Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Democracy According to the Canadian Wheat Board

Farmers not as in control of CWB as advocates insist

Apparently, this is how Canadian judges think democracy works:

Canadian grain farmers vote 62% in favour of eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board's single-desk monopoly on Barley. The government acts to carry out this decision. When 38% of grain farmers file suit to prevent this, the court decides in favour of the minority, denying the majority their right to chart the course of their own businesses.

At least according to Dolores Hansen.

According to Hansen, the Conservative government has "overstepped its boundaries" by trying to set policy for a government agency without passing it in the form of a law through the House of Commons.

This ruling comes on the eve of the move to strip the CWB of its monopoly.

Apparently, Hansen has forgotten about the March 28 vote in which Canadian grain farmers clearly called for marketing choice.

The vote occurred amongst complaints that the Conservatives were manipulating the vote. The complaints turned out to be baseless, as retired farmers and farmers who had moved out of the grain farming business were removed from voting lists. Brief meaningful controversy ensued when some farmers were accidentally mailed more than one ballot. However, their votes were confirmed via phone calls.

Supporters of the Wheat Board have insisted that only farmers can vote to change the CWB's policies, or vote it out of existence. Now, they've apparently changed their mind: only parliament can vote to change CWB policies, even if it frustrates the collective will of Canadian farmers--the same collective will they formerly claimed is the only legitimate way to make any changes to the CWB.

Now, this entire affair is essentially in the hands of the opposition, who have constantly and publicly announced their opposition to any changes in the CWB.

Apparently, this is how democracy works in the eyes of CWB supporters: set the rules to your favour. Then, if things still don't turn out in your favour, change the rules, in court, if necessary.

Digital Democracy, Participatory Democracy and Consumer Democracy: An Uneasy Balance

Jihad vs. McWorld offers a unique perspective on digital democracy

Howard Dean could have been president. In the eyes of many, Howard Dean should have been president.

If the 2004 American presidential election had been conducted exclusively on the internet, Howard Dean probably would have been president.

Unfortunately, the election wasn't conducted exclusively on the internet, and Howard Dean may never be president. But those who overlook Dean's performance in the 2003 presidential primaries also overlook the incredible blow that he managed to strike in favour of participatory democracy, particularly digital democracy.

By way of blogs, messaging boards and youtube videos, 2007's slate of would-be presidents has clearly taken notice of the near-miracle pulled off by Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi. And for good reason.

It's a winning formula, one built upon a formula that is constantly refreshed by the utter indifference of all too many politicians.

In many ways, digital democracy is an internet-specific version of classical participatory democracy, wherein it is concieved that every man and woman of voting age (or at least old enough to be politically active) has a right (and a responsibility) to be engaged in the political process. Digital democracy is only a slight variant: through it, every man and woman of voting age (or, again, at least old enough to be politically active) has the power to participate through the many tools the internet offers.

Most western democracies haven't been participatory in decades. The traditional style of democracy has seemingly been replaced by consumer democracies, wherein political ideas have been reduced from something that the average person engages with personally, to something that is merely produced, packaged and marketed by politicians and bought by voters.

Voters are disempowered in consumer democracies. Instead of telling politicians what their interests are and what they expect, they are instead told what their interests should be and what they should expect. What eventually emerges is a democracy wherein voters are offered fewer real choices.

Periodically throughout history, political movements are catalyzed around dissatisfaction with this brand of consumer democracy, often based around populist ideals (in Canada, the Reform party was only the most recent among a historical lineage of such movements).

When examined from the point of view offered by Benjamin Barber's Jihad vs. McWorld model, demands for digital democracy represent a very deep and, at times, gutteral reaction to the dominant model of consumer democracy.

According to Barber "jihad" movements often emerge out of identity politics, while the "McWorld" institutions they oppose emerge out of globalism and consumerism. Populism, favoured by many digital democracy advocates, tends to have deep roots in identity politics, although the identity it refers to tends to be a broader "big tent" concept. The "McWorld" institutions are often mired in elitism (itself a form of identity politics), but promote themselves stringently.

For many, the first impulse while examining phenomenae according to the Jihad vs. McWorld model is to villainize or demonize one side or another. Yet, a good deal of villainy is perpetrated both by "jihadist" movements and by "McWorld" institutions. The watering-down of political discourse under consumer democracy should probably be considered such an act of villainy. It disempowers ordinary voters to the benefit of political elites, undermining the kind of citizenship engagement necessary for a healthy democracy.

On the other hand, neither side is excusively villainous, either. The horrific violence perpetrated by the 9/11 hijackers constrasts very differently with civil rights activists, as does the heartless profiteering by irresponsible corporations with the philantrophy of the United Way.

The "jihadist" agitations of digital democracy advocates tends to come out overall as positive.

In regards to participatory and digital democracy, the "jihadist" movements are not necessarily universally positive. Often, such movements can tend to run hand-in-hand with other "jihadist" movements that don't necessarily have the noblest intentions. Consider, for example, the Reform party's experience with attempted subversion by racist organizations (which are solidly grounded in identity politics). Likewise, the "McWorld" institutions are not universally negative. Canada's hate crime laws have helped to stem the tide of racial propaganda spread by such groups.

Sometimes, such "jihadist" movements even achieve their goals by subverting "McWorld" institutions. Consider the irony of Pierre Trudeau's promise of participatory democracy against the fact that he has, both pre- and post-humously, been one of the world's most mass-marketed politicians. The two concepts really don't seem to be very compatible.

However, throughout Trudeau's early years, he was clearly a "jihadist" (he was actually an avowed Quebecois separatist, actually to a militant degree). In his case, however, he was eventually subdued by the "McWorld" institutions, which he actually served to increase the power of.

Digital democracy is slowly starting to worm its way into the dominant model of consumer democracy. However, those who champion it must steadfastly guard it against potential subversion from the "McWorld" institutions, lest it become simply another tool of consumer democracy to manipulate the electorate to the service of elites.

Sadly, Howard Dean will probably never be president. But if the liberating power of digital democracy can be preserved, perhaps someone will be able to take over where he left off, and strike another blow for participatory democracy.

Oh, He's So Angry

Red Tory still running his mouth (on empty)

Despite his typical lack of anything decent to say, Red Tory is still trying desperately to carry on his one-man-vendetta against the rest of the blogosphere, today taking aim at Nexus of Assholery valued collaborator Werner Patels and (predictably) at the Nexus istelf.

In particular, RT directed his ire at two posts: one written by mr Patels advocating for a bloggers' code of civility, and another, written by myself, that addresses some of the philosphical underpinnings of the climate change debate.

Once again, Red Tory's issues with the posts in question aren't very well clarified.

Of course, his steadfast defences of Canadian Cynic's vicious attack on Wanda Watkins pretty much does demonstrate where he stands regarding civility. Then, there's (g)utter genius like this.

We can easily ascertain where Red Tory stands on the issue of civility.

Then, there's the question regarding the climate change post. Perhaps he'd like to clarify his misgivings. Does he take exception to the idea of virtual reality ideologies (he may want to take that one up with Norman Mailer, who actually wrote it as a criticism of the war on terror that Red Tory so stringently opposes). Does he want to refute the idea that climate change is often envoked in explaining phenomenae to which it is dubiously (if at all) linked? Does he want to refute the idea that climate change (vis a vis global warming) is often envoked as a preconcieved notion?

He can consider himself free to answer, but he won't, and here's why:

He's just too damn angry.

Why is he so angry? It's actually pretty simple to explain. While an obvious tinge of jealousy directed toward people who have something other than other people's blogs to write about seems detectable, it really does seem that he's mad because someone addressed him.

But here's the kicker: Red Tory addressed us first.

One can actually consider the discovery of this remark (which, at the time barely seemed worthy of addressing) as a fluke committed in the process of exploring the blogosphere. It was written in response to a post on Dark Blue Tory. It reads as follows:

"Hmmm. Let’s see what “original thoughts” CBL has, shall we. A link to a site called the “Nexus of Assholery” that… surprise, trashes liberals accuses Dion of “slander” and features a picture of George Bush giving the finger."

Perhaps it was thus unsurprising that Red Tory was so eager to address us here at the Nexus. Yet, one has to consider the ridiculousness of this. At the time, Red Tory's premier problem with the Nexus was this:

I later explained in a post that this banner is actually supposed to be ironic. Red Tory was clearly "barking up the wrong tree" (his words), considering the previous banner:

Merely by viewing a banner that its test audience found hilarious, Red Tory thought he identified an ideological opponent, and he has since been steadfast in his attacks. Then, when someone decided to push back, he just plain got mad.

I was one. Now, should the esteemed mr Patels choose to keep pushing back, we are two. Red Tory seriously needs to reconsider how much time he's willing to spend pursuing conflict with someone who is really not a mere ideological opponent (ideally, an ideological opponent should actually be a fellow ideologue, and Red Tory simply hasn't found one here).

