Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mission: Beijing - Phase One

Dress athletes like retarded gang bangers

Mission accomplished.

It's Forty Below, Kevin Taft Don't Give a Fuck

He's got a heater in his truck,
And he's off to the Rodeo...

Alberta Liberal leader "Cowboy" Kevin Taft wants to pronounce Rodeo to be Alberta's official sport.

But he really isn't fooling anyone.

The fact that he could be so disingenuous really only underscores how incredibly clueless he really is.

(Although this particular gem -- pictured left -- could have extremely humorous implications, considering the number of partisan Liberals who like to pass around Stephen Harper's cowboy photos.)

Thank You For Calling, Mr Sachs

We have a message for you

It's positively wondrous what a prestigious United Nations posting can do for a person.

It provides an immediate career boost, accompanied by a surge in self-esteem... and completely blinds one to the failures of their own policies. And turns them into a bit of a loudmouth.

Jeffrey Sachs, Special UN advisor to Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and director of the Millennium Project, recently had some sharp words for Canada in regards to "global leadership".

"We've seen essentially no global leadership from Canada on poverty, hunger, disease, climate change and foreign assistance," Sachs insisted. "This has been a huge surprise for me as a lifelong admirer of Canada, that we don't see the ambition of the Canadian people manifested in Canada's policies right now."

Yet Sachs himself, for quite a considerable period of time, has been thrust into a position of global leadership, and given billions upon billions upon billions of dollars to make the goals of the Millenium project a reality. The results of Sachs' leadership have been less than inspiring.

Consider the case of Mosquito nets. To date, billions of dollars have been spent on insecticide treated mosquito nets. Intended to solve the preeminent (and spreading) problem of Malaria, these mosquito nets have often been diverted into the black market by the bureaucrats entrusted with their distribution.

William Easterly points out that Sachs efforts to distribute the mosquito nets -- although having more recent successes -- have failed on one key point: people have needs, more often than not know their needs, and will act to meet them if they have the resources.

The fact that Non-profit non governmental organizations that sell heavily subsidized mosquito nets have had considerably more success distributing them than the (often corrupt) local agencies given the nets demonstrates a glaring hole in Sach's prescription for ending poverty in the developing world.

Sachs has, in the course of his career as a would-be economic visionary relied almost exclusively on macroeconomics as a solution to poverty.

His previous catastrophic failures in post-Soviet Russia certainly hasn't dissuaded him from deploying his disastrous shock therapy technique into developing economies -- in particular, Africa.

And just as when his policies failed in Russia, what Sachs insists is necessary is a massive bailout from G8 nations, which is probably what is behind his insistence that Canada contribute 0.7% toward his all too often ill-fated aid programs.

Despite Sachs' criticisms, Canada's contribution of $167 million to the UN food program last year made it the third most prolific donor in the world. In 2005, Paul Martin's Liberal government even changed policy that required food contributed to the program to be purchased from Canadian producers to allow it to be purchased from sources closer to their destination -- a wise decision that hastened delivery of aid considerably, although unfortunately at the expense of Canadian producers.

Yet such initiatives don't seem enough for Sachs, who instead wants to play partisan politics in a country foreign to his own.

"Canada did not show leadership on critical issues, like agriculture, for example, where I was shocked by discussions I had in Ottawa," Sachs insists. "Then the [Martin] government fell, and this government has come in and it's been antagonistic, rhetorically and in policy. It's almost mocking, some times, with these objectives."

Of course, it would be remiss to pretend that Sachs has had no successes. In the few occasions in which he has "lowered" himself to dabbling in some microeconomics -- the approach clearly favoured by Easterly -- Sachs has managed to help do some good in Africa. Consider the Millenium villages project, in which $100 per resident is invested every five years, resulting in some truly fantastic growth.

But the problem with the Millenium village approach is that there hasn't been nearly enough of them, and far too much of the money being spent elsewhere is simply being wasted.

Even Sachs' insistence that investing in research and development in developing states -- while possessing a considerable amount of potential -- overlooks the fact that many of these countries don't have the infrastructure for such R&D in place to begin with.

What is needed in Africa isn't massive macroeconomic re-engineering as Sachs seems to insist. What is necessary, instead, is a rethinking of the basic economic principles at work in Africa, and a questioning of some of the assumption Sachs work is based upon.

