Friday, May 31, 2013

Claudia Hammond: Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception

From NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook website, May 30, 2013
In our hour on the many ways humans experience time, we heard from Claudia Hammond, author of the new book “Time Warped: Unlocking The Mysteries Of Time Perception.” Here are some of our favorite excerpts from the show.

On boredom and paying attention to time:

We actively construct our own experience of time in our minds, and that’s why it warps and that’s why it plays tricks on us. And various things will influence that — our emotions will influence it, how much attention we’re paying to something will influence it. So if you start paying attention to time itself — like if you’re really, really, really bored — then time will fell as if it’s going really slowly. When you pay no attention to time at all, and you’re having fun and you’re doing nice things, then as people say, “Time flies.”

How weekends and vacations pass by so quickly and what you can do to slow them down:

Weekends do go by very, very fast, but you can make them go more slowly if you want to and that is by filling them with lots of new activities and different things so that you create these new memories. I call this the holiday paradox. You go on holiday and everything’s new and you can go and see loads of new things in a day and you create all these new memories and it’s all really good fun. And in no time at all you’re halfway through the week, and you’re thinking, “I’ve been looking forward to this for ages, and where’s it gone?” But when you get back, it can suddenly feel as if you’ve been away for longer than that. Then it feels longer looking back. And that’s again because we look at time in these two ways: right now and also retrospectively. And retrospectively, your holiday was full of new memories and experiences — whereas, in an average fortnight, if you ask people to remember all the thins they’ve done, people only remember on average about six to nine different things they’ve done because there are so many things that we do that are repeated in life. But on holiday, there’s loads of new things. And so what you need to do if you want the weekend to seem longer is to fill it with new experiences — go and do something new on Saturday morning and something else on Saturday afternoon and fill it all up. And by the time you get to Monday morning, it’ll feel as if the weekend were longer than it was. Now, obviously you’ve got to trade rest for doing that, and you may just want to rest and put your feet up — the weekend will go faster if you do that.

How fear influences your sense of time:

Because we feel so afraid, for a start, fear begins to narrow our focus. So you stop noticing like the other cars going past or the music changing on the radio or all those markers of time that are out there. You stop noticing those things. Also, emotion creates very, very strong memories. So your memory of your car accident or my mugging, they’re etched very strong into our minds. One neuroscientist in the states, Bud Craig, his theory is that we actually count time by registering, if you like, emotional moments. If something really terrifying is happening, then we keep registering, “I’m terrified right now and now and now,” and they check, check, check again and again. Actually they count more of those moments and that seems as if more times has passed and as if the time has gone really slowly because you’re so terrified.

The two ways humans think about time:
We look at time in two ways. We look at it prospectively — we say how fast is time going right now? Am I enjoying myself? Am I bored? How fast is it going now? And then we also look back retrospectively. And retrospectively it can sometimes feel very different. So if you’re ill, if you’ve got the flu, that week you’d give anything to feel better again and the time absolutely drags and everyday goes by so slowly while you’re waiting to feel better. But when you look back, there’s very few memories being made in that time because you’ve done so little. And when you look back, that time will seems shorter, whereas all those people looking back on those terrifying moments, it will seem a long time because they’re going to remember all those things because that is something that has never happened to them ever before in their lives.

On being completely absorbed in something:
Some people will deliberately seek this timelessness, if you like. There’s this concept known as “flow,” where if you’re really, really absorbed in something and people, if they’re lucky, can find the things in their life that give them flow. Some people find that it might find it’s gardening or doing a painting. But you can do something for hours and hours and be completely unaware of the time passing because you’re so absorbed by it. People will almost describe that as a stepping outside time itself. It’s not that time is going fast. It’s not that time is going slowly. You’ve almost stepped outside it, and it doesn’t feel as if it’s carrying on anymore
Two interpretations of “move the meeting forward” and what it says about your relationship to time:
It divides people absolutely half and half. And so if you say to people Wednesday’s meeting is being moved forward two days — what day is it now? People will often say, “Oh, I always get this wrong.” And they don’t actually get it wrong; what they mean is they’ve had situations where other people say the other answer. What this does represent, your answer to this question — and people can answer it very instinctively and very fast — and your answer does show how you see time. So if you answer Monday to that, it’s that you stay still and you see time coming towards you. The summer’s coming, the vacation’s coming, Christmas is coming. If you answer Friday, then you see it the other way around; you see yourself as going off forward into time. I’m going towards the summer, I’m going towards Christmas. And this does seem to split people in a really interesting way. And there are times when it changes. So if there’s something that people are dreading, like the dentist or exams, then they’re more likely to seem them as coming towards them. But on the whole, people have this very set view of the way that they see it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Men are the perpetrators of the sexism that men experience!

The real perpetrators of the sexism that men experience are, without doubt, other men!
It is men who find gay men and gay marriage, especially of men, to be abhorrent, not women.
It is men who impose upon their own gender stereotypes linked to the pressure to conform, that warp the healthy attitudes of too many young boys, into attempting, often with tragic effects, to fit into those stereotypes. It starts when an older boy ridicules a younger one for "crying" and for "not being a man" no matter what pain the younger boy has just experiences. Even too many parents, fathers and mothers alike, err on the side of a stereotypical form of masculinity in their interactions with young sons. "Don't cry!" "Be a big boy and stop crying!"
And then, in the locker room at the schools, before and after gym classes, there is the predictable, even inevitable, public humiliation by some of the anatomy (specifically the size of the penis) of those young boys who are completely disarmed at the thought that there might even be a competition on such an issue, over which no one has a single ounce of influence. This kind of brutal humiliation is indelibly imprinted on the target's psyche, and decades later, it can be one of the most significant memories of those years. Many "targets" refuse to change their clothes for gym class, risking the punishment of the school rules and the instructor, in order to avoid the embarrassment of these bullying incidents.
And it is bullying, nothing more and nothing less!
And it is boys, often either supported by the teachers, or at best, ignored by the teachers who consider such hazing to be important to grow "strong men"....
There is some validity to some peer criticisms, even in humour, yet these valid occasions are out-numbered by those that cross a line between aggression/teasing and bullying.
If a young boy is not "athletic" he is often ridiculed as a nerd, a fairy, (one of the more frequent epithets!) or a "momma's boy"....especially if that boy displays either talent or interest in the arts. And it is boys primarily who are dishing out the venom. Whether from jealousy, or a feeling of inadequacy (because the stereotypical adolescent is not only not interested in the arts, but often shows no talent for its pursuit) this divide carries over into some demographics in adult life.
The "hockey crowd" (in Canada) is unlikely even to know if there is a good drama, or orchestral concert in the local theatre, let alone attend such an event. Likewise, the families of the dance, music, arts and artistic families are unlikely to dawn the threshold of the local hockey arena, unless there is a special event that includes their interests.
Within the sport of hockey, there is also a divide between those adults who support body-checking and the occasional fight, and those who reject both as unnecessary for the success of the game, at any level.
Cars carry much of the metaphoric value of "muscle" and "girlie" do movies...and the originators and perpetrators of these classifications are mostly men not women.
Even jobs are often categorized as "masculine" or "feminine" by men who are and have been for some time, in danger of losing their "muscle job" because many of those jobs have evaporated and fled to Asia, India, Bangladesh leaving a few construction jobs for men.
Professions are becoming dominated by women who now outnumber the men in most graduate schools. And of course, as men drop out of the competition in education, they also generate more reasons for not being hired, given the changes in the nature of the economy...from manufacturing to information systems
Hard power continues to dominate the military, as do male stereotypes of "real men" who do not do nuance as George W. Bush described himself.
If there is a conflict between the expectations of women in the workplace, male executives are afraid to find in favour of the male against the complaint of the woman, given the capacity of the women's movement to bind together in support of the woman. Conversely, men rarely, if ever, come to the aid and support of another male in a conflict situation, fearing their own security and reputations, given the dominance of the "women's ethic" and political movement.
If men are neither willing nor able to shed their narrow yet profound grasping of the "stereotypical male model" in favour of a multiple series of models of masculinity, then men will continue to slide down a scale that too often leads to drug and/or alcohol abuse, violence either of the street or the domestic variety, and even suicide.
Just this week, we learned that every day, in the U.S. there are 22 suicides among war veterans, and without having the numbers of male to female victims, there is clearly a male penchant and preference for declaring war in the first place, no matter what the situation. And that preference currently illustrates one of the main divides between the U.S. President who prefers to move cautiously in such complex emergencies as Syria, and Republican "hawks" like Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain, both of whom reject gun control legislation, and advocate more military intervention by the U.S. to demonstrate "strength" in Syria, in order to establish the U.S. supremacy in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war....another manifestation of the need for "masculinities of power and control" achieved through the power of the gun, the missile, the jet fighter and the aircraft carriers.
When schools and school systems fall into the trap of hiring female instructors and leaders almost exclusively, the fifty percent of the student population, the boys, will be warped into conformity with that female culture...and only male father, uncles, mentors and interested citizens can bring this imbalance to public attention.
Women who advocate for the job opportunities that women can effectively fill will not abandon their sisters in favour of a balanced hiring policy and practice.
However, just this year, the Toronto District School Board has announced that, in its hiring for the fall term, the top quality sought in prospective hires for the classroom is MALE!
That is a small sign that someone has noticed the disparity that has existed in too many school boards for too long, disadvantaging the male students who comprise half of the student bodies of all schools, except, of course those of exclusively female enrolments.

