Winnipeg girls cut from hockey team

As a final follow up on the story of the Pasternak twins from Winnipeg, the girls received news this week that the were cut from the team. To refresh the stories I’ve blogged about previously, this past June Amy and Jesse Pasternak have spent the past few months arguing to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission that they should be allowed to try out for the senior boys team at their school. Last week, the HRC returned their decision, allowing the girls to try out for this year’s team. After going through the same tryout procedure as 25 other players, the Pasternak’s were cut, along with 9 other boys trying out for the team.

I added that last bit, because I think its important to remember that these were nothing more than hockey tryouts. 27 players skated for a few days in front of a few coaches, scrimmaging and running drills. Of those 27 players, it was always clear that 11 of them would go away, unable to compete with the 16 who were chosen, for whatever reasons the coaches happened to see. The fact that, this year, 2 of the 11 players cut happened to be girls is interesting from some perspectives, perhaps, but from a hockey perspective, all that happened was that 11 people were cut from tryouts.

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New Server up and running …

Well, it looks as though the new hardware is installed, and happily serving your requests.  If you are reading this note at either http://blog.globalparadigm.info/ or http://www.globalparadigm.info/, then this message was served to you from my new server.  In theory, it should be transparent to the user (although if anyone has been having trouble with the comments page, having it seem like it never submits a message, I HOPE I solved that little bug with the upgrade).

Any comments or suggestions are welcome.  If you notice that things aren’t working quite right, or there’s a bug to report, leave me a comment or mail me at elron6900@gmail.com.  Even if you just have a question or comment about my setup, feel free to drop me a line.  Thanks again for your readership, and for bearing with me during the upgrade process … I trust that it happened with a minimum of inconvenience.

New server for View from the Edge and Global Paradigm

My new server has arrived finally, so I’ll be spending the next few days migrating both my blog, and the Global Paradigm magazine, from the old hardware to the new stuff. I’ll do my best to make this as seamless as possible for you readers, but there’s no getting around a little bit of down time. I still have a fair bit of database work to do before I’m ready to go live on the new hardware, but I’m expecting it to happen within 48 hours.

In the meantime, this blog is always mirrored at WordPress.com, so if you have errors with the http://blog.globalparadigm.info/ address, try using the https://elronsviewfromtheedge.wordpress.com/blog-posts/ link instead … it will remain up regardless of what I do on my own server. Right now, Global Paradigm magazine has no mirror, so hopefully you’ll bear with me over there.

For people interested in the techie details, I’m migrating to a 64-bit HP/Compaq machine as my server. Should give me plenty of room for growth, and even though I haven’t really been taxing my old Pentium 3 server with my current traffic levels, the steady increase in traffic over the past few months has got me thinking about future capacity. Regardless, moving to a modern 64-bit machine gives me the option to do a lot of extra things with the machine if I want, without even thinking of impacting current server performance.

For folks wondering about the OS end of things, I’ve been a pretty loyal Redhat user now for well over half a decade. I think Redhat 6 was the first version I installed, and ever since I’ve been satisfied enough with the performance not to really look elsewhere. I am currently using the Fedora Core 5 (and ofc, on this install I moved from the i386 packages to x86_64 packages … and I guarantee that sometime down the road, I will waste some time trying to figure out why the i386 packages I downloaded won’t install properly, lol). I round out my fairly standard LAMP server with Apache 2.2, PHP 5.1, and Mysql 5.0.

On top of all that, I use 2 sets of software, one for my blog and one for the Global Paradigm magazine. View from the Edge is powered by WordPress software, purpose built to serve as a blogging platform. It provides a variety of easy to use templates for the look and feel of your website, and makes modification and personal tweaking of styles extremely easy. Global Paradigm uses a more general system, a content management system called Drupal. Designed for more general use, Drupal is a powerful system for organizing essentially any content for a web-based (or intranet-based) presentation. Flexible templates, with interchangeable and movable blocks, a robust and very usable taxonomy section, and plug-ins and add-ons galore, Drupal is a good choice for anyone looking to set up a basic web presence with minimal effort.

Perverse Pervez?

I doubt anyone has mistaken the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, for someone gifted in diplomatic speech. He’s never been one to shy away from speaking his mind, but his recent comments during a CBC interview in Canada might seem, at first glance, to go beyond the pale. Speaking about Canadian causalities in Afghanistan, he said …

“We have suffered 500 casualties, Canadians may have suffered four or five,” he said in the interview. “You suffer two dead, and there’s a cry and shout all around the base that there are coffins. Well, we’ve had 500 coffins.”

It seems, at the very least, politically incorrect to question the grief of a country over war dead in a conflict we are allied in. Even worse, as CBC Newsworld has been pointing out in their reports, he grossly under-estimated the Canadian dead. Its also worth noting, that according to the Washington Times, Pakistani war dead since “the army moved into the tribal areas” are 375, with more than 1000 wounded. It would appear that while underestimating Canadian dead, he overestimated the Pakistani dead.

