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Monday, March 29, 2004

 
Alberta automotons, Ontario Sheep

The venerable Colby Cosh had a political round-up column in the National Post on March 19 in which noted increasing talk of Liberal electoral vulnerability and said that

such talk may force Liberal voters-by-default in Ontario to actually think, mirabile dictu, before they mark a ballot.

It's not the first time he's implied that Ontarians voters sheep. It's not true.

E pluribus Unum (almost)

Colby Cosh's disdain for the mental powers of Ontarians likely arises from the 98 Liberals Ontario sent to Parliament in 1994. Followed by 101 in 1997, and 100 in 2001.

This near unanimity seems astonishing, but there is another province that rivals, if not exceeds, Ontario in its sheepness. Alberta. In 1994, Albertans sent 22 Reformers out of 26 seats. In 1997 and 2001, it sent 24. Is Alberta more sheeplike than Ontario -- look at the table below, which gives the number of seats taken by the majority party in each province since Deifenbaker.

ParliamentYearAlta. majority/totalOnt. majority/total
23rd195713/1761/85
24th 195817/1767/85
25th196215/1743/85
26th196314/1752/85
27th196515/1751/85
28th196815/1964/88
29th197219/1940/88
30th197419/1955/88
31st197921/2157/95
32nd198021/2152/95
33rd198421/2167/95
34th198825/2646/99
35th199322/2698/99
36th199724/26101/103
36th200023/26100/103

Alberta has consistently been the most sheep-like province in returning mono-party MPs to Parliament. And if you go by popular vote, Alberta (56% to Alliance in 2000) to is far more automoton than Ontario (46% to Liberals). Colby Cosh should feel (how can I resist) sheepish.

posted by Ikram at 8:35 PM

Friday, March 26, 2004

 
Mainstreaming blogs in Canadian Media

Paul Wells got one. Andrew Coyne got one. Colby Cosh always had one. And now old-media Margaret Wente is talking about 'em

If you get depressed reading Naomi Klein, go on-line to read what Iraqi webloggers have to say. They're astonished by the protests in the West.

"Why are they doing this!?" asks Zayed, a dentist in Baghdad. After sifting through the options, he settles on intellectual dishonesty and ignorance. "Your lives certainly have not been that easy for sure, but did you ever fear that your children might starve to death? Or did you live your life with ...

You can go ahead and read the rest. I hope Wente reads Baghdad Burning as well as Zeyad. But seeing how Margaret's views have gone from ordinary Ontario centrist to warblogger wacky in the past year and a half, I get the feeling she's only reading the worst of the popular blog world. Just another reminder to careful about what we feed our brains.

posted by Ikram at 12:28 AM

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

 
Something, somewhere, jumped a shark Noam Chomsky has a blog. (via crooked timber)

posted by Ikram at 9:12 PM

Sunday, March 21, 2004

 
Tid-bits

UPDATES: More naming conventions. Buscaroans on Latin practices and Brian Ulrich on Arab conventions.

Also, Thebit notes in the comments that not only are Bagpipes at Sialkoti weddings ... a must. but also that kilts and the entire tartan (don't ask which clan: McPunjabi?) attire is also present. Do you still doubt that the British Empire was evil?

posted by Ikram at 2:27 AM

Sunday, March 14, 2004

 
Federal Election in Ontario: Across the Ridings (continued)

This post is a continuation of this earlier post

South-western Ontario --- chinks in the armor

In the urban southwest of this province, Liberal weakness begins to appear. In union-filled Windsor, the riding of Windsor-Tecumsah should stay NDP. And Elgin-Middlesex-London, a quasi-urban riding, will elect a Conservative (bye-bye Gar Knutson). It'll be 11 Liberals, 1 Conservative, 1 NDPer.

Rural Ontario -- Grumpy Tories

Here's where the fight will be. I count 15 ridings are rural Ontario (including Peterborough). Many of these have been traditional Tories since confederation, dropping into the Liberal camp due to the right-wing vote split. PMPM will win his majority if he can convince them that, as he said

It's incredibly evident that what's happened is that the Alliance has simply taken over the (Progressive) Conservative party

Right now, he's holding it together, and is sure to lose only Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound (see ya, Ovid Jackson), and Halliburton-Kawartha-Lakes (John O'reilly, who recently expressed concerns about Liberal beaver skins). On the knife edge is Oxford (John Finlay) and Essex (Susan Whelan). I'll say that PMPM should pray the polls hold and that he stays at 13 Liberals and 2 Conservatives

Eastern Ontario -- Conservative Breakthrough

In the last election, eastern Ontario was the only part of the province where Liberal attempts to paint Stockwell Day as dangerous westerner and right-wing loon failed. Two seats went Alliance. This time around, it will be much worse.

