Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

On second thought...

I'm not sure I should go over Ezra's five reasons to go to war after all. As I've reflected, and now reread, on what I wrote this morning, I realize Ezra Levant is the ultimate straw man. He writes the most idiotic things, defends them with tangled and aimless "logic", and ultimately appeals to our lowest petty hatreds and fears. However abhorent his writing is, it's way too easy to reduce his arguments to a shambles. I really don't understand why the Sun continues to give him column inches, but I think I should resolve in the new year to accept that and move on. In the meantime, there are far more thoughtful and intelligent people who are in favour of making war in Iraq. Contradicting them with equal doses of thoughtfulness and intelligence, and putting aside the shouting classes, seems a better use of my time.

On the other hand, only unusual circumstances kept Ezra from becoming a Member of Parliament. He's been advisor to the Leader of the Opposition. He's been published in newspapers across the country. And if he only believes half of what he writes, he's batshit crazy. Somebody's got to shout back on occasion.

Sigh. What to do, what to do....
Ezra Levant is an unbelievable tool

Does that headline even require a following article? Oh, what the heck...

In his last two columns, Levant has taken time away from his discussion of how Kyoto will actually freeze the core of the earth, shaking us out of orbit and sprialling us into the sun (or some such... I can't bring myself to follow his argument) and instead listed five reasons for Canada to join the Americans in war with Iraq, along with six "myths" about the war. Read it quick, because the Sun seems to archive nothing, and the link only connects to the latest.

Let's take them one by one, shall we? I'm going to start with the myths, because they're high-larious.

"Myth 1: The war is an anti-Muslim crusade." Hey, he's right. This is a myth. The Americans are not interested in Iraq because it's a Muslim country... in fact, Hussein is primarily the secular leader of a secular nation. However, here's Levant's gutbuster: "This myth grants Saddam, Osama bin Laden and other Islamic fascists the status of spokesmen for a billion other Muslims." Um, didn't Iraq and Iran fight a decade-long war primarily around Iran's desire to extend its theocracy? Isn't that a primary goal of bin Laden? Wouldn't Saddam happily stick a knife in bin Laden's throat, rather than deal with the sort of revolutionary furor bin Laden tends to represent? There's a lot of these sorts of false connections drawn between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in this column... I won't exhaust you with them all.

Myth 2: The war is simply America being a bully and a lone wolf. He then alludes to "a dozen other countries" with military presence in the region. And by "in the region," he means Afghanistan. If the USA is not interested in war, there will be no war. As for bullying, the recent UN resolution was a reaction to the American brinkmanship.... the rest of the world was trying to pull the US back from the cliff of unilateralism. If there's an international presence in the coming war, it will be to create the impression of legitimacy, as a choice preferable to allowing the world to become more dangerous through the doctrines of unilateralism and "preventative war".

Myth 3: The war is illegal. Ezra argues that because Iraq is in violation of the terms of cease-fire at the end of the last war, the war is "legal". I have no idea what this means. Since the Americans refuse to sign on to any sort of international court, there's no law to appeal to. No one gave NATO "permission" to invade Afghanistan, but the world accepted it because September 11 was arguably an act of war. I can wish it had been seen as a criminal act, rather than giving al Quada the legitimacy of a nation-state, but there it is. Iraq, on the other hand, doesn't seem to pose any new threat to the west or its neighbours. If that's the standard by which we measure "legality" --- in other words, if international legitimacy of a country's motives is the measurement of "legality" --- this war will not be legal.

Myth 4: The war will kill innocent people. I like when he says "of course it will". So, what part of this is a myth, again?

Myth 5: Iraq is not the real threat. He agrees that there are other threats, and schedules their bombings to follow. Because we'll bomb peace into this world eventually! This is an interesting Ezra strategy: list out actual problems (N. Korea), say your solution will be right for that problem, too, and that therefore it's right for this imaginary problem. Note how this strategy works: North Korea, like Iraq, is trying to build a nuke. Except, North Korea has an actual plant capable of producing plutonium. We know where it is. We had cameras in it. Iraq has some mysterious mobile underground cavern, which the Americans can show you on their satellite photos if your security clearance is high enough, but which Hans Blix is unable to find on the ground. But the threats are equated casually in Ezra's writing, and therefore they are equal, without any argument to establish they're equal. I think the argument would have been more interesting if the "Myth" was "Iraq is not a real threat."