For example, Sachs' model of Clinical Economics -- in which developing economies are treated as ailing patients and diagnosed and treated accordingly -- possesses tremendous potential. Unfortunately, too much of it relies on Sachs' so-called poverty trap: a concept that can be discarded after even a remedial economic analysis. (William Easterly demonstrates that the 50 poorest countries in the world today are not the poorest countries in the world as of 50 years ago -- obviously, lack of money is not the dominant factor in sustained poverty, although lack of economic development clearly is.)

What is needed in Africa is more microeconomic aid, on a wider scale, and designed as an incentive for the private sector to get involved in providing for the needs of otherwise destitute Africans. In particular, microloans have been very successful.

But these are successes that Sachs has taken advantage of only sparingly, if at all.

It's clearly time for Jeffrey Sachs to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate his own policies before engaging in finger pointing clearly designed to benefit those he considers his political allies.

Then again, that's yet another perk of being a UN appointee: incredible job security, regardless of whether or not one's track record warrants it or not.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Good Way to Get Yourself Deleted From the Machine Shop Blogroll:

Approving of violence as a political tactic.

'Nuff said.

The Dangers of Letting Our Demons Define Us

Movements, like people, make mistakes -- and no one is immune

When one takes count of some of the views held by the most extreme of the extreme, one thing becomes immediate apparent.

The most extreme individuals almost universally tend to have long, unforgiving memories. More importantly than that, they tend to hold grudges over the mistakes made by individuals and movements they deem to be their political opponents.

For a telling example, one really needs look little further than Lindsay Stewart (who blogs under the alias Pretty Shaved Ape) and his response to a recent discussion (or, rather, attempt at discussion) over whether or not churches are public goods:

"Organized pedophilia, cultural genocide, mass graves... good times, good times."

It's unsurprising that a left-wing demagogue wannabe like Lindsay Stewart would produce something like this as a response to the revelation that churches are a public good.

In the minds of such individuals, all the good things that many churches provide to the community -- shelters for the homeless, recreation services for youths and a considerable volunteer pool for the community, as merely three examples -- certainly don't matter. Any little thing they can use to denounce religion -- their favourite target seems to be Christianity in particular -- is all that matters to them.

Few people will pretend that nothing bad has ever happened in the history of Christianity. The Inquisition and the treatment of women as second-class individuals and Canada's Residential Schools are merely a few examples among a myriad of charges that could be raised against Christianity.

The most predictable complaint for Stewart and his fellow wannabe demagogues at Canadian Cynic's Temple of Sychophantic Groupthink is the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church. That's what he's alluding to here.

Few Catholics, in particular deny that such abuses have taken place. Even Pope Benedict who has been accused of masterminding a cover-up of the abuses, has acknowledged the abuses.

Despite this, most Catholics refuse to allow these abuses to define them, or their religion. And with good cause.

The pedophilia scandal in the Catholic church is certainly a demon for Catholics -- in fact, for all Christians -- to confront. But demons are meant to be confronted. They aren't meant to define a person or movement's identity, no matter what the demagogues may demand.

The ironic thing is that the social movement that demagogues like Lindsay Stewart lay (illegitimate) claim to membership in -- the progressive movement -- has plenty of demons of its own to confront. Although the demagogues among them rage impotently whenever they're mentioned, these demons very much are real, and very much are theirs, despite their attempts to force them on others.

Consider, for example, one of the wannabe progressive movement's favourite arguing points against Alberta -- its Eugenics program.

Many so-called "progressives" have often been quick to blame Alberta's Eugenics program on the inherently conservative nature of its politics. Unfortunately for them, the historical record demonstrates that matters in regard to the Eugenics program -- the world's longest-running such program -- are a little more complex than that.

In Alberta, more than 2800 people were sterilized for a variety of reasons. Some of them were judged unfit to raise children. Others were sterilized due to various congenital conditions. Others were sterilized due to developmental deficiencies. Many were sterilized for what turned out to be largely arbitrary reasons.

What ensued was, unquestionably, a massive social injustice -- one that words can barely be describe.

