Friday, November 30, 2007

TASER and Friends

Galloping Beaver has pointed out this cozy little relationship. Check out the impeccable endorsement our deputy chief coroner, Dr. James Cairns has given the TASER:
"I am absolutely convinced tasers will save lives instead of taking lives. And I hope some day, if I am in the position, please taser me before you shoot me," Dr. Cairns told the board at its meeting.
In other words: TASER - it's better than being shot! I thought this song fitting:

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Sore Winners

The message that the Toronto Star has today for Fair Vote Ontario is essentially this: Electoral reform was handily defeated this time, the No forces are untouchable, now don't you dare bring this up again!!!

Those against electoral reform might feel vindicated in their victory, but I think deep down they know that some sort of proportional representation will come up for a vote in jurisdictions again and again - and once it passes in one place in Canada the floodgates will open. The supporters of first-past-the-post know this, so instead of saying "bring it on, we'll beat you again," they try desperately to make the idea go away for ever.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Politicizing Riding Boundaries

It's endemic to American politics and it's coming to Canada fast. In addition to Peter Van Loan's attempt to screw Ontario out of a bunch of federal seats that it deserves, now in BC the Liberals and the NDP are fighting over the number and location of provincial ridings. I confess that I don't know enough about BC provincial politics to form a strong opinion on who started this politicization of ridings there, but it is part of a worrying trend.

Edit: Northern BC Dipper has more on this topic.

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Australia's New Environment Minister

It's Peter Garrett formerly of Midnight Oil:

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The Angry Confusion of Jonah Goldberg

Matthew Yglesias has come upon Jonah Goldberg's latest tirade that he describes thusly:
"I read this Jonah Goldberg post that seemed to be complaining that liberals don't cite enough sacred texts that can then be debunked (and therefore gain an unfair advantage by keeping our true theological roots shrouded in mystery) with some puzzlement, so I was glad to see him eventually clarify that he thinks a handful of inane pranks can rectify the situation."
I admit that I got a bit of a chuckle out of this, but nothing really replicates the disingenuous pleading of the original post:
"The beauty of religious conservatives is that their dogma is open to scrutiny and investigation. Conservatives generally have a written canon that includes everything from the Bible to scores of political books. Liberalism's canon is largely unwritten, it's dogma made-up as they go along."
Wow. Right after this bit, Goldberg states that he's overgeneralizing but it would seem rather that he's lying outright. Many of the principle liberal texts (Locke, Rousseau, et cetera) predate many principle conservative texts (Burke, et cetera). Burke, you will recall, was reacting to the lurching attempts to install liberalism during the French Revolution... Oh wait, hahaha, I'm assuming that the average conservative voter has read Burke.

Yes conservatives, I'm calling you out, who's read Burke? Who's read Oakeshott? Leaving aside the ridiculous, vaguely offensive claim that Goldberg makes that religion is the sole domain of political conservatives, a reading of popular political aims might make one conclude that the Christian bible is broken down into these chapters:
  1. Keeping it out of the bum,
  2. No abortions,
  3. Taking the brain-dead off of life support (don't do it),
  4. Did we mention keeping it out of the bum?
  5. Tax cuts have to be in here somewhere... Anyone? Bueller?
The idea that all conservatives are earnestly attempting to adhere to biblical principles puts the horse before the cart in my mind. I think that many conservative politicians attempt sell policies that they've arrived at through a variety of means with a post-hoc religious justification. Moreover the problem with platforms based solely on religious texts is that they attempt to put policies beyond questioning. The other problem is that Jonah Goldberg really shouldn't be allowed to write, but you knew that already.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What countries can execute Canadians?

Having seen that a Canadian man on death row in Montana is now suing for the Canadian government for lacking the courage to maintain Canada's policy of opposing the death penalty, it has started me to wondering about which states might kill Canadians, and for what reasons. The government of Hangman Harper said that it would not fight against executions in a place like the US because it is "democratic" and "supports the rule of law."

This is another part of the new Harper look-the-other-way policy about which I'm curious. Canada's back alright, back in the pocket of the US. We are supposed to friends with the Americans, not their subservient lackeys.

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Afghanistan: Hearts and Minds

It appears as though an American air strike has killed a number of Afghan construction workers. The coalition has said that it is looking into this incident. One imagines that the result will be that something like "faulty intelligence" or "communications failures" will the the cause. No one will really be reprimanded and it will go on at before - at least for the coalition.

For Afghans that see no justice done for the sake of these innocent construction workers, this will confirm whatever suspicions they have that the coalition is full of hypocrites who decry the Taliban but let every non-Taliban warlord join the government, who demand a constitution and rule of law but scoff at the idea of holding any of their own to account.

NATO's conduct in situations like this matter, I have no doubt that everyone in the village, even the province, where this incident happened will remember it, but we here will forget it in a day or two and then furrow our brows as we try to comprehend why so many of them do not like us after all we've done for them.

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A Quick Look at Sports

This isn't really my area of expertise, but I feel like I ought to comment on the staggering incompetence of the people that run the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yesterday we had the bizarre situation of Richard Peddie implying that it was a mistake to hire John Ferguson as the GM of the Leafs. When pressed on it later in the day on radio, Peddie resorted to the politician's favourite line about words being taken out of context.

