@johnfabian's banner p




2 followers   follows 0 users  
joined 2022 September 06 14:31:18 UTC


User ID: 859



2 followers   follows 0 users   joined 2022 September 06 14:31:18 UTC


No bio...


User ID: 859

Party Down is an all-time great comedy show that very few people have seen. Strongly strongly encourage everyone to give it a shot

A politician who I think is quite similar to a Tammany Hall-type is Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario. He doesn't have a "machine" perhaps in the same way, as it is not built around a singular place or institution, but rather his close family members: Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto before him, and various other members of his family are following behind him into politics. In Toronto and Ontario they speak of "Ford Nation": a coalition of hangers-on, staffers, relations, magnates, and supporters, and I think it resembles a machine if you squint somewhat.

Ford is not an ideological man, and while he skews toward what you might call typical small-c conservatism that doesn't really encapsulate him. With him as Premier Ontario is embarking on massive expansions of public transit (roughly equivalent to the American federal government's expenditures in this regard) and nuclear power. He's also pushed through new highways through prime agricultural land. He has obvious populist tendencies: availability and price of beer has been a constant messaging point for him, even if it costs the government a billion dollars. He is extremely popular among immigrant groups and has been one of the biggest promoters of the rather absurd state of the international student program. His government is also very scrutinizing and responsive to public opinion: his rule through COVID was essentially through the whim of public opinion polls, seesawing rapidly from no restrictions to incredibly harsh and unconstitutional ones with great abandon. He has also presumably walked back proposed changes that he had promised key donors if they were publicly unpopular, like the Greenbelt land swaps.

It's also very good to be his friend. I don't know if there is necessarily good evidence that he is himself benefitting to any large degree from the state of things, but plenty of people who attend his daughter's wedding for no apparent reason profit. The members of his Cabinet get extra-juicy salaries and pensions, and he has both expanded the number of cabinet positions and adopted a policy of rotating his MPPs through those so that most have gotten a turn on the merry-go-round. This kind of personal largesse is also helped by the Canadian media's silent handshake deal to not report on personal matters: hypothetically if one were to perhaps be Ford's mistress, maybe you'd get a key spot in Cabinet, like, say, Infrastructure Minister or something. Just spitballing.

All this is to say is that it's basically a patronage system. We still have a civil service obviously, but elected jobs and public contracts are increasingly used as treats to be dangled for loyal supporters and donors. And the results aren't all that terrible, really. Yes it's wasteful and corrupt and inefficient and the fiscal burden of this is going to have to be reckoned with somewhere down the line. But Ford markets himself as The Guy Who Gets Things Done, and there's no doubt he gets things done. There's new regional rail and new subway lines and new nuc plants and new public buildings all coming online. This is causing a problem for the Ontario Liberals because they're getting their lunch eaten by him; all they have to offer as an alternative at the moment is that under Liberal rule politicians might be more polite and somewhat less corrupt but also nothing will change.

The Women's March on Versailles is pretty much the only coherent place to start a history of feminism. There's really no other incident before that in recorded history where women are so obviously working within the concept of being a distinct (and powerful) political group.

This telling seems to assume that absent the settlements, the Palestinians' intergenerational rage would subside and they'd embrace peaceful coexistence with Israel. Do you genuinely believe that to be the case?

I don't think it's so easy to say. But the settlements are very obviously a sore spot for Palestinians, and more to the point seem to indicate that making deals with Israel is a fruitless gesture - any diplomatic agreement is not worth the paper they are written on if Israel will just move in settlers at gunpoint. And it isn't just Palestinians that Israel is double-crossing with respect to the settlements, they make these deals with their allies to limit them and go do them anyways. From the perspective of a secular Palestinian, why on earth would you trust a foe who willingly violates the trust of their friends, let alone their enemies?

There is that element of it, but I suspect that both Hamas and the Israeli right are a little more deliberate about it than parasites. I think they to a certain extent deliberately prop up each other, and seek to antagonize them.

Something I find myself idly wondering these days is whether my moral calculus is changing as I believe the range of possible options is narrowing.