Myth 6: Terrorism will only stop when we change our foreign policy. I like this one... I like it a lot. Ezra is again making a casual connection between two wildly unrelated things --- in this case, Iraq and terrorism. Even the American government, after a couple of days of trying to publicly link al Quada and Saddam, realized it wasn't flying and dropped it as a reason to go to war. But this is my favourite for a few reasons. First of all, I like what this shows us about Ezra's thinking on his myth #1... after all, the main thing shared between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is --- wait for it --- Islam. Very, very different types of Islam, with very different goals. But this isn't a war against Islam. But bin Laden and Saddam are the same. Huh? The other reason I like this one is because it inadvertently makes one of my main arguments. Ezra is trying to suggest that we need to bomb Iraq to stop terrorism, but those crazy peaceniks would have you believe that the way to stop terrorism is to change our foreign policy. Well, if Iraq was involved in terrorism against the west, this might be an argument worth having, but the main way that Iraq has been involved with terrorism was in giving money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. BUT, there's nothing like bombing innocent people without even an air of legitimacy to create an atmosphere where people feel such hate and desperation that they're ready to take the middle three weeks of flight school.

On to the five reasons? I'm tempted, but perhaps I should take a breather.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Shoot it out of the sky.

The Alberta provincial government has floated a trial balloon this morning. Unfazed by the failures of voucher systems in every region of the United States, the Premier has suggested Alberta should try it:

The voucher system would force schools to improve and offer parents a greater choice, says Klein.

Klein said he's not formally advocating a voucher system -- a method of education funding popular in some parts of the United States -- but said he has heard a clamour for it from some Albertans, and expects it will be examined by the ongoing commission into the future of learning in Alberta.

It sounds great on the surface, but in the end, it helps the wealthy subsidize their private schools using the tax money of the middle class. And it also creates greater inequalities in the public system as teachers and students battle for spaces in a few specific schools that get a reputation. Imagine the Edmonton Journal doing a McLean's-style poll on the best Junior High schools in the province, and the resulting rush into the top-ranked few schools, the emptying of the bottom-ranked few, no matter the criteria used to judge those schools.

I am constantly shocked at the right in this province. Free enterprise is a meritocracy only when there is true equality of opportunity. This is important.... let it sink in. Access to education, health care, and social services are the tools to level the entrepreneurial playing field. And of the three, the single greatest weapon to create that equality is education. This is where I cleave from many other New Democrats, who want equality of result, who believe that there can be no true equality of opportunity. Every time the Tories in Alberta trot out some idea to undermine equality of opportunity (and it happens shockingly often), they undermine the line you could once clearly draw between a democratic capitalism allowing smart, hard-working people to succeed, and a feudal generational perpetuation of privilege and economic class. The Socreds understood that when they built schools and hospitals everywhere in this province, and Lougheed and Getty understood this when they paved roads and ran phone lines. "You will not be trapped by your geography, you will not be trapped by your family history, you will not be trapped by your isolation. You can do anything! You can be anything!" Every time Klein's government does something to undermine that faith, every time that government separates Albertans from one another along demarcations of wealth (and vouchers will certainly do that), they chip away at the edifice of a just capitalism. And they send more people into the arms of my more radical left-wing brethren, who believe capitalism and justice are mutually exclusive.
A little something to tide you over.

I don't think I can blame my continued listlessness on turkey, but I'll try.

In the meantime, a couple of sites by people far more energetic:

Ever get an e-mail asking for help smuggling several million dollars out of Nigeria? Apparently, I answer the online surveys correctly, because I never do, but plenty of others have. It's called the Nigerian 4-1-9 scam, and here, a fellow scams them right back. Be prepared to lose an afternoon reading these.