How these people were allowed to run anything is beyond me.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ontario's Unquiet Revolution

Ontario, as numerous others have pointed out, has historically seen its interests as a province and the interests of Canada as a whole as being virtually one and the same. We are the the biggest province in population and our manufacturing sector was long seen as driving this country's economy.

We have had it very good from an economic stand point. We weren't laid low by the collapse of the cod fishery nor were our major industries subject to the meddling of something like the National Energy Program. If smaller provinces wanted equalization or better representation in the House of Commons, we were inclined to go along.

This is starting to change. Peter Van Loan's insult to Ontario was only the beginning. As the high dollar helps Alberta and hurts Ontario, this province is going to become more focused in its demands of Ottawa. For a long time politicians would fight over Ontario seats without offering up much that was explicitly directed towards Ontario - this is going to change I suspect. We've been something a silent partner in confederation for far too long.

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The Last Dash for a Legacy

Is this a trend? It feels a little like deja-vu to see Bush, in the last year or so of his presidency, groping for a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. Bill Clinton tried to used the last year or so of his presidency to get a deal - and I suspect that Bush, like Clinton, will fail at this.

It's odd to look at these very different presidents attempting to achieve similar ends in the last months of their respective reigns. Clinton was never as unpopular as Bush is now - but he did seem to be aware that his legacy would be his impeachment. What he had accomplished in Kosovo or in Bosnia was probably not enough to cleanse the public memory of his various indiscretions. If Clinton were able to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to get some kind of deal on a "final status" for the occupied territories he could cast himself as a sort of flawed-hero statesman. Instead he was staring at legacy of being little more than a philanderer.

Bush is in worse shape. His legacy is one of squandering global sympathy after 9/11 for the pursuit of an invasion that was ill-considered at best and criminal at worst. Clinton was respected in many places outside of the US where it was not apparent why the public should become embroiled in a scandal over sexual favours. Bush is widely disliked though - some of his cabinet minister may very well one day be in the position that Henry Kissinger is in today where they cannot travel safely for fear of war crimes indictments in old Europe. What Bush is hoping for I suspect is a deal. This way he can attempt to cast his other Middle Eastern mis-adventures in the light of an honest (if horrendously executed) concern for democracy.

What might be nice is if presidents did not wait till they were in search of a legacy to do something about the festering problem of Israel and the Palestinians.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Toronto Falling Behind

According to a United Way report, Toronto's median income is falling behind that of the GTA and the province as a whole. There are a number of reasons why incomes in an urban area might be lower than those in other areas, but there are still problems that seem unique to Toronto. For example, according to Ian Urquhart people living in Toronto have a harding time qualifying for EI.

Now while there are solutions that the province or the city might address, changes to EI would make a significant difference. It is now harder for Torontonians to qualify for EI than it is for Canadians in, say, Montreal or Calgary. That said, given Harper's attitude toward Ontario in general and Toronto in particular makes me very skeptical about the chances that any changes might be expected any time soon.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wal-Mart Hates its Workers

If you didn't already believe that, they are suing an employee who was injured on the job to recoup some of their medical payments.

Two thoughts:
1. Remember this the next time that you are thrilled by the prospect of a toaster oven for $29 and,
2. If this typical of the kind of behaviour that one can expect in a private health insurance regime, then no thank you, I'll throw in with Tommy Douglas.

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Unite the left? A more informal option

Dana at the Galloping Beaver lays down the gauntlet to NDP supporters here. I understand the concern with stopping Harper, but I already know that the NDP retort will be something along the lines of "Liberal, Tory, same old story." In other words I don't see it happening.

I live in a fairly NDP riding, one where the only real competition will provided by the Liberal party - so we here Trinity-Spadina can't really do much more than we are already doing to stop Harper. Vote splitting here is a moot point.

As of right now I don't hold a membership in any political party - and unless one of the parties somehow does something spectacular I don't imagine that that will change. I suspect that there are more than a few people in the same position. We vote progressive, but we aren't beholden to a particular party. What I'm proposing is that we look at polls and aim to support the progressive candidate most able to beat the Harperite option.

Now since we don't have proportional representation in this country, there's not much difference that I can make where I am, but for people in swing ridings, this kind of consideration might make a difference. I know that this was tried in the 1990s with Mike Harris without too much success, but with the advent of the blogosphere the ability to share this information is greatly increased.

What do you say? Can we compile a guide for the best Harperite defeater in every riding?

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Another Former PM Returns to Pakistan

I'm not sure what makes Nawaz Sharif think that he will succeed with Musharraf where Bhutto failed, but he has returned to Pakistan. To me it now appears that Musharraf has two fomer prime minister he can now ignore.

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George Jonas is a total idiot or The Killer Nic-fit

I'm not just using this as title because I often find myself at odds with the former Mr. Barbara Amiel, no, today I'm convinced the man is actually one of the stupidest columnists writing in Canada.

Some backstory: Paul Wells was touting his former employer's new website and, in all fairness to their web design people, it does look better. Nonetheless, this lured me into reading the Opinion section where I stumbled across George Jonas' theorizing about the RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski.

According to Jonas, the real way that the state killed Mr. Dziekanski was by forbidding him to smoke in the airport! No really he says:
"Before the armed agents of the state ran wild, though, the unlucky Pole ran a bit wild himself. Why did Mr. Dziekanski start throwing things around at the Vancouver airport, which eventually conjured up the Taser-toting agents of the omnipotent state?