But raw numbers are somewhat meaningless in all this, and I’ve seen the interview now a number of times. Its clear to me that Musharraf was speaking somewhat metaphorically about the totals, using exaggeration for effect (however misguided that effect may have been). And when you delve deeper into the numbers, what is clear is that, per-capita, Pakistan has lost about twice as many soldiers as Canada has. With about 32 million people (latest Census says 32.6 million), Canada has lost 36 soldiers in Afghanistan so far, for a per-capita rate of a little over 1 per 1000000. Pakistan, with 162 million people and 375 soldiers killed, they have a per-capita rate of much closer to 1 in 500000 people.

I think its a bit crass to reduce wars to body counts like this anyway, but Musharraf does have a point, however badly expressed it was. We are punching in the heavy weight classes now, and we are going to get hit harder, faster, and deadlier than we are used to. We need to make the decision as a country to accept the consequences of the role we’ve taken on, or, as Musharraf so inelegantly put it, “… then don’t participate in any operation.” Musharraf was right about the contention that Pakistan has suffered “more” casualties than Canada. Its doubtful that he’ll win any prizes for diplomatic speeches, but its worth Canadians heeding his poorly expressed message. Its not peacekeeping anymore … the blue helmets are gone, and people are trying to kill Canadian soldiers. Musharraf’s turn of phrase may have been contemptuous, and that speaks to his own issues … the fact remains that he also had a point. Its time we, as an entire nation, either decide to step away from our responsibilities on the world stage, or decide to truly step into the ring.

Some statistical landmarks for my blog

Sometime last evening (I am thinking it happened around 6PM on Sept 25th, but I can’t get an accurate time) the 10000th person to visit my blog page hosted by WordPress (don’t worry if you read my blog at Global Paradigm instead … GP is my main blog page, and WordPress is just a mirror of that page).  My blog at Global Paradigm has also been doing fairly well, with 4740 visits since I set it up in late June.  Daily, I am averaging about 150 visits a day at WordPress, plus 230 a day or so at Global Paradigm.

I just wanted to extend a quick thank you to everyone who takes the time to read these pages.  The fact that people seem to want to read what I have to say is very humbling, and I hope that I can continue to inform, entertain, and enlighten you as the weeks and months go on.  Also, I’d like to extend a special thanks to the commenters as well … without comments, the blogosphere can be a very lonely place, an echo chamber with only one voice booming back.  Comments help ground me, both in terms of how I write, and in terms of what I write.  So please, keep commenting, and for readers who haven’t shared their thoughts with me yet, I encourage you to do so on any subject that interests you.

Thank you again for all your support … its wonderful to see so much activity, especially given I’ve only been at this for a few months.  Hope your Tuesday is wonderful.

Rewriting history

One of my favorite sections of Salon.com is the War Room. Tim Grieve and Glenn Greenwald do an excellent job of sorting through much of the political crap that goes on in Washington, and I find that, even as a Canadian, I am fascinated by some of the intrigue.

Today’s War Room has a couple of excellent pieces by Greenwald, detailing the truth behind recent Republican attacks on the Clinton record on terrorism and Al-Queda during the 90’s. Much revisionism has occurred on this issue, and Greenwald uses Internet sources well to fully document his claims that Republicans have completely flipped the truth around on these issues.

The first article, Revisiting GOP Attacks on President Clinton, he takes on the National Review writer Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg says, in the National Review …

“The notion that conservatives opposed Clinton as Commander-in-Chief in the pre-war on terror or in other military ventures is simply unfair … Sure, there were some wag the dog voices — like noted rightwing trogs [sic] Arlen Specter and Christopher Hitchens — but generally even the most partisan Republicans supported Clinton.”

Greenwald then spends the next 17 paragraphs showing how wrong Goldberg is, including specific links to speeches by important conservative Republican lawmakers who specifically opposed Clinton attempts to deal with Al-Queda and Iraq, and who questioned Clinton’s motives for attacking the very same people he is now accused of going soft on. Not wanting to seem lightweight, Greenwald provides us with no less than 12 direct quotes and attributions that contradict Goldberg’s (and all other GOP who use it) assertion.

The second piece, called Who wanted to “Cut and Run” from Somalia? looked at Clinton’s interview with Fox News Sunday night, and specifically the allegation levelled by interviewer Wallace that Clinton’s withdrawl from Somalia emboldened Osama bib Laden and Al-Queda. While Clinton did an admirable job in his own defence (Salon’s Video Dog has the relevant portion of the interview here), Greenwald digs a little deeper to show us that, in fact, there was an attempt to force Clinton into an immediate withdrawl he didn’t want by, you guessed it, the ‘hawks’ in the administration. Greenwald lists a number of Republicans that were demanding an immediate withdrawl after the blackhawk down incident, as well as Clinton’s insistence that they take longer to withdraw. For people who think no big name Republicans would advance such a thing, here’s a quote from Bob Dole in 1993 …

“I think it is clear to say from the meeting we had earlier with — I do not know how many Members were there — 45, 50 Senators and half the House of Representatives, that the administration is going to be under great pressure to bring the actions in Somalia to a close.”

