front garden. Now they are out in the open but around the side of the bed, eh. I loved when they hide in amongst the shrubs and was troubled when they were stolen. I always now have a very quiet chitchat with them to make sure they are O.K. being in the open and visible to the usual completely stupefied Ottawa mob of silly servants.
The Girls were O.K. tonight so I had them pose for me again - [they are such show-offs don't you think. I do, but love them none the less]:
Posted at 09:29 PM | Permalink
Anyone who reads Steven King should know about fridgenator people. They are the characters that live in or around your refrigerator and cause things to mysteriously happen in or on it. I've always thought they are related to the sockenator people who live in and around washing machines and make off, when you are not looking, with a single sock from your favourite pair of them - bastards.
Anyway, I came downstairs this morning and my fridge people had fled the refrigerator door and where cavorting on the dining room table. I shot a few pictures of the buggers as they frolicked before herding them back to the door to plan their next diabolical mishap for my preserved food.
Posted at 06:57 PM | Permalink
"More and more Americans who have done nothing wrong find themselves unable to fly, and in some cases unable to return to the U.S., without any explanation whatsoever from the government," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "A secret list that deprives people of the right to fly and places them into effective exile without any opportunity to object is both un-American and unconstitutional."
So I'll wring my hands, but, I know that once you have a bureaucracy it's difficult, if even possible, to turn it off from it's role, which may have been precisely defined to start, but becomes vague over time. This recent list making mania is a nice example of this general rule about man made organizations which are devised to protect an ideology, rulers - elected or otherwise, and, the all time favourite, national security which really encompasses the other two I think.
The only difference between harsh or brutal, authoritarian regimes and our democratic authoritarian models, regarding the information gathered about us, I think, is that we have a sense we can openly talk about it. In harsh regimes you can't talk about it openly, as individuals, and their forms of media are usually directly control by the government authorities. Whereas ours publish occasional stories about the matter thus supporting the illusion of a free press; providing good cover for a corporate controlled agenda - which maybe good or bad; and allowing most to luxuriate in complacence about our wonderful society.
The list mania seems reminiscent of the East German Stasi, an unchecked bureaucracy which, as all seem to do, just keep running, almost like perfect perpetual motion machine but producing next to nothing of any value. But a useful tool for terror and wholesale or selective oppression.
And to think, if Cullen Murphy is correct, it all may have started with the Inquisitions and you know how long those little fandangos went on. A good summary of Murphy's thesis was in The Publishers Weekly and it chillingly rings true for aspects of the current list making mania of undesirables, I think:
"… while the inquisitions most often are associated with the Church, they arise anytime an organization, state, or institution possesses and uses tools—such as censorship and torture—to stoke and manage suspicion, intolerance, and hatred of the other. Inquisitions require a system of law that can be administered with uniformity, the power to conduct interrogations and extract information, a bureaucracy with a large staff of individuals to administer it, a capacity to restrict the communications of others, and a source of power to ensure enforcement. Murphy powerfully shows that the impulse to inquisition can quietly take root in any system—civil or religious—that orders our lives."
Posted at 11:14 AM | Permalink
Some other than me must wish Feynmen or his elike were more plentiful.
I don't like honors, they're rotten:
Posted at 06:34 PM | Permalink
The chief of the Attawapiskat reservation said last night that the reason Harper’s government has unilaterally imposed non-1st Nation outside rule over her people is that his government has been embarrassed by the Red Cross having to fly into her land and attempt to save her people. Bear in mind that the federal government, currently controlled by Harper, has the fundament responsibility for all 1st Nations people in Canada. Harper has been saying that the reservation received about $90 million over 5 years from the federal government thus, he seems to be implying, what is the problem for the 1293 Nation members? After all that is about $69,600 for each individual or about $13,900 per year.
Actually for the fiscal year ended on March 31, 2011 the reservation received about $15,160 per person of federal funding so Harper was basing his defence on broad averages it seems. It also seems he likes to quote 5 year totals because, I think, it sounds like a lot of money to the average Canadian and gives his rather mean spirited, aka, I think, modern Christians, base something to chew on as well as talking points to attack anyone questioning his rule. Gad those large numbers say it all don’t they.
