Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Creating A Table Contents in Word for Mac . . . .

I just thought I would share this info because it is almost entirely unavailable on the net without extensive searching and your help in Word doesn't actually "help."

Word for Mac is significantly different and, ironically, less user-friendly than Word for Windows. This situation is not helped by the fact that Microsoft is not very forthcoming with information about Word for Mac.

Despite the terrible websites and the lack of information on the subject, creating a Table of contents is very easy on Word for Mac. The key is to make sure that the words you want to be appear in the Table of Contents are specified as "heading" words. This is simple.

 Sometimes you have a document that you have already created and it has become too unwieldy for you to keep track of. This has happened to me on a number of occasions. I have headings for sections but I find that when I want to insert some information it takes me a long time to find the page where I want to insert it. You know, you might have fifty or sixty pages and you know you want to put something in a general area but it is frustrating to work through the whole document to find the spot. Time to create a Table of Contents.

So first go to the words that you have designated section headings, like for example Introduction or Conclusion. Now highlight that word and open up your formatting palette. Open up the "Style" tab and it will give you a bunch of easy options of "Heading" styles. Click on the one that you like and the program will designate this word as a heading. Do this for each of the words that you want to appear as a heading for the table of contents. Once you are finished this, go to the top of you document and click on the "Document Elements" tab. This will then open up options for the style of the Table that you want to create. Simply click on the one you want and, Presto, the table of contents will be created. One tip that is important - make sure that when you do this last step, you have your cursor at the very spot you want the Table to appear (for example on a page right after the Title Page).

I hope this helps anyone who is having the trouble I was having.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rumor Mills and Thought Experiments. . . . .

I think it is interesting that the rumours about Stephen Harper's separation from his wife have finally hit the blogosphere. I heard this rumour quite a while ago from someone here in Ottawa but, despite the fact that this person said it was widely known in media circles, it has gone entirely unreported. I guess that if it is true it has gone unreported because of the simple fact that while there is a de facto separation, only a de jure separation would be something that news directors in Canada would be willing to report given the potential backlash against a reported rumor that the Prime Minister might publicly deny. Very simple observation of the Prime Ministerial couple over the past year or so during their very few public appearances suggests that if they are not de facto separated they have a strangely cold and unresponsive relationship. But really, would anyone in their right mind expect a guy like Stephen Harper to have a warm and affectionate relationship?

Given the strong responses on both sides to the final public outing of this rumor, the whole thing makes an interesting thought experiment. Should we care about such a thing if true? Would it matter to Harper's opponents or, more importantly, to his base?

First, to those who would say that such a thing should in no way be a public or election issue, make no mistake, we know that the current Conservative Party would make it an issue if it were the leader of the opposition were in the same boat. One would have to be hopelessly naive not to understand this. Any party that would create a website with the leader of the opposition being defecated on by a flying Puffin, and attack another for being well educated and teaching at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, would hardly have any moral qualms about making an issue out of the marriage status of a party leader. John Baird and Pierre Poilievre would appear regularly on prime time talking about it, of that there can be little doubt.

Of course, some may object that even if the CPC play rather dirty, that is no excuse for the rest of us to be playing the same game. This is a fair point. The problem with it, however, is two-fold. One, failing to face the CPC with the same tactics that they use has, history has demonstrated, created a fundamental inequity in the political landscape. Unfortunate but true. Second, it is the CPC that has made morality and 'family values' the cornerstone of their politics. If Harper and his wife were in fact separated more than a year ago and if they hid that fact, those, by Harper's own standards are big issues. For more than a generation J. Edgar Hoover, made homosexuality one of the primary targets of his moral crusade. Discovering that he had a long-term homosexual relationship with his assistent surely puts his judgment as well as the legitimacy of his position in considerable doubt. Thus, it must be understood that a coverup of a separation as well as the separation itself are issues in light of Harper's claim to moral superiority.

