"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sunday music and musicals

Join us once again for a serene Sunday soaring high above the clouds, be they metaphysical, meteorological or computer-generated in the skies of Second Life. Join us on the Red Zeppelin for some traveling music via Radio Woodshed and hang around for this week's installment of the Glorious People's Cinema Project presented by the Marxist-Lennonist Party of Second Life.

This week we've got trouble, right here in River City and that starts with T and rhymes with P and that stands for POOL! That's right, this week's movie is the start of a new series - musicals - and what better way to begin than with that musical among musicals, "The Music Man"?

I'll be seizing the controls in the radio room at the airship around 5 pm PDT/8pm EDT with the movie to follow at 7 pm PDT/10 pm EDT.

The Music Man is also the inspiration for one of my all-time favorite bits from the Simpsons

Posts I never thought I'd write: Michael Ignatieff is my homeboy

The CBC has an excellent letter from an expat grad student in England about the Conservative Party of Canada's attacks on Michael Ignatieff for being a) a successful intellectual and b) living outside the country for many years before returning to enter politics. By all means read the letter, then have a quick scan of the comments and ask yourself why anyone with a top notch education and contacts abroad would want to return to a country that is so full of ignorant, provincial knuckledraggers. The woman is obviously a patriot, just don't tell her about the Blogging Tories and Small Dead Animals and she might still come back one day.

What I really want to talk about are the idiotic attack ads by the CPC, which attack Ignatieff on everything except substance. He must really scare them. And he should.
A quick look at Michael Ignatieff's bio shows him to be an academic and public intellectual of the highest caliber who has held posts at the most prestigious institutions in the English-speaking world. That those institutions happen to be located outside Alberta and mostly outside of Canada is hardly his fault, as in show business and sports, you go where the work is. Yes, one can be a highly respected public intellectual on the world stage while living in Canada, but there are only so many jobs for such people.
Crapping on Ignatieff for spending his career at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard instead of the University of British Columbia is like criticizing Phil Esposito for spending his hockey career with the Bruins and Rangers instead of staying with the Sault Greyhounds, or slamming Dan Ackroyd and John Candy for not sticking with Second City in Toronto.
One of the commenters on the CBC site criticized the author of the letter, described as a Rhodes scholar and Ph.D candidate at Oxford, calling her "a snob" and claiming the author "thinks she's better than us." As a Rhodes scholar, she is certainly demonstrably smarter then the cementheaded commenter. She is certainly more open minded, almost certainly more well-travelled, better-read and more cosmopolitan, and probably has "qualities of truthfulness, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; exhibition of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in one’s contemporaries," but then to the audience of resentful, embittered, small minded, petty bourgeois, know-nothings that the Conservative attack ads are pandering to, none of those things are desirable.
I'm not a big fan of Ignatieff and his running for office in 2006 with his eyes firmly on the Liberal Party leadership was unquestionably a bit opportunistic. So was Stephen Harper's channelling of western Canadian resentment in helping form the Reform Party. So was his departure for the National Citizens Coalition when it became evident that Preston Manning wasn't going to turn the party over to him. While Ignatieff at least got himself elected to parliament before seeking the Liberal leadership in 2006, Harper decided to try for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party when Stockwell "Doris" Day looked weak in 2002 and after an ugly campaign won the leadership. Then he pushed Ezra Levant out of the way to run for Preston Manning old seat in Calgary.
Ignatieff is criticized for considering a return to Harvard is his bid for election in 2006 didn't work out. He got elected and stayed in the House, despite losing in his first campaign for party leader, and was re-elected again in 2008. If he had not won a seat in parliament in 2006, Ignatieff would have continued on at the University of Toronto for a least another year as visiting professor and senior fellow at the Munk Centre for International Studies. After that, he might have run for parliament again, or he might have returned to his career as a scholar, living wherever the work took him as he pleased.
Harper, on the other hand, has a history of quitting when things don't go his way. He quit the Liberal party because he didn't like the National Energy Program (He was working in Alberta for Imperial Oil at the time). He quit the Progressive Conservatives a few years later after going to work for a Mulroney government backbencher because they didn't end the NEP fast enough to suit him. He quit the Reform Party when he couldn't get Preston Manning to step aside as leader and let him run things along more Straussian ideological lines. He quit the National Citizen Coalition a little less than four years later when he saw a chance to grab the leadership of the Canadian Alliance party after using the NCC to undermine Stockwell Day for a year. Once leader of the Alliance party, he devoted all his energy to co-opting and absorbing the Progressive Conservative Party to try to present a united right wing front.
If he fails to win a majority government next time around, will he quit Canadian politics? If some conservative think tank down south like the Heritage Foundation offers him some primo wingnut welfare job to push economic integration or some other neo-con pie in the sky, do you think he'll hang around Calgary scanning the want ads? I'm sure with his hard won Masters degree, Liberty University could find a job for him teaching remedial English or something, but he's not really qualified to do much else. Aside from the mail room at Imperial Oil nearly 30 years ago, he's never really done anything outside of politics and think tank work.
While Ignatieff was working outside of Canada, he made no secret of his Canadian-ness and we as a nation were happy to call him one of our own. He may have referred to Britain as his "adopted nation" a few times in the 20+ years he lived there or used the rhetorical flourish of "We Americans" when writing for an American audience, but unlike Conrad Black, Wayne Gretzky, Michael J. Fox and Pamela Anderson he never became an American or British citizen. He has been a Canadian all along. More importantly, he has not publically badmouthed his country to foreign audiences, (which as we know from conservatives' descriptions of Bill Clinton organizing anti-war protests in England while he was a student there during the Vietnam War is high treason or something) unlike Stephen Harper, who had this to say to a U.S. think tank less than a year after leaving parliament the first time:
"Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it"
"If you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians"

