Saturday, September 29, 2012

Disenfranchisement, another name for class warfare

In Kosovo, they called it "ethnic cleansing."
In the United States, it goes by a different name: "disenfranchisement."
Republicans have a different campaign going on one that is under the public, televised, debated and reported on by the public media, "under the radar" as it were.
Depending on the way of counting, there are as many as ten million people who are or could be disenfranchised, barred from voting in November.
The groups impacted including former felons, seniors without appropriate identification, young people, the poor, blacks, latinos.
There are only two states in the nation which do not disenfranchise felons, Vermont and Maine, states dubbed by the former neo-con columnist Robert Novak as "boutique" states, in his contemptuous and contemptible phrase.
While accusing the Democratic ticket of lying, both Romney and Ryan lead and represent a group, the Republican Party, that is telling lies as the central message of their campaign.
While "preventing" voter fraud, never demonstrated to be a significant problem, Republicans in many states have passed laws, written and re-written regulations and provided the necessary enforcement of those "regs" to keep as many of the "undesireables" out of the polling booths, in order to "assure the White House to Romney" in the words of the governor of Pennsylvania.
While accusing the Democrats of creating "class warfare," Republicans are committed to social engineering, as a way of removing the votes of those whose votes would likely go to the Democratic ticket, and shout loud protests of denial that they are engaged in a full-scale "class war"....
And the world is watching!
This is the country that advertises itself as the world's bastion of democracy, the country that teaches countries how to grow a democracy, while, back home, its record of upholding the traditions of "universal suffrage" slide into the Gulf, stimulated, and sustained in that slide by millions of dollars flowing like sewage into the Republican coffers, and the coffers of the super-pac's that support Republican candidates from Republican, anonymous donors whose agenda is kept from public view and analysis.
Russia can and likely will look at this election as one that elevates the degree to which they have achieved "democracy" so reprehensible is the Republican war on voters they think of as "scum" and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.
Should Romney/Ryan be elected, the world will know that Orwell has, indeed, been installed in the White House, and all attempts to bring truth and reality to public debate will be subverted by the Republican campaign to engineer their "purity" into the government.

Friday, September 28, 2012

High-five for Polanyi perspective

  • In a similar vein, Canadian Nobel Laureate John Polanyi adds a political element: “The picture would present itself of two non-Islamic nations, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, attacking an Islamic state that might be on its way to getting one.” “The effect would be to poison relations with the Muslim world for decades.” To which we can add that nothing would strengthen Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamanei domestically more than an attack on Iran.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu is clever but not wise.
(From Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, September 26, 2012, included below)
There is a kind of pattern to neo-con thinking and insertion into political debates.
It could be described as reductionist, simplistic, hard-edged, macho, Manichean, self-righteous, tactical (not strategic, never global,) exclusive (never inclusive), unilateral, capable of being captured in both headline and soundbyte, black-and-white (never multicoloured) spondaic as opposed to iambic, militaristic as compared with symphonic, binary as compared with calculus, rifle as opposed to 'shot-gun', and "clever but not wise."
We have seen this pattern emerging from the mouths of people like Michelle Bachman, Stephen Harper, Benjamin Netanyahu, Carl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Mike Harris, John Baird, Scott Walker, both others over the years, and quite recently. We have watched as, seemingly driven by both intensity and hubris, infrequently by humility and moderation, the "bull-in-a-china-shop" image has come to mind in various public theatres where issues are engaged.
  • It can be seen in the cyber-bullying that infects all middle schools in North America.
  • It can be seen in too many foreign policy interventions in the recent past by the U.S.
  • It can be witnessed in the conflict between competing masculinities of the Alpha Male and the Evolved Man, the Marines and the Ballet.
  • It can be (and has been) documented in the speeches by conservative leaders over centuries as compared with more liberal speeches over the same time frame.
Integrating the execuitve "function," "action," "decisive," intuitive capacity with the more diffuse, mystical, reflective, imaginative, has and will continue to be one of the more troubling of human dilemmas. Nevertheless, both sides need each other. Caesar needs Hamlet! And Hamlet needs Caesar! And both of them need Brutus and Cassius, Mark Anthony and Othello, Beethoven and Wordsworth!
And Polyani (above) posits the larger picture of "two non-Islamic states with an arsenal of nuclear weapons attacking an Islamic state that might be on its way to getting one" as an ideal prism through which to view the nuclear ambitions of Iran.
Sometimes, in Canada, we are rightly accused of interminable "talk" and little or no action especially on long-standing social issues like poverty, homelessness, environmental protection. And our capacity to act is curtailed, if not completely blocked by competing political interests refusing to collaborate. And sometimes, we simply do not wish to imitate our elephant neighbour to the south. And sometimes we have to "campaign" to get elected, and as then Prime Minister Kim Campbell tragically reminded us, a campaign is no time to debate complex issues.
(She was pilloried for such political apostasy by her opponents and the media and suffered the largest and most tragic defeat in Canadian political history, for telling the truth.)
Our academic tradition negates multi-disciplinary, multi-party, multi-cultural and multi-dimensional original research, believing that one has to aspire to and accomplish individual mastery of a subject, no matter how micro, and that a project underaken by a large group will inevitably drag the sluggish into unwarranted 'success' and the project itself down to the mediocre. It is only after one has completed one's own academic coronation in either or both doctoral or post-doctoral studies that one can then enter into the collaborative, co-operative, "multi-party" approach that demands the rigours of a 'team'.
Nevertheless, we all know that only by the full commitment and participation of a team can the best decisions be advanced, examined, debated, inflected and refined and that the greater the engagement of the "general public" the higher the likelihood of a decision that reflects the public good. And when the "team" includes a variety of perspectives, from all points on a large continuum, both ideologues and non-ideologues, pragmatists and idealists, poets and scientists, artists and engineers, there is some promise of both conflicting sparks and enhanced enlightenment, not to mention 'light' as well as heat.
How one reaches decisions, especially in the face of external threats and overt bullying is a mark of the kind and degree of strength and maturity needed in a leader in complex, threatening and seismic forces. Pandering to one side or another cannot and will not produce either effective or enduring outcomes.
As Ian McGilchrist warns, humanity is facing the prospect of drowing in the force of a left-brain tidal wave. And for each of us to bring our Polanyi-perspective of the big picture, the long-term perspective, including all the large and smaller details into our own perspectives, on both sides of competing political interests, is not only something we might call admirable, but increasingly required.
And when we read Siddiqui, Polanyi, Suzuki, Cohen (both Leonard and Andrew), Friedman, Krugman, Slaughter, Hedges and their ilk, we can take comfort that the narrow and immediate and unilateral will not take over no matter how deeply bankrolled are their ranks.
It is more than conceivable that, in the twenty-first century, we are raising more "clever" Natanyahu's than "wise" Polanyi's. In fact, it is quite likely, tragically!

Siddiqui: Netanyahu overplays his hand with Obama
By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, September 26, 2012
Benjamin Netanyahu is clever but not wise. No Israeli prime minister should publicly challenge an American president. But for decades of American economic and military aid plus countless vetoes in the Security Council, Israel could not have got away with its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestinian lands for as long as it has, 45 years and counting.
Yet for the past 18 months, Netanyahu has been hectoring Barack Obama — in the Oval Office, in Congress, from American platforms and on American TV — to follow his script on how to handle Iran’s nuclear program. He has in effect been demanding assurances that if Israel refrains from attacking Iran, America eventually will, or that if Israel starts the war, America will finish it. He has also ignored Obama’s call to halt illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and to forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians — an unresolved issue that has created unprecedented hostility against the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world, indeed beyond it.
Netanyahu considers himself an expert on America, having lived there for years as the Israeli envoy to the UN and also Washington. He thought he knew how to exploit this year’s presidential election to corner Obama, even while proclaiming that he was not interfering in domestic politics on behalf of Mitt Romney.
But like most ideologues, he did not know where to draw the line. This even though Obama has increased military cooperation with and funding to Israel to record levels and, unlike George W. Bush, corralled Europe, Russia and China into unprecedented sanctions on Iran.
After showing exemplary patience all these months, Obama has, finally, outmanoeuvred Netanyahu. In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday — declaring that “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — he refused Netanyahu’s demand to draw the “red lines” that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid military action. The president even refused to meet the prime minister in New York.
While Obama has maintained all along that Iran’s acquiring of a bomb is counter to both Israeli and American interests, he’s now implying that attacking Iran now is not in America’s interests.
If Obama wins in November, the situation could only get worse for Netanyahu and also his neo-con American supporters, including those funding Romney by hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat Obama, whom they consider insufficiently obedient on Israel.
Indeed, it could be that the magic spell that the Israeli lobby has long had on American presidents would be broken. Thoughtful Israelis have been anticipating just such a scenario, and been warning Netanyahu against his high-wire act.
Critics have included such eminences as President Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Shaul Mofaz, and the heads of the security forces.
Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad (2002-2011), said that the Iranian leadership, despite all its hateful anti-Israeli rhetoric, especially Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s, is rational and acts for self-preservation. (The same point was made by the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey).
Yuval Diskin, the retired chief of Shin Bet (2005-11), even accused Netanyahu and his defence minister Ehud Barak of harbouring “messianic” fervour.
Mofaz, leader of the Kadima party and a former defence minister, accused Netanyahu in the Knesset of waging “an extensive and relentless PR campaign with the sole objective of preparing the ground for a premature military adventure. This PR campaign … threatens to weaken our deterrence and our relations with our best friends.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you want a crude, rude, unprecedented, reckless and risky intervention in the U.S. elections . . .
“Tell me, who is our biggest enemy, the U.S. or Iran? Who do you want replaced, Ahmadinejad or Obama? How low are you prepared to drag relations with our closest ally? ”
Majority Israeli public opinion is also ranged against a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran.
Very little of this is reported in the American and Canadian media.
Note also the sharp contrast between the above-cited Israeli sentiments and those of the American and Canadian politicians braying for war on Iran.
Stephen Harper has closed the Canadian embassy in Tehran, as if an attack on Iran were imminent and our diplomats there in jeopardy.
That’s an ill-advised decision, John Mundy, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, will tell a Toronto audience tonight (the meeting is organized by the Canadian International Council).
“Now is not the time to abandon diplomacy,” he told me by phone from Ottawa. “We never did this with the Soviet Union, when it was much worse of a threat than this Iranian government will ever be.”
Mundy drew attention to a recent high-profile bipartisan American report by the Iran Project entitled, “Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action against Iran”
It suggests that Iran is not close to making the bomb, that an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would only damage but not destroy them, that an attack would prompt Iran to retaliate and also be more determined to acquire the bomb.
In a similar vein, Canadian Nobel Laureate John Polanyi adds a political element: “The picture would present itself of two non-Islamic nations, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, attacking an Islamic state that might be on its way to getting one.”
“The effect would be to poison relations with the Muslim world for decades.”
To which we can add that nothing would strengthen Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamanei domestically more than an attack on Iran.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Economy: public "servant" not "master"

