Carmen Callil

Carmen Callil followed her mother's advice and didn't learn shorthand; instead, she started Virago Press, publishing "books which celebrated women and women's lives" and changing the way the world thought of women writers. In this LRB interview with Rosemary Hill, she talks about her love for the novels of Elizabeth Taylor, her disillusionment with the current world, her anger at Brexit and at the way government shafts the poor. She's a great person to listen to, sharp and opinionated ; she and Hill have a real conversation. 48 min.

Christianity as Isis

Thanks to the BBC, I’ve become very fond of three Classicist feminists from the UK: Natalie Haynes, Mary Beard, and Edith Hall. And now, add Catherine Nixey, whose The Darkening Age has just been published. This is from Macmillan’s blurb: “Despite the long-held notion that the early Christians were meek and mild, going to their martyr's deaths singing hymns of love and praise, the truth, as Catherine Nixey reveals, is very different. Far from being meek and mild, they were violent, ruthless and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the polytheistic world, in which the addition of one new religion made no fundamental difference to the old ones, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light but that, by extension, every single other way was wrong and had to be destroyed”

A terrific and lively discussion between Nixey and Edith Hall is here, at the BBC History magazine site:


Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

In her interview on researching and writing her piece about the kid who killed nine people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah talks about education and the lack of it:

"There's a complete lack of personal responsibility. You're like, you're worried about black people and Mexican people and all these people because you don't take personal responsibility for yourself. My great-grandmother went to college. She went to college one generation out of chattel slavery, okay? Dylan Roof and his dad did not go to school, they did not do their work. They're not invested in this country. Their only sense of belonging, the only right they should have to feel the way they do is because they believe their whiteness means something."

Links to her interview on the Longform podcast

and to her GQ piece on Dylan Roof, "The Making of an American Terrorist"


Andrew Solomon on Brexit and Nationalism

"It is an ostrich point of view not wholly unfamiliar in America: by refusing to look at the rest of the globe, one forestalls seeing oneself."

Link to New Yorker piece HERE

PTSD as a physical fact

A recent study in The Lancet is the starting point for a NY Times Magazine piece with the byline: 

A new study supports what a small group of military researchers has
suspected for decades: that modern warfare destroys the brain.

NYTimes link here

Bomb blasts are the cause, and can result in "memory loss, cognitive problems, inability to sleep and profound, often suicidal depression"

What would also be apparent is that civilians who survive blasts from suicide bombers and drone attacks would also be susceptible. 


The piece is by Robert F. Worth, author of A Rage for Order.

Maureen Dowd Nails the Debacle

There has been lots and lots (and lots) of punditry (good and bad) about the Trump nightmare, but Maureen Dowd has more fun with it than anyone I've read lately, and her opinion piece in the Times is worth a read. Click on the quote for the link.

"(Bill) Kristol, the midwife to three debacles — Dan Quayle, Iraq and Sarah Palin — solicited suggestions for the name of the new party that Republicans will have to start if Trump secures the nomination. How about “Losers”?"

Nicholas Hénin on the Syrian Bombings

French journalist Nicholas Hénin was held hostage by Isis for ten months. His reasons for not bombing Syria are well worth reading. Here are a couple of quotes from a piece in The Guardian.

“Strikes on Isis are a trap. The winner of this war will not be the parties that have the newest, most expensive, most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to have the people on its side... At the moment, with the bombings, we are more likely pushing the people into the hands of Isis. What we have to do, and this is really key, we have to engage the local people. As soon as the people have hope in the political solution, then Islamic State will just collapse. It will have no ground any more. It will collapse.”

Hénin can also be found on The Syrian Campaign, home site for a non profit based in the UK, and well worth checking out.

Sunny Ways

Two weeks after the election, and I’ve yet to encounter a soul who is not feeling so profoundly better that “better” scarcely applies; we are citizens again, we have regained our country, and no longer feel abandoned in Mordor.

We know that the new regime will disappoint and dismay us, but we also know that they will not treat us as their enemy. It has been a misery to live for as long as we have in a country run by people who treat us like (a) fools, and (b) shit.

And the socially awkward man in a blue suit, the man with the fabled temper that made his minions tremble, the man who decimated the civil service, who did not believe that government policy should be based on science or fact; he who promoted Yes men who made themselves vanity videos, he who got his own way with the press of this nation time and again in ways that became increasingly embarrassing, he who did much to ruin whatever credibility we may have had outside the country as a people not previously pegged as selfish, venal and stupid—our former leader, what do most of us make of him now? He seems to be no bigger than this:



The Historian as Knob

Niall Ferguson was on BBC's Start the Week doing a promo of his (authorized) bio of Kissinger (volume one) when he ganged up with Gabriel Gorodetsky to tell Jane Smiley that what historians do is so much more important than what she does. He drips with so much condescension that the episode becomes cringe making. Novelists make things up, he says while historians have to stick to what's true; he presents a picture in which history is, somehow, the more pure. The fact that a historian might approach a subject with his own agenda doesn't seem to occur to him. (Presumably, it did occur to Henry Kissinger.) Andrew Marr is the host who lets things get out of control. It's worth listening to because Smiley gets her back up and puts Ferguson in his place; she's mad as hell and pretty terrific.