As I said, I'm not a big fan of Ignatieff, mostly for his original positions on the Iraq War and torture and for yanking the rug out from under the idea of an NDP-Liberal coalition government. He is a bit conservative for my tastes, but I think he'd make a much better prime minister than any of the other options on offer.
His job history and personal story are nothing if not enviable and his time abroad is a feature, not a bug. Ignatieff has done more than simply teach at the world's finest universities. He has been a broadcaster, a filmmaker, a journalist, a writer of non-fiction and fiction alike and travelled the world. Unlike Stephen Harper, who's last real job was in the Imperial Oil mailroom and who didn't even have a passport until he entered the House of Commons. Harper graduated high school in 1978 and went work for Conservative MP Jim Hawkes in 1985 and has been out of the job market ever since.
Before entering electoral politics, Ignatieff wrote prize-winning books on human rights and foreign policy, delivered the Massey Lectures and had a novel short-listed for the Booker Prize. Stephen Harper has supposedly been working on a book on hockey for longer than anyone can remember and wears sweater vests to try to make us think he's human.
Only the complete "morans" who make up the current electoral base of modern conservatism would consider being well-educated, widely-travelled and highly accomplished bad things. They get the leaders they deserve.
And as for the notion that spending time, even a long time, outside the country make one any less Canadian --I've been living in Japan for dozen years and, like Ignatieff, the place I miss most is Algonquin Park. If you think I'm somehow less Canadian because of where I live (and I'd move back tomorrow if the right job opportunity presented itself, but you go where the work is) or who I married or because I eat sushi more often than poutine these days, you are just plain wrong and can kiss my fat, maple-syrup loving, multicultural ass. I may be less engaged than I once was in the daily cut and thrust of Canadian politics, but I'd venture to guess that I still pay more attention than most in the Great White North. That must be true, because you sure as hell wouldn't catch me voting for Stephen Harper.

I don't think that word means what you think it means

Universities are supposed to places of ideas, centers of higher education and free marketplaces of ideas. Students are there to have their minds expanded and to learn about the world around them. Then there's Liberty University, whose directors really need to look up the word "Liberty" in a dictionary. 

Liberty University has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” said Brian Diaz, president of LU’s student Democratic Party organization, which LU formally recognized in October.

Diaz said he was notified of the school’s decision May 15 in an e-mail from Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university’s name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events. Violators could incur one or more reprimands under the school’s Liberty Way conduct code, and anyone who accumulates 30 reprimands is subject to expulsion.

Hine said late Thursday that the university could not sanction an official club that supported Democratic candidates.

“We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.”

Imagine the screeching that would result if a liberal college refused to allow a "Young Republicans" chapter on campus, and rightfully so. I'm sure David Horowitz will get right on this.

Another sort of cutback in Thunder Bay school

Criminal charges in Canada are laid at the discretion of the Crown Attorney, generally on the recommendation of, or in consultation with the police. If the Crown refuses to lay charges, a victim's options for seeking justice are severely limited. However, the Crown's main consideration in laying charges is the public interest.  A criminal charge, trial and conviction is intended to serve not only to punish someone for breaking the law but also to provide an example that will deter others from breaking the law. On the simple grounds of deterrence alone  I can see no reason at all not to charge this person with assault

You can be sure that if a teacher or some other student had snipped the ponytail off  some blonde cheerleader, there would be seven kinds of  hell to pay. I don't care if  it was a  case of not understanding the rules or having the best of intentions, school staff are not allowed to give the students involuntary haircuts. 

