Saturday, October 24, 2009

Polling and Trolling

It was surprising indeed that Obama allowed (or perhaps even directed) his communications beagle, Anita Dunn, to get down and dirty with Fox News. Could this network have wanted anything more than a dirt-slinging confrontation with the dubiously premature Peace Nobelist to get even moderate Americans flipping on their channel to see what the fuss is all about?

There is more than enough fresh verbiage sprouting up in conventional and online news commentaries (a good balanced but critical example being Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus) that I do not have to wade in here other than to echo advice I had on a wall poster many a year ago: "Never mud wrestle with a pig: you'll both get dirty but the pig will love it!"

What I will comment on, however, is a poll that popped up on FaceBook today. Here is what it looks like (click on image to enlarge).

Adroit readers would need only a glance at this -- and particularly at the nigh incoherent and pathetically biased drivel the author placed above the three choices - to know that this poll and whoever mounted it on FaceBook seem not worth taking seriously. Alas, in addition to several of my FaceBook Friends - people I greatly respect - having taken this survey, the stats suggest that no fewer than 36,841 benighted souls have played along, no doubt to the orgasmic glee of the semi-illiterate perpetrator!

It is obvious, but I'll say it anyway for the record, that the survey is irremediably flawed. Of course, its purpose was what is called trolling: it's not meant to evoke reflection on the Obama-Fox conflagration but to stir up emotions and, if possible, legitimize the underlying ridiculous presumption that the Prez would even contemplate such a move.

I am sure logicians have complicated names for the erroneous thinking therein but for simplicity, think of it this way. Down the street lives a pleasant mild-mannered young man and his mother. With a few clicks I can set up a poll asking FaceBookers whether the fellow should murder his mum. Please choose Yes? No? or It's Illegal.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Proportionate Response a la UN Human Rights Council

This morning the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), with a predictability not exceeded by forecasting solar eclipses, endorsed Justice Richard Goldstone's report on civilian abuse during the 2008 Gaza war. Whatever the merits and content of the report itself, this was a foregone conclusion, in part because the same Council commissioned the inquiry but more so because of this dubious body's track record of Israel-bashing.

Isn't this in the same world where Sudan encourages the ongoing massive butchery in Darfur? Wherein Mugabe has destroyed civil life and innumerable opponents? Where North Korea and Iran continue to suppress, jail and disappear even mild critics? Where the tyrants of Burma silence and stomp Nobel peace laureates? And where the People's Republic of China continually murders off ethnic and other opposition? But in this world, there is one Nation that has garnered 6 times the number of UNHRC condemnatory resolutions than any other: yup, Israel.

Here's a screen-shot that compiles the number of such resolutions between 2003 and 2009.

(apologies for the small image size but the scaling of the bar graph is thrown off by the preponderance of resolutions directed at Israel! - if you click on it, some magnification happens)

The Report talks about Israel's disproportionate military response but might one also think about "disproportion" in the way that that nation itself is assaulted by the luminaries of Human Rights of the UN?

No surprise here that Goldstone's findings would be music to the largish ears of this "impartial" agglomeration of UNHRC kangaroos. The report certainly is extensive and delves scrupulously into what, in an earlier less enlightened era, would have been the expected outcomes of an invasion into an unavoidably densely populated area - a place where the quarry quite intentionally attempts to hide and blend in.

Figuring out what specific abuses the Israeli forces perpetrated versus inadvertent and unavoidable casualties - given Hamas's conscious strategy to embed among its own vulnerable civilians - was a task of enormous complexity. In order to appear a little balanced the Goldstone report rapped Hamas's knuckles too but failed anywhere to point out just how easy that claque of terrorists qua elected government made the learned investigation: for they were indiscriminately attacking Israeli civilians on a daily basis long before open military action began. In simple terms, had they heeded multiple warnings to put a stop to the daily barrage of missiles peppering its communities, Israel would have no reason or justification for the horrors that followed.

It is somewhat to Goldstone's credit that his panel documents the Palestinians' atrocities but, of course, in keeping with the culture of the institution who commissioned this analysis, and now endorse it, the lion's share of blame continues to rain down on Israel - you know, the side that was being attacked first.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stumbling into a low place

I used to live in a huge U.S. city: relatives would tell me to be careful because sometimes you can be a perfectly okay neighbourhood and then just make one wrong turn and end up in some dangerous scuzz-hole. I mainly ignored their warnings, obviously, survived my recklessness, and, as a result, saw extraordinary places I would not have otherwise.

But the Internet is a wholly different place. Of course, sexual pornography is never further than around the next clicked corner, as are batteries of white supremacists, Islamic polemicists and the like. But this week I happened into a fetid not-so-little backwater whose existence I would have preferred never to even know about much less have witnessed.

While helping my daughter work on a presentation about wolverines and checking out what YouTube had for footage of this rare, cagey and fearsome species, I happened across one harmless enough clip wherein the wolverine was chasing a much bigger bear up a tree. That seemed kind of amusing so I opened it, and... as frequent YouTubers know, when you view one video, others ostensibly related to it appear in a side bar. Suddenly, involuntarily, I was in a screwy netherworld rife with crude footage of deadly confrontations between various wild and domestic creatures which, for the most part, would never encounter each other in nature. Tigers were pitted against black bears and lions, lynxes versus cougars, pit-bulls against wolves, poisonous snakes against birds of prey, and crocodiles taking on damn near every kind of adversary.

