Saturday, July 28, 2007

News from the U.S.

Two recent news items make it clear why Americans should never take their freedoms for granted: in one, a North Carolina couple were harassed and arrested by a policeman for flying a flag upside down outside their house as a protest against President Bush; in another, a Florida man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for possessing a quantity of prescription drugs for which he did, in fact, have a prescription. (He has since been released.) As the famous saying has it: "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance." In other words, we grow complacent at our peril.

Think locally, eat globally

Tonight while shopping at my local supermarket I noticed that the American- made Doritos brand of nacho chips boasts a new flavour called "Tandoori Sizzler". (Despite being well aware that any variety of Doritos represents a nutritional dead- end, I bought a bag, and found it to quite yummy too, at least when taken with beer -- courageously spicy, in fact.) In other aisles I also noticed freshly made naan bread, as well as a variety of chutneys and tinned Indian sauces. All this was is in a store serving a catchment area of perhaps ten thousand rural people, of whom only a couple dozen, at most, are from the Indian subcontinent.

I've said or at least suggested in the past that globalization should never get a free pass just because it is the buzzword of the moment, and to be accepted uncritically as inevitable or desirable whatever its effects. But it is fair to say that in gastronomical terms, at least, the importation of foreign ideas and items has been an unmixed blessing. I was born and at least partly raised in Scotland and, while I believe there are underestimated glories in Scottish and British cuisine, for the most part I look back on the food of my childhood and wonder how I managed to keep most of it down. I can just about get away with claiming Italian cooking as part of my family heritage thanks to my wife, whose mother hails from the region between Rome and Naples, but apart from that if I were going to try to be a purist and reject foreign influences in my cuisine I'd probably never eat again at all. (The staple dish of the Scottish Gaels -- a small but great people distinguished for their magnificent tradition of poetry and song, not to mention their martial valour -- is a mixture of smoked herring with potato.) --I've been told by local old- timers in Cape Breton that when broccoli first appeared in stores here a few decades ago it languished on the shelves unbought, since nobody knew what it was or what was to be done with it.

And so, if ever we find that the world is changing far more quickly than we would like, we can at least always find consolation for that fact in stuffing ourselves silly with the latest imported treat to hit our shelves.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Explosion at Spaceport

An explosion occurred at the Mojave Air and Space Port at 2:34 pm PDT. This is the location where Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's space venture firm was testing out a new rocket.
Lesson learned? Space travel is dangerous. However, the proper response of government should be to do nothing. Risky ventures can open up new frontiers literally and the people involved know what they are getting themselves into. Innovation is dangerous.

Societies that are totally risk averse, however, do not progress and lack of progression is equivalent to decay. Anyone who doubts this need look no further than the Ming Dynasty. After centuries of progress, they declined when they shut their borders to the outside world, hoping that a wall would keep out dangerous innovations. This stagnation continued through to the Qing dynasty and ended when the British sailed up the Yangtze river technologically and militarily superior. The source of the divergence between East and West was the risk tolerance of the two societies.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friends like these...

Pakistan has just tested a nuclear capable missile. Considering the fact that Pakistan is one of the biggest exporters of terrorism alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran, this piece of news is hardly one for comfort.

Don't forget that Abdul Khan, the creator of Pakistan's nuclear program, ran an illicit network (probably with the help of the Pakistani intelligence services (ISI)) selling nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea and that the terrorists behind the 7/7 bombings were trained in Pakistani Madrassas. Pakistan should be punished for this latest provocation. It's time that the US Congress and the current US President faced up to facts that Pakistan is no ally. Phrasing it a little differently - with friends like this who needs enemies?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to become Europe's friend

The six Bulgarian medics accused of deliberately infecting children in Libya with the HIV virus have been released. The BBC has reported more details of the release and it comes as little surprise that if someone wants something from Europe, the best way to do so is to hold European citizens hostage. The charges were obviously trumped up but was a convenient way for Libya to get trading and other concessions out of Europe. Nice work if you can get it.