The probable answer is nicotine starvation. Before Big Nanny deprived Mr. Dziekanski of his life, she deprived him of cigarettes. There's a chance the enthusiastic East European visitor to our shores, gung-ho enough to keep a Canadian flag at home, who talked about looking forward to seeing grizzly bears in British Columbia, ended up dying to smoke. Literally."

Wow. That's an excellent use of Eastern European stereotypes. The real killer here is that people can't smoke wherever they want? Now in fairness, further on in the column, Jonas does concede that the RCMP electrocuting Dziekanski may also have had something to do with his untimely end, and that that too, was unwise. But a nic-fit as a cause of death in this case, I mean come on! Do we even know that Dziekanski was a smoker, and if so, even a heavy one?

Is it okay to stereotype Poles again? George Jonas, you are an idiot at best, a racist demagogue at worst.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lately one or two have fully paid their due...

...for working for the clampdown.

Iraq-invadin', climate change denin' John Howard is done down under. And for those who don't see a way to defeat Harper here any time soon, it should be noted that the CBC reports:
"The win marked a humiliating end to the career of outgoing Prime Minister John Howard, who became Australia's second-longest serving leader - and who had appeared almost unassailable as little as a year ago."
As recently as earlier this year, people like Mark Steyn loved to speak of the "anglosphere" as a cohesive unit - to them it must have seemed that now that a Conservative was running Canada it could join the US, UK, and Australia (though curiously New Zealand never gets mentioned) in making the world safe, for democracy or at least whatever the hell Bush thinks it is that Musharraf is doing in Pakistan.

Today one wonders if there was ever such a cohesive thing as a unified anglosphere as conservatives might have imagined it - rather than just coinciding right-wing governments.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Acting like a Prime Minister

Stephane Dion has stepped in to oppose the death penalty where Harper and his minions will not. It should again be apparent that Harper wishes a return to capital punishment. He lacks the courage, of course, to say so, but the mealy-mouthed responses of his lackeys ministers give me every reason to believe that Harper would support a return to the use of the death penalty.

Stephane Dion opposes the death penalty, I am clear on his stance. Does Stephen Harper oppose the death penalty? Will he say so unequivocally? I doubt it.

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Suspended from the Commonwealth

I'm not sure if Musharraf will rethink his dictatorial rule now that Pakistan is suspended from the Commonwealth. Truth be known, I'm not even sure what membership in the Commonwealth gets you anymore. Vijay Sappani has a much better idea here.

In the meantime, I would love to have Musharraf's publicist. The meme that he is all that stands between Pakistan's nukes and the Taliban is still very potent. You can explain that the extremists really are not as popular in Pakistan as the media would have you believe, but for some people Musharraf remains the sine qua non of peace and security in his country.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Busted Conservative Environmental Scheme

It looks like the rebates on new, fuel efficient cars aren't really making much of a difference. I've said before that this government is at best interested in half-measure that it hopes will placate moderate voters, and here we are again.

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Why don't they report the good news?

Sadly it looks like the festering cholera problem is getting worse in Iraq. I don't recall new epidemics as being one of the promised benefits of an invasion back in 2003. I suppose, just like with every other problem that's happened in Iraq some neocon will now sit down in front of a camera and explain that of course we should have expected outbreaks of disease - it's a sign that democracy marches on! Just like civil war and ethnic cleansing!

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Sidebar Who's Who

I suppose I ought to clarify that when I say I have a "Friends" section I mean people I actually know outside of the blogosphere. Some of them blog about their travels, some about life in general, some about philosophy, some post photos. One of my most recent additions is attempting to write a fantasy serial.

Despite not knowing much about the genre, I think the fantasy serial is working out the best so far of the blogs I've added recently to the "Friends" section. Well done, Basil.

The overall favourite among my friends though remains Jam's stories that mostly concern his traveling adventures. It makes me envious!

For those of you who got the reference in the title of this blog, here's your nostalgia fix:

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How Small of You to Criticize Us for Shortchanging You

Impolitical has the goods on Peter Van Loan's idiotic comment about Dalton McGuinty yesterday. I guess Alberta was the "small man" for raising a fuss over the National Energy Program. I wonder how that sounds to the Conservative Party's Western overlords?

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Oh boy, I love winter!

I woke up hearing the sound of freezing rain, so I'm thrilled right now at the prospect of my morning commute. More commentary as the weather permits.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Real Police Work

What are we doing at the UN anyway?

Apparently Canada sponsored a resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran - and it passed. While this seems sensible in that most observers would tell you that, yes, there are rights violations in Iran, what is mind boggling though is how you set this in the context of how the Conservatives have treated other UN resolutions or other expressions of concern for human rights.

Canada would not place a simple phone call to support a death penalty resolution recently. This could not be done because our people at the UN were busy on other, unspecified, resolutions. Last year, Canada could not even get behind a resolution to investigate Israel's use of collective punishment in the Gaza Strip.

In the meantime, if you raise questions about Canada's own actions in Afghanistan, it's because you hate our troops. We are no better at home than we are abroad.

