Friday, June 26, 2009

Bonus metal-blogging.

Found the one I was really looking for. DevilDriver, "Pray for Villains"

Friday metal-blogging.

DevilDriver, "Clouds Over California".

Outta here till the 4th.

DevilDriver - Clouds Over California from Snaggletooth on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Credit where credit is due.

I kicked The Toronto Star pretty hard for its horrifically biased coverage of the York University strike. And I've taken a few shots over their coverage of the current municipal strike. But, credit where credit is due: Royson James is talking sense.

Hopefully, the editors will move him over to the education beat (even part-time? please?) before the coming wave of university labour action.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unbelievable.

The Toronto Star continues to disgrace itself. In the middle of this story on a picketer who was struck by a car on legal picket lines, they throw in this nonsense from a disgruntled union member:
At the Bermondsey transfer station in the east end near Eglinton Ave. E. and Victoria Park Ave., picketer Ed Barber spoke out about the leaders in the two locals of the Canadian Union of Public Workers that took their members off the job at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

"The union doesn't have any concrete leadership or organization," said Barber, who works for the Toronto water department.

"This is stupid. We should be at work. There's a recession. Why don't people understand that."
So, in other words, the strike vote didn't go the way he wanted, so he's going to sit on the picket lines and complain to reporters. Meanwhile, the thousands of union members who voted in favour of the strike and support their leadership aren't mentioned at all in the article.

And, as said, this story leads with a picketer being struck by a car. Even when union members are being attacked by other people, the Star just can't stop bashing. I'd say it was unbelievable, but, really, does anyone have trouble believing this?

Who is Vinay Menon?

And why does the Toronto Star think anyone cares what he thinks about the municipal strike?

Case in point: the imbecile actually wrote this (and it got by an editor) in regard to the municipal strike,
Once again, honest, hardworking, law-abiding taxpayers are being held hostage by a system that always puts them last.
Got that? Striking workers aren't honest, hardworking, law-abiding or taxpayers. Yet, somehow, they provide what he refers to as an "essential service" in running daycares -- and, given the structure of his sentences, island ferry services, parks maintenance, and summer camps. Granting that "essential service" is a legal term which doesn't apply to any of these, can anyone mount a remotely plausible argument to the effect that summer camps should be an essential service?

The stupidity is ramping up again... why is it that so many people can't think their way through even the slightest inconvenience? (Seriously, this idiot bitches about paying 5 cents for a bag when he orders delivery. Maybe he needs to learn to cook?)

NB: I looked him up, and he was apparently their TV critic, who moved to the news section to write a "humour" column. So, maybe I'm missing the joke; perhaps this is a piece of sophisticated satire rather than something readers are meant to take seriously. But, somehow, I doubt it.

What John said.

More good sense on the Toronto city workers' strike.

Really, I have very little to add on the issue. It's the same old tired response from the media, and the same old whining from the idiotic masses. (And the masses in Toronto are particularly idiotic. I grew up here; I'm allowed to hate them.) The union has the right of it, but they will be ordered back to work and forced to accept an agreement by a higher power. And we thus tend ever closer to feudalism.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Chet said.

I think this pretty much nails it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And here I was...

...worrying that Ignatieff would accept more ridiculous "assurances" from Harper and fail to accomplish anything of any significance.

Y'know, even sarcasm doesn't really do justice to how craven Ignatieff is proving himself to be. Weak, weak, weak.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On property.

This is somewhat incoherent, I know. But it's what's been running through my mind today.

On the one hand, we can view property in a historical way. That is, something becomes my property because of something that has happened to it in my past. Either I have legitimately acquired it originally (such as by making it from unowned raw materials) or I have legitimately acquired it from the original owner, possibly at some remove.

On the other hand, we can view property in a non-historical way. That is, something becomes my property because of something that is happening now. This is very often cashed out in terms of need (think Marxist analyses), but could, in principle, be unpacked in terms of anything that admits of a current time-slice sort of conception.

