24 December 2008

Somebody please parse the error in this sentence

From The Atlantic on mozzarella di bufala versus the regular cows' milk stuff: Buffalo milk connotes luxury, but aside from its much higher butterfat content, it doesn’t necessarily taste better.

I'm having a lot of trouble interpreting what this sentence is saying. First of all: "Buffalo milk connotes..." Puzzlement follows.

Second: "aside from... it doesn’t necessarily..." Is this an admission that higher butterfat content is a sufficient condition for greater deliciousness? If so I have no quarrel. But then the author dismissively and in apparent self-contradiction suggests "it doesn't necessarily taste better." So, higher butterfat is neither necessary (since other qualities can make something more delicious) nor sufficient (since even something with higher butterfat can in fact not be more delicious). But the latter assertion conflicts with what we know about the world. So I just don't understand.

Bonus points: False dichotomy! (Bufala v. regular: often taken to be a difference of degree not kind, delimited by a socially agreed or bureaucratically imposed norm.)

Happy Christmas.


14 December 2008

#67 on list of things I hope don't ever happen to me

67. Get shoes hurled at me by journalist as ultimate sign of disrespect in country I invade.

Video here. Would've been more effective if he'd had an accomplice and they'd gone high-low.

They kicked him and beat him until “he was crying like a woman,” said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges... [Bush] also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.


11 December 2008

"Diamond" Rod Blagojevich

Springfield's in which state, exactly?


09 December 2008

From the department of false dualisms

From the chorus of "Human", the third single on The Killers' Day & Age:

are we human or are we dancer?
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I'm on my knees
looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer?
Derisive comments about banality aside, I think Mr. Flowers should get up off his knees and realize the obvious solution to this seemingly intractable philosophical problem.

Also, forcing a subject-object disagreement in order to rhyme "dancer" with "answer"???


05 December 2008

Tale of the Tape

Stephan Dion's biggest sin this week, according to the national press, wasn't his dastardly alliance with socialists and separatists, but his lack of focus on television.

From Keith Boag and Susan Ormistan on CBC Newsworld immediately before the airing of Dion's reply to a plethora of news reports, columns and editorials, pundit consensus is that Dion's great mistake - completely irrespective of what he actually said - was displaying low production values.

I'm likely going to stop defending Stephan Dion pretty soon (I think, in fact, I already have). But I think it's notable, and suggestive, that A/V quality has been such a major bugbear for the media

Is it because journalists are so obsessed by the sanctity of their medium that they tolerate no adulteration of its quality? Or do we really just expect our politicians to look good and say nothing? Either way, the implications aren't pretty. I know, I shouldn't be surprised. And I'm not. But it's a pitiable and slightly terrifying symptom of the digital hall of mirrors in which we live that the news is so profoundly about the medium, not the message.


04 December 2008

The polls are in...

...and things look bleak, at least at the moment, for the coalition.

EKOS has the Conservatives at 44% nationally. Strategic Counsel has them at 45%. Ipsos-Reid has them at 46% (though Aldous quite points out that some of the internal numbers are, to put it mildly, a little confused).

The "smart" buzz now seems to be that Stephen Harper provoked a politicial, constitutional and national unity crisis deliberately to ensure himself a majority government sometime in the new year. And while the public is more divided than the topline voting preference numbers would suggest (and, more importantly, pundits are avowing that the PM's behaviour means his chances of winning a majority are nil), the Conservatives are benefiting from Canadians "rallying to the flag" and by extension, the government of the day. As noted in an earlier post, Harper is set, in some circles at least, to be elevated once again to the status of Greatest Political Mind in Canadian History.

Do I buy it?

Yes and no. At the moment, the Conservative media assault has, once again, been successful (Harper's brtual treatment of the media at the beginning of his first mandate has paid off spectacularly, as the national press corps has managed to develop the political equivalent of Stockhold Syndrome). This success is compounded by the impotence of a Liberal Party that, it seems, continues to ignore the threat posed to its existence by ongoing internal divisions. All this is the conventional wisdom. However, it doesn't mean there isn't a way out.

What unconventional wisdom can I offer to rescue progressives from the mess we find ourselves in?

a) Pass the Budget. It's time, I think, for the coalition to take the high road. It seems clear that Harper desperately wants the House to fall in the New Year. Don't let it. Call the Prime Minister's bluff. Pass whatever godawful stimulus package he presents, in the name of national unity. (If it's really egregious, vote it down and run like hell with it.)

b) Ditch the Bloc- Nicely. The Bloc is doing no favours to the Liberals and New Democrats outside Quebec. The coalition must either come up with a rhetorical strategy that adequatly convinces Canadians of the Bloc's good intentions, or part ways, amicably. This ties in with the need to:

c) Replace Dion - But Fairly. I have supported Stephan Dion from before anyone gave him a chance. But his manifold talents are lost on the media, the public, his caucus, and occasionally himself. So, drastic times call for drastic measures - but fair measures that give the Liberal base a chance for involvement. This means a very speedy convention process, or some sort of one-person, one-vote ballot, in early January. Do it all online - it could be cool and exciting and 21st Century! And whoever loses has to suck it up (I think, sadly, this is the most unlikely of my suggestions to actually come off).