When Men Experience Sexism

There are some practices and policies that are unfair to men. But this fact should unite men with feminists, not drive them apart.
By Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic, May 29, 2013

David Benatar, in his 2012 monograph The Second Sexism discusses a whole range of other ways in which men as men are disadvantaged. Men, for example, receive custody of children in only about 10 percent of divorce cases in the United States. Men also, as Benatar writes, are subject to "a long history of social and legal fight in war" —pressures which women do not generally experience in the same way. Along the same lines, physical violence against men is often minimized or seen as normal. Benatar refers to the history of corporal punishment, which has much more often been inflicted on boys than girls. Society's scandalous tolerance of rape in prison seems like it is also related to a general indifference to, or even amusement at, sexual violence committed against men.

Perhaps most hideously, men through history have been subject to genocidal, or gendercidal, violence targeted at them specifically because they are men. Writers like Susan Brownmiller have over the last decades helped to show how mass rape and sexual violence against women are often a deliberate part of genocide; similarly, there has been increasing awareness in recent years of the gendercidal results of sex-selective abortion and infanticide in places like India and China. But the way gendercide can be directed against men is much less discussed. One of the worst recent examples of this was in the Balkans war, where, according to genocide researcher Adam Jones, " All of the largest atrocities... target[ed] males almost exclusively, and for the most part "battle-age" males. " Similarly, in Rwanda according to Judy El-Bushra (as quoted by Jones):
it was principally the men of the targeted populations who lost their lives or fled to other countries in fear. ... This targeting of men for slaughter was not confined to adults: boys were similarly decimated, raising the possibility that the demographic imbalance will continue for generations. Large numbers of women also lost their lives; however, mutilation and rape were the principal strategies used against women, and these did not necessarily result in death.
Many of these examples—particularly the points about custody inequities and conscription—are popular with men's rights activists. MRAs tend to deploy the arguments as evidence that men are oppressed by women and, especially, by feminists. Yet, what's striking about instances of sexism against men is how often the perpetrators are not women but other men. The gendercides in Serbia and Rwanda were committed against men, not by feminists, but by other men. Prison rape is, again, overwhelmingly committed by men against other men—with (often male) prison officials sitting by and shrugging. Conscription in the U.S. was implemented overwhelmingly by male civilian politicians and military authorities, not by women.
Even in cases where women clearly benefit from sexism, it's generally not the case that women, as a class, are the ones doing the discriminating. Neither alimony nor custody discussions are central to current feminist theory or current feminist pop cultural discussions. There is no ideological feminist commitment to either of these discussions in the way there is to, say, abortion rights, or workplace equity. On the contrary, the alimony and custody inequities we have at the moment seem mostly based, not on progressive feminism, but rather on the reactionary image of female domesticity that feminism has spent most of the last 60-odd years fighting against.
When men suffer from sexism, then, they do so in much the same way women do. That is, they suffer not because women rule the world and are targeting men, nor because feminism has somehow triumphed and brainwashed all of our elected officials (most of them still men) into ideological misandry. Rather, men suffer because of the same gender role stereotypes that hurt and restrict women—though men, being of a different gender, fall afoul of those stereotypes in different ways. Women are supposed to be passive and domestic and sexual—so their employment options and autonomy are restricted and they are fetishized and targeted for sexual assault and exploitation. Men are supposed to be active and violent—so their claims to domestic rights are denigrated and violence directed against them is shrugged off as natural or non-notable.
"For me," Heather McRobie wrote in an excellent 2008 article about genercide, "feminism has always been about how rigid gender roles harm everyone, albeit primarily women." Talking about sexism against men is often seen—by MRAs and feminists alike—as an attack on feminism. But it shouldn't be. Rather, recognizing how, say, stereotypical ideas about domesticity hurt men in custody disputes as well as women in the job market should be a spur to creating alliances, not fissures. Women have been fighting against sexism for a long time. If men can learn from them, it will be to everyone's benefit.

Feldman: "Cool War" as opposed to Cold War...title of new book on US-Chinese relations

Chinese hackers accessed F-35 designs after breaking into U.S. systems: report

By The Associated Press, in National Post, May 28, 2013   Chinese hackers have accessed designs for dozens of advanced U.S. weapons and stolen plans for Australia’s new spy headquarters, according to two separate reports from opposite sides of the globe.

China has dismissed both reports.
The Washington Post reported Monday that cyber-thieves broke into American systems and accessed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the U.S. Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defence systems, the Patriot missile system and the Black Hawk helicopter.
The Defense Science Board report the Washington Post cited didn’t comment on the extent of the cyber-theft or whether government computer networks had been involved.
The information could give the hackers the ability to knock out communications and corrupt data.

In Australia, officials Tuesday refused to confirm or deny whether Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints as a news report claims.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. television reported on Monday night that the plans for the $630-million Australian Security Intelligence Organization building had been stolen through a cyberattack on a building contractor.
With files from National Post Staff and Rob McGuirk, The Associated Press
 Next week, President Obama and the Chinese President will meet in California, and Obama has indicated publicly that he will confront the Chinese leader with the charges of cyber-hacking of major military defense systems, more important really than day-to-day operations, given the Chinese capability and eagerness to replicate or to subvert whatever military and intelligence capacity the U.S. produces, for its own hegemony, as well as to limit the hegemony of the U.S.
In a new book, Cool War, Noah Feldman, of Harvard, writes of the paradoxical relationship between China and the U.S. On the one hand, China hold 8% of the U.S. debt, and manufactures and sells most of its production capacity to the U.S. Similarly, the U.S. has deep and penetrating trade relations with China, as well as mutual interests in many world issues.
In Asia, for example, President Obama has re-directed American foreign policy to the area, in support of Australia, Japan and South Korea, not to mention Taiwan. In the Middle East, however, China is an ally of both Syria and Iran, while the U.S. is in conflict with both.
How many military defense system secrets were stolen in the latest heist, no knows for sure. Suffice it to say that China will vehemently deny any involvement in this latest chapter in a long series of chapters of espionage and counter-espionage between both the U.S. and China.
Listening to Professor Feldman on NPR'S On Point with Tom Ashbrook, this morning, was like listening to a graduate seminar in U.S.-Chinese relations. Feldman contends that China, while eagerly wanting to be treated as a great power, as is the U.S., does not necessarily want to bring the U.S. down, thereby reducing both the value of its debt in U.S. Treasury Bills, and also curtailing the availability of U.S. goods for Chinese people and their insatiable market.
Feldman also contends that one of the possible long-term scenarios of this current dispute is that both the U.S. and China could prove indirectly helpful in moderating the two systems of governance operating in each country.
Currently there are some 200,000 Chinese students studying in U.S. universities, with approximately 80,000 U.S. students studying in China....those figures, by themselves, could bring about a large degree of both understanding and appreciation between the people of the two lands, histories and cultures. However, whether or not the U.S. would ever be interested in sharing the 'top dog' position of global power with the chinese dragon is highly doubtful.
Where is Russia in this complex vortex of circumstances. Both the U.S. and China have been and will continue to court Putin and the Russian leadership, for their different and respective interests. China and Russia, for example, have been quite successful in blocking any move at the Security Council to depose President Assad from power in Syria.
Nevertheless, can the U.S. be content with merely 'containing' the growing capability and growing ambition of a China that is witnessing a 7% annual growth rate in its economy? What would happen, for example, should China take over Taiwan, either politically or militarily, given the U.S. treaty to defend Taiwan, and that treaty also extends to other South Asian allies of the U.S. like Japan and Australia, the former having already been engaged in some small skirmishes with China? Would the U.S. risk its relationship with China by entering a military conflict over Taiwan, as Britain risked taking back the Falklands from Argentina. China is certainly not comparable to Argentina and would put up a much bigger fight to assure that Taiwan became part of China, even if there were a separate political system, as China has promised.
There are a plethora of unanswered questions about the future of relations between the U.S. and China, and the latest round of cyber war, for let's not mistake this is the new shape and form of war in the twenty-first century....and the conversations between Obama and the Chinese leader will not be made less turbulent by both the reports of these hackings, and the Chinese denials.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Wampole: An apology for the everything!

The Essayification of Everything

By Christy Wampole, in The Stone, New York Times, May 26, 2013  
Christy Wampole is an assistant professor of French at Princeton University. Her research focuses primarily on 20th- and 21st-century French and Italian literature and thought.