Lennox-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, mostly made of up of Larry McCormick's old seat, and Leeds Grenville, Junior Minister Joe Jordan's seat will go Conservative. Also likely to turn blue is Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Deputy Speaker Bob Kilger's seat.

Add those to the two the Conservatives already hold, as that gives us 4 Liberals and 5 Conservatives

Last words

My tabulations are based on Ipsos-Reid polling, and added all up give 91 Liberals, 11 Conservatives, 4 NDP. This differs materially from a recent G&M calculation by Drew Fagan, who saw 80 Liberals, 20 Conservatives, and 6 NDPers. The discrepancy probably comes out of sub-regional vote shifts in Fagan's projections. Former Tories in Toronto are more likely to vote Liberal that former Tories in rural Ontario. And NDPers will gain more Liberal votes in Toronto than in the 905. I need to work on that.

But my regional breakdown makes it pretty clear that the Liberals' most vulnerable regions in Ontario are Eastern Ontario and Rural Ontario (total 24 ridings). Thus the PMPM majority, insofar as Ontario is critical, depends on the white, old, former Tory in small town and rural Ontario. Will his suspicion of westerners and religious nuts outweigh his distaste for corrupt Frenchie Liberals? Canada waits to find out.

(For riding-by-riding distributed analysis as the election nears, check out this site.)

posted by Ikram at 1:45 AM

Saturday, March 06, 2004

 
More Khadr If you didn't see the latest CBC documentary on the Khadr family, Canada's most famous Muslim terrorists, check out this web-site. The revelations by Al-Qaeda member turned CIA agent Aburrahman Khadr are amazing.

Also check out Irshad Manji's response in the Globe and Mail.

posted by Ikram at 5:17 PM

Thursday, February 26, 2004

 
Adbusters, Robert Kagan, Tariq Ramadan, Identity

Kalle Lasn at Adbusters, a Vancouver-based anti-consumerist magazine, was the cause of a recent minor outrage among some bloggers, for writing

A lot of ink has been spilled chroniclers the pro-Israel leaning of American neo-cons and the fact that a disproportionate percentage of them are Jewish. Some commentators are worried that these individuals ... do not distinguish between American and Israeli interests

Lasn then listed the 50 most influential neo-cons in the US, and put a dot beside those that were Jewish. Completely unacceptable?

Blogger-Journalist Matthew Yglesias thought so, and went R-rated (also here), the academics at Crooked Timber condemned, and the Volokh conspiracy jokingly embraced the accusation.

Lasn was wrong in many ways. For example, (s)he defined neocons as, among other things, being linked to Israel's Likud party -- and then was surprised that her list was half Jewish. Or, (s)he noted that most Jewish-Americans vote Democrat and disagree with Sharon, then ignored that point. There's much more -- it's a pretty flawed article.

Open and shut case, right?

Sort of. No blogger I read noted the article on the page opposite the Lasn article -- a bio/interview of Tariq Ramadan.

Tariq Ramadan is a famous European intellectual, author of To be a European Muslim and creator of controversy. Last October, he caused an uproar in France when he wrote

Jewish French Intellectuals who until [the Iraq war] we had considered universal thinkers, started to develop analyses on the national and international front that were more and more biased to the concerns of their community

Ramadan singled out Bernard-Henri Levy as one of the new communitarians. The Adbusters article, when seen in print, is pretty obviously a clumsy attempt to apply Ramadan's European controversy to America.

(Highly recommended: the conversation between Lee Smith and Abu Aardvark about Ramadan 1,2,3. Also, Al-muhajabah reviews the book)

Twice as much Bigotry?

Doesn't this just make it worse? -- Adbusters is using what some Jewish Frenchmen considered an anti-Semitic idea and applying it to the USA.