I think there was actually a decent chance of something approaching a viable peace circa the Oslo Accords; maybe if Arafat takes one for the team and risks the fate of Sadat or Rabin, maybe if the Israelis are a little more flexible, maybe a million other possibilities... but whatever the case that is gone. And so is I think my hope that anything can be achieved through diplomatic negotiation. You know back in the '90s there was the fantastic optimism that we could actually settle all these big world problems without it coming to the truck bomb and the bayonet, and for the most part things did OK: the Troubles got resolved, most of the potential genocides in the Balkans averted, the Soviet Union came apart mostly peacefully (which was something of a quasi-miracle I don't think we fully appreciate), a myriad of lesser conflicts were solved or at the very least muted. Maybe, just maybe, we could learn to the bury the hatchet, and I think there was very real and tangible progress toward that end in the Middle East.

Of course that's impossible now, or at least for a generation you'd think. Obviously there's lots of blame on both sides regardless on which frame of analysis you choose, but more to the point is that the respective parties in charge (Hamas and the pro-settlement Israeli hardliners) are both locked in a sort of hostile symbiotic relationship where their actions keep entrenching their ostensible opponent, who in turn further cement the other's legitimacy. I don't see any way to break out of that in the short term, which means no peace by means anywhere within this framework of international law and cooperation.

Which means that you kind of have to pick which side would you prefer to annihilate the other. Because that is the only possible resolution to this in the near-future. Grudgingly I suppose I would pick Israel. But really I'd rather not pick. I don't want any of my government's money or time or attention to go to this. Let them fight or let them make peace but it's got nothing to do with me.

I think there's a simpler option here. If you get popped with an illegal weapon on you (and you haven't somehow victimized a Canadian in the process), just instant deportation. Why put them in prison? Just kick them out of the country, done.

The beats of these two stories are basically structured like bad late-night TV jokes. Like you can imagine Jay Leno saying "Hey folks, you heard this story about the Indian getaway driver?"

Culture War nexuses

This isn't exactly some thought-out post, more just a culture war observation. Every now and then there happens an event that feels like a CW "nexus" where it is the intersection of like five different hot topics in one moment. I had this thought while walking yesterday and wondered if someone else had any other examples. Here's two of mine:

A couple of weeks ago in Toronto a group of Indian immigrants, presumably in a gang of some sort, robbed a government-owned liquor store. They pulled a knife on an off-duty cop there. When they left, they were pursued by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and regional cops. In a rented van the thieves went the wrong way down the 401, the busiest highway in the world; the OPP stopped pursuit and told the regional cops to do the same, but they continued to follow. The getaway van hit a car going the opposite way. The other car's inhabitants was also a family of Indian immigrants: new parents, a baby, and their newly-arrived grandparents (via family reunification presumably). The getaway driver, the grandparents, and the baby were killed. The getaway driver was out on bail on weapon's charges, had a suspended license, and was under court order not to drive.

If you've been paying attention to any political issues in Canada you can see how this neatly ties together a bunch of hot topics into one incident. I have another:

In late 2022 a cement mixer in Berlin hit a female cyclist. The driver got out of his truck to check on the cyclist and was stabbed by a mentally ill homeless refugee. An ambulance arrived to transport the critically injured woman to the hospital, but on the way was stopped by climate protestors who had glued themselves to the road. The cyclist died but the truck driver survived.

There's an obvious political motive to this. From a casual scanning of the academic literature historians generally do not consider the Holodomor a genocide (but this doesn't really change the moral aspect of it much).

Rummel was writing before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of its archives to western historians. There was a good 15ish year window after 1991 where western historians got a good insight into the history of the Soviet Union and that deflated a lot of the more extravagant numerical claims with respect to the death toll of the Soviet regime.

Describing the approach the communist leaders adopted towards their enemies as "identity politics". As I and many others use the term, "identity politics" refers to politics based on immutable identity characteristics (race, sex, caste, ethnicity etc.). It appears that (with the possible exception of the aristocracy, depending on how hereditary privileges worked at the time), none of the groups targeted by the communist regime meet this description: kulaks can sell their land and immediately become non-kulaks, industrialists can sell their factories.