Well any one, can check the Attawapiskat’s audited books and financial statements as they are available online here: http://j.mp/rsjGBd. My check, [don’t you wish sometime that one, it could be anyone of the oodles of journalists, is that what they call them, working for any news organization might have gone to actually have a look at the books so-to-speak before just copying down what Harper et all have said] didn’t reveal anything earth chattering.
Oh, by the way, I wonder what the Band’s audit firm in Timmons might think of Harper seizing financial control and indicating a forensic audit will take place. Has there been some skulduggery here? Remember that a forensic audit is, in simple terms, just the application of auditing skills to situations that have legal consequences. Maybe but I think not.
Anyway since I know a bit about Nunavut and particularly its finances I thought I’d do a few back-of-the-envelop comparison for just one fiscal year between the situation for the average citizen of the territory versus an Attawapiskat resident. I picked 2010 the last year the Nunavut government has completed and published the AGs audited public accounts. I’m not doing any tables, as I said these are rough comparisons. So:
in 2010 Attawapiskat (Att) received $19.6 million in federal transfers, Nunavut (NU) received $1.231 billion; that’s $15,160 per resident of Att and $36,969 per NU resident.
in 2010 Att spent $30.522 million to run its community, NU spent $1.505 billion to run the territory; that’s $23,606 per resident of Att and $45,187 per NU resident.
And just one final little factoid, to provide a bit of perspective regarding Harper’s $90 million over 5 years talking point, over the same 5 year period Nunavut received from the federal government $4.975 billion. The come back to my factoid would be that 1st Nations don’t pay income taxes so lets reduce Nunavut’s federal transfer total by the amount its taxable residents pay in net federal income taxes. I’ve used CRAs interim statistics to get an approximate indication over the 4 years from 2006 to 2009 and grossed up 2009 by about 6% for 2010. This gives me a total of $375.6 million so net federal transfers to Nunavut over 5 years, assuming its residents make no real contribution to the federal government, would be $4.975 billion - $.3756 billion or $4.5994 billion.
I wonder how the per capita Nunavut federal transfers compare to the number Harper has been mentioning for Attawapiskat? Lets see:
Att $90 million divided by approximately 1,293 residents divided by 5 years, as we said above, = $13,900; and
NU $4.5994 billion divided by approximately 32,000 residents divided by 5 years = $28,746
I’ve no general conclusion from my little trip into audited public statements for two very remote places in Canada that are, under the best of conditions, extremely challenging to govern and administer. I do, however, have a feeling in my stomach that we have just seen, yet again, the nasty and mean spirited Harper and his government if they are cornered, embarrassed or opposed.
Posted at 05:02 PM | Permalink
Posted at 07:25 PM | Permalink
I've noted on Twitter regarding demonizing any particular national group, in this case some Greeks versus Germans, for past acts is a dangerous and I think foolish course. David Rieff deals with the whole bloody mess in his book Against Remembrance and his recent essay in Harper's: After 9/11 The limits of remembrance (also you can listen to him on ABCs Late Night Live talking to Phillip Adams about it here )
Confabulating current economic messes with past horrors is a mistake made by the panicked and fearful. These individuals need some sense that history is not going to repeat itself in any form. This sense can come from a respected political leadership. However in the case of Greece the political elite appears bankrupt and completely inadequate for the current crises. I, also, suspect now that the elite is considered illegitimate in terms of its governance and maybe even be being considered by some as quislings. In other words Greece's political class is now kaput.
The vast majority of the present day population of Greece, over 83%, was born after the situation described below in an excerpt from Richards Evans 3rd volume of the history of the Third Reich titled The Third Reich at War. However that doesn't stop myths and other elaborate tales being woven about the time and events by families and passed down as grievances ready to be trotted out nationally by any wishing to add to or benefit from the present chaos.