He and the rest of the trolling yellow "journalists" of the blogosphere (right or left) need to understand that if you attack us at the Nexus, we at the Nexus will respond. Perhaps Eminem has actually said it better than anyone:

"We're gonna bring it to anybody who want it/
You want it you're gonna get it/
You name 'em we're gonna hit 'em/
Chew 'em up and spit 'em out/
(Too much venom)/
And if you roll with 'em we're gonna fuck you up with 'em"

We can keep this up as long as you can. By the by, just keep on getting mad, because it just makes us seem all the more rational, and makes you seem all the more ridiculous.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

So You Want to be an Ideologue - A Guide for Beginners

So, you want to be an ideologue?

As an ideologue, you'll find it's actually awfully hard work. Which is ironic, when you think about it. Ideologues so often choose to be ideologues because it's the easy way to define the political spectrum.

In otherwords, ideologues are inherently and ironically lazy.

However, being an ideologue can also be extremely rewarding. In the United States, for example, ideology made a president.

Ideologies bring with them a good deal of rhetorical power. Perhaps for all the unpleasant intellectual gymnastics they necessitate, they really are worth it in the end.

So, if you really want to be an ideologue, perhaps the best way is to simply get started:

Understanding the stakes of ideological conflict

The true fact of the matter is that to most people, ideologies are dead. The last two dominant ideologies on the face of the earth--capitalism and communism--died at the end of the Cold War.

For ideologues, this simply isn't good enough. Ideology has proven to be a very useful tool in the pursuit of political power. As such, ideologues can't allow ideology to die. If they aren't dead, they must be preserved. If they are dead, they must be resurrected. Otherwise, the political spectrum is full of all sorts of complexities, and we simply can't have that.

Ideological conflicts, by necessity, must be battles for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. Ideologues are too few to dominate the political landscape alone. As an ideologue, you'll find it very desirable to manipulate people to your ends. This is the only route to political power really left to ideologues in the modern era.

But before you can attain that kind of power, you'll have to harness the true power of ideology, and you can only do that by fighting an ideological conflict. Consider the following to be a useful guide to the world of ideological conflict.

Ideology is a moral issue - Most narrowly defined, ideological conflicts are merely differences in how one views and interprets the world. The fact that there are countless ways to view and interpret the world aside, this just isn't a glamorous way to think of it. It's more fun to imagine these conflicts as battles between good and evil!

As such, make sure you always, always write about your opponents in the most moralistically contemptuous ways possible. After all, if you can define someone as evil, there is literally no end to the tactics you can pursue against them and still have them be considered as legitimate.

Let's take a historical example: the atom bomb was originally developed for use against Hitler's Germany, who were defined in the public eye as evil (although for obvious reasons). Unfortunately, the Nazis had been defeated by the time the bomb was ready for use, so it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of Berlin.

To this day, many people still consider the use of the bombs on Japan legitimate because the Japanese were allies of the Nazis in the war, and thus evil at least by complicity.

You, too, can reap the same rhetorical rewards. Your opponents don't merely see the world differently than you do; they're evil.

Find something to exploit - One of the most important things an ideologue needs is a rallying point--something by which they can bring new people to their cause, and something they can use as a rhetorical weapon against their opponents.

Religion is typically very useful. Consider "Islamic terrorism". Most "Islamic terrorists" claim they are acting exclusively on the teachings of Islam when they attack the so-called "unbelievers".

Yet, anyone with a more discerning eye can dissect these claims to find something quite different. Most "Islamic terrorists" (or, at the very least their leaders) are actually acting based not necessarily on Islam as a religion, but rather Islam as a political ideology.

Suffice it to say that this doesn't simply apply to Islam. Christianity can also be exploited as a political ideology, as can Atheism. As such, many politically active versions of so-called "fundamentalist" religions are actually fundamentalist political movements, who are exploiting religion for political capital.

Consider also the way that 9/11 has been manipulated. To many, 9/11 has become a symbol of the abject unpatrioticness of their political opponents (mostly Democrats). To others, 9/11 has become a symbol of incompetence (mostly of Republicans).

You'll want a good rhetorical weapon. Manipulation, you'll find, is a weapon in and of itself.

Ration is partisan - You'll find yourself to be most successful on the intellectual battleground if you can convince people that your opponents are entirely irrational.

You know what's a fun word? Moonbat. You can refute an opponent's grasp on sanity simply by calling them names, and most of the time you don't even need to worry about their ideas! You know what that is? Effective.

If you can, invent a conflict between religion (if you're a right-winger) and science (if you're a left-winger). The debate between science and religion is inherently controversial. Few things divide people like it, and you do want to divide people.

Honesty is partisan - Accuse your opponents of being liars whenever possible. As an ideologue, you need people to be sceptical about any claims made by your opponents, even if they're inconveniently truthful.

You want people to think of your opponents as liars immediately. If people are willing to trust so much as the first thing to come out of your opponent's mouth, the possibility of defeat is on the table.

Sometimes, you'll even need to to lie about your opponent's alleged lies. On that note,

When necessary, lie - In many of his writings Leo Strauss envoked Plato when he advocated in favour of noble lies. This is the idea that some threats to the societal order can be so potentially devestating that it is permissable--even desirable--to lie in order to prevent them.

As an ideologue, you have to believe that the opponents you are fighting are threatening to society. As such, any lie you tell about them is a noble lie, so don't be shy.

Remember that you're fighting evil. No act is strictly immoral when fighting a "greater evil". You may be lying, but you're lying for the betterment of society, right?

Define your own truth - Truth was reverred by the ancient greeks. It was part of the golden triad of goodness (what is beautiful is true, what is true is good, what is beautiful is good).

If the truth is directly related to goodness, then we must hold a monopoly on the truth. Sometimes, however, what is objectively true isn't all that flattering to our cause. What we need is a form of subjective truth: if we approach the idea of truth as subjective, then we can invent our own truths, just like we can invent our enemies.

Of course, we'll never treat what is held to be true by our opponents to be subjectively true--rather, objectively untrue. On the same note, never admit that the truths you're asserting are subjective. Make sure anyone can understand that they're objective truths.

While you're at it, attack their looks - Yeah. Why not?

Control the "dialogue" - Of course, you don't really want dialogue. You want to monologue.

That's why it is of the utmost importance that when you engage with your opponents, you only engage them in places that either you control, or that those friendly to your cause control.

There are various ways of doing this. If a comparatively small group of your opponents are meeting somewhere, put together a larger group to invade their meeting and shout them down. If you're using the internet, try to draw your opponents to sites where you can control the terms of the debate. If any of your opponents post a particular scathing response, you can simply delete it. If they begin to defeat you on logical grounds (realistically, you'll win some and lose some), simply start deleting any evidence of that.

Your opponents will accuse you of censorship, and of course it is. (Don't admit that.) Consider that many people still support censorship when it's applied to something that is simply obsene. That's a good label to stick your opponent's ideas with: obsenity.

If they prove too persistent or too good for you to defeat, you can simply ban them from your site. It may be intellectually cowardly, but your allies and supporters will applaud you for it regardless. Also, it guarantees that you will always have the last word.

On that note,

Always have the last word - Always, always, always, always, always, always have the last word.

This cannot be stressed enough.

If they aren't with you, they're against you - When you start defining your political conflicts as battles between good and evil (or, in partisan terms, as between "great parties"), you morally oblige everyone to take sides.

If they don't take your side, they're at the very least open to subversion by your opponents. After all, they do say that idle hands are the devil's playground. Politically, as an ideologue you need to believe this.

You'll encounter a great many people who won't immediately fall in line with your views, but won't fall in line with those of your opponents, either. Conventional wisdom would define these people as "neutral". For your purposes, however, let's just say that Switzerland is not even a place on the map.

This is where you really get down to inventing your enemies.

Allow no middle ground - This is really just an offshoot of the "if they're not with you, they're against you" tenet. Polarizing political discourse is hard work, and ideologues cannot allow this good work to be undone.

See, as an ideologue you'll find that the idea of political middle ground--people holding a variety of "leftist" and "rightist" views on a variety of subjects is very threatening. It by necessity challenges everything you're trying to accomplish.

Instead of tipping the scales of intellectual justice, we now find the political discourse to be more like a teeter-totter with several children trying to ride it at once. Some choose to position themselves on the comfortable seats for easy riding, while others choose to straddle the bar at various points according to their liking.

Now, instead of tipping constantly and overwhelmingly back and forth, we find that which is most frightening to any ideologue of any stripe: equilibrium, under which the views of a great number of people influence the "movement" of the political discourse. There's two serious problems with this: first, it's a good deal less exciting than costantly riding the wave of political sentiment up and down. Secondly, it makes it much harder to be dominant!