Some might argue that "ruining" the teaching assistant's life by charging them with assault is unfair and would end their career and that the person in question doesn't deserve to go to jail for trimming a seven-year-old's bangs.  I would argue that this person very much deserves to go to jail since this is someone who has been placed in a position of trust and authority over that child and has used that authority to violate their person, terrorize and traumatize a seven-year-old. They either know they had no right to interfere with this young boy the way they did and willingly broke the law or they are so completely ignorant of the rules that govern their profession that they should not be allowed within a mile of a classroom full of seven-year-olds. 

If the child's parents were to drop by the teaching assistant's home with a pair of clippers and shave her head "to help her see better" I think it's safe to say they'd be in jail faster than you could knock "shave and a haircut".

I'm not sure whether the family's accusations of anti-Native discrimination are well founded or not - they may just be the racist icing on the layer cake of stupid - and frankly I don't think the discrimination angle even matters. For a teacher or any member of the school staff to take a pair of scissors to a seven-year-old's hair against the child's will is an incredible violation of trust. 

And the first person to make a "scalping" joke is really going to wish they hadn't.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Uke fight!

RossK and I are getting into it big time and the gloves are off. After we both picked the same uke ace last week, we've decided this week its double or nothing!  So here's a double-double shot...

Julia Nunes is a college student/musician in upstate New York who started posting videos on YouTube a couple of years ago and became a sensation. Last year, she toured with Ben Folds, next month she playing Bonnaroo. Like last week's treat from Molly/SweetAfton23, I think this typifies the great DIY spirit of the new uke movement in music

But the ukelele is Hawaiian and what could be more Hawaiian than surf rock?

Then there's a this bad boy, the second double neck uke I've blogged. My wife loves it when I play this one on guitar.

For some seriously wild looking ukes, check this out!

Bonus Track - not strickly uke, or DIY, but the Asylum Street Spankers are God's Favorite Band and Pops Bayless plays a mean ukelele.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Onward Christian soldiers

Just when you think that what you know about the George W. Bush administration's depravity, rank hypocracy and sadististic bullying masquerading as patriotic piety has hit the bottom of the barrel, someone comes along and points out that there is a whole other barrel underneath this one. Apparently Donald Rumsfeld, not content to have things like prayer meetings going on at the Pentagon and a chief of Special Forces who make Gen. Jack T. Ripper look like the moderate wing of the GOP/military axis, took it upon himself to make special title pages for the regular top secret briefing he delivered to the president and handful of others. Pages with heroic, glamorous images of America's Heroic Glamorous Defenders of Heroic Freedom Heroically Defending Freedom in Glamorous ways, overlaid with stirring passages from, yep - you guessed it - the Bible. (image lifted shamelessly from Jesus' General )

See them all here

Keep in mind that this was not an attempt to play to the religious rubes out there in the hinterlands or a pose adopted to curry favor with the evangelistic electorate. These covers were for super-secret executive level only reports that were circulated only to the most senior people.
One wonders what the "Prince of Peace" would make of that. One also wonders why none of these pictures were included with suitable biblical quotes:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.

Suffer the little children to come unto me

If you are American, write your president, your congressman, your senator, your newspaper and demand that the people responsible for starting this hideous human meatgrinder on false pretenses for their own selfish reasons be brought to trial.

Gratitude to fellow Fez enthusiast Atta J. Turk

Bullies in blue

Who will protect us from those that are supposed to "serve and protect" us? I suppose that the woman should be grateful she wasn't tasered. It is nice to see that there are a few honest people in the system willing to do the right thing. Too bad more of them aren't cops. I fear that the bad cops who abuse their authority are giving the job such a bad name it will soon start to drive out the good ones.

This a good example of the kind of "circle the wagons" mentality that seems to exist whenever anyone questions or criticizes the cops. In a story with an otherwise happy ending in which a community drew together to make a statement against racism and the authorities eventually did the right thing, the police union just can't admit that maybe, just maybe, a couple of their members might have acted a bit hastily.

Last week (York Regional Police Chief Armand) La Barge announced at a press conference that he was recommending to the Newmarket Crown attorney that charges be withdrawn, something only the crown can do.
La Barge went even further, criticizing the thoroughness of the initial investigation that resulted in the charges, saying it was "hasty."
This sparked an angry response from York Regional Police Association president John Miskiw, who called La Barge's comments a "slap in the face" to the two officers.
Additionally, Miskiw maintains the officers did the right thing in laying the charges and La Barge was wrong in recommending they be withdrawn.

Those would be these charges and as the Star story quoted above reveals they have been dropped. It's pretty clear officers involved didn't do much of an investigation, but simply took the school principal at his word and arrested the kid that won the fight. That would be the same school principal who wanted the student in question expelled from not only his school, but from every school in the York Region and who clearly either didn't do much investigating or is a major league dumbass.