Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shorter Mark Steyn

Article: Tamil questions that can't be asked

Just because I engage in fearmongering directed at visible minorities and incessantly mourn the death of white European culture does not mean that I am a racist.


As an aside, it's interesting to note the sleight of hand that Steyn uses when discussing the Tamil population of Toronto:

News reports suggesting that Toronto is home to “200,000 Tamils” prompted a lot of pooh-poohing about inflated figures and unreliable statistics. And surely they are. I doubt there are verifiable numbers on the Tamil population of Ontario. But, even if they’re half that 200,000, it would seem to be more Tamils than anyone might reasonably need—or indeed, even if you did need them, more than you could reasonably expect to acquire. A six-figure population of Germans, Russians, Chinese, Indonesians, sure. But Tamils are a small minority (15 per cent or so) of the population of a small island of 20 million people on the other side of the world. Yet Canada has somehow managed to preside over a bigger population transfer than the British did when they ran both Sri Lanka and India and imported a massive Tamil population from the mainland to work on tea plantations. The largest Tamil city in Sri Lanka is Jaffna, population 85,000. Is Toronto now the largest Tamil city in the world? And, if so, why?

The largest Tamil cities in the world are, without a doubt, in India, with its 60,000,000 Tamil-speakers, the majority of whom are, without a doubt, ethnically Tamil. Toronto not even close to being the largest Tamil city in the world, but Steyn would like you to imagine that to be the case, because if you are as obsessed with racial purity as he is, you might just find his argument convincing.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Anatomy of a Photo-Op

The auditorium is full of people attending a lecture. Just as it ends a door opens, and a a few people in suits file in, followed by some people in casual clothes with cameras and microphones, followed by more people in suits.

The Management walks in, proud of herself as usual, leading two men with the remainder of their entourage. One is overweight, the other obese. After letting the cameramen position themselves, the Management turns imperiously to the audience, takes a mic, and introduces her esteemed guests: a local representative for the riding in which the institution is located, and the government Minister himself. Now, assuming the air of a tour guide, she explains to the Very Important People what they see before them.

She extols the government's virtuous generosity in having provided money for a public institution; she knows that she must; somewhere, sometime, another Management at another public institution will do the same.

The representative offers his congratulations to the audience on their extensive accomplishments. The audience is used to it. He utters some bland platitudes, pausing for applause. The audience knows the script, and reluctantly obliges. He then cedes the floor to the larger man.

The Minister utters more bland platitudes. The audience again obliges. The Minister then offers some selectively quoted factoid about the accomplishments of his government. The audience obliges again. He is reminded by the Management of his generous offer to the audience: the return of a small sum of their own money.

At this, the audience is thrown into extasies. "I'll clap for that!" says one rube, overcome by the Minister's boundless generosity.

The Minister and the representative are once again thanked, and they offer a formulaic farewell to the audience. The cameras leave, and the players exit stage right.

The props, however, remain.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009


From a Washington Post article about a recent shooting spree at a US Military mental health clinic in Baghdad, where a soldier killed 5 of his comrades.

In an effort to prevent the mental strains, the Army is conducting resilience training known as "Battlemind" throughout its ranks and during different phases of deployment. "Battlemind" is an unprecedented effort to toughen soldiers psychologically for war, said Richard Keller, who leads the program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring.

"We show them what the deployment experience can be like, what things you might see, smell, think, feel, hear -- all the sensory inputs . . . so they are not taken by surprise," Keller said.

"Some people have a tendency when an event takes place to catastrophize it, and make it appear more intense or difficult than it actually is," he said, so the training seeks to reinforce constructive reactions to combat and life-threatening situations.

While I've nothing but sympathy for people who suffer from warzone-related mental illnesses, there is something about this that strikes me as problematic. How exactly will these soldiers be mentally conditioned? What happens when you tell people to treat combat as a normal situation?