But Alberta's Eugenics program -- as with most Eugenics programs in the world -- had a distinctly Utopian flavour to it; the idea being that by breeding the Albertan population as selectively as possible, the genetic conditions by which developmental deficiencies, genetic afflictions, and even childhood diseases could be virtually wiped out. Eugenics, it was argued, would improve the quality of life of all Albertans and, in turn, all Canadians.

Among those who supported Alberta's eugenics program were progressive icons like Nellie McClung, CCF founder JS Woodsworth, Emily Murphy and Tommy Douglas.

Some progressives have the courage to confront this particular demon of Canada's progressive movement. Some progressives have the courage to confront these demons of the progressive movement's past. Others, unfortunately, do not.

Interestingly, some times charges need be mere allegations that those making them won't, oddly enough, even allow to be investigated, as is the case with Stewart's envokation of recent mass grave allegations regarding Canada's shameful Residential School system.

Ironically, Residential Schools were also rooted in a Utopian vision that is so often the domain of progressive political thinkers. And again, the historical record shows, progressive activists with the best of attentions must share the blame for Canada's Residential School System and the horrors that therein occurred with the churches who ran the schools.

Of course, one would be holding their breath a long time before demagogues like Stewart acknowledged this historical truth. Better not to risk asphyxiation.

But those who choose to confront the demons of their movement's past are wise indeed when they refuse to let those demons define them. The risk of allowing progressives (be they feminist or socialist) to be permanently discredited by their mistakes are vast. Progressive values, after all, have often proven to be a force for positive and necessary social change.

Likewise, even while it remains necessary for Christians worldwide to confront the demons of their past, it would be utter folly to insist that those demons simply must define Christianity. It would ignore all the good that Christianity -- and those that take its true message to heart -- have done, especially in individual communities.

Although anti-Christians refuse to acknowledge it, churches have often been beneficiary to their communities. The Salvation Army Church provides countless man-hours and dollars worth of services to the needy in their communities. And Canada's vaunted progressive movement has enshrined the accomplishments of those who lived their lives -- personal and political -- according to the Protestant Social Gospel.

Of course, there is clearly a certain amount of frustration evident in the attitudes of anti-Christians like Lindsay Stewart that Christians simply will not relent and allow themselves to be permanently discredited for mistakes that many Christians will almost immediately acknowledge -- and it reeks of hypocrisy so long as so many in the progressive movement continue to hide from theirs.

Like those progressives who acknowledge the mistakes committed in the name of progressive Utopianism, Christians who acknowledge the mistakes made by the Church -- and they are legion -- are wise to refuse to allow these mistakes to define them, simply because no one -- individuals or movements -- ever learn from (or redeem) their mistakes if they choose to despair over them.

Not learning from our mistakes is the danger of letting our demons define us, just as it's the danger of refusing to acknowledge them.

ATTN: Miley Cyrus

Nobody with a life gives a fuck about this Vanity Fair stupidity.

That is all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Black Eye for the Human Rights Commission

Time for some accountability at the CHRC

A controversy quietly bubbling amongst denizens of the Canadian Blogosphere has finally exploded into the mainstream media, as the Globe and Mail yesterday reported on some of the shifty "covert ops" being carried out by investigators for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Last month, Dean Steacy testified that he signed up an account on Stormfront, a white supremacist website, under the alias "Jadewarr".

"It a short form for 'Jade Warrior' from a novel I read as a teenager," he explained.

Bell Canada was subpoenaed for the identity of the individual to whom the IP address was linked. It produced the name of Ottawa resident Nelle Hechme, and provided her phone number and home address at the hearing.

As it turns out, Hechme has had nothing to do with either Stormfront or Dean Steacy. Thus, the proverbial shit has hit the not-so-proverbial fan for the CHRC, raising some important questions about how these Commissions operate, and why there is so little accountability in the system.

Some may recognize the name Dean Steacy. He was the one who insisted "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."

This despite the fact that "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication" is Constitutionally entrenched via the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One would think that an investigator for the Human Rights Commission would be familiar with the fundamental document upon which these commissions are founded.

It seems that Steacy tapped Nelle Hechme's WiFi internet connection. Hechme lives a short distance from the CHRC office.

