October 31, 2007

Panglossian Polyannas At Play!

*I've been criticized in the real world for not talking about politics in Canada for far too long, and instead gabbling on about the US state of affairs. Even the excuse that we're boring doesn't hold, what with the current Prime Minister having all the subtlety of "Macho Man" Randy Savage, circa 1988.

All right, fine; but I'll need a transition piece. What's common between North and South at the moment...?*

What is it with the conservatives in North America?

All the crazy dreamers, those madcap miracle believers of times past would have naturally gravitated to leftist politics, where the visions of future utopias (utopiae?) would be assisted by certain specific cigarettes and perhaps a cube or two of enhanced sugar. They could sit in their multi-coloured vans and groove to the universal rhythms of peace and love and all that cool shit while listening to King Crimson.

Basically harmless, but fun to mock. And their innocence was cute to watch, and a refreshing break from the heavy duties of reality.

Fast forward forty years.

The insanely uncritical outlook has infected the politically right. Need proof? In the U.S., there is endless optimism for the ease of conquering Afghiranaq; the fervent insistence that the deficit will clean itself up without any government involvement or personal sacrifice; and the hope of another terrorist attack on the continental States, the thought of which seems to send certain folks into fits of rapture.

Which, obviously, is another thing they're optimistic about, but that's more generic lunacy than about conservatives specifically.

*Special edit: try this for a frightening quote for the folks Down South: "Over the last seven years income has stagnated, yet people have increased their purchases by 18.34 percent. Where did all this new money come from?"*

And in Canada? Our very own evangelical Protestant leader (yep, that's the Plastic Man himself) has decided to lower taxes again, pretty much across the board, including the perpetually annoying GST (federal sales tax to visitors). This is reasonable enough, as the surplus has been climbing steadily for the past few years.

Sure, one could quibble about how it was presented: Jim "Jolly Elf" Flaherty virtually bouncing in place as he announced his mini-budget with but a single days notice; Team Blue waggling their fingers and making "nyah nyah" noises at the Perpetual Party daring them to defeat the paper and forcing an election with a "We Like Taxes" platform plus some blathering about income trusts that no one really follows; that the lowering of the bottom tax rate actually only brought it back to the same level it was at before the Conservatives assumed leadership.

But the bottom line is that most people like lower tax rates. But Canadians are a bit of odd ducks when it comes to that: we like our services as much as tax breaks, and anyone applying the latter has to also announce why they didn't increase the former instead. (See also: the House of Orange.)

Now personally, I do like the lowering of the GST: if any tax is going to be lowered, it should be the one that affects the poorest people just as much as it does the wealthiest. Other taxes got reduced, too, and fair enough: we can afford them just now. And again, this is what conservatives do: instead of increasing services, they increase individual wealth. Not my choice, but the expected result of a surplus.

Pretty much everyone puts some towards the debt, and they're no exception.

The problem is five years from now - or what Team Blue thinks is five years from now. The plan is to drop the corporate rate eight percent between now and 2012. How, one may ask, is that revenue to be replaced?

Enter Ronald Reagan and David Stockman.

Stephen Harper is apparently not the incredibly awkward accountant geek often depicted in his first bit for national leadership. No, he's the incredibly awkward accountant geek uncle who insists on his turn to play Santa Claus for the kids - and then has no idea what to get them, so he hands out cheques, and insists the kiddies start a nice stock portfolio.

Sometimes, Steve, the kids really really need the socks instead.

In any case, this increase in Canada's wealth is being driven by one thing: resources. We're an incredibly rich nation, with a natural wealth that is astounding in its variety and quantity, but who's our biggest customer?

Here's a hint: they just had their house foreclosed on them.

But that's not stopping the giddy Conservatives North of the border. They've got a long term plan for us, and it's this:

If we all wish really, really hard, neither Peter Pan nor commodity prices will never, ever die.


posted by Thursday at 10:29 pm 0 comments

How To Join Third (And Fourth and Fifth) Parties

There is a politically aware gentleman Down South who has made his change, switching from one party to the other. He didn't even stop at "Independent", which is the fashionable location for converts (temporary or otherwise).

His reasoning is a strong argument for my own opinion: that binary thinking is of no benefit to humanity. The switch was from the party devoted to hating enemies to the one devoted to alienating allies - not much improvement, but at least you can have a conversation with someone you only partially agree with and won't be called a traitor for it.

It's worth reading.


posted by Thursday at 9:22 pm 0 comments

Why Quebec City Will Never Have the NHL

The international language of airports is English: this is true in 180 different nations. The simple reason is ease of communication: planes can come in from anywhere in the world, and when hundreds of lives are at stake, that tends to take precedence over politics.

But things are... different... in Quebec. This is, after all, a province that officially reprimanded the French government for not doing enough to "protect the language". They are, frankly, hypersensitive to any perceived slight of French, and view themselves as its sacred guardians.

Hockey in Canada is our National Theatre, as Ken Dryden once noted. It's where our stories come from, and what we collectively know. A movement there, and Canada will feel it.

In Quebec, hockey is elevated to the level of religion. The rituals enacted by Les Habitants are followed by earnest disciples, discussed endlessly for nuance and meaning.

And where the sport is religion, and the language is political, a combination of the two can be strikingly volatile.

To modern times, now.

In the dressing rooms of the NHL, the language is English. This, despite the vast number of players who don't speak it as their first, or sometimes second, language. Yes, even in Montreal, the language is English, and it's as much a compromise as it is a practical consideration: count the birthplaces of the players on the current roster, and you'll see why.

There has been some mention of Quebec City (I like the option myself) as a location for any NHL team that ultimately fails in its current location, whoever that happens to be, but it's not going to happen.

And here's why.

This isn't lawyer Guy Bertrand's only foray into linguistic stupidity and hockey.

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posted by Thursday at 6:06 pm 0 comments

October 29, 2007

And This Is The Way The World Ends...

Got thirty minutes to hear how you (and the rest of the world) may die?

Like some twisted version of Letterman's Top Ten List (only funnier), former Discover editor Stephen Petranek discusses ten ways in which all of humanity may be exterminated.

This lively speech was delivered in 2002, but was posted on the TED site this September.



posted by Thursday at 7:01 pm 0 comments

October 25, 2007

It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World!

But fortunately, a certain dark waterfowl is on hand to correct the wayward crowd.

Yep, it's the 72nd edition of the Skeptics' Circle, and it's ready to go!


posted by Thursday at 11:19 pm 0 comments

October 24, 2007

Well, Who Knew?

Some more choice bits from the congressional hearing on extraordinary rendition, specifically involving the Secretary of State's words on Maher Arar:

"We do absolutely not wish to transfer anyone to any place in which they might be tortured."

Anyone here remember the barrage of "Iraq has Nukes!" hysteria that went on immediately before the invasion there? (If not, there are plenty of reminders running around now.) And remember the "Saddam Loves bin Laden!" idiocy? And the "Iraq caused 9/11!" screed? Then the feeble "The President Never Said That!" denials? That was true, of course; but barely so. Bush didn't expressly state that Saddam Hussein was involved in the World Trade Center attacks.