So Greenwald’s question of who really wanted to cut and run is a valid one, and modern day comments of “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists” ring a bit hollow in light of all this. Try putting Dole’s quote above (remember, it was at a time when the US was involved in a dangerous overseas military mission, where US soldiers were in harms way, and Dole has the audacity to question Clinton’s handling of the war effort … shocking) into the mouth of a modern democrat on Iraq, and see how it sounds.

It was nice to see Greenwald find all this detail on what was said around the Somalia debate, as well as later incidents surrounding al-queda. I doubt any of this will get any actual airplay on television, and I certainly don’t expect Fox News to make any corrections for trying to mislead the public about what actually happened around the withdrawl from Somalia. Regardless, Greenwald should be commended for documenting the hypocrisy and lies.

The roots of fundamentalism

On the Big Picture with Avi Lewis this week, he had the Canadian premiere of Richard Dawkins‘ documentary, The Root of all Evil, discussing the dangers of religion in general. Unlike other authors on the subject, Dawkins doesn’t separate the radical fundamentalists in a religion from the moderates … in fact, he makes the point that moderate people in a religion actually give cover to the fundamentalists, and allow them to claim more honourable motives than they would otherwise be able to.

There’s no doubt Dawkins makes some excellent points, and looked at from a certain perspective, its pretty easy to see history as endless stream of religious atrocities committed by one particular group on another. Very few groups are immune, historically speaking, and very few groups are immune from charges of fundamentalism rising from a literal reading of their theological treatises. From that perspective, Dawkins’ argument is pretty convincing.

The trouble is, Dawkins doesn’t look deeply enough at things, IMO. He dismisses the notion that religions like Christianity can, and have, produced good as well as evil, largely by equating moderates with the extremists. He seems to ignore the fact that prior to a few hundred years ago, the ONLY place any human encountered the notion of tolerance, or love of fellow man, was in theory through their religion, and while in practice, that tolerance was usually less than advertised, the fact remains that prior to the Enlightenment, the only place it existed, even in theory, was in religious thought.

Further, Dawkins seems to ignore his own fundamentalism. He speaks very eloquently for the scientific method, and he explains pretty clearly (and accurately) how that method applies to empirical information gathering in the “real world.” He contrasts this with attempts by religious fundamentalists explain the empirical world through theological study, and he quite rightly shows the difference between the two method, and why the latter will rarely produce the right answer. But at the same time he does this, he ignores the greater truth, the truth that science and religion explore many of the same questions, but they do so using vastly different tools, and expecting different results. Dawkins dismisses religion’s tools, and only endorses science’s tools, and in that way he betrays his own scientific fundamentalism.

A look at evolution is probably in order here. Much of Dawkins argument is with Creationists who take the Genisis account of Creation literally, and in that, I have to say I fully support him. He seems to take great delight in trying to convince Creationists of how wrong they are, but he never once steps outside of the Creationist camp to talk to a Christian who views the Genesis account differently. His own fundamentalism forces him to continue attacking the nasty Creationist, while ignoring more moderate voices.

The fact is, Genesis is not incompatible with scientific explanations for the ‘beginning of the universe we know today.” Taking a large scale view of time, from the Big Bang through the evolution of humans on Earth, the structure of Genesis largely matches the structure of the scientific story. Genesis may get the time-line wrong (or perhaps the tools that theologists use to explore these questions aren’t so interested in specifically accurate time-lines, caring instead for getting the ideas right), but given that it comes from verbal ‘stories’ that are well over 4000 years old, it gets the sequence of events pretty accurately.

Back in May, in these pages, I did a piece comparing Genesis with scientific origin theories. I won’t re-post it here … you can go back and read it there if you like, but the fact is that Genesis and Science largely agree on WHAT happened, just not on when or how it happened, and again, these discrepancies speak to the different tools theology brings to the question vs science. Science doesn’t ever speak to WHY something happens … science will tell us in great detail the sequence of events surrounding the big bang, but it will not tell us so much about why the big bang happened. Likewise, evolution talks about the process of life developing on our planet, but has very little to say about how that process gets started, definitively. In many ways, science asks “What happened” and theology asks “Why did it happen” … but the “it” in question here is the same for both sides.

I took the title of this post from the Dawkins documentary, obviously, and I did it for a reason. The very argument Dawkins uses to advance his case that religion is the root of all evil is as fundamentalist a position as the Creationists advance, to my way of thinking. A Creationist looks at science and says “My Holy book says something different, and so I will completely reject everything about your methods and conclusions.” Trouble is, Dawkins seems to say exactly the same thing to the Creationists … “My scientific method says something different, and so I will completely reject everything about your methods and conclusions.” Frankly, I tend to think that fundamentalism, not religion, is the root of all evil, and that fundamentalist scientists can be as dangerous to the world as fundamentalist preachers.