By Dana Flavell, Toronto Star, September 27, 2012
After a gruelling bargaining session that went into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Canadian Auto Workers have reached a tentative contract agreement with Chrysler Canada, the last of the Detroit Three automakers that bargain together.

CAW national president Ken Lewenza confirmed the deal Wednesday evening to reporters at the Sheraton Centre ahead of a scheduled news conference.
The agreement, if ratified by Chrysler workers, will bring another four years of labour peace to the industry’s biggest automakers and its 21,000-member unionized Canadian workforce.
For Ontario, where all the manufacturing is based, it removes the threat of a strike that could have set back its fragile economic recovery.
The results of the negotiations prove that “if you stay united, if you stay focused, you can win justice,” Lewenza told reporters late Wednesday. “I think Chrysler is better positioned as a result of this agreement.”
Like Ford and General Motors, Chrysler has agreed to a formula that will see existing workers receive $9,000 worth of bonuses over the life of the contract, but no wage increase.
New hires will start at a lower wage — $20 an hour instead of $24 — and will take 10 years instead of six to reach the top rate, currently $34. They will also receive a weaker pension plan that combines the existing defined-benefit plan with a new defined-contribution plan.
At Ford and GM, the automakers agreed to create jobs to offset planning or existing layoffs, including 600 new jobs at Ford and 1,750 at GM.
At the same time that the "big three" automakers have agreed to four years of labour unrest with their workers in Canada, the Ontario Secondary Teachers have voted 94% to strike, following the removal of the right to strike in recent legislation passed by the Ontario government.
If anyone thinks that the economic tectonic plates are not shifting in a period of rising tension between politicians attempting to balance their budgets, corporations seizing more control over their threatened workers, both on one side, and the labour movement on the other side, one is meandering through a "Rip-van-Winkle" slumber of total unconsciousness.
Binaryism, Manicheanism, either-or...seems to have become the public vernacular.
As Dubya put it, "You are either with us or against us!"
And yet, we all know, as Obama and other public leaders worthy of our attention put it, "We really are all in this together!"
People are struggling to make ends meet, while they watch 'the right' pontificate about trickle-down economics, lower taxes for the wealthy and for their business funders, and ironically, more military spending, more attention to divisive social wedge issues and more deregulation.
Fear is the weapon of the right, and it must be countered with a different cultural mind-set that brings all voices to the table including:
  • those responsible people (not terrorists) who seek to preserve our environment,
  • those who believe that workers are not 'raw materials' in the production of goods and profits,
  • those whose view of the public debate and government leadership extends beyond the next stock report crawl along the bottom of the television screen,
  • those who actually hold firm to the conviction that the economy is not the master of the universe but a mere servant of the legitimate needs and aspirations of ordinary people and not the plaything of the rich
  • those who support the extension of legitimate "redistribution" of the wealth among all the people through such means as a guaranteed annual income, a right to the most complete education of which one is capable, full and free access to public, single-payer health care, a reasonable pension and access to the enriching amenities that vibrant communities offer like local theatre, local symphonies, local art and music presentations and competitions
We all have intimate knowledge of the legitimate aspirations of individuals and a picture of the kind of equilibrium that puts government leaders in league with those individuals and their aspirations, and not their openly avowed enemies, and we need to focus our stories, not on the headlines that seek to "sell papers" and to divide us from ourselves, but on the complexities and the points of compromise and collaboration that bring budgets, legislation and openly debated processes back to our public discourse.
Leadership like that found in a recently revived auto industry between workers and management provides more hope to achievement of that equilibrium than the recent legislation that strips teachers of their right to strike for two years in Ontario.
For government leaders, let that Ontario decision be a "line in the sand" over which others do not step, including the federal government, that "big hammer" that gloats when it sends workers back to work, plowing a century of effort to guarantee workers. respect and legitimacy under the radar of public consciousness for their own political ends and means, and not for the "public good".

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Obama clear choice for 2nd term, especially consider the alternative

In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations this morning, President Barrack Obama reminded the UN membership of the purpose of its creation: to demonstrate the value of diplomacy in the resolution of conflict between and among competing interests and challenged each member to speak out strongly against extremism.
Bookending his speech with the bio of deceased Ambassador to Lybia Christopher Stevens, he thanked the people of Lybia who have placed Stevens' picture on their facebook pages, calling him a "friend to Libya" and challenged leaders to do more against extremism than express words of regret for their impact. Stevens had served in the Peace Corps where he taught English and became a friend of North Africa, learned to speak Arabic, and returned to Libya on a cargo ship as ambassador, meeting the people, savouring their foods and working, in his last trip to develop a culture centre and rebuild a hospital in Benghazi before his untimely death at the hands of terrorists. Obama also listed a series of violent incidents sparked by terrorists on the same day as Stevens was murdered, in various countries around the globe in an attempt to paint a picture of the need for all leaders to counter this violence by terrorist extremists.
He used Stevens' life as a metaphor for the attitudes and commitment of the United States to support those who are demanding their freedom in all countries including the Arab Spring, through raising their peaceful voices, and pointed directly to Syria as the issue calling out for public, peaceful protest against a regime that kills its children.
He laid down again his view that "a nuclear Iran cannot be contained" and will lead to a renewed arms race, an end to the non-proliferation treaty on nuclear weapons, and instability throughout the region.
Without using the words "red line" in confronting Iran, he reminded his world-wide audience, including American voters, that America will stand beside any willing to walk the long "and difficult" road toward democracy, indicating the division between the people of Iran and the long and honourable history of their culture and the people in charge in Iran who deny the Holocaust.
Nevertheless, in the face of all the serious challenges faced by all members of the United Nations, he retains his hope, based more on the attitudes and aspirations on ordinary people in various countries, and less on the achievements of leaders.
Although he listed many steps that contribute to the increased access to freedom, liberty and opportunity in many different parts of the globe, as one familiar with the intimate and complex details of many regions, he also reminded his listeners that the notion that information can any longer be "contained" by those seeking to do so, is obsolete.
One individual can now circulate the most heinous message around the globe instantly, inciting others to violence, as evidenced by the most hateful video that has served as a trigger for anti-American, anti-western protests throughout the Islamic world.
And then, referring the United States' tradition and legal support for "free speech" he noted that every day he is called the most horrible of things and yet, he will fight for the right of those saying those things to say them because the antidote to violence and hatred is not repression but more speech,  more moderate and more convincing speech and ultimately more impacting speech.
Whether Obama is in the White House for a second term on January 20, 2013, or not is still an open question. What is not up for debate, in spite of the carping criticisms from those on the right, including, sadly, Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC this morning that he has not "made friends" with world leaders and members of Congress, Obama has, without missing a step, continually grown and developed a policy of restraint, of unquestioned respect and of honour on behalf of the United States in every decision he has made on both the domestic and foreign policy sides of his administration. He has articulated and taken decisions that many could not and would not have had the courage to confront: witness both the binLaden raid, and the recovery of General Motors and Chrysler, not to mention the historic Health Care Reform Act, a measure that evaded presidents for a half-century prior to his inauguration.
The world can be, and ought to be, thankful that Obama has been in the Oval Office for the past four years, and, with some concentrated and thoughtful reflection by American voters, he might win a second term. Not holding meetings with individual world leaders, while in New York at the United Nations, and thereby neither favouring one or another country's leadership, is not a sign of weakness as has been depicted by his republican opponents. In fact, this is just another indication of his "restraint" and his private diplomacy. (None of his opponents, or their talking surrogate heads have even mentioned that he hosted two  private receptions last night for United Nations delegates!)
Not meeting with President Morsi of Egypt, specifically, could be justified as public disdain for Morsi's failure to speak out against the Libyan assault on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens, although Obama did thank Morsi and other world leaders who, only later, increased their protection of American assets in their respective countries and only later spoke out against the mob violence in Egypt that threatened the American Embassy in Cairo. (Let's not forget that Morsi is a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood that has taken control of the government in Egypt, and that has not yet found its way to a clear statement of foreign policy, in spite of Morsi's declaration on CBS this morning that Egypt is a friend of the U.S. although Obama did not say so in his most recent public statement on the question.
There are political and diplomatic minefields in all theatres in which the U.S. president has to operate. And promising more "free enterprise" tied to foreign aid, as candidate Romney has done, is not an indication that he is conscious of the complex subtleties of foreign relations, but rather a clear demonstration that he has one "note" to preach...enhance the profits of business, as the footprint he would leave on both a presidency and a term in foreign affairs, should he win in November.
Footnote: The decision by Canada's Prime Minister to reject the invitation to address the United Nations General Assembly, and to accept an award as "outstanding statesman" in the same week in New York city demonstrates not only his pursuit of personal ambition at the expense of his national obligations, but also his contempt for the United Nations itself.
All Canadians are ashamed of this specific decision by the Prime Minister.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Canada: Say "No" to sharing embassies with Britain