Lately, you may have noticed the spate of articles and books that take interest in the essay as a flexible and very human literary form. These include “The Wayward Essay” and Phillip Lopate’s reflections on the relationship between essay and doubt, and books such as “How to Live,” Sarah Bakewell’s elegant portrait of Montaigne, the 16th-century patriarch of the genre, and an edited volume by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French called “Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time.”
The essayist samples more than a D.J.: a loop of the epic here, a little lyric replay there, all with a signature scratch on top.
It seems that, even in the proliferation of new forms of writing and communication before us, the essay has become a talisman of our times. What is behind our attraction to it? Is it the essay’s therapeutic properties? Because it brings miniature joys to its writer and its reader? Because it is small enough to fit in our pocket, portable like our own experiences?
I believe that the essay owes its longevity today mainly to this fact: the genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America. In fact, I would advocate a conscious and more reflective deployment of the essay’s spirit in all aspects of life as a resistance against the zealous closed-endedness of the rigid mind. I’ll call this deployment “the essayification of everything.”
What do I mean with this lofty expression?
Let’s start with form’s beginning. The word Michel de Montaigne chose to describe his prose ruminations published in 1580 was “Essais,” which, at the time, meant merely “Attempts,” as no such genre had yet been codified. This etymology is significant, as it points toward the experimental nature of essayistic writing: it involves the nuanced process of trying something out. Later on, at the end of the 16th century, Francis Bacon imported the French term into English as a title for his more boxy and solemn prose. The deal was thus sealed: essays they were and essays they would stay. There was just one problem: the discrepancy in style and substance between the texts of Michel and Francis was, like the English Channel that separated them, deep enough to drown in. I’ve always been on Team Michel, that guy who would probably show you his rash, tell you some dirty jokes, and ask you what you thought about death. I imagine, perhaps erroneously, that Team Francis tends to attract a more cocksure, buttoned-up fan base, what with all the “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises,” and whatnot.
With such divergent progenitors, the essay has never recovered from this chronic undecidability. As a genre that emerged to accommodate the expressive needs of the Renaissance Man, the essay necessarily keeps all tools and skills at its disposal. The essayist samples more than a D.J.: a loop of the epic here, a little lyric replay there, a polyvocal break and citations from greatnesses past, all with a signature scratch on top.
There is certainly disagreement on the wobbly matter of what counts as an essay and what does not. I have generally found that for every rule I could establish about the essay, a dozen exceptions scuttle up. I recently taught a graduate seminar on the topic and, at the end of the course, to the question “What can we say of the essay with absolute certainty?,” all of us, armed with our panoply of canonical essay theories and our own conjectures, had to admit that the answer is: “Almost nothing.” But this is the force of the essay: it impels you to face the undecidable. It asks you to get comfortable with ambivalence.
When I say “essay,” I mean short nonfiction prose with a meditative subject at its center and a tendency away from certitude. Much of the writing encountered today that is labeled as “essay” or “essay-like” is anything but. These texts include the kind of writing expected on the SAT, in seminar papers, dissertations, professional criticism or other scholarly writing; politically engaged texts or other forms of peremptory writing that insist upon their theses and leave no room for uncertainty; or other short prose forms in which the author’s subjectivity is purposely erased or disguised. What these texts often have in common is, first, their self-conscious hiding of the “I” under a shroud of objectivity. One has to pretend that one’s opinions or findings have emanated from some office of higher truth where rigor and science are the managers on duty.
Second, these texts are untentative: they know what they want to argue before they begin, stealthily making their case, anticipating any objections, aiming for air-tightness. These texts are not attempts; they are obstinacies. They are fortresses. Leaving the reader uninvited to this textual engagement, the writer makes it clear he or she would rather drink alone.
What is perhaps most interesting about the essay is what happens when it cannot be contained by its generic borders, leaking outside the short prose form into other formats such as the essayistic novel, the essay-film, the photo-essay, and life itself. In his unfinished novel “The Man Without Qualities,” the early 20th-century Austrian writer Robert Musil coined a term for this leakage. He called it “essayism” (Essayismus in German) and he called those who live by it “possibilitarians” (Möglichkeitsmenschen). This mode is defined by contingency and trying things out digressively, following this or that forking path, feeling around life without a specific ambition: not for discovery’s sake, not for conquest’s sake, not for proof’s sake, but simply for the sake of trying.
The possibilitarian is a virtuoso of the hypothetical. One of my dissertation advisers Thomas Harrison wrote a handsome book on the topic called “Essayism: Conrad, Musil, and Pirandello,” in which he argues that the essayism Musil sought to describe was a “solution in the absence of a solution,” a fuzzy response to Europe’s precarity during the years he worked on his unfinishable masterpiece. I would argue that many of us in contemporary America these days are prone to essayism, in various guises, but always in the spirit of open-endedness and with serious reservations about committing to any one thing.
Essayism consists in a self-absorbed subject feeling around life, exercising what Theodor Adorno called the “essay’s groping intention,” approaching everything tentatively and with short attention, drawing analogies between the particular and the universal. Banal, everyday phenomena — what we eat, things upon which we stumble, things that Pinterest us — rub elbows implicitly with the Big Questions: What are the implications of the human experience? What is the meaning of life? Why something rather than nothing? Like the Father of the Essay, we let the mind and body flit from thing to thing, clicking around from mental hyperlink to mental hyperlink: if Montaigne were alive today, maybe he too would be diagnosed with A.D.H.D.
The essayist is interested in thinking about himself thinking about things. We believe our opinions on everything from politics to pizza parlors to be of great import. This explains our generosity in volunteering them to complete strangers. And as D.I.Y. culture finds its own language today, we can recognize in it Arthur Benson’s dictum from 1922 that, “An essay is a thing which someone does himself.”
In Italian, the word for essay is “saggio” and contains the same root as the term “assaggiare,” which means to sample, taste or nibble food. Today, we like to sample, taste or nibble experiences: Internet dating, speed dating, online shopping and buy-and-try consumerism, mash-ups and digital sampling, the money-back guarantee, the temporary tattoo, the test-drive, shareware. If you are not satisfied with your product, your writing, your husband, you may return/delete/divorce it. The essay, like many of us, is notoriously noncommittal.
I certainly don’t argue that no one is committing these days; it only takes a few moments of exposure to contemporary American political discourse to realize the extent of dogmatic commitment to this or that party, to this or that platform. However, for many, the certainty with which the dogmatists make their pronouncements feels increasingly like a bothersome vestige of the past. We can either cling rigidly to dissolving categories or we can let ambivalence wash over us, allowing its tide to carry us toward new life configurations that were inconceivable even 20 years ago. Essayism, when imagined as a constructive approach to existence, is a blanket of possibilities draped consciously on the world.
Essayism is predicated on at least three things: personal stability, technocratic stability and societal instability.
Montaigne certainly possessed the first. He grew up in a privileged family, spoke Latin before French, had the educational, financial and social means to lead a life of civic engagement and writing. While most of us probably didn’t know fluent Latin as children (and never will) and aren’t in a position to become high-ranking civil servants, we have a relatively high literacy rate and unprecedented access to technologies of communication and reserves of knowledge. Furthermore, as a counter-narrative to our supposed busy-ness, there’s lots of evidence that we have plenty of idle time on our hands. Despite our search for distractions in any form, these empty hours give us time to contemplate the hardships of contemporary life. The thoughts just creep in if given the means.
Regarding technocracy, the maturation of print culture during the Renaissance meant that the great texts of Antiquity and newer philosophical, literary and scientific materials could reach a wider audience, albeit mainly composed of people of privilege. The experts of science and technology at that time siphoned some of the power that had been monopolized by the church and the crown. We could draw a similar analogy today: Silicon Valley and the technocratic business class still force the church and the state to share much of their cultural power. The essay thrives under these conditions.
As for societal instability, life outside Montaigne’s château was not rosy: the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants raged in France starting in the 1560s. Turmoil and uncertainty, dogmatism and blood: such circumstances make one reflect on the meaning of life, but it is sometimes too hard to look such a question right in the face. Instead, one asks it obliquely by wondering about those smallnesses that make up the human experience. Today, unresolved issues of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation and other categories have created a volatile social dynamic, and, with our current economic instability to boot, it is no wonder that throwing oneself wholeheartedly toward any particular idea or endeavor seems a risky proposition to many of us. Finally, the bloody wars of religion and ideology continue to rage on in our time. In the early 20th century, when the French writer André Malraux predicted that the 21st century would be a century of renewed mysticism, he perhaps did not imagine that the pursuit of God would take such a politically volatile form.
Essayism, as an expressive mode and as a way of life, accommodates our insecurities, our self-absorption, our simple pleasures, our unnerving questions and the need to compare and share our experiences with other humans. I would argue that the weakest component in today’s nontextual essayism is its meditative deficiency. Without the meditative aspect, essayism tends toward empty egotism and an unwillingness or incapacity to commit, a timid deferral of the moment of choice. Our often unreflective quickness means that little time is spent interrogating things we’ve touched upon. The experiences are simply had and then abandoned. The true essayist prefers a more cumulative approach; nothing is ever really left behind, only put aside temporarily until her digressive mind summons it up again, turning it this way and that in a different light, seeing what sense it makes. She offers a model of humanism that isn’t about profit or progress and does not propose a solution to life but rather puts endless questions to it.
We need a cogent response to the renewed dogmatism of today’s political and social landscape and our intuitive attraction to the essay could be pointing us toward this genre and its spirit as a provisional solution. Today’s essayistic tendency — a series of often superficial attempts relatively devoid of thought — doesn’t live up to this potential in its current iteration, but a more meditative and measured version à la Montaigne would nudge us toward a calm taking into account of life without the knee-jerk reflex to be unshakeably right. The essayification of everything means turning life itself into a protracted attempt.
The essay, like this one, is a form for trying out the heretofore untried. Its spirit resists closed-ended, hierarchical thinking and encourages both writer and reader to postpone their verdict on life. It is an invitation to maintain the elasticity of mind and to get comfortable with the world’s inherent ambivalence. And, most importantly, it is an imaginative rehearsal of what isn’t but could be.
RELATED: “How to Live Without Irony” by Christy Wampole.

