09 October 2009

Cornel West channels Frank Stark AND Adam Wunker

1. Above, forthcoming from Princeton University Press, Dr. West clearly exceeds his quota of one title and one subtitle. Note (a) that "Brother West" at the top is part of the title - the author is "Cornel West" at the bottom - and (b) that it says "A Memoir" in small print immediately beneath "life".

2. Adam Wunker, you say? Well, for that you have to go to the web site advertising said book:


12 September 2009

Paris mayoral feud blocks street

Verbatim from the BBC:

There has been traffic chaos in two Paris suburbs after their feuding mayors declared the same busy road one-way, but in opposite directions.

Patrick Balkany, the conservative mayor of Levallois-Perret, initially made the D909 one-way to reduce the amount of commuter traffic through his district.

But Gilles Catoire, the Socialist mayor of neighbouring Clichy-la-Garenne, said this increased congestion in his area.

He made his section of the road one-way in the opposite direction.

With the contradictory road-signs in place, the unsurprising result was gridlock, prompting the deployment of municipal and national police to direct traffic away from the area.

"What Clichy has done is not a long-term solution, but it is a response to a unilateral decision by the town of Levallois," Clichy's deputy mayor, Alain Fournier, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

But Mr Balkany insisted: "The mayor of Clichy has taken a position that is unreasonable and is hurting his own constituents."

Thousands of motorists pass between the two suburbs each day on their way into and out of the French capital.


08 July 2009

Photoshop could not do it better



The latest in a long line of Conservative political farragos may also be the most bizarre. No doubt at this moment the Prime Minister is muttering "tabernac" sotto voce - please, pardon his French.

SACRISTIE-MERDE UPDATE: Wafergate hits the big time. (You'll notice that while the PMO asserts that the host was indeed consumed, they never quite categorically state when).

It's a shame, though, that the whole sordid contretemps is drawing attention away from the other religious fracas consuming Ottawa at the moment.


16 June 2009

Executive Decision

Since Andrew Sullivan has done it, so have we - Hoboken Group is green for Iran.


15 June 2009

The Revolution will be Tweeted

Who knows how things in Iran are going to turn out? Andrew Sullivan has been invaluable; Juan Cole's comment has been exceedingly informed.

At Progressive Realist, Dan Nexon asserts that autocratic regimes are learning to get one step ahead of modular mass movements.

That being said, Twitter, a tool that really only makes sense when you have something both important and urgent to say, has finally come into its own.

It should be acknowledged that, whatever the particulars of the results, there are thousands - maybe millions - of Iranians attempting to change their country through peaceful means. And that truth needs to be supported by progressives and realists of all stripes.

God, we hope, truly is great.


12 June 2009

Situation Normal...

...Charles Krauthammer is still a twerp.


03 June 2009

Golden State

The US Capitol permits each state in the Union to place two statues honouring notable figures in a state's history on permanent display as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Today, California replaced one of its statues, honouring the Rev. Thomas Starr King, with a 7-foot tall figure of Ronald Reagan.

Who was the Rev. Thomas Starr King?

The Rev. King was a Unitarian minister, an ardent supporter of the United States Sanitary Commission - now the Red Cross - and the man credited by Abraham Lincoln with "saving the Union" by convincing Californians, through oratory, not to secede as a separate republic during the American Civil War. The Rev. King has two mountains, two San Francisco streets, a middle school and a Unitarian theological seminary named after him.

I'll leave you to judge for yourself as to which is more deserving.


27 May 2009

25 May 2009

Reimagination-inspired teamwork during the last four years has reinforced the value of a more collaborative way of managing our business

So there is a change of staff at the top of the Globe and Mail, with Edward Greenspon out and John Stackhouse in. First, I wonder what this means for the Globe and Mail. Second, this was announced in the worst-written item of writing I have seen in some time, an office e-mail from publisher Phillip Crawley seemingly leaked to Macleans' Paul Wells. Some choice selections in bold below.

The need to restructure our business, to meet the challenges of the
current economic environment and the rapid changes in media
consumption habits, has been our overarching goal during FY09.

Reimagination-inspired teamwork during the last four years has reinforced the value of a more collaborative way of managing our business. By drawing on the collective strengths of the team, we are all better able as individuals to contribute to the success of The Globe and Mail. With that objective in mind, I have reviewed the composition of the Executive Team, and identified priority areas for improvement.