What does this signal to Iran and North Korea? Threaten, kidnap and bully and you get everything you want.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Biased BBC

Discovered this website that documents BBC bias. Now that it is coming close to election time again, the BBC is very carefully avoiding criticism of Ken Livingstone (Red Ken), the current mayor of London, whom they have consistently supported in the past, who is also a friend of Hugo Chavez and who has welcomed Sheikh Al Qaradawi, a known extremist who supports suicide bombings. Instead, they have gone on the offensive by attacking Red Ken's opponents.

It's time to end the BBC's monopoly, end the TV license in the UK, and let people decide with their wallets whether they want this sort of blatant left-wing propaganda coming out from their TVs and radios.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The unbearable lightness of being

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on Norman Borlaug. If you're scratching your head and wondering who that is then join the club. I didn't know about the man who had quietly saved a billion lives either. You see, Norman Borlaug was the architect of the Green Revolution. In 1944 Mexico was teetering on the brink of a famine. Norman Borlaug arrived when a fungus was destroying the native crops and leaving acres of land dry and dying. Norman Borlaug left in 1964 by which time, Mexico was growing an engineered strain of wheat that was durable and resistant to the fungus. In fact, Mexico grew so much that it became a net exporter of wheat. This was the genesis of the green revolution that prevented nearly a billion people from dying of hunger.

What I found interesting was that Greenpeace opposed Borlaug because when people weren't starving to death they would start producing and creating and establishing, horror of horrors, industry. Greenpeace even managed to convince the Ford and Rockefeller institute not to fund Borlaug.

This makes my blood boil. I've had conversations with die-hard environmentalists who have said things like "if they reproduce like cockroaches then they deserve to die." If they only could understand the fundamental immorality of their position. They are willing to kill off people so that a small minority can go camping and enjoy virgin nature. They would put the lives of spotted tree frogs above that of a human being.

The less cynical environmentalists talk about an us vs. them situation - that they will take away our food. Thank goodness that economics is not a zero sum game. An increase in the demand for food leads to increased prices, which means that suppliers have higher profits, which attracts new suppliers or makes existing suppliers more productive who want to produce more to take advantage of higher prices. This leads to increased supply, which leads to a drop in prices. New suppliers means new people attracted to farming because of the higher prices or better technology such as genetically engineered crops. In other words, the markets prevent starvation. Face it guys, Malthus was wrong. (Cases of famine are largely due to other factors than any natural shortage - such as politics and wars).

Today, many African countries refuse to grow genetically modified crops because they are afraid that they can't export to Europe, which has imposed huge restrictions on their sale (thanks to the Greens). Genetically modified crops require less maintenance such as sophisticated irrigation systems and can grow faster and are more resistant to disease. The obvious side effect is that if people aren't starving then they can concentrate on other things such as producing goods to sell that we may actually want.

The radical greens, however, aren't interested in them selling things. It's better that they starve, that taxpayers of rich countries give handouts to them, and that we buy bead bracelets and hemp Mao handbags made by refugee children from Sierra Leone to alleviate our collective guilt.

Pleasure island

According to the BBC, police in a majority- Muslim city in Nigeria are attempting to impose Sharia law even on the non- Muslim minorities within their jurisdiction. The enclave of Sabon Gari within the city of Kano has been dubbed a "pleasure island" by some for its offerings of alcohol, dancing, cannabis, and sex.

I know you are all reading this description of Sabon Gari and thinking, "damn! what's not to like?" Well, I agree. But the Islamic puritans don't, and the reason why we should care about this is that Nigeria is not even an officially Muslim country; instead, it's a nation almost evenly split between Christianity and Islam, but with areas where local governments have attempted to implement and enforce Islamic law. It's not inconceivable that such a future awaits those regions of Europe where in fifty or a hundred years' time Islam will predominate by the same force of demographics. As the Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner recently stated, "if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist." In other words, if you want to visit those hash cafés in Amsterdam, do it now. They won't be there forever.