Just as troubling as the content of this repulsive stuff is the copious dialogue - if such it can be called - of ostensible humans e-blabbering their commentary underneath each video. With more vehemence than beery hockey fans, anonymous rooters with nicknames like Panikmaker and Hickman13 triumphantly proclaim the superiority of their "home team" predator and, inevitably - though it hardly seems possible - stoop lower and lower in their mutual recriminations. "A tiger could own your f---ing polar bear you dumb motherf-----" etc. etc.

One has the distinct impression of overhearing lunatics who can get their ya-ya's off only vicariously through violence among wildlife they wish they were like... a pervert's version of the animal daemons in the Golden Compass.

But, it seems, these aren't just a few twisted odd ducks: YouTube tracks the number of viewings and for most of these videos there have been 100s of thousands of visits recorded. One clip of a tiger/lion encounter has been watched over 5 million times! Moreover, I soon discovered as I pressed with morbid fascination into deeper recesses that this manly preoccupation has been institutionalized in a wide array of websites including ones with such telling titles as and [Note: I am not providing direct links (a) because it is ugly stuff that you should search out only if you enjoy excrement; and (b) putting in links makes the crap all the more likely to turn up when kids do searches about wild animals on engines such as Google].

Naturally, because I am who I am, I left a scattering of mocking and contemptuous remarks, just to stir up the dim-wit sadists. I argued that a ruffed grouse would lay waste to their tigers and black mambas and referred to non-existent scientific literature on the inherent violence of gallinaceous birds. This seems to have found its mark, as a flurry of hate-mail soon landed in the box of the email address that I keep especially for such people and occasions. Most amounted to slightly less sophisticated versions of primary school "sez-yous" but with added epithets advising me to undertake various anatomically impossible maneuvers.

Any way, my latest windmill to tilt at involves tracking down whomever makes these videos, finding out whether the footage is real, and, as appropriate, bringing this sordid preoccupation to the attention of animal welfare bodies. I shall advise later on outcomes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One More and, I hope, Last Shot at the Whiner

So intriguing that until the details of his league-record - there he goes again! - salary , there was no mention much less criticism of the Grating One in all the chicaneries swirling about the hapless Phoenix Coyotes. The ill fate of this perennial loser of the desert, was attributed to everything from a poorly located stadium to an intrinsic lack of fan base to global warming with never a mention of the G-man and his ill-matched insatiable monetary hunger and mediocre (at best) coaching skills.

Usually when any professional team comes up with middling to poor seasons year after year, muttering about the man behind the bench starts up and grows in volume until general management kicks the bum out. Of course, when the bum in question happens to have a financial and management interest in the failing team, it's a tad more difficult. And so, despite four years of missing the playoffs and utter silence - forget about trying to help in any way - about the various controversies over the team's fate amidst the Basillie-Bettman battle, Gretzky is heard from only and about when there's a chance that he won't get the full $8.5 million he's been patiently waiting for at the nigh-empty Phoenix trough. Now there's news that matters.

The hesitation one sees on sports pages to even now call a spade a spade and the Wayner a whiner, makes me wonder if the writers there are still semi-consciously afraid that even a fair, well-researched verbal "body-check" on Gretzky might summon forth the ghost of the one of the bully-boys, like Dave Semenko, who, shall we say, facilitated those record-setting years on the Oilers.

Okay if Wayne will now promise to do something useful with his remaining years - such as fishing off the dock at his cottage - and stay far from hockey in every way, I shall commit to him and my faithful readers, that I have spake his name for the last time.

Taking off the Tight Shoe

My late mother used to speak metaphorically of a man so deprived that his only pleasure was wearing shoes a size too small so he could feel the relief of taking them off once a day.
This strikes me as the the kind of feeling that those who bore witness to Stephen Harper's musical performance at the National Arts Centre must have been going through. Undoubtedly well-coached by his usual faceless handlers, the Prime Minister touched down among presumptive mortal enemies within the very bastion of cultured folks whose values and livelihoods his government has so long demeaned. With Yo-Yo Ma backing him up, it's hard to imagine anybody being so churlish as to not give Harper rousing cheers for his pluck if not, nay, definitely not for his talent.

Fair enough, but, as might be expected, the NeoCon pundits were at the ready: Charles Adler, arguably the new Right's fair haired boy du jour, went a little out of control, reading into the culture crowd's reaction, a lighting strike realization that Stephen wasn't really "scary" after all.

I prefer the theory of the tight shoe. Having had this mean-spirited minority Prime Minister for an unthinkable four years of culture-trashing, it probably seemed, if only for a moment, a pleasurable relief to see him acting as if he was really not so bad. Adler, seized the occasion to make the rather mundane observation that Harper was the kind of guy you just might bump into at the Canadian Tire store on a Saturday morning -- an unprofound criterion, since uncaught serial killers and, even more evil in Adler's world, Michael Ignatieff, might also need lock de-icer some frosty weekend and turn up along the CT aisles.

To such as Adler, let me reassure you: no one was fooled; the relief was momentary, and the reaction you saw, merely the classy graciousness that the despised "Downtowners"(Adler's term for what a couple of generations ago, his like-minded predecessor Spiro Agnew would have called an"effete corps of impudent snobs") are good at.

Learn something, Chuckie.