When Canada took a stand on an issue at the UN, there used to be some moral weight behind it - or at least the sense that we were an independent-minded agent. Now we appear to be useful idiots for the US and Israel. At home, when there were serious problems with our mistreatment of Somali prisoners we went to the trouble of a public inquiry. Now the government accuses critics of lacking patriotism.

What this does is drain all the credibility out of our efforts at the UN. When we now condemn Iran's government it appears to be less an exercise in legitimately criticizing the immoral actions of its government and more an effort to establish our bona fides with the US and Israel.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Disappeared

I think we are in denial. I know I am in denial, because I'm not saying enough about this. We are fucking disappearing people in Afghanistan! What the hell? Were we satisfied that we nicely asked the government to look into it? Maybe, I don't know. We are losing everything that we built, our reputation as peacekeepers, as respecters of human rights. We are betraying it in Afghanistan for the sake of convenience and we are allowing such a thing to happen because those who support such policies will denounce us as unpatriotic if we do not.

What happens in a few years when Afghans come to us looking for their family members. Can't happen here you say? I'm not so sure. We are monsters if we let this continue with our knowledge. If we have to be complicit with a murderous, torturing regime we ought not to be in Afghanistan. If the Afghans want us, they can damn well get their shit together with regard to prisoner treatment.

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An Update from Conservapedia

You may recall the right's attempt to correct reality's well-known liberal bias, Conservapedia. Anyway, Andrew Sullivan points out the most popular pages on the site. This may surprise some of you, or it may not. Anyway, for your edification, these are the things that concerns the users of Conservapedia:

Most viewed pages

  1. Main Page‎ [1,897,627]
  2. Homosexuality‎ [1,491,453]
  3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [516,210]
  4. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [416,891]
  5. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [387,456]
  6. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [328,165]
  7. Homosexuality and Domestic Violence‎ [327,141]
  8. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [315,831]
  9. Homosexuality and Syphilis‎ [262,127]
  10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [250,840]
You just can't write stuff like that!

Edit: It looks like Paul Wells has discovered Conservapedia.

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Day: Hey you! Don't watch that! Watch this!

This has to be the worst attempt by a government to change the channel on an issue. Stockwell Day has tried to pit the police killing of Robert Dziekanski against the problem of drunk driving. This issue has been done quite a bit, so I won't dwell on it too much - it's just indicative of how inept the Minister of Public Safety (our own Robespierre?) really is.

And now here's the 1980s ska band that gave me the title to this post, ladies and gentlemen, Madness:

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Ontario Gets Ripped Off

It's really beyond me why the federal government is going to screw Ontario out of ten additional seats in parliament. Except it's not, it's a blatantly partisan move by a party that views everything as a partisan opportunity - the Conservatives do better in Alberta and BC, it's that simple. I guess "representation by population" is passe, now we have "representation by partisanship."

The next step for the Conservatives I suppose is to attempt to politicize the drawing of riding maps - that's the way it's done in the US. Here comes the gerrymandering. Don't believe me? It's already been tried by Tories in PEI.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Excited Delirium = Bullshit?

The RCMP talking points are coming together now and you can bet that they will lead with the "excited delirium" line that's getting airing in the media already. What is excited delirium? How would we know if Robert Dziekanski was suffering from it? Well, what do medical and psychological professionals say about? The CBC article says this:
"In fact, the term is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, a handbook for professional psychologists and psychiatrists."
Oh. So it's not even a real disease. In fact it looks more like a post-hoc explanation. If the taser kills you, then you had it. Why not just say that the person in question had crazyitis? It has about as much medical merit.

Either way, expect to see "excited delirium" emanating from an RCMP mouthpiece near you.

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Report from the Lightsaber Battle or What's Wrong with the National Post

On Friday night I found myself, along with the fiancee and a couple thousand other Torontonians at Newmindspace's ROM lightsaber battle. The event entirely filled the broad sidewalk in front of the ROM's new Bloor St. facade. There was at least one storm trooper, several Darth Vaders, lots of neck beards, several tinfoil-and-cardboard robots and at least one very confused Klingon.

(Side note: if you want to drive a sci-fi geek insane, mix up Star Wars and Star Trek, but they themselves can do it as some kind of ironic statement? Maybe it's like rappers using the "N-word.")

Amid all the weirdos there was a group of candy ravers. I thought all the candy ravers were extinct. I remember in 1999-2000 they were all up and down Queen St. in the furriest Modrobe pants they could buy. I had not seen them though for quite some time, maybe the subculture lost its cool some time after the moral panic over Ecstasy shifted to some other drug. Anyway, on Friday night there were candy ravers at the lightsaber battle, I don't know why, but there were.

So there I am standing in the freezing cold waiting for the lightsaber distribution and some guy who looks a little too business-like (but in an emo sort of way) sidles up to the candy ravers and asks them what they are dressed up as. They pause, "Uhhhh, ourselves?"
"We usually dress this way."
The corporate-emo guy reveals himself to be a National Post reporter. He is there to cover the largest, best-organized nerd fight Toronto has seen. He continues his questioning, "What do your costumes represent?"
"But what do they mean?"
"Uh, we like to be ourselves."
"Being yourself, that's great! Can I get your names for my story?"

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Your Moment of Zen

The Daily Show writers turn their attention to their bosses at Viacom - with hilarious results.