I'm not sympathetic to the former views, as they lead inevitably to massive inequality on very thin justification. We override historical considerations all the time in other areas -- for example, where I was born is not usually taken to be a justificatory basis for limiting where I am now or will be in the future. So, a purely historical analysis of property seems to provide at best only weak reason to allow people to maintain their property. I find this troubling as I take property to be more important. That something is mine is not merely weak reason not to take it from me; it is a very strong (although not undefeatable) reason to allow me to keep it.

However, non-historical analyses have a real problem in that they don't allow for the intuition that drives the historical view: namely, that what is mine is mine because of something I did in the past. I bought it, made it, was given it, or some such. Surely that has to matter in any viable understanding of what property is.

I wonder, though, whether there's a way of fitting both the historical and non-historical intuitions together. That is, a way of preserving the idea that what happened in the past matters to whether something is mine, without saying that only what happened in the past matters to whether something is mine. And this led me to think about a possible family resemblance between another sense of "mine", one which isn't obviously relevant to property but, I think, could be.

This is the sense of "mine" in which something is my thought or my dream or my ambition. That is, self-identification rather than ownership as such. My beliefs are mine not because they are bits of property that I have made -- that's a very artificial (literally as well as figuratively) way of thinking of beliefs. Instead, beliefs are mine because they are part of me. My beliefs are my beliefs -- rather than yours or his or theirs -- because they partially constitute me (whatever "me" is, which is a whole 'nother thing).

Now, property partially constitutes me, too. Psychologists have noticed this one -- Ulric Neisser is the name that comes to mind -- and it does seem to make sense. After all, part of who I am seems to be defined by the sorts of things I wear, the objects I wield on a regular basis (a beloved pet, a favourite book, and so on), and the like. So, there does seem to be a connection between "mine" as in part of me and "mine" as in property.

I don't want to overemphasize this connection, though. I think it's a family resemblance rather than exactly the same concept in both contexts. But the family resemblance does strike me as instructive. For part of what gives rise to the strong reason for allowing people to keep their own property is just that property forms part of their selves. There's something immediately plausible about the claim that we should, as much as possible, respect the autonomy of a person; given that, we should allow the person to have some sphere of self-control; and, reading "self-control" literally gets us to the claim that we leave the self, and its constituent parts, largely alone. If property is one of those parts, then we should, largely, leave it alone.

This is only a historical claim about property insofar as the self is historical, though. And the self is clearly not entirely historical. The claim that it is is subject to an obvious reductio ad absurdum: since everyone accepts the self begins at some time, at that time (call it t1) the self has no history, and thus does not exist. But, therefore, at the next moment, t2, the self has no history -- for it did not exist at t1 -- and thus the self does not exist at t2. And thus, for any tn, the self does not exist. Now, the self clearly does have a history, and this history partially defines the self, but a self has to be allowed to exist even if there is no historical component. So, if property is part of the self, it seems to follow that property is not fully captured by a historical analysis.

As said, though, I don't want to oversell the idea that property is part of the self -- that tends to run together the sense of "mine" as part of me and the sense of "mine" as ownership, and that's a clear error. I can't sell my beliefs, but I can sell my cat. (Not that I would; it's just an example.) Property clearly depends on a certain set of external factors as well: markets, legal rights of ownership, trade, and so on, rectification procedures in cases of theft or fraud, etc. But there does seem to be a part of property which is best understood in terms of the way property forms part of the self.

So, to summarize: property, at least in part, is part of the self; the self is largely inviolable because of intuitively plausible claims about autonomy of persons; and thus we have strong reason not to interfere with private property. There are also external connections which need to be traced with regard to broader social institutions and practices, especially law (and proto-law.)