Dubyadubyadubya.com is quicker, requires flash, and has nothing to do with Nigeria.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Yeah, it's been a while...

There's something about a certain volume of turkey in my bloodstream that makes me dull-witted and lazy. But I'm sure I can scrape up an opinion if I really try. Hmmm... let's see...

Gravy good! Cranberries bad!

Perhaps my instincts were right. I'll likely continue to keep my opinions to myself until the new year.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The war, on drugs

Last week, The Guardian published this article about anti-American sentiment in Canada. And now, we can add to our litany of complaints. It seems that the American pilots who bombed and killed Canadian soldiers in April we dosed up on amphetamines.

Myself, I'd want to know when I'm scheduling a training exercise that the sky overhead will not be populated with speed freaks packing heavy ordinance. Actually, I think I'd feel the same way if I was scheduling a wedding.

I hope this is a big deal to Americans, and I hope they insist that their military shake this monkey off its back before it starts bombing yet another country. But a search of CNN for the word "amphetamines" (among other searches) produced nothing relevant... I don't think CNN has broadcast this story.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

What an empowering little hobby this is:

"... the [Trent Lott] controversy has proved a defining moment for the vibrant online culture of weblogs - nimble, constantly updated, opinion-driven internet journals, freed from many of the constraints of the established media. "

The argument notes that the Washington Post let the comments sit five days before deciding there was a story, whereas the blogs were on it right away. Fluke, or front edge of a trend?

(Thanks to PR Watch for catching the article.)

Another viewpoint

Sure, I'm a Canadian, I'm a left-winger... naturally I'm opposed to war with Iraq. How about some clear-headed thinking from a Texas Republican?

(Yeah, it's a little dated. But it's new to me.)

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Ray Hnatyshyn 1934-2002

On the radio and television the last day, it seems the only people who knew and appreciated the former Goveror-General were Tories. Brian Mulroney, Peter Lougheed, Harve Andre... these are the voices I've been hearing. So I was glad to read this, looking around for others:

Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow called Hnatyshyn's death a "great loss."

"If I had to point to any one person as an example of the kind of politician should model himself or herself after it would be Ray," he said.

"He always carried a tremendous sense of humour which always put a perspective on debate and was civil and decent and I think that's a tribute to the way public life should be conducted at all times."
(Story here)

Myself, I think a legacy that includes giving Rideau Hall physically and symbolically back to the people of Canada, is the sort of democratic legacy that all Canadians should appreciate. John, Carl, if you happen to come across this... my deepest sympathies to your family.

John Hnatyshyn's brief online memorial to his father can be found here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Posting light, but had to post...

I've got too many things to do today, that I've been promising too many people for too long would be done. However, I need to get two things off my chest.

The Two Towers

I was taken to a midnight showing last night, and despite exiting the theatre at 3:20, only to find a football-halftime-sized queue for the urinals as it got out (in fairness, the movie attendees, while slightly more heavily male, were also much less drunk, and found less occasion to go "Wooooo!" or pick fights in said lineup), I really, really enjoyed this film. I was not nearly so impressed with The Fellowship of the Ring, which was too plodding and filled with too much exposition. Jackson has learned his lesson about showing us, rather than telling us. The CGI was much better than I've seen before --- the Golem was a character convincingly interacted with, and the crowd scenes looked like crowd scenes filled with unique extras, not Gladiator's monocrowd or Lucas' "Where's Waldo" Senate scenes. And there's nothing like real actors acting to CGI to help add to the realism. More detail is deserved, and may come eventually.

Dear David Ahenakew and Trent Lott:

I've been trying to find something unique to add to the Trent Lott discussion. There really is nothing that Tom Tomorrow isn't already saying in much greater detail. And some of the same things can be said about David Ahenakew, though the circumstances are not the same.

Nothing I had come up with seemed entirely appropriate. Until I found this. What could I possibly add?