Mind the gap

I've never understood the problem that some politicians and pundits have with there being a widening gap between the richest and the poorest people in society. It often turns out that the poor are at worst staying their ground or (more usually) gaining somewhat while the rich are vaulting ahead much more quickly. While this does indeed widen the "gap", it doesn't leave anybody economically worse off. Whether the head of your company makes five or ten or one hundred times as much as you do is really a matter of academic interest, the only important point being that he makes more.

An opinion to the contrary is expressed by Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, who feels that the Labour party in the UK has sold out its traditional working- class constituency in allowing disparities in wealth to become greater under its rule. To his credit, Hastings does not put his faith in higher taxation for the rich as a solution, noting correctly that it would only drive more wealth offshore. Instead, he proposes more education for the people trapped in "inner-city housing estates in an apparently hopeless spiral of debt, drugs and unemployability."

Hastings's commitment to education is commendable, but it has to be said that education by itself will not stop the wealth gap from widening. If you have a basic education you are only basically employable. Beyond that, if you have some kind of post- secondary education which teaches you a marketable skill -- bearing in mind that this would exclude many university graduates in the humanities -- you will be more employable, and you will receive more remuneration for your services. Either way, though, as an employee you will still find yourself earning far less than the executives in your company, or other successful entrepreneurs elsewhere. In that case, knowing that you are smart (and possibly even smarter than your employer who skipped further education altogether in favour of an early entry into the job market) will prove to be of little consolation.

The old wisdom is still the best: since there will always be those who are richer, or stronger, or more intelligent than we are, we can either torment ourselves with that fact and condemn ourselves to a lifetime of unhappiness, or we can accept it and move on. Rather than obsessing over pay differentials, a working class man will always find his greatest fulfillment in knowing that he is doing the best job he can every day for a reasonable wage that allows him to support his family. Anything more than that is -- or ought to be -- beyond his care or concern.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Art, apparently

These childish daubings of anti- American and anti- Israel sentiment on display at the current Venice Biennale art exhibition are almost indistinguishable from bathroom graffiti -- or is that the point? As leftist intellectuals feel their political influence weakening year by year, the "art" that they produce becomes ever more desperate in its attempts to shock and denounce, and even the pretense of working in an artistic medium is increasingly cast aside. Walter Pater claimed that all art aspires to the condition of music, but nowadays it seems as if all left- wing art aspires to the condition of agitprop.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Total surprise of the day

The Communist terrorist and mass murderer known as Carlos the Jackal, currently imprisoned in France, claims to have once been a faithful reader of The Guardian. He further explains that he only stopped reading The Guardian, in fact, because they were the ones who came up with his silly nickname. His revelation is interesting but hardly surprising, as the London lefty broadsheet is still pimping for terrorism even now, decades later.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Abolish the CBC

Canada's allegedly public broadcaster continues to lurch from bad to worse, what with its recent makeover to appeal to a younger demographic. Despite the perennially hostile and delusional bent of the CBC's political coverage -- one typical recent example was allowing the deranged anti- Israel fantasist Robert Fisk to rant unchallenged on a Maritime Noon phone- in show, with every one of the callers turning out to be members of his fan club -- one could at least count on solid mainstays such as the excellent classical music programming on Radio 2 or the majority of decent regional shows to justify Mother Corpse's continuing existence. Alas, no longer. Driving home tonight after midnight and frantically twiddling the dial I discovered that, in place of its usual low-key overnight classical and jazz programme, CBC Radio 2 was offering experimental music that sounded like a cross between grinding industrial machinery and the weeping and gnashing of teeth ascribed to the damned in the Gospels. Radio 1, meanwhile, in place of the highlights of public broadcasting throughout the world that used to occupy its overnight slot, boasted an achingly unfunny show aimed at being self- referential and hip and... it's difficult to determine what it was about, precisely, other than the fact that despite it being on the radio you just knew that the host was wearing a soul patch and suitably ironic trucker hat, and felt himself to be far above the obligation to provide actual entertainment to his audience. --Yeah, I know I'm not the target demographic. I've been listening to classical music since I was sixteen: I was born old. But I also know that actual young people are going to be as bored to death by all of this as I am. They know when they are being merely pandered to, and they resent it like hell.