New skills and different styles of leadership are needed to take The Globe and Mail to levels of achievement which meet the ambitions of our shareholders, to cement our standing as the best in Canada at creating high-quality content for consumption on whatever platform is most desirable for our readers, users and advertisers.

We are building on a position of strength not enjoyed by many of our competitors. The executive changes outlined below are intended to ensure that The Globe and Mail is in the prime spot to take advantage of the market opportunities that will arise when the recession eases.

To deliver the required results, I am adding one extra position to the senior team and changing responsibilities and reporting lines in three other parts of the business.

Ed Greenspon, who has been our Editor-in-Chief for almost seven years, is stepping down and is succeeded by John Stackhouse, the Editor of Report on Business since 2004.

John, 46, who is a Queen’s commerce graduate, joined The Globe and Mail in 1989, and has proved himself to be a strong team leader in our cross-functional business initiatives, especially during the last two years when he championed the relaunch of our Globe Investor site.

He brings a high-class pedigree to the Editor-in-Chief position, having been a distinguished foreign correspondent before taking up executive roles as Foreign Editor and National Editor. He has raised Report on Business to levels of excellence in print and online which are unsurpassed.

There will be other occasions to pay tribute to Ed Greenspon’s outstanding service to The Globe and Mail, which he joined in 1986. He made his reputation as an astute observer of Canadian politics and turned the Ottawa bureau into a powerhouse of coverage. Since 2002 he has spearheaded our editorial transformation, particularly in exploring new ways to tell stories. The record of awards won under his leadership is second to none. I know you will join me in thanking Ed and wishing him well as he moves on to new challenges.

In addition, I expect to make an early announcement that we have recruited a Vice President of IT, having conducted an external search in recent months.

We need a dedicated leader in the IT Department to enable us to choose the right path forward in our use of technology and choice of systems. Given that most of our annual capital expenditure is devoted to this area, I need the best possible guidance and expertise.

He/she will take over responsibility for IT from Perry Nixdorf, whose triple-headed responsibilities as VP of Operations have become impossible to sustain. Perry will now be able to concentrate exclusively on preparing for the transition to our new presses in 2010 – one of the biggest undertakings in The Globe’s long history – and to continue with the revitalization of the Circulation Department, which has undergone radical reform under his leadership. Perry will remain VP of Operations, looking after the Circulation and Production departments.

The importance of the digital revolution affecting our business is well understood, but remains the most demanding issue we face in terms of the complex options ahead of us.

From next Monday, June 1, the role of VP Digital will be filled by Angus Frame, who has proved that he has the skill and determination to lead this department since his move from Editorial last summer. Angus, 37, who graduated in political science from McMaster and from Ryerson in journalism, has worked for The Globe and Mail since 1996
and was Editor of globeandmail.com before switching to Digital. He will work closely with the new VP of IT and with Roger Dunbar, who has headed Digital for the last two years, and now takes up the new position of VP of Business Development and Marketing.

The reorganization of departmental responsibilities which has been under way since the start of the year means that some staff who currently report to Roger will move with him to help him fulfill his new role. The main aim of Roger and his team, which includes management of co-brand products, will be to identify new revenue streams across all our properties, and lead the process of launching and supporting new business initiatives. He will continue to head our marketing, promotions and research efforts.

Details of the staffing arrangements in IT, Digital and Business Development will be announced shortly by departmental heads.

All of these changes are an expression of my determination to ensure the long-term health of The Globe and Mail. With the backing of our shareholders, I am confident that we can be among the best in the world at what we choose to do. I look forward to your support and advice in making those wise choices.

If you have any immediate questions or comments, please email me at pxxxx.xxxx@xxxxx. I will be holding Town Halls in each department to discuss these changes.



15 May 2009

Elemental Strategy

Is Barack Obama afraid of his generals?

If so, he wouldn't be the first US President to be overly beholden to the Pentagon. But what's going on?

Tom Ricks:

I am told that General Odierno's objections to the timing of the release of a new round of photos of detainees being abused in Iraq were decisive to President Obama's decision Wednesday to reverse himself and decide against the release of those photos...

...[Obama] must think he is running up some pretty big chits with them [the Pentagon]. I know he is trying to do the right thing but at some point he is going to have to say, My way or the highway.

Because I'm an eternal optimist, I'll suggest that major nuclear disarmament and a repeal of DADT are two of the policies Obama is building up Pentagon good will for.