Editor's Note:
It may seem a little pretentious for us at to think that what we are attempting, on a daily basis, with help from more professional and prolific writers, is a wandering between the Montaign and the Bacon models of the essay, from questioning uncertainty and ambiguity to apparent certitude. We seem to be constantly "trying out" things in what is a somewhat pedestrian attempt at an essay.
While we are committed to the process of inquiry, and to the process of persisting in inquiry, we are far from "knowing" the most appropriate of the plethora of proposals in any field.
In fact, there are so many fields, each with so much new information cascading off the digital pages of our world, that it is very troubling and somewhat disconcerting even to attempt to keep up.
A psychiatrist friend recounted, in 2000, that when be began his practice some thirty years previously, roughly in 1970, he knew all of the conditions of all of the patients who were referred to him by family practitioners, yet by 2000, he knew neither their conditions nor the medications that were being prescribed.
That, in a microcosm, is how we all have to face the twenty-first century.
All of the "knowns" have been supplanted by new "givens" and all of the previous processes, especially in the political context, have been outstripped by the new information, and not only do those political processes no longer provide adequate resolution of the many complex questions, but even the processes no longer even comtemplate how to incorporate the new information.
For example, Canada has what we know as the CRTC, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission that officially licenses radio and television stations and their programming requirements, expectations and guidelines.
However, do we dump the internet, and all of its new questions, expectations, costs, demands for regulations, demands for the limitations of regulations, into the lap of the CRTC, in the expectation that because radio and television are the previous technology of information generation, dissemination and business models, the new digital media will 'fit' into their categories?
One can easily imagine a different, apolitical, more specialized and more techno-savy oversight body, to regulate internet activity.
This blog is presented with no expectation of revenue, nor of regulation beyond the normal expectation that no one person or organization is subject to defamation, libel, slander, and misrepresentation. It flies through the universe, reaching individuals whenever and wherever contact is made, hoping only to start people asking questions themselves about the issues discussed.
However, already there are quarters on the globe where governments seek to impede access to these thoughts, in the belief that those thoughts are toxic, dangerous and thereby outside the capacity of the individual reader to read, digest, reflect and to form his or her own opinion on those issues.
Government control of the internet, and access to its content, is more important in those states than the free flow of ideas, even when those ideas are not calculated to incite readers to violence, nor to incite readers to entertain violence in their disagreements with forces they oppose.
In fact, if this blog is dedicated to anything, it is to the reduction of violence, in the name of religion, or political ideology, or oppression or tyranny of any people. We are so firmly commited to the non-violent exchange of ideas that we reject the use of violence as a means of political dialogue, disagreement and debate that we seek to expose any whose options are so limited and limiting that they believe, no matter how vehemently, that they only voice they have is one of violence.
We oppose the use of violence to impose religious conformity upon anyone, or any group;
We oppose the use of violence to impose political control upon anyone, or any group;
We oppose the use of violence to parent a wayward child, in any culture or ethnicity or group;
We oppose the violence of reductionism that in any way limits the opportunities of any person, group or sub-group, in any culture, including the youngest child, the mother of that child, the sisters and brothers of that child, and the teachers and mentors of that child, especially when such "violence" is imposed as an act of religious zealotry.
And we will continue to deploy words, thoughts, reflections, options and hypotheses in the fight against
all forms of violence, including the violence of unsafe working conditions, the violence of physical, emotional, sexual and political abuse in all of their many subtle and less subtle forms.
And most of those words, thoughts, reflections, options and hypotheses will find themselves 'contained' in our however halting and uncertain and trepiditious a manner, in our little essays.
We will taste as many hypotheses as we can imagine, on a smorgasbord of ideas, no matter their origin, nor their religious history and tradition, or even if they have no religious attachment, in our continuing struggle both to wrestle with meaning and purpose, in an existentialist way personally, and globally, toward a yet-to-be-designed and constructed global, international legal and political framework for dealing with:
  • a planetary eco-system that verges on immolation of all forms of life, through multiple breakdowns of existing boundaries
  • so many regulations that confront the failed tax policies of so many countries,
  • the run-away capitalism that is outstripping national governments' capacity to regulate,
  • international terrorism that cannot simply be contained and thwarted through the unilateral and individual efforts of nation states,
  • the spread of new viruses that no national medical system can confront, mediate and when necessary eradiate,
  • the failure to contain weapons of mass destruction, already unleashed on humanity, and already lacking effective physical and political containment and regulation
  • the transformation of young men into zealous terrorists in the name and support of some god whose existence and character usurp the healthy human curiosity to relate to
  • the simplification of all laws of all forms of the deity, into black/white absolutes, whose absorption is demanded as an confirmation of obedience, while relegating those compliant to a form of imposed infantilism
  • education system calculated to turn out "sausages" complete with employable skills, for the capitalist system, while limiting or even cutting off the education of the whole student, for an enriched and enriching life of creativity
  • a culture clinging to the known, refusing to embrace the possibilities of the unknown, as the pace and complexity of those unknowns outstrips all we have known
  • an addiction to hard power, and its exponential development, far beyond our capacity to deploy in the pursuit of more slaughter, surgically achieved, to the denial and denigration of negotiation, compromise, collaboration and new ways of living and working together
  • an addiction to the male-model of cultural supremacy and dominance, to the denial of the feminine, in both domestic and political cultures
  • the dominance of science and technology over the artistic imagination and its abundant potential to gift the life of every living human both pragmatically and creatively

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Siddiqui casts Harper in negative light beside Obama after historic speech

Obama’s doctrine refutes Harper’s: Siddiqui

Stephen Harper continues to exploit the ‘war on terror’ for political ends.

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, May 26, 2013
America, turn the page from fear-mongering at home and warmongering abroad. Stop exaggerating the terrorist threat. The post-Sept. 11 era is over. Get back to normal.

That was the courageous message Barack Obama delivered Thursday, calmly and cleverly.
He confronted the hysteria that has defined America and affected much of the world, including Canada, for 12 years.
What he said is a rebuke to Stephen Harper and others who have profited from the politics of the “war on terror” and its by-products — militarism, narrow nationalism and cultural warfare.
While the media highlighted Obama’s edict to curtail but not kill the drone program, and his renewed determination to close Guantanamo Bay, what should command our greater attention is his clarion call to abandon perpetual war.
Al Qaeda has been defanged. Its affiliates are local and limited in reach — “not every collection of thugs that labels themselves Al Qaeda will pose a credible threat.” There are homegrown extremists, for sure, including “deranged and alienated individuals” who go on killing sprees.
“We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”
So, let’s get back to where we all were before that horrible day.
“Our victory against terrorism . . . will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ball game; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street. The quiet determination, that strength of character and bond of fellowship, that refutation of fear — that is both our sword and our shield.”
The president spoke several other truths:
•The Iraq War, which Harper was gung-ho for, “carried grave consequences for our fight against Al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and — to this day — our interests in a vital region.”
•Some Muslim extremists say that “Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West. This ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam. And this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.”
Obama could have added that equally misguided are the Islamophobes who say that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims.
•Terrorists are not incubated in madrassas and mosques alone.
Given the Internet, “a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home.”
“The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community — which has consistently rejected terrorism — to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.
“These partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.”
Harper, on the other hand, has shunned the mainstream Canadian Muslim community.
Unlike Harper’s aversion to “committing sociology” to understand the “root causes” of terrorism, as Justin Trudeau suggested, Obama stressed the need to address “the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism.”
It includes “patiently supporting transitions to democracy” in the Arab world, something that Harper has shown little inclination for.
It entails “working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians — because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region.”
It involves foreign aid, which “cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security and . . . strategy to battle extremism.“What we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbours, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.”
By contrast, Harper is increasingly using foreign aid as a tool to advance Canadian corporate mining interests abroad.
Jameel Jaffer, a Canadian who directs the Center for Democracy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Obama’s message is “powerful and compelling and long overdue.” But we need to see how the president would translate his rhetoric into action.
This will be most tested by his decision to continue the drone attacks, albeit in a controlled way. He bathed his rationale in a legal and moral framework — a necessary evil, a last resort, employed in “a just war waged proportionally, in self-defence.” But he was unconvincing.
Strikes will be aimed at militants “who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” But he didn’t define “imminent.”
Worse, in Afghanistan, he will use drones to safeguard troops. That means attacking not only suspected Al Qaeda targets — in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan—“but also forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces.” How would he know what they are planning?
He argued that drones are necessary in places where “foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory,” or are not “capable of effectively addressing the threat.” In other words, governments that won’t do as America orders them to or won’t formally let America come and do whatever it wants.
Obama offered another strange rationale — drone attacks as a favour to the Muslim world by eliminating those who kill fellow-Muslims. “The terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.”
It was as though Obama was speaking because he had to. Drones are unpopular, especially in Pakistan. They are undermining his stated goal: improve America’s image abroad. Drones are also under greater scrutiny in the U.S., among others, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and New America Foundation.
However, it’s his larger mission — to wind down the war on terror — that marks a most welcome milestone.
Editor's Note:
When one is merely a general practitioner on public affairs, one defers, respectfully and almost reverentially, to those who can be legitimately termed, specialists. Haroon Siddiqui is such a man, and his balanced, mature, yet still 'edgy' views are among those most respected by
He can be reached at hsiddiqui@thestar

