Archive for April, 2009

New polls updated on the polling resource

I’m still getting the blog back up to date.  The Polling Resource has a new look and it’s now updated so feel free to check it out here.

2009-04-24-graph

That’s a mighty interesting coincidence

Does anybody else see any similarities between the 14 countries other than Israel that are boycotting the UN’s review conference on anti-racism?

I can’t seem to quite put my finger on it…

Canada: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
United States: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Italy: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Australia: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Germany: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
the Netherlands: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
New Zealand: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Poland: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Denmark: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
European Union: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Sweden: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
France: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
United Kingdom: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European
Czech Republic: Population overwhelmingly caucasian/white/European

This graph helps put the situation into perspective.

durban2

See also:

How many people actually read Ahmadinejad’s speech?

How many people actually read Ahmadinejad’s speech?

durbanIt has long been understood that Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo was not the cause of the First World War.  Rather, it was merely the excuse that already bellicose powers needed to spark the powder keg of Europe and let slip the dogs of war.

Fast forward almost 100 years and we have a very similar parallel today at the UN’s conference on anti-racism.  The white, western world was already frothing at the mouth over the entire existence of the anti-racism conference, all it needed was a excuse and Ahmadinejad unsurprisingly was tapped to provide exactly that.

Why the white, wealthy, European world would be unwilling to talk openly about issues with which they’ve long had a checkered past is obvious.  The U.S. has long bristled at even the suggestion that the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are owed reparations.  The far-right Italian government is currently in the process of rounding up and “tagging” Gypsies once again and thus obviously does not want to participate in the Durban discussions on Gypsies.  The Canadian, Australian, American and New Zealand governments were the only governments in the entire world to reject the UN declaration on the rights of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples and thus did not want to be a part of Durban’s discussions on Aboriginal peoples.  And the Israel government doesn’t want to talk about a whole host of issues on which it has long been in violation of UN declarations and Geneva Convention rights (notably the injunctions against acquiring land through military conquest, the right of refugees to return to their homes, nuclear weapons, the slaughter of refugees and engaging in illegal warfare).

So, in this context, the West was poised to find any excuse to discredit the UN’s attempts to eradicate racism and they believe they found it with Ahmadinejad’s speech.  Indeed, if the public didn’t read or listen to Ahmadinejad’s speech, there wouldn’t be a problem — the anti-UN propaganda would probably have worked.  But, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously noted, “ay, there’s the rub”.  The rub is that the UN and several academic and news agencies have published the text of the speech in its entirety.

Oops.

There were certainly problems with the speech.  For instance, the Iranian President seems to think that religion has been (and will be) a major source of anti-racism rather than the single greatest cause of racism.  The Arab Slave Trade, the Pope’s crucial role in the extermination of North American Indians, and the current religiously-supported illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza all work to disprove Ahmadinejad’s argument.  But, that said, aside from some glaring non sequiturs here and there, there was relatively little wrong with the speech — something the lemmings who didn’t read it wouldn’t be able to know.

Read it and think for yourself.

Just to put things into perspective, the following is a wordmap of Ahmadinejad’s speech constructed by a redditor.

39700385

Michael Ignatieff’s status as an academic jumps the shark

ignatieff“Do you kiss your mother with those lips?”

Many individuals have employed the arresting retort “do you kiss your mother with those lips” when faced with ribald, sexually inappropriate comments or otherwise offensive or insulting statements.

A variation of this expression should be developed for Michael Ignatieff in light of his new work (if one could generously stretch the term) entitled True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada published by Viking Press.  In light of this platitude-filled simplistic book and in light of Mr. Ignatieff’s only putative qualification for the Prime Ministership of Canada — namely his much vaunted career as an intellectual and an academic — the variation for Mr. Ignatieff should be: “Did you write your dissertation with that pen?”

To the portion of the public who do not hail from a political science academic background, Mr. Ignatieff’s stature in academia has perhaps been somewhat artificially inflated. One can speculate as to why this is: maybe it is due to his years in the UK on the BBC or perhaps through his shrewd tailoring of academic publications for both academic and public consumption. But regardless of the merits of the arguments he made within academia or how intensely they have been critiqued by both the left and the right, Ignatieff was not too long ago a legitimate and serious academic.

untitledFor all its faults and much maligned “ivory tower” status, the one thing that is genuinely different and unique in academic political science discourse is that regardless of the position being argued, it cannot be argued merely on empty platitudes or trite, meaningless verbiage. Any academic who tried to publish such a piece in a peer-reviewed journal would find herself or himself laughed out the door and then not-so-subtly mocked behind his or her back. This is not to say that all of the arguments coming out of academia are either strong or convincing. Perish the thought! But the academic’s pen has always been considered, at least within academia, as too meaningful to sully with the kind of empty and meaningless soundbites that usually characterize the political discourse of camera-crazed politicians.

