Inspiron 530, Vista Premium, and Scribefire test.

October 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

I might actually start updating this blog on a daily basis again but first I need to get a greater grasp of the Vista OS and its related software and get a greater feel for my new computer in general. This is only a test to see if I can post this using ‘Firescribe’.

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“Pur laine” all over again

October 25, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Politics | 5 Comments
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If you have not been living in Quebec for the past thirty years, but in particular the 90’s, you might be wondering what the big deal is with all this talk about Pauline Marois–the current PQ chef–talking about citizenship requirements and voting restrictions for new immigrants and possibly the older established anglophone communities as well. You might also be wondering why there should be any fuss over the Gerard Bouchard/ Charles Taylor commission on multiculturalism and integration in Quebec society. The reason why there is concern among minority communities in Quebec is simple–these and other behaviours by both the PQ party and the current Liberal government harken back to the 1990’s–particularly the hot year of 1995–when Quebec nationalism was at its highest and the pequistes nearly succeeded in removing Quebec from the Canadian federation and creating an independent state through a combination of stolen votes and an obscenely misleading referendum question. After a narrow loss for the Yes side with a 50.4% opting to stay in Canada, then premier Jacques Parizeau launched into his infamous tirade blaming the loss because of “money and the ethnic vote.” His speech drew thunderous applause, and that, combined with then vice-premier Bernard Landry drunkly heckling two Hispanic hotel maids the night of the loss for voting “No”, confirmed what many had already strongly suspected–a great many pur laine Quebeckers are profoundly xenophobic, having an intense dislike and deep mistrust of anglophones and allophones. Pur laine, literally translated as “pure wool,” is a term certain Quebeckers have used in the past describing their heritage as “pure-blooded Quebecois“–white, Catholic at birth, with French as a mother tounge dating back to the first French settlers and fur-traders of Lower-Canada. It’s an idealised term that is often seen as a racist pejorative to all those who do not meet this definition.

Twelve years later, Quebeckers of all stripes were supposed to have moved on from that bitterness that seeped over well past a decade ago. In fact, after the tragic and very rare Dawson College shootings from last year, controversial Globe & Mail columnist Jan Wong caused a mild uproar by suggesting that because the gunman was of Indian origin, at its core the incident was a reaction to the ways many Quebeckers still see themselves, as pur laine. Even I scoffed at her apparent misjudgment at the time. But after a host of recent incidents, I realise that on a fundamental level she was right. The attitudes of old-stock, “traditional” Quebecois have not fundamentally changed at all–they just regressed somewhat. The evidence comes from these recent incidents:

Near the beginning of the year, the Quebec town of Hérouxville unveiled their mocking caricature of Islam (and to a lesser extent Sikhism) vis-a-vis their charter which, among other things, prohibits the “stoning or burning [of women] alive in public places, burning them with acid, excising them, infibulating them or treating them as slaves.” I think you get the idea of the spirit this document was written in. The great majority of the town’s residents defended the charter with characteristically uneducated responses to the Bouchard/Taylor commission, some of which can be viewed at the hyperlink.

The leader of Quebec’s PQ party Pauline Marois unleashed the new party charter that would mandate all immigrants to the province–or even Canadians moving to Quebec from another province–to pass a test to ensure that they would be conversant in French and would have to declare an oath to the province itself, in order to submit grievances to the National Assembly, run for a school board, or even to vote. Nothing is likely to come of it, but it’s chilling that there is such sentiment in the province regardless, and it’s not the first time politicians have expressed such beliefs by any stretch of the imagination. Such rhetoric was common during and after the 1995 referendum, with one PQ minister even going as far to state that in another referendum anglophones and allophones should only get 0.5 of a vote (He was summarily dismissed by then-PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard who took over after Parizeau’s resignation following his bitter diatribe. He’s also the older brother of the commission’s Gerard Bouchard).

The findings of the Bouchard/Taylor commission won’t be released until early next year but they have already revealed a deep undercurrent of xenophobia in many parts of Quebec society, a xenophobia that refuses to die. If it’s been true in the U.S. then it is also true here–it’s like the 1990’s all over again!