As such, not only did Mr Steacy violate Hechme's privacy and essentially engage in property theft, he also committed WiFi piracy -- yet another illegal act.

Of course, such liberal twisting of proper legal procedures -- to pose it euphemistically at best -- has turned out to be fairly typical of the CHRC. A document revealing that CHRC investigators were themselves registered on the site was reportedly removed from the official record, and an identical copy (with the notable alteration of the "welcome Jadewarr" removed).

All of this to get at Marc Lemire, an individual who almost certainly is guilty of disseminating hate speech, and should be dealt with. Unfortunately, the CHRC's own lack of accountability and we're-above-the-law attitude has utterly undermined their efforts and reputation.

Of course, some people are using what is -- quite frankly -- Nelle Hechme's victimization at the hands of unscrupulous Canadian Human Rights Commission Investigators as proof that these commissions need to be abolished.

Little could be further from the truth. The truth is that Canada's Human Rights Commissions serve a valuable purpose to Canadian Society.

But they simply cannot be allowed to continue as they have operated. It's time to divorce these organizations from the Star Chamber Rules by which they have operated, and make them operate according to modern legal principles -- including all applicable rules of evidence.

It's time to transform these institutions from convenient weapons in the hands of litigious witch hunters into proper legal commissions worthy of the name. The work they do is important, but it's time for Canadian society to stop sacrificing our legal principles in order to allow them to pervert the important purpose these commissions fulfill.

These commissions were never intended to become tools of censorship -- they were intended to be tools of redress for when Human Rights have actually been violated.

It's time to clean up the CHRC. Canadian society will be all the better off for it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Democracy Not Irrelevant in Alberta

Just the opposition

Every so often, the editorial staff of the Toronto Star likes to toss a few stones westward, as was the case with an op/ed article, written by former Calgary Herald managing editor Gillian Steward, published today.

In the article, Steward -- oft-time writer and researcher for the Parkland institute and some-time compatriot of provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft -- alleges that oil money has undermined democracy in Alberta. It starts by noting that, by golly, things are real good for the Alberta government:

"The Alberta government tabled a $37 billion budget last week that featured per capita spending three times the average level of other provinces.

Not that many Albertans are likely to notice. After all, only 41 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the recent provincial election. If elections don't catch most people's attention, it's hard to imagine that the day-to-day dealings of the government will.
Alberta's (frankly) disgustingly low voter turnout is often pointed to as evidence that, galldurnnit (galldurnnit isn't a word - ed) Albertans just don't believe in democracy.

Of course, one might have suspected that maybe, just maybe, the Star's editorial staff might have thought twice about where Steward is going with this. After all, Alberta isn't the only province that just endured a historically low voter turnout. In the 2008 Ontario provincial election, only 52.6% of eligible voters cast ballots.

Admittedly, it's a full 11 percent better than Alberta's turnout. But Ontario and Alberta aren't the only jurisdictions to experience declining voter turnout. The country, as a whole, has experienced a nine% decline in voter turnout since Confederation in 1867 -- although the 64.7% turnout in the 2006 federal election was a nearly 4% improvement over 2004's turnout.

In Ontario's particular case, however, the province doesn't have any oil money to blame for their decline. So one wonders what else could be responsible?

There is an answer to this. But first, back to Steward:

"Premier Ed Stelmach's Conservatives won 72 of 83 seats, which left the opposition – nine Liberals and two New Democrats – reduced to a tiny island surrounded by a sea of gloating government members.

That the opposition is practically dead on its feet is no exaggeration. They have just endured a draining election campaign and are now expected to take on one of the most powerful governments in the country. They have so few people and resources, not to mention money, that they will barely be able to keep up with the government's agenda.
They may not have much money, resources, or many people, but they certainly have plenty of excuses:

They insist their long history of defeat isn't due to their own failings. Among other things, they blame Alberta's first past the post voting system, allegedly unfair campaign laws that bilk them out of chump change, and oil money.

"This is not the first time there has been such a lopsided election result. In 1982, Peter Lougheed's Conservatives won 75 of 79 seats. In 2001, Ralph Klein won 74 of 83. But at least then most people turned out to vote. After this election, some are wondering if Alberta has become North America's first post-democratic state; a well-educated, wealthy jurisdiction where most people don't give a fig about democracy.

