A Skeptic Reads the News: Quebec, Ukraine, Voynich and Mozilla

by | April 9, 2014

The rocky marriage between Canada’s two great solitudes seems set for a period of relative tranquility now that the Liberals have their majority in Quebec  and all this talk of referendums is suddenly beside the point. This also means, presumably, that Quebec will have to bump along without a Charter of Values for the moment. However, the tensions around religious accommodation that made the proposed Charter popular are real enough, and the Liberals would be unwise to ignore them. Meanwhile, it might be a good time for the two solitudes to embark on a quiet walk along the Ottawa River, find a secluded spot in the bushes, and take a little while to remind each other why they remain together after more than two centuries of sometimes fraught cohabitation.

Ukraine’s threats to provide a “forceful answer” to the latest Russian (or at least pro-Russian) provocations in the east ring slightly hollow considering the balance of military and economic power between the two countries. There is also a distinct lack of clear signals, at least in the public domain, that the North American and European governments that have been shaking their fingers at Moscow’s shocking “19th century” behaviour are prepared to take serious countermeasures. The assumption that the 21st century will necessarily be more geopolitically placid than the 19th, and for that matter the early 20th, has a whiff of magical thinking about it. We Canadians might take events in eastern Europe as a hint that working out how much of the arctic we can reasonably hope to defend if push comes to shove would be prudent.

I knew the Voynich Manuscript was an awfully strange book, but I didn’t know it owed its moniker to a refugee book dealer. Apparently one Wilfrid Voynich, who fled to London from the Russian Empire, “claimed to have discovered it in Italy, in 1912”. Circumstantial evidence may suggest that Voynich forged the thing, but I rather hope it turns out to be authentic. It won’t contain the Secret of Eternal Life, or even the Secret of Lifelong Happiness, but its contents might still be a window into an interesting strain of early modern thought. A window into what Wilfrid Voynich thought might fool the rubes just wouldn’t have the same appeal.

A certain browser ought to be renamed FireYouForNoGoodReasonAtAllFox, or perhaps FireYouFox for short (and yes, I know Eich technically “stepped down”, but one assumes there was significant pressure from within the organization to do so). That would make a good meme: a bespectacled, sour-looking fox would sit behind a desk and ask employees highly invasive questions about their political activities. It would be a sublime fusion of the Pointy-Haired Boss and Joe McCarthy, in vulpine form.

4 thoughts on “A Skeptic Reads the News: Quebec, Ukraine, Voynich and Mozilla

    1. Corwin Post author

      That really is outrageous. Sometimes I think the Harper government must actually be part of an elaborate experiment by some mad sociologist who wants to see just how much paranoid control freakery the Canadian public will tolerate before the pitchforks come out.

      1. Peter E.

        And with the “Unfair Elections Act” they are cheating right in front of our eyes.

        Sociopathic fascists the lot of them.

        1. Corwin Post author

          I think “sociopathic fascists” goes a bit far, actually. They’re just unscrupulous, vindictive, and determined to stay in power – none of which really implies a psychological condition as extreme as sociopathy or a political orientation as extreme as fascism. They don’t have any supervillain credentials at all, which makes our collective inability to come together around a decent alternative and force them out of office all the more discouraging.


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