Public broadcasting is always going to be an unjust imposition on the people who don't listen to it but have to pay for it regardless. There is no possible justification for injuring taxpayers by pissing away still more of their hard- earned money and then adding insult to that injury by broadcasting pretentious and boring bullshit that the majority of them won't ever enjoy or (in the case of political programming) agree with. Don't get me wrong -- I do sympathize with the motive for robbing the average Canadian of his money to provide a forum for unhinged or marginal views: how else is the Left going to guarantee itself a platform? Nevertheless, as much as I sympathize, I also believe that the time has come to stop supporting our CBC welfare bums. End it now, scrape them off the public tit and let's have done with it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Das Leben der Anderen

For anyone who doubts the viciousness and brutality of communism or excuses its "excesses", the film Das Leben der Anderen by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck should quickly dispell any illusions.
photo of Leben der Anderen, Das,  Ulrich Mühe
It won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2006 and it well deserved it. A gloomy film about a Stasi officer ordered to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend, it is both powerful and moving as well as being highly engaging. I finally got to see it and I was most impressed. I have been increasingly worried about the rise of "Ostalgie" in Germany - a weird nostalgia for all things East German - and I'm relieved to see that the Germans haven't completely lost it. This film serves as a healthy antidote.
Perhaps this new hotel opening in Berlin should play this film in the hotel rooms to remind people of the nightmare of the DDR. Better yet, to get the true immersive experience, they should keep hidden cameras in each hotel room, employ large men in polyester suits watching guests surreptitiously behind plants, and keep a special "Ostalgie Tour" in the basement where guests, for a price of 50 euros (donated to Hugo Chavez) get to be interrogated for 50 hours in a row and occasionally prodded with cattle rods if they do not reveal the most sensitive details of their sex lives. For an extra 15 euros, a good beating in a soundproof room can be included.

The true face of environmentalism

Sometimes I'm impressed by how brazen the environmental left can be. Just ran into this quotation from the former Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart

No matter if the science is phony (sic), there are collateral environmental benefits... Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.

Aside from the cynical implication that government policy should be based on fraud if the ends are "justified", I am also wondering what her vision of justice and equality means? That we in the West start to scrounge for our meals, live at the mercy of nature and start praying in front of stone idols for the next monsoon like our brethren living in other parts of the world?


A pox on both your churches

Nothing new here: the Pope has reiterated in a recent statement the traditional Catholic belief that the Protestant denominations, having broken with the mythical "apostolic succession", cannot possibly be considered as true churches in their own right. Despite being a Catholic church- goer myself, I can't help at this point (thanks to my east Belfast heritage) hearing in my mind an Ian Paisley-ish sort of voice intoning : "Yon Paypust church is the hoare of Babylon, aye, thay abomination named in Revelaytions..."

And I find that I can only resolve this cultural and ancestral conflict by realizing that both the Catholics and the Protestants are drunk on power and the hatred of each other -- and by concluding that Jesus himself would have had nothing whatever to do with either of them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


For those of you who are fans of the BBC's classical music broadcasts (and especially if you're not among those poor souls who live in the UK and have to pay through their noses for the TV and radio licence fees that make these things possible): yesterday evening there was a concert broadcast on Radio 3 of an entire programme featuring songs that Franz Schubert set to the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It should remain available in the audio archive for another six days or so.

Putting the boot in

In my last posting I discussed conspiracy theories surrounding the recent failed terror attacks in the UK, but I forgot to mention that although these are prevalent about the incident in London they're rather less so about the one in Glasgow. Perhaps it strains credulity too much to believe that agents of the British government would volunteer to crash a burning car into an airport, set themselves on fire, and earn a beating from passing Scotsmen.