In exactly that spirit, reread the quote above.

Hey, Condi? If you don't wish to transfer anyone to any place they might be tortured, why did you? Anyone else thinking of the prototypical abusive relationship line: "I didn't want to hurt you, but you made me..."

So Arar will continue to be considered a threat by the United States for no apparent reason:

American officials have said they have their own reasons for keeping Arar out of the United States.

Oh, pardon me! I think I can guess what those reasons might be... Unless that report that came up last week is true:

A report last week suggested the United States still considers Arar a security threat based on an allegation that he was seen in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s by a man who led training at a terrorist camp - a charge Arar has denied.

If it's good enough for the government, shouldn't it be good enough for you and me?

Now, to be fair, there's no proof that Syria tortures people. I mean, who would know that sort of thing? Other than the State Department, which Ms. Rice is supposedly the head of:

"[...]there was credible evidence that security forces continued to use torture frequently."
"[...]HRAS reported numerous cases of security forces using torture on prisoners in custody[...]"
"Former prisoners and detainees, as well as the HRAS, reported that torture methods included administering electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; and using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim's spine. Torture was most likely to occur while detainees were being held at one of the many detention centers run by the various security services throughout the country, particularly while the authorities were attempting to extract a confession or information. For example, in July, a Syrian-Canadian citizen reportedly was tortured while being questioned by security services (see Section 1.e)."

When asked about Arar's time in Syria, where he gets his own special mention in this 2004 report, Ms. Rice replied:

"I am aware of claims that were made, congressman."

Fair enough! I mean, heck, if you can't trust an authoritarian regime that regularly tortures people not to torture someone, you just have to wonder what's wrong in the world.

And besides, it's not like she even knew she'd be asked about Arar's extraordinary rendition! Why, it came as such a surprise, that she didn't even have time to pack her notes:

Asked by Democrat William Delahunt whether U.S. authorities relied on diplomatic assurances from Syria that Arar wouldn't be tortured, Rice said she had forgotten some of the details but would provide a "full accounting" later.

I, for one, am sure she'll get right on that. Just like I'm sure when she does have "those details", they'll be reported promptly to all the right media outlets.


posted by Thursday at 9:19 pm 2 comments

October 23, 2007

I Know What You Want

We each have our little addictions - mostly harmless, but insistent none the less.

One of them can be fed here. Turn on the sound, turn down the lights, and enjoy!


posted by Thursday at 10:46 pm 0 comments

The Real Tragedy

Finding work is lovely and all, and finding work that involves a fifteen minute commute through the woods to get to is fantastic; but do I have to work EVERY Saturday night?

I had to pull teeth to get this Saturday off for our annual October Party, but next month here's what I'll be missing:

Sagacity Birthday Bash & Workshops.

I do want to attend the Take Downs and Interrogation workshops! Ah, well: it's a little awkward to ask for a day off when they need a reason...


posted by Thursday at 2:02 pm 0 comments

October 22, 2007

Civil Justice Marches On (Its Stomach)

Chocolate in Canada has a unique position.

We are apparently the only nation in the world where Nestle, M&M Mars/Effem Foods, Cadbury and Hershey are all in direct competition with each other; chocolate makes up almost 70% off all candy shipments (as of 2001, at least) in Canada; and we buy over 6.5 kilos per year. Go figure that's about 15 pounds each, and I'm not in the least surprised. I'm pretty sure my personal consumption makes up for the few of us who don't eat any at all - I am very much a chocolate hound (it goes well with the whisky), and odds are always 50-50 whether I bring some home when I go out for whatever reason.

After all, it's available everywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, cafes, corner stores, even some book stores carry the stuff! So I've got opportunities galore to bite down, and if you added it all up, I'm pretty sure I can rival some smokers out there for cash spend/addiction.

But I'm going to be spending more.

The reason for that is basic math: a simple bar of Hershey's chocolate costs about a buck for 55 grams worth, or just over eight dollars a pound. La Siembra Fair Trade chocolate runs around four dollars for 100 grams, or just under sixteen dollars per pound.

So it just makes good fiscal sense.

Oh, wait! I forgot one part of the equation: most chocolate comes with an additional $30 child slave cost. For me, that changes the numbers a bit.

Cocoa is, like oil, a fungible commodity: the cost depends on the total stock, not just the stock in one area, and purchasers buy from wherever it is available before selling it to chocolate manufacturers. Industries actively encourage a higher number of plantations, increasing the amount available; this increases competition among growers, many of whom simply purchase children to work their plantations, increasing their ability to undercut competition by reducing labour costs.

While it's nice to see Nestle and M&M Mars/Effrem putting "Nut Free" labels on some of their candy, it would be nice if the labels read "Slavery Free", too.

Which brings the number of regular "Fair Trade" purchases in our house to a grand total of... three. Coffee, sugar, and now chocolate are foods that we use regularly enough that the new cost is actually cutting down on our consumption of them. Which, I suppose, could be another benifit.

*Side Note: anyone who is stupid enough to argue that slave owners in America wanted to keep their "property" healthy is invited to go to Cote d'Ivoire and see how slaves are actually treated.*

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posted by Thursday at 7:10 pm 0 comments

Carbon Dioxide is Life!

My my. I can't imagine why the people who posted this bit of advertising are holding all comments "pending approval".

After all, how can you argue with a statement like:

"Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life."

Yep, it's all that good, good CO2 that's keeping us alive. Well, that and the krypton, but nobody really appreciates krypton.


posted by Thursday at 10:08 am 0 comments

What, Again?

The parade of inappropriate or just plain incompetent appointments continues in the U.S. government. This time, it's Susan Orr becoming head of Family Planning; which, if she had her way, wouldn't involve planning at all:

In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.

Oh, yeah. This couldn't possibly go wrong, could it?


posted by Thursday at 9:46 am 0 comments

October 21, 2007

Humourless Scientists at Work

*I offer the following, verbatim, and express my enthusiasm that you watch the ceremony - if purely in the interests of science.*

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October
4, at the 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's
Sanders Theatre. Here are the winners.

NOTE: For details see
NOTE: A video recording of the ceremony is, or very soon will be,
viewable at <http://improbable.com/ig/2007/webcast/>.

MEDICINE: Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of
Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report
"Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects."
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer

PHYSICS: L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique
Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for
studying how sheets become wrinkled.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, and
Enrique Cerda Villablanca's sister Mariela.

BIOLOGY: Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven
University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of
all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans,
bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk

CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of
Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla
fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.
PRESS NOTE: Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor
of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The
flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist."

LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria
Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that
rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person
speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners could not travel to the
ceremony, so they instead delivered their acceptance speech via
recorded video.

LITERATURE: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia,
for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes
problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical

PEACE: The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for
instigating research & development on a chemical weapon -- the
so-called "gay bomb" -- that will make enemy soldiers become
sexually irresistible to each other.

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the
seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them
with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.

ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a
device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a
net over them.
NOTE: The Ig Nobel Board of Governors attempted repeatedly to
find Mr. Hsieh, but he seemed to have vanished mysteriously.
But... Mr. Hsieh reportedly has seen a news account of the Ig
Nobel ceremony, and contacted the news agency. We hope to be in
touch with him soon.]

