Archive for April, 2007

Chomsky on self-deception and other fun topics

This video contains an excellent discussion between Robert Trivers and Noam Chomsky on self-deception that is absolutely fascinating and, given the recent revelations in the U.S. about the Bush administration, is very worth taking a look at.

It’s relatively short and a very easy listen, so I encourage everyone, even those not familiar with Chomsky or Trivers’s work to take a look.

What I found especially interesting about this exchange is their discussion of the nature of the process of internalizing information in what can be termed self-propagandization.

While neither Chomsky nor Trivers directly mention the work of either Hungarian Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács or French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser (possibly because the latter has fallen out of favour in academic circles since the 1970s), the shadow of these two philosophers on the topic discussed above is unmistakable and worthy of brief discussion.

Continue reading ‘Chomsky on self-deception and other fun topics’

Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world

propaganda-in-action-big.pngIt has become a generally accepted truism in Canada that while our American compatriots to the south may occasionally do bad things in the world, we on the other hand are a force for good.

Indeed, to listen to the media or even the talking points which the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats spout on any range of issues from Afghanistan to Haiti, one would think that somehow, somewhere between 9/11 and today, we in the West have grown a conscience and are intervening abroad militarily out of sheer human compassion. 

There are any number of ways of testing the veracity of these talking points which, if we were honest with ourselves, would have been thoroughly discredited in both the press and in so-called web 2.0 sources such as blogs.

First, in terms of our putative altruistic intentions in Afghanistan, one can disprove this relatively easily by looking at the amount of money Canada is spending on Afghanistan and then analyse the breakdown of said funds between offensive military spending and reconstruction aid.

Continue reading ‘Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world’

A detailed analysis of Canadian public opinion: NDP up significantly

Whenever a dramatic new poll is released like yesterday’s Decima poll (available here) , it’s always a good idea to actually look at a detailed anlaysis of public opinion before the various blogging partisan hacks chime in.

So, before we start hearing from the Tories, Liberals, New Democrats or Greens, let’s take a look at what the polling trend lines show.

The last update to the Paulitics Polling Resource (which was yesterday) was posted just hours before Decima released their poll which suggested, among other things, the collapse of Tory support in Ontario and a nation-wide surge for the NDP.

The Decima poll had the party support as follows:

Con: 30    Lib: 29    NDP: 18    Green: 11    Bloc: 8

If this poll is indicative of future trends (and keep in mind that this poll doesn’t take account of the Tories’ recent embarrassments this week), then the political landscape is about to become very interesting.

So what does this poll and the Paulitics Polling Resource suggest about the political landscape?

Firstly, and most importantly, while the Conservatives are still tied with their 2006 vote results in the key province of Ontario, this latest Decima poll puts the Conservatives down 12% from the previous Decima poll and down 15% from the more recent Ipsos-Reid poll’s Ontario results.

Conversely, this poll has the NDP’s support up 10% in Ontario.  While they are still below their 2006 results in the Paulitics rolling-rive poll average in the province of Ontario, this poll brought their average up significantly.

Secondly, as was discussed here,  the NDP had previously been down badly in Atlantic Canada, however with the intervening few polls which have been released, the NDP has risen back up to be statistically tied with their 2006 vote result and they accomplished this in a relatively short period of time.

Thirdly, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are either stagnant or in decline in both nationally and in every region or province surveyed.  The Liberals, who were once in the process of making statistically significant gains in Quebec and Alberta only a few weeks ago, are now statistically tied to their 2006 election results across the board in every province and region.  A similar story is true of the Conservatives, except for the fact that they are outside of the margin of error with their drop in Atlantic Canada.

Lastly, the provincial breakdown for the Greens is not favourable.  The Greens made impressive gains in both BC, but perhaps most surprisingly, in Ontario as well.  However, the near-double-digit gains have evaporated and the Greens are now within the margin of error in BC.

The new, updated, national results according to the Paulitics rolling and weighted averages are:


For the long-term trend lines of national party support, click here

For the breakdown of party support for all the regions/provinces, click here

Paulitics Polling Resource Updated: NDP up slightly, all others stalled

Using the polling results from exactly one month ago, it is now apparent that the Canadian public, whose opinions, as discussed here, were so erratic only a month ago, seem to have settled down considerably.

Since March 25th, the Tories have stalled and have not been able to break the 38% barrier.  As of this writing, the Tories have not approached majority government territory in the since early summer 2006.

The Liberals, after having dropped badly to 27% in the Paulitics trend lines during April, have recovered to their now standard 31% level which they have not been able to break above since this past February.

The Greens, having surged briefly above the 10% in the Politics trend lines in late February, have now dropped by statistically significant margins back down to the 8% level they were once so jubilant to break for the first time back this past January.

The Bloc is possibly in the worst shape of all political parties (stay tuned for details on this front: I’ll be updating the Paulitics Regional/Provincial Polling Resource in the coming days).

Lastly, the NDP, is still pretty anemic.  While their rolling trend lines have been stalled since earlier this month, they are nonetheless the one party that can boast any even remotely long-term gains.  Since late March, with only one exception, the NDP have either gone up or have stood fast at their existing levels of support in each of the seven latest polls covered in the Paulitics Polling Resource.