I would too hesitate in calling it "identity politics" (feels intuitively wrong), but I would not say the rest. In the Soviet system the circumstances of your birth were not so easily washed away. One might become a "reformed" ex-noble or ex-bourgeois who is a true believer in the promise of Communism, yet somehow these people always tended to be the first ones swept up in any new or recurring wave of paranoia. There were also in practice discriminatory measures applied against people who had "class traitor" backgrounds, even multiple generations past.

Also the Soviet state effected very real ethnic discrimination, either purposefully or via other less deliberate means. Ethnic minorities were perpetual sources of paranoia and distrust; in the lead-up to WWII and during for example there were a number of purges, forced displacements, mass imprisonments, killings, etc. that might not qualify as genocide but come very very close (and morally deserve little distinction). The Holodomor is the most famous but there are probably some you've never even heard of like the Polish Operation or the deportation of Tatars. These are just some of the more notable ones, there was a whole history of "population transfers" which sounds like a sort of benign planning thing but in reality was often a very brutal form of ethnic violence.

And this is without getting into the more passive bigotry within the Soviet system of preferences towards certain groups over others with respect to everything from university spots to food allocation. Systemic racism is kind of a big deal when the system is a totalitarian one that controls almost every aspect of your life.

This is also where the term "terrorism" originated, even though it has shifted from its original meaning of state-driven activities to that of non-state actors.

He's really fat. Easily obese.

In an effort to improve my German, I'm reading Zweig's 'Die Welt von Gestern', The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European.

Has there been some recent fascination with the book? I looked it up in the Toronto library system and all 8 copies are signed out, with multiple holds past that. Unusual popularity for a book from the 1940s.

Trump is an obese 77/78 year old. It makes sense to have a backup you'd be happy with regardless.

Short attempt to explain an upcoming Canadian constitutional snafu

I'll try for brevity here. If you see any Canadian news showing up in your feed you might be aware there's been some wrangling over the "Notwithstanding Clause." This is the clause in the Canadian constitution that essentially allows the invoker (either a provincial government or the feds) to override court challenges to legislation except for stuff related to the basic functioning of democracy (like how elections are conducted). Outside of Québec the NWC has rarely been used at the provincial level and never at the federal level. It was included as a compromise in the 1982 constitution, and has historically been treated as an Option-of-Last-Resort when it came to disagreements between the provinces and the feds. It expires after five years of invoking which theoretically means it can only be used with popular support.

The structure of Canada's institutions were meant to mimic the United Kingdom's: parliament is supposed to reign supreme. Courts and the judiciary were meant to be deferential to the will of legislatures, and likewise legislatures were meant to honour the spirit of the broad constitutional principles embodied by the Charter. As many of you might suspect however, over time there has been some element of judicial creep, with the judiciary finding more and more things to be unconstitutional. Federal laws against abortion and gay marriage were struck down by Charter challenges (in each case I think correctly), but somewhat more speciously you have things like restrictions on public drug use or simple math tests for prospective teachers being declared unconstitutional. I know people around here might cynically think this is being done exclusively for progressive causes and while I think there is an undeniable slant among the judiciary you also have things like the courts deeming the measures taken against the trucker COVID protests unconstitutional.

More coherently the principle underlying the general trend is this: the judiciary wants more discretionary powers for itself. It does not want governments to dictate to judges the limits of their powers or decision-making. And where this is really drawing things into conflict is with respect to criminal justice. To give a non-culture war example, the previous Conservative government amended the Criminal Code to require consecutive life sentences be given for mass murderers; i.e. if you committed multiple first-degree homicides your eligibility for parole would not be after 25 years as normal but rather 50+ years (depending on the extent of your crimes). This was struck down on appeal on the grounds that this was "cruel and unusual punishment", on behalf of a man who had murdered six Muslims at a mosque in a mass shooting (not exactly a progressive hero, but now eligible for parole in 2039). Similarly the ability to hold potentially at-risk criminals without bail or severe bail conditions has been very limited, and a wide raft of possible contingencies for sentencing have been essentially mandated by court challenges. You might be familiar with "Gladue" reports (essentially lighter sentencing for indigenous offenders), but this has also resulted in bizarre sentencing decisions for immigrants who would risk deportation otherwise.