This also has some nice consequences for intellectual property, for intellectual property -- as it consists largely of ideas -- is clearly mine in a sense much closer to the "part of me" sense than the "ownership" sense. But it is also clearly dependent on the social order: it's entirely conceivable that "intellectual property" is mine only in the sense of being part of me, and not in the sense of being owned. Which would imply that it is an open question whether intellectual property is something that anyone deserves compensation for. If I own something and someone else wants it, I can clearly demand compensation -- I can even refuse if the compensation is not sufficient. If something is part of me, though, then there really is no sense in which anyone can take it; and if someone tries to obliterate it, then they are culpable not for any kind of theft, but instead for a kind of assault (think brainwashing as an extreme case).

#iranelection

So, I haven't blogged anything about the Iran election as yet. Largely because it's hard to know what to say.

Was the election rigged? Of course; you don't beat up the opposition when you've legitimately won 2/3 of the vote. You sit there and wait it out.

Is there a possibility that things will degenerate as far as in China in '89? A very strong possibility, as far as I can tell. Students are gathering en masse in places where it wouldn't be terribly difficult to get a few tanks. It hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't, if the regime becomes sufficiently embarrassed, afraid and/or angry.

Is information very hard to come by? Yes. In part because the mainstream media are falling down on the job -- which is somewhat self-inflicted, as many organizations have cut their Middle Eastern bureaus, but also somewhat not, as reports suggest that Iran is trying to limit the activities of foreign and domestic journalists -- but also in part because the situation is very chaotic and changing very quickly.

So, what is there to say? The best option is to follow Twitter (#iranelection or #GR88) and wait. (Unless, of course, you happen to be a highly-trained mercenary with your own helicopter and time to spare. In which case, you might want to head over to Tehran.)



Monday, June 15, 2009

Hmm.

From zipping around the right side of the Canadian blogosphere -- I don't do it often as I have these things called "principles" which get in the way -- I feel obligated to make the following remark. The American right is far more vicious and cruel. But the Canadian right has them beat by a country mile for sheer uninformed stupidity. The most basic points of decent behaviour, and even logical consistency, are entirely opaque to them.

Cruel people are fun to needle, just to see how long it takes them to snap. But taunting stupid people is so utterly pointless that I really can't see teh attraction.

Hence, in part, why I don't pay attention to right-wing Canadian blogs.

Is Michael Ignatieff stupid?

Apparently. Or else he thinks voters are. We've heard this song before, after all. Ignatieff tries to "hold Harper accountable", Harper comes up with a way to seem like he's complying, and Ignatieff claims he's succeeded in doing... something (it's never quite clear what). Continually propping up the Conservatives in return for empty promises is a sign of serious weakness on the part of the Liberal party, and there's nothing to suggest that Harper's promises will be any less empty this time around.

Still, the latter might be right. Maybe voters are stupid enough to fall for this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday metal-blogging

Dimmu Borgir, "The Serpentine Offering"


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Measuring wellbeing?

Uh huh. Colour me one very skeptical philosopher. Hundreds of bright folks have tried -- and failed -- to come up with a decent measure of wellbeing, not to mention one that can substitute for GDP. Maybe we just shouldn't try to quantify the unquantifiable.

No, no, silly idea. Forget I said anything.

Harper's cabinet continuing to cover itself in glory.

And over here, we have Gary Goodyear -- again -- proving why he's yet another hopelessly incompetent Conservative minister. Not because he tried to intervene in the way a federal granting agency allocated research monies. Oh, no. That, I expect. No, the problem is he was too stupid to do it without being caught.

Of course, given that Harper is apparently becoming the type that forgives any and all sins, I suppose Goodyear believes that it doesn't matter if he gets caught. Adding in the fact that he won his last election with almost 50% of the votes cast, he might actually be right. (Incidentally, thanks bunches, Cambridge.)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday metal-blogging.

Cryptopsy, "Worship Your Demons"

Maybe I'm missing something...

...but isn't there an obvious difference between running an ad that falsely accuses someone of breaking the law and running an ad which matches unflattering pictures with words taken from a different context? (Background here.)

Friday, June 05, 2009

As petty as Canadian politics is...

...at least it's not batshit crazy.

Liberals are funny creatures.