I don't know for certain whether Harper and his wife are separated, and I don't know whether this, if true, would turn out to be an election issue. One thing is certain, if one carefully observes Harper's body language concerning his wife during their public appearances in the past year or so, their active marriage is a more frightening prospect than their separation. This is true of most of Harper's body language. Any careful observers understand that this is a cold, scheming, deceptive, egomaniacal man who is largely incapable of the most basic human emotions of empathy, compassion, and warmth.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Thought for Christmas

I think intense study of any subject can be an interesting thing. But the deeper one goes into the study of any subject (from Bosonic String Theory to the complex nether-regions of Tibetan Buddhism) the more one must begin to wonder whether one is engaging in study or in initiation. It can take a lifetime to be truly conversant with the most rarified margins of any complex system of thought. Even the best theoretical physicist cannot explain to a layperson the real complexities of loop quantum gravity, and the Dali Llama, despite his brilliance, could not explain the complexities the Tibetan theory of karma without a long period of intense study. Thus any true skeptic (and by that I mean someone who is skeptical not just of non-scientific theories but skeptical of everything) must wonder the degree to which the long term study of any field is as much an initiation into a 'mode of thought' as it is an objective process of learning. Tibetan Llamas are as much convinced of the truth of their world view as are physicists at MIT. And since both spend many years in a process of intense study, being initiated into a certain way of seeing the world, how do we know whether either of the groups is studying the truth behind apparences or simply putting the finer decorations on an ideology?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some thoughts on efficiency. . . .

I think it is very interesting that one of the primary ‘myths’ on which the Capitalist social and economic system rests is the myth of efficiency. First let me point out in the interest of clarity that the word ‘myth’ has a number of different uses in modern and ancient thought and I am using the word to essentially refer to a socially constructed story which, though it may contain a small kernel of truth, is largely a falsehood, a narrative that greases the wheels, so to speak, of a system or social structure. This particular myth consists of the idea that the success or failure of a particular enterprise rests primarily on a basic, and measurable, level of efficiency of that enterprise and its employees. Of course, even this notion is much more complex than it first appears because while massive failures in efficiency are often obvious, the actual level of efficiency of any enterprise is fairly abstract and difficult if not impossible to measure in many cases. Anyone who appreciates art knows this problem of judgment well: it is often easy to say what is wrong with a work of art but sometimes very difficult to say what is right. Anyway, though very few capitalists will admit it, the success or failure of many enterprises rests not primarily on efficiency but on a myriad of factors. In fact one could say in many cases the success of an enterprise is over-determined, that is to say rests on too many factors to be able to be accurately measure or comprehended. Like anything in life, success may rest entirely on luck. Or it may rest on local or regional factors in production or sales. It may very well rest on the hard work of a small group of people but not always. I have seen people succeed who didn’t work hard but fell ass-backwards into their triumph. If one listens carefully to the discourse of capitalists and business advocates one will realize that in 90% of cases, when they talk about efficiencies the only thing that one can really point to is wages. They like to decorate their discourse with lots of fancy and complex talk but it almost always comes down to who can pay their workers the least in a particular sector are the most efficient, and therefore the most likely to succeed.

Capitalists are desperate to perpetuate their particular myth of efficiency because the cheaper individual units of labour are the more money they can make in the short term and, more importantly, they imagine that the less money a working population makes the easier they are to control and the more vulnerable and the easier they are to manipulate as a group. This myth of efficiency is also important because it is the most often brandished weapon against any the use of social enterprise. Thus capitalists will claim ad nauseum, and without any actual evidence, that the ‘private sector’ is more ‘efficient’ than the public one. This myth is particularly false in sectors in which there are social goals that would not necessarily be improved based on efficiencies in savings like universal education.

The reduction of success to the notion of efficiency is based upon a false modeling of enterprise. If one studies economists, therefore, one will therefore, often hear or see the phrase “all things being equal.” This is part of the effort by economists to create the illusion of a science out of what is simply not scientific. But of course there are no cases in which ‘all things are equal,’ and the idea of two or more enterprises competing in an ideal space of sales and production is simply itself a myth. Thus if a number of enterprises are competing in a sector can suddenly cut wages in half over other enterprise, this saving in ‘efficiency’ will most likely give them a significant advantage but it will not always guarantee success.

But the myth of efficiency must be perpetuated for capitalism to continue because it must continue to be seen as essentially fair and, more importantly, to be seen as a meritocracy lest people begin to question it primacy. It must continue to function as a myth the same way that the myth of the universal benefits of competition must continue to function.

But next time someone passes quickly over concepts such as efficiency or the good of competition, stop and take note and think about what they  really mean. There was a time when almost no member of the Aztec society would have questioned the divinity of the Sun because few Aztecs were willing to ask the simple question that should be asked of any prevailing idea that perpetuate power – cui bono – who benefits? 

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Am By Myself . . . .

