December 22, 2007
December 20, 2007
December 4, 2007
Although Bush has a relatively small set of advisers and any dissenting voices are effectively muffled (Allen & Broder, 2004) Woodward reports that “there is an aspect of baseball-coach, even fraternity-brother urgency in Bush” during potentially divisive meetings of the National Security Council (2002, 261). Writing about President Bush’s leadership style in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Bob Woodward notes that “He wanted action, solution. Once on a course, he directed his energy at forging on, rarely looking back, scoffing at—even ridiculing—doubt and anything less than 100 percent commitment” (2002, 256). This behaviour can achieve great short-term results but can hinder a leader over the long term, as I believe has happened to George W. Bush. As Gergen warns , “closed administrations tend to provide incomplete or misleading information to the public; their accountability suffers” (2003).
Less than a month after the September 11 attacks, Karl Rove, then Senior Adviser to the President, attempted to report to Bush his analysis of the latest polling data, which was showing the President at unprecedented 90-percent approval. Bush retorted, “Don’t waste my time with it…My job is not to worry about the political consequences, and I don’t” (Woodward, 2002, 206). Writing in 2003, Gergen’s assessment of Bush’s leadership was that “it seems doubtful that he will repeat the precipitous, 60-point drop of his father: his conservative base is too strong and loyal for that”. Clearly, Bush should have been more interested: three recent November polls show that his public approval rating sits at roughly 33 percent (Angus Reid Global Monitor, 2007). Surely the Latin expression Vox populi, vox dei was never more ironically prescient.
It is my contention that Mr Bush is doomed to be a poor leader, as he has consistently positioned himself as "the decider" beyond reproach. I believe that having little to no self-awareness and self-correction are signs of a weak leader. While a leader should have a strong will and vision, bravado and machismo are the stuff of despots and b-movie villains.
Mr Bush's actions have reflected an apparent disdain for those he is supposed to lead. He has repeatedly removed members of his inner leadership team who have questioned him or provided alternative points of view. Most damaging, in my assessment, has been his stark, binary view of the complex geopolitical context of his presidency. While propaganda such as "axis of evil" and "you're either with us or against us" was most compelling rhetoric that played well to a citizenry pumped with fear, it has ultimately failed him as a basis for developing his foreign policy, the supposedly golden face of his political leadership coin.
Allen, Mike & Broder, D. (2004). “Bush's Leadership Style: Decisive or Simplistic?”. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45277-2004Aug29.html November 27, 2007.
Angus Reid Global Monitor. (2007).“Most Americans Disapprove of President Bush”. Retrieved from http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/most_americans_disapprove_of_president_bush/ November 27, 2007.
Gergen, David. (2003). “Leadership in the Bush White House”. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3745.html November 27, 2007.
Woodward, Bob. (2002). Bush at War. Simon & Schuster: New York.
December 2, 2007
As some of you may know, I am a December baby, and I distinctly recall my 11th birthday party in 1982 because my aunt Margaret gave me an album with some black fellow reclining in a white suit on the cover. Yes, I typed "album" as it was a vinyl record, one of the few I owned at that time. The others I had plundered from my mom's impressive 70s collection (Styx forever!).
I had no idea who this Michael Jackson character was, and as far as I can remember none of my friends had a copy of what would become a landmark pop culture phenomenon, so I guess for once in my life I was ahead of the curve.
25 years later and I can't help but have a bittersweet reaction to this cover. Michael was a legend and somewhat of a hero to millions of fans. Somewhere along the way he got lost. For the sake of nostalgia, I prefer this youthful and compelling Michael, and just keep in my mind the memory of putting "Thriller" on my turntable for the first time, and listening to the opening of what would become a decade-defining soundscape.
November 22, 2007
And we wonder why the citizenry has lost faith when the privileged eat cake and let the icing fall from their lips so carelessly and without worry...
October 29, 2007
October 25, 2007
October 10, 2007
October 1, 2007
September 27, 2007
September 25, 2007
I stumbled across this remarkable memoir three years ago in a discount bin. It was such an ignoble place to find such a singular work. I have read it about five times now since my discovery, and I recommend it for anyone interested in etymology and the origins of human civilization, and its accompanying deitrus. This is not an academic book but rather a very personal journey of its most poetic author. So much of humanity sprung from the sands, and our stories of creation and time can be traced back to the desert and its eternal mysteries.