Almost-certain future PM Pierre Poilievre has made some waves by suggesting he would use it federally to override challenges to stronger criminal justice laws. This forthcoming showdown seems to be inevitable given the increased intransigence of both the judiciary and politicians: anger and confusion with these court appeals is not limited to conservatives and support for harsher sentencing is very strong. The original purpose of the Notwithstanding Clause was not as a means to reinforce parliamentary supremacy, but the expanded scope of court appeals has given it a new role in this context. The judiciary has badly overplayed their hand if they thought the political cost of using it would enable them to expand their reach without opposition.

Somewhat related, Scottie Scheffler has been on the biggest tear golf has seen since prime Tiger; in late March/April he won four out of five tournaments in a row and narrowly missed winning the fifth - some $20ish million in winnings. All this while his wife was 8+ months pregnant; I can't find speculation as to what the precise due date was but comments from him seemed to suggest late April so now she's overdue. He is skipping the big money event this week but more to the point he was very vocal that if his wife went into labour he would step off the course mid-round. He said this also applied if he was leading in the last round of the Masters (which he won comfortably). Now it's not a team sport (besides I suppose the caddy) but the question is essentially would he potentially compromise his individual legacy as a golfer to be with his wife during labour.

This is just the substack equivalent of the more deranged branches of critical theory. They posit that because they are against the people who claim all media is actually engaged in fighting a war for the fate of the soul of society and YOU need to pick a side, that in fact all media is actually engaged in fighting a war for the fate of the soul of society (but different). I'm fond of reading tea leaves but I think one loses the point (and fun) of it when you start smashing your head into your cup.

I was reflecting upon this earlier today when I saw on Reddit that the children's show Bluey had uploaded to youtube an episode that had been "banned" in the US. It wasn't actually banned, but Disney decided not to include it in the show's episodes for American subscribers. You can watch it here and take a guess as to why that might be. If you haven't heard of Bluey, it was the second-most watched television show (in total minutes) in America last year in spite of its short format. It's a charming show and is much more tolerable to adults than much of contemporary children's programming, most of which seems like the virtual equivalent of crack cocaine. It's been in the news recently because it may or may not have ended (?) despite being massively successful and profitable. I took a gander at some of the culture warring over it and it's invariably idiotic. The lunatic left see its messages of friendship and inclusion as proof it is secretly Marxist; the retarded right see a wholesome nuclear family with nary a Pride flag in sight and think it's hiding its power level. This kind of reading-into-things seems to me little different than the kind in the linked article.

Any time I see stuff like this my eyes protectively glaze over and my curiosity is ended. All of this kind of culture war obsession just strikes me as so incredibly infantile.

One might argue that it would predict that Churchill would get a pass from the anti-fascist collective, given that the thing he's most famous for is helping to defeat the most prominent example of fascism in human history.

Not if the argument is that Churchill was in charge of an only-slightly-less-fascist state, whose conflict with the greater was merely about Who Should Dominate.

Among quasi-Marxist (this is misleading because contemporary leftists almost uniformly haven't read Marx) people in the present they have already decided that the Soviet Union, near-alone, defeated Nazi Germany.

Lots of places sell or "misplace" their mailing lists to other parties.

Absolutely not. Don't even bother thinking about it again. They were out to scam you and you just got them first.

There's another element: discovering wealth does not necessarily make you wealthier. Within 100 years of discovering the Cerro Rico at Potosi which essentially doubled the world's silver supply, the Spanish crown was serially bankrupt.

Would there be? Does NATO risk nuclear war for the sake of Estonia?

What if it's just a border incursion? The Russians penetrate some 20 or 30 km and then stop. What if it's just shelling or a few bombs dropped on military bases?

I don't think this is something particularly likely, but the Russians might think it valuable to test the waters on how united NATO really is, especially if Trump is elected again.

I think a significant part of it is simply staff size. A 10-man team can create a work of art. A 1000-man team is answering to shareholders first.