A brief passage from the essay The Shape of the Inconstruable Question (From the book The Spirit of Utopia) by Ernst Bloch

I am by myself
     Here one finally has to begin.
     But where do I suffer from being not enough? Where am I askew, where have I been corrupted? Where am I secure and genuine? But of course we are neither one nor the other, but rather muddy, tepid and to see us is to want to vomit.
     That is little enough, and almost everything immediately follows from it. Even what is good, because man immediately languishes in weariness, and nothing achieves any color. Only this is finally clear; that we mean little to each other, can pass unsuspectingly by one another. Or when we do know - when the possibility of helping, of becoming another draws near us, while we work, even with ideas - then the nasty way we have of warming our hearts with vanity appears, and the prospect still remains empty. Moreover most people around us, particularly since they have been entangled in a money economy, are so lethargically filthy that none of them, once they are scalded and marked, comes near any more difficult inner stirrings. And the emancipated, intellectual ones decay with all their soul, however elegantly hey may have put talk, sentimental experience, a moral sensibility in the place of action when the other acts, when the other needs help. They are far from feeling: I am at fault, not the others, and if they are dark, then I have not shone enough for them. Instead they split moral life off from itself, contemplate it lifelessly and easily like everything else, and so the collectively inner character of its essence is misrecognized, squandered. It has fallen to the criminals to feel fear, remorse, guilt, the stirring of the germ of the spirit in us, and our hearts stay lethargic.
(Translation by Anthony A. Nassar)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Pleasure of Cancelling . . . .

"Most events that are scheduled would give more pleasure if they canceled. This is just a fact; you learn this as you get older. Performances, lectures, meetings of all kinds, conferences, whatever it is . . . sermons, who knows. They are all planned with best of intentions, and we're very ambitious for things off in the distant future, but as we come closer to them we start to anticipate disappointment based on solid experience. And the day before they are to take place, we can think of three things we would rather do."
                                                                     - Garrison Keillor

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks, Peace Prizes, and O. Henry . . . .

The more closely one looks at the case of Julian Assange, the more it appears to be one of the most blatant cases of straightforward political persecution for whistle-blowing in memory. Though it is difficult to get clear information regarding the charges against Assange in Sweden, by most accounts it appears that the charges are a bizarre case based upon bizarre laws. It appears that Assange is being accused simply of 'sleeping around' which one woman claims constituted sexual deception - which according to Swedish law constitutes a sex crime. I don't kwon for certain that this is the case because, as I have said, accounts on the internet are sketchy and sometimes contradictory, and the main stream media has entirely failed to report on the issue. What is particularly troubling about the indictment is that the charges were brought against Assange some weeks ago when he was in hot water because of another set of leaks, and then were promptly dropped as the furor over the leaks died down. Then when Assange brought forth his current set of leaks the charges were suddenly reinstated. This makes it difficult to believe that the charges are anything but politically motivated. We know by the tertiary evidence that the pressure coming from US diplomatic circles against Assange are significant. For a mulitnational powerhouse corporation like Visa, which deals with all kinds of dubious and disgusting organizations and is driven by the almighty dollar, to drop its association with Assange is an unprecedented event. It clear to all but the most nieve observers that these kinds of corporate moves against Wikileaks are the result of massive and powerful pressures from Western governments in general and the US government in particular. There is something deeply troubling about the fact that a man like Assange can be so quickly demonized and jailed for such an act of whistle-blowing. As I have said before, the recent leaks of information by Wikileaks are of dubious value and appear to contain few significant revelations about government duplicity. These leaks therefore lack the kind of massive public support that other such revelations like the Pentagon Papers had. However, despite their dubious value in the struggle to make governments more accountable, the political persecution by Western powers is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent.

Two other events of this week make the persecution of Julian Assange somewhat ironic. One is the report by the Auditor General of Canada on the functioning of the federal watchdog designed to protect and investigate whistle-blowing in Canada. It seems that not only was the Watchdog, a Ms Christiane Ouimet, a petty tyrant who compiled secret information on her employees who she perceived to be overly honest or whistle-blowers themselves, but she failed utterly to investigate a single case of wrong-doing by whistle-blowers or protect them in any way. Now the Harper Government who sang her praises when they nominated her for the appointment were obviously active in their efforts to make sure that Ms Ouimet did not fulfill her mandate, because the Harper government has made it clear time and again that they are fundamentally opposed to any real transparency in government and anyone who is engaged in whistle-blowing or even proper oversight of the Conservative government is quickly fired and discredited. It seems that whistle-blowers are nowhere safe.