Speaking of which, I was very pleased to hear of the aggressive reaction that the would-be attackers met with. It looks as if the Scots still have some fight left in them; at any rate, the ones at the scene didn't fall victim to the blind panic and passivity so many civilized people react with when they are confronted by violence. Here are a few choice eyewitness accounts from the event:
"Well, aye, I saw him running for the polisman, and I thought, 'hoo no ye don't' so then I ran over and tackled this Asian chap."

"It's a good job I wis ther! This gentleman was on fire, so I tackled him with a jab o' my airm, then these other guys got intae 'im."

"Aye, I knew there was gas in the car, it was making these popping sounds, you know like when you chuck a can of deodorant on a bonfire, like"."
Robert Burns had it right: "what a parcel of rogues in a nation!"

The Grand Unified Theory of Oppression

No-one who has even a passing acquaintance with the Islamist mindset can be surprised by the choice of a nightclub for the location of last week's failed car bombing in Piccadilly. The freedom to live one's life as one chooses, rather than in accordance with the dictates of religion, is naturally going to lead to a degree of hedonism that some fanatics will find infuriating. There has already been another plot against a large London club, the Ministry of Sound, which was thwarted last year when the conspirators were taped by the authorities saying things like "no-one could turn round and say 'oh, they were innocent', those slags dancing around". Such charming fellows; and great with the ladies too, I'll bet.

Perhaps even more distressing than the inept bomb plots in the UK have been the responses recorded on online forums and discussion groups claiming that it was all staged by the British government, as a pretext for ushering in a new Fourth Reich (or whatever). I say that the comments are more distressing, because if successful the nightclub bomb would have killed perhaps a few dozen people; but if it turns out that large numbers of people in the West lack the basic will to correctly identify their enemies and resist them accordingly, our civilization as a whole is going to disappear, and many more people will die as a result. So where does this blind denial masquerading as smart cynicism come from? It doesn't help that in Britain, as in most Western countries, young people (especially university students) are educated to believe that the world's geopolitical situation and much of its history as well can be explained using something I call the Grand Unified Theory of Oppression.

The GUTO, in its simplest form, states that everything bad that happens on the planet is the fault of the West, or more specifically of the white man (who is taken as the West's standard- bearer). The world was an Edenic paradise until the advent of Western colonialism, after which warfare, poverty, and disease became as prevalent elsewhere as they had originally been in Europe; and to this day, the United States, Israel, and (to a varying extent) the European and anglophone democracies enjoy wealth solely on the basis of their ability to plunder the nations of the Third World, which are thrown into turmoil as a result. Don't believe me? Try thinking of any conflict or massacre or man- made disaster in the world over the past fifty years that has received wide coverage, and I guarantee you there is a popular explanation for it that faults the West and implicitly absolves the people who were actually involved -- and that this explanation is a mainstay of the public and post- secondary education systems in your country. Here are just a few of the most popular examples:

The Atomic Bomb on Japan. A pure act of racist American aggression, having nothing whatever to do with forcing the surrender of an intransigent power which had brutally subjugated half of Asia before dragging the US into war with an unprovoked attack on its territory. (Bonus: the US "knew" that the bomb was unnecessary, but dropped it anyway to scare the Soviets and wipe out a few more gooks.)

Vietnam. French and, later, American aggression against a people merely struggling for "self- determination". --Luckily in this case the Westerners were defeated, so that Vietnam was in the end able to determine for itself a decades- long Communist dictatorship and the expulsion of about a million refugees.

Khmer Rouge Genocide. America's fault for chasing the Viet Cong into Cambodia (if indeed the genocide happened at all -- the Chomskyites beg to differ.)

The Iranian theocracy. America's fault for propping up the Shah. Consequently the Iranians had no choice but to start stoning rape victims for adultery, to sponsor terrorism throughout the world, and to begin work on a nuclear programme aimed at the elimination of a neighbouring state.