AVIATION: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A.
Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their
discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.


posted by Thursday at 4:31 pm 0 comments

October 18, 2007

Apology Accepted!

...Er, can I fly now?

For all those Soft-On-Terra Defeatocrats and Bauerophobes and other weenies who are critical of the current administration in the white house who say the president never apologizes, check out Maher Arar giving his testimony to the *copy paste* House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Got all that? Good, because I'm not repeating it.

Anyhow, here's a small sample of what went down:

"Let me personally give you [...] an apology," Democratic Representative Bill Delahunt said;

AND, if that isn't enough for you:

Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher also apologized.

Okay, sure, there are nit-pickers out there who think that perhaps he should have been allowed to attend the meeting in person, but that's kind of awkward when you're still on the Homeland Security "terrorist watch" list.

Plus that little bit missing from the Delahunt quote above was "what our government has not".

And that Representative Trent Franks believed that Arar's case was "not a failure of U.S. rendition policy". Which is totally understandable. After all, who could possibly be blamed for an innocent man being tortured for ten months in a country that does such things? The nation that sent him?

Oh, please!


posted by Thursday at 10:36 pm 0 comments

October 14, 2007

Stop it! It's Working!

So, just to get this straight...

A business owning, middle class family is involved in a horrible accident;
Two of their children are horribly injured;
Recovery would normally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills;
They had government insurance, so they didn't lose their vehicles, their home, or their business;

And this is a problem?

How on earth can people be howling mad at someone because their lives were only made more difficult, rather than utterly ruined, by an accident?

It sounds to me like the government run insurance plan did exactly what is was supposed to do. The family is still productive, tax paying citizens; the kids are attending school; the business is still operational... Again, where's the issue?

If the "issue" is that someone used an injured 12-year old boy to make a political point about medical being made to injured children, well... Maybe it's just me, but isn't that the point of the program?

A side issue could be the Ken Mehlman Memorial Fax Machines are running fine, just from a new office: seriously, a senator issuing releases to blogs? Are you kidding me?


posted by Thursday at 6:29 pm 0 comments

A Healthy, Vigorous Thumping

Now, why can't all Christian folk have a nice, sane relationship with sex like these folks have?

It certainly beats the alternative...

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posted by Thursday at 5:27 pm 0 comments

October 10, 2007

Rubik's ... Sphere?

Infophilia has the latest Skeptics' Circle up and running - and it's a puzzle. Actually, it's 18 of them!

Go. Play.


posted by Thursday at 11:12 pm 0 comments

October 05, 2007

For George

So President George has vetoed expanding medical coverage to poor children. Even ignoring his Point One declarative statement ("Poor Children First" - bwa?), his reasoning is simply bizarre: that NOT vetoing the bill would be the "first step toward socialized medicine".

So. Frickin'. What.

If it takes the "evil" of socialized medicine to get a few million kids medical care, then suck it the hell up. Unless there's a private company willing to foot the bill...?

No? Gee, what a surprise.

One other thing: George? Perhaps you have as much difficulty with chronological perception as you do with cognitive dissonance, so let me help you out, here.

If someone is proposing to EXPAND a program, that means the program is already in place. "Starting" a program means it doesn't exist yet. Likewise "creating" a program. Likewise "taking the first step".

See where I'm going with this?

That much-feared "first step" you mention has already been taken. It was created to help the least privileged among your countrymen survive. To you, that was the first step towards socialism.

To the rest of the world, that first step in helping others was called "civilization".


posted by Thursday at 9:04 pm 2 comments

The Winning is Easy - Before the Season

Off to the West:

Western Conference Preview


Biggest hello: Bertuzzi. When he’s happy, he’s death on wheels.
Biggest goodbye: Niedermayer. Smartest player in the league.
Watch for: Fantastic youth, even with Penner gone.
Watch out: Stanley Cup hangover, plus a brutal, brutal opening series (five games on the road; four games in five days; all home openers for opponents!)
Note: Will a rested Selanne and/or Niedermayer suddenly show up in January?


Biggest hello: Aucoin – he can eat minutes, but with this team, he won’t have to. Huge shot. Not always accurate, but there.
Biggest goodbye: Amonte. Never brought the 20 goals Calgary was hoping for, anyways. Replaced with Nolan.
Watch for: New coach Keenan should shore up the defensive lapses that hurt the team last year.
Watch out: New coach Keenan rides goalies hard, and often, and publicly. How will Kiprusoff react?
Note: Any player disagreements with Keenan will fall on deaf ears with the GM – Sutter is NOT someone to cry to.


Biggest hello: Toews. The stadium may start filling again this year.
Biggest goodbye: Aucoin, and lots of folks who played a half season or less. Not really very big losses.
Watch for: This year’s theme: Year of the Kids!
Watch out: Khabibulin can’t get back to form after a bad (for him) first year.
Note: Not to speak ill of the dead, but does this mean Chicago might have some home games broadcast? Please? Remind the city you exist, guys.


Biggest hello: Smyth. Arguably the finest free agent available last year.
Biggest goodbye: McLean. Versatile forward, brought 35 points on few minutes.
Watch for: IS this the year Sakic fails to lead the team in scoring? If so, it won’t be because he’s playing badly…
Watch out: Theodore not only can’t return of Montreal form, but can’t at least help Budaj.
Note: They may be a defenceman or two away from the playoffs this year; but even that won’t help if the goaltending doesn’t stand up.


Biggest hello: Peca. Immediate heart transfusion for any team. Never, ever quits
Biggest goodbye: Berard. This is a recording – Columbus needs Klesla to play to his full potential… NOW.
Watch for: Better disciplined, more determined team play.
Watch out: Still not quite enough skill to make playoffs. If they get there, it will be on heart.
Note: A full season of Hitchcock may be all this team needs to get to the post season. But I doubt it.


Biggest hello: Winchester? Not much shopping this season, I see.
Biggest goodbye: Nagy. Never quite clicked with the team last year, but can these guys afford to give up on any scoring?
Watch for: Modano finally loses patience with Riberio.
Watch out: Riberio sulks instead of responds.
Note: Whoever said “defence wins championships” never saw this team. Turco can’t score, guys.


Biggest hello: Rafalski. Point man with better passes than shot.
Biggest goodbye: Schneider. Was making Chelios “feel old”.
Watch for: With a weaker Nashville, who in their division is going to stop them?
Watch out: A vastly improved Chicago, Columbus, and St. Louis might.
Note: Don’t these people ever die? In a “rebuilding” phase for five years now, but you can never tell.


Biggest hello: Penner. With That Contract, lots of pressure to be The Man.
Biggest goodbye: Smith and Smyth. That’s a lot of leadership to try replacing.
Watch for: Slumping youth rounding back into form (Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Pisani…).
Watch out: The nightmare injury troubles happen again – eleven regulars were out at one time.
Note: Three new power play specialists have shown up. Think the GM had something in mind?