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week of May 20: News Round-up...pathetic political leadership in too many places

News roundup...week of May 29, 2013...
Chris Hatfield returns from his spacestation/cyber network star trip and ship...
Obama dives deeply into U.S. Counter-terrorism proposals for the next two decades...
Obama lectures U.S. military graduates on the mountain of sexual abuse complaints in the "greatest military" the world has seen...
Rob Ford denies he uses crack-cocaine and denies he is addicted to crack-cocaine, without actually denying he did use crack-cocaine in a video from a party which allegedly demonstrates him using the illicit drug and casting homophobic slurs...
Kathleen Wynne says she has no intention of intervening in the Rob Ford scandal...
Nigel Wright resigns as Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, after writing a $90,000 cheque to pay outstanding living expenses for Mike Duffy...
Duffy himself, along with fellow journalist Pamela Wallin resign from the Conservative caucus in the Senate, and sit as independents...
Harper, for his part, waits until he arrives in Peru, to answer questions about the Duffy/Senate/Wright debacle...presumably because he thought reporters there would not understand English...
John Kerry attempts to talk to both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyhu and Palentinian leader Abbas, in hopes of re-igniting, for the nth time, peace talks between the two hated enemies...
David Cameron cuts short a trip to France to attend to the public outcry over a meat-cleaver hacking murder of a British soldier, not in uniform, by Islamic radicals who conduct their own "private" spontaneous interview, caught on cell phone video, promising more vengeance on "collateral damage" so long as the west continues to kill Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere...
British police shoot the two suspects in the leg, wounding but not killing them, in order to preserve their lives, and their prospective testimony in court...
While in Florida, after feeling threatened by a Chechnyan radical friend of one of the Boston Marathon bombers, FBI investigators shoot and kill their interviewee, precluding the acquisition of additional evidence of his relationship to both the Boston bombings and their perpetrators...
Apple chief executive answers questions at a Senate hearing on tax sheltered paper companies, providing a cave of tax avoidance, while calling on the U.S. Congress to enact lower corporate tax rates, as if by not paying their full share, Apple is most appropriately suited to decry the tax system in the U.S...why not pay up first, and then have your say? Isn't that the way the rest of us have to do it?
IRS chiefs also submit to questions from a House Committee of Congree about the agency's pursuit of information from organizations applying for tax-exempt status with the agency, in their futile and boggled attempt to extricate the activities of those applying betweeen the Sylla and Charbdis of "social welfare" organizations and "political action" organizations, another morphing boondoggle that has grown over the last decade, capped by the more recent Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to private cash for political purposes, much of it hidden behind the secrecy of "social welfare" camouflage....
Meanwhile, the Congress appears blameless as they cast about for  guilty culprits among the civil service, one of whom claimed the Fifth Amendment after telling the House Committee she had done nothing wrong nor broken any laws...
Seems that "social welfare" organizations began to offer public support for individuals and families in distress, through teaching programs, and support programs...but then morphed over a century into teaching about proposed legislation, as part of their "social welfare" and now the country has to go back to the drawing boards and redefine the language that establishes and confirms their purpose unequivocally...something  politicians are almost predictably unlikely to do, given their penchant for the ambiguous, to placate their financial supporters requirement for secrecy.
Toronadoes, specifically one EF-5, swept through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, killing 24, nine of them children trapped in an elementary school, precipitating a national debate about whether public buildings must have "secure rooms" to protect children from such carnage...
Sounds like the national debate prompted by the killings of children by a mass-gunman in Connecticutt back in December, from which no change in any legislation has been achieved, although the killing of those children was supposed to be a water-shed moment, in the issue of gun control in the U.S.
Spent Victoria Day weekend in the Haliburton bush, listening to city-dwellers set off their fireworks, evoking images of gunshots in an American ghetto, in the bounty and beauty of that verdant landscape, spoiled for the "locals" by the impolite, insensitive and immature adolescence of the city dwellers, there only for the weekend, but determined to make their own noise...
With the bumbling, and the political obfuscations and obstructions and the ineffectual 'tracings of suspected terrorists' by authorities who only later prove their true identity, in their brutality, and then the hubristic pontificating of the talking heads of government leaders "determined to get to the bottom of this" (whatever "this" happens to be)...little wonder that people are turning off politics in droves, literally. They see nothing happening, while those in power increasingly seem like eunuchs, emasculated both by their politcal opponents and their complete lack of courage to face the truth head-on, with legitimate plans for effective governance...
Remember when governance actually accomplished some good things for all the people....
Now, it seems that government serves those "on the inside" while those of us "on the outside" watch their pitiful and deceptive manipulations of both the facts and the public, powerless to throw the bums out and replace them with people who are determined to serve the public interest....
Perhaps the Occupy Movement has even more justification in many countries as the days of summer begin their stage entrance....

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memo to OPG: back to the drawing board on nuclear waste site location

“My preference would be for additional review of alternative sites further away from Lake Huron,” (Michigan Senator ) Hopgood said. ...“If in the future the need arises to address high-level waste, it may just make a whole lot of sense to change the nature of the current operating existing facility.” from "Michigan state Senate says Ontario nuclear waste site ‘raises serious concerns’" by John spears, Toronto Star, May 23, 2013, below)
Nuclear waste, whether of low, medium and high levels of radioactivity, is and will continue to be a political football being kicked down the field as long as there is no technology that will assure contaiment for the thousands of years required.
Moving this low and medium waste site away from the Great Lakes seems only reasonable, and Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the Michigan Senator who has brought these concerns to light, even if the public comment period has already been extended by some ten months.
His red warning flag that the site could be morphed in a storage site for high level radioactive spent fuel rods also bears serious consideration by the Ontario Power Generation. Their spokesman, Neal Kelly, calls the Michigan Senate resolution 'benign', the last word that could be legitimately applied to the construction of this site, as presumably Kelly would like it to be.
Rethink, re-work and re-submit a proposal that respects the parameters of the Michigan position of construction further away from the Great Lakes....these are reasonable and honourable suggestions, before the site is under construction, and they are in the best interests of the people of both Canada and the United States, whose people not only share a long undefended border, they also literally 'drink the same water'....

Michigan state Senate says Ontario nuclear waste site ‘raises serious concerns’

The proposed site, a Senate resolution notes, is less than 1.6 kilometres from the Lake Huron shoreline and “upstream from the main drinking water intakes for southeast Michigan.” By John Spears, Toronto Star, May 23, 2013
State senators in Michigan say that a planned nuclear waste disposal site near Kincardine, Ont., “raises serious concerns.”

The concern is expressed in a resolution passed Tuesday by the Senate.
The senate also proposes that the public comment period on the proposal, which wraps up Friday, should be extended.
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, who introduced the resolution, said that it will be submitted to the formal comment process on the waste site.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes to construct the facility at the Bruce nuclear station beside Lake Huron.
OPG spokesman Neal Kelly characterized the Michigan resolution as “benign.”
He said the company has met with many Michigan officials and citizens to talk about the site and explain the care taken to select it.
“We based it on international best practice, we based it on scientific data,” Kelly said. “The (site) isn’t located on the shore of Lake Huron; it’s about a kilometre inland.”
“We believe it’s responsible for the safe management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.”
He noted that the public comment period on the proposal has already been extended 10 months from the original deadline.
The proposed site’s proximity to the lake caught the attention of the Michigan senators.
The resolution, which carried without dissent on a voice vote, notes that Michigan rules prohibit low-level nuclear waste from being stored within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of the lakes and rivers in the Great Lakes system bordering Michigan.
“We encourage Canada to consider similar siting criteria,” the resolution says.
The proposed site, the resolution notes, is less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) from the Lake Huron shoreline and “upstream from the main drinking water intakes for southeast Michigan.”
Kelly said that Michigan law permits the construction of waste sites within 10 miles of the lakeshore if they are on the grounds of a nuclear generating plant. That’s the case with OPG’s proposed site on the grounds of the Bruce nuclear station, he said: “We’re in compliance with Michigan law.”
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Hopgood said he’d like to see the disposal site built elsewhere.
“My preference would be for additional review of alternative sites further away from Lake Huron,” Hopgood said.
OPG’s proposed site would not contain high-level nuclear waste such as spent fuel. It would contain low-level waste such as protective clothing worn by workers, and mops or towels used to wipe up spills of contaminated water.
It would also contain medium-level waste, such as used parts from the reactor core which must be packed in radiation-proof containers, and remain dangerous for hundreds of years.
All low- and intermediate-level waste for Ontario’s nuclear reactors is currently stored on the surface at the Bruce nuclear site. Spent fuel is stored on the surface at the nuclear stations where it was used.
The proposal calls for a storage site 680 metres below ground, in what OPG says are stable rock formations over 450 million years old.
A federal review panel will hold hearings on the plan later this year.
Hopgood said he’s uneasy about promises that the proposed site would store only low- and intermediate-level waste.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is looking for a place to store high-level waste, and promises that it will be in a separate facility.
A number of municipalities near Kincardine have expressed interest in that proposal.
“There’s talk and consideration of a separate facility (for high-level waste), but that’s not as comforting as it could be,” Hopgood said.
The low- and intermediate-level waste site is due to start operation before the high-level waste site, he noted.
“If in the future the need arises to address high-level waste, it may just make a whole lot of sense to change the nature of the current operating existing facility.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Could there be a different denoument to the Senate scandal in Ottawa?