d) Up the Ante with the NDP (and the Greens). Whoever the new LPC leader, the formal coalition with the NDP needs to continue. Despite the polemics of the National Post, Canadians are not particularly afraid of the NDP (and Harper's inflammatory rhetoric about the Bloc may succeed in legitimizng the New Democrats even more in the eyes of some voters). In a more or less permanent fashion, progressives in Canada must - I repeat, must - unite.

e) Develop a "Regular Joe" Platform. The LPC-NDP coalition needs to develop a common framework of policy that cuts across the traditional conservative-liberal-socialist spectrum. The contents of said platform are best left to another post - but they have to speak to the messy anxieties of ordinary people. That means unconventional or unexpected juxtapositions and amalgams of policies or ideas.

f) Use the Moment. Uniting progressives and developing an unconventional platform is going to embolden a lot of people, and attract new volunteers and recruits to the progressive front (ideally in Obama-esque proportions). A strong volunteer system needs to be in place to handle them, to solicit donations, and do all the cool stuff that, lo and behold, won the Democrats the White House. So, David Axelrod, and a minion, had better get called up the Great White North ASAP - for seminars, a pep talk, and the phone number of a good website designer.

Is this a lot to ask? In our poor benighted country, perhaps. It will take work. The alternative is to:

g) Let the Conservatives win a majority. Allow them to take power, destroy the bureaucracy, politicize every quasigovernmental agency they can, gut the social safety net, obliviate our world standing, and use the bully pulpit to rule for at least a decade. I guarantee Canadians will be sick of them by then. But will there be any Canada left?


Now Rick Warren Needs To Read Aquinas

Via Sullivan, this report notes that Warren gave his imprimatur to the idea that President Ahmadinejad should be assassinated:

Last night, on Fox News, Sean Hannity insisted that United States needs to "take out" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Warren said he agreed. Hannity asked, "Am I advocating something dark, evil or something righteous?" Warren responded, "Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped.... In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers."
Aquinas contra Warren:
human laws cannot punish or prohibit all evil deeds, as Augustine says in his work On Free Choice. This is because in seeking to eliminate all evils, one would thereby also take away many goods and not benefit the common good necessary for human companionship.
(ST, I-II, Question 91)

Oh yeah, and all that stuff about just wars too. I think that's probably relevant. Oh, and the Bible has other recommendations regarding what to do about evil. One is to turn the other cheek, if I remember correctly. Come to think of it, these people need to read Augustine, for good measure.

Might as well add Sean Hannity to the list for good measure.

UPDATED: and more, including video.



Story is still developing, but it looks like Jean assented to Harper's request. At writing, the CBC indicates that this information comes from the PMO. So: Jean saves Iggie?


You May Now Disperse to Your Homes!

...because the pundits have decided that the coalition is toast, Stephen Harper has returned to king-shit status, and we can now get on with turning into the world's coldest banana republic.

On what grounds do they make this judgement, you might ask? Chiefly because of the poor production values of Stephan Dion's video response to the Prime Minister.

But as Aldous alludes to in an earlier post, Dion's problem all along is that he doesn't look or sound self-satisfied enough to run the country. It would be nice if the punditry could just call a spade a spade and leave it at that. In any case, the Liberals are also playing to type and starting to bicker.

My only prediction at the moment: that if he escapes this, we're going to have a very vindictive Stephen Harper running Canada for a long time to come. And that makes me want to become an American faster than you can say "wrap yourself in the flag."


03 December 2008

If these camera stills could vote...

...Jack Layton would be the undisputed Prime Minister of Canada.

Why, you ask?

1. Strange shadow-effects on Harper's face plus puffy eyes and forced grin make him look extra-evil.

2. Dion just can't help himself from looking like a befuddled professor.

3. Duceppe comes off as a weird Emperor Palpatine/deer-in-headlights hybrid.

Back to real content in my next post, I promise...


Is it just me...

...or was Harper's address not made in French?


02 December 2008

Daily Show on terrorism...

Fairly hilarious, but at the same time contains some truth. This is not its overt message (that these killers are simply motherfuckers) but, its half-serious parody of the unhelpful reaction to terrorism that is or has become our habit as Westerners; namely, that these killers are simply motherfuckers. Or, as many of us are quick to unreflectively assume, that terrorists are irredeemably evil, completely irrational (in the sense of being able to choose apt means for the ends that they pursue), and (therefore) so entirely Other that we can treat them as inhuman.

Of course there is an incomprehensible inhumanity in their actions, and in the repulsive images and narratives that came to us from Mumbai over the past few days, and I'd have to be particularly heartless to deny that. But not only has our habit of dehumanizing the Other been instrumental in facilitating the excesses of the WoT (which, hopefully, by now is a rather mundane and uncontroversial argument), it also suppresses any moral commitment to the need to understand their ends. These ends they likely hold in common with many others who are unwilling to choose violent means, and to that extent they probably don't boil down exclusively to seeking to construct an Islamic Caliphate or somesuch as the clip seems to suggest. These ends may turn out to be incompatible with our own, in which case we will find ourselves engaging in moral compromises to ensure that ours are the ones that prevail. But we should not hide from that possibility by refusing to ask the question.

It is a sensitive time to express such insensitive thoughts, but hopefully you agree that recognizing the humanity of the terrorist doesn't entail denigrating the humanity of his victim.


01 December 2008

Best sentence I have read in a while

An otherwise unexceptional Macleans article about how coalitions work in various other countries contains the following unexplained aside:

Since 1959, Switzerland has been run by a four-party coalition called the “Magic Formula.”