As German troops entered Athens, tired, hungry and without supplies, they began to demand free meals in restaurants, to loot the houses in which they were billeted, and to stop passers-by in the streets and relieve them of their watches and jewellery. One inhabitant of the city, the musicologist Minos Dounias, asked:
Where is the traditional German sense of honour? I lived in Germany thirteen years and no one cheated me. Now suddenly . . . they have become thieves. They empty houses of whatever meets their eye. In Pistolakis’s house they took the pillow-slips and grabbed the Cretan heirlooms from the valuable collection they have. From the poor houses in the area they seized sheets and blankets. From other neighbourhoods they grab oil paintings and even the metal knobs from the doors.
While the ordinary troops were stealing what they could, supply officers were seizing large quantities of foodstuffs, cotton, leather and much else besides. All available stocks of olive oil and rice were requisitioned. 26,000 oranges, 4,500 lemons and 100,000 cigarettes were shipped off the island of Chios in the first three weeks of the occupation. Companies such as Krupps and I. G. Farben sent in agents to effect the compulsory purchase of mining and industrial facilities at low prices.
As a result of this massive assault on the country’s economy, unemployment in Greece rocketed and food prices, already high because of the damage caused by military action, went through the roof. Looting and requisitioning led to peasant farmers hoarding their produce and attacking agents sent from the towns to collect the harvest. Local military commanders tried to keep produce within their region, disrupting or even cutting off supplies to the major cities. Rationing was introduced, and while the Italians began to send in extra supplies to Greece to alleviate the situation, the authorities in Berlin refused to follow suit, arguing that this would jeopardize the food situation in Germany. Soon hunger and malnutrition were stalking the streets of Athens. Fuel supplies were unavailable, or too expensive, to heat people’s houses in the cold winter of 1941-2. People begged in the streets for food, ransacked rubbish bins for scraps, and in their desperation started to eat grass. German army officers amused themselves by tossing scraps from balconies to gangs of children and watching them fight for the pieces. People, especially children, succumbed to disease, and began dying in the streets. Overall death rates rose five- or even sevenfold in the winter of 1941-2; the Red Cross estimated that a quarter of a million Greeks died as a result of hunger and associated diseases between 1941 and 1943.
The general state of hunger and exhaustion of the Greek people meant that there were few attempts at armed resistance in the first year or so of the occupation, and no co-ordinated leadership.
The Third Reich at War 1939 - 1945, Richard J. Evans (Penguin Books 2010) 156 - 157
Posted at 02:25 PM | Permalink
The first of the Noble Prizes were announced this morning. The Prize for medicine being number one and this year it is being share by 3 individuals named by the AP in the following manner
"American Bruce Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann shared the $1.5-million award with Canadian-born Ralph Steinman …".
I understand from reading the AP press release, published in the Globe & Mail, that messieurs [doctors, maybe] Beutler et Hoffmann are USA and French born natives respectively whereas Steinman is a bit of a mystery. Seems he was born in what Voltaire referred to as "quelques arpents de neige", aka Canada, and is affiliated with Rockefeller University in New York but we are left to puzzle as to whether he is a USA or Canada person.
Does it matter where Steinman came from originally and where he is now? Not likely, except maybe to form stories in which happenstance and serendipity play some role in the narrative. So why bother to identify the nationality now or at birth of recipients?
I guess it doesn't really matter where Dr. Steinman originally came from because just now know he died 3 days before the award was announced.
Posted at 08:16 AM | Permalink
I wrote the piece below the line on September 7, 2006 as the "anniversary season", my terminology for 9/11 & Katrina, approached. I think the general gist of the piece still stands up pretty well after 5 year
The last days of August and the beginning days of September are usually the time associated with the end of summer and starting, or going back, to school, or going back to work.
In the US now, it is a time to mark anniversaries of two recent events, that have captured that country's public imagination.
The events are, of course, the destruction caused by hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, to Louisiana - New Orleans in particular - as well as, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers, in New York city, on 9/11/01.