Thus, the party standings are now:


Click here for the Paulitics Polling Resource

New Paulitics resource: The Propaganda in Action Series

I’m back from the insanity that has been my life for the past few weeks.  So, for those of you who’ve been wondering whether anything’s happened to me (you’re not alone, my parents have been wondering the same thing), I’ve just been in an interminable universe of essay writting and research.

propaganda-in-action-big.pngAnyway, it’s become apparent that there’s a big demand for my Propaganda in Action series, so I’ve created a new widget in the sidebar resource section as a place to keep all of the installments in the ongoing Propaganda in Action series together in one place. 

I’ve really enjoyed all the feedback and suggestions on this series so far, so it’s a safe bet to assume that there will be more installments coming out in the future.

Click here for the new Paulitics resource: the Propaganda in Action Series

Richard Dawkins answers a question

In keeping with the deliciously heathen & atheistic track I’ve been on as of late, I’ve been getting my daily dose of Richard Dawkins when I came across this video clip.

How much would it suck to be the student who asked this question?

For those interested, the other installments of heathens-‘r’-us, are:

Is organized religion still good for society?

Geology makes baby Jesus cry…

In defense of Atheism (with the complete, 2-part BBC documentary of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion)

Proof that organized religion stops critical thinking

Creationism is Bullshit! & The Bible is Bullshit! (with complete episodes of Penn & Teller’s television program Bullshit!)

A Proposal for Greens & the NDP: A “300” Strategy

The hue and cry that has risen up in NDP quarters over the Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s plan not to run a candidate in Central Nova would have been humorous if it weren’t so shrouded in feigned moral superiority on the part of the New Democrats.

NDP bloggers are accusing Dion of side-stepping democracy (as if somehow our electoral system was actually democratic) and of abandoning Liberal Party ‘values’ (as if there was such a thing) by co-operating with the Greens and Elizabeth May.

Continue reading ‘A Proposal for Greens & the NDP: A “300” Strategy’

Creationism is Bullshit! & The Bible is Bullshit!

For your viewing pleasure, here are two episodes of Penn & Teller’s TV show “Bullshit!”. The first episode is “Creationism is Bullshit!”. The second is “The Bible is Bullshit!”

Now, I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Penn & Teller’s brand of Libertarianism, however their irreligiousness and their magic shows, I can definitely get behind.

In terms of the first video on Creationism, I think the episode was great, but could have been so much better had they interviewed Elliott Sober.

If you want to read the absolutely definitive work on why Intelligent Design is neither a scientific theory nor a viable alternative to evolution, I strongly recommend you read his chapter in the book Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Religion (edited by William Edward Mann).

Sober’s piece uses pure logic and mathematics to prove that the arguments of Intelligent Design theorists like Michael Behe (who does a lot of work on so-called ‘irreducible complexity’) are exemplars of a poverty of thought.

If you don’t have time to read Sober’s article (lazy bastards! lol), I’ll relay my favourite part of the chapter.

Basically, he proves, using Beye’s Theorem, that the argument for God’s existence based on Irreducible Complexity (or arguments based on other observed phenomenon such as ‘cosmic design’) are tautological, circular and useless.

For you math people in the crowd, basically it goes like this:


Now if you didn’t follow that, don’t worry, I probably wouldn’t have either. But read the chapter and then you can impress your friends by throwing that out there.

Anyway, without further adieu, I give you the glorious sacrilege:

Penn & Teller: Creationism is Bullshit!

Penn & Teller: The Bible is Bullshit!


Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors

The systematic propaganda consumed especially in North America on the so-called Iranian hostage crisis (the sequel, not the one in 1980) was discussed in detail here.

However, with the release of the British prisoners, we have been hit with a whole new wave of hypocritical propaganda designed to shift our opinion and gloss over history.

Virtually all news agencies have covered the “ordeal” experienced by the British sailors and marines.

In the US: 

CBS news spoke of “harsh interrogation” in “stone cells” and repeated the claim that they  were “operating under a U.N. mandate in Iraqi waters” as a fact (source).

The New York Times, that putative bastion of leftism, ran a story with the headline “Britons Say They Feared for Lives in Iran Captivity”. In this article, the NY Times recounts the “most frightening” story of the “ordeal” as occurring on the second night when all of the sailors and marines were placed in a room blindfolded and one of the sailors vomited in such a manner that one of his colleagues felt that his throat had been slit (source).

The Kansas City Star carried an article in which they describe that the British sailors and marines were “isolated in cold stone cells and tricked into fearing execution.” (source).

In Canada:

The National Post ran with a story headline reading “British sailors describe ‘ordeal’ in Iran” and describing “constant psychological pressure” and moreover, The Post wrote that the British Sailors and Marines were kept in isolation which is actually demonstrably false and not in keeping with even the Briton’s account of events (source).

CTV ran with the story describing that the Britons were “threatened” (source).

And lastly, in the UK: 

The Guardian ran a story with the headline “Freed Britons Say ‘Confessions’ Coerced”, as if that was somehow a surprise or unexpected (source).

But here’s what we didn’t read:

#1) There was STILL no discussion about the fact that the US probably caused the capture as retaliation for ambushing and kidnapping Mohammed Jafari, the head of the Iranian National Security Council and Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of the intelligence division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as well as the kidnapping of Iranian embassy official Jalal Sharafi.

#2) Even more importantly, the British Captain of the expedition, Chris Air, admitted to Sky News 5 days before the hostage crisis even began that they were spying and gathering intelligence on Iran just as the Iranians had alleged (source). 

Continue reading ‘Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors’


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