From CBC news website, September 24, 2012
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will sign an agreement to open joint U.K.-Canadian diplomatic missions abroad in an effort to extend each country's diplomatic reach while cutting costs, CBC News has learned
Cost cutting, more outlets for Canadian embassies, more damned!
This is just another way in which our penny-wise-pound-foolish federal government Harper-puppets/accountants are betraying both our foreign policy and our federation.
Imagine the outcry, for example, if Baird were announcing that we were going to share embassies and consulates with France, especially from "English Canada."
Now, this move will like provoke the most predictable, and now justifiable negative reaction from the Quebec government. It will also blurr the Canadian identity in foreign lands, especially when the government is basically running foreign policy as an add-on to trade policy, which it clearly is not.
We have not taken identical positions on foreign issues with Britain, nor with the U.S. One of the more prominent examples is the Chretien stand on the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Are we now being seduced/bullied/tricked/misled into thinking that by saving a few thousand dollars, we will retain our independent foreign policy, or will we be expected to "poodle" up to Great Britain, as Tony Blair was accused of doing over Dubya's invasion of Iraq?
If colonialism is the shackel that countries traditionally shed when they mature into interdependence and autonomy, then this current Canadian government is taking the country back to its dependent infancy, for what gainful purpose?
The word "royal" has been replaced on our armed forces.
The royal visits have to studiously avoid appearances in urban Quebec, given the hostility in those quarters to anything smacking of the British crown.
Now with the election of the PQ government in Quebec, is Harper thumbing the nose of the federal government (and thereby the people of Canada) at Quebec, a government that is still part of the federation.
For my part, I wish to be excluded from such a premise, whether valid or not.
The people and the government of Quebec need to know that not all of the people in the rest of the country will approve, or perhaps even tolerate this decision, and they need to know it before it becomes another "legacy" of the Harper myopia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

McGilchrist: A little right-brain music, please, Maestro!

A literary scholar morphed into a psychiatrist, with a profound interest in the human brain, and its neuroscience, Dr. Iain McGilchrist, has attempted in his work, The Master and his Emissary, to analyze both the biology and the relational functioning of the two hemispheres of the brain, given their obvious asymmetry, and their clearly differentiated functions. However, according to McGilchrist, we need both hemispheres to function adequately, appropriately and wholistically.
 McGilchrist posits the view that both hemispheres deal with all subjects, but from a different perspective. The big broad strokes, those offered by the artist, the musician and the philosopher, according to McGilchrist, come primarily from the right hemisphere, while the left is the 'get-the-job-done-function', almost devoid of the capacity for contextualization.
Although I have not read the work yet, (I listened to my first McGilchrist lecture  this weekend!) I can see that his work is an overt and disciplined effort to restore the humanities and the arts to their 'rightful' place in the midst of a tsunami of science, mathematics and literalizing perfection, the latter unavailable to the right hemisphere.
By Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary, from tvo website, September 22, 2012
A Brief description--
The left hemisphere, though unaware of its dependence, could be thought of as an 'emissary' of the right hemisphere, valuable for taking on a role that the right hemisphere - the 'Master' - cannot itself afford to undertake. However it turns out that the emissary has his own will, and secretly believes himself to be superior to the Master. And he has the means to betray him. What he doesn't realize is that in doing so he will also betray himself.
The book begins by looking at the structure and function of the brain, and at the differences between the hemispheres, not only in attention and flexibility, but in attitudes to the implicit, the unique, and the personal, as well as the body, time, depth, music, metaphor, empathy, morality, certainty and the self. It suggests that the drive to language was not principally to do with communication or thought, but manipulation, the main aim of the left hemisphere, which manipulates the right hand. It shows the hemispheres as no mere machines with functions, but underwriting whole, self-consistent, versions of the world. Through an examination of Western philosophy, art and literature, it reveals the uneasy relationship of the hemispheres being played out in the history of ideas, from ancient times until the present. It ends by suggesting that we may be about to witness the final triumph of the left hemisphere – at the expense of us all.
One review--
The Master and His Emissary, while demanding, is beautifully written and eminently quotable … a fascinating treasure trove of insights into language, music, society, love, and other fundamental human concerns. One of his most important suggestions is that the view of human life as ruthlessly driven by “selfish genes”, and other “competitor” metaphors, may be only a ploy of left brain propaganda, and through a right brain appreciation of the big picture, we may escape the remorseless push and shove of “necessity.” I leave it to the reader to discover just how important this insight is.’
-- Gary Lachman, writing in The Los Angeles Review of Books

Another review-
‘To call this monumental achievement an account of right and left brain hemispheres is to woefully misrepresent its range and power … McGilchrist persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative ‘master’ the right. Brilliant and disturbing.’
--- Salley Vickers, 'Book of the Year', writing in The Observer

In his tvo lecture, September 22 and 23, Dr. McGilchrist pointed out that when a person suffers a stroke in the right hemisphere, and the left brain is the only hemisphere left working normally, the person is able to see only the micro-details of any situation, and has no broader context into which to place those details.
He also points out that an individual who suffers from borderline personality, or from  schizophrenia, also suffers from a deficit in the right hemisphere.
Culturally, he sees the world suffering from an over-dominant left hemisphere, in many ways:
  • in our obsessive pursuit of perfection
  • in our bureaucratizing of all social exchanges
  • in our literalist interpretations of events, writings and experiences
To counteract this cultural trend, he says we have to and can recover the right hemisphere to bring back into focus the 'big picture'. Metaphor, for example, is the natural component of language, in which we capture the essence of an event, or a situation, while the left hemisphere is our resource to outline the details of any task. His discussion of the left hemisphere reminded me of the Freudian description of the super-ego, although that comparison would not likely fit compatibly with McGilchrist's picture.

And this review--
By reflecting more deeply on dimensions of mind and culture, he coaxes us to understand how the supposedly “non-dominant” right hemisphere, deeper in both feeling and wisdom, has long guided the best of human life, often to be undone by the chattering and confabulating servant on the other side. This is a profound analysis of the divisions within our higher mental apparatus that have been writ large in the history of our species. No wonder the other animals do not speak. They still socialize more through their right hemispheres, allowing the servant in the left to pursue food and facts, and chattering in humans, rather than the more intimate experiences of mind.
--- Professor Jaak Panksepp, Baily Professor of Animal Well-Being Science at Washington State University, and author of the classic works Affective Neuroscience, and A Textbook of Biological Psychiatry

Another review-
McGilchrist lays out a startling, novel account of the importance of the right hemisphere of the brain, and what is more, he turns this into a gripping and dizzying account of the trajectory of the whole of human (but especially of Western) civilisation and offers, in the course of this, the most powerful argument penned by any living author of the importance of the arts and humanities (including philosophy, properly understood, the social studies and ‘les sciences humaines’)
Dr Rupert Read,
Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, writing in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

Another review--
This is clearly the most scholarly and inclusive book of the study of brain lateralization and its significance yet written, and makes an extremely strong case for the importance of this research for virtually every field of the humanities and human sciences … brings into focus the problematic state of the arts, of disciplines within the humanities and the human sciences and of science generally, and underlies all the major problems currently facing civilization … McGilchrist’s book, providing new insights into the minds and modes of operation of those who undermine civilizations and a clearer idea of what constitutes healthy culture and the flourishing of civilization, is a major contribution to wisdom.'

Professor Arran Gare, Professor of Philosophy & Cultural Inquiry, Swinburne University, Melbourne, writing in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mining the David Carr interview with Kathy English, Toronto Star

Carr, 56, is also a recovered crack addict. His 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life is a powerful and harrowing account of his days as an addict and his struggle to go straight. On reading it, it is difficult to square that guy in the book with this prophet of journalism.