Since Katrina was a natural occurring event, I'm betting that, with the exception of those directly effected, public remembrance of it will fade from significance relatively quickly. For the general public, and for history, it will likely become famous only as a symbol of official US administrative incompetence and always associated with the beginning of the decline of George W Bush.
The destruction of the twin towers is another story. Almost from the moment it happened, it has taken on a hugely prominent position in US history.
For example, it is normally characterized as, "the day the world changed", and the use of this phrase to characterize the events of the day began on 9/11.
Should we, or our MSM people, agree with this characterization of 9/11? Maybe. The CBC in announcing some of their programs for the anniversary, on Monday, have been referring to the day using the phrase. A Google search, on variations of the phrase associated with the date 9/11, returns about 56 million references.
Myself, I think there are other days which are more significant - the boxing day big wave for one - but my view fails to consider that the 9/11 event and that phrase - "the day the world changed" - could be used in an extremely successful way politically.
The symbolic significance for the US of 9/11 is beyond question. It has likely now surpassed 7/12/41 - Pearl Harbour Day. The latter, of course, being the "the day that will live in infamy". This anniversary is now fading from symbolic significance as those alive at the time simply die off.
On 9/11, I understood the use of the phrase by the MSM, but thought it was an exaggeration. That day it was the result of shock, fear, horror, finally defiance and determination to get back at "something". On 9/11/ even the MSM was being careful about what or who it was that needed to be gotten back at, however. No one wanted to make the same mistakes they had made after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma.
Then, as now, for me, the awfulness of that day's events were best captured by the simple background sounds on the videos that had been recorded by amateurs as the second plane crashed into the north tower. I remember, still now, the voices on those videos. The truly human - "Oh my god" - reaction to what people were watching is what registered the effect of the terrible event on those outside the towers in NYC, and to me. For the poor souls trapped in the upper stories inside, the few uncensored MSM live commentator references, after the first plane struck and before the second hit, to people jumping provided a surreal sense of their awful situation (within less than an hour you go from having or serving breakfast to deciding to jump to your death from 1000 feet up).
The world did change after the planes hit the towers. Though, I don't think it needed to, or at least, it didn't need to change in the radical way it seems to have.
Whether democracies made new policies independently based on their own assessment of the events of 9/11 is a question in my mind to which I'm only likely to find an answer sometime in the future. For the time being, I suspect the US, both directly and indirectly, influenced the direction most democracies chose to follow in adopting new policies and practices regarding the "new" terrorism.
For example: the Center for Strategic and International Studies lists, as an accomplishment since that day, that the US administration and its allies "pursued stronger, harmonized counterterrorism laws and practices globally" (the original link seems to have gone missing over time so here is a link to a pdf publication CSIS compiled re the 5th year assessment of the war on terror). Some renewed cooperation would have occurred normally, but I'll bet, when countries were drawing up new anti-terrorist legislation the shadow of the current US administration was flitting around the legislative drafting rooms.
In some sense, since that day, the democratic world has gone a bit crazy. It seems that every new terrorist incident, or potential incident, provide more reasons for politicians to consider broader authoritarian powers.
The chain of events goes something like this: a terrorist bombing occurs or terrorist suspects are arrested for plotting something; a senior politician will give a speech or comment for the media that the freedoms we all take for granted are under attack -(terrorist, particularly of the Muslim variety, hate our freedoms); then, another senior politician or the same one that gave the speech or provided the comment, will suggest new legislative measures to limit the freedoms we take for granted.
I'm afraid but not of terrorists or bombings. I'm afraid that 9/11 will be considered "the day the world changed" by historians when they consider the events that provided an opportunity for politicians, in liberal democracies, to shift their societies more towards authoritarian rule.
For some reason I like Jackie Kay likely 'cause she sounds like my aunt annie but maybe because of her enthusiasm between readings eh.
The Edinburgh bookfest has her in their background image on twitter along with Ian Rankin also.
And her reading 3 poems in 2008, I think. I do love the mid one, eh:
Posted at 08:35 PM | Permalink