In a recent Toronto Star column, Thomas Walkom, dubbed Stephen Harper a bitter partisan (by grievance) and a control freak who does not trust his caucus or his cabinet, and who had to know about the cheque that was written by Nigel Wright, his assistant, for $90,000 to pay the expenses Mike Duffy had attempted to dodge by his accounting as a Conservative Senator.
Two days ago, as Mike Duffy walked past a television camera, on his way through the Ottawa airport returning from Prince Edward Island, bag in tow, he uttered, sotto voce, "The Universe is unfolding as it should," almost evoking Pierre Trudeau's smugness of decades ago.
What if, rather than Walkom's insightful and rather convincing piece on Harper, Duffy and Harper are even more in cahoots, along with Wallin, all of them streetfighters, and all of them dedicated to the premise that the Senate should either be abolished or elected.
Certainly a scandal of this proportion, calculated on the basis of free-wheeling accounting and loose rules and even looser monitoring would point to the waste, and to the "elite, out of touch and out of control body to which party loyalists, more than anything else, have been appointed by both Liberals and Conservatives. And it would also, without Harper having to open his mouth, start people talking, as it did in Toronto, to a CBC camera and microphone, in words like, "Abolish the Senate!" more effectively than any political rhetoric could ever do.
While there is no conclusive evidence to support such a claim, do not be surprised if, following this period of reflective silence, on the part of the Prime Minister, he doesn't simply announce that he is bringing legislation forward that will require the provinces to elect Senators, and if a majority opt out, then he will effectively abolish the upper chamber, using the opt-out option as his cover.
Mike Duffy is no stranger to Ottawa, nor to his party's long-standing ambition to abolish the Senate, and neiether is Pamela Wallin, both strong in ambition to be at the centre of the story they may be covering.
This may well be their swan-song in Canadian political theatre, and clearly they are at the centre of the storm of their, and Harper's making.
Of course, he knew about the Wright cheque, just as he knows that Duffy and Wallin have to sit "apart" for a while...
but let's not forget what Mike Duffy spoke in those few seconds on his way past a television camera, his life blood for decades, in that airport hallway...."The universe is unfolding as it should!" from Desiderata....and secondarily from Pierre, only this time without even a hint of the poetry or mystery that attended Trudeau's borrowing of its phrases, only political manipulation, gamemanship and suckering the Canadian public.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Capitalism has to be saved from itself, for all....and baking integrity into the cake is only a token start

"We need to bake integrity into corporate DNA." (from "Don Tapscott: Transforming capitalism won’t happen without leadership" in Toronto Star, May 17, 2013, excerpted below)
Tapscott recommends trimming executive salaries, as a good place to begin. And while necessary, there are so many other ways in which capitalism needs to change. After the cake has already been through the oven of establishing itself through almost literally purchasing the legislative power of too many countries, there seems little likelihood that integrity can be put back into a cake that is already devouring itself, financially, environmentally and with respect to worker protections and respect.
Capitalism depends on a rampant and voracious apetite for profit/dividend, regardless of the means used to achieve that profit. It seeks the lowest costs of production, transportation and distribution in order to achieve the maximum profits from sales where the capacity to pay is the highest in the world.
It cares not a whit about the social, political and cultural infrastructure,  in its current form, in spite of the millions of philanthropic dollars that are being donated to museums, art collections and symphonies. Capitalism is, quite literally, purchasing the curriculum in too many universities, and shaping the graduates from too many professional schools, making it the productive agent of its own future.
Individuals, who have made buckets of money through the pursuit of capitalism, may have an interest in their own personal legacy, and thereby through the plaque bearing their family name that is screwed to the face of a new art museum, for which those individuals normally received a substantial tax write-off.
However, about the source or the protection of their workers, and the impact their industries are having on the global planetary environment, there seems to be both a deaf ear and a blind eye on those two fronts.
It used to be that capitalism was regulated, that capitalism was a respectable, respected and honourable means to harness the creative and competitive urges of the human spirit, participating in ways that generated profit, without casting the less fortunate, (or in their terms, the "least ambitious") aside to fend for themselves.
No longer.
And baking integrity "into the cake", while honourable and commendable, is far too late for the cake that we now know as capitalism.
And while new leaders are emerging every semester from all the prominent business schools, law schools and finance schools, the kind of tokenism that we see, for example, when MBA students take an oath to operate with integrity, as they did at Queens, we know that more tokenism, for the sake of appearances, and not for the purpose of transforming the way business is conducted, is on the way.

Don Tapscott: Transforming capitalism won’t happen without leadership

Capitalism must change fundamentally. But for that to happen, we need leadership.

By Don Tapscott, Toronto Star, May 17, 2013 Don Tapscott is Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and the Inaugural Fellow of the Martin Prosperity Institute. He is the author of 14 books most recently (with Anthony D. Williams) MacroWikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. Twitter: @dtapscott

As knowledge becomes more distributed, so does power. People are becoming smarter, scrutinizing institutions, organizing collectively and forging innovative ways of doing almost everything. Peers are creating encyclopedias and new ways of funding entrepreneurship. Wiki-revolutions are challenging tyrants.

For capitalism to have a future it must change fundamentally. We need to understand that business can’t succeed in a world that’s failing. We need to bake integrity into corporate DNA. A good start is to rethink executive pay-packages so that corporate leaders are motivated to do the right thing.
Industrial capitalism brought representative democracy, but with a weak public mandate and inert citizenry. The digital age offers a new democracy based on public deliberation and active citizenship.
We need collaboration in areas such as education, health care and science. Cities must become open, with smart power grids, intelligent transportation systems and transparent government. Change is required urgently and the contours of a new model are emerging.
But we need leadership to make this transition. Many leaders of industrial capitalism will resist. History tells us those who don’t join in will be swept away.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