Peter McCormick, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge, says Albertans seem to believe that democracy is obsolete and elections irrelevant. Another political-science prof told me that Alberta is proof that the Chinese are right: you can have capitalism without democracy. He was joking, but not entirely.
Which of course, is musing a little on the hysterical side.

In fact, Albertans do turn out to the polls when there's an actual contest, as was the case during the 2006 federal election, when 55% of Albertans turned out to vote. Still not exactly numbers to be proud of (nor are the federal numbers), but more significant still.

"The drift from a one-party state to almost complete apathy has been going on for some time. But in the West this disaffection with democracy is purely an Alberta phenomenon. British Columbia had a 60 per cent turnout during its last provincial election and is also the first province to establish a working citizens' assembly to explore alternatives to the first-past-the-post electoral system. In 2005, British Columbians were asked in a referendum if they wanted to change the way they elected their political representatives."
If only the issue really were the issue in the decreasing voter turnout in Albertan elections and the increasing marginalization of what passes for an opposition here.

Historically, whenever the Albertan government has been replaced, it's been done by either an entirely new party (as was the case with the United Farmers of Alberta and Social Credit party) or by a new incarnation of an old party (which was the case with the Progressive Conservatives).

One explanation for this is especially intriguing: that, as a party continues to try to defeat the government and, in successive elections, continues to fail, Albertans come to judge that particular party as unfit and unable to govern. As time draws on, the opposition parties become increasingly irrelevant, and often reinforce this themselves by offering platforms of policies that simply don't appeal to Albertans, and don't reflect Albertans' interests as viewed by them.

One thing can be said about Albertans' low voter turnout: the landslide victories it tends to produce certainly does suggest an implicit approval of the government and its policies. To assume this would be folly, but it's hard not to give the idea serious consideration.

Then there is, of course, the other elephant in this particular room: Ontarians, in the course of the very election that drew the lowest voter turnout in their history, voted down Mixed Member Proportional plurality in a referendum. Whatever the problems in Ontario -- that other province experiencing historically low turnout -- it clearly has little to do with the first past the post electoral system. Those Ontarians who do vote seem to like it just fine.

"Saskatchewan residents are fiercely political. In the 2007 provincial election, which saw the NDP turfed in favour of the right-wing Saskatchewan party, 75 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Manitoba had a 57 per cent turnout in 2007."
Of course, the prospect of electing a new government -- as Saskatchewan did in 2007, and Manitoba was expected to do (but didn't) -- may have had more than a little to do with the increased voter turnout.

"Stelmach said after the election that Albertans are "just happy with life, most of them." Could it be that with oil at almost $120 a barrel, more jobs than people to fill them, and relatively low taxes, Albertans believe there is nothing more for the government to do?

That was certainly Klein's vision. He often talked about wanting "the province to be on autopilot ... capable of running itself." That brings to mind a well-oiled machine, which of course describes Alberta in more ways than one.
If $120/barrel oil really is what Albertans think is "as good as it gets", it certainly wouldn't be out-of-line to be a little bit disappointed in the lack of political vision in the province.

But Albertan politics have always had a distinctly conservative, small-government flavour -- not one that all of Alberta's governments have embodied them.

But Ralph Klein isn't alone in favouring small-government models wherein things largely run themselves and citizens govern themselves. In fact, such principles are at the very heart of "strong democracy" models that are at the basis of demands for things such as proportional representation -- a demand that Steward scarcely masks here.

"It's well-oiled because petroleum taxes, royalties, permits and land leases account for a third of all government revenues and all those multi-billion surpluses. With a source of income like that, the government doesn't need to worry so much about keeping voters, particularly taxpayers, on side."
Except at election time. And of those voters who actually choose to cast ballots in Canada, the current government has been overwhelmingly chosen.

"So the money will flow, for the next year at least, and there will be very few objections. And why would the government listen anyway when it knows most Albertans are too busy, or too happy, to notice much of what it does?"
Except that Albertans seem to be extremely happy with the siting government -- after all, they keep returning it with overwhelming landslides.