As an ideologue, however, you'll find that you have a number of devious tools at your disposal in order to deal with this inconvenient and irritating "middle ground". You could choose to consider their views that most agree with you exclusively from those views you don't agree with in order to rhetorically twist them into an ally. Then, however, you have to worry about what to do when they don't agree with you.

You'll probably find that it's better to approach this method inversely: consider only the views they hold which disagree with yours exclusively from any views they hold that don't. Consider that, as an ideologue, creating enemies is a lot more fun--and useful--than creating friends.

"Calculated ambiguity" is also a good label to toss around. It instantly paints your opponent, as it were, as deceptive, and immediately discredits any views that don't pour amicably into the little mould that you've set for them.

It may be dishonest, but honesty isn't anything you're concerned with. Politics is a game played for keeps, and you're trying to win a permanent victory.

Your opposition must be destroyed - There is only one way to win a permanent victory; that is to destroy your opposition (even your invented opposition) completely and utterly.

In a battle of ideas, the best way to destroy your opponents is to discredit them.

Sometimes, however, you just can't discredit an opponent by attacking their ideas. You'll find this is particularly true with your invented enemies. Now's the time to really have fun: if you can't beat them by refuting their ideas, write nasty things about them.

This is what Americans have come to known as the politics of personal destruction, and it's powerful stuff. It derailed an otherwise comparatively-successful American president, Bill Clinton, and has also been directed at his wife.

The politics of personal destruction come across most powerfully in political attack ads (the Republicans excel at this). Keep in mind that for a true ideologue, there is no act too depraved to accuse an opponent of. And you don't want to be an ideological pretender, do you?

Of course not. You're in this to win.

"Ideological? Who, Me?" - Most important is this: as an ideologue, you'll want to deny that you are, actually, an ideologue.

Ideology is something relied upon by your opponents. Within your line of reasoning, you must be certain that you aren't the extremists; they are. Which is ironic if you think about it, because you'll often be branding your invented opponents as ideologues.

Also keep in mind that the label of ideologue is inherently discrediting. It immediately paints you as inflexible and dogmatic. Once again, you don't want people to think of you as inflexible and dogmatic; you want people to think of your opponents like that.

Once people recognize you as an ideologue, you've lost. This doesn't preclude destroying your opponents, but it will most likely prevent you from attaining the kind of power you turned to ideology for in the first place.

Finally, if you can successfully brand your opponents as ideological, you've effectively achieved your goal of destroying them. If you yourself have been destroyed in the process, then it isn't a complete victory, but at least its something.

It would be fundamentally wrong to claim that this is all there is to being an ideologue. As you wage your battles against your opponents, you'll discover many things about being an ideologue that you'll find endlessly useful.

The most important thing to remember is this: your opponents under no circumstances deserve your respect, only your contempt. If you find yourself beginning to respect your opponents, you've lost.

Learning that respect for your opponents may make you a better person, but you didn't get into this to become a better person. You got into this for power.

To this end, you'll serve yourself best by ideologically blindfolding yourself and keeping your eyes on the prize.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Red Tory is Trying to Make Some Point, One Presumes

But one wonders what that might be

Apparently still stinging from the one-sided beating laid by the Nexus upon Red Tory and his assorted cohorts and groupies, our good friend Red Tory has conjured this "brilliant" counterpoint.

Hoo boy. Apparently, this is what passes for a "Thinking Blogger" these days.

After all, nothing sets one apart as a "Thinking Blogger" as a blog that specializes in empty attacks on other blogs, does it?

But let's allow Red Tory an opportunity to defend himself. Either that, or allow his cohort Mentarch to do it for him, by addressing what objection he has to the passage quoted.

Does he wish to dispute whether or not marriages are legal prior to sexual consumation?

Or is there any other part of the post in question he wishes to refute?

Or, perhaps, he would like to refute the subtextual theme of the post--the idea that inventing various indistinguishable and legally ambiguous variations of marriage is diluting the institution of marriage, all in the name of ill-defined political correctness?

In many cases, "domestic partnerships" can be viewed as a form of marriage open to same-sex couples, yet forwarded as an indistinguishable alternative to marriage so as to not offend religious or social conservatives. Would Red Tory like to dispute the idea that it would be better so simply allow same-sex couples to have marriage (as has been done in Canada) while establishing new, distinct legally-recognized marital statuses (as has not been done) to meet needs not necessarily covered by marriage?

Or does he prefer empty attacks? He may feel free to respond on his blog, or respond here. Then again, knowing Red Tory, he'll likely choose not to respond at all.

Elizabeth May Threatened With Agent Orange Lawsuit

Inconvenient truths and common knowledge now apparently libelous

Elizabeth May is standing by her comments on Agent Orange.

As well she should.

In a June 25 speech to the 15th Global Ecological Integrity group, May addressed a recent report on the health effects of Agent Orange use at CFB Gagetown.

"The so-called health risk assessment released on June 21st is not useful as a guide to governmental responsibilities to compensate workers and by-standers. It amounts to a predictable whitewash of a major health scandal," May announced.

May specifically took aim at Intrinsik Science Inc (formerly CANTOX Science Inc), the company that produced the report. "I was initially skeptical because CANTOX has a reputation of never finding a risk when conducting health risk assessments," she noted. "CANTOX found no risk in an area near the coke ovens site in Sydney that later was found to have arsenic levels high enough to be an acute health hazard. CANTOX ruled no risk to health in expanding the St John Irving refinery and no risk in adding caffeine to children’s soda pop."

"The fact that one of CANTOX’s founders, Dr. Len Ritter, was personally responsible as a civil servant more than twenty years ago for providing advice to the federal government that 2,4,5-T was safe when the US banned it, caused me some concern," May added. (Although May has subsequently released a correction noting that Ritter was not a CANTOX founder.)

Intrinsik's executive-director, Elliott Sigal, claims that May's comments have questioned Intrinsik's reputation. "We felt that in her current position as a federal party leader she shouldn’t make incorrect allegations about a Canadian company that was working in good faith for the (federal) government on an important project," Sigal insisted.

If May had done so by way of a mere ad hominem attack, perhaps the lawsuit that he and Instrinsik are threatening against her would have some merit.

As it stands, however, any report claiming that Agent Orange use at CFB Gagetown posed no risk to human health contradicts facts about Agent Orange that have become common knowledge.

Ever since its use in the Vietnam war, Agent Orange has been linked to various illnesses in those exposed to it. In particular, TCDD (dioxin), a component of Agent Orange has been known to cause fatal diseases in lab animals.

Agent Orange's links to various human illnesses is common knowledge to almost anyone who has taken a high school history class.

May also raises her fair share of techical concerns about the report itself. Among them is the lack of reference to TCDD, and the lack of attention to possible groundwater contamination, which is known to have happened in Vietnam.

If these oversights are indicative of the quality of Instrinsik's work, Sigal has better things to worry about than whether or not Elizabeth May is talking about it. Taking remedial action to improve the quality of Instrinsik's scientific studies would probably be a better solution. It would certainly be a good deal more effective in avoiding future criticisms.

Then again, suing people for telling the truth is probably a much simpler solution.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chuck and Larry Raises Interesting Questions

Should a sham domestic partnership be considered any differently than a sham marriage?

To most intelligent movie goers it probably seems unfortunate that the Wayans brothers have managed to turn "gay jokes" into a movie genre.

Adam Sandler and Kevin James, however, have struck a blow against the Scary Movie writing crew's vapid garbage with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, even managing to take down the once-omnipotent Harry Potter in the process.

More importantly, Chuck and Larry actually raises some very important questions regarding same-sex marriage.

In the film, Chuck Lavigne (Adam Sandler) finds himself in a very uncomfortable position when his best friend, Larry Valentine (Kevin James), asks him for an unwelcome favour in exchange for having saved his life. Larry, a widower with two children, has been having difficulty getting his children named as pension beneficiaries in the event of his potential death as a New York City fireman. Eventually, he cooks up a half-baked scheme: ask Chuck, who now owes him "anything, anywhere" as part of the fireman's code, to form a domestic partnership with him so that he can make Chuck his pension beneficiary, and responsible for the care of his children.

They quickly, however, find themselves subject to a witch hunt when the City of New York investigates the validity under their partnership. Under the advice of their "smokin' hot lawyer", Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), they travel to Canada and get married in order to avoid being prosecuted for fraudulently abusing domestic partnership laws in order to reap the "legal benefits".

In the film, it is suggested that heterosexuals forming domestic partnerships (at least under the guise of being gay or lesbian partners) in order to do so are guilty of a fraudulent act. The City of New York then dispatch eccentric bloodhound Clint Fitzer (Steve Buscemi) to ascertain whether or not Chuck and Larry are a legitimate romantic couple.