Biggest hello: Lots of solid arrivals, but it could be… Bernier?
Biggest goodbye: Stuart. Modry is the closest they have to a stay-at-home defenseman now.
Watch for: Is this the year (finally!) that everyone clicks?
Watch out: If the inexperience shows in the net.
Note: LA has had a deep, skilled, well-balanced team for a few seasons now, but they’ve hit ungodly injury trouble every year. With health, this is my favorite dark horse team.


Biggest hello: Belanger. Solid fit for the team, but doesn’t add anything they didn’t have before.
Biggest goodbye: White. Some fast (a given for the Wild) scoring (not so much) has left the building.
Watch for: Same team got 104 points last season. Why change?
Watch out: Out in the first round last season. Should have changed.
Note: Where do they keep finding these goalies? Backstrom, Harding and Scheaffer all solid options, and all young.


Biggest hello: Jed Ortmeyer. How can you not love “Jed” playing in Nashville?
Biggest goodbye: Kariya, Timonen, Vokoun. The top guy from each position, plus Forsberg.
Watch for: Still lots of skill remaining here, other teams may think the losses hit the Predators harder than they actually did.
Watch out: Local buyers are having trouble raising money for the team. Watch out for those damn Canadians, buying up all the NHL teams and moving them North!
Note: They still have all the grit they’re famous for – anyone taking this team lightly is going to get eaten.


Biggest hello: Goalies! Goalies everywhere!
Biggest goodbye: Complete overhaul from last year – Nolan will be missed most.
Watch for: Youth is being served – NOW.
Watch out: Youth is being served – NOW.
Note: Auld, Aebischer, Tellqvist, LeNeveu… All have had ice time, none of them succeeded as a number one.


Biggest hello: Decisions, decisions… I’ll go with Kariya.
Biggest goodbye: Dvorak. Third line forward, not much else. Never lived up to his draft position.
Watch for: They have the skill (now) to ease future star Eric Johnson into his role; he may force them to play him more.
Watch out: The most games Legace has ever played in a season is 51. He may need to play more this year.
Note: Possibly the most improved team in the league. Very strong finish last season, plus a real desire by veterans on the team to drag the Blues back to respectability.


Biggest hello: Roenick. Didn’t he “absolutely” retire? Youngest team gets another veteran.
Biggest goodbye: Hannan. Pretty good depth on this defence, but Hannan is a national level player.
Watch for: An extra year of experience won’t hurt this team at all.
Watch out: The “Yips” may strike come playoff time (See also: Dallas Stars)
Note: More focus on succeeding in the playoffs, less for the regular season.


Biggest hello: Shannon. Not many players these days stick in the bigs when they have a two-way contract.
Biggest goodbye: Fitzpatrick. Almost an All-Star, don’cha know!
Watch for: Mason Raymond (who?) gets to start – with the Sedins, yet.
Watch out: Lots of players had disappointing offensive seasons last year – if that continues, they’re doomed come playoff time.
Note: Expect 20 games to see if scoring improves. If not, there will be a trade out of the defence.


And that's them! To be revisited (and edited, if I cared enough NOT to look like an utter fool) regularly during the season.

Game on!


posted by Thursday at 8:52 pm 0 comments

October 04, 2007

Defending Your Store

*Continued from the Bronze Blog*

GANGSTER: Look, we're doin' ya a favour, see? With our help, this store'll get huge.

ATHEIST: And safe from "accidents", I presume?

GANGSTER: Sure, sure! We watch out for you, you advertise for us...

GOON (Wandering through aisles): Nice stuff, here.

ATHEIST: Yes, I only sell high quality, tested product.

GANGSTER: Now, see there! We could expand your product line, no problem!

ATHEIST: No, thanks.

GANGSTER (Leans on counter): Trust me, we know what sells to the rubes.

GOON (In distance): Wow! Dis really cold fusion?

ATHEIST (Calling back): We found out it didn't work, so stopped selling it. It's just something we play with now and then.

GANGSTER: There youse are, thinking small again! Wit' our connections, you can sell anything!

ATHEIST: I'd rather sell what works. Sorry.

GANGSTER: You might be, bub.

GOON (Off Screen): Uh, boss? Where are youse guys?

GANGSTER: You'd better get with the program, or you could lose... everything.

ATHEIST: I'll take my chances, thanks. Frankly, I'd rather not deal with your type.

GOON (OS): Uh, guys? Guys? I'm kinda lost, here!

GANGSTER (snarls): Have it your way, then, punk. But you're gonna pay for this for a long, long time. We're outta here!

GOON (Finds his way to the front again. "Destroys" another non-existent display stand.)

GANGSTER (Pauses at door): And so sorry to see all the damage that earthquake did! Heh heh.

ATHEIST (Looks around): What damage?

GANGSTER (Waves arm): All this damage!


GANGSTER: Just because you're too stupid to see it, doesn't mean it's not real!

ATHEIST (Checking monitor): Nothing on the security cameras, either...

GANGSTER: We're outta here! Go to Hell, freak!

ATHEIST: Thanks for coming by! (GANGSTER and GOON leave.) Freak.



posted by Thursday at 10:39 pm 0 comments

Everyone's A Winner!

Ah, pre-season! It's the time when winning teams bloat with unjustified ego and losing ones reassure fans that they're "adjusting". But who's actually done what?

Starting in the East:

Eastern Conference Preview


Biggest hello: White. Never been a first-line centre, he’ll get his shot here.
Biggest goodbye: Mellanby. Garbage goals count just as much as beauties.
Watch for: Kovalchuk finally got a taste of the playoffs – we’ll see how badly he wants back.
Watch out: If Kovalchuk decides his best shot is with another team…
Note: Todd White is the ultimate sleeper pick. He’s a journeyman suddenly flanked by Kovalchuk and Hossa: if he sticks, he could double his more typical 40 points.


Biggest hello: Fernandez. Time to see if it really was the system that made him look good.
Biggest goodbye: Donovan. Depth player, but brought some speed.
Watch for: Same squad they had last year, so expectations for improvement are there. Does coach Julien have a better system than Lewis tried?
Watch out: Fernandez can’t make up for a porous defence.
Note: Some players underperformed last year; some were injured; some were too young. But what really matters is getting fewer goals against – if they don’t manage that, they’re going nowhere.


Biggest hello: Thibault. Very skilled, but kept getting into trouble in Chicago because the work load would wear him down as the season progressed. That won’t happen here.
Biggest goodbye: Briere, Drury, Zubrus… Man, that hurts to type.
Watch for: The players are there to replace the losses, and Coach Ruff is one of the best.
Watch out: The players they’re relying on to replace those losses all had injury trouble last season (Connolly, Afinogenov, Kotalik).
Note: Despite cries of doom and gloom, there’s still a lot of skill, and it’s backed by Miller in net.