Xenophobia’s humble roots

We love our news of the world

October 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

No, no commentary today–just a portion of the news stories that caught my attention today–and yes I hate doing this–I know it’s a “lazy” way to blog. I just need to keep track of my biorhythms–which means blogging when my mind is racing with energy and ideas. It was this morning, but even though it was a Saturday I procrastinated by going to the gym. Anyway, I’ll shut up with the excuses; if you see anything that interests you feel free to click on the link.

With all that said, I might as well belatedly add my disgust over the Burmese (Myanmarese?) junta’s actions against completely peaceful protests. The problem, of course, is that the junta is addicted to power and the privileges and wealth that power brings. That in itself is enough reason for many brutal regimes to try and retain their rule. But it also helps if you see the protesters as almost sub-human, or third-rate, who live only to serve you, kind of like Kim jong-il’s North Korea.

Take Putin’s Russia, for example. He is clearly turning Russia into an increasingly totalitarian regime, but if he were to face protests of a truly massive scale by Russian standards would he order the army to shoot and kill unarmed protesters? It’s an open question, because Vladimir Putin is brutal yet also intelligent. All tyrants desire power, but there are different types of tyrants and Putin probably doesn’t view the populace as inferior specimens. In my view then, if you see your “enemy” as less than human it is far easier to be ruthless and even genocidal. Think about Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jews and Roma as an example.

With this in mind I’d like for the Burmese junta to, through force or other means, snap out of their arrogance and delusions. This especially goes for the de-facto leader of Myanmar, General Than Shwe. Remember that notoriously excessive video of his daughter’s wedding that was leaked out (and leaked out by whom?)?

My love & hate relationship with BBC News

October 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment
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As a keen observer of the news I have gradually become very picky over what I receive as news sources. For example, the only newspaper I used to like would be the Globe & Mail. The only online news sources I would trust would be reuters and the AP. And as for television news sources, forget it. I would find a problem with each and every one of them.

My main problem with journalism would be what I perceive to be a lack of objectivity. But recently I have queried myself: “Does good journalism have to be objective? Does it not depend on the context?” Perhaps, for example, newspapers should not be judged solely on objective news reports. We all know about the editorials but maybe its also acceptable to acknowledge the inherent biases that occur in a said paper’s regular columns and news spots as well, if it is taken in the appropriate context. I’m beginning to think that that can be a succinct possibility.

But then of course there is the television news. I by and large cannot stand it. Fox news is intolerable and CNN doesn’t fare much better. I find it too dumb, shallow and right-wing. So at one point I thought BBC World news offered a decent alternative. One advantage of BBC World is that, true to its name, you get to find out about issues throughout the world; while the half-hours of course repeat themselves, that half-hour is filled with variety. And yet, I noticed that BBC has its own problems. For one thing, whereas CNN is a little too right wing, BBC is definitely too left wing. You can hear it in the nature of the reports and the language that is used. A famous example is their inconsistent usage of the words militants or terrorists–and I know that in the past whenever Israel would suffer an attack from a suicide-bombing, it would be described as a ‘militant bombing’ but whenever they have described their own problems with terrorism–like with the London train bombings of July ’05 (’06?)–said problems are usually referred to as ‘acts of terrorism’ committed by ‘terrorist cells’. I also have found much of their reporting to be elitist, whereby the content of the story is reflected by the reporter’s, anchor(wo)man’s and programmer’s views on what is wrong and what is right for society.

And yet, and yet…who cares? As long as I am aware of the inherent biases, does it really matter so long if I learn new facts about the world? A lot of the reporting at least seems to be of good quality, even with its biases. that’s more than I can say for any of the CNN variations, and I’m not even going to bother with the Fox comparison anymore. So I don’t know, does anyone else have any clarifications and/or corrections and/or ideas and/or opinions about what the best way should be to obtain news? I’m still a little stumped on this one.

Russian murder investigations

August 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

In news that’s sure to be an absolute shock to everyone, as absolutely no one saw this coming, Russian prosecutors have heavily implied that exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky was behind the murder of noted journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the latter of whom exposed many of Russia’s untruths. Berezovsky’s motive? Why, to discredit the Kremlin and make Russia as a whole look bad, of course and, according to Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika,

Forces interested in destabilizing the country, changing its constitutional order, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime.