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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dismantling the RCMP

I put the idea forward in a post the other day. Macleans has an extended critique of the force here. The magazine doesn't appear to endorse my idea as a solution though they did say this:
"In B.C., where nearly a third of RCMP officers are posted—and where critics say criminal networks have gained the upper hand on understaffed Mounties—the stakes are even higher. Two weeks ago, the chief constable of the West Vancouver municipal police floated the idea of a regional force on the Lower Mainland, an idea that would remove the cities of Burnaby, North Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey from the RCMP's bailiwick."
Why limit it to the region? BC, and every other province, ought to get its own provincial force. The RCMP polices far too broad of an area and appears to be doing it ineffectively. What has saved them so far is the romantic image that mounties have in movies and television. Romantic images are not a good basis for policy choices.

Update: Dr. Dawg has been saying this for a while.

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Jesus Reaches for the Barf Bag

That's taken from a line by a commenter on this post at Bene Diction Blogs On. It's all in regard to the disbanding of an association of Christian booksellers in Canada. What's wrong with being a Christian bookseller, well nothing really, except the material you have to carry. A sample:
"I had friends that started a religious bookstore and sold it in deep discouragement some years later. They got fed up having to sell Jesus junk and CCM and way to many sappy religious greeting cards and Christianity lite bestsellers like Joel Osteen."
The whole post is worth reading.

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Murder by the State

Understandably, Polish officials are very upset with the cruel treatment Robert Dziekanski received at the hands of four police thugs. As the Clash says, murder is crime unless it was done by a policeman. It sort of got me to thinking about a Polish film that more people outside of Eastern Europe really out to know. Released in 1988, The Decalogue a ten-part series that meditates on the transgressions listed in the ten commandments. I recommend the whole thing, but here is the last bit of the fifth short, the one that concerns murder. This scene depicts the execution of a deranged murderer by an authoritarian state, not the electrical lynching of an upset and confused man lost in an airport where no one spoke his language in a supposedly free society.

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Wasting Parliament's Time

The Conservatives know that the three opposition parties support the gun registry. Nonetheless they will introduce a bill to appease their base that they reasonably ought to know will fail. How much time will parliament spend defeating this stupid bill? How much will this cost taxpayers to stroke the egos of some gun-nuts. For crying out loud, if I have to register my car with the government, you can damn well register your gun. Thanks for wasting my tax dollars, Conservative gun nuts.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Tomorrow is World Philosophy Day

According to UNESCO tomorrow is world philosophy day. In honour of that here are some philosophers:


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A National Disgrace

There's been so much written about the apparently cold-blooded killing of a confused traveler by the RCMP - and rightly so. I was disgusted listening to rationalizations of an RCMP spokesman on CBC radio last night.

I think this is perhaps the time to take it one step further: break up the RCMP. In Ontario and Quebec there are provincial police forces that do the vast majority of what the RCMP does in all the other provinces. Before Robert Dziekanski there was Ian Bush, part of 267(!) deaths at the RCMP's hands hands of police in BC.

Here's why a break-up might help: It appears, whenever there are problems with the RCMP they seem to disappear down a bureaucratic rabbit hole. It wasn't until there was real trouble for the RCMP's complicity in the rendition of Maher Arar that anyone even knew who Giuliano Zaccardelli was. Giving the RCMP's role to new provincial forces would shorten and clarify the lines of accountability. When, say, the OPP does mess up, we can draw a line from the officers on the ground right up to the premier if we need to.

Let the RCMP do horse parades and perhaps guard federal buildings and foreign dignitaries (we can work out their new, limited role). I do not have confidence in them to do much else. Dismantle the RCMP.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why we need transit money

When your transit system resorts to duct tape as a signage tool, that means you're underfunded.

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Who's Afraid of Environmentalism?

Keith was pointing out a blog to me that he sometimes reads and in it I found this very concerned post. A sample:
"...environmentalism is fast becoming the default religion of our age and of our society. It is a religion that is politically correct and which creates few enemies. It is a religion everyone respects and a religion that is bound to garner attention. It is a religion that is creating its own brand of Pharisees, people who stand on the street corners, so to speak, declaring their religious accomplishments."
What evidence does Mr. Challies have for this? Let's back up, here are a selection of quotes from a local newspaper article about a local woman who is evidently concerned about the environment - this is Challies' evidence:
“I only use reusable cloth bags when grocery shopping.” “When I’ve put away the groceries, I leave the bags on the front door knob so I’ll remember to bring them back out to the car.” “She never buys single serving containers.” “I engaged a diaper service to collect and recycle disposable diapers.” “They hang the annual Waste Management Calendar in their kitchen to that everyone can see it.” “Her twins help compost by putting their fruit peels in the Kitchen Catcher for backyard composting.” “We talk a lot about our earth and how we can help make it a healthier place.” “Our family of four only has a half bag of garbage or less, as most waste is either recyclable or compostable.”
Wow. This seems pretty mainstream to me. My mother is vigilant about separating recyclables and composting and following the waste management schedules but if you told her that her religion was "Environmentalism" I'm sure she would politely but firmly say no, it's actually Presbyterian.