They aren't. That's the entire premise of the movie. Yet, aside from its message of tolerance, the film provokes an interesting thought: since when do people have to be legitimate romantic partners to form a domestic partnership?

A domestic partnership could potentially be looked at as akin to marriage. In fact, in some jurisdictions (such as California) it is viewed as an equivalent to marriage.

In this sense, a domestic partnership is not a marriage, but is looked at as many as an attempt to satisfy the demands made by gays and lesbians for marriage rights (more properly described as a "privilege", but that's another story) that won't outrage conservative voters who are stringently against same-sex marriages.

Marriage, on one hand, requires some sort of romantic commitment at least in its popular definition, although there is no mention of this in the legal definition. Legally, a marriage is defined merely as a contract between two people of sufficient maturity to live jointly together, but is not necessarily invalid until it is consummated.

Domestic Partnerships, on the other hand, carry with them a seemingly more-stringent series of criteria, namely:

1. "The length of [partners'] relationship,
2. Nature and extent of common residence,
3. Whether or not [partners] have a sexual relationship,
4. How financially dependent [partners] are on each other and whether there are any arrangements between [them] for financial support,
5. [Partners'] ownership, use and acquisition of property,
6. [Partners'] degree of mutual commitment to a shared life,
7. The care and support of children,
8. The reputation and public aspects of the relationship"

As with a marriage, a domestic partnership may be consummated, though this is not necessarily a vital condition of the arrangement. If it's possible to have a marriage without a romantic involvement, it must be legal to have a domestic partnership without such an involvement as well.

In the case of Chuck and Larry, numerous criteria, namely, numbers one, four, seven and eight, are accounted for. Discrepencies related to numbers two, five and six could be immediately remedied.

As such, the witchhunt carried out against the two in the film could be construed as a grave injustice, and is portrayed as such in the film. It could also be seen as a double standard. After all, it isn't terribly likely that Anna Nicole Smith married J Howard Marshall for his sparkling good looks.

Yet, where was the witch hunt over Smith's marriage? She was even allowed to argue before the US Supreme court that she was entitled to an inheritance from Marshall's estate.

Simply put, there are plenty of sham marriages to be discussed. Yet, the film never addresses the potential validity of such relationships in the absence of a sexual relationship, instead defending it on the basis of whatever good it had done.

Whether or not sexual relations are an integral part of marriages or domestic partnerships remain as nebulous an issue as, say, same-sex marriage in regards to bisexuality.

But that's another issue.

Under all the layers of legal ambiguity, one thing becomes apparent: a domestic partnership could be used as a legal tool that meets needs that a marriage may not be necessary to meet. For example, in cases such as that posed by Chuck and Larry a domestic partnership could be used by two close friends to raise children as a joined domestic unit under extenuating circumstances.

One could even consider the plausibility of a member of this domestic partnership being elligible to marry outside the partnership. While seemingly an extremely complicating circumstance, the previous domestic partnership (not technically a marriage) would only be another financial matter that the partner's new spouse would, by necessity, be entering into.

Some would worry, however, that such arrangements would entail a defacto legalization of polygamy. And this is merely one more reason why clear distinctions need to be drawn between marriages (or civil unions) and domestic partnerships.

Otherwise, a simpler question could (and should) be asked: why bother separating the two at all?

It's in regards to the issue of domestic partnership that Chuck and Larry proves to be a good-deal more thought-provoking than any of Adam Sandler's other films, and it's highly worthwhile.

It may feature it's share of gay jokes, but at least the film is written around them, as opposed to exclusively consisting of them.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Canada's Opposition Parties Oppose Human Rights

Opposition parties wear human rights-related black eye with apparent glee

"So this is how liberty dies," says Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) in Star Wars : The Revenge of the Sith, "with thundering applause."

If the applause in a meeting of parliament's all-party aboriginal affairs committee sounded just a little like liberty dying for Canada's aboriginal peoples, one should find it less than easy to forgive.

The meeting today regarding a Conservative party bill that would make aboriginal bands accountable to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ended after the opposition MPs on the committee passed a Liberal party resolution that would table the legislation until Canada's First Nations were "properly consulted".

Apparently, in Canada, we consult self-governing groups over whether or not they should be accountable for human rights.

The national Assembly of First Nations has asked for three years to prepare for their exemption to the Charter being revoked. This, after they've already had 30 years to prepare.

The government countered with 18 months.

"They really think they know best," said Liberal MP Anita Neville.

The same thing was said about Pierre Trudeau when he wrote the Charter (although its main principles were cannibalized from John Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights). Presumably Neville would have agreed in 1982. And in 1977, when the Human Rights Act was passed. What's so different now?

Now, it's Conservatives championing human rights. The opposition apparently can't have that.

The government also ruled out new funding for helping first nations bands deal with the ramifications of being subject to the Charter. This may be a mistake--Phil Fontaine notes that aboriginal communities are "starved for funding", yet if human rights complaints are lodged against First Nations it's certainly less than reasonable to expect Canadian taxpayers to pay the inevitable settlements.

Many witnesses appearing before the committee lodged a specious argument that recognizing the rights of individual aboriginals under the Charter would undermine collective land claims rights. Unfortunately, there is no basis in constitutional law for this, as the individual rights of Canadian francophones has never undermined their collective language rights, nor have the individual rights of Catholics undermined their right to denominational schools.

Of course opposition MPS claim they are in favour of extending human rights to aboriginals. They had their chance today.

They didn't get it done.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Conservative Party: "Ah, Fuck."

Brian Mulroney says Harper's off to great start. How would he know?

In one of Canadian politics more ironic occurances, Brian Mulroney said during an interview today, "Judging from Prime Minister Harper's first -- I guess I could call it 'term' in office, in the sense that there appears to be a break coming -- I think he's done exceptionally well."

This is one of those times that makes those who remain aware of Canada's political history giggle just a little bit.

While capturing one of the largest majorities in Canadian history in the course of two back-to-back majority governments, Mulroney's nine-year span governing this country turned out to be such an absolute train wreck that Canadians responded to it in 1993 by electing only four Progressive Conservative candidates.

Exhausted and just plain angry after two failed and ill-concieved attempts at Constitutional reform, Canadians instead opted for 13 years of Liberal party government.

Mulroney expanded Canada's national debt at a truly mind-bloggling rate (although, to his record, he did manage to reduce its overall share of the Gross Domestic Product). In the meantime, he got more or less nothing done, aside from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This was perhaps the greatest irony of Mulroney judging the CBC's "Next Great Prime Minister" competition: he was far from being a great Prime Minister, although he admittedly eclipsed all of his co-judges (Joe Clark, John Turner, Paul Martin and Kim Campbell).

As such, if Mulroney's approval of Stephen Harper's performance as Prime Minister is meant to suggest that Harper is governing the way Mulroney would, then Harper ought to batten down the hatches.

Then again, Harper has clearly outperformed his predecessor, Martin.

Then again, it isn't as if that's a challenge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

First Nations, Opposition Parties Oppose Human Rights Bill

30 years apparently not enough for native bands to prepare for Charter

30 years is an awful long time. Need proof?

In 1977, Star Wars was viewed as a cinematic masterpiece in terms of its visual effects. In 2007, Star Wars has long been a cultural icon, although we would consider such effects laughable at best (although they were landmarks of the time).

In 1977, Elvis Presley died at age 42. In 2007, Las Vegas is crawling with impersonators.

In 1977, the dominant political issue on the global stage was still nuclear weapons. In 2007, it seems to be a toss-up between terrorism and global warming.

See? 30 years is an awful long time.

So how is it that Canada's native bands have needed 30 years to "prepare" for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? According to Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, "People in First Nations Communities need time to prepare."

At issue in this instance is a Conservative party bill that would finally remove First Nations' bands immunity from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a measure that was supposed to be temporary.

30 years isn't just an awful long time in general--it's an awful long time for a temporary and ill-defined human rights exemption to still be in effect.

The Conservatives have recalled parliament's 12-member all-party aboriginal affairs committee, in order to discuss the Conservative party bill.

Strangely, the opposition parties, all of which are allegedly in favour of human rights, are not happy with the recall, and are noted to be less-than-happy with the bill itself. In fact, they've all promised to block it.

"We are strong supporters of human rights," says Fontaine, "But our people still haven't been properly consulted by the federal government about the proposed legislation."

The opposition parties have repeated Fontaine's claims almost verbatim. Yet, the most important questions are thus: how is the removal of a temporary clause of the Canadian Human Rights Act (again, after 30 years) a "rushed process"? What have Canada's native bands been doing for 30 years while they were supposed to be preparing for being responsible for the human rights of their members? And since when do Canadians need to be consulted regarding their own rights?

In the end, however, the Liberal party may be forced to swallow its own rhetoric in order to oppose this extremely necessary bill. When the Liberal party voted against the renewal of the anti-terror act, they sited the act's sunset clauses as a convenient excuse to do so.