(#6) A Heretic's guide to the universe

There is a deep and profound conflict between what is being proposed in these pages, with respect to relationships among members of a parish and also between individuals and the deity and what passes for conventional wisdom, or what passes for what is feasible.
There is an inherent reluctance to any form of disclosure from many human beings, as if to disclose will prompt an automatic rejection from those who learn one's life story. It is encapsulated in the cliche, "Familiarity breeds contempt" of the more heinous and indelible aphorisms of all of our youths.
"Don't talk to strangers" is another of those "cracker-barrel" philosophies that are dispensed to young children, helping to imprint a deeply distrustful, and even destructive note, into the potential for healthy human relationships.
On the other hand, there is much recent evidence from the social sciences that points to the reality that humans are 'hard-wired' to be social...we are innately 'connected' to one another and it would seem that any impetus to disrupt that natural inclination is a kind of unnatural, if too frequent, impediment imposed through accident, or even unhealthy will on that hard wiring. Of course, there is something we call "social space" which provides a sense of physical distance between individuals when we encounter a new person. My experience with social space takes me to an encounter with a sixty-something Anglican cleric, whom I met, and instantly "knew" that were I to intrude closer that six-to-eight feet from his person, I would immediately be scorned. Never before or since have I experienced such an icy "aura" when encountering another human being. There is simply no chance, should I have continued in that person's presence, that I would have even considered sharing any details of my personal life story. His person, by itself, was a "put-off" and whether or not he realized it, his physical presence would always be an 'electrified wire fence' to any potential relationship. Ironically, he was also the father of some eight children, and the story goes that, upon visiting his wife in hospital immediately after the birth of their eighth, he was greeted with a flying stiletto heel aimed at his face, fired by the new mother who screamed, "Don't you ever come near me again! From now on you will sleep in the basement!"
Of course, the story never made it to the public's attention, and inside the church such hypocrisy and dishonesty are rampant, including alcohol abuse, drug dependencies, and many other forms of abuse, waiting sometimes until long after the victims and the perpetrators have died, to come to light. Pride is such a manhole cover, keeping the traffic of social "respectability" flowing, without falling precipitously into the sewer of truth, as the originators of the "code" would have it.
And it is precisely the avoidance and denial of the underground "currents" of raw sewage of abuse, torture, vengeance, domination and the many other forms of flotsam and jetsam of our collective and shared Shadows that precludes the churches becoming a healthy model of relationships based on the disclosure of all the truths, including especially those heretofore hidden from public knowledge (even from our families of origin!) for healthy families, where intimate truths need to be shared, comforted, unpacked and seen for the gift that they always contain.
It is little wonder that all the tumours, cardiac arrests, dermatitis cases, and even the rise in social violence contained in sexual violation, gun violence, bullying, broken homes and lives, and the many dependencies that ravage too many lives are bankrupting the health care systems of so many countries where such systems exist. How many of those premature, untimely and preventable "illnesses and catastrophic events" would never have happened if those people involved had been truly and consistently reared on all forms of healthy human love as well as in God's love and acceptance? It says here in response, "so many that the thesis is worth consideration."
Scarcity, in all of its many forms, even if most of those are based on faulty perceptions, engendered by a capitalistic market economy, is the high-octane fossil fuel that keeps its engines firing. It  is, in fact, scarcity, want, emptiness, unworthiness, emptiness, excruciating and brutal and uneraseable judgements of those we thought and believed we could trust, whose projections of their own inadequacies, failures, scarcities, emptiness, unworthiness and brutal judgements are constantly being passed to unsuspecting recipients, and then dismissed as "just the price of growing up, from innocence to 'manhood' (often in a male dominated sexist undercurrent of extremely faulty and malicious parenting, educating and managing in the workplace) that fuel the engines of too many human (including christian) relationships.
And, just as we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, in order to save the planet from self-and -self-inflicted- immolation, so too we must eliminate to the extent we are able, our dependence on the market fossil fuel of scarcity, emptiness, unworthiness and judgements whose only real purpose is the acquisition of a kind of faux power over another, or a group, or perhaps even an institution, to fill our own empty black holes.
And that latter reduction or elimination will be much more challenging that reducing or eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels. First, because it is too unseen, invisible, abstract and merely philosophical, where the dependence on fossil fuels is emerging from the smells in our gas tanks on all our vehicles, and from  the exhaust pipes on those same vehicles, and measured in tonnes of carbon dioxides being emitted into the atmosphere, widening the hole in the earth's atmosphere.
So our problem, here, is to help others both see our dependence on scarcity, spiritually, and to point out some new ways of proceeding, that just might afford a different opportunity for the christian churches to fulfil a different and more healing role in the lives of those who might risk the adventure of entering into their sanctuaries.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