In response to Enright’s questioning about this disconnect, Carr admits that his “woundedness” may well make him a better journalist. Certainly, it would seem to make him a better human being.
Recently, he met for coffee with Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who disgraced himself and the Times with extensive fabrication and plagiarism in his work. Some Times folks wondered why Carr would bother with Blair.
“He did some terrible things but who I am to judge. Aren’t I the one who believes in redemption?”
Carr downplays this notion of being some sort of high priest of journalism, telling me that what he’s doing is “a meta activity — I’m writing about people writing about people, writing about people.”
And he stressed: “I don’t want to be seen as the church lady on journalism issues, pointing my finger at others.” (From Kathy English's piece on David Carr, of the New York Times, in Toronto Star, September 21, 2012, below)
It is from the mouth of the most unlikely sources that the most clear and "mineable" waters flow. While speaking of "journalism" to another "journalist," Mr. Carr discloses some very powerful and moving details and reflections well worth pondering.
A recovered crack addict, now a 'guru' in one of the most prominent, and exemplary news outlets in the world, New York Times... 'a better journalist for his woundedness'? Undoubtedly!
It is through the darknesses that real lasting light comes. And only through that darkness! Library shelves are filled with books whose titles celebrate the 'dark night of the soul'...(one even bears that title); there is a dark tunnel in each of our lives waiting to be discovered, if only we will summon the courage to dive into its recesses. Trouble is, most of us will do almost anything to avoid the descent.
Industries, empires... political, corporate, academic and even religious...are built  protecting individuals, families, villages, cities and institutions from that inevitable, yet avoided, shunned and "hellish" descent. And along with that avoidance comes the also inevitable "shame" attached to anyone who has descended, often ruining the public life of that individual forever.
Prisons are filled with people whose lives have turned "dark"...
"Is Ontario more exposed to organized crime than Quebec?" ...
"Did Jesus have a wife?" (And/or a secret sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene?)...
"Teacher innocent but guilty of bad judgement is ruined"...
"Did one brother murder his brother and sister-in-law before suiciding on highway?"...
These are just some of the headlines in today's press clippings, demonstrating our voracious appetite for the 'dark night' stories of OTHERS! We are desperate to be voyeurs into THEIR troubles, so that we can point to those stories and sigh smugly, "I do not live like they do/did/, thank God!"
Teenagers lives, insofar as they constitute a very narrow circle, can and often are 'ruined' by the social media gossip from their frequently (usually, always?) jealous peers. And the question for the 'system' is, "How to help them cope with reality of the malice of others?
Politicians score points of "public acceptance" on the backs of character assassinations of their opponents, and the most virulent attacks are too often the ones that "stick" to those opponents, destroying the public's approval of them.
So it is not that 'dark nights' will not find us; they will!
It is how we, both individually and collectively, frame our universe around our perceptions of those dark nights.
In his unlikely recounting of his meeting with "ruined" journalist, Jayson Blair, Carr makes his most memorable statement. "He did some terrible things but who am I to judge? Aren't I the one who believes in redemption?"
Theoretic postulation: Only those whose dark nights have humbled them truly and fully believe in redemption.
Clearly, the above statement is open to debate. However, one has to wonder just when "redemption" died, was buried and left in an unknown, unvisited grave.
Which of our most celebrated writers, readers, leaders, role models etc. has the courage to announce to the world, both his/her dark nights and the concomitant belief in redemption for others?
And then to proclaim,"I do not want to be seen as the church lady on journalism issues pointing my finger at others!" Carr has just summarized the archetypal history of the Christian church, "a lady pointing fingers at others" as if 'she' has never had a dark night, never had to be humbled and never had to truly and fully believe in 'redemption,' the cornerstone (with forgiveness) of the faith.
And the archetype is picked up in phrase like the one from William Golding's Lord of the Flies, when Piggy, in response to some of the less tasteful antics of his island brothers, utters this famous line, "What would auntie think?"
The church as:
  • "church lady pointing her fingers at others" or
  • as super-ego of Freud's nomenclature, or
  • as in Paul's frequent censure of his 'early christian fanatics' for whatever behaviours he found offensive and ungodly, or
  • as the bible-based bigotry against women, blacks, gays and lesbians,
  • or its converse, the "only true religion" claimed by some christian churches presumably in order to "captivate and control" her adherents or
  • as the only place where Christians can be found
these are just some of the hats worn by the church, voluntarily, naively and triumphally in her wanton and overt betrayal of the faith.
She has fallen into the trap of tilting toward judgement at the expense of both redemption and forgiveness, more gleaming signs of agape than judgement. She has become, too often, the prisoner of the gate-keepers, whose self-righteous hubris and hypocrisy have closed the doors of their minds and hearts to people like Carr, whose church, if there were one, would command my attention and support.
It was that same Jesus who is now "suspected" of having a body and a sexuality and a partner, and who will now be 'scorned' for that dark truth who welcomed sinners, who met with tax collectors and prostitutes, and who challenged the reigning wisdom of his day...
And in writing about people, writing about people, writing about people...Carr has shed much light on what otherwise would not be part of our Saturday morning for which we are grateful.
If only we could celebrate, generate and nourish more David Carr's not only in journalism but in every other field of human endeavour. Might be better than treaties to reduce weapons of mass destruction, or treaties for water protection, or financial contracts with First Nations people for food, housing, health care and housing, or bureaucratic decisions on environmental protection.
David Carr: High Priest of Journalism's existential angst
By Kathy English, Toronto Star, Setpember 21, 2012
David Carr did not set out to be a guru to journalists or a standard bearer for journalism.

But in reporting and reflecting since 2005 on the digital transformation of the media business, the New York Times columnist has transformed himself into a high priest of journalism’s existential angst.
Carr is the journalist other journalists must follow. Writing in his weekly Media Equation column, on the Times’ Media Decoder blog and in his numerous daily tweets to his more than 350,000 followers, he is the philospher-journalist who offers up wise words to guide us through the dark tunnel of uncertainty about journalism’s future in this time of revolutionary change in the media business.
Carr came to Toronto last week to speak to a sold-out Canadian Journalism Foundation J-Talks forum, entitled “Yes genius, the sky is falling. So now what?” (Full disclosure: I am co-chair of the CJF committee that arranged for his Toronto talk.)
A natural storyteller with a gift of the gab and a colourful turn of phrase, Carr is a character with clout. He was the star — indeed, the moral centre — of last year’s documentary, Page One: Inside The New York Times, a compelling account of the Times’ struggle to reinvent itself in the Internet age.
He contends that the “existential threat” to journalism today is that “people don’t really care where the news comes from.
“We live in an age where information will find you,” Carr told the Toronto forum, in conversation with Michael Enright, host of CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition.
Still, for Carr, it is not all doom. He believes we’re in the midst of a “golden age” for journalism.
“It is too bad that the Internet that destroyed our business model gives us the ability to do better journalism,” Carr told me in a telephone interview before his Toronto appearance. “All known thought is just a click away so journalism now has so much more information baked into it.
“Journalists can fact-check in real time and the people we cover have to be consistent in what they say because they now leave a long trail of bread crumbs along the way.”
Speaking in Toronto, Carr compared digital journalism and social media to a “self-cleaning oven” in which we “move toward correctness” and truth eventually emerges. This new radical transparency means journalists, too, are held to higher account. Writing recently about increasing incidents of journalists caught out for plagiarism and fabrication, Carr described the Internet as a “crowd-sourced scrutiny machine” that will root out journalists who turn to cheating as their means of meeting the need to feed “the web’s ferocious appetite for content.”
Carr understands that this media revolution has put greater pressure on journalists. Those who still have jobs are doing more and more on an endless deadline.
“The new question is: Can he or she do it. Can they crank it out on various platforms?” he said.
And as for that golden age he spoke of, Carr well understands that “it does seem kind of golden to me — right until I don’t have a job.”
Carr, who turned 56 earlier this month, has embraced all things digital. He writes, blogs, connects to multitudes through social media and does weekly video segments for the Times. But, he told the Toronto forum, “I’m really tired.
“I’ve done a good job of keeping up with a variety of skills needed but I’m not a digital native. I don’t consume and produce media at the same time.”
Carr, 56, is also a recovered crack addict. His 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life is a powerful and harrowing account of his days as an addict and his struggle to go straight. On reading it, it is difficult to square that guy in the book with this prophet of journalism.
In response to Enright’s questioning about this disconnect, Carr admits that his “woundedness” may well make him a better journalist. Certainly, it would seem to make him a better human being.
Recently, he met for coffee with Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who disgraced himself and the Times with extensive fabrication and plagiarism in his work. Some Times folks wondered why Carr would bother with Blair.
“He did some terrible things but who I am to judge. Aren’t I the one who believes in redemption?”
Carr downplays this notion of being some sort of high priest of journalism, telling me that what he’s doing is “a meta activity — I’m writing about people writing about people, writing about people.”
And he stressed: “I don’t want to be seen as the church lady on journalism issues, pointing my finger at others.”
Carr aims his focus at the business of media, not the future of journalism. As he wrote in a recent column, “I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t matter what I think is right and wrong, or what I think constitutes appropriate aggregation or great journalism. The market is as the market does.”
The media business is indeed Carr’s beat. But clearly, journalism is his vocation.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Saving democracy by Canadians? don't hold your breath!