Even those who support the government will quickly admit that, no, not everything in Alberta is perfect. But none of it is as bad as the province's minority left-wing opposition insists it is.

Democracy isn't what's irrelevant in Alberta -- the opposition is. The sooner that it recognizes this and adjusts in order to produce a relevant option for Albertans, the sooner its irrelevance will end.

Huckabee for VP?

Mike Huckabee and John McCain looking awfully close on the campaign circuit

For the last several weeks, Senator (and presumptive Republican Presidential nominee) John McCain has been touring a number of the United States' economically depressed regions.

On Thursday, McCain was in New Orleans, where a Republican finally owed up to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.

"We know we didn't have the right kind of leadership ...where government agencies were getting information from watching cable television rather than have a flow of information," McCain announced. "It was not only a perfect storm as far as its physical impact ... it was a perfect storm as far as the federal, state and local governments' inability."

On Friday, McCain was in Mike Huckabee's home state of Arkansas. Huckabee, the final contender vanquished by McCain, was there with him.

It's far from surprising. When withdrawing from the race on 4 March, Huckabee pledged his support for McCain. "I believe that Arkansas will not only support Sen. McCain but will help him to become the next president of the United States. And I certainly pledge my every effort to help do that," he announced.

Ever since McCain clinched the nomination, there's naturally been a good deal of talk regarding who will join McCain on the Republican ticket as Vice Presidential nominee.

McCain and Huckabee seemed very chummy, at one point mock-arguing over who would pay for sandwiches (for the record, Huckabee paid and McCain left the tip).

Reading between the lines suggests that there may be more to McCain/Huckabee than mere speculation.

One of the things Huckabee was taken to task for most was -- oddly enough -- his religion.

If Huckabee were named Vice Presidential nominee, Huckabee's religion problem would almost certainly become McCain's problem. McCain seemed to head some of that off at the pass when he addressed Barack Obama's Reverend Jeremiah Wright problem. He announced it would be "a little bit presumptuous to ever assume that just because the pastor says something on the pulpit that everyone in the pew agrees with it. That's rarely the case."

On an embarrassing appearance on WWE Monday Night Raw McCain noted that "to be the man you have to beat the man". Huckabee couldn't beat the man, but could still be the man for the job.

At the end of the day, however, one shouldn't ask McCain and Huckabee about it. They're not saying anything, leaving this a question that may not get answered until the Republican National Convention.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Joyce Arthur and the Yellow Brick Road

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada head longs for the good ol' days in Oz

Over the past several months, one has heard the litany of complaints over Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Ken Epp's private members' bill, Bill C-484 -- the Unborn Victims of Crime bill.

According to Canada's pro-abortion lobby, the bill is an outrage -- nothing but a back-door "attack" on women's abortion rights.

Unfortunately for Joyce Arthur and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, many opponents of the bill have reached this conclusion by intentional misreadings of the bill in question -- often refusing to acknowledge the existence of entire passages of the bill that don't fit the narrative they're so desperate to push.

Like many demagogues, Arthur has often pushed this particular narrative by promoting it in the places where it will receive the least possible scrutiny. What all too often emerges is a portrait of the pro-abortion lobby's fantasy version of the legislation, instead of the real deal.

"It’s very sneaky," says Arthur. "[Epp] is trying to rewrite the Criminal Code definition and allow a fetus to be treated as a person."

Which, of course, would be just awful -- that is, if you're a member of the pro-abortion lobby (more on this shortly).

When one examines the entirety of Arthur's complaints -- regarding both the bill and the government -- what quickly emerges is a portrait of an ideologically-constructed fantasy world in which Arthur, and those who share her opinions, are entitle to force their views on other people, often to the detriment of those she was supposed to be trying to help in the first place.

One particular point Arthur is stewing over deals with recent changes to Status of Women Canada -- transforming the organization from one that engages in lobbying, advocacy and research to one that provides funding to actual services for women in their community.

Arthur insists that the move was a blow to women's equality, and was intended as such -- despite the fact that the moves were largely managerial in nature. For example, the closing of a number of regional offices -- rendered less necessary by the access granted through the organization's website -- freed up $5 million for community-level services and support for women.

Arthur's objection to this really demonstrates a purely ideological view of how women's equality can be achieved, and what that represents.