Monday, December 16, 2002


Perhaps I've been unduly harsh to poor CFCN. Perhaps our public broadcaster can do better:

Learning Minister Lyle Oberg says adding a few minutes to a teacher's day would protect their jobs and maintain class sizes.

I'm going to have to say not, then. It seems if a Minister of the Crown says something, it's reported. Now, in this story, at least the more logical conclusion is drawn by one of the other interviewees:

Larry Booi, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, says increasing a teacher's workload is simply a way for the government to get by with less teachers.

Well, duh. But coming from a union representitive, it sounds like this is a counter-argument, rather than simply a logical conclusion. I beg of CBC, of CFCN, of whomever.... please explain the Minister's rationale, so others can crush it in wave after wave of inescapable logic (or not, as the case may be).

I think there's some possibility that this makes intuitive sense in Lyle Oberg's mind, so he felt it didn't require any further explanation. "Naturally," he thought, "classes are getting larger and teachers are at risk of losing their jobs. It's because teachers are lazy. Everyone knows that."

In the interests of full disclosure, I ran against Dr. Oberg in the last provincial election. Perhaps it's my own thinking that's clouded in envy. Yes, that's probably it.
Now.... this!

I hate television news. Too many stories are told without context, and often, without any sense whatsoever. Let's take this as an example. Now, I'd love to be critical of Oberg's contention here. But he's not an idiot, I don't think. And yet, from the story here, what he says makes no sense. If everyone in the education system works longer hours, presumably there will be room for more layoffs, not fewer. Regardless, let's move on.... we have footage of something on fire.

I'll look forward to critiquing or congratulating Oberg's proposal just as soon as I can discover what the logic behind it is. Thanks, CFCN, for completely obscuring it.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

I've moved!

And you've found your way here. Welcome aboard.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

More on that other Paul Martin:

Not the next Prime Minister of Canada, but the reporter for the Washington Times who "broke" the Nasrallah speech story. Skip through the main story, and read the section three-quarters down entitled "Mystery Man"

(As for confirmation of the ID, the Sydney Morning Herald is the only source I was able to find that I wouldn't call 'vested'. But I'll keep searching, and would happily see anything others might find. See the e-mail link over to the left there, near where the archive link would be if it worked? Right. Thanks.)

Fair enough that he's using a psudeonym... I have no idea how much danger he might have been in. But an Arabic psudeonym? That seems to be a little too intentionally misleading, when reporting on events in the middle east, don't you think?
Canada adds Hezbollah, Snipe, to terrorist list

Two weeks ago, when Canada first set a list of banned terrorist groups, Hezbollah was notably not among them. Since then, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was widely quoted encouraging Palestinians "to take suicide bombings worldwide." Yesterday, Hezbollah managed to make the Canadian list:

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham had argued that the social arm of Hezbollah was a legitimate charity and independent of the group's military arm.

But on Wednesday Graham changed his mind, citing media reports last week that quoted Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, urging Palestinians to expand their suicide bombings worldwide.

"It was clear from the leader's comments the other day that it was not distinguishing itself from terrorist activities," he said.

(story here)

There's only one problem with all of this: it now appears that Nasrallah never said a word of what has been attributed to him. Rather, it seems a reporter working for the Washington Times pulled the quote out of his ass, in this story.

This has left the Canadian government backpedalling like crazy, without actually lifting Hezbollah from the list. Sure enough, it seems that CSIS has evidence of Hezbollah terrorist activities. Evidence not available two weeks ago? Damn, CSIS moves fast!

I certainly don't know enough to say if this decision is wrong or right. I know that I have little faith in the foreign policy of the US, and only slightly more in the foreign policy of Israel, the only two countries besides Canada to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, so far as I've been able to discover. But I really think we should take a step back, wait for the effect of these false quotes to fade, and see what we think. Since the Minister so closely linked Canada's policy change to the 'quote', it throws the decision into doubt. Which in turn throws the list into doubt.