Sort of. As Adbusters' Jonathan Bronson put it, Ramadan was asking why

Ramadan is often referred to as a 'Muslim intellectual', questions why it is impossible to refer to someone as a 'Jewish intellectual'. To put a finer point on it, why are French philosophers treated as if they have no ethnic background whatsoever?

Here, the controversy takes a peculiar turn, as Ramadan's complaint about Bernard Henri-Levy is the same as Robert Kagan's complaint about Fareed Zakaria. In response to a scathing review of Zakaria's book by Kagan, Zakaria responded with, among other things,

The review's most offensive aspect ... is the opening paragraph, where Kagan suggests that my views on democracy and liberalism are simply the product of my identity and experience as an Indian Muslim. As Kagan knows well, I am an American citizen and have been writing ... always with America's interests at heart. The insinuation that my ideas can be reduced to matters of religion or ethnicity is beneath contempt ...

(Some of my views on the issue here)

Identity and Ideas

So who's right? Robert Kagan, Tariq Ramadan and Adbusters, or Fareed Zakaria and countless bloggers. Can ideas be reduced, or explained, by ethnicity?

At one level, Kagan and Ramadan are obviously correct. The sum of your experiences, your view of your place in the world, influences, if not determines, your political views. Kagan agrees

Clearly [Zakaria's] experience played some part in shaping his views, as it would anyone's

And it is only human to try to reconcile different strands of identity, and to convince yourself and others that they are consonant. Trudeau thought the best way to preserve the French fact in North America was within a united Canada, a view that allowed him to reconcile his mixed English and French parentage.

Reasons, not refutations

So identity does shape our ideas, sometimes quite strongly. But that does not mean those ideas are wrong. Trudeau's views on Canada can arise from family background and still be correct. And Perle may be right that one cannot distinguish between the interests of Israel and the interests of America. These propositions ought to be evaluated on their merits, not rejected because the advocates have insufficiently 'pure' motives.

Remarking on the ethnic background of neocons, or Fareed Zakaria, doesn't really matter. It's not outrageous, and neither is it particularly interesting.

Not very convincing...

I think the above analysis makes sense, but it isn't really true. People are keenly interested in Wolfowitz' ethnicity. And Zakaria was outraged, not bored, by Kagan's insinuations about his religion. Being accused of having a 'secret agenda' behind your views stings, even though it does not refute any of those views. Kagan, Lasn, and Ramadan all did something bad -- I just can't put my finger on exactly what.

posted by Ikram at 7:28 PM

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

 
Islam here and there

At the time I was 15 and stupid, and the boundaries of my spiritual universe went no farther than Eid prayers twice a year. My world was friends, and school, and giggling about boys, ... [t]hat was my world. I never came to Islamic Camp [also in the US] for the Islam, I came for the camp!....

Well, we went to this camp, and I was just blown away. I was in shock, ... because of what I saw. I saw hijabis, beautiful, intelligent, loud, crazy, wonderful hijabis who destroyed all the myths that even I believed about Islam and Muslim culture. It’s true, being raised in the US I had the same stereotypes about Muslim women who covered, that they were oppressed with the cultural baggage of a scarf... . It never one occurred to me that there might be logic or beauty or even free will behind it ...

That was not the year I started wearing a scarf and practicing Islam, it was the year after that. That was just the year my eyes were opened, just a little. I couldn’t see the big picture, but I knew it was there, and I knew that I had some looking to do. I started asking myself questions ...

And it’s been slow going, and I’m still nowhere near my destination. But here I am today, and I have Allah to thank for it, for giving me parents who taught morality no matter what religion ... . I thank Allah for making me Muslim, cuz God knows that if I was left to my own devices, I would have vanished into the spiritual no-man’s land that people sleep-walk their lives through. -- Abez, an American born woman now living in Pakistan (scroll to February 12, 2004)

I just realized today that I don't think I've spoken in detail of my 2-week experience when I was 11 in a madrassa. ....

Setting: Bangladesh. Visiting my mother's family. My mean fundamentalist uncle told her she should give me & my brother an Islamic education. So my nice fundamentalist uncle ... takes me to a nearby mosque.

.... we got special treatment. We saw our mother sometimes in the evenings during this two week period. Most of the students were from rural areas. They just read the Koran, though of course none of them understood it that I gathered, they simply would keep going to school until they memorized it front to the back. Their days were basically the same for 5-7 years ...