Donald Savoie on Nigel Wright's Emails and the Way Ottawa Works

Sixteen years ago, Savoie wrote on the the concentration of power in Canadian politics (LINK);  the Duffy trial strengthens his thesis.

"...governing from the centre has created a fault line in the government where things that matter to the prime minister and his immediate advisers are brought above the line and dealt with quickly and effectively. Only the prime minister and his advisers will decide what belongs above the fault line. It can be anything from a decision to go to war while not consulting the relevant ministers – let alone the cabinet – down to a $90,000 problem considered sufficiently important to generate 450+ pages of e-mails. Under these circumstances, why would anyone other than a career politician want to run for Parliament?"


Notes on Savoie's memoir in the February section of Not My Books

A Man In A Blue Suit

A reporter for BC's has very calmly and politely expressed the exasperation that accompanies the PM's public appearances, that is to say his photo ops. The Man Who Will Not Answer A Question was attempting to use a forest fire to his advantage.

If only every reporter in the country would start using this moniker. 



There are ashes aboard New Horizons - which is now moving beyond Pluto - and they bear this inscription:

Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system's 'third zone'. Adelle and Muron's boy, Patricia's husband, Annette and Alden's father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde W. Tombaugh (1906–1997)

A link to a concise summary of what we've just learned about the dwarf planet is HERE
And HERE are images in NY Times.

"All Mouth And No Brain"

So says former diplomat and PM policy advisor Bob Fowler of our foreign policy.

"I would argue we have very little credibility within NATO. Of course, our friends in NATO aren't going to say that publicly, but the people within NATO who are relevant to our discussion, they know about Canadian military capabilities. They know about what we could and could not do and they know our posturing is utterly vacuous."


A Real Mother

The proposed ten story high figure for the Cabot Trail, standing with her back to Canada and the parking lot and souvenir shop at her heels, is, to say the least, a divisive behemoth. It has divided the Cape Breton community that stands to get a few jobs from it, and it's dividing the country between people who think it's a Stalinist horror and those who think it's a about time we had a Mount Rushmore/Statue of Liberty of our very own to honour the war dead (as opposed to the war vets whose benefits we appear happy to cut). The NFNM (Never Forgotten National Memorial) group behind it has apparently taken out a trademark on the term "Mother Canada," which tells you quite a bit about them, and the merchandise they will peddle. Nothing honours the war dead like an official Mother Canada © baseball hat. The Globe and Mail, who told us that our current government was the only option last time around, has called this monument to their sentiments "hubristic, ugly and just plain wrong" in this editorial, and, again in same Globe, there's an article on the Vimy Foundation's opposition to it here. There does not appear to be more than one or (perhaps) two people with any background in public art, memorials, or the histories of either art or demagogues who is in favour of it - more reason why it seems an appropriate and potent symbol for the state of our nation on Canada Day 2015.

More Real Mothers:

Mother Kiev
Mother Georgia
Mother Armenia
Mother Motherland


Nazir Afzal On The Failure Of British Muslim Leaders To Lead

The former top prosecutor for north-west England writes in The Guardian, "There are 13 Muslim MPs, including eight women, but they do not speak for the faith, rather for their constituents. Imams, with a few excellent exceptions, don’t see their role as anything more than prayer and looking after a building, the mosque – the imam of Dibley is not so different from the vicar in that respect."


Another Bum Takes A Seat In The Hall Of Infamy

while the rest of us bash our heads against the wall.

One could call Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney's remarks about the Voices-Voix report laughable (he sounds like a cartoon politician in an old Preston Sturges movie), if they weren't deeply saddening and an indication of what an appalling nation we have become. 

“Why are the NDP, Mr. Speaker, and the Liberals siding along with terrorist organizations?” 

It's nearly impossible to not mutter obscenities every time this sort of I-am-appalled hypocrisy gets said and minions leap to their feet and applaud. 

A LINK to the story in the Globe.

A LINK to the Voices-Voix Report Dismantling Democracy

Andrew Coyne Assesses A Legacy

and finds little

Peter McKay is leaving Federal Politics and Coyne's National Post column ends:

"It seems unlikely that history will record this as the end of “the MacKay era.” It is difficult to speak of a MacKay legacy, or MacKayism, at least with a straight face. Indeed, it is difficult to recall much about him even now. Though not gone, he is forgotten. We shall look upon his like again."