"Canadians want ... a leader able to fight terrorism with determination and to be there to protect their rights with determination," Liberal leader Stephane Dion insisted.

If opposing the renewal of the anti-terror powers sunsetted was about rights, why will Stephane Dion not now stand up for the civil and human rights of aboriginal Canadians?

It's extremely unlikely that the average aboriginal in Canada doesn't want their human rights recognized. What is apparent is that political elites within the aborignal bands (elders and chiefs) don't want the human rights of aboriginal Canadians recognized.

In this sense, the opposition parties are choosing the support of aboriginal elites over the rights of aboriginals. Given this, it becomes impossible to accept the assertion of these parties that they universally support human rights. It simply isn't so; they may support human rights, but obviously not when it could be politically inconvenient for them.

This will long prove to be a black eye for the human rights record of Canada's opposition parties, and one they are making a willfull choice to wear. The shame that will go with it should prove inescapable.

Red Tory Ups the Ante with a Brilliant Rebuttal


In the manner of many who simply can't allow better minds to ever have the last word, Red Tory has responded to my rebuttal of yesterday with a less-than-brilliant and comicly much-less-than-scathing retort:

"Like a brainless flesh-eating zombie in a B-grade horror flick, flame-baiting CELEBRITY BLOGGER Patrick Ross, simply refuses to remain in the six-feet-under of cyberspace where he more rightfully belongs."
Really? Six-feet-under? In Red Tory's dreams, perhaps.

It's hard to hold such "brilliant" comment against him, however. Clearly, he's very, very angry.

"He’s back seeking attention; brainless and intellectually slovenly as ever, now with a hilariously feeble-minded “rebuttal” which is actually nothing more than a warmed-over rehash of the fabulously dreary assertions he made in the comments section of an earlier thread. The fact these have already been thoroughly rubbished is something that the late Mr. Ross is evidently too much of a catastrophically bumptious, willfully deluded clod to acknowledge, let alone accept."
Wow. He says such mean things. But he again overlooks a number of key facts, including the fact that he chose to address me in his blog. That's an invitation to a rebuttal. In fact, rebuttal seems necessary, and was delivered. If anyone was "seeking attention", was it not the individual who addressed me in the first place? It would seem that he was indeed seeking my attention.

And now he's so unhappy that he managed to get it? Why is that? Could it be because he, his cronies and his groupies all got more than enough of that attention, and between the lot of them, couldn't defeat me, or even so much as make me angry?

My comments were thoroughly rubbished? Surely he jests. Actually, he's never addressed the comments themselves at all, and apparently won't.

For example, will he refute the lack of practical distinction between anonymity and pseudonymity in terms of concealing one's identity? Will he explain how he can compare Canadian Cynic to some of history's greatest political thinkers, and still retain his intellectual dignity?

Apparently not.

Which is fair enough; sometimes in life it is simply better to admit defeat and move on.

While admitting defeat is apparently a skill Red Tory has yet to master, moving on, well... we'll see whether or not that's a different story.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Rebuttal to Red Tory

"Specious" seems to be his favourite word, but his arguments are truly specious

Sometimes, a person's reputation is only as good as their willing to defend it. As such, in today's blogging environment, it's entirely untenable to allow a personal attack to go unanswered.

So, it is with this in mind that I find myself compelled to address a response to the recent commentary of Red Tory, a blogger who recently chose to weigh in on the challenge I issued to common blowhard Canadian Cynic over his vicious and cowardly remarks addressed to Wanda Watkins, the mother of a fallen Canadian soldier.

For those unaware (and choosing not to scroll down a few items), I issued a challenge to Canadian Cynic: to reveal his name to the public, and put a name to his comments. He declined, noting that he writes anonymously so that he can avoid facing the consequences of his comments--even consequences so simple as having to face the reactions of his friends and family to a vicious attack on a begrieved mother, all for political reasons.

Red Tory chose to weigh in on the subject. In a post directed both at myself and Paul Marek of Celestial Junk.

The argument that Red Tory chose was that the challenges to Canadian Cynic to reveal his identity were conceptually flawed because he allegedly doesn't write anonymously; apparently, he writes pseudonymously. Red Tory wants to pretend there is a difference:

"let’s turn our attention to Patrick Ross at the “Nexus of Assholery” who likewise has a burr up his rectum about “anonymity.” Just as a quick aside, you have to find it more than a little amusing that many of the same people who decry the lack of civility and cheapening of discourse on the Internets tout Patrick’s “Nexus of Assholery” prominently featuring a picture of George Bush giving everyone the finger as an absolutely swell place to visit. Go figure."
Apparently, the most serious criticism that Red Tory can offer about the Nexus regards a banner ad that is actually designed to be ironic. One supposes this must be the most serious criticism he can offer, because what follows is just plain silly, or as Red Tory would prefer, specious.

Red Tory apparently takes issue with the following passage, which he quotes, and responds to:

'Now, a personal note: anyone reading the Nexus will notice that I never post anything under an assumed name. Those who have participated in the various message boards that I have participated in will notice the same. There is a good reason for this.

I never say anything I’m not comfortable attaching my name and my own reputation to. Simply put, I have nothing to hide. I will take responsibility for anything and everything that I say. Certainly, the internet does offer me the same kind of anonymity that Cynic enjoys. My conscience does not.'
"Unfortunately, Patrick makes the same mistake in confusing pseudonymity with anonymity. As someone who blogs in this fashion, I would say there’s an enormous difference between the two. As noted previously, bloggers are far from being truly “anonymous” – they’re most certainly not from a legal standpoint when push comes to shove – and there’s no reason to believe that someone who blogs under a pseudonym is any less responsible, credible or accountable for what they write and publish than someone who uses their actual name (or what they claim to be such)."
"Unfortunate" indeed. What is perhaps more unfortunate is Red Tory's inability (in his comments section) to address what real distinction there is, in terms of the concealment of one's identity, in anonymity and synonymity.

Observe (from the dictionary):


1. without any name acknowledged, as that of author, contributor, or the like: an anonymous letter to the editor; an anonymous donation.

2. of unknown name; whose name is withheld:
an anonymous author.

3. lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction:
an endless row of drab, anonymous houses."
Now, let's consider the definition of Pseudonym:


a fictitious name used by an author to conceal his or her identity; pen name."
Both anyonymity are methods of an individual concealing their own name. Sure, they're two different words, but in regards to the context of the situation--calling upon a writer to accept responsibility for his comments--they are indistinguishable.

Just to ramp up a hilarity an extra touch, Red Tory envokes the examples of some famous people who wrote pseudonymously:

"Bloggers are not truly 'anonymous' as Paul asserts, although many are pseudonymous — there’s a significant difference between the two. Bloggers can be tracked and traced if necessary and in most cases their identity is well known to their circle of friends and associates. As for pseudonymity, there’s a rich history of this in opinion journalism. Most famously, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote 'The Federalist Papers' using the pseudonym 'Publius' and Benjamin Franklin wrote under a number of amusing pseudonyms including 'Anthony Afterwit' and 'Alice Addertongue'.” As a matter of fact, the 'Richard Saunders' of the eponymous book 'Poor Richard’s Almanac' was another one of Franklin’s best-known pseudonyms. Many other authors have chosen, for one reason or another, to publish their work under pen names."
Allow me to assure you I did not make this up.

Red Tory compares Canadian Cynic, who wrote "Fuck off Wanda Watkins", to the man who wrote: "A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body," (Franklin), the man who wrote "Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike," (Hamilton), the man who wrote, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition" (Madison), and... John Jay.

Now, the complete intellectual laziness of this aside (it is true that all these men wrote under pseudonyms), there is an important difference that actually demolishes Red Tory's entire argument: these men had to fear prosecution, and possibly execution, by the British crown. All Canadian Cynic has to worry is censure from his friends and family (directed at he himself, not his pseudoname), or perhaps a well-dserved beating from a disapproving Waterloo local (quite frankly, such an experience would probably benefit his disposition; call me a brute if you will, but it's unfortunately true).

Hamilton, Madison, Franklin and Jay wrote psuedonymously in the pursuit of freedom, and in the name of the classical liberalism that Red Tory claims to belove; Canadian Cynic writes pseudonymously (really no different from anonymity in any practical sense) so that he can be vicious to his opponents without having to take responsibility for it.

Frankly, comparing Cynic to these men is insulting to them, and insulting to the intelligence of the reader on a truly historic scale.

Then there is the matter of my comments which he addresses, which he in the original post here on the Nexus, describes as specious (for the record, "having the ring of truth or plausibility but fallacious"). He addresses my explaination of why I blog under my real name.

Is he questioning whether or not I blog under my true identity? That is immediately verifiable by a simple search of this site.