In his weekly column in the Toronto Star, Bob Hepburn outlines the several "projects" that are erupting across the country, in private homes, in classrooms, and elsewhere, to talk about, to educate and to arouse the Canadian electorate on ways they might reclaim our democracy.
And yet--
We are such a polite and gentle country, and we certainly do not wish to upset anyone, including the Prime Minister and his government...
And we have left our street protesting to matters that could be defined as international, or WTO related, or even the loss of the Stanley Cup, as in the case of Vancouver and we have paid so little attention to the abuses both of democracy and of leadership and integrity that have been proceeding at the pace and depth one would expect from a polite and non-violent country that thinks the only angry people in the world are Don Cherry and Al Qaeda, and perhaps the protesters of the Occupy Movement.
Just this morning, Jeffrey Simpson, in the Globe and Mail documented the hypocrisy of the Harper gang for, in 2008, printing in their election propaganda support for a cap-and-trade system to control carbon emissions, yet today, they are visciously attacking Thomas Mulcair for taking the same position.
Harper has been found in "contempt" of parliament, by the previous Speaker, himself not one inclined to rash or intemperate judgements.
Harper has refused to meet with the Premiers, believing, one supposes, that such a meeting would result in two unacceptable outcomes:
  1. Harpers's solo flight on the country's policies and future would have to be shared with the premiers and
  2. The media coverage would pit the feds against the provinces and regions, thereby exposing the truth that Harper is not popular except in pockets sufficient to win a majority
Now we can't have a joint agreement on Health Care, for example, or on a national Energy Strategy, led by the Prime Minsiter, not this one anyway, including all provinces, including Quebec, as a sign that we are a country that believes in itself, trusts its leaders and thinks a little farther ahead than the next election...that would be counter-intuitive to the processes that run through the PM's little brain!
And, as for all those civics lessons abounding in coffee parties and civics classrooms, let's not pin our hopes on them flowing from a trickle to a stream anytime soon. If the muted reaction to the NHL lockout is any indication of the public's indignation, and willingness to speak up, we live on the set of a silent movie!
Can we save democracy from Harper's abuses?
By Bob Hepburn, Toronto Star, September 20, 2012
As Stephen Harper continues his relentless assault on our democratic institutions and traditions, growing numbers of Canadians are wondering if the prime minister can be stopped — and if so, how?
Given the Conservative majority in Parliament, it may seem impossible to prevent Harper from running roughshod over our democracy.
Encouragingly, though, people across Canada are starting to fight back. They are doing it in small ways, in classrooms and weekend workshops, on websites and at coffee parties, by writing letters and even joining a knitting campaign.
To date, their efforts have gone largely unnoticed by politicians. But organizers for these initiatives believe they are participating in the birth of a grassroots movement.
Since Harper took power six years ago, the Conservatives have slashed funds for agencies promoting democracy, suppressed public information, shut down Parliament twice for partisan political reasons, violated election financing rules and lied to voters.
Through it all, federal politicians have done little to derail Harper.
One of the biggest initiatives promoting democracy is Democracy Week, which runs through Sept. 22.
The initiative, launched by Elections Canada, features classroom lesson plans, university workshops, as well as a contest for the best student video, blog post or tweet relating to democracy that is being judged by CBC star Rick Mercer and others.
I’ll wager that few people have ever heard of it. However, students and voters in schools and communities across the country — albeit in small numbers — are learning about our democratic system, traditions and institutions and why it’s important that we respect and strengthen them.
Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, says the country may be experiencing “a democratic recession,” adding that engaging young people is critical to maintaining a healthy democracy.
He says the most noticeable sign of this “recession” is steadily declining voter turnout, with barely 60 per cent of eligible Canadians bothering to cast their ballot in the 2011 federal election. Voter turnout in provincial and local elections is worse.
Other groups, big and small, are also fighting to save democracy.
In Mississauga, a citizens group called Reclaim Our Democratic Canada is organizing a day-long symposium on Nov. 24 aimed at setting out actions that it hopes can help restore democracy at the next election.
Claiming voters need “a wake-up call,” the group believes the Harper government has demonstrated “an astounding disrespect for the foundation of democracy, our parliamentary traditions and regulations, and the rule of law.”
In Ottawa, Vanessa Compton started OrangeScarf: Knitting Canada Together ( in mid-August as a way to raise funds to support a legal challenge that will take place before the Federal Court of Canada starting on Dec. 10 into alleged voter suppression in the 2011 election.
“Many people feel disempowered in the current political processes in Canada and want to make a statement that is a visible way of expressing their opinion,” Compton says on her website. She insists the orange colour is not a reference to the NDP.
Also, Democracy Watch, an Ottawa-based citizen group with a solid record of pushing for government accountability since it was established in 1993, launched a new campaign last week inviting Canadians to become “democracy watchers” pushing politicians to be ethical, open and honest.
The group also suggests voters organize events, including coffee parties with friends, to raise awareness about the erosion of democracy.
“For many people, engaging in efforts to promote democracy is very difficult, with little results,” admits Tyler Sommers, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch. “People believe their efforts are wasted, mainly because politicians don’t listen.”
But Sommers feels Canadians can make a difference by spending as little time each day trying to make changes to our democratic institutions, say by writing to an MP, as they do lining up for a cup of coffee.
Sommers is right when he says politicians have a long history of failing to listen to voters. That can change only if enough voters become nags, by making themselves heard, individually or in groups.
On their own, these initiatives may face more frustration than success.
Collectively, though, they could well play a major role in deciding the outcome of the next federal election.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Could national energy strategy succeed Harper's rule?

Fight against Northern Gateway pipeline gains star power
By Richard Blackwell and Kim Mackrael, Globe and Mail, September 19, 2012
A leading conservation group has recruited a phalanx of well-known Canadians to join its fight against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, in a bid to counter past claims by the Harper government that many pipeline opponents are “radical” activists.
World Wildlife Fund Canada has signed up Canadians ranging from former Olympic hockey team captain Scott Niedermayer to author Joseph Boyden and economist Jeff Rubin, all of whom have agreed to publicly oppose the pipeline.
Others who have joined the WWF campaign include Afghan war veteran and author Trevor Greene, Tony Dekker of the band Great Lake Swimmers, and the VanCity credit union.

“This is a bunch of people from all different walks of life who don’t have a preexisting organized position to adhere to,” WWF Canada president Gerald Butts told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board on Wednesday. Those opposing the pipeline want to get the facts out and have a “science-based” discussion, he said.
WWF Canada says the Northern Gateway – proposed by Enbridge Inc. to carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., for shipment by tanker to China – would be disastrous for the Great Bear Rain Forest along British Columbia’s Pacific coast.
Mr. Butts said Ottawa’s message that anyone opposing the pipeline is a “radical ecological terrorist” offended many people and prompted the group to take a stand. Earlier this year, the Conservative government suggested the approval process for the controversial pipeline could be hijacked by foreign interests and people with an agenda.
“Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver wrote in a January, 2012, open letter. “Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”
Asked whether Canadians on the WWF’s list would be considered radicals, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said the government doesn’t advocate for or against any given project.
“Canadians are free to express whatever opinions they have about a particular project,” Andrew MacDougall wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. “That is not the concern of the government – we are opposed to people who seek to obstruct and delay review processes just for the sake of delay.”
A spokesman for Mr. Oliver said the project will be evaluated independently and based on scientific evidence. “Without getting into the specifics of any project, we believe it is in Canada’s interests to diversify markets for our exports,” Christopher McCluskey added.
Mr. Butts said the idea is not to start a political movement, but rather to create a “civil society” campaign.
Great Bear is one of the last intact coastal temperate rain forests. Running a pipeline through it is incredibly dangerous, the WWF says, and any spill of raw bitumen – particularly in a river or along the coastal waters – would be virtually impossible to clean up, no matter how advanced the recovery technology.
“It is just inevitable” that tankers on the dangerous coastal waters will get into trouble, said Mr. Butts, who insists WWF is not against all energy development.
“The industry and the governments involved have characterized this project as if it is going through 3,000 kilometres of moose pasture between Fort McMurray and Kitimat,” Mr. Butts said. “The truth is, it puts at risk some of the most significant and unique natural attributes that this country has to offer.”
Polls show that about 60 per cent of B.C. residents are against the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the WWF hopes its campaign will drum up similar levels of opposition in the rest of Canada.
Mr. Niedermayer, who grew up in B.C., said he opposes the pipeline because “one mistake with a big oil tanker” could put the pristine wilderness of the Great Bear Rain Forest in danger. “I’m passionate about this issue,” he said.
Could it be that the combination of concerted opposition to the Enbridge proposed pipeline to Kitimat B.C. and all of its inherent risks and dangers, linked to the growing chorus for an "eastern" pipeline, providing eastern Canada with energy from Alberta, actually conflate into a national energy strategy, before or after the Harper government is a fossil in a museum?
And might such a national energy strategy include the refining of crude in eastern refineries where jobs are desperately needed, energy is also needed in both secure and price-stable supplies, and where the neglected half of the country (under Harper) might once again find a legitimate voice at the national table?
"We're all pulling for ya!" in the words of Red Green, if you get my drift.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Please join the fight to save Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay loses water while International Joint Commission does nothing