Taliban rule in Afghanistan. America's fault, because the US armed the insurgents against the Soviets (whose invasion of Afghanistan was also the West's fault, because we had set a bad precedent in Vietnam or something.) Resisting the Taliban is a violation of Afghan sovereignty, and even if they did sponsor Al-Qaeda and the attacks of 9/11, who can blame them? It's all just payback for those redcoats on the Khyber Pass during the reign of Queen Victoria.

The Rwandan Genocide. Belgium's fault for having favoured one ethnic group over the other about a hundred years ago. Why, it's as if the Belgians wielded the machetes themselves...

Anything China Does is our fault because made them "lose face" during the Opium War. If they want to grab Tibet or Taiwan, it's only because we made them so touchy.

The Balkan War. Germany's fault for recognizing Croatia too early. Also the West's fault as a whole for hastening the fall of Communism and, later, for taking sides with the Muslims (!) over the downtrodden, innocent Serbs.

Iraq. Sectarian violence there is America's fault. Muslim- on- Muslim murders are counted as "deaths caused by the US invasion." (After all, any other country invaded by Americans would experience the same degree of bloody fratricidal strife, right? If the US invaded Canada, I'm sure the anglophones and francophones would start tearing each other apart in exactly the same manner.) As for Saddam Hussein, America is to blame both for supporting him and for removing him from power.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A no-brainer. Israel is a "colony" (though not of any country in particular) made up of "settlers" (half of whom, curiously, are indigeneous to the area) fleeing a genocide that took place in the West (or perhaps didn't, allowing for the tendency of Jews to exaggerate to their own advantage.) Having stolen "Palestine" (itself a colonial fabrication) the Israelis can be faulted for wishing to use actual force to defend their state from destruction; this defence is also the cause of Islamic terror attacks on the West, or at least the ones we admit to be genuine and not "inside jobs" perpetrated by the government.

As you can see, it's laughably easy to explain everything that happens on Earth using the Grand Unified Theory of Oppression. And remember that the GUTO has a corollary: if the West has the ultimate moral responsibility for everything bad that happens, non- Westerners (or non- whites living in the West) bear none of that responsibility. So when bad things happen that appear to be the fault of non- Westerners, such as terrorist attacks in New York and London, they are really the work of the governments in those countries; but even if they could be proven to be the work of Islamic extremists, that too would be the fault of the West for making the Muslims upset. The Grand Unified Theory of Oppression is nothing if not perfectly airtight.

All this, and she's Catholic too

Now that Tony Blair has left office, one of the retrospectives being offered by the British press details the fads, quackeries, and delusions embraced by his wife Cherie over the past ten years. It looks very much as if no New Age nostrum to come down the pike was too absurd to escape her. Bear in mind that Cherie Blair is a highly trained lawyer and judge, which only goes to show that education and skill in a particular field are not always correlated with a high level of intelligence or critical insight. (Needless to say, Tony doesn't get off lightly here either; the thought of the leader of a major democratic power smearing mud and papaya over himself after being "rebirthed" in the jungle makes me very nervous for the future of the West, although I can't say it's all that much worse than his reading the Koran every night before bed).

There seem to be few surer ways of making money than playing on the credulousness of affluent, semi-educated, middlebrow women going through what New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast calls "the goddess years".

Monday, July 2, 2007

A drug to delete bad memories?

If so, I'd like to buy a caseload of it right away, because all that malt liquor just isn't doing the trick.

The accompanying article is well worth a read for its excursions into sci- fi history and pop- culture geekdom. I only wish that more reporting was done on a cross- disciplinary basis like this, with references to literature, history, and art -- the cult of professional neutrality and (supposed) objectivity has conspired to make most journalism in North America stultifyingly boring. If the mainstream media really wants to increase its younger readership, which is increasingly getting its news from more colourful sources online, this is the way.