He also stated the “investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya.” Please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Prosecutor-General work under the Kremlin? And if he doesn’t, does it really matter? After all, the prosecution is doing such a good job finding out who the killers might be after almost a year. Only a very unimaginative, boring, logical-thinking prosecutor would think that because Politkovskaya had many enemies in the Kremlin and the FSB her killer or killers were likely from those establishments. It takes a true genius to figure out that the real culprits initiated this plot so that people would falsely assume the government was involved even though it was really a plot to discredit Russia’s image. My hat is off to you, Yuri Chaika, for proving beyond compare that despite recent hyperbolic criticisms, the Russian justice system is alive, well and is functioning with maximum efficiency and fairness.

To see the news-article in its full context, please click here. To see my previous commentaries on related Russian issues, please click here and here.

Crisis in Zimbabwe continues and Mugabe is a fool

July 28, 2007 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

Yet again, I’d like to delve into the topic of Zimbabwe and its totalitarian leadership. If you would pardon my undiplomatic language, just what the hell is wrong with Robert Mugabe?! Please read the following two news stories, especially the first.

Now I’m no economics major but it would seem to me the more times a government simply prints out moneys the less value said moneys will have. Does Mugabe not realise this? Does he not care? I know I’ve written about this before but this is starting to get even me baffled. Would anyone else like to add their two cents as to why Mugabe is being so cavalier about his country’s rapid inflation, among other things? I could sure use another perspective.

Incidentally, the second story hyper-linked seems to illustrate even further the descent of Mugabe’s regime into totalitarianism. And yet, as some food for thought it’s worth noting that Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe isn’t a real totalitarian system of government; if it was, there would be no opposition parties allowed for at all–in fact no opposition parties in any guise period–and there certainly would be no courts and judges that would at least attempt to oppose him.  That’s what a totalitarian system of government is, right? A complete system of absolute control under the leader of one with no meaningful opposition. Under such a definition, in many ways the Russia of today is more totalitarian than Zimbabwe, or even China, but that doesn’t sound quite right. What I need is access to a good political science dictionary–not the junk ones found on the web–that will give me concise definitions for these terms; I myself hate it when people misuse terms in politically heated arguments such as in mixing up the words ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’.

Regardless as to what Zimbabwe is right now, it’s a disaster and its people are suffering under heavy economic and political brutality. Thus, I’m going to make a prediction. Because Robert Mugabe needs to pay his security forces to beat protesters and stay loyal to him and because even he must surely be starting to run out of money, and for several other reasons as well, I predict that Mugabe will be overthrown by the end of 2008. Whether it is from someone in his security forces, someone next in line for the leadership of his party or opposition forces I can’t say but I am fairly certain that his disgraceful, undignified ouster will be the net result of his arrogance, stubbornness and failed policies, and it will happen by the end of next year. I hope I’m right.

It’s obvious where Osama bin Laden is located

July 25, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Forgive me–I’m feeling kinda lazy in regards to posts for my blog today, so I dug up this old draft from about 6 months ago that was definitely a work in progress and a mere statement of the obvious. Nevertheless, it’s something to read if nothing else:

It should be obvious to anyone who has been following the news for the past year where Osama bin Laden is “hiding”–almost certainly in the rural border areas of Pakistan. I just can’t get enough of Frontline’s documentaries–even if there may be a leftist slant. I find them very informative. One of their more recent ones that I’ve uncovered is Return of the taliban. I know of course that this has all been extensively covered, but Musharaff’s duplicity cannot be overemphasized.

Of course, the theater in Pakistan continues so one can only guess what will happen in the country next and a scripting error is forcing even this last paragraph to be in italics despite my wishes, so I’m bolding it to indicate I just wrote this part. For a small taste of what’s continuing in Pakistan, click here.