Georgian Bay       Photo by Michelle Atkins, (c) the acorn centre

By Catherine Porter, Toronto Star, September 19, 2012
The maples on Georgian Bay are already changing. It’s almost time to say goodbye for another year.
Since my parents bought a scrap of land on a big island when I was a baby, I’ve squeezed every possible summer moment into Georgian Bay. To me, it is a magical place of two-toned frogs and bum-up mallards and the damp pages of a book on the dock and another dramatic boating mishap.
Neither of my parents is handy; I spent many weekends of my childhood like a castaway on a random rocky shoal in the middle of the Bay praying for a saviour after our propeller suffered another aneurism.
I always leave the Bay with a heavy heart. But this fall, it’s going to be extra heavy.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to leave at all.
The past month, that same battered boat hit bottom 15 metres from the dock. I had to push it and pull it and heave all the groceries and fresh laundry and children up front and then push some more.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening.
When I was a kid, I could dive off the end of that dock. This summer, the water there reached my knees.
We are on year 13 of lower-than-average water levels on Georgian Bay — a record for prolonged low water over the past century. The water has gone down 1.6 metres since its high point in 1997. Most of that is due to the Great Lakes natural cycle between wet and dry spells. But a healthy amount won’t ever come back.
Have you never been to Georgian Bay? You must go. A place of scrubbed granite islands and windswept pines, it’s only 1.5 hours north of the city by car at dawn. (Don’t try it during rush hour unless you’re an aggravation junky.) It’s a large lobe of Lake Huron, which is actually joined by the Straits of Mackinac to Lake Michigan. On a map, they look like two sides of a droopy Prussian mustache.
A few years ago the binational referee of water, the International Joint Commission, confirmed that Lake Huron-Michigan (and therefore Georgian Bay) lost 23 centimetres of water between 1963 to 2006.
The causes, the IJC’s study board concluded, were mostly climate change and the erosion of the St. Clair River, which drains water down toward Lake Erie. That erosion was caused by ice jams, shipwrecks and dredging to let big ships through.
Some 150 years ago, the St. Clair River was only 6 metres deep. Now, it’s 8.2 metres deep. Put a bigger drain in your bathtub and you’d expect to lose water quicker.
The equivalent of a plug — speed bumps at the bottom of the river — was supposed to be put down. But that never happened.
People on the Bay have been fighting for them, or something like them, for years now.
Most of us were hoping the IJC would finally order them.
But, it doesn’t look likely.
(Glacial isostatic adjustment also played a small role in the water loss, the report said. That’s essentially the very gradual reinflation of the Earth’s crust beneath Lake Huron after centuries of being squished under ice.)
I spent a couple days this week chipping though the IJC’s latest, 215-page report on the future of the upper Great Lakes, and it left me distressed, not just for the lake I love, but for all of our lakes.
Let me explain and save you the joyless task of reading the report.
First, scientists don’t really know what climate change will do to the Great Lakes, the report’s 200-odd experts conclude. They think it will cause more evaporation during warm winters, but also more precipitation. Still, they predict it will double the extremely low water spells to the point of “severe, long-lasting or permanent adverse impacts” in Lake Huron-Michigan.
I phoned Syed Moin, the former manager of the study, to ask what that meant. It means 10 droughts a century instead of the current five, he told me.
His experts looked into restoring 10 to 25 centimetres of water in Lake Huron-Michigan by putting different structures — from underwater sills to turbines — into the St. Clair River. Those structures would also mitigate the low water extremes caused by climate change. They’d cost anywhere from $30 million to $170 million. And while his study group was not asked to make a recommendation, it’s clear from the report they oppose the idea. Sturgeon spawning grounds would be disturbed in the St. Clair River, they point out. But mostly, residents on the American side of the border like their beaches. Even though the report says there is less than an 8 per cent chance of extreme high water levels, they don’t like that chance.
Plus, as Lake Huron’s land is reinflating, Lake Michigan’s is dipping.
“If we make the Georgian Bay side happy, the larger side on the United States side becomes unhappy,” Moin said. “It’s a no-win situation.”
In the end, the report recommends the commission do no further study into regulating all the Great Lakes to avoid extreme water levels in the future. It’s just too expensive, it says, and people won’t want to pay unless it benefits them.
We’ve long been warned that water will be the oil of the next century. And here we are: the water wars have begun.
I’m sad for Georgian Bay — for the frogs and the fish, for the marina owners, who already are facing bankruptcy. I’m sad for my children, who likely won’t grow up there.
But mostly, I’m sad that in the face of the world’s biggest threat — climate change — we can’t come together and work on a communal solution that will protect the weak.
As the victims of Hurricane Katrina learned, if we are in this alone, most of us sink.
The IJC has extended its deadline for comments on its report until Sept. 30. You can email them at or send a letter to 234 Laurier Ave. W., 22nd Floor, Ottawa, ON K1P 6K6.
One of the towns on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay is my birthplace, and I stand with Ms Porter in lament both for the tragedy that the "Bay" has become and for the powerlessness of those lamenting to arrest the falling water levels.
There are so many explanations for the drop in water levels, and such a whisper is the public outcry for "attention" to be paid.
It is as if, in this instance, "The Bay" is as Willy Loman in her silent, unheard and even evaporating "Attention must be paid!" (In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman)
Willy was demanding that attention be paid to him, a lost soul, thrown under the bus of the corporate juggernaut which has passed him by.
Like Willy, the juggernaut of climate change, global warming and various American "interests" have combined to quite literally 'throw Georgian Bay under the bus' of public, political and legal remedy.
I also agree with Ms Porter that, if you have not experienced Georgian Bay, inhaled her breath, let her westerly wind blow through your hair (if you are still lucky enough to have some!), or your spirit, and let her sunrises and sunsets burn an indelible image on your consciousness, for later reflection, just as Wordsworth revisited the Lake District and the daffodils, and walked over and among its granite shores, you have not joined the millions whose lives have been enriched, ennobled and enhanced, even transformed, and whose pens, brushes, cameras and memories have been filled to overflowing with those images.
I learned to swim in her waters; I dived from her diving boards, scarring a shin after some miscreant rubbed bar soap into the mat on which I slipped, fell and gashed the leg, laying me up for two weeks.
I walked on her oil-stained beeches after the Imperial Oil tank sprank a tragic leak, draining thousands of gallons of crude onto her shores in the mid-fifties.
I picnicked in Menominee channel on the westerly side of Five Mile Bay with my parents in a borrowed boat, when my dad had the occasional afternoon "off" and mother had prepared a summer salad feast, eaten only after a relaxing, invigorating swim in her shallows as the sun set over the rocks and trees.
I learned to water-ski in her south channel, at Rose Point, around MacLaren Island, in the evenings of my undergraduate summers, pulled by another "Bay" afficionado whose generosity made it possible.
I have walked and skated on her frozen face, in mid-winter, when the winds cut our faces blowing through the 'gap' south of the harbour, carrying us and our outstretched arms along without having to move our legs. Winter 'wind-surfing' on skates predated the summer water-wind-surfers of today.
I have sun-bathed on Sloop Island where I wondered aloud whether I would 'burn out at forty' rather than 'rust out at eighty' in my naive freshman hubris.
I have sailed in my youth, up the north channel past Pointe au Baril, all the way to the Bustards, in a two-week jaunt as a summer student working for the then Department of Lands and Forests, in search of remote cottages, to measure their perimeters for land tax assessments. On one trip from main launch to outport islands, we heard that loud, piercing "ping" as another rocky shoal clipped the wing of the prop on our eighteen horse Johnson outboard "sheering the cotter-pin," as we skimmed along in the cedar-strip Giesler boat. We limped back to 'base' with paddles and waning patience, in humility and fatigue.
Those pancake islands, with their pine spines genuflecting  to the eastern sunrise, in both reverence and humility for the west wind that has shaped their trunks and etched their lines on so many canvases and photos, have been to me, and millions of others, bookmarks in the chapters of our inner lives, proving beyond scepticism and doubt and cynicism that there truly is a God. No one else could have painted such a masterpiece!
This is when and where I encountered the face of God complete with the power and beauty of both elegant grace and brute strength.
The brutish force of the west wind pushed a lone boater into the rocks along the eastern shore of the Big Sound at 2.30 a.m. in an August rain squawl and in his frightened call for help, a memorable human meeting etched itself on both our lives.The Big Sound has been the scene of many battles between errant and naive sailors and her even bigger westerlies, most of them won by her relentless power and careless regard for her victims. Did the same God who painted those memorable sun-drenched postcards generate those unforgiving winds?
And to think,  all these memories form the centrepiece in my heritage, and the heritage of thousands of other blessed creatures!
And also, now, to reflect on its entropy, its atrophy, its evaporation, its dwindling bounty and beauty, when human decisions, including actions, and reactions and more decisions, actions and reactions could reverse the demise!
The world will mourn the loss of Georgian Bay, and do nothing to reverse its steep decline in water levels, at its biologic peril, and the peril of its ecosystem, but more importantly, at its poetic and archetypal peril. Water, the symbol of life, the symbol of new life, for centuries, is no less such a symbol in the waters of the sixth Great Lake.
And, those of us who consider her our first love will not only mourn loudest and longest, but will also carry our passion to whatever board rooms, classrooms, offices and media outlets are available to tell our story, really "The Bay's" story to the world, if that will help to preserve our heritage!
Please join the fight to save Georgian Bay!

First casualty of war: TRUTH, in politics on both sides of 49th

Mulcair’s comments on environmental sustainability and the Alberta oilsands have been deemed by the Conservatives to be a threat to national unity, and now he and his gang are labelled a bunch of carbon taxers.