It boggles my mind why someone would try to set up a false dichotomy between environmentalism and organized religion. What's odd about this post is that Challies begins by talking about Oakvilles new composting program and ends by saying he supports it. So how is this different from the lady in the newspaper? And yet, the false dichotomy continues in Challies' comment section:
"For some of the young people he knows, there really are no absolute moral rules except do everything you can to reduce your footprint."
I suppose if you take a crude, inaccurate view of environmentalism you might come up with something like that. Just like if you took a crude, inaccurate view of contemporary evangelical Christianity you might conclude that there are "no absolute moral rules" except that you don't have an abortion or gay sex.

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Losing Ourselves in Afghanistan

It appears now that some of the detainees that we turned over to the Afghans have disappeared. We are participating in disappearances? Why? I know what the stock answers will be, all the business about this being a "new kind of enemy" or a "clash of civilizations" or the "greatest threat we face."


We somehow managed to fight World War II without participating in disappearances. What are we doing now? Maybe if you're a neocon crackpot like Jonah Goldberg and you view Pinochet as a hero, this is no big deal, but I've always wanted to believe that Canada was trying to hold itself to a higher standard. Remember as far as we know, none of the disappeared have been convicted of anything, let alone charged. We have no way of knowing whether they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm not sure how much of this kind of "help" the Afghan people are prepared to tolerate.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This man did not need to die

After watching the video it's fairly apparent that Robert Dziekanski did not need to die. The taser was applied almost as a matter of convenience. The cops in the video appear fairly cavalier.

This is tough for me to say, because all the cops I know really seem to be doing a tough job for the right reasons, and it frustrates me that my profession (teaching) is often tarred with a big brush, but there are some sick people who work their way into policing. Let's face it, if you get a sick kick out of violence, policing is a great state-sanctioned way to live that out. It's too early to apply that sort of characterization here, but we need to have our eyes open.

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Homeland Security Inaction!

US Border Guards stopped a Canadian fire truck from rushing to a fire on the US side of the border. Did they think that was al-Qaeda's new big disguise? This is inexcusably stupid.

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Dr. Smith and Capital Punishment

Dr. Charles Smith, it seems safe to say now, has utterly ruined many peoples' lives. One coroner who was either remarkably incompetent or simply paranoiac in how he viewed autopsies led to at least 20 cases handled incorrectly. In several cases, most notably that of William Mullins-Johnson, people actually did jail time. In Mullins-Johnson's case he had apparently exhausted his appeal options prior to the province realizing that Smith was incompetent.

I cannot imagine going to prison for over a decade for a heinous crime I did not commit - a heinous crime that never happened. That said, we now have a chance to make amends for the horrible miscarriage that happened in this case. One wonders what would happen in a place like Texas to convicted child-killer and rapist who had exhausted his appeals. This was not though a total failure of the system for complex reasons. This was not a collusion of police and prosecutors. This was one incompetent doctor.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

He's Baaaaack

All through the 1990s I remember there was this sort of understanding (at least among people I talked to - there were no blogs, alas) that any party with "conservative" in the name was made radioactive to too many people because of the spectre of Mulroney. There has been some re-evaluation of the man, hell, even Jason Cherniak seems positively sympathetic to him now.

Still, I think it is worth remembering the visceral hatred this man engendered in so many Canadians by the end of his second term. Some polls had his popularity at 4%! You think Dion has problems? The reality is, if Mulroney and his record are dragged back into the spotlight, there's a good chance that some of that anger at him will come roaring back. It doesn't matter that Chretien and Martin largely continued the two policies that made the man hated (free trade and the GST), there was something about Mulroney himself that people just reviled by 1993.

If this anger does come back because of Mulroney's reappearance in the Canadian political spotlight, Harper had better watch out for the halo effect it will have on his party.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

To my German readers

According to Google Analytics Germany is third (behind Canada and the US) in readership by country for this blog. So, uh, here you go, Germans:

Hey, I could have put up Hasselhoff instead!


Details are a Bitch, Flaherty

The Star has an article today in which the TD Bank's chief economist - among others - points out how little anyone will actually receive from Flaherty's mini-budget tax cuts. Even though most low-income earners will receive very little from this benefit, the Conservatives can still go to the polls as "tax-cutters." They've even got a commercial to demonstrate how bad the Liberals would bungle the tax file: Dion is shrugging! Numbers! Uh-oh, the numbers keep going up! Out-of-context quote! Danger!

It is an insult to our intelligence that the Conservatives put these ads on the television. Were I, in some parallel universe, actually considering voting for the Conservatives I think the sort of intelligence-insulting adverts they put on would surely drive me away from them. Perhaps that's why they're stalled in the polls.

Update: Scott's take on the matter.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who Musharraf claims to be

Haroon Siddiqui quotes Tariq Ali on the image of Musharraf that most of the West has:
'Our public discourse has it that "all that stops a jihadi finger finding the nuclear trigger is (Pervez) Musharraf," writes Tariq Ali, the Pakistan-born British author.'
This is of course not news and it is also a gross mis-characterization of the situation in Pakistan. Nonetheless the perception of Musharraf as the last sane man ruling a nation of jihadis persists.

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No Country for Old Men Update

I saw the film last night and yes, it was awesome.


