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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Disaffected Lib: A National Madness

A National Madness.

Just wanted to make sure you didn't miss this article! Thanks, Disaffected Lib (aka Mound of Sound), for adding this gem to the blogosphere!

Rick Westhead: Pakistan in peril (in the Toronto Star)

Scary portrait of a nuclear power on the brink.

"'There used to be a hope that there was a silent, liberal majority,' says Hoodbhoy [Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear scientist and peace activist], a professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. 'Now we know that there’s still a silent liberal group, but it’s no majority.' ...

"Hoodbhoy ... spent the past year working with students to secretly record and transcribe sermons at hard-line mosques across Pakistan.

"'Despair and grief are really the capital that these militant groups trade in, and there is a lot of it in Pakistan right now,' says Hoodbhoy."

Full article: Pakistan in peril.

The Grist: Prank call proves billionaire David Koch owns Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP

Prank call proves billionaire David Koch owns Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP.

This pretty much speaks for itself!

Haroon Siddiqui: Shia-Sunni schism explained from Lebanon to Bahrain (in the Toronto Star)

Haroon Siddiqui explains the roots of the Sunni-Shia schism, and what some of its implications are for the future.

Siddiqui: Shia-Sunni schism explained from Lebanon to Bahrain.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steven Hawking: Move to new planet (BBC News)

Move to new planet, says Hawking.

I have been saying this for a while as well (although I am not in Hawking's league - except that we are both Cambridge men :-) ). If the governments of the developed world would put a few of the trillions they are wasting into this effort, the species might survive (albeit in a much altered form). Write your MP, congressman, etc.! We can't afford to wait much longer!

Uzma Shakir: Multiculturalism lives – in Canada, at least (in the Toronto Star)

Uzma Shakir is a community activist in the areas of immigration, multiculturalism and social inclusion.

"The state needs to worry not about cultural difference as such, but when cultural difference begins to define social, economic and political outcomes, particularly in a negative manner. If some cultural communities are persistently living in poverty, and official multiculturalism is merely celebrating our difference without addressing our inequality, than we need to make multiculturalism more robust and a mechanism not just to recognize our pluralistic reality but become a tool for our equality."

Full article: Multiculturalism lives – in Canada, at least.

Monday, February 21, 2011

ESL teacher Judy Thompson tries to make English easier (in the Toronto Star)

Kenneth Kidd reporting on a teacher's attempts to make English easier.

"If you happen to be reading this, chances are you’re fairly comfortable with the English language. In which case, the following words will pose just about zero difficulty: grey, day, rain, eight, ate, great and cafĂ©.

"Now say them out loud. Again, this will scarcely be cause for concern. They are simple words, and all contain the sound of a long ‘a.’

"There’s just one problem: nothing in the spelling of these words would consistently and logically suggest the intended pronunciation."

Full article: ESL teacher Judy Thompson tries to make English easier.

Of course, there have been many attempts to "improve" English spelling, e.g. the American dropping of the 'u' in colour, humour, etc., or 'nite' for 'night', but a) there are a number of different pronunciations of the English language, and b) you run up against the conservatism of languages, so buy-in may not be universal, causing even more confusion.

Cf. the wonderful article "Meihem in ce klasrum" by Dolton Edwards - first published in 1946.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Antonia Zerbisias: Drought, depleted food, a recipe for revolution (in the Toronto Star)

"'The bottom line is, we need to redefine security,' says [renowned environmentalist and agricultural economist Lester] Brown. 'We have inherited a definition of security from the last century, one dominated by two world wars and the Cold war. So, when you mention national security in this country, and I think it’s largely true in Canada as well, people think in military terms.

"'But if you were to sit down today and start listing the principal threats to our future security — and indeed to civilization itself — it would be climate change, it would be population growth, it would be soil erosion, and it would be rising food prices, growing political instability, and the number of failing states in the world. And then, maybe, military security. But all these other threats are much more real and imminent.

"'We’ve got some basic rethinking to do.'"

Full article: Drought, depleted food, a recipe for revolution.

Friday, February 18, 2011

KAIROS Furor: Did PM bigfoot Oda? (in the Toronto Star)

KAIROS Furor: Did PM bigfoot Oda?.

Good question: Harper has to have made this decision and then hung Oda out to dry. Oda has to go... and her boss should follow her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Peaceful protesters safer in Cairo than Toronto" (letter to Toronto Star)

Richard J Taylor, Toronto, writing to the Toronto Star.

"In Cairo, the soldiers confronted a true revolution that threatened a political and social structure that in many ways had benefited the military establishment. In Toronto, our police faced small groups protesting issues that had no real bearing on policemen’s lives and certainly were not a threat to society."

Peaceful protesters safer in Cairo than Toronto.

Did someone order our police to behave they way they did - or did they make it up as they went along?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Elizabeth May: Emperor Stephen Harper is wearing no clothes (in the Straight)

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, on the Harper Conservatives.

"The old stereotype that Conservatives are fiscally responsible and good economic managers has proven itself to be only that: an out-of-date stereotype. The current Conservative government is “conservative” in name only."