On the one hand, there's a growing kerfuffle about Ignatieff's decision to back the Cons on mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. (I swear, I had to retype that about three times before I got it right. It's like the words are so ridiculous that my very hands rebelled.) There really should be threats to turn in membership cards and go work for some other party (*koff*NDP*koff*), but at least there's some vague idea that maybe, just maybe, Igantieff Liberals aren't what actual Liberals want to be. A more opportune might have been before Rae dropped out of the leadership race, but whatever.

On the other hand, we have Liberals gloating (like here) about King Steve's economic failures. With no acknowledgement that King Steve would have been out of his current job if Ignatieff hadn't blinked on the coalition. I do suspect that part of the issue is that Ignatieff probably wouldn't be doing much better -- not that I'm giving the Cons a break, but the jobless numbers as such don't seem to be a problem government can fix.

While I'm all for picking your battles, either Liberals are willing to criticize their guy when he makes a bone-headed decision, or they're not. This flipping back and forth between willing and unwilling doesn't say "principled" or even "pragmatic" -- it says "weak". Time to choose, methinks. Either "my ideals, whoever the leader" or "my leader, whatever the ideals". (And, if the latter, how are you not just Conservatives with better vocabularies?)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oh, honestly.

Seriously? Look, I get it: your son, friend, brother, whatever was killed on a Greyhound, and you have bad associations with Greyhound generally and that bus in particular. Makes sense. But to actually believe Greyhound would trash a bus that probably cost them in the hundreds of thousands (can't find data, but I vaguely recall that schoolbuses cost around that) is absurd. They've cleaned it, renumbered it, and put it back in service in another part of the country. What else do people expect?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Misanthropy really is a viable option.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Of course, I suppose I could just move to a more intelligent country. Anyone have any suggestions? (The first to say "America" gets a smack.)

But remember, kids, Canada's economy is just ginchy!

Australia avoids recession.

And what are they doing that we aren't? Well, hard to say. It's a Reuters article, and analysis seems to be a dirty word for the wire service guys (well, for most reporters generally, but the wire services are especially bad).

H/T AMERICAblog.

Further to the preceding.

And the cost of nuclear reactors that generate power is not a relevant benchmark, I'm sorry to say. While it might be just gobs of fun to run around in circles and scream about how solar/wind/tidal/geothermal/magical unicorn dust is the energy source of the future, that's not the issue. None of these sources can replace the medical isotopes that Chalk River produces. For that, you need a nuclear reactor of some kind or another. Even if it costs a metric fuckton of money to run it. The only question is whether the private sector can do it better; and, thus far, I see nothing to suggest that it can.

(Well, I suppose the other question is whether it's a good idea to let for-profit players get their hands on nuclear material. But that's a bit conspiracy-theory for my tastes. YMMV.)

Egads! Secret documents!

I don't care. And I'm not clear why anyone else cares.

Look, we know the Conservatives don't give two shits about following appropriate procedures for protecting public and governmental information -- it's part of that whole "responsible government" business that they've never quite gotten. So, it's not surprising that this happened; what's surprising, if anything, is that it hasn't happened more frequently.

What's in the documents is not all that surprising, either. Running a nuclear reactor is expensive. Jeepers! Who knew? Except, y'know, everyone who pays attention to the funding of nuclear reactors.

Even the coverage isn't that surprising. We've moved from "oo, look! secret documents, KEWL!", to "my god, look at all the public money being blown!". Which is typical MSM nonsense. Without some sense of how much it's supposed to cost to run a reactor of this type for this market -- that is, an actual benchmark -- the best anyone can do is take a good long look at the number itself. And it's a big number compared to, say, the average household income, so most will take it as excessively large. But that, as just said, is a meaningless conclusion.

So, again, what's the big deal supposed to be? We know the Conservatives are deeply careless, in all senses of the word. We know that nuclear reactors cost a lot of money. And the coverage is typically devoid of the necessary context which might help folks draw a reasonable conclusion.

Politics as usual in the Dominion of Canada.