The kids were sad. Many of them didn't know what they were going to do with their life, they were just very horny and fixated on memorizing the Koran so they could actually have free time.

My uncles told me that the madrassa would open my heart to Allah, to the message of the Prophet, but it just made me sad, and more confirmed in my atheism. There was a sterility in that hall that I can't put into words. It was in some ways the most mentally bleak and desolate 2 weeks of my life. Allah seems to demand a monopoly on heart and mind-so that no room is left for anything else. And that, I could not abide.... -- Razib, a Bangladeshi born man now living in America

UPDATE: The point here is that who we are is not a product of our own choices. Abez could have been the atheist is she had gone to the soulless madrassa. Razib could have been devout if his Islamic instruction had been mixed in with canoeing and rappelling. Near random events determine our identities -- how can we be sure any one of us is in the right?

posted by Ikram at 9:59 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 
Federal Election in Ontario: Across the Ridings

In a few months, PMPM will call a federal election. His ability to lead the Liberal party to a fourth consecutive majority government depends a great deal on whether they can hold on to Ontario. In 2000, the Liberals won 99 of the 103 federal ridings.

This time around, thanks to redistribution, Ontario has 106 ridings, more than one-third of the total for Canada. Elections Canada has helpfully transposed Election 2000's voting results onto the new 106 ridings (warning: PDF). Had the last elections been held under the new boundaries, the Liberals would have won 105 of the 106 ridings (with the Conservatives taking Carleton-Lanark).

Falling Liberals

But the election will not be held under fear-of-a-Stockwell-Planet circumstances, it will be held under the shadow of Liberal profiteering and mismanagement. According to an Ipsos-Reid poll of Feb 20, 2004, Liberal and Conservative support is down, while the NDP have more than doubled their popularity in Ontario.

LiberalsAlliance + PCNDP
Vote Share in 2000 Election 51.5 38.0 8.3
Vote Share on February 20, 2004 46.0 29.0 18.0

Musical Chairs

But what does this mean in seats? I applied the polling results to each of the new 106 ridings to see which Liberals are vulnerable. (In order to do this, I estimated that the Liberals lost 20% of their 2000 vote share to the NDP, but gained about half of old PC voters, with the other half going to the Conservatives. Alternative voter migration models, such as making some Tories into Dippers, gives about the same results.) Here's a breakdown by region.

The 905 -- Grit haven

Ralph Klein will become a vegan before the Liberals lose any of the 20 seats in the 905. Grits should win a majority of the vote in at least ten ridings. And only in the semi-rural riding of Clarington-Scugog-Uxbridge( map) is there even the slightest risk of losing (to the Conservatives). 20 Liberals

Toronto -- Dipper Failure

The mustache-iod Layton is supposed to paint the town yellow, but unless he recruits superstar candidates, he should win only his own Toronto-Danforth (beating Dennis Mills -- map) and Trinity-Spadina (Micheal Valpy? beats Tony Ianno-- map).

Layton should also target Beaches-East-York (map), Davenport (map), and Parkdale-HighPark (map), but he shouldn't expect to win. 22 Liberals, 2 NDPers

Hamilton-Niagara -- yet more Liberals

Niagara-West-Glanbrook (map, data), which is made up of about half of Tony Valeri's old Stoney Creek riding, will go Conservative. I guarantee it (only 20% of Tories need to vote Harper for the Liberals to lose). This probably explains why Valeri is so desperate to take over Sheila Copp's riding.

All the rest go red. 8 Liberals, 1 Conservative

Ottawa -- Broadbent beats Mahoney

Of the six Ottawa seats, the Liberals are likely to lose two. In my own Ottawa-Centre (map), Martin bagman Richard Mahoney will face off against Eminence-grise Broadbent. The NDP got 23% of the vote in 2000 running Heather-Jane Robertson, and I think Ed's star-power should win the day.

In Nepean-Carleton (map, data), Defence Minister David Pratt will lose his seat if more than 40% of former Tories switch to Stephen Harper's party. I think they will. 4 Liberals, 1 Conservative, 1 NDPer

Northern Ontario -- Three cornered contests

The North has three competitive parties, making it very difficult to predict winners. But absent any special circumstances, 8 of 9 seats should be safely Liberal. The exception is Thunder-Bay-Rainy-River (map, data), which could go to any party. I'll call it 8 Liberals, 1 Conservative

to be continued

 

 

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