One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, I hear. But all of these terrorist lists have set standards to define differences between the two. If we start blurring this line, if we start making these lists a partisan tool, then the list will lose its ethical force. Canadians have to believe that the money they've been giving to support schools and hospitals in south Lebanon has been misappropriated into terrorist activity. Rebuild the case against Hezbollah, or drop them from the list.

Monday, December 09, 2002

We wouldn't tell you if we didn't love you

I seem to be returning to the intervention theme for this little detour.

This article is about American reaction to Canadians (among many, many others) travelling to Iraq in the hopes that there will be some reluctance to bomb western civilians. I don't think it will work, though I could wish it would. But look at the negative reactions... one after another, they talk about the War on Terror. I can't speak for the entire peace movement, but as for myself, you put a smoking gun in Saddam's hands for September 11 --- real evidence, not this spin-driven gossipy crap I was complaining about earlier today --- I'm done with this fight. Simple as that. I might complain about some of the execution after that, but certainly not the intent. We were right to enter Afghanistan, and though I could wish we had done so with the mindset of police officers prosecuting a criminal, I never said that Americans, and Canadians alongside, shouldn't respond.

Thing is, I've been waiting for Iraq's smoking gun for over three months now... if the American government has anything, if anyone has anything, they're certainly keeping it to themselves.

So here's the intervention. Look, we know you're still pissed about September 11. You should be. But keep your eyes on the ball - don't let your President use that anger to promote his own agenda. Here's the thing: bin Laden is still out there. He's almost certainly not in Iraq. I think you should go find him, and leave the UN inspectors to do their work in Iraq instead of breathing down their neck every minute. I think you'll find it much more satisfying to direct your anger toward someone who is actually culpable.
Iraq Harbours Weapons of Mass Documentation

The White House is starting to darkly imply that they have evidence --- up-to-date evidence --- of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But "the administration believes the burden is on Iraq to prove that it has provided a full accounting � not on Security Council members or the inspectors to prove that it has not,", so they won't give that evidence to the UN inspection teams. What?

Now, it may very well be that Iraq is harbouring weapons of mass destruction. But if they have none, precisely what documentary evidence could they produce to prove that? I'm sure they could offer up documents such as: here's the order converting the nerve gas factory into a Pepsi Plant --- here's the return receipt for the uranium and here's where we used it --- &c, &c. But a document proving a negative? What are the chances of that? Zero, really.... none of the 12000-odd pages is going to be labelled "last page --- nothing more to see here."

Does anyone remember the Somalia Inquiry? In trying to find relevant evidence (I'm sure they were looking for one memo in particular, but my memory and my search methodology are both too faulty), the Canadian Department of National Defence ordered every one of its employees to look at every piece of paper in every file, on one particular day. Some documents turned up, but not precisely what the Department was looking for. If that process couldn't come up with a document establishing why something that did happen happened, what are the chances of the Iraqi government coming up with the precise document to prove that something that hasn't happened hasn't?

We know that the American government has been trying very hard to sell a war against Iraq to its citizens. 60 Minutes just last night pointed out a couple of the PR attempts that had little or no basis in fact: Iraq was somehow involved in September 11th, Iraq has an ongoing nuclear weapons programme. If Iraq has some credibility issues when they say they have no weapons of mass destruction, well, the White House has blown a whole lotta credibility as well. Who am I going to believe? Well, right now, it's an actual 12,000 pages going up against whispered implications supported by leaks rumouring documentary evidence. Call me a bureaucrat, but I'm going with the guy with the paperwork.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Fox to investigate henhouse thefts

Why was Henry Kissinger named to head the investigation into 9/11 intelligence failures? Stephen Colbert, on tonight�s The Daily Show, summed it up:

Henry Kissinger is the natural choice to head this investigation. � Look at his record. If you want to investigate an assault on a democracy, who better to head it than the man who instigated the overthrow and assassination of the democratically elected leader of Chile in 1973? Who better to look into a secret attack than the man who secretly bombed Cambodia? And in general, who better to investigate the failures of US intelligence on behalf of the American people than the man who successfully kept the American people completely in the dark about US intelligence? Plus, he had sex with Shirley MacLaine.