Red Tory's arguments turned out to be ludicrous, and what he described as "specious" actually turn out to be, well... true.

But one almost has to feel sorry for him: he so does want the blogosphere to think of him as brilliant.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Free Dominion Subject of Human Rights Complaint

Anti-Muslim comments provoke complaint

Conservative website Free Dominion is under fire, as a human rights complaint has been lodged against it.

The complaint, reportedly filed by one Mary Lynn Gentes (identified as a University of Saskatchewan graduate and professor at Vanier College), seems to focus around a grisly pamphlet being distributed in and around Edmonton by one Bill Whatcott (who has been before a Human Rights Commission before, for an anti-gay pamphlet distributed in Saskatchewan).

The suspected offending threat features the pamphlet, which depicts a beheaded Indonesian girl (identified as a Christian), an Italian fresco of the prophet Muhammad in hell, and the Danish Muhammad cartoons that provoked such controversy two years ago.

"While not all Muslims are violent, Islamic theology is violent and many faithful interpreters of the Koran and Muhammad’s Hadith resort to violence to further the goals of Islam," Whatcott's pamphlet reads. "The decapitated Christian girl in our picture (left) is an all too common abomination in the Muslim world. Fanatics who commit this type of crime quote their Korans and Hadiths to justify their behavior."

"The violence and discrimination inherent in Islamic theology does an awful lot to explain the paradoxical outrage at a cartoon, but the utter silence and even approval of the beheading of a defenseless teenaged girl in Indonesia," the pamphlet adds. "When pressed by the media most western Muslims will denounce the killings of non-Muslims. However serious attempts at reigning in the violence is lacking throughout the Muslim world."

"The fruit of Islam and Sharia law is not beauty, peace or justice anywhere in the world where it is practiced," the pamphlet concludes. "Rather it is oppression, injustice, murder and lies. We condemn the Prophet Muhammad and call on his followers to repent of his teachings and seek the truth where it can be found."

And where can the truth be found?

"The truth in our view is found in Jesus Christ and the teachings of His church," it continues. "Jesus is not a mere prophet but rather the Son of God and when He came into the world to save sinners He was God incarnate."

The religious freedom in Canada that should allow any and all religions to proselytize aside, Whatcott's pamphlet is wrought with hypocrisy. For example, it may be true that some Muslim extremists kill "unbelievers". But historically, so have Christians. More recently, Christians have cited biblical verse to justify bombing abortion clinics.

Thus while the highest-profile cases of religious violence in the world today may focus around Muslims, Christianity has never been immune to the same pitfalls. To pretend that violence is a reason that Christianity is a necessary substitute for Islam is a logical fallacy.

Now, the question can be asked: who is Mary Lynn Gentes? Is she another politically correct busybody stirring up trouble by lodging a human rights complaint over anything and everything she finds personally objectionable? Or could she merely be a frustrated individual fed up with the hateful nonsense that qualifies as debate about Islam?

It's morely likely the latter. Unfortunately, all too many Islam-alarmists (or Islamophobes) specialize in flooding their debating opponents with all varieties of nonsense, while refusing to acknowledge any examples of peaceful conduct on behalf of Muslims (although, to his credit, Whatcott does). Instead of beating their opponents with better logic or better information, they tend to specialize in merely wasting their opponent's time and exhausting their patience.

What they practice is at worst a willfull pre-determined double-standard and at best an example of virtual reality ideology that only allows for a single answer--militant Islam--for any question potentially asked.

What is a more intriguing philosophical question is this: what are these individuals actually promoting--hatred of Islam, or fear of Islam? If you accept the popular notion that people hate what they fear (and fear what they don't understand), then the answer to this question is quite moot. By this way of thinking, promoting fear is promoting hatred.

One thing they certainly promote is a lack of understanding of Islam. Many of these individuals promote as the world's "top experts on Islam" are invariably non-Muslims: individuals like Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes, who often have never actually studied Islam in any formal academic environment.

Meanwhile, the opinions of actual Islamic scholars are dismissed as "deceptive" or as "propaganda".

Finally, and most erroneously, Islam is portrayed by these Islamophobes as a monolithic war-like religion, when nothing could in fact be further from the case. Even beyond the most prominent schizm in Islam: the Sunni and Shi'ites, there is a wide variety of Muslim religious belief, including various Sufi movements, as well as various reform movements within Islam.

Islamophobes may fear Islam, but one thing they aren't afraid of is being inflammatory. Denunciations of Muslim violence are often liberally mixed with advocacy of "crusades" against Islam, undermining the idea that Christians don't engage in or believe in religious warfare.

All this aside, important questions can also be asked of Free Dominion, mostly regarding whether or not they practiced due diligence in trying to control Bill Whatcott, and prevent hate speech from being disseminated on their website. Was Whatcott warned about his comments, or asked not to comment like that on their site?

Apparently not. But the question of whether or not Whatcott's pamphlet qualifies as legitimate hate speech remains valid. Hate speech laws in Canada remain nebulous, and no matter what the outcome of this complaint someone will feel as if they have been maligned.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kevin Potvin Turns Capitalist

The dream is over

The man who celebrated 9/11 as an attack on capitalism has embraced, well... capitalism.

"Changes at The Republic [Of East Vancouver] are necessary", Kevin Potvin In his most recent issue.

Potvin has apparently concluded that either The Republic is losing him too much money, or isn't making him enough money. He identifies three areas in which he's losing money: using volunteers to distribute copies in cities outside of Vancouver, his current $30 subscription per 25-issue output is "unsustainable" and the costs of distributing his circulation.

"While this newspaper was never set up to be a commercial enterprise first (it has always been and it always will be a public policy experiment first)," Potvin explains, "It nonetheless must at least exhibit some of the behaviors of a business."

For those individuals who read The Republic out of anti-capitalist sentiments, take heart: at least he's sorry.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Is It With Warren Kinsella and Racism?

Kinsella falls back on old standby in campaign against John Tory

If there's any accusation against conservative political candidates that has become predictable in Canada over the last 15 years, its racism.

All one need do is consider a recent accusation levied against Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory by Canada's king of the hatchet job, Warren Kinsella. In an 18 July post, Kinsella posts a picture of Tory meeting PC candidate Randy Hillier, who Kinsella describes as "anti-gay, anti-native, anti-urban".


We said we’d get a photo of anti-gay, anti-native, anti-urban Randy Hillier with his leader, John Tory. And we did.

(And check out the sign. That's Tory about to speak to, or having just spoken to, a rabidly far-right-wing group. It means these two have been pals for a long time. Interesting, no?)

Reproduced here, for the readers' benefit is the photograph in question.

Now, the fact that the photo seems to feature the back of Hillier's alleged head notwithstanding (the individual presumed to be Hillier is wearing red suspenders, just as in the other photo), the banner that Kinsella refers to actually promotes the Ontario Landowner's Association, a group that promotes property rights.

While indulging themselves in gloomy talk about all sorts of injustices ,whether real or imagined, ("Throughout human History there are eras when every society experiences the darkness of injustice and the long shadows of oppression blanket the landscape...") the allegedly "rabidly far-right-wing group" is really nothing more than a group of farmers standing up for their own interests, many of which are directly linked to the land on which they earn their living, and depend upon for their livelihood.

What is most intriguing is Kinsella's accusations of racism, particularly Hillier being allegedly "anti-native". Yet, Hillier's actual comments on natives are much more revealing:

"The owner or direct user is the one who knows best on how to take care of their property, land and how to solve a problem.

Example... An example is our native North Americans, who have for over 5000 years trapped and fished as a way of surviving. Then some bureaucrats in Ottawa or Toronto suggest that they knew better, and imposed rules and regulations as to hunting and trapping without consequence to the bureaucrats but certainly to the aboriginals.

The aboriginal who hunts and fishes everyday to survive is a far more knowledgeable than a bureaucrat who does not.

Seems much more pro-native and anti-bureaucrat than anything.

Yet, accusations of racism have been very typical of Kinsella.

Consider, for example, his very worthwhile book, Web of Hate. While mostly a very valuable source of information about racial extremists in Canada, Kinsella often goes out of his way to use the book to lob accusations of racism at the then-premier opposition to the then-governing Liberal party, the Reform party.

P.243 Along with an anti-Semitic column by former Texas KKK Grand Dragon Louis Beam Jr., the August 1992 issue [of Up Front] carried a lengthy account of Wolfgang Droege's involvement with the Reform party. In late February 1991, Bill Dunphy exposed in the Sun the fact that Droege and four other Heritage Front activists maintained memberships in Toronto-area riding associations. Immediately after, Reform leader Preston Manning ordered the group expelled. (The following year, Manning also expelled Northern Foundation president Ann Hartmann for her racist views.) Two of the racists had been appointed to the executive of the party's Beaches-Woodbine riding association; one of these, Alan Overfield, had acted as security at various Heritage Front rallies and--as police learned in November 1992 when they raided his home--maintained a huge stockpile of weapons. ...Overfield had hired Droege to act as bodyguard for Manning at at least two Reform Party rallies in Toronto. Also involved in the riding association were Heritage Front members James Dawson and Nicola Polinuk, Don Andrews' estranged wife.