Putin’s Russia, Litvinenko’s murder

July 24, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

The poisoned spy–expelled diplomats row between the UK and Russia keeps on getting worse. I’m taking the British government’s side on this one; Alexander Litvinenko was clearly murdered by “former” FSB agent Andrei Lugovoy. Although to be fair, I’m not sure why Britain felt the need to expel four Russian diplomats. Brown’s government knew that the Russian administration would refuse its extradition request; justice and the rule of law are big jokes in the former USSR and they have been for some time. Either British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is behaving overzealously in a misguided effort to show that he cannot be walked over despite an upcoming withdrawal from Iraq, or Scotland Yard sees England itself being intercepted by a host of former-KGB agents attempting to perform hits under the watchful eye of Putin, which is possible considering some recent remarks from the spy agency. Or perhaps Brown is just proving to be very stupid when it comes to diplomacy.

Although he sometimes appears to lose his cool, one thing you can’t fault Putin on is how he makes himself look under such crises; he’s no crude Robert Mugabe with his “we will bash them (in reference to opposition protestors).” Consider his response to Britain’s demand: “‘They need to treat their partners with respect, then we will show respect to them,’ Putin said. ” (Putin accuses Britain of colonialism, July 24th, 2007) On the face of it such a response sounds reasonable enough, but then how does Putin define “respect”?

Anyway, I’ve been reading Death of a Dissident by Litvinenko’s wife and, while she clearly has no neutrality on the subject matter about her husbands life and death, I’m still convinced more than ever before that the bombings that preceded the latest Chechen war–the terrorist explosions in Moscow and at various train stations–were in fact orchestrated by “rogue” elements of the FSB to turn ordinary Russians into an anti-Chechen furor and get Vladimir Putin into power on an agenda to promote security. I am not one of those 9/11 conspiracy theorists, but this conspiracy, as alleged even byAlex Litveninko himself befor his untimely demise, seems to make a great deal of sense when you realise how fractured the FSB is and how they have several different loyalties. The late Boris Yeltsin, whose ill health preceeding his death was in large part due to his self-inflicted alcoholism, had neither the physical or mental strength to get the FSB under control. It’ll be interesting to see how this case develops. Russia’s definitely a country to watch in the news these next few years.

More news of the world

July 22, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

I found the following news items to be of interest today:

 

    What is of particular interest to me right now is how Iran’s “dual citizens” (a term Iran does not recognize) is forcing its captives to say some vaguely threatening statements on democracy, somewhat subtly (by Iranian propaganda standards) implying that they are trying to use “western” and liberal ways of thinking and democracy to undermine the Iranian regime and bring chaos. Although my initial response was and still is sympathy and empathy for these captives, who at their hearts want nothing but the best for Iran and certainly do not wish for an American takeover, I have to also conclude that, based on the nature of this theocratic and profundly undemocratic regime the reaction of the authorities has been perfectly understandable and rational. Let’s face facts: The Iran that these advocates are pushing is hardly close to existing in Iran today, because the mullahs have too much power (and power, particularly one vested in absolute authority, corrupts). The caliphs do not want to give up this power–they very much enjoy being in charge either because they feel righteously entitled to it as per the teachings of the Koran–remember that Muhammad never advocated a separation between religion and politics–or cynically enjoy their high and collectively untouchable position, or a combination of both. These advocates of a true Iranian democracy threaten the very system that has been put in place since the Ayatollah Kohmeini took over power in the 1979 coup against the Shah. As is always the case, when you are the coup plotters a coup is justifiable but any type of regime-change is blasphemous and evil when it is your position that is being targeted.

    So in a sense, the accusations from the authorities that these “Westerners” are plotting a “soft” revolution in Iran is correct, because these people being held in custody very much do want to see a change. I think the real outrage here is that at times Iran does purport to be a democracy–or at least one of sorts–as it certainly has more freedoms than Saudi Arabia and many other middle-eastern countries. It has its reformist newspapers that have this seemingly endless cycle of being shut down and reopened and shut down again. The ebb and flow of freedom of expression in Iran is constantly fluctuating. Yet many leaders in Iran still boast about their country’s purported freedoms and respect for religious minorities, and these coerced television appearances show just how much of a facade a lot of this is. If Iran was truly free its leaders wouldn’t mind if some of its citizens voiced a wish for reform over the country’s constitution. The people of Iran need to choose what kind of government they want Iran to be and what kind of society they want to live in.