Biggest hello: Cullen. Back where he belongs.
Biggest goodbye: Tanabe. Mobile quarterback for the power play. Kaberle had better stay healthy…
Watch for: Ward was humiliated by last year’s results. He showed a ferocious focus on training in the off season, and sounds like he wants to play every game.
Watch out: Kaberle may not stay healthy, and that could doom the power play.
Note: A nice balance of veterans and youth here. Will be in the playoffs, might be in the final…


Biggest hello: Vokoun. May not be quite as good as Belfour, but the circus side show will be absent, too.
Biggest goodbye: Belfour. Great on the ice, terrible both off and in the dressing room.
Watch for: The young players are finally ready for Prime Time.
Watch out: If Jokinen is injured, it’s going to be a tough stretch until he’s back.
Note: A lot of their skill is young. If they go with a constantly rolling, four-line system, they can exhaust opponents, especially late in the season.


Biggest hello: Comrie. Overpaid, yes, but they needed to make noise.
Biggest goodbye: Yashin, the archtype for why you should choose a captain for reasons other than skill.
Watch for: Coach Nolan LOVES rallying cries as much as Henry V.
Watch out: If this defence leaves DiPietro hanging – he’s very much the man, even with “Dubie”s heroics last season.
Note: Lost a #1 or #2 at every single position in the off season. Will they rally around Nolan, or throw in the towel? Never bet against this coach when he’s down.


Biggest hello: Drury. A big game player.
Biggest goodbye: Nylander. Was Jagr’s centre, we’ll see if Gomez can do the same.
Watch for: They want a Calder, and Staal is going to get every chance to earn it.
Watch out: If Gomez repeats his numbers from last year. The Rangers expect more than 60 points from someone lining up with Jagr.
Note: A fashionable pick for the cup; but they’re only two players deep at each spot. Is that enough?


Biggest hello: Brisbois! The fans now have someone else to rain unearned derision upon from the stands!
Biggest goodbye: Souray. Won’t repeat the 26 goals, but fifteen from the point is tough to replace, despite Hamrlik’s confidence.
Watch for: The Annual Calling Out of Kovalev.
Watch out: If Ryder leads in scoring again – and he doesn’t reach 30.
Note: Huet and Price? Really? Well, okay…


Biggest hello: Zubrus. Not as good a passer as Gomez, but a slightly better finisher.
Biggest goodbye: Rafalski. Who’s running the point for these guys now?
Watch for: Zajac is starting as second center, but may find first-line time soon.
Watch out: Now! Fewer goals than Ever!
Note: New Coach Sutter believes the team is rebuilding; they just happen to be rebuilding with Brodeur, so no one can tell.


Biggest hello: Donovan. A little extra depth, but not quite a replacement for Scheaffer.
Biggest goodbye: Muckler. Owners liked the team Muckler put together, but not the GM himself.
Watch for: Less free-wheeling in the games, more determination.
Watch out: If Emery lets stardom get to his head, there will be trouble.
Note: Alfredsson was hungry for the Cup last year – he’s starving now.


Biggest hello: Smith. A solid defenseman who can hit without taking penalties for it.
Biggest goodbye: Pitkanen. Good offensive defenseman, but getting tired of the city.
Watch for: A skilled defence? In Philadelphia? Who knew?
Watch out: Looking for far better results than last season. If this team doesn’t have 10 wins by the quarter mark, second year coach Stevens is gone.
Note: Improved everywhere in the off season. Hopefully the fans will forgive last year’s growing pains.


Biggest hello: Sydor. Fluery will be happier.
Biggest goodbye: Ouellet. Very young scorer with lots of potential to come. Just like twenty other players on the team.
Watch for: Staal. Will he want more ice time, or be happy (for now) as a specialist?
Watch out: There shouldn’t be a “playoff hangover” after a team gets booted in the first round, but the kids might think “Hey, getting there is easy!”
Note: Probably tighter focus on defensive play, and a slight drop in regular season points. Assuming they keep their focus on making noise in the playoffs.


Biggest hello: Ouellet. Actually having a second line (instead of “Richards and whoever”) will help immensely.
Biggest goodbye: Sarich. Solid, keep-‘em-honest defenceman.
Watch for: Possibly Hlavac. If he jells, he can end up on either top two lines.
Watch out: Is Ouellet only as good as Crosby mad him?
Note: Worked on increasing offence. Lovely, but the same two goalies this year were sub-.900 save percentages last year…


Biggest hello: Blake. Adding 40 goals never hurts. Heck, even 30 would be nice.
Biggest goodbye: Perrault. Winning face offs gets you the puck, and you need that to score.
Watch for: Rycroft is getting pushed by Toskala, and rebounds from a weak season.
Watch out: Toskala has never played under the scrutiny of a city like Toronto. If the pressure cooks him, it’ll hurt.
Note: Thin, thin defence, especially if Wozniewski isn’t ready.


Biggest hello: Poti. A point producing, if slightly erratic, power play quarterback. At last.
Biggest goodbye: Beech – no great loss, as anyone lined up with Ovechkin and/or Semin should get more than 26 points.
Watch for: Nylander was Jagr’s hand-picked center, and now he’s Ovechkin’s. Rough life.
Watch out: Backstrom has been heaped with pre-season hype. Bear in mind he’s all of 19 years old!
Note: When’s Kolzig getting the “C” again? He is now, and has long been, the team leader.

To the West tomorrow!


posted by Thursday at 11:31 am 0 comments

October 01, 2007

A Slave to the Grind(ing Axes)

So, kids! Want to know why American Slavery wasn’t all that bad? Michael Medved is here to tell you!

No, I’m not kidding.

If you want to read the entire article for yourself, follow the links through Mahablog for another analysis.

Before reading further, you may want to get you immunization shots: this is some filthy stuff to wade through, and there’s a LOT of it. I have his entire piece here, so nothing can be claimed to be taken out of context.

Ready? Gas mask on? Here we go:

Those who want to discredit the United States and to deny our role as history’s most powerful and pre-eminent force for freedom, goodness and human dignity

[Got to break here for a second. This is a big flag to let you know what direction the writer is not only headed in, but also where he’s coming from: for the inept whom make this claim, there was no “freedom, goodness and human dignity” in the world until the United States existed. Good writers can make this claim, too; but they are far less certain about it, and know it will take a lot of work to provide proof.

Let’s see which Medved is, shall we?]

invariably focus on America’s bloody past as a slave-holding nation. Along with the displacement and mistreatment of Native Americans, the enslavement of literally millions of Africans counts as one of our two founding crimes—and an obvious rebuttal to any claims that this Republic truly represents “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” According to America-bashers at home and abroad, open-minded students of our history ought to feel more guilt than pride, and strive for “reparations” or other restitution to overcome the nation’s uniquely cruel, racist and rapacious legacy.

[Reparations or not, it is a horrifying passage in North American history. In Canada, we’re still trying to deal with our treatment of the native population, but at least it’s an open and discussed question. Embarrassing to share a continent with other nations who grew up with your own, nu, bubbe?]

Unfortunately, the current mania for exaggerating America’s culpability for the horrors of slavery bears no more connection to reality than the old, discredited tendency to deny that the U.S. bore any blame at all. No, it’s not true that the “peculiar institution” featured kind-hearted, paternalistic masters and happy, dancing field-hands,

[But… but… what about Mel Gibson’s documentary?]

any more than it’s true that America displayed unparalleled barbarity or enjoyed disproportionate benefit from kidnapping and exploiting innocent Africans.