The one constant to the attacks is repetition. (From Tim Harper's piece in the Toronto Star, excerpted below)
The dishonest attacks on Mulcair sound hauntingly familiar to the McConnell school attacks on Obama, "our primary purpose is to assure that Obama is a one-term president"...
24-7, 12-month campaigning, fundraising and personal vicious and fabricated attacks on the opposition have all repaced governing on both sides of the 49th parallel.
We no longer have functioning governments in two of the most "advanced" "democracies" in world history. What we have are political assassination squads who are in constant campaign-fundraise-personal-ambition-motivated extensions of their military, only this time the enemy is not Al Qaeda, nor Iran, nor North Korea, nor Pakistan, nor Libya, nor is the "members opposite".
Government has tragically devolved into a caricature of itself, on both sides of the national boundary between the U.S. and Canada, and the people, the economy, the pride of the countries and the respect for those in leadership are all suffering a kind of entropy that will be very difficult to recover.
And we are all complicit in this latest chapter in our own governance.
We gobble the sound-bytes as if they were true, when Disney could have written them all, without even turing on the television. We tell jokes about how bad the government's behaviour, and that of most of its members, really is and then we refuse to demand better.
Previous generations would never have either expected or tolerated such behaviour from leaders like Peter Lougheed, Pierre Trudeau, William Davis or John F. Kennedy or Dwight Eisenhower, and turning the governance of Canada and the U.S. into assassination squads will push most self-respecting and potential candidates out of contention, because they will not subject themselves to the embarrassment.
This is not "entertainment" because it involves policies and decisions that will have impact on our grandchildren, for decades, and those policies will be very difficult to reverse. And we are watching the first casuality of war "truth" being slaughtered like a helpless animal, right before our eyes.
Call me haughty and self-righteous, if you like, but I am disgusted by the tone, the temper and the complete disregard for anything ressembling "reality" in the political wars.
By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, September 18, 2012
The Conservatives have apparently sentenced Tom Mulcair to death by talking point.
As a means of dragging him to the political gallows, the talking points can be absurd or disingenuous, but they must be ubiquitous.
The opposition leader and his caucus have, in the past months, been called “job killers’’ in the country and, in a golden oldie trotted out Tuesday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, subversives who have headed south of the border to undermine the Canadian economy.
Mulcair’s comments on environmental sustainability and the Alberta oilsands have been deemed by the Conservatives to be a threat to national unity, and now he and his gang are labelled a bunch of carbon taxers.
The one constant to the attacks is repetition.
In the two days since the Commons returned, MPs, ministers and the prime minister himself have popped up from their seats, all of them resembling a message track Jack-in-the-Box, spouting “carbon tax.”
Tuesday, they planted a backbencher to ask Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz about the perils of the phantom NDP carbon “tax,” other backbenchers jumped to their feet to make statements in both official languages on the carbon tax, with one, Scott Armstrong from Nova Scotia, virtually coughing up his party’s emailed talking points whole before question period.
Harper even took the unusual step of switching from French to English in answer to a question from Mulcair so he could blurt out “carbon tax” in English.
No one outside this bubble is talking about a carbon tax, the government is not the opposition and we are still three years from an election.
The answer is, of course, it is has worked for Conservatives in the past, and they are, frankly very good at an attack strategy that can be described as shoot, reload, shoot, repeat until the landscape is scorched.
It has worked on the Liberals in the past, but we have now moved into untilled fields.
The NDP has never formed a government at the federal level, but it has also never had to fight back against attacks to this extent.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Labour peace at Ford; GM and Chrysler in the balance in Canada

By Greg Keenan, Globe and Mail, September 17, 2012
Ford has secured labour peace for four years in a deal the company said improves the competitive position of its Canadian plants in the global battle to win auto investment and jobs.

The Ford agreement, now being studied by Chrysler and GM, reflects the power of private and public-sector employers to keep a lid on wages in a fragile economic recovery that has many workers – especially in Canada’s manufacturing sector – fearful their jobs will be eliminated.
Auto makers in particular are in a position of strength in Canada because the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar has pushed labour costs above those in their U.S. plants, leading some to threaten to shut their plants here eventually if the union did not agree to their demands.
Detroit Three workers, however, wanted to win back some of the things they gave up during the recession of 2008-2009, which drove two of the companies into bankruptcy protection.
They failed to get back holidays they surrendered in 2009 and the cost of living adjustments that were frozen when they agreed to help the companies.
Mr. Lewenza said it’s not clear to him if specific elements of the Ford deal will be difficult for Chrysler and GM to swallow.
“I didn’t get an aggressive negative response,” he said, but added, “on most counts, they think it’s a pretty expensive deal.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Lewenza expressed satisfaction with the agreement.
“It’s a damn good deal in these economic times; it is a damn good deal,” Mr. Lewenza told reporters at a downtown Toronto hotel after the union fought off Ford’s most stringent demands, but agreed to a pay freeze for existing workers for the length of the contract plus lower wages and a less costly pension plan for newly hired employees.
Workers at Chrysler and GM were scheduled to strike at 11:59 p.m. on Monday if those companies refused to match the Ford deal.
Mr. Lewenza said workers and union leaders recognized that they needed to make sure Canadian operations remain competitive and attractive for new investment.
“We believe that the tentative agreement offers unique-to-Canada solutions that will improve the competitiveness of the Canadian operations,” Stacey Allerton, vice-president of human resources for Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd., said in a statement.
The union won signing bonuses of $3,000 for about 4,500 Ford workers, plus annual bonuses of $2,000 in each of the last three years of the four-year contract.
The deal – reached eight hours before a strike deadline – will also create about 600 new jobs, mainly at Ford’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ont.
That will help provide work for some of the 800 workers laid off after the company closed its St. Thomas Assembly Plant near London, Ont., last year.
About 230 jobs will be created by the addition of a partial third shift in Oakville to increase production of four vehicles built at the auto maker’s last remaining assembly plant in Canada.
Another 300 jobs will be created in 2014 when production is scheduled to begin on replacement vehicles for the current crossovers.
Ford is still negotiating with the federal and Ontario governments for financial assistance for an investment of more than $1-billion to redevelop that plant.
The union also managed to maintain two key principles that were under threat – its opposition to profit sharing as a means of compensation, and its insistence that pay for newly hired workers eventually rises to that of longer-term employees.
Newly hired workers will be paid about $20 an hour to start compared with the current $24, and their wages will rise to the full level of $34 an hour over 10 years instead of the current six years.
That’s crucial to the company, because the more employees it hires at the lower tier to replace longer-term workers, the more money it will save.
“Ford Motor Co. has indicated to us that the new rate positions them to make the tough decisions in the future for future investment,” Mr. Lewenza said. “It’s a living wage, not a good wage.”
That system compares with the contract the Detroit Three auto makers negotiated last year with the United Auto Workers, which established a permanent second tier of lower-paid workers.
He said Ford recognized the CAW’s philosophical opposition to a permanent two-tier system.
Chrysler and GM were still insisting on a permanent second tier in Canada as of early Monday evening.
Blocking a two-tier wage system, securing job security for four years, securing employment for workers who lost their jobs in the St. Thomas closure, while agreeing to a wage freeze supplemented by bonuses seems like a sensible, mature and workable contract negotiated between Ford and the CAW.
These signals are not only important for the auto industry; they have implications for the whole economy, especially in light of the scorched-earth war against unions in all workplaces in the U.S.
This contract sends signals that the labour movement is far from dead, the avowed hope of a vast majority of American voters, and, unfortunately, too many Canadians.
While GM and Chrysler are already sending signals that Ford can do such a deal because it has such a small "footprint" in Canada, and they both think the contract "too rich" for their blood, there will now be pressure to follow the "template" established at the bargaining table with Ford. And that pressure can only help secure, at least in the short run, the big three auto makes in Canada, and also see similar contact terms extended into non-union shops like Honda and Toyota in Canada.
No doubt, there will also be renewed efforts to certify workers at both Japanese companies' plants in Canada by the CAW, and this contract with Ford is their best argument in favour of union certification.
This contract also sends signals to Ottawa, where the union-busting fervour has a permanent home, so long as the Harper gang is in power in the federal government. Unions are alive; they are demonstrating responsible negotiating tactics and strategies; and they are also transforming their own ways of operating to be more transparent, more accountable and more in sync with the economic conditions in which they operate.

Jeffrey Toobin's new book, a warning to all Americans of a conservative tsunami

Roberts' interpretation of the Commerce Clause falls in line with how the conservative movement regards the clause, according to Toobin. The clause was used by President Franklin Roosevelt to establish modern social welfare programs — such as minimum wage, worker safety and other areas of economic development — and it was interpreted in that way by eight Supreme Court justices appointed by Roosevelt. The current conservative movement says that the interpretation was a "misreading," and that "there is a constitutional justification for cutting back on all sorts of federal regulations and activities — and the Commerce Clause is the way to do it," Toobin says.