Remembrance Day

This is a complicated day for me. My great-grandfather, Arthur Ferguson was one of the men who was sent to the hellhole of Passchendaele to capture a piece of land that Haig would later abandon as not militarily important. What do you say of men sent to do such things? Their efforts were genuine, they succeeded in doing an impossibly difficult thing, but for what? Red Tory puts it very well by saying:
"More than 68,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders died in the pointless slaughter of WWI — for absolutely nothing."
Arthur Ferguson did not die (and for that the rest of you are afflicted by my blogging) but he did go through hell I am sure. Why? Because Belgium had to be defended? Because Germany was an enemy of Britain for threatening her naval supremacy? Because Gavrilo Princep shot Franz Ferdinand? I don't know. It does not diminish the sacrifice of our veterans that it was made for suspect causes, but it does perhaps diminish the rest of us when we permit or even encourage our forces to be used in these ways.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Registering a Domain Name

Who has the best deal out there for domain name hosting? I'm wondering if I should step up from the blogspot domain to something more personal. Thoughts?


Words from Iranian clerics you probably won't see on TV

Juan Cole found this gem:
"...our eminent Leader [Ali Khamenei] -- has made it abundantly clear, as have others, that the destruction of nations, any nation, women and children, large or small -- the massacre of innocents is wrong. The same is true of the atomic bomb and atomic weapons. The very idea of an atom bomb is forbidden, the very deed is a sin."
These are the words of Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani who, being a member of the Assembly of Experts is probably as well connected to government thinking as Ahmadinejad. Could this be a ruse? Maybe. But so could some of the more bellicose statements that have emanated from Iran.

Yes I know that the neo-cons love to use 1937 as their model for everything, but what if this is 1962? Kennedy had conflicting messages from the Kremlin, he chose to respond to the more conciliatory ones and not the belligerent ones. Perhaps this should be our model now.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Asking the wrong question about Afghanistan

This quote struck me as exactly what's wrong with how some people frame the debate about Canada in Afghanistan:
"In the shoddy, shallow, squalid and grotesquely politicized 'debate' in Canada about Afghanistan and the role of our military there, the one question that matters more than any other is how we can prevent the return of this kind of savagery, still wreaking its havoc just across the border in Pakistan"
Shoddy, shallow, squalid. This has all the hallmarks of the sort of self-hating conservative Canadian mindset (Andrew Coyne sinks into this every so often). That's not the problem I want to deal with now. My greater concern comes from framing the debate as "how can we prevent the return of this kind of savagery" when I think we have yet to answer whether we can prevent anything in Afghanistan.

Sure, we can occupy the country, we can control the airspace, we can go into a village (more than once, if need be) and clear out all the apparent bad guys. All this will be for nothing though if the Afghans (or even a good-sized percentage of them) simply refuse us. It is not as though they are without reason. Let's remember who we installed as their new leaders - essentially the non-Taliban warlords. We're also killing the livelihood of too many farmers to deal with heroin on our shores.

We might drive some more extreme elements of Taliban rule underground or to the fringes of Afghan society, but I do not believe that we can fully do away with it in five or ten years. Perhaps we can not do away with it at all. If a great number of Afghans are simply not interested in elections, constitutional government, and the other elements of a modern nation state - these will leave with the last C-17 to fly out of the country.

It would be nice to think that we could really, permanently effect change for those oppressed by the Taliban or whoever, I just do not believe it's possible that a bunch of strangers speaking an alien language and living in armed camps can remake a whole society - no matter how genuine or well-intentioned they may be.

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No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy and the Coens? This had better be as awesome as I hope it will be - at least the reviews are promising.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Does Prince Hate his Fans?

It would appear so - he's going after them for compensation after they post images of him or even his symbol on fan sites. Prince is an amazing performer, I've seen him live and he's brilliant. He has enough talent to justify his ego, but this is shitty behaviour, I don't care how eccentric or brilliant Prince is, this is just shitty.


We're gonna have a fair trial, then we'll hang'em

Once again Omar Khadr is facing the Guantanamo kangaroo court. As has been the case, Canada's Crusty Government will study its shoes and pretend nothing is happening:
"Unlike other Western governments who secured the release of their citizens, Canada has refused to intervene in Khadr's case. A Foreign Affairs official here to observe today's hearing said she could not comment."
I don't know why we are not interested in protecting the rights of our citizens any more. Yes the Khadrs are odious, but I don't recall where it says that our laws or our diplomatic corps are only to serve nice people. The fact that the government-appointed military attorneys and judges have already scuttled this process twice before is probably a sign that the Canadian government ought to step in and say to Washington "Look, this isn't working, your military people - those that ought to be most interesting in 'getting' Khadr - have already repeatedly found fault with the process, it's time for this to end."

It is shameful that we will not step in and end this poorly-conceived process as directed against someone whose fitness to stand trial is seriously in doubt.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Lawyer Jokes This Month

At least not in Pakistan:
"Hundreds of lawyers took to the streets of Islamabad on the fourth consecutive day of the state of emergency to protest against Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. Observed by the cameras of the international press the police kept a low profile, but behind the scenes thousands of lawyers, journalists, activists and citizens have been arrested or placed under house arrest all over the country."