[“Disproportionate benefit”? Disproportionate? Compared to what, exactly? America gained a hell of a lot more than Africa did! Hell, anyone who didn’t own slaves was also at a disadvantage compared to those who “benefited” from slavery… To use the word ‘disproportionate’, you have to give a sense of proportion, Mike.]

An honest and balanced understanding of the position of slavery in the American experience requires a serious attempt to place the institution in historical context and to clear-away some of the common myths and distortions.

[Ah: good old “historical context”! Is there anything you can’t justify? Historical context is important, of course, and vital for any serious historical work; but so is keeping in mind the times we live in right now. One hopes we compare favourably; but in reading this, I’m not so certain…]

1. SLAVERY WAS AN ANCIENT AND UNIVERSAL INSTITUTION, NOT A DISTINCTIVELY AMERICAN INNOVATION. At the time of the founding of the Republic in 1776, slavery existed literally everywhere on earth and had been an accepted aspect of human history from the very beginning of organized societies. Current thinking suggests that human beings took a crucial leap toward civilization about 10,000 years ago with the submission, training and domestication of important animal species (cows, sheep, swine, goats, chickens, horses and so forth) and, at the same time, began the “domestication,” bestialization and ownership of fellow human beings captured as prisoners in primitive wars. In ancient Greece, the great philosopher Aristotle described the ox as “the poor man’s slave” while Xenophon likened the teaching of slaves “to the training of wild animals.” Aristotle further opined that “it is clear that there are certain people who are free and certain who are slaves by nature, and it is both to their advantage, and just, for them to be slaves.” The Romans seized so many captives from Eastern Europe that the terms “Slav” and “slave” bore the same origins. All the great cultures of the ancient world, from Egypt to Babylonia, Athens to Rome, Persia to India to China, depended upon the brutal enslavement of the masses – often representing heavy majorities of the population.

[Where to start, where to start… Well, let’s start with where Medved is right, as that will take the least amount of time: slavery has been around for as long as human history, it is true.


With all of the nations and empires he has mentioned, there were very distinct rules for treatment of slaves, especially in the Western nations. That second Aristotle quote? He was discussing all of humanity, not a specific race or peoples. In the Roman, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian empires (I don’t know enough about the others to debate them) slaves were given wages and could be freed through their own labours, either with time or with payment, the slaves literally buying themselves free. That happen in America?]

Contrary to the glamorization of aboriginal New World cultures, the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas counted among the most brutal slave-masters of them all --- not only turning the members of other tribes into harshly abused beasts of burden but also using these conquered enemies to feed a limitless lust for human sacrifice. The Tupinamba, a powerful tribe on the coast of Brazil south of the Amazon, took huge numbers of captives, then humiliated them for months or years, before engaging in mass slaughter of their victims in ritualized cannibalistic feasts.

[You know, “Hey! At least we didn’t eat them!” has got to be the weakest defense of slavery I’ve ever heard.]

In Africa, slavery also represented a timeless norm long before any intrusion by Europeans. Moreover, the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch or British slave traders rarely penetrated far beyond the coasts: the actual capture and kidnapping of the millions of victims always occurred at the hands of neighboring tribes.

[Also true: for the most part, slave traders were purchasers rather than kidnappers. And this makes it fine… how, exactly?]

As the great African-American

[Note from Medved to conservatives: never call people “black” when being racially insensitive! It makes those kinds of people annoyed. We think.]

historian Nathan Huggins pointed out, “virtually all of the enslavement of Africans was carried out by other Africans” but the concept of an African “race” was the invention of Western colonists, and most African traders “saw themselves as selling people other than their own.”

[That’s because then, as now, the Western colonists didn’t bother making the distinction. Black was black, after all; what else did you need to know? The Africans saw themselves as tribes, but the Europeans were smarter than that, and saw colours instead. I mean, it’s not like Slavs were white or anything, right? Er… wait…]

In the final analysis, Yale historian David Brion Davis in his definitive 2006 history “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World” notes that “colonial North America…surprisingly received only 5 to 6 percent of the African slaves shipped across the Atlantic.” Meanwhile, the Arab slave trade (primarily from East Africa) lasted longer and enslaved more human beings than the European slavers working the other side of the continent. According to the best estimates, Islamic societies shipped between 12 and 17 million African slaves out of their homes in the course of a thousand years; the best estimate for the number of Africans enslaved by Europeans amounts to 11 million. In other words, when taking the prodigious and unspeakably cruel Islamic enslavements into the equation, at least 97% of all African men, women and children who were kidnapped, sold, and taken from their homes, were sent somewhere other than the British colonies of North America. In this context there is no historical basis to claim that the United States bears primary, or even prominent guilt for the depredations of centuries of African slavery.

[Shall we go over this section again? Never mind comparing one thousand years of one culture who has massive a land link to Africa with a couple hundred years of the far more difficult transition across water; never mind that the older culture was actually a massive empire before any of the tribal mob in Europe got over punching each other in the nose; never mind that Europe was separated from Africa for much of its history by the very Islamic nation he’s comparing it to; never mind the First Crusades happened because Europe was so disorganized that Pope Urban II was trying to get the petty warlords to stop raiding each other’s home states and get the troublemakers off the continent where they could be someone else’s problem.

So, other than those little quirks, no problems in this paragraph. So this isa serious attempt to place the institution in historical context”, is it? Excuse me if I’m unconvinced.]


[Who have, of course, never felt the sting of racism. Ever. They haven't, now SHUT UP!]

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution put a formal end to the institution of slavery 89 years after the birth of the Republic;

[And we know how well that worked.]

142 years have passed since this welcome emancipation.

[And some of them even got to vote! Eventually, they were considered full human beings, too! What else did those people want, dang it?]

Moreover, the importation of slaves came to an end in 1808 (as provided by the Constitution), a mere 32 years after independence, and slavery had been outlawed in most states decades before the Civil War.

[Only “most states” because the Northern states, being older, were smaller and more numerous. (DC kept slaves until 1850 – Southern representatives just couldn’t do without, it seems.) And those uppity slaves kept having rebellions, didn’t they? In fact, Nat Turner’s in Virginia resulted in much stricter slave laws. And that was in 1831, a “mere” 23 years after the importation of slaves became illegal. New states added after the Mexican War are allowed to decide for themselves whether they would be abolitionist or not. And that was in 1850, a “mere” 42 years after imports were banned. What the heck was that, anyways? A precursor to anti-dumping laws?]

Even in the South, more than 80% of the white population never owned slaves.

[Not that many could afford them. But the people who couldn’t just accepted it – so no problem, then!]

Given the fact that the majority of today’s non-black Americans descend from immigrants who arrived in this country after the War Between the States, only a tiny percentage of today’s white citizens – perhaps as few as 5% -- bear any authentic sort of generational guilt for the exploitation of slave labor.

[As long as you: 1) accept the concept of “generational guilt”; 2) ignore the repercussions of slavery; and 3) consider the acceptance of slavery, mute or vocal, as no big deal. And until genetic testing is done, who knows? There may be as many of them as there are descendants of Genghis Kahn.]