(#5) A Heretic's guide to the universe

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:
For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a matter of regurgitating church dogma. It is a matter of individual subjective passion, which cannot be mediated by the clergy or by human artefacts. Faith is the most important task to be achieved by a human being, because only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to become a true self. This self is the life-work which God judges for eternity.
Christian dogma, according to Kierkegaard, embodies paradoxes which are offensive to reason. The central paradox is the assertion that the eternal, infinite, transcendent God simultaneously became incarnated as a temporal, finite, human being (Jesus). There are two possible attitudes we can adopt to this assertion, viz. we can have faith, or we can take offense. What we cannot do, according to Kierkegaard, is believe by virtue of reason. If we choose faith we must suspend our reason in order to believe in something higher than reason. In fact we must believe by virtue of the absurd.
Not only is the proposition of transcendent God/finite human being (Jesus) "absurd" but so is the proposition that by letting in the premise and the reality of God's unconditional love for all, we would absurdly alter the human universe and potentially also the conditions under which we live on the planet.
First, how would that change the human condition?
For starters, we would raise children whose trust of the universe to offer them the basics, including shelter, food, education and health care, not merely as a legal human right, but as an expression of the dignity of the adults who have conceived, gestated and delivered them..and that would require a commitment of all governments of all stripes, political philosophies, cultures and regions to commit to support the child's parents in their pursuit of those basic necessities. That would also require all governments to commit to providing work for all people who are able to work, along with a modest income, clean water, clean air, access to both health care and part of the global commitment to the dignity and worth of each person, irrespective of his or her health, learning capacity, and/or the economic and political status of his family.
If we are not in fact as well as in poetic lyric, "my brother's keeper," then for what purpose are we here?
If we are not in fact, as well as in a utopian vision, our brothers' and sisters' keeper, then what is the meaning of the aphorism? Is it merely a nice riff for a popular song? Is it merely an ideal to which none of us really aspires, because after all, it is so "unrealistic"?.....runs the counter-argument.
Fortunately, there are spots of compassion, and reaching out in completely opposite from the conventional routine, objective and stereotypical ways to select groups, for example in the Beatitudes Care Centres in Arizona, where the treatment of dementia patients has been transformed from one of forced, impersonal and pharmaceutical interventions, to the pursuit of "comfort" for the patient, based on a detailed knowledge and application of that knowledge of the patient's whole person, including activity and taste preferences.
One long-time care-giver called into Tom Ashbrook's On Point radio program today on NPR, dedicated to exploring the changes in treatment of dementia at Beatitudes, to tell the story of a patient of her's who suffered from dementia. For ten years, every day the nursing home staff turned this rather combative woman over, cleaned her and left her, constantly resenting the duty to provide care, because of her combative and resistant nature. Finally, the caller, completely frustrated with the daily regime, found a relative of the patient, called and asked specific questions about the woman's life. The relative informed the nurse that, early in her twenties, the patient was gang-raped, and for the rest of her life was unwilling and unable to be touched, without extreme discomfort, verging on violence. Of course, the caller/nurse, even years later in recounting the phone call began to shed tears, as did all other care providers when they learned the story, and the relationship between caregivers and patient changed from one of resentment and resistance to collaboration and support, because they "knew" the patient!
The nurse/caller has since designed and produced an on-line questionnaire for dementia patients to complete before their illness makes responses too difficult, detailing their preferences in food, music, reading material, activities and good memories. The answers to these detailed questions are then available to the caregivers when the patient finally enters in the nursing home.
That story is not only applicable to the treatment of dementia; it is also archetypal for the kind of relationship modelling being argued for in these pages.
And it begins with a far different premise than starting with the "negative" aspects of the other person.
There is considerable evidence, for example, that dementia sufferers have not lost all of their skills and faculties, at least not all at once, and caregivers in the Beatitudes program search for those skills still available, and provide opportunities for those skills to be used....retaining as much of the autonomy of the patient as is possible. That approach not only assures happier, healthier and longer-living patients, but also happier and more creative and more enthusiastic care-givers.
Moving away from perceptions and attitudes that reduce the other to a 'thing' to be cared for, or a 'thing' to be disciplined, or a 'thing' to be controlled, or a miscreant to be punished....or a caged animal, in the case of most individuals housed in the prison systems, no matter how egregious their individual attitudes and perceptions that explore, in fact determine the person's history, story, biography, including all of the smack-downs, the rapes, the beatings and the traumatic experiences through which each has come, can and will only generate both compassion in the person discovering the hidden layers of deep and profound meaning and pain but also empathy, understanding and a sense of self that can only lead to collaboration, co-operation and healing for the person whose life is taken seriously.
And this does not apply only in situations where there is a care-giving relationship. It applies to the workplace, the classroom, the family dinner table, the games fields and gymnasia, and even to the coffee shops, the bars and the casinos. And it applies not only to the female gender but just as, if not more importantly, to the male gender.
Wherever people gather, there are feelings of alienation, separation, loss just waiting to be healed. In fact, Bowlby, an English psychiatrist, did considerable research into the experiences of children and documented his findings in his three outstanding books, each bearing one of those three words: Alienation, Separation and Loss. Bowlby's thesis is that each of us has suffered from those experiences, and is and will continue to spend the rest of our lives attempting to heal from those experiences.
That's psychological/psychiatric research findings and the theory gained from them. However, imagine the difference that would result if we were each imbued, immersed, incubated and raised in the incarnated belief of God's unconditional love, regardless of the specific loss, alienation, separation that has befallen our early lives. Imagine if, instead of weekly rituals of competitive pursuit of college admissions, scholarships, athletic victories leading to scholarships, business deals and the profits flowing from those deals, competitive comparisons of our children's success with those of the family nest door, competitive comparisons of our neighbourhood with the neighbourhood across town where incomes are much lower, and police engagement more necessary, and personal security more in doubt, we were all willing to suspend our prejudiced comparisons that really underline and potentially exacerbate the feelings both of superiority and inferiority that divide people from establishing common perceptions of universal brotherhood, support and sharing.
Not only have we failed to set examples of such "agape" love, we have colluded in a kind of commodification of each person, as a revenue stream for others, a customer, and a repository of saleable skills, energy, muscle and insights. And our churches too are complicit in this reductionism!
Too much of their energy is focused on the pursuit of revenue, the saving on expenditures, the trimming of both visions and costs, and the politicizing of each of those activities, as a measure of the "success" of each parish. The church has, in fact as well as in symbol, morphed into just another corporation, whose political clout is dependent on its fiscal and numerical standing in the community, just as is Ford Motor Co. dependent on its capacity to generate dividends for shareholders. In the case of the church, however, the shareholders are the large benefactors, the 'status' figures in the political community, and  inside the ecclesial organization chart. And there is a significant and dangerous migration of corporate leaders into the lay leadership of the church, both as an inexpensive way to import 'new ideas' into the church operation, and as a way to market the church to others of the social establishment, whose spiritual lives may already have atrophied into dust given their individual and family pursuit of the goals of membership in that establishment.
So the kinds of values and attitudes that make a corporation "successful" on the stock exchanges, including the avoidance of public scandal and ridicule, the pursuit of "brand" symbols from the establishment ranks for executive positions, the anal and obsessive attention to the details of the balance sheets of profits and losses, without regard to the level of ministry, or the degree of spiritual training, discipline and spiritual practice that could and would only enhance the personhood of each of those corporate 'suits' that enter the pews, (fewer each day for obvious reasons!).
And the gap between those attitudes, values and perceptions is very wide. Corporations make sales, deals, investments, and they recruit the highest performing graduates from the best "branded" universities as part of their continuing and relentless pursuit of public respect, reputation, trust and loyalty. All of these values they purchase, with various types of "payment" is a completely cost-benefit-driven system whose goal is the profit of the corporation and through that profit, the dividends of the shareholders.
On the other hand, the church, if it is to be worthy of the name, is the antithesis of the corporation.
It does not seek to be wealthy, nor to brag of a substantial trust fund, nor to claim the bragging rights of the social elites as the core of its membership or adherents' lists. It is not the recruiter of the graduates with the highest marks, even in theology necessarily, given the significant difference between corporate pursuit of profits and dividends as symbols of power and success, when compared with lives transformed into fully developed, fully functioning, fully creative and fully responsive, reflective, disciplined and even courageous proponents of agape love, as witnessed in the New Testament.
The christian church, especially, but certainly not exclusively, could be the instigator of an approach to human beings, their lives, their character, their history and biographies, as part of an overt, and nuanced approach to the practice of ministry. It says here that the church is the single most pivotal organization whose "spiritual" tradition includes the option of really getting to know the people who risk taking the step of entry.
And this is not an argument for "greeters" in the WalMart sense, where a smiling face and an outstretched hand attempt to generate a "good mood" for more purchasing in the customer. Nor is it an argument for a two-by-two home visit to "get to know" the newcomers, for the purpose of soliciting additional cash. Nor is it an argument for more pot-luck suppers to demonstrate that the church leadership is actively promoting "the social side" of church membership. Nor is it an argument for a contract between the parish and a professional photographer to come into the parish hall and take photos of all members and adherents, in order to publish a "book of snapshots" in order to introduce the rest of the community to its members, especially the newcomers.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these approaches,  ethically or culturally, except, for the purposes of this argument, they all suffer from a kind of superficiality, a glibness, and a politeness that keeps the institution at bay, avoiding the charge that the expectations are much too high for my taste to even consider entering, let along joining such a parish.
Getting to know another, in real terms, is something that most christian churches fail to accomplish, and even fail to set as a legitimate and sustainable goal, given the contingency of the spiritual life of each person on such a "being known" fully, and appreciated fully.
And, frankly, the superficiality, glibness and politeness of too many church affiliations renders the spiritual development of each individual crippled by the coldness. Anglicans, especially, suffer from what is known as an identity as "God's chosen frozen" (people) but the disease is clearly not exclusive to Anglicans/Episcopalians.
Some traditions practice a deep commitment to specific meals, specific celebrations of events in this history of the tradition, bringing all participants into the circles of those foods, those celebrations, even those traditions of critical self-examination, as a route to ensuring the community's commitment to itself, and to the individual members of that community. Others, through various forms of teaching (perhaps training would be a more appropriate description) in order that the young people "learn" certain dogmatic principles, call them the teachings of the church fathers, including the liturgies that celebrate turning points in the development of those young people, and then reinforce those teachings through another form of inculturation in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools, culminating in a graduation ceremony accompanied by a "school ring" which is worn for the rest of the life of those graduates, and visible to any other graduate from the same school who just happens to be responsible for recruiting in the company/organization to which the recent graduate has applied for employment.
Needless to say, the ring almost virtually assures the recent graduate will be offered employment by the graduate of the same alma mater.
And, there is some validity to the observation that both graduates, although perhaps as many as two or three decades apart, will have experienced a similar path, complete with liturgies, rituals, camping trips, course guidelines and curricular expectations along the path and will therefore be "known" as representatives of that faith community, and thereby worthy of the trust that accompanies that "known-ness".
However, once again, there is a kind of "old-boys" club about that kind of being known.
And, while there is a significant pragmatic element to it, a kind of insurance policy for employment in an economic recession during which university grads are finding it difficult to find employment, while simultaneously carrying a heavy debt of student loans.
There is something dangerous about the passion of which Kierkegaard speaks, as the sine qua non of one's faith, as a Christian. In fact, passion in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, is generally something that is relegated to romance novels, 'chick-flick' movies, and occasionally, a fight or brawl in a hockey match....or more recently, the expression of violence of some 'midguided' terrorist who happens to believe that some parts of the world, including their support of and loyalty to the Jewish community and to Israel specifically, are anathema to the practice of the interpretation of the Islamic Koran that has been taught to these terrorists. There is also considerable negative passion attendant to much of the gun violence that characterizes too many communities in North America, and too many missile/drone slaughters from the skies over too many outlying regions where real people, mostly innocent, are being killed.
So attempting to integrate the passion of a faith, including the getting to know and the being known within the faith community, of a christian church, is, from some perspectives, a daunting task, if not fundamentally utopian, and therefore beyond the consideration of normal parameters of logic, reason, maturity and empirical pragmatism.
However, is it not the case that the 'west' has made idols of logic, reason, maturity, empiricism and pragmatism, (not to mention the accountants' ledgers) to the denigration of the human being's spirit, soul, psyche and even the body's health and to the denial of any real consideration of the meaning and implications of the church and its adherents' relationship, or potential relationship to God, and to the Christ Resurrected. And is it not also the case that the christian church has fallen for this seduction, where the parish treasurer is 'the gate-keeper' on the cash, on the level of ministry that can be contemplated, and on the kind of people that can and will be permitted to "join" the flock. Have you noticed how strident church treasurers become when they learn, however secretly, that an openly gay clergy will be administering the eucharist on Sunday morning. It is not only treasurers that become apoplectic at that prospect; it is also many of the "old timers" who may have chosen to attend that parish because previously it followed a different 'theology' and refused to grant ordinations to gay and lesbian clergy aspirants.
Have you noticed how annual meetings of parishes are little more than a replication of an annual meeting of a local service club, or perhaps even a local private school, or perhaps even a small board of directors of a small-to-medium-size corporation? The only difference really is that in parish meetings, there is often an opening "invocation" and a closing "benediction" the only times when the existence of a God, and a Jesus, as the central heart of the operation is even mentioned. And if you really want to open your eyes to the degree to which the corporate-think mind-set has taken over, just attend an annual meeting of a larger region, a convention of sorts, where people "break bread" together at breakfasts, and then pile into a large auditorium to listen to the "leader's 'state of the union' address, skipping over the positive highlights of the last twelve months and delivering a regional "goal" of a select percentage increase in both recruits and cash. Of course, there is the ritual invocation and benediction at the larger gathering, and there may even be a discussion of some 'troubling' issue in the church, like the question of whether or not to permit gays and lesbians to marry, or to be permitted to be ordained. Often, there is an opening and a closing eucharist, for which some up-and-coming clergy has been invited to deliver the homily, as would an up-and-coming politician deliver the key-note address to a political convention.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is sheer and unadulterated politics, and clearly is not the development of the faith, either of individuals nor of the faith community. Gossip pervades the hallways, the dining areas, the bar areas, and the hotel rooms, and that gossip is not benign, as in "did you notice the wardrobe of the bishop's wife?"...but more likely, "Did you notice the single male clergy having breakfast with that female clergy...they have to be having an affair?" And the degree of care about the truth of this kind of malicious gossip is virtually absent, while the degree of impunity with which the participants engage in such gossip is almost total. And this is not the convention of one of the tabloid newspapers, whose job it is to flash scurrilous material across its front pages, either of the mishandling of money or sex, in order to generate both ratings and sales. This is the convention of the christian church! And it happens in all regions, dioceses, and faith communities.
And, of course, the targets of such innuendo and malice gossip are never offered the opportunity to refute, nor to correct the record, nor to integrate a different 'story line' to the one that best feeds the lowest basal needs of the most needy and most neurotic of the participants.
And if anyone were to shout: "This has to stop!" to the public gathering of the parish or regional meeting, he or she would be shouted down, and ushered to a private room for counselling, by some political operative whose job it is to minimize public expression of conflict, the absolute "no-no" of corporate "think".
And as Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier today, in a press conference in which he discussed the justice department's subpoena of the phone records of Associated Press reporters, for two months in 2012, following a leak of classified information from a government source, "The leak endangered the American people, and this is not hyperbole; it is fact." Well, these stories are not hyperbole either; they are based on facts!