To individuals like Joyce Arthur, women's equality demands that women be treated as equal in all respects, even in situations where they may not be. Certainly, women should be considered equal in all formal aspects -- and according to the letter of the law, they are.

But there's a difference between legal equality and practical equality. The test case for this always seems to be a hiring process wherein a man and a woman are competing for the same job. The principle of formal equality insists that, the two being equal in practical respects -- skills, capabilities and experience applicable to the job, the man should not be hired over the woman by simple virtue of being a man (nor should the woman be hired over the man by simple virtue of being a woman; this should go without saying, but all too often, is left unsaid).

However, if the man's skills, capabilities and experience exceeds the woman's, it should absolutely not be considered discriminatory to hire the man over the woman.

What ultimately emerges is a rather simple fact: legal equality is not necessarily practical equality.

The funding changes to the Status of Women that Joyce Arthur opposes, meanwhile, provide for many such things as job and skills training for women, to make them more competitive in the job market. If one favours practical equality between men and women, this is something they should certainly support.

If one favours legal equality over practical equality -- or believes that a woman's qualifications shouldn't have to match or exceed that of a man's in order to be hired over him -- than one would certainly oppose the changes. But it could be considered quite ironic that a group so preoccupied with equality would want to advance such a comparatively hollow definition of the concept.

They also seem to have a fairy-tale imagination for what such equality would mean for women -- that it would represent some sort of magical panacea for women, protecting them from all forms of violence so effectively that no further legislation would ever be necessary to help protect them.

"Ensuring women’s equality will go a long way to making them more safe," Arthur insists. "If the woman is safe, however we do that—through social supports or whatever—then the fetus is going to be safe too."

But Arthur reserves her finest vintage of rhetoric for espousing the threat that recognizing any fetal rights would allegedly pose to women's rights (actually a threat to Arthur's ideologically-driven world view).

"The bill basically gives fetuses a form of personhood," says Arthur. "It’s giving them a separate status apart from the mother, and the moment you do that, whatever else you say about that, you are setting a very dangerous precedent."

Dangerous for the pro-abortion lobby, perhaps. The distinct challenge posed by the concept that unborn children should have rights has been detailed elsewhere, but reiteration is necessary.

The recognition of the scientific fact that an unborn child -- or fetus, as preferred by the pro-abortion lobby -- very much is human life represents a devastating threat to the pro-abortion lobby's characterization as "nothing more than a clump of cells".

If one recognizes an unborn child as human life -- as more and more people are -- it becomes increasingly apparent that Canadian law needs to put measures in place to help protect it.

Furthermore, the implications of the pro-abortion lobby's attempts to dehumanize unborn children become more and more apparent, as the organization's own rhetoric begins to undermine it. The house of cards built on the fundamental principle that that unborn children are not human quickly collapses.

Of course, there are, as Arthur herself notes, portions of the criminal code that explicitly define an unborn child as "not a person". This is established both by Section 223 (1) of the Canadian Criminal Code, wherein it reads:

"When child becomes human being
223. (1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not

(a) it has breathed;

(b) it has an independent circulation; or

(c) the navel string is severed.
Then again, Canadian law once failed to recognize women and ethnic minorities as people, too. The explicit and counter-scientific establishment of unborn children as not human beings is no less an injustice, but unfortunately for the pro-abortion lobby, it's an injustice they're interested in perpetuating, not resisting.

Unfortunately, Arthur does have some allies in her ideologically-driven quest to deny unborn children what is indisputably already theirs by virtue of simple biology.

"In my almost 40 years in the women’s movement," said former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. "I have never had a single woman, a single advocate, a single representative of a single organization or an individual family member come to me and say this is a law they would like to see implemented."

Of course, it's unlikely that McDonough would tolerate her staff allowing any woman who did favour such a move through the front door. The hostile treatment by left-wing women's groups of organizations such as REAL women, or of individuals such as Mary Talbot -- the mother of the slain Olivia Talbot and grandmother of Lane Talbot Jr, and supports Bill C-484 -- is evidence enough of that.

The more one examines Joyce Arthur, the more sorry one feels for what the so-called "women's movement" has become. All too often, an extremely exclusive club of like-minded individuals. As some individuals have noted, membership in the so-called "women's movement" has all too often become more about what politics one believes in than what gender they belong to.