Of course, a hundred years of Jim Crow laws, economic oppression and indefensible discrimination followed the theoretical emancipation of the slaves, but those harsh realities raise different issues from those connected to the long-ago history of bondage.

[History only matters when we say it does, damn it! Those horrible Jim Crow laws just came out of no where! We were taken totally by surprise! Who could have seen them coming, I ask you?]

3. THOUGH BRUTAL, SLAVERY WASN’T GENOCIDAL: LIVE SLAVES WERE VALUABLE BUT DEAD CAPTIVES BROUGHT NO PROFIT. Historians agree that hundreds of thousands, and probably millions of slaves perished over the course of 300 years during the rigors of the “Middle Passage” across the Atlantic Ocean. Estimates remain inevitably imprecise, but range as high as one third of the slave “cargo” who perished from disease or overcrowding during transport from Africa.

[One reason why the abuse of Native populations WAS genocidal was that they made atrocious slaves: they tended to lay down and die (yes, literally) rather than be slaves of this new, white man variety. So they were killed off and chased from their land instead. If the opportunity were there, then yeah, slavery would have been genocidal.]

Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean.

[Um. So the financial losses slave traders suffered was “Perhaps the most horrifying aspect”? Not the cramming in of human cargo to three times the normal capacity; the disease running rampant; the malnutrition and dismay? Am I misreading something here, or did Medved actually say this?]

By definition, the crime of genocide requires the deliberate slaughter of a specific group of people; slavers invariably preferred oppressing and exploiting live Africans rather than murdering them en masse.

[There’s actually another version that can take place too, Mike. The elimination of a culture from the face of the earth is genocide, whether the people of that culture survive or not.]

Here, the popular, facile comparisons between slavery and the Holocaust quickly break down: the Nazis occasionally benefited from the slave labor of their victims, but the ultimate purpose of facilities like Auschwitz involved mass death, not profit or productivity.

[So defending your own bad hypothesis with the straw man of another bad hypothesis is your justification for this dreck? Wow.]

For slave owners and slave dealers in the New World, however, death of your human property cost you money, just as the death of your domestic animals would cause financial damage. And as with their horses and cows, slave owners took pride and care in breeding as many new slaves as possible.

[And that’s why they could ban imports in 1808, as you previously bragged. Lovely! By the way, numbers alone are NOT what cattle and horse breeders were, or are, looking for.]

Rather than eliminating the slave population, profit-oriented masters wanted to produce as many new, young slaves as they could. This hardly represents a compassionate or decent way to treat your fellow human beings, but it does amount to the very opposite of genocide. As David Brion Davis reports, slave holders in North America developed formidable expertise in keeping their “bondsmen” alive and healthy enough to produce abundant offspring. The British colonists took pride in slaves who “developed an almost unique and rapid rate of population growth, freeing the later United States from a need for further African imports.”

[About that – since there was interest in “breeding” the slaves, they could never go free, very much unlike the other empires used in comparison. Even if they escaped, where were they going to go? There was no where that offered even the prospect of fitting in. And here again is where the idea of “race” came into play – black was black, not “of a specific tribe”. Slavery here had no hope of escape, no chance of freedom, and was a law for generations. Even Apartheid only lasted 45 years, and I presume very few would try justifying it!]

4. IT’S NOT TRUE THAT THE U.S. BECAME A WEALTHY NATION THROUGH THE ABUSE OF SLAVE LABOR: THE MOST PROSPEROUS STATES IN THE COUNTRY WERE THOSE THAT FIRST FREED THEIR SLAVES. Pennsylvania passed an emancipation law in 1780; Connecticut and Rhode Island followed four years later (all before the Constitution). New York approved emancipation in 1799. These states (with dynamic banking centers in Philadelphia and Manhattan) quickly emerged as robust centers of commerce and manufacturing, greatly enriching themselves while the slave-based economies in the South languished by comparison.

[The oldest states were the richest, and where banking centres based themselves. Anyone here surprised?]

At the time of the Constitution, Virginia constituted the most populous and wealthiest state in the Union, but by the time of the War Between the States the Old Dominion had fallen far behind a half-dozen northern states that had outlawed slavery two generations earlier. All analyses of Northern victory in the great sectional struggle highlights the vast advantages in terms of wealth and productivity in New England, the Mid-Atlantic States and the Midwest, compared to the relatively backward and impoverished states of the Confederacy.

[Shall we compare farmers and bankers, or does that strike you as too complex? Sheesh.]

While a few elite families in the Old South undoubtedly based their formidable fortunes on the labor of slaves, the prevailing reality of the planter class involved chronic indebtedness and shaky finances long before the ultimate collapse of the evil system of bondage.

[Okay, fine: the cotton was where, and the textile mills were where? For those unaware of it, the cities produced an entire underclass of people that could be cheaply exploited to work in factories. If the idea hasn’t sunk in yet, answer this: who makes more money: the person who sells a dress, the person who makes the dress, or the person who produces the cotton the dress is made of? Welcome to Economics 098.]

The notion that America based its wealth and development on slave labor hardly comports with the obvious reality that for two hundred years since the founding of the Republic, by far the poorest and least developed section of the nation was precisely that region where slavery once prevailed.

[And is still the poorest regions in the nation. Since nothing has changed since, it must have been the slavery, yup!]


[As I mentioned before, slavery in the Americas was utterly unique in the sheer hopelessness of the slaves’ circumstance. Can’t wait to hear about the “special credit” the U.S. deserves!]

In the course of scarcely more than a century following the emergence of the American Republic, men of conscience, principle and unflagging energy succeeded in abolishing slavery not just in the New World but in all nations of the West.

[Wow. “People did stuff + we were a nation by then = we deserve the accolades!” This view that nothing happened until it happened in America is simply awe inspiring…]

During three eventful generations, one of the most ancient, ubiquitous and unquestioned of all human institutions (considered utterly indispensable by the “enlightened” philosophers of Greece and Rome) became universally discredited and finally illegal – with Brazil at last liberating all its slaves in 1888.

[Let me guess: you’re going to utterly ignore the French intellectuals whose work through the 1700s formed the vary basis of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, right?]

This worldwide mass movement (spear-headed in Britain and elsewhere by fervent Evangelical Christians) brought about the most rapid and fundamental transformation in all human history. While the United States (and the British colonies that preceded our independence) played no prominent role in creating the institution of slavery, or even in establishing the long-standing African slave trade pioneered by Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and other merchants long before the settlement of English North America,

[Only for changing it. Is there anyone, anyone at all, who thinks America invented slavery? Anyone? Or is this (shock and horror) another straw man Medved is bravely doing battle with? Wait, I think I know.]

Americans did contribute mightily to the spectacularly successful anti-slavery agitation. As early as 1646, the Puritan founders of New England expressed their revulsion at the enslavement of their fellow children of God.

[A movement brought with them from England. Think this will get mentioned?]