He also says that by supporting Obama on this critical legislation, Roberts has indirectly "insulated the court from political challenge for a long time.
"Roberts has a big conservative agenda still, and he's going to be able to push that agenda without risking criticism now for being a political activist because of this vote," he says.
(Quote from Jeffrey Toobin's interview with Terry Gross on npr's Fresh Air, September 17, 2012, excerpted below)
So just what is the difference between the Tea Party and the Roberts' Supreme Court?
Merely the composition being played on the keyboard.
In the case of the Tea Party, the composition is the legislation, including the money bills of the U.S. Congress while in the case of John Roberts and his conservative majority, it is the legal cases that come before the court.
If Toobin is right, Obama's victory on the Affordable Care Act, from the Roberts Court, is nothing more than a phyrric victory, in order to "insulate the court from political challenge for a long time."
In any other country, the take-over of the branches of government by a small group of 'infidels' would be called a 'coup' the U.S. when it happens, without a shot being fired, it is called "politics as usual."
For Roberts to latch onto the Commerce Clause as his justification for his vote to approve Obamacare, and thereby to provide the shield he will need to protect the court from the charge that it is politically motivated in the future as well as the cornerstone of his (and others') arguments in favour of the "new" interpretation of that clause, overturning the precedents that have been set for nearly a century, is nothing less than a legal 'coup' which will reverberate through the towns and cities of the U.S. for decades.
People like Dick Armey and Grover Norquist, neither of them holding any public office, when linked politically to Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy and Thomas, and also linked, through the pledges to Norquist's NO-TAX stranglehold on the government's business (by a vast majority of Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate) have effectively rendered Obama and the Democratic party emasculated, insofar as their capacity to effect the kind of change that the country both needs and deserves.
There will be many cases coming before the Supreme Court in the next decade, including the promise to overturn Obamacare, the promise to overturn Roe v Wade, the promise to dismantle the Department of Education, and the commitment to 'gut' entitlement programs thereby rendering the dispossessed as emasculated as this gang have already rendered the Democrats and everyone knows how those decisions will come down, based on the recent evidence from Roberts himself and the court in cases like Gore v Bush, and Citizens United.
It is former president Clinton who reminds us frequently, that politics is both a contact sport and a blood sport.
And, for those of us who shy away from open hostilities, especially the shedding of blood, "politics as a blood sport" is a little more than we prefer.
However, there is a war going on in the U.S. over the hearts and minds of the people.
And that war is being funded, legally and ravishly, by individuals who are reported to be willing to write cheques up to $12 million to support the Romney campaign for the White House.
So it is not only the campaign for the presidency that is at stake.
So are the future appointments to the Supreme Court that are in the balance.
And there is clearly no doubt that the appointments that would be made by Romney will be very different from those made by Obama, as in Sotomayer and Kagan.
There is also no doubt that Obama's "hold to the precedents" position on the Supreme Court is far more in line with the legal tradition, history and methodology than is Robert's radicalization of the overturning of precedent, as evidenced by Toobin in his view of the Commerce Clause. And Obama's constitutional legitimacy takes no back seat to Robert's; in fact, if pressed, the people of the U.S. would likely side with the Obama position on legal precedent.
Ironies abound:
The Tea Party wants a smaller government, so long as they have control of all the levers and then they want to use those levers to achieve the kind of change they deem necessary, even if that includes the overturning of one of the cornerstones of U.S. government and history in the Supreme Court.
The big-spending Democrats (by public propaganda from the 'right') are, to use Obama's position on legal precedent, much more comfortable with holding to legal tradition, precedent and evolution, and certainly not revolution.
The Tea Party backroom boys, specifically Armey and Norquist, are merely retro-throwbacks to the old oligarchies from which the original colonists who came to North America were trying to escape, yet they meet them in new names and new suits on their own shores, where the original spirit of democracy, freedom and equality are retained, to a much greater degree, by the Democrats.
If you think this election doesn't matter, to the people of the U.S. and to the people of the rest of the world, you must have been asleep for much of the last four years.
Wake up and smell the dandelions; these weeds are quickly taking over the lawn in the U.S. government!

The Oath The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a former assistant U.S. attorney. He's the author of the best-selling book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.
Toobin was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air on NPR yesterday, September 17, 2012
From the Fresh Air website, September 17 2012

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama ran on the platform of "change we can believe in" — but he has a different approach to the Supreme Court's interpretation of constitutional law.

"Obama is a great believer in stability — in the absence of change — when it comes to the work of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin, author and senior legal analyst for CNN, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "He is the one trying to hold onto the older decisions, and [Chief Justice John] Roberts is the one who wants to move the court in a dramatically new direction."
Obama and Roberts have remarkably similar backgrounds in their legal training: Both went to Harvard Law School, and both worked on the Harvard Law Review. But "they have come to dramatically different conclusions that are reflected in every aspect of how the government works today," Toobin says.
In his new book, The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, Toobin describes how the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision and the Affordable Care Act ruling from this year show how the Constitution is being reinterpreted — and how Supreme Court precedent is being quickly overturned.
"It used to be that what it meant to be a conservative on the Supreme Court was respect for precedent and slow-moving change," Toobin says. "What's so different about the Roberts court is the way they are burning through many of the precedents they don't like."
Toobin says the recent Affordable Care Act decision — in which Roberts claimed that Obama's health care plan would not be legal under the Commerce Clause, but could be upheld as a legal tax — is a step toward overturning Supreme Court precedent.
Roberts' interpretation of the Commerce Clause falls in line with how the conservative movement regards the clause, according to Toobin. The clause was used by President Franklin Roosevelt to establish modern social welfare programs — such as minimum wage, worker safety and other areas of economic development — and it was interpreted in that way by eight Supreme Court justices appointed by Roosevelt. The current conservative movement says that the interpretation was a "misreading," and that "there is a constitutional justification for cutting back on all sorts of federal regulations and activities — and the Commerce Clause is the way to do it," Toobin says.
He also says that by supporting Obama on this critical legislation, Roberts has indirectly "insulated the court from political challenge for a long time.
"Roberts has a big conservative agenda still, and he's going to be able to push that agenda without risking criticism now for being a political activist because of this vote," he says.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Not the end of men...but the beginning of a new attitude to men?

Jennifer Homans is a historian and a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University. She is the author of “Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet.” Homans reviews the Rosin book, The End of Men, in the New York Times, September 16, 2012, an excerpt is included here.

In the end, there is something smug — and wrong — about Rosin’s depiction of “Plastic Woman.” Is it really a good idea to say that we are, by gender if not by sex, open, empathic, flexible, patient, prone to communal problem-solving and the like? We’ve known for a long time that men do not hold a monopoly on being rigid, hierarchical, close-minded or authoritarian. Yet the women in this book are almost all organized go-getters, whereas the men come across as lazy, unambitious couch potatoes.
It is hard not to cringe when Rosin compares a Type A girl who sits still in school and makes pages of to-do lists every night with a sloppier but equally high-­performing boy who can barely remember what comes next in his day. Rosin holds the girl (her daughter) up to the light and suggests that the boy (her son) will need to find his own “inner secretary” if he is to succeed in the world we live in. Well, maybe, but everything in me wants to defend the boy for just being who he is. Do we really want an alpha-girl model, even if she does succeed in the new world economy, whatever that is? Do we want a model at all? Why should a son — or anyone, for that matter — want to be more like anyone else (much less his sister — or mother)?

Above all, is it really a good idea to suggest that women are poised to inherit the economy and that over time men and boys, God bless them, may learn to adjust and become more — more what? More like us (except when we’re not)? To suggest, in other words, that success — material, social, sexual, emotional — depends on (our!) gender traits and not on the legal and institutional frameworks we live in? I’m all for each of us remaking ourselves from within, but this kind of argument seems carelessly apolitical, especially at a moment when we are faced with public officials actively working to undermine access to birth control, abortion, equal pay for equal work. Talk about endings.
And I can’t share Rosin’s rosy faith in the global economy. Revolutions, economic or otherwise, have a way of disappointing women. They tear down the old, women step in and make strides, and as a new order sets in the strides disappear. Are Rosin’s Plastic Women genuine victors, or are they — or will they become — unwitting victims? Will the women who are so diligently training themselves as pharmacists today be as flexible and confident when the winds of the feckless global economy turn against them? How flexible can a woman be when she has been training for something for years and suddenly it is blown off the map by the “new” economy? Ask the men who are ended.
Thanks Ms Homans, for bringing some balance to the picture painted by Ms Rosin in her book, The End of Men.
Gender stereotypes have never worked, never demonstrated the whole truth in any argument and do not pave the way for a more integrated present and future. It is in the competition with women that men bow out from. We have never wanted to compete with women, yet we are hard wired to compete with other men from a very early age.
The notion of "men who are ended" is both tragic and apparently unfixable, if we are to listen to M Rosin.
However, we do not share that view.
Here are some things men could consider to bring their "social status" back to a level playing field with women:
  1. Start reading novels.
  2. Start watching movies like the 2005 version of the Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, without a janudiced eye, just enjoying the interactions between men and women.
  3. Start learning to listen to their own bodies, thoughts, feelings and starting walking into the beach of charing those "words" with their female partners, lovers, friends, sisters, and daughters.
  4. Start to take their bodies on solo walks, bike or motorcycle rides, and breath in the air, and celebrate the view.
  5. Look for little ways to offer help, encouragement and support (not just the programmatic, and robotic words, "I'm sorry") to those they can see are in distress, both men and women.
  6. Try initiating conversations about other topics that the weekend sports results, and the latest machinations of the car, industrial, investment and geopolitical worlds.
  7. Read another novel, or a biography that will bring 'the other' to life in your mind, in a way you had not expected.
  8. Get tickets to the art gallery, the symphony, and the latest theatre production and open to what you are watching, listening to, taking in, enjoying and even what is ticking you off a little by the performance.
  9. Turn the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL off your television for at least a month and replace that time in frace-to-face conversation with your spouse, lover, friend, sister, daugher, mother, grandmother.
  10. Start a journal, in which you write about any incidents, thoughts, feelings, reflections, opinions, or ever fears that enter your head, without any thought of letting anyone into your private world.
  11. Start looking for ways to offer your insight, imagination, innovation and expertise where you work, volunteer, help, or even when you are with another human being, not to bully the others, but to test your resources.
  12. Call another male, and share what you have begun as your own little "project" of change, and evolution.
Don't listen to your buddies who tell you you are becoming "girly" in your new direction.Who knows, it could turn a few of them around too, if you stick with it!