But as Ricks points out, at some point you stop looking savvy in the eyes of your supporters, and just start looking weak. Or worse, lame - when you're losing John Stewart, you're losing.

UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more I find myseslf agreeing with Andrew Sullivan that the appointment of Stanley McChrystal as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan is a major reason that the Obama administration is delaying release of the detainee photographs. And that's a very bad.


26 April 2009

Public Service Announcement

The flu pandemic is here, guys!

The government of Ontario's pandemic website is here. The United States government's pandemic website is here.
Take a look at this website for helpful information regarding your own individual preparations. You might also want to stock up on kimchi, just in case.


24 April 2009

West Robinwood Street, Detroit

60 out of 66 houses on this street have been abandoned. On both sides.
The following are two stitched together panoramas of the street.

North Side

South Side

Read more about it here.

Google maps view here.


21 April 2009

The Prosperity of the Wicked

The Senate Armed Services Committee has just released, as of an hour ago, a report entitled Inquiry Into the Treatment Of Detainees In U.S. Custody, November 20, 2008. It will, if you'll pardon the phrase, kick up the mother of all motherfucking shit storms.

Just read the Executive Summary and Conclusions. And call The Hague.

Conclusion 13:

"Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld's December 2,2002 approval of Mr. Haynes's recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO's October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq."

But worse, in a way, is this detail:

(U) On December 2, 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld signed Mr. Haynes's recommendation [for enhanced interrogation techniques, otherwise known as torture], adding a handwritten note that referred to limits proposed in the memo on the use of stress positions: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal. For sure. Abso-fucking-lutely. 100%. It's time for the media to call him out as such.


20 April 2009

Second Opinion

Though I share with Luke a healthy cynicism about the manipulation of personal and familial introspection as a political marketing ploy, I have to admit it is an effective one, in that as a reader (1) I'm interested and (2) I can begin to form an image of who the next Prime Minister thinks he is. Both of which are to say more than I can about Stephen Harper, (1) about whom I am profoundly uninterested and (2) of whose self-image I remain consequently ignorant.

But more importantly, I have to dissent on Luke's negative or dismissive reading of Ignatieff on the freedom/community problematic.
From the little I can gather from the Globe interview and the book excerpt, I would say instead that Ignatieff can be read as having a properly late modern notion of both concepts that is, well, Liberal enough, but not too liberal. Immediately following from a quote Luke deployed:

Why I value these kinds of societies is actually not that I think they're godless, it's that they leave you the choice of your gods, the responsibility of choosing your gods, the responsibility of leading a moral and disciplined and purposeful life — faced with pluralism, faced with a series of choices, some good, some bad. I like that. I'm at home in this world. He [George Grant] was deeply and profoundly not at home in that world.
I actually think this is a very intelligent take on the condition that not only we Canadians, but all other Westerners are faced with today. Paired with Iggie's invocation of Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, all this amounts to is an understanding that all that late moderns can hope for is, as Luke puts it negatively, to be "citizens [with] nothing in common but their need to imagine - without any commonalities regarding the capacity or content of their imaginings."

Good. Rather than pretending that we are one organic whole united by devotion to a common deity or reverence for a mythologized common past, what we share instead is an imperative to imagine ourselves as a community with the full knowledge that, at an ironic distance, this is all we can ever be - an imagined community. This is not distinctly Canadian, of course. Who today thinks that communities are anything more than imagined? More importantly: Imagined on the basis of what? We live in a disenchanted world in which God, our shared genetic roots, or our chauvinistic attachments to a self-image based on superiority, simply have lost all their plausibility as common meanings. Community is not automatic; and this is perhaps what is new about our lives - we need to actively seek - no, create - what marks off our difference in the context of a notion of universal human equality (that we thankfully do share).

I don't think anybody is arguing that an imagined community need exist only in individuals' heads (ontological atomism). But even if I were to argue that, individuals' sharing of community is still common because, even if one is wrong in her belief in some putatively common meaning, she must still by definition imagine that you also share it. This is still atomist, but the normative consequences are communitarian, in the sense that I identify collectively with you and so take your interests as my own. It is enough to generate a common good, even on atomist assumptions.

I think it's better, and more plausible, to read Ignatieff's contentions this way: Yes, the free market is chilly, but that chilliness only provides the opportunity for bringing ourselves consciously together to share in warmth. We still need to engage in that project. Indeed, market society is a constitutive condition of late modern community, not its overriding aim. Ignatieff may be wrong that the market is necessary for our freedom, but he is right in viewing the market instrumentally - a means not an end - which is encouraging enough for me.


Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris admore

"They were holding their arms outstretched in love toward the further shore"
-Virgil, quoted in George Grant's Lament for a Nation

"So the question that [the founders of Confederation] asked and answered, in their fashion, demands an answer in our time: what exactly is being Canadian worth to us, in dollars and cents? How much are we prepared to invest to keep our country in one piece?"
-Michael Ignatieff

"Money has no motherland"


The Idea of North

I'm still digesting Michael Valpy's conversation with Michael Ignatieff from this weekend's Globe.

Iggy on the imagined community of Canada:

What we know is only a fragment of what is there. We have to imagine the expanse we have not seen. We have to imagine the ties that bind us to our fellow citizens, many of whom may not even speak the same language. ...

We engage in this act of imagination because we need to. The lives we live alone do not make sense to us unless we share some public dimension with others. We need a public life in common, some set of reference points and allegiances to give us a way to relate to the strangers among whom we live.

How does this observation square with Ignatieff's statement that freedom trumps community in market societies? Badly, I think.

I read Ignatieff's meaning to be that the lynchpin of our relationship with others is an exchange built more on the individual's subjective imagining of the other than the shock and humility of engagement with the other's authentic life. An atomized society in which citizens have nothing in common but their need to imagine - without any commonalities regarding the capacity or content of their imaginings.

Fine, you say. Cogito ergo sum. Yet we know that for Ignatieff freedom in the market economy trumps all else. So the freedom to imagine a community precludes any need to subsume freedom to that community: the nation becomes whatever the market economy will bear. The imagination becomes a commodity, and the saleability, self-interest, and self-promotion of an imagined community becomes paramount to success. Chilly, indeed.

I think Ignatieff's obsessive examination and rexamintion of his own family mythology speaks not only to his own fraught attraction to the worst excesses of the Canadian post-colonial inferiority complex, but to his awareness that this complex provides a cagey marketing opportunity. The Ignatieff brand is built on personality: on his intellectual and personal forbearers and on his own genius for cooly revelatory self-analysis in books like The Russian Album and Scar Tissue. Yet this reconstitution of the past is highly selective: a repackaging of Candian history to support the claims of Ignatieff as Canada's "Imaginer-In-Chief."

Ignatieff wants Canadians to see him "as a patriot, someone who is anchored in the country and whose investment in the country is more than a personal matter, more than just a matter of my personal career...a four-generation project." Methinks the fellow doth protest too much.


Cold Snap

As part of the weekend Globe and Mail's Iggypalooza, Michael Valpy speaks with the Prime-Minister-in waiting.

Money quote, at least for me:

...he [George Grant, Canadian philosopher and Ignatieff's uncle] thought capitalism is godless, materialistic and morally relativist. It's not my problem. It never was my problem. I don't mean to dismiss that lightly. But this is where we had substantial arguments when I was young and he was older and wiser.

I like market society because I like its freedoms, and freedom is a very chilly thing. It doesn't give you a metaphysics. It doesn't give you a community. But it gives you freedom. And then you have to decide which of these values in life you want.

He longed, I think, for community. Community mattered maybe more to him than freedom. Freedom matters more to me than anything else.
Pardon me if I find this view unimpressive, unpersuasive, and uninformed to boot.


17 April 2009

Portion Control

The repellantly fascinating intersection of two ostensibly distinct spheres of life in one biopolitical technique:

"While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1000 kcal/day for sustain periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision," read the footnote. "While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique."

(Hat tip: HuffPo. Read the full memo, in all its sickening banality and faulty analogy, here.


Terrorism = Crime

Recently released memos confirm what we all already knew: the United States has been in the business of torturing human beings ostensibly for reasons of national security. We know that terrorism, while it leads to an unnecessary loss of life, is far from a grave threat quantitatively [PDF] or, I would argue, qualitatively. Some of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay did not appreciate Obama's directive that the camp be closed and "prosecutions" suspended - they wished for the death penalty as they wanted to be martyred. Methinks that the obvious solution, which should have been implemented form the get-go, is simply to treat terrorists as criminals. Accuse them of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, vandalism, and so on. Grant them the full protection, scrutiny, and punishment of the criminal justice system. We all know that that system is far from flawless; but to treat terrorism as a seaparate category has already brought out the worst aspects of liberal political community.

Here's hoping to better days for our liberal project?