When magistrates in Massachusetts discovered that some of their citizens had raided an African village and violently seized two natives to bring them across the Atlantic for sale in the New World, the General Court condemned “this haynos and crying sinn of man-stealing.” The officials promptly ordered the two blacks returned to their native land. Two years later, Rhode Island passed legislation denouncing the practice of enslaving Africans for life and ordered that any slaves “brought within the liberties of this Collonie” be set free after ten years “as the manner is with the English servants.” A hundred and thirty years later John Adams and Benjamin Franklin both spent most of their lives as committed activists in the abolitionist cause, and Thomas Jefferson included a bitter condemnation of slavery in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence.

[Wait: you quote one incident, then another two years later, then jump 130 years? Miss something, there? Like those folks in the two states you mentioned were from that British sect of Puritans, who were always and consistently opposed to slavery, and didn’t represent the views of “Americans” at large?

Modern comparison: does the fact that Quakers are opposed to war mean Americans are pacifists? Discuss.]

This remarkable passage saw African bondage as “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty” and described “a market where MEN should be bought and sold” as constituting “piratical warfare” and “execrable commerce.” Unfortunately, the Continental Congress removed this prescient, powerful denunciation in order to win approval from Jefferson’s fellow slave-owners, but the impact of the Declaration and the American Revolution remained a powerful factor in energizing and inspiring the international anti-slavery cause.

[Founded by British Protestants, and born of French Idealism, both of which vigorously denounced slavery and promoted personal freedoms. I notice once again that you’re not bothering to mention that, Mike! Can’t imagine why… Oh, wait! It’s because there WAS NO HISTORY until the United States existed, right?]

Nowhere did idealists pay a higher price for liberation than they did in the United States of America. Confederate forces (very few of whom ever owned slaves)

[Soldiers are always drawn from the poorest classes, aren’t they? Funny that! Thankfully, that sort of selectiveness doesn’t happen any more, does it?]

may not have fought consciously to defend the Peculiar Institution, but Union soldiers and sailors (particularly at the end of the war) proudly risked their lives for the emancipation cause.

[Or for a paycheque. After all, today’s soldiers are dying to make sure their sisters don’t have to wear burkhas, right?]

Julia Ward Howe’s powerful and popular “Battle Hymn of the Republic” called on Federal troops to follow Christ’s example: “as he died to make men holy/let us die to make men free.”

[Propaganda: it’s what’s for dinner! Since we're on the subject, ever read Twain's The War Prayer?]

And many of them did die, some 364,000 in four years of combat—or the stunning equivalent of five million deaths as a percentage of today’s United States population.

[People die in war? No way!]

Moreover, the economic cost of liberation remained almost unimaginable. In nearly all other nations, the government paid some form of compensation to slave-owners at the time of emancipation, but Southern slave-owners received no reimbursement of any kind when they lost an estimated $3.5 billion in 1860 dollars (about $70 billion in today’s dollars) of what Davis describes as a “hitherto legally accepted form of property.” The most notable aspect of America’s history with slavery doesn’t involve its tortured and bloody existence, but the unprecedented speed and determination with which abolitionists roused the national conscience and put this age-old evil to an end.

[Spoken again as if other countries, philosophers, and writings had not existed until the United States was created: an astounding achievement, that.]


[Or to quote Barbara Bush regarding the Hurricane Katrina victims: “this is working very well for them.”]

The idea of reparations rests on the notion of making up to the descendants of slaves for the incalculable damage done to their family status and welfare by the enslavement of generations of their ancestors. In theory, reparationists want society to repair the wrongs of the past by putting today’s African-Americans into the sort of situation they would have enjoyed if their forebears hadn’t been kidnapped, sold and transported across the ocean.

[Actually, no. It’s about how those people were treated when they got here. You know: facts rather than hypotheticals.]

Unfortunately, to bring American blacks in line with their cousins who the slave-traders left behind in Africa would require a drastic reduction in their wealth, living standards, and economic and political opportunities.

[But you’d prefer to stick to hypotheticals, I see. Really, this is about what happened, not what the world might have been like if it didn’t.]

No honest observer can deny or dismiss this nation’s long record of racism and injustice,

[I thought you’ve been saying it wasn’t that long a period? Huh.]

but it’s also obvious that Americans of African descent enjoy vastly greater wealth and human rights of every variety than the citizens of any nation of the Mother Continent. If we sought to erase the impact of slavery on specific black families, we would need to obliterate the spectacular economic progress made by those families (and by US citizens in general) over the last 100 years. In view of the last century of history in Nigeria or Ivory Coast or Sierra Leone or Zimbabwe, could any African American say with confidence that he or she would have fared better had some distant ancestor not been enslaved?

[I repeat: this is about what happened, not what didn’t. Understand the difference?]

Of course, those who seek reparations would also cite the devastating impact of Western colonialism in stunting African progress, but the United States played virtually no role in the colonization of the continent. The British, French, Italians, Portuguese, Germans and others all established brutal colonial rule in Africa; tiny Belgium became a particularly oppressive and bloodthirsty colonial power in the Congo.

[Okay, fine: you want to play this game? We’ll play.

If you are going to go back several generations for the blacks, then we’re going to go back that many for whites, too. That means, Mike, that yeah, Americans WERE responsible for the colonization of Africa (and the rest of the world) because White Americans came from England, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and even “tiny Belgium”… It’s a stupid argument, sure: easily as bad as your own. But I’m not letting you have it both ways, sorry.]

The United States, on the other hand, sponsored only one long-term venture on the African continent: the colony of Liberia, an independent nation set up as a haven for liberated American slaves who wanted to go “home.”

[How tempting – a “home” thousands of miles away, in a country they have never heard of. Can’t imagine why more didn’t go! This wasn’t a case of the Jews and Israel: the American Blacks in the early 1800s had no money, few resources, and little education. What exactly were they going to do when they got there? Liberia was a poorly thought out excuse: for liberals, to make themselves feel better; and for racists to (hopefully) move potential troublemakers out of the country. Not much more than that.]

The fact that so few availed themselves of the opportunity, or heeded the back-to-African exhortations of turn- of-the-century Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey, reflects the reality that descendants of slaves understood they were better off remaining in the United States, for all its faults.

[So being treated like shit here was better than potentially dying there. Hobson’s choice, and they’re supposed to be grateful for it?]

In short, politically correct assumptions

[Beware anyone who uses “politically correct” as an excuse not to do something: it means they have no actual argument otherwise.]

about America’s entanglement with slavery lack any sense of depth, perspective or context.

[As compared to this brilliant work?]

As with so many other persistent lies about this fortunate land, the unthinking indictment of the United States as uniquely blameworthy

[Get that straw man, Mike! Beat that sucker up!]

for an evil institution ignores the fact that the record of previous generations provides some basis for pride as well as guilt.

[Pride? Who said anything about not being proud of America’s achievements? But someone who is proud of their achievements doesn’t hide their past: that is a coward’s mark.]

So there we have it – Michael Medved’s supposed proof that slavery wasn’t really that bad. After all, it was (1) traditional; (2) limited; (3) non-genocidal; (4) NOT American; (5) a way to provide America glory by eliminating it; and (6) better than Africa!

Well, I’m convinced! I’m so inspired, in fact, that I’m gonna go light a scarecrow on fire! That’ll teach it! Hell, Yeah!


posted by Thursday at 2:31 pm 2 comments