September 21, 2007
September 19, 2007
September 17, 2007
September 16, 2007
September 12, 2007
September 11, 2007
September 6, 2007
August 21, 2007
It was our 6th anniversary on Friday, so Mark and I decided to do a quick get-away to Ottawa, where we stayed at the lovely Rideau Inn just off Elgin Street. We had a lovely and remarkably well-priced 4-course meal at Mamma Teresa, Ottawa's most famous Italian restaurant. The genial host seated us in a small dining room right in front of a fireplace. Our evening ended with a lovely stroll along the Rideau Canal, over to the Byward Market, and back...
August 20, 2007
Fans of the late "Firefly" series will no doubt be sympathetic towards those loyal viewers of the ill-fated NBC show "Surface". When massive, new marine life forms begin to threaten the existence of humans, the fate of four individuals become inextricably interwoven. With some high-level government consipiracy and good, old-fashioned suspense thrown in, "Surface" certainly had the potential to be as popular as any of its peers that enjoyed the sci-fi watermark during the 1990s.
Much like the recent "Transformers" movie, what really sells "Surface" is the stellar work of lead kid Carter Jenkins, who anchors the rest of the cast with an uncanny realism. You develop immediate pathos for him and, like Shia Labeouf, it is his work on-screen that makes the digital effects both believable and worth caring about.
This is a very fine piece of sci-fi and I highly recommend it, even if only for the terrifying yet brilliant scene shot high above a boat on a lake that I'll never, ever forget. If you enjoy the series, join the fight to bring it back at Save Surface.
August 16, 2007
Oh, and remember the 20 million people displaced and hundreds killed by the massive floods in Asia? Good luck getting an update on the aftermath from CNN. Hmmm...for some reason the plight of masses equivalent to the population of Australia just doesn't merit the kind of in-depth coverage they've applied to a collapsing bridge responsible for less than a dozen deaths.
Now, to be fair, CNN is covering a report that 8 million Iraqis are "without water, sanitation, food and shelter and need emergency aid", although you have to click on CNN World and then scroll down to the middle of the page to find the link. Indeed, that 8 million souls are in imminent risk does not warrant bold, red banner headline remains a mystery to me. It's not even a top world story, according to CNN.
Each of these stories is a tragedy, and surely all are deserving of our tears. Yet, I remain baffled at the choices made as to whose lives are more important, what is news worthy, and who most deserves our sympathies and attention.
August 15, 2007
I've recently discovered Wikimapia, which is a great way to see the world without lining up at the airport. For fun, I've decided to look for the places where I've lived.
One of the finds to tug at my heart is my childhood home, where I lived from 1978 to 1987. I have such fond memories of living in the country on the Ottawa River, as do my sisters. In 1987, we moved down river to Aylmer, where my family has lived ever since. I moved to Kingston to attend Queen's and, save for two years, have been here ever since.
I've lived at the following addresses in Kingston: Leonard Hall, Victoria Hall, 323 William St.,154 King St East, 236 Wellington St., 558 Frontenac St. , and I currently live at 17 Rideau Street. My next place will likely be the house Mark and I purchase..so stay tuned!
August 12, 2007
August 7, 2007
August 4, 2007
Some interesting results: The middle-income ranks in Britain shrank by 4.5%; in Sweden by 7.1% ; and in the U.S. by 2.4%. Switzerland and Germany stayed at pretty much the same percentages, while Norway and Canada were the only nations to see a rise in their middle classes. Canada saw an increase by 4% so that 37% of the population was middle class. While this did mean that Canada's upper class shrank by 1.9% to comprise 33.3% of the population, the good-news story is that more movement occured from poor to middle class.
For some context, StatsCan reports that the median after-tax income for Canadian families with two or more people rose 1.6% from 2004 to $56,000, after adjusting for inflation. This increase in after-tax income came on the heels of a 1.3% gain in 2004. Median after-tax income of "unattached individuals," or singles, remained stable at $21,400 in 2005. About 14% of the population lived as unattached individuals in 2005, up from 11% two decades earlier.
What is Canada's secret sauce? Government. As Pressman tellingly comments, “I am not sure that the middle class can be self-sustaining. It seems to require active government policies. The market tends to produce great inequalities in income; these inequalities seem greater in a global economy.”
However, the Canadian Council on Social Development warns that, "In one of the most prosperous decades in Canadian history, incomes among the 20% of Canadians just below the median bracket – low-income working Canadians – actually fell. Among the 10% of families with the lowest earnings, average income was $10,341 in 2000, only a slight increase from $10,260 a decade earlier." Clearly, we have more work to do to genuinely tackle poverty in our country.