The other ironic event took place this morning. It was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The recipient of the prize could not, of course, attend the ceremony because he is presently in a Chinese prison serving an eleven year term for his political activism. So there are the Scandinavians giving a Nobel Prize to a man who is prison for his political activism, while they are about to imprison a man for . . . . political activism. This is so rich in narrative irony that O. Henry himself couldn't have made it up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Missing Friends. . . .

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of my very good friend Kevin Coleman. I am certain that not a day has passed in that nineteen years that I have not thought of him. He was the one who first related to me Gramsci's famous quote concerning the need for Optimism of the Will. However, I must admit that since Kevin's death my storehouse of faith has nearly run dry. In the words of Lou Reed, it takes a busload of faith to get by and what I have probably wouldn't fill up a subcompact at this point. Besides loosing loved ones and going through a remarkably dispiriting time living in El Salvador durning the 90s, I have just lost most of my faith in the capacity of our race to move toward a more compassionate and caring society. We are an indescribably sick people and a huge portion of us take genuine pleasure in touting the rabidly violent and despicable parts of our nature. Just go over and read some of the Blogs on Conservative-Bloggers, and you will see what I mean. They are full of vitriolic attacks on anything that smacks of compassion and they are remarkably fond of going after the most vulnerable in our society.

My dad, who has been gone for some eight months now, used to also bemoan the fundamental failures of our race. And though he was remarkably cheerful about the simplest pleasures in life, he knew just how badly we treat each other. He used to say that if one had an even vaguely enlightened view of the world, living in human society is like living among a troop of monkeys. "If you were a self aware monkey," he would say, "or a slightly intelligent cave-dweller, you would still be helpless to stop the rest of them from living in their primitive paradigm." It was that attitude that led my dad to simply try to enjoy the little things in life and not worry about the big picture. Yet, despite his desire to live a carefree life, my dad was always frustrated by the world's injustices and you could sometimes see the sadness in his eyes.

I have always been a socialist. I believe that socialism is the only rationally and ethically defensible socio-economic system. But I have struggled to live through an age when faith in a better, more cooperative world has waned considerably. But we still live in something of a 'mixed' economy and I so have always taken some comfort in our constitutionalism and our democracy. I have always thought that even though we are not moving toward genuine socialism we have some protection from the worst abuses of tyranny. But in recent years and months that comfort has also waned as I have watched the present government of Canada slowly dismantle the constitution, and erode the most basic elements of our democratic system. Even our provincial government here in Ontario has essentially torn up the Charter of Rights, violated civil liberties on a grand scale, and few people seem to care and no one will do anything about it.

I miss my departed friend Kevin Coleman and I wish he were here to share a drink, a movie and a few laughs. But I would hate to see his saddened heart at recent events. And I miss my dad with a profound depth that mear language could never convey. But I am glad he doesn't have to see how sad I have become and at what a low ebb my faith has come.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

R.I.P. Charter of Rights and Freedoms. . . .

I am amazed by the relative silence on the blogoshere concerning the Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin's report concerning events at the G20. This is an amazing report. I have never seen anything like it in Canadian politics. Not only did Mr. Marin say that the law used by the Government to control the population is illegal but he said that this led to the most extensive violation of human rights in Canadian history! This is huge! The Government of Ontario secretly enacted an illegal and unconstitutional law which in Marin's exact words lead to "a massive compromise in civil liberties." What was particularly disturbing was the suggestion that the Toronto Police were so out of control that the OPP and the RCMP were attempting to distance themselves from them. Really! A police force so full of violent impulses that the RCMP is afraid of them??!! That is truly frightening. This report and the failure of any level of government to respond to it,  clearly demonstrates that we are caught in a police state and that the charter has been so dramatically compromised that it has lost all meaning. Of course this report will lead to billions of dollars lost for the Ontario government for false arrest, violations of civil liberties, and for wonton violations of the constitution. But that is years away.

The federal justice minister should immediately issue warrants for the arrest of Bill Blair, Mr. McGuinty and several of his cabinet ministers but the government should also convene a federal judicial panal of important jurists and human rights activists   to make recommendations to the federal government on how the Charter of Rights can be redeemed after such a violent and outrageous compromise. This is really it folks. Unless unique and unprecedented steps are taken now to arrest those responsible and enact some federal laws to ensure that such an event could not happen again we might as all well just all move to Burma for all that our civil rights will be worth. If you don't realize now that you live in a police state and that you can be arrested at anytime without charge or without the protection of the Great Writ, then you are foolish and nieve.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Julian Assange; Evil criminal or whistleblower.. . .?