Robert Fulford’s excellent piece in today’s National Post beautifully illustrates how Michael Ignatieff’s academic status has perhaps jumped the shark with his latest book.

An excerpt from Fulford:

Enthusiastic flag-waving and empty generalizations, the daily bread of politics, apparently no longer bother Ignatieff. At one point, mentioning certain failures of Canadian life, he says: “Despite these challenges, or because of them, most of us [Canadians] are quietly but intensely patriotic.” How the hell can he know that? Did he do a poll? And if someone’s patriotism happens to be quiet, how can he know it’s also intense? He can’t, of course, and probably wouldn’t even try to defend that sentence if challenged in public.

A few pages later political enthusiasm carries him into the realm of ersatz poetry: “We [Canadians] are still a band of incorrigible romantics. We still believe in that imagined Canada, just beyond the horizon, which one day we could make our own.” Those lines are for reading to a willing mob of power-starved Liberals, desperate for a reason to leap to their feet in applause.

On this point all thinking individuals, be they of the more conservative persuasion like Fulford or be they on the left, can agree.

What Would Jesus NOT Do?

cornell-westContrary to the popular perception in the West, in much of the developing world (and even in parts of the developed world), progressive, revolutionary and socialist forces are intimately tied to religion via Christian Socialism and Liberation Theology.

Some salient examples of admirable and inspiring figures who self-identify as a part of the “Religious Left” include:

  • Hugo Chavez (who will often quote from both the Communist Manifesto and the bible in his weekly Presidential address Aló Presidente);
  • Brazilian President Lula;
  • former Haitian President and Lavalas Party leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide;
  • Key figures of the Canadian NDP including Tommy Douglas; and
  • (My personal favourite and a man I greatly admire) Cornell West.

Thus, while I and many other progressives are atheists, I do believe that it is incumbent upon us as progressives to stand in solidarity with progressive and revolutionary theists such as the figures above.

That said, this morning, two Christian evangelicals came to my door to proselytize me while I was in my housecoat.  I’m all for solidarity with religious people, but not in the morning before I’ve had my coffee and not just after I’ve had an awful night’s sleep!

Nietzsche once wrote that:

“After coming into contact with a religious man, I always feel I must wash my hands.”

So, in the full spirit of Nietzsche, consider this a (hilarious) cleansing of the hands

What Would Jesus NOT Do?

~
And, as an encore:

Yahweh’s Delicious Creation

Enjoy!

The strong and slow boring of hard boards

inletting-img_41193It seems the inevitable and tragic fate of leftist political activists that, at one point in time in our lives or another, I think many of us seem feel like our activities amount to little more than pushing against the ocean.  To borrow another metaphor, German sociologist Max Weber once noted that politics was the “strong and slow boring of hard boards.”

The knowledge that the long-term progress of political culture in the West  has continued to push toward leftist ideals and the knowledge that this blog in particular was at one time influential enough to merit threats of legal action from a multinational polling firm, has not been enough for me personally to escape this bitter philosophy of defeatism.

I attribute, in part, my more than three-month furlough from Paulitics to this inevitable (but hopefully temporary) condition.  The other factor that I think has played a role in the lack of creative output and new content here is one that I hope to write about in the future.  However, sufficed to say that I have discovered that a long-term political diet consisting exclusively of the capitalist media, even the so-called ‘progressive’ capitalist media of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and Google News, can be positively poisonous to activist tendencies.

In my three month experiment, I found that it’s not just that the content of the capitalist media news is highly distorted as suggested by Chomsky’s Propaganda Model.  Rather, I found that the most important news is obviously censored, but that, over and above the Propaganda Model, what little news is permitted to reach air is presented in a way that encourages mere passive ridicule rather than a call to arms and the need for concerted and conscientious political movements of protest.

I don’t know how I would demonstrate this empirically as Chomsky has done, but it is something that I am beginning to think about.

On a personal note (as if this whole post wasn’t already a personal note): I would be very curious to hear from other individuals whether they agree with my assessment or whether they have experienced anything similar and, if so, what helped get them through it.

Anyway, this is my long way of saying that I am back to blogging for the time being.


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