The expulsions enraged the Heritage Front, which saw the Reform Party's policies as very similar to, if not indistinguishable from, its own. How could a party that went on record opposing immigration policies that "radically alter" Canada's ethnic make-up turn around and shun a group like the Heritage Front, Droege asked, when the Heritage Front supports the very same approach?

...In a lengthy article about the Reform Party controversy,
Up Front stated that Manning and his followers were a pro-white organization that lacked the courage of its convictions. 'The Heritage Front threatened the cozy power position of the establishment which Preston Manning and his sycophants now enjoy.' The article featured a cartoon of a smiling Droege beating Preston Manning in a boxing ring."

Kinsella's loaded musings in this passage ignore a number of fundamental facts. Consider the following passage, from Preston Manning's The New Canada, referring to the resolutions reached by the party's April 1991 Assembly:

P. 273 (The New Canada):"The party had already committed itself to a "balanced and positive immigration policy," which rejected the use of racial criteria designed to maintain a French-English ethnic balance in Canada. At Saskatoon, delegates made clear their disapproval of any appeal to race or creed in setting immigration policy. They also declared their support of a policy "accepting the settlement of genuine refugees who find their way to Canada. (A "genuine refugee" was defined as "one who has a well-founded fear of persecution and qualifies under the requirements of the United Nations Convention.")

It should be noted that the racial immigration policies the party rejected were actually originally drafted by Kinsella's own party, by the pen of Clifford Sifton.

However the Heritage Front could have drawn the conclusions they claimed to have drawn should be beyond anyone familiar with Reform party policy (actual Reform party policy, not the fictional Reform party policy hysterically concocted by its critics).

Yet, Web of Hate's commentary took an absurd turn in the book's conclusion:

P. 351 "Also joining the ranks of haters are a few members of ostensibly mainstream political organizations such as the Reform Party, some of whose activists are inreasingly associated with extreme expressions of bigotry and intolerance. To his credit, Reform Party leader Preston Manning expels these individuals whenever the media bring their existence to his attention. But the question Manning has yet to answer, of course, is this: if this party is not racist, why are so many racists attracted to it?"

Kinsella works very hard to turn this passage of the book addressing Manning's efforts to rid the Reform party of racism into a partisan attack. Kinsella refuses to allow Manning's efforts to demonstrate a lack of tolerance for racism.

It's a simple credo for Kinsella: the opposition can do no right, no matter what.

While not only overlooking his own party's many instances of racism--Sifton's being the best historical example--Kinsella overlooks the fact that subverting new political organizations has always been a key tactic of far-right racists. Whether or not the Reform party held any direct appeal for racists, racists would have tried to hijack the party nonetheless. Kinsella's accusations of racism are not so well founded, and are merely partisan.

Which is unsurprising, considering that he devoted an entire section in his book Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics to narcissitically grading his fellow media commentators, giving those who best criticized opponents of the Liberal party As, and those who criticized the Liberals poor grades.

Kinsella has refined the accusation of racism into a mere political tactic. By reducing it so, he only degrades the import of racism to all Canadians. Kinsella should remember that, as all of Canada's political parties have produced racist incidents, racism is not a political issue--it's a social issue.

If Kinsella were really so concerned about racism, he wouldn't work so hard to use a political party leader meeting one of his candidates--how unthinkable!--as ill-defined proof of racism that doesn't seem to really exist.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harper Denounces Belief in Inherent Extremism of Latin American Politics

Opponents could learn from Harper's advice to Latin America

To say that Latin America has had a tumultuous political history is more than a bit of an understatement.

Political violence unthinkable in the modern western world has often become so commonplace in Latin America that it could be described as routine. Consider a recent episode in which Venezualan President Hugo Chavez ordered a radio station that had criticized him shut down. Demonstrators marching in favour of the station's freedom of speech were attacked by Venezualan police with water cannons.

Consider also the popular historical example of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley shortly before the legendary "Smile Jamaica" concert supporting Richard Manley's People's National Party. A bullet penetrated Marley's chest and grazed his heart in the attack at his home the night before the concert.

Part of the underlying cause of such violence has been the inherent extremism in Latin American politics, in which most countries alternate between far-right and far-left governments -- often violently.

On 17 July, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to this phenomenon in a speech at the Canada-Chile Chamber of Commerce in Santiago.

"Too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are — if I can be so bold to say — to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become, quote, just like the United States," Harper said. "This is, of course, utter nonsense."

"Canada's very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one. Canada's political structures differ substantially from those in the United States," Harper added. "Our cultural and social models have been shaped by unique forces, and we've made our own policy choices to meet our own needs."

Of course, Harper is right about this. Someone may want to send a memo to his primary political opponents, the Liberal party.

The alternation between political extremes in Latin America can be traced to a belief that political parties in this region are "great parties"--that is, the belief that political parties are not merely political entities, but also moral entities, and the contests between these parties are battles between good and evil. Adocates of great party politics ensure that their opponents are viewed as dangerous extremists with insidious agendas that are destructive of the proper political order.

In Canada, the Liberal party has promoted such a belief numerous times throughout its history. Most recently the party distributed a fundraising letter in which Stephane Dion described the Conservative party as an extremist threat to the 'legacies of the Liberal party'. "The legacy of Mackenzie, Laurier, Mackenzie-King, St-Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, Turner, Chr├ętien and Martin lives today in Canadian treasures like our health care system and other cherished social programs, our economic stability, and our place in the world," Dion wrote. "We need your help to continue this legacy from being lost under the federal Tory’s misguided neo-Conservative agenda."

Ironically, the tendency to define the political landscape in terms of great parties is typical of neo-Conservative parties.

"We can not allow the Conservatives to win their majority and begin the dismantling of our cherished institutions," Dion's leter continues. "We are in the fight of our lives and I ask for your help to help us win."

If one accept's Dion's belief that Canada's political landscape is marked by a conflict between "two great parties", then the assertions of his letter may pass without further scrutiny. Yet, the alleged imminent attack on Canada's social programs has never materialized. Nor did the attacks ever happen when Louis St Laurent lobbed the same accusations against John Diefenbaker, arguably the most progressive Prime Minister in Canadian history.

Of course, there is another side to Canadian politics that Stephen Harper may be overlooking. While the Canadian political landscape has been blessed with numerous historical third parties (the NDP, it's predecessor the CCF, Social Credit, the Progressives), these parties have all been just that: third parties in a two-plus party system. No third party has ever governed federally. While in this sense the "two extremes" vision may be slightly more accurate it only underscores the fact that there is plently of partisan and ideological middle ground in the Canadian system--more so than the Liberals would like to admit.

Latin America could only benefit from developing this same ideological and partisan middle ground.

Hopefully, the Liberal party will never succeed in stamping out that middle ground here in Canada.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

When Ideology Overturns Reason: Pro-Choice Advocate Denounces Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

It's no great secret that abortion is one of the world's most divisive political issues. Infused with varying degrees of religious, ideological and emotional interests, it's very difficult to find a fair and balanced look at abortion.

Few are willing to even try.

Abortion is one of the political issues that instills a "with us or against us" mentality in most of those who carry an interest in it.

Both sides of the abortion debate can be driven to spewing devestatingly vitriolic drivel against their opponents. A recent letter by Hanover Park, Illinois resident Tim Johnson published in the August 2007 issue of Playboy magazine serves as a particularly chilling example:

"I suppose we've all been reading the news. The Supreme Court voted five to four to knock women's rights back several decades. Well, not quite, but it has built the coffin and pounded in the first of many nails. The ruling doesn't ban abortion (yet), but it upholds the ban on a certain abortion method.

The judgement doesn't change the outcome of the abortion, and it has no effect at all on the woman's health or the fetus' chances of someday becoming a Republican.

The banned method is called intact dilation and evacuation; it involves removing the fetus intact while it is still in the uterus, as opposed to dismembering it while it's still in the uterus, then pulling it out.

Opponents deem this a partial-birth abortion and argue that the dignity of the fetus must be preserved. The fetus must die with honour. Are you kidding me? Perhaps they should drape a tiny American flag over the dismembered bits before scraping them out.

In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy fed words to the press like
morals, ethics and respect--ignoring the glaring fact that the ruling saves not one life. It does, however, open the door to future faith-based antiabortion rulings.

This is the same thinking that lets peopel watch Michael J Fox shrivel up on prime-time TV while they fight stem cell research. It makes me wonder what "life" implies to so-called pro-lifers: At what point is a life worth saving in this instance? Only after you've made
Back to the Future 4?