I find the persecution of Julian Assange remarkable and depressing. They are all over this guy from accusing him to sex crimes talk of political assassination. The entire force of Western power is arrayed against this guy and we can be fairly sure that they will either get him or he will meet with an 'unfortunate' accident.

The worst part is that if Assange's efforts had all been directed at, say, Cuba, China, and Venezuela, not only would the West not be persecuting him, but he would be a hero who would receive offeres from Yale to be a quest lecturer. You would have to be hopelessly naive or just a lier to not admit this. Whistleblowers are fine as long as they are blowing the whistle on the other guy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Best people. . . .

Only the very best people lose sleep worrying about how bad they've been.
                                                                - Panos Ironicus

Power corrupts, and absolute power is even better. . . .

One thing that the Wikileaks document drop has provided is even more clear evidence that the Western nations, including Canada are once again propping up a profoundly corrupt, undemocratic centralized state. Not that any mildly conscious political observer really needed extra proof to demonstrate what we all already knew, but it is a bitter-sweet pill to see in print that despite what Stephen Harper and Barak Obama's spin doctors tell us, the military escape in Afghanistan is another in a long like of ridiculous military follies the net result of which is billions of dollars spent propping up another corrupt dictatorship with local politicians lining Cayman Islands bank accounts with money taken directly from the hands of working-class taxpayers in the West. Meanwhile the untold story is that Western corporations also line their pockets with military and infrastructural development contracts and so they are more than happy to siphon off parts of their profits to the hands of the local corrupt officials. And so the whole project becomes a profit making collusion between Western Corporate Carpetbaggers and despicable Afghani warlords and officials many of whom have received proper English educations from which they learned the very best lessons in colonial exploitation. And the Conservative spin machine goes merrily along wrapping up the profit making war machine in the flag of patriotism or altruism, safe in the knowledge that most Canadians are easily swayed by the evocative discourse or just so profoundly ignorant of what is really going on that the neo-colonial effort in control and profit will not face significant challenges from the domestic population. And if genuine opposition does begin to take shape they will just ramp up the discourse of fear, their primary weapon in this colonial-like effort, and tell us all how our good-natured heroic men and women in uniform are making the ultimate sacrifice to make the world safe for democracy while they actively defend tyranny to line the pockets of others and polster the political currency of politicians at home.

So it goes. . . . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Grand Diversion of Wikileaks. . . . . .

Voltaire once said "If God didn't exist it would be necessary to invent him." And given the recent dump of tens of thousands of documents from Wikileaks, I am beginning to think that we can adapt Voltaire's famous quote to our contemporary situation by saying "If Wikileaks didn't exist it would be necessary for the US Government to invent it." The truth is that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, has done a terrible diservice to future generations. By realeasing thousands of documents which amount to little more than diplomatic gossip, Wikileaks has done something that will potentially have several negative effects. The first negative impact is that this will give governments a significant excuse to make access to information more difficult in the future. Now if the leaks presented in the past week were significant to the degree, say, that The Pentagon Papers were, then this might be a worthwhile price to pay. Instead, even though there has not been a genuinely meaningful release of information concerning the nefarious actions of governments, they now have a pre-made excuse to raise a stink about the dangers of government leaks and make such leaks more difficult. But perhaps more importantly, by creating an international media spectacle around what are actually just a bunch of titillating exchanges between diplomats (most of which any astute observer would have already figured was going on), Wikileaks has created the impression that these are the worst kinds of things that our Governments have been doing. This creates a kind of apathy in people by giving them the idea that not much nefarious stuff is actually going on. So the fact that international organizations like Amnesty are continually reporting on very real and significant human rights abuses being perpetrated in many cases by Western Governments, as well as significant collusion between Western Governments and seriously questionable regiems, these things recede in people's minds as they get wrapped up in the Wikileak spectacle.  It is not unlike a child telling their parent about some minor infraction in behaviour in order to reflect attention away from a more significant event. It is a pretty simple and standard political strategy which recent right-wing governments like that of George Bush and Stephen Harper have used extensively to great effect. And even though I don't suspect Wikileaks of any collusion here, Western Governments could not have invented a more effective diversionary event.