Elizabeth May: Emperor Stephen Harper is wearing no clothes.

Catherine Porter with some good advice about the best way you can help Haiti (in the Toronto Star)

"I know, you want to help personally. That’s noble. But your good intentions might have the opposite effect: you would be paying to do a job a Haitian is literally starving for, and the normally neglected child you are holding for a few days in a run-down orphanage might be damaged from your affection."

Full explanation: Porter: Don’t go to Haiti to volunteer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The Story of Stuff" with Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard and The Story of Stuff.

Marvelous! Should be required viewing for everyone!

Canada kept U.S. border talks under wraps: document (in the Toronto Star)

Canada kept U.S. border talks under wraps: document.

Harper behaves like an all-knowing parent who knows what's best for us - whether we like it or not. Maybe the Arabs can teach us about democracy!

Heather Mallick: Killing off CIDA teacher program typical Tory move (in the Toronto Star)

"There’s just something about advancing literacy, about travel, about self-improvement that sticks in the Conservative craw. I may be wrong about the teacher program — it may be simple pique that a government-union partnership was winning praise overseas. The Liberal critic for international co-operation, Glen Pearson, is furious that the decision was made on what CIDA calls a 'technicality' involving funding criteria.

"'Something smells rotten in this one,' Pearson said in an interview. He wanted to confront Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda in question period on Monday and uncover the snag, while also mapping out CIDA’s changing priorities, but she’s away with an eye problem. Yes, that’s how this country is run.

"Durham MP Oda’s website news link hasn’t been updated since Jan. 17 (bridge in Uxbridge gets new sidewalk!), but she boasts on her homepage that her job is 'to enhance Canada’s reputation in the world.' She has just squished it with her shoe. Thousands of impoverished students worldwide will be devastated and hundreds of retired teachers have had their retirement dreams of usefulness dashed.

"So good work all round then."

Full article: Mallick: Killing off CIDA teacher program typical Tory move.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Conservatives driving us into ruin" (letter to the Toronto Star)

Letter from Toronto Star reader G.W. Markle: Conservatives driving us into ruin.

"They will gut all social programs to maximize profit, and do it without any consciousness as to the detriment of our society. ...

"Rather than protect us, the debt created by military spending puts this country in a very vulnerable position."

By the way, G.W., I have to tell you that's "saddle", not "straddle", but I do agree with your comments... And this is at a time when we we need a more activist government, rather than one that is hamstrung by debt.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Urgent Evoke - A crash course in changing the world.

Urgent Evoke - A crash course in changing the world.

See also a discussion with Jane McGonigal on - do a Find on "Reality is Broken".

Haroon Siddiqui: Operating manual for a new Mideast (in the Toronto Star)

"Selectively supporting authoritarianism in the name of “stability” only guarantees mass unrest, instability, anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments, and risks long-term peace. You cannot have puppet regimes hammer their people into liking you. [my italics]

"Anything less than a commitment to a wholesale shift to democracy would prolong the dangerous standoff in Egypt, risk more lives and confirm suspicions that all Obama wants is to appease the masses but have Mubarak replaced by Gen. Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who presided over a regime of torture and who, not coincidentally, has been deemed an American asset post-9/11. He’d only be another Mubarak. This historic moment demands a complete break with the failed past."

Full article: Siddiqui: Operating manual for a new Mideast.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt: A Surprising Statement on Arabs & Jews

Posted to AlterNet by Russ Baker,
Egypt: A Surprising Statement on Arabs & Jews.

Quote: "... this appeared on the website of Al Jazeera. If that’s not an intriguing development, I don’t know what is. And wouldn’t it be helpful to hear more voices that don’t perpetuate stereotypes, or the unnecessary simplification of 'one group against another' that defines so much coverage?"

Thomas Walkom: PM's border scheme mired in past (in the Toronto Star)

The Star's Thomas Walkom explains that "Harper's plans are out of date. They are part of an attempt to bolster a North American production system that, in an era of permanently high oil prices, can't survive."


"In the heyday of NAFTA, energy prices were low enough to allow this. As long as oil was relatively cheap, it made economic sense to truck auto parts from all over North America for assembly in Windsor.

"But as economist Jeff Rubin and others have pointed out, in a world of permanently high oil prices this logic no longer holds.

"In this new world, it makes more sense to grow food close to where it is eaten and to produce commodities near their end users. ...

"I've argued before that the Americans, regardless of how much we cave in, will never return to the undefended border days that existed before 9/11. They are too fearful.

"Yet even more important is the price of energy. The world created by NAFTA is ending. A more open border with the U.S. might be convenient. It is no longer crucial."

Full article: Walkom: PM's border scheme mired in past.

U.S. will never feel safe (letter to the Toronto Star)

Toronto Star reader Patricia Aldana's letter to the Star: U.S. will never feel safe.

Quotes: "We could build a wall around Canada and we would still not satisfy their fears and insecurities — because these derive from their own self-destructive foreign policies and the failure of their education system at home."