Still, the Canadian middle-class, a global success story, owes its sustenation to Canada's long policy of government intervention to protect the quality of life of its citizenry. Indeed, our beloved "Soviet Canuckistan" should take pride in this tradition and progressive vision.
August 1, 2007
July 23, 2007
*A Democratic Senator is planning to introduce a motion to censure President Bush for, among many things, the greatest assault on the U.S. Constitution in its history. The effects of a censure would largely be symbolic as it is merely a public reprimand. Besides, it's clear that Bush's political savings account has been in serious overdraft for at least a year or so.
*Tammy Faye Messner passed away July 20, after a long and hard battle with cancer. She had weathered the sex and financial scandals of her former husband, televangelist James (Jim) Bakker, and she has always struck me as a great American sad clown, what with her penchant for excessive facial makeup. Still, she deserves a great deal of credit for being a voice of tolerance amidst the cacophany of conservative Christian rhetoric.
*The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Friday that butane lighters are allowed on-board planes again, although it's still pretty tricky to bring on a bottle of water.
*The National Center for Health Statistics reports that, in 2005, over 650,000 Americans died of heart disease, over 550,000 died of cancer, over 150,000 died of stroke, over 120,000 died of lower respiratory diseases, over 72,000 died from diabetes, and over 31,000 died from self-inflicted injuries. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2004, 37 million Americans lived in poverty and 45.8 million were without health insurance coverage. What more will it take for the Bush administration to raise the alert level to red on the real crisis in the homeland?!
July 20, 2007
July 17, 2007
July 16, 2007
July 13, 2007
How difficult it is not to slip into bouts of cynicism, as we watch the candidates on both sides of the non-existent divide get ready to trample across New Hampshire.
There was Clinton-squared in Idaho on a flatbed truck, miming a perfect marriage, Giuliani taking heat from the largest firefighters' union over inaccurate claims made by his team, and McCain re-arranging the deck chairs on his doomed vessel of a campaign.
There was President Bush commuting Cheney's right-hand man, "Scooter" Libby, and the press blinked their eyes repeatedly, rolled over and played dead. Surely somewhere, a relaxed Rumsfield is polishing his notes for a lecture circuit that will have him laughing all the way to the bank.
July 10, 2007
Barry Zwicker's Towers of Deception (2006) should be required reading for anyone interested in the failure of the mass media organizations to uphold their fourth estate role as the gatekeepers of truth and meaning.
Centred on the events at the World Trade Center and The Pentagon that fateful September morning, Zwicker--a Canadian journalist-- methodically presents a haunting and worrisome collection of omissions, disinformation, and on-the-record evidence that cumulatively serve to irrefutably contradict the official story of "the day the world changed". Zwicker also demonstrates the profound complicity in the mainstream media outlets in perpetuating demonstrable falsities and fallacies. The entire book heightens the tragedy of the events, and it cannot be simply brushed aside as the ranting of a troubled mind in a basement apartment.
Indeed, Towers is remarkably well-researched, and painstakingly presented to do what the supposedly "final word" 9/11 Commission failed so blatantly to: ask the logical questions that follow the best available evidence. The results are frightening, enlightening, and empowering...
July 9, 2007
July 5, 2007
Starring Pater Krause ("Six Feet Under"), this captivating story centres on a motel key that opens any door in the world (provided it has a key-lock). Any door opened with the key always leads to room #10, a room that exists outside of time and space. Of note, there were roughly 100 or so objects that were once within the room, and most have been taken out by previous key-holders. Outside the room, the Objects take on supernatural powers in the real world.
A tragic set of events catapult our reluctant hero into the middle of a battle between one cabal called the Order of the Reunification (aka 'The Order')--who want to reunite all the Objects and thus directly talk to God--and another cabal called the Legion--who want to find the objects so they can hide them and protect humanity from the Order and the Objects' perceived collective power. Along the way, Joe Miller (Krause) meets other Object holders, a fierce Object collector on his own quest, and an apparently neutral Object locator, who tracks and sells objects.
One of the best things about the show is that we only know as much as Miller, so you are on the edge of your seat as each new revelation occurs. The whole series runs a little under 5 hours, so you can easily commit yourself over a couple of nights to what the New York Times calls a "beguiling" show!
While this old-stone is now one of our favourite places, we stayed in a most modern environment at the opposite end of the aesthetic scale, the ultra-hip W Montreal. From our personal and warm welcome from the staff to the cool, large room, we knew we had made a good decision.