"So, you've just blown a door open before searching a house, and noticed on your way out that there's a child with an open head wound bleeding onto the floor. This is a normal combat-related accident, and when it happens, you'll be tempted to catastrophize it in your own mind. . . "

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pakistan's Taliban - It's the economy, stupid

The picture of Pakistan's "Taliban" that is most often seen in the West is of a strictly religious movement that seeks to impose an "Islamic" government on Pakistan, with the mandate of such government being primarily focussed on the oppression of women, the perpetration of public brutality, and the general banning of fun.

Without a doubt, there is certainly an element of such sentiment amongst those South Asian Muslims (and perhaps even Muslims generally) who are sympathetic to the militants' worldview.

The aspect of the movement that is rarely discussed, however, is how and why it has been able to command such popular support in areas such as Swat, where the Pakistani government has recently launched a fresh military offensive, following the breakdown of the peace accord it signed just months ago with the rebels.

As this article from Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah explains, the key to the Taliban's success has little to do with restricting education or burning down cinemas, but with the total failure of Pakistan's landowners to institute meaningful land reform that would benefit the country's peasants.

Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”

. . .

After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled.

Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ”

One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said.

The insurgency that Zardari and Gilani are now trying to rally the army to fight in Swat is, with a sort of predictable irony, a product of the failure of landowners, like Zardari, to institute meaningful land reform that might have created less favourable conditions for the Taliban.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

English rules, words, and phrases that every supposedly educated person should understand - Part II

It's May 7th, and you all know what that means! That's right: it has been roughly 4.5 months since the first instalment of my potentially ongoing series: English rules, words, and phrases that every supposedly educated person should understand!

Hurray! Confetti and streamers rain down!

Today we start with a word: "momentarily." This word, in its authentic usage, describes an action that takes place over a very short period of time, i.e. a moment. It is, however, commonly misused to denote imminence. Consequently, if one says "Mr. Smith can see you momentarily," one is not saying that the audience will be waiting a short time to see Mr. Smith (indeed, one could be intending for them to wait hours for his availability), instead, one is saying that the meeting with Mr. Smith, whenever it does happen, will be fleeting.

The correct rejoinder in most cases is "Well then, I'll come back tomorrow."

Mispronunciation can be just as jarring as misuse. Naturally, we expect there to be local and personal variations in pronunciation of a word. In our last segment we covered the folly of "irregardless," but dropping a syllable can be just as bad. It has never mattered to me whether someone did say "toe-may-toe" or "tom-AH-toe," but to pronounce it as "toe-toe" would be definitely more than grating.

Consider the way many people (even in the medical profession), will call something a "Respitory infection." Is it an infection one may only contract whilst relaxing? Again, it doesn't matter if one says "Resp-IRE-atory" or "RESP-er-atory", but to drop a syllable entirely is at best laziness and at worst a sign of low literacy. Though uncommon in North America, I don't mind if someone says "Anti-BEE-otics" instead of "Anti-BYE-otics," but if I had a dollar for every time a person with two degrees said "Antibotics," I would have a lot of dollars.

"Dilatation" falls into the same category as "preventative" - we have a perfectly good word, "dilation," to describe that phenomenon. Only the poseur, attempting to increase his esteem amongst the dolts he surrounds himself with, needs to add an extra syllable.

Latin and Greek singular nouns can be difficult to transform into the plural, and vice-versa, but there are a few endings that ought to be common enough for the people using such terms to know their proper usage. For instance nouns ending in -um are generally Latin, and the plural form should generally end in -a. A building cannot have auditoriums. It has auditoria. We do not cruise online forums. We cruise the online fora.

A slip here and there is of no consequence, and simply adding an "-s" is excusable for most of the uneducated brutes in the population. What is far more galling, however, is when one of the rabble begins misusing the plural form to denote the singular, as in "This is an interesting phenomena," or when the Latin and Greek endings are superimposed onto words that are clearly common English nouns "we need to streamline our processeeeeez."

"He is an alumni." It sets my teeth on edge just to hear it.

For the uninformed, uneducated, unrefined individual, we can only have pity upon them, and forgive them for not having had the benefit of good language instruction. For the pretentious pretender, however, no such consideration should be made.

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