I see. Sorry, McFly, your life doesn't work into their equation.

How far are we going to take this? They'll have you believe life begins before a cell even knows what kind of cell it will be. A stem cell has the potential to become a life--yes, I get it--as do my millions of sperm. What legislation will you pass to preserve their dignity? Must I wear only the finest silken stars-and-stripes drawers so any accidentally spilled swimmers can dry, crust and flake off with dignity?

-Tim Johnson,
Hanover Park, Illinois
For many people, the first reaction to a letter such as this may be disbelief that it got published, followed closely by disblief at the callousness with which this mr Johnson--presumably a pro-choice advocate--treats what would otherwise have been a human life.

Let's look beyond the fact that a partial-birth abortion, also known as an intact dilation and evacuation abortion, does, in fact, seemingly induce birth in order to perform an abortion; Let's look beyond the base perversity of inducing the final stage of giving life in order to instead take it. Let's look beyond the fact that few people in their right minds would tolerate livestock being treated like that. Let's even look beyond the alarmism being encouraged by Johnson's letter.

One particular line from his letter seems very illustrative.

"Perhaps they should drape a tiny American flag over the dismembered bits before scraping them out."
One caveat seems necessary. Without knowing mr Johnson intimately, it's impossible to understand the state of mind under which he wrote this letter. Perhaps he was angered by the ruling (actually, this seems to be very much the case, but it's impossible to know for certain). Perhaps he's under a good deal of stress in his personal life. Perhaps all of this is reflected in his letter, as opposed to his personality. Without knowing mr Johnson, we don't know.

But in the absense of any mitigating factors, Johnson's letter seems--at its basest level--to demonstrate a true disregard for a human life being lost (which is the case in virtually any logical sense). Even if it doesn't accurately reflect mr Johnson's attitude toward the lives being lost in the course of abortions (and one hopes for mr Johnson's sake that it truly doesn't), this only serves to give the most virulent pro-lifers more ammunition to be used in this polarizing and divisive debate, only making it more polarizing and more divisive, so that no reasonable progress can ever be made.

One thing typical of hard-core ideologues on both sides of the abortion issue is that they don't want any progress to be made, under any circumstances. Mr Johnson portrays what is actually a very reasonable ban on an extremely inhumane abortion method as an attack on the rights of women, even while admitting that the decision doesn't outright ban abortion.

What is actually a very reasonable limit on the circumstances and methods under which abortions can be performed is instead portrayed as an insidious civil rights abuse.

On the other hand, consider the example posed by individuals who believe that abortions must be banned under any circumstances, including those involving rape, incest, or the imminent death of the mother carrying the child due to maternal complications. In the end, they really aren't much different at all. Both believe they can settle for nothing less than a complete victory, and they care nothing for the lives held en escrow, only for their own personal ideological view of the world, which they feel they have a right to impose on the rest of us.

North of the 49th parallel, another very reasonable bill was denounced by pro-choice groups as well. Proposed by Vegreville-Lloydminster Conservative MP Leon Benoit, Bill C-291, the fetal homicide bill, proposed to make any individual who harmed a fetus while in the act of perpetrating a violent crime against an expecting mother would be charged separately for the crime against each.

Let's look beyond the fact that the bill had nothing to do with abortion--currently legal in Canada--but dealt rather, with violent crime--currently illegal in Canada. Rabid pro-choicers complained that the bill would essentially re-define the point at which a fetus is considered a person, despite the fact that a fetus will eventually become a person if an abortion is not sought and recieved.

And while any such re-definition under this law could prove potentially troublesome for abortion law if not clarified--and apparently, clarification was needed--this is why bills must pass three readings before the House of Commons before they become law, allowing for important revisions in between readings (perhaps in this case, a revision that defines a fetus whose mother intends to deliver it as a person, while allowing a certain degree of flexibility for those who intend to seek an abortion, or who are undecided).

Instead, Bill C-291 was scuttled, largely a live sacrifice to ideologically-paralyzed pro-lifers.

If people such as Tim Johnson had their way, the United States Supreme Court would do the same with bans on intact dilation and evacuation, or partial-birth, abortions, despite the fact that they, like Bill C-291, are both entirely reasonable defenses of the rights of the unborn.

Unfortunately, in the minds of the most ideologically-blindfolded pro-choicers, the unborn have the same rights that their pro-life counterparts allow for those who have been born: none.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Global Warming or Virtual Reality Redux -- Virtual Reality or Outright Intimidation?

Debate over climate change takes confusing turn

As previously mentioned, a significant portion of the debate over climate change revolves around a virtual reality ideology, wherein climate alarmists use the spectre of global warming to answer any question that can concievably be asked, regardless of whether or not it has any basis in logic.

A recent episode in the climate change debate has either highlighted this tendency, or highlighted the tendency of many climate alarmists to resort to threats and intimidation. Only the reader can decide for him or herself which they think is the case.

The matter revolves around an email recieved by Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow Comparative Enterprise Institute. The email, sent by Michael T Eckhart, read as follows:

Marlo –

You are so full of crap.

You have been proven wrong. The entire world has proven you wrong. You are the last guy on Earth to get it. Take this warning from me, Marlo. It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar. If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on.


In the email, Eckhart basically threatens to lob accusations at Lewis of being a bought-and-paid-for corporate monkey. It's a popular accusation amongst climate alarmsts. In An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore levies that same accusation against supporters of natural variance theories regarding climate change.

It is entirely possible that Eckhart believes that Lewis wrote the article in question out of pro-business tendencies, in which case we see a virtual reality ideology -- in which the only valid answer to a question regarding how someone can disagree with the "consensual science" on climate change is "selling out" to major corporations -- at work. However, it is possible that Eckhart only wants to silence a critic of the aforementioned "consensual science", in which case he is clearly trying to intimidate Lewis.

However, when examining the original article, Echkart's outburst becomes more absurd.

While Lewis does, in fact, dispute the severity of warming trends to date, Lewis also finishes his article by advocating for worldwide research & development investment in renewable energy and elminating tax barriers to investing in such technologies.

Eckhart is the president of ACORE (American Council On Renewable Energy). As such, while Lewis raises his reservations about Kyoto and global warming, what he ultimately suggests would actually not only benefit Eckhart and ACORE, but would actually be more effective toward reaching Kyoto's targets than CO2 restrictions.

Yet, Eckhart is either too locked within his virtual reality belief system, or too intolerant of any form of dissent to simply accept Lewis' disagreements in order to benefit from his advocacy of support for Eckhart's industry.

Either way, Eckhart's email paints a very unflattering picture of the most rabid climate change alarmists.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Global Warming or Virtual Reality?

South African Live Earth organizer viewing climate change through blinders

If anyone doubts that Global Warming has become the world's penultimate bogeyman, they need look no further than the excuses offered by the organizers of Johannesberg, South Africa's Live Earth concert.

"We're expecting 10,000 here tonight," said John Langford. "It's a bit chilly, and we've had a strange winter. Is it climate change?"

Langord also noted that it recently snowed in Johannesberg for the first time in 25 years.

Aside from the absurdity of blaming the poor turn-out on climate change (the concert is supposed to be in support of climate change-fighting efforts -- people turning out is support for belief in climate change; apparently people not showing up is the same), Langford reveals an intriguing undercurrent underlying the climate change lobby.

Simply put, climate change has taken on all the characterstics of a virtual reality ideology.

Originally posited by Norman Mailer, a virtual reality ideology has a number of characteristics. First off, it's a closed system. There are a very limited number of possibilities that an individual adhering to a virtual reality belief system are able to explore. According to Mailer, there are few legimiate answers, but even fewer legitimate questions within such a system. The intellectual options of anyone ahdering to a virtual reality ideology are severely limited.

According to Mailer, however, the most important element of a virtual reality belief system is that, no matter what question is asked, there is one answer underlying the entire system, and that is the one that the individual had before the question was ever asked. In this case, the answer is always climate change, even if it isn't necessarily global warming.

Thus, no matter what is being considered, the answer that many proponents of the climate change virtual reality will offer is climate change.

This is very interesting considering that the top concern of most climate change lobbyists is global warming. Yet so many will also point to increased cold weather as evidence of "climate change" (merely a broader term for the global warming phenomenon), and evidence that human activitiy is the overwhelming cause.

Yet, also consider that the climate change lobby relies heavily on the scientifically-demonstrable greenhouse effect to support their claims. Yet, the greenhouse effect can only be used to explain global warming, not global cooling.

Despite this logical difficulty, individuals such as Langford resort to climate change alarmism when trying to explain a weather pattern that, since it has happened only twice in the last 25 years, is still extremely rare.

And all of this despite the fact that poor publicity is more likely the explaination for the failure of his little concert.