After settling in our room we embarked on a whirlwind, 4-hour walk of Montreal. We started by heading over to "Le Village" (the gay village), where we enjoyed some great shops and the dozens of rainbow flags draped on just about every business. We then hopped on the Metro (subway) and up to Le Plateau district, taking in the awesome Saint-Denis street and the cozy Duluth street, and we then lined up in the rain in front of Shwartz's deli. It was worth the wait, and we were seated at the bar in this famous eatery, open since 1928. We enjoyed the classic combo of smoked meat sandwich, cole slaw, and cherry cola. Yummy!
We then decided to walk back to downtown, through Mordecai Richler's neighborhood, along Saint Laurent. We eventually came to Chinatown, browsed some more cool shops, and then wandered back to our hotel room to take a well-deserved rest. To our delight, a complimentary bottle of 2004 red wine and a platter of fruit was awaiting us. We collapsed on our chaise lounge and dug into our treats!
After a rest and clean-up we were ready to head into Old Montreal, my favourite part of the city, where we eventually found our restaurant mentioned above. We then enjoyed a romantic stroll along the narrow streets and winded our way back to our hotel.
Wednesday morning we again headed back to Old Montreal on a quest for a light breakfast. After a rather long search we found the perfect bistro where I had a coffee and a croissant and Mark had juice and a bagel. We then had a marvelous walk criss-crossing the awesome art galleries on Saint Paul street, and wound our way back to the hotel.
Although we had arranged a late 4PM check-out, we decided to check out early, and we got in our rental car and decided to head back up to Le Plateau to try and find what is arguably the most famous bagel shop in North America, St-Viateur Bagel. This turned into a small odyssey, as it was dumping buckets of rain and we weren't exactly sure where the shop is, just the neighborhood in general. And, thanks to the famed Montreal style of driving, we were almost hit about 20 times! Finally, we spotted it through the deluge, found parking, and ran into the store.
Opened in 1957, this bagel shop is really a small factory, where the wood-burning ovens go 24/7 and you can watch the bagels being made and cooked. We got a dozen, and we ate three as they were still piping warm. Mmmmm.
We then spent the next two hours getting out of the city limits, as it was now rush hour and the main entrance to HWY 720 was closed. We finally got out and then we stopped in Valleyfield for an awesome meal of poutine before heading back to Ontario. A great and memorable trip!
June 19, 2007
Queen's has just announced that it has picked the same firm that is currently designing the World Trade Centre Memorial Museum Pavilion to restore a former brewery & distillery (circa 1839) into a new Queen's "arts campus". The 3-acre, waterfront campus will house academic spaces for the departments of Drama, Film Studies, and the School of Music. In addition, the site will have a new performing arts complex that would contain such elements as a 500-seat concert hall, a 200-seat theatre, and other academic and performance space. This project is being funded by a gift from a very generous Queen's alumnus, and it is intended to create an artistic space not only for the University but also for the city at large. Public access to the waterfront location will be maintained and arts and cultural groups currently using the Tett Centre will continue to do so.
June 15, 2007
Last weekend I participated in my first ever Pride March! I had watched the Kingston Pride festivities from the sidelines for many years, but this year I got up the courage to join in, and I was blessed to have my partner, Mark, and my sister, Angela, along with me in support. I must admit it was an emotional experience. I was not prepared for how it hit me to the core, and what such an act truly means politically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was also so pleased that we were joined by the Sydenham Street United Church and our local NDP chapter. Other groups joining in included the Queen's student government, and CRFC radio. To his credit, Kingston mayor Harvey Rosen kicked off the event. On the ironic side of things, and unknown to most of us, the Shriners had also booked their massive parade for the very same day. So there were hundreds of older folks lined up and down our main street who ended up getting a rather colourful opening act!!
June 13, 2007
They are currently working on the design of organic user interfaces, an exciting new paradigm that allows computers to have any shape or form. Some amazing examples of their research can be found on their videos page, but the one getting the most attention from the media (including Wired and Businessweek) is their device for advertisers to track the effectiveness of their messages by measuring how many people are looking at their billboards and screens. This invention, called eyebox2, was unveiled at Google HQ last month.
What is so striking is that the team is currently working on creating and launching truly attentive (and interactive) work stations, computers, and cellphones, and even household appliances. And what with the Premier of Ontario announcing yesterday a grant of $21-million for Queen's to create and build an Advanced Research and Innovation Institute the stuff of cartoon fantasy and sci-fi blockbusters appear to be just around the corner...
June 12, 2007
June 8, 2007
June 6, 2007
The good people who are part of Kingston Accommodation Partners (KAP) have launched a campaign to draw LGBT tourists to Kingston. They've branded Kingston as a "city of colours", making vague reference to the colours of the Pride flag. I salute their efforts and hope, with time, we can create a genuinely positive space for queer folks to visit and, perhaps, to stay.