    Next up on the list is how Egyptian border patrol officers shot and killed a Sudanese woman trying to flee into Israel. We can’t be completely certain why she chose to flee into Israel, but this is all connected to the situation in Darfur, how Darfur affects the rest of Sudan, Egypt’s tenacious and at times racist relationship with Sudan and its African peoples, Israel’s collective memory of the Holocaust, Israel’s concerns for its own security amid the threat of smuggled weapons into and from the Gaza strip, and its cold-again, warm-again relationship with Egypt. Everything comes in full circle and its all connected to each other. There’s another blogger much more knowledgeable on the plight of many Sudanese than I am; if you need a refresher about all things political on Sudan please check out http://www.sudanreeves.org/ .

    You know, I just realized something. Writing and trying to analyze every news story that has caught my attention in a day can take an inordinately long time–if I had the time to be at my computer for multiple hours consecutively, I would have little trouble but much of my blogging is actually done in spurts. So for now, I’m calling it in but I can always modify this entry later if I get the opportunity.

    News of the world resumed

    July 21, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

    A litany of world events caught my attention today. These include the following stories courtesy the Associated Press and Reuters.

    In theory I really should go through each story in the order of posting but I’m burning to write about this latest incident in Russian-British relations. Just remember again that I’m still a little rusty…. In the early 1990’s, shortly after the fall of communism, it would appear that Russia’s emerging democracy rapidly transformed into a kleptocracy, whereby “oil barons” and corrupt officials pocketed money at the expense of the general populace, but that doesn’t mean all of Russia’s self-made billionaires were guilty of stealing and there is in fact a difference between outright theft and taking advantage of an opportunity. Although I don’t like The Guardian‘s at-times extreme left-wing slants, the following article’s writer does a colourful yet comprehensive job at explaining the nature of many of these oligarchs, including two that are particularly famous now, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (The man who defied Vladimir Putin and ended up in a Siberian jail. Luke Harding) and Boris Berezovsky (Brainy former mathematics professor and former Kremlin kingmaker who has morphed into Putin’s enemy number one. Luke Harding).

    If you’ve just read the article, you’ll know that a variety of these oligarchs obtained their billions through various means, but mostly through collusion or at best a type of semi-collusion with former president Boris Yeltsin. Personally, I have a place in my heart for Khodorkovsky; he is by no means a hero but he is a type on anti-hero and he certainly does not deserve to be literally rotting away in a Siberian jail for exercising his democratic right to form a tangible opposition to Putin (and let’s face it, that’s exactly why he’s in jail, otherwise he would have been tried and sentenced long before he became politically active). If this is the way that Khodorkovsky is being treated, is it any wonder that the UK is refusing to hand over Berezovsky? After all, what are his chances of getting even the facade of a fair trial?

    This is how this issue connects with this original Associated Press article. You’ll notice how confident and smug Andrei Lugovoi sounds. When he asserts that the British government expelled four Russian diplomats to distract the world from the fact that they have no evidence linking him to Alexander Litvinenko’s radiation-poisoning death, and that Britain has “always hidden con men, swindlers, adventurists and defectors,” he is in fact playing to the Russian crowd and their nationalist fervour; Russia now more than ever in recent history has become an increasingly xenophobic and racist society. Of course the evidence against him must be succinct; there are only so many places a rare radioactive isotope like polonium 210 can come from (for all intents and purposes just about only one place) and Scotland Yard was able to connect the dots based on following the radiation trail, noting who Litvinenko had last spoken to, and especially the video recorded a few years before his death where he fingered Lugovoi directly. Plus as an aside, this video of Litvinenko’s accusations pertaining to the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya is especially telling. Lugovoi has also made the even more implausable accusations that Scotland Yard, Boris Berezovsky or combination thereof orchestrated Litvinenko’s murder to blacken Russia’s reputation–something only a guilty person would say, but is likely to be widely believed in his home country by citizens fearful and hateful of “the West.” To most Russians, confident fervour is much more preferred to modest humility.

    I ‘m going to have to end this here because my parrot will not leave me alone and because I still haven’t gotten my spark back for writing, so I apologise for that last again. But next entry I should be back in my pre-hiatus form.

     

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