"The worst thing that could happen to us would be to confuse our interests with those of our neighbour. They are not the same."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Robert Bothwell: The Five-year Itch (in the Toronto Star)

Robert Bothwell holds the May Gluskin Chair in Canadian History at the University of Toronto and is the author of The Penguin History of Canada. He draws interesting comparisons between Pearson's 5 years of minority rule and Harper's.

The Five-year Itch.

Quote: "The overall impression of the Harper cabinet is that its abilities are depressingly low."

And remember that the two Harper cabinet ministers he singles out are both from the dysfunctional Ontario government that gave us Walkerton and that successfully destroyed the Conservatives' chances in Ontario for decades to come (I hope!).

Tyler Hamilton: Ontario needs to rethink role of “green” gas (in the Toronto Star's Clean Break)

Clean Break: Ontario needs to rethink role of “green” gas.

A well-argued pitch for more intelligent processing of biofuels.

Quote: "No other green energy source offered through the feed-in-tariff program brings so many benefits. So why aren’t we seeing more of these projects emerging?"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Promising Hydrogen Storage Medium - by Cella Energy, UK

Thanks to Beth Buczynski for highlighting this in the Care2 Global Warming Blog - posted Jan. 31, 2011.

This technology looks very promising, and could drastically reduce automobile emissions. Cella states that conversion of internal combustion engines to this technology is pretty straightforward.

Cella Energy - Technology, on their web site.

Rami Khouri: The Arab freedom epic (in the Toronto Star)

Rami Khouri is editor-at-large of Beirut’s Daily Star, and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

"It is a monumental task to transform from autocracy and serfdom to democracy and human rights; the Europeans needed 500 years to make the transition from the Magna Carta to the French Revolution. The Americans needed 300 years to transition from slavery to civil rights and women’s rights.

"Self-determination is a slow process that needs time. The Arab world is only now starting to engage in this exhilarating process, a full century after the false and rickety statehood that drunken retreating European colonialists left behind as they fled back to their imperial heartlands.

"It takes time and energy to relegitimize an entire national governance system and power structure that have been criminalized, privatized, monopolized and militarized by small groups of petty autocrats and thieving families. Tunisia and Egypt are the first to embark on this historic journey, and other Arabs will soon follow, because most Arab countries suffer the same deficiencies that have been exposed for all to see in Egypt."

Full article: The Arab freedom epic.

Someone pointed out a few years ago that, if you look at a map of the Middle East, it's all straight lines, which should tell you something. European boundaries OTOH are typically meandering because they tend to follow natural features.

David Olive on Obama’s odd choice in business gurus (in the Toronto Star)

David Olive's open letter to Obama in the Feb. 1, 2011, Toronto Star:

"Whoever’s advising you on senior economic appointments needs to be replaced.

"Last week you named Jeffery Immelt to head your new panel on jobs and competitiveness. Are you unaware that Immelt is one of the least-respected of Fortune 500 CEOs, having presided at GE over a 50 per cent drop in shareholder value?

"More to the point, this ostensible adviser on job creation has cut 11 per cent of GE’s workforce. And less than half those employees are located in the U.S., after years of Immelt’s relentless offshoring.

"Yesterday you appointed Steve Case to head your new Startup America Partnership to encourage entrepreneurship. Case authored the most spectacular business failure in modern U.S. history. ...

"In the main, businesspeople are unsuited to public service given their narrow obsession with the bottom line and their frustration when no longer able to act autocratically. I commend you for your bid at inclusiveness, but I expect it will end in tears."

Full article: Obama’s odd choice in business gurus.

Thomas Walkom: Egypt and the end of empire (again) (in the Toronto Star)

Interesting parallels (and contrasts) with the end of the British empire.

"The 1956 Suez crisis confirmed that a bankrupt Britain could no longer dominate the world. Egypt’s current upheaval is a sign that America’s era is coming to an end. For Canada, the decline of yet another imperial protector means wrenching change."

Full article: Walkom: Egypt and the end of empire (again).

"The American people will simply not agree to see police and fire services at home slashed just to keep troops in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, South Korea and Japan." - here I believe Walkom is too optimistic - the West has been seduced by the modern equivalent of bread and circuses, and shows little sign of waking up to the new reality.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

John Stassek: "Infallible, unsinkable, inconceivable: a bell curve in three parts" (in Guy McPherson's blog)

Poem by John Stassek: Infallible, unsinkable, inconceivable: a bell curve in three parts.

The poem is followed by a great discussion - thesis, antithesis, and all the points in between!

James Travers: When Canada speaks, the world yawns (in the Toronto Star)

"As on the maternal health issue he championed last week, the Prime Minister is talking loudly and carrying a broken stick....

"Short-term Western pragmatism has now run headlong into long-term Middle East realities. In sacrificing rights and liberties to security and oil priorities, those who should have been promoting freedom and pushing relentlessly for a regional peace settlement recklessly let grievances simmer."

Full article: Travers: When Canada speaks, the world yawns.