June 4, 2007
May 31, 2007
May 29, 2007
Anchored by the excellent Edward James Olmos (yes, he from TV's Miami Vice) and Mary McDonnell (two-time Academy Award nominee), the cast is simply outstanding. The series explores the relationship between a government and its military, and human values under the most adverse conditions, all amidst the clash between human and non-human sentient beings after our species is forced to flee from Earth after a massive attack.
If science fiction allows us to think about the here and now, albeit within a fantastical or imagined context, "Battlestar Galactica" provides a stunning canvas to examine our society's present and it's very precarious future. Hopefully, we have the magic within us to imagine a better vision.
May 15, 2007
I was in the last year of high school when the warning bells were struck over the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (which later morphed into NAFTA), and how it would precipitate the decline of Canadian culture and values. The rhetoric spun on both sides of the debate here in Canada, from Mulroney's handlers to the Council of Canadians was particularly divisive.
It appears the worry was not warranted. The differences among Canadian and American citizenry are rather striking. As Adams writes, "[the research] show that Canadians' values are significantly different from (and more postmodern than) Americans, it also reveals that the two countries' values are actually becoming more disparate".
Among the findings: Canadians have evolved from being much more religious than their American counterparts to being considerably less so; twice the percentage of Americans than Canadians think violence is a normal part of life; Americans are much more prepared to take greater risks to get what they want than Canadians; almost double the percentage of Americans than Canadians think the use of violence is an acceptable way to get what you want; whereas 8 in 10 Canadians are skeptical of the claims of advertisers, 4 in 10 Americans believe a widely advertised product is a good one; 77% of Canadians said that immigrants have a good influence on their country, whereas 49% of Americans felt the same way.
I am convinced that the fact that Americans kill themselves and each other with the use of firearms at ten times the rate that Canadian do is one of the most powerful influencers of the data above and on the two countries' overall political landscapes. Indeed, whereas 49% of American households have at least one firearm, only 19% of Canadian households do. What is further striking is that censorship of broadcast media on sexuality, nudity, and certain forms of violence is particularly high in the U.S., often from the very same proponents of the right to bear arms. And surely the fact that Canada abolished slavery 70 years prior to the United States represents an early defining point in Canada's social values.
In terms of the family, 49% of Americans agree with the statement that "The father of the family must be master in his own home", while only 18% of Canadians agree. Not surprisingly, 38% of Americans stated that men are naturally superior to women, compared to 24% of Canadians. Is it any surprise how the two countries differ in the recognition of equal rights for same-sex couples?
One of Adams' most astute observations is that "the two regions in North America that define the extremes of social values north of the Rio Grande--the U.S. South...and Quebec...are also the regions that have come to have disproportionate political clout in their respective countries". Both regions are clearly values incubators and each has come to define and influence their respective country's overall direction over the past 50 years.
For any potential leader, be they cultural, political, or business, understanding the social values of our two countries is a very necessary undertaking. I present these findings not as a normative exercise but as a descriptive one. It has been argued by many that Canadians solely define themselves in opposition to their American neighbours. Adams points out that through our founding ideas, our institutions, and our building of our country, Canadians have created a distinctive and enduring nation.
May 3, 2007
Kingston has some very real social justice problems, a worrisome unemployment rate, poor physical infrastructure, and an inadequate industrial tax base. I imagine this ranking reflects only those who fall around or above the reported average annual family income of $67,000, which is surely not a fair snapshot of the city's socio-economic reality.
It would have been much more accurate to report the overall median Kingston household income, which the 2001 Canadian Census reveals was $58,413. That's a significant variance from the average! However, single-parent households (which the Census reports were 15% of Kingston's population in 2001) fared worse, with a median income of $29,872. Surely these latter households do not have 24% discretionary income as reported in the ranking.
The city has an unusually high concentration of public service institutions (Corrections, CFB, Queen's, RMC...) whose employees stack the income data on the high end. My understanding is that we have a very high proportion of citizens on social assistance, many of whom are the families of those incarcerated in the region's plentiful correctional (i.e. prison) facilities.
So I have mixed feelings on this ranking. In many ways I am proud, as this is my chosen hometown. I have made this my home for some 16 years, and I have certainly come to agree that my quality of life is higher than my friends and peers in other cities. But we fail all of our citizens if we sweep the realities of our disadvantaged off the street with another glossy ranking.