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Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Guess who won't co-sponsor a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty? That's right, Canada's Shitty Government. Apparently Harper and Day have changed 30 years of Canadian policy without ever making it an election issue and without any credible public support (they asked, no one's buying). When the next election rolls around we need straight anwers from the Conservatives about capital punishment. If they are going to bring it back, they ought to say so. In the meantime it looks like they really do have a hidden agenda. Would a Conservative majority reintroduce the death penalty? Does Stephen Harper personally support the death penalty? We are not getting the straight answers we deserve.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Know Your Rights

Apparently remaining silent is not one of them. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the right of police to keep on questioning suspects even after they've repeatedly asserted their rights not to talk.

Heh. So much for the notion of our bleeding-heart liberal activist judges. All this in the wake of several high-profile wrongful convictions makes you wonder what the court the was thinking. Supporters of police will no doubt say that having too many rules hinders the ability of police to "do their job." I would say that forcing police out of the tunnel-vision of badgering the first suspect their encounter is what allows them to really do their job. In a number of wrongful convictions (Morin and Truscott in particular) it appears that once police thought they had their suspect, they ignored all evidence to the contrary.

Wearing down a suspect by infringing his or her rights no doubt gives police the sort of statements that allow them to feed their tunnel vision. This ruling infringes on human rights and allows for more lazy, sloppy police work.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Dictator?

Musharraf's Pakistan is going from bad to worse. This is a situation that never really had good options - I'd like to see a democratic Pakistan but there I'm not sure that the West has a credible way to pressure Musharraf. This recent chaos though seems to have everything to do with Musharraf's general disdain for an independent judiciary. Given that we've allowed Musharraf a fairly free reign over the past few years, I suppose it's no surprise that he feels that he can switch on martial law like it was a lightbulb.

If anyone has a better idea, I'd love to read it.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cancer is an Evil Motherfucker

I know this isn't groundbreaking, but it looks like someone else I know has it. Sigh.


Letting the facts ruin a witty saying

Have you heard this tripe?
"A Liberal is a Conservative who hasn't been mugged yet."
Heh. The same blog post goes on to point out a rash of muggings near the Junction and some shootings in the Jane-Finch corridor. Okay, fair enough, now let's test this saying: How did the parties perform in the recent Ontario Election? Parkdale-High Park went NDP and York West went Liberal. Who thinks that either of these ridings will go blue in either the next federal or provincial election? I suppose the fact that Torontonians are not rushing into either Harper's or Tory's arms thus fulfilling the above saying somehow "proves" that Toronto is an open-air insane asylum.

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Not even the National Post will go for this!

The National Post on Harper's death-penalty stance:
"But it is an inescapable fact that our Parliament rejected the death penalty as immoral in a 1976 free vote. Until this collective national judgment is formally reversed, it is inappropriate for our government to stand mute as a Canadian is subjected to a punishment in the United States that we ourselves would never permit."
Now the National Post does not come right out and oppose the death penalty, I'm not sure what their editorial stance is on this matter. To their credit though, regardless of their stance, at least the National Post sees this as an issue for parliament. If Harper wants to change the rules, he should say so.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Rock On

Career Opportunities by The Clash:


Harper Unveils his New Platform

You knew this was coming:

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Kady O'Malley on Hang'em Harper

What the Cons ought to do according to Ms. O'Malley:
"If the Conservatives are serious about reversing our longstanding position on the death penalty - a position, incidentally, that did not originate with the Liberals, but with the previous incarnation of the Tories - then they should have the courage to bring the matter to the House of Commons for a thorough debate, if not a vote - a free vote, one would assume, given the party's stance on issues of conscience."
Aw hell, these guys are in love with confidence votes, I still say we should make this a confidence vote.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Search Terms of the Week

"amnesia flight simulator" anyone?


Movember Anyone?

I'm seriously considering doing this. Not shaving for a good cause? Brilliant.

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Monochrome Blue

There's more proof today that this is where the Conservative party is at in the red-blue colour-coded politics scheme. Mark Warner's ability to tailor his candidacy to his riding forced Harpers gang to hit the independent thought alarm. This is not a big-tent party, this is a party of moderates who are being used as cover and ideologues holding their tongues till they get a majority.

Today we also got a very big hint that the latter group might like to bring back the death penalty, just for the hell of it.

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Bring Down Hang'em Harper

Is there a way that the opposition can make the Conservative government fall on this? These guys are apparently fans of the death penalty, and they are no longer interested in shielding Canadians from a practice that this country long ago dismissed as abhorrent and ineffective. This is an excellent issue for an election. Dog Harper with nooses at every campaign stop. I'm only half-kidding when I say this. So Stephane, Jack, and Gilles, what do ya say?

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On the Margins, Literally and Figuratively

One thing that we in Toronto allow ourselves to be proud of is the fact that our downtown core has not been allowed to rot out. There are pockets of poverty, but for the most part our downtown is a safe, livable place. The reality though is that we've just pushed poverty to the corners. By doing this, it appears that we've merely pushed poverty to the margins - the east and northwest of the city.

The problems of poverty are compounded in these areas by the fact there are no services. In turn this apparently leads to health problems. The poorest neighbourhoods are the least-serviced ones too. We need to find the money to build transit into these areas. We also need to stop building areas like this. I understand that winding residential streets and an abundance of cul-de-sacs are designed to stop traffic from sailing through residential areas. Take a look though at the Annex, the whole neighbourhood is virtually impassable by car due to its one-way streets, that however does not impede pedestrians who wish to use the simple grid layout in the neighbourhood.

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