Category: Omnium-Gatherum

The most important person in modern Russia.

It isn’t Alexei Navalny whose body Russian authorities still aren’t serving up, even though they announced his death on Feb. 16. It’s another Russian.

He was not a prisoner or a leader of the opposition, but a 36-year-old second-in-command of a Soviet submarine parked below international waters off Cuba on October 27, 1962.

VasilyArkhipov was one of three officers onboard the “B-59” who knew the sub not only carried a 10-kiloton nuclear torpedo, but that it could be fired without direct permission from Moscow. This was the height of the Cuban missile crisis, and on that day the B-59 was cornered by 11 US destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph. They started dropping depth charges. Their goal wasn’t to sink the sub but to force it to surface, as US officials had already told Moscow.

Old problem gets new thinking

As surely as we believe that fat makes you fat, heart surgery demands bedrest, and wet sidewalks cause rain, we believe that abused women who flee to shelters should be granted secrecy and anonymity.

But that ‘given’ may be taken away, at least from our conventional thinking.

Last week, The New York Times columnist Rachel Louise Snyder wrote about the movement to make the locations of domestic violence shelters less secret and more public. They’re secret, of course, because we equate secrecy with safety. Otherwise, your abuser can track you down and hurt you or even kill you. It’s happened.

Read on…

Is this the golden age or dark ages of the arts?

Last Saturday night, we attended a performance by a baroque music group in a church on Bloor Street in Toronto. Even in the plumpest of times, the music of 17ᵗʰ and early 18ᵗʰ century Europe is both an acquired taste and a deep and narrow passion. No ERAS tour for concerti grossi. Yet there were 600 other baroque fans who stood and whistled and cheered at the concert’s end just like they did at Koerner Hall the night before for Joshua Redman.

I hadn’t heard Tafelmusik in many years and was surprised that this is their 45th anniversary. As I heard its 16 musicians playing on baroque instruments like the theorboand the viola da gamba, I was struck by how daring and different their concert was. Different sections played from different parts of the church, not once, (ho hum), but often. The cellist played standing up. (When was the last time you saw a cellist who was not sitting down?) The ‘conductor’ explained every piece before it was performed. Everyone on stage was having fun.

Does our fate lie in our fakes?

If you had a fantasy friend when you were a kid, or led an active fantasy life when you grew up, you’re in for a treat – for the rest of your days and nights. Because AI, still a baby learning to walk, can envelop you in a giant hug of unreality. You can live there blissfully mindless that the real world is spinning apart because the world you’ve created looks and sounds and feels exactly how you want it to. Take this deep fake call, the first of many to come in this year’s US elections. Indeed, The Guardian reported that more than 100 paid ads impersonating British PM Rishi Sunak appeared on social media platforms last month alone.

Clearly, regulators must rush to spot and sanction AI fakes, and they are.

But we also need to learn more about AI in a way we didn’t when social media stuck its needle in our arms. We can’t leave our fate to governments like we did when Big Tech raced so far ahead that governments were enfeebled to stop it, and still are.

Read on…

The Prime Minister’s Next Career

He will likely retire when the Liberals are defeated in the next federal election, an outcome most every poll points to, which should be in  October 2025. Or he’ll leave before that if the Liberals coalition with the NDP falls apart. Or, on the vanishingly small chance he leads the Liberals to victory in 2025, he could stay on until 2029. He took office in 2015 so he would then be the second-longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history, four years longer than his father Pierre.

Whether he leaves this year at age 52, or in 2029 at 57, Justin will still have time for One More Big Job before he retires to the world of board membership, consulting, teaching and honorary degrees.

Read on…

Play your Trump Card

Donald Trump didn’t just win in Iowa. He won Huge!

But recall that two weeks before the Iowa caucuses in 2016, then-candidate Trump said at Dortd University in Sioux City:  “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?…It’s, like, incredible.”

Incredible, but true, and Trump isn’t the only one anticipating his inauguration one year from today on January 20, 2025.

Credit card companies are as well, particularly American Express.

Read on…

Plagiarism trumps racism.

Should someone be forced to resign if they’ve plagiarized work that helped them get the job they have?

I say ‘yes’, if the plagiarism is material (I heard of a revered professor who was hauled before her university’s Senate because she copied writing from a long ago paper she’d written, but failed to cite that passage even though she was copying from herself. That’s not material).

But what if the plagiarist is a female University president? Is that sexism? Possibly. But also not material.

What if that university president is Black? Is that racism? Possibly. Again, not material.

Read on…

What better way to endure a wet January than taking part in Dry January?

Calling someone an old soul says they’re wise before their time.

In the 1960s, whenever a commercial flight passed over Alberta airspace, the plane would stop serving alcohol until it was safely flying above BC or Saskatchewan. This was because Alberta’s Bible-belting government was also a teetotalling one, and to the Social Credit Party airspace meant drinkspace meant sin.

Flash forward to 2013 when a British charity, Alcohol Change UK, launched its first “Dry January” campaign, asking Brits to abstain from drinking alcohol in the first month of the year. Today, Dry January has grown into a social movement that’s driven by health and financial benefits instead of religious ones.

Read on…

An ‘Old Soul’s’ Christmas.

Calling someone an old soul says they’re wise before their time.

It has nothing to do with age. A child can be an old soul. But if there’s One Big Thing that happened this year, it’s how the idea of being ‘old’ is changing and how quickly we should move to catch up to it.

Read on…

Would it kill you to smile?

You know how those models look back at you from the pages of luxe publications: pouty, pale, thin and rich? Not a good look these days.

I’ve always wondered why, among all the categories of ‘stuff’ for sale in the world that luxury goods is the only one where the people enjoying the products are not enjoying the products. Everywhere else, from beer to travel, cars to lottery tickets, the connection between smiling people promising you’ll be smiling too, is swift and sure.

You’d think a $10,000 watch, a Louis Vuitton suitcase or a Dior suit would make you happy. Or happier, at least. But no.

Read on…

Holiday gifts for budding antisemites.

For less than $100 you can save someone — a family member, a university student, a wayward stranger — from becoming an antisemite.

That is, someone who’s hostile or prejudiced against Jews because they’re Jews, in the way that racists are hostile to Black people. No reason, really. They’re Black, is all.

This is actually a big public health issue. Antisemites spread a disease that is more infectious and deadly than COVID ever was. While COVID has killed 7 million people, antisemitism killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, plus millions more from antisemitism’s earliest days in the 5th century.

When I speak of antisemites, I don’t mean someone who doesn’t like particular policies of the Israeli government or its leaders (I think Bibi Netanyahu is a dreadful Prime Minister), or someone who doesn’t like a particular Jew because, for example, she’s a jerk and drinks too much.

Read on…

What starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews.

I went to an event in Toronto on Wednesday to hear five Muslim speakers talk about the war between Israel and Hamas. The room was jammed with 650 eager listeners.

The keynote speaker was Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the co-founder of Hamas.

Then three panelists each spoke, chaired by Raheel Raza, President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. The panelists were Ontario MPP Goldie Ghamari, the first Iranian-Canadian woman elected to office in Canada and the Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy; Asaad Sam Hanna, a member of the US Armed Forces and a strategic advisor to the Lobo Institute; and Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.

Read on…

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