But that's another story for another time.

The women's movement has foresworn its time-honoured legacy of resisting social injustice. The same lack of personhood that was once vehemently rejected as it regarded women is now equally vehemently embraced as it regards unborn children.

And all the while, Joyce Arthur clicks her ruby slippers together telling herself "there's no place like home, there's no place like home". Sadly, not even the Wizard of Oz can give individuals like Arthur the courage to face legitimate challenges to her ideology, the intelligence to recognize they need to do so -- in cooperation with of all the people who favour legalized abortion (this author included) -- or heart enough to care.

Better to live in an Oz-like fantasy world.

What the FLQ Has Been Reduced To

38 years of pouting turns ugly

Whatever one may think about Pierre Trudeau, one has to hand it to him: when a small band of Quebecois separatists crossed the line, he knew exactly what to do.

When Canada was facing a domestic terror threat, he battened down the hatches and dealt with it. While his evoking the War Measures Act has remained one of the great historical controversies in Canadian history -- some insist it was necessary to deal with the FLQ, others point to the number of innocent FLQ sympathizers summarily rounded up under the Act -- one almost has to feel sorry for what the FLQ has become.

Once, they were big, brave little men -- kidnapping British Trade Commissioner James Cross and kidnapping (and later killing) Quebec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte.

Now, they're reduced to spray-painting "traitor" and "FLQ" on his grave.

Although they did allegedly circulate a letter threatening attacks in Montreal last year, those attacks never took place. It seems that vandalizing graves is as ambitious as the all-new, all-bitter FLQ gets these days.

Seems like this is one bogeyman of Canadian history that may not have gone quietly into the good night. But all the same, they've clearly seen better days.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shawn Brant Arrested -- Again -- In Standoff

Brant's history defies bail elligibility

For those who follow relations between Canada and its aboriginal communities even passingly, Sean Brant has become a household name.

Involved in organizing last June's Aboriginal Day of Action, Brant once again took aim at his favourite target, Deseronto, Ontario.

Today, Ontario Provincial Police Officers drew their weapons when they spotted a protester with a rifle. The protesters insist they had no weapons, but prior experience -- as it pertains to Brant -- would contradict that.

"We've made no secret that we have guns within this camp," Brant told reporters during his blockade during the National Aboriginal Day of Action. Although he would be let go with a warning during the Day of Action, he would later surrender to police to face charges stemming from violation of bail conditions applied during his previous arrest for blockading CN rail lines in April 2007.

He would initially be denied bail, although that decision would later be overturned.

Brant was arrested earlier in the day. Once again, he has violated his bail conditions. Some news outlets report two officers were assaulted during the course of the arrest.

This seems to be the story of Shawn Brant's life -- arrested during the course of often-violent activism, released on bail, then re-arrested once he violates the conditions of his bail, only to be granted bail once again.

One of the earliest incidents involving Brant seems to deal with a 2002 trial wherein Brant was blamed for some property damage that took place during a protest against the Eviction of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty from their offices (the space was due to be taken over by the Metro Toronto Housing Authority).

Brant would once again draw the attention of the law in 2002, when he and his fellow Mohawk tribes invoked a Tobacco controversy.

Originating in the Akwasasne tribal council, the scheme was eventually adopted by the Kanesatake community. When the RCMP finally decided to intervene in the case of what was clearly illegally-manufactured cigarettes, Brant got involved.

"We were involved in a government intervention into the sister community of Kanesatake," Brant told the CBC. "When we were done in Kanestake, what we decided was we would utilize that same opportunity that was given to the other communities and capitalize on the tobacco resource, in order to bring about a change in Tyendinaga and facilitate the development of some infrastructure here."

"That was at the end of April 2004, the government had planned to intervene and we had taken a number of men down to intervene," Brant continues. "May 3rd was the actual day of conflict in Kanesatake."

"We bought our first cigarettes in September of 2004 from a community south of Montreal, Kahnawake, and we got into the business after that," he added. "We borrowed a few dollars to start up and took it from there."

"We purchased 20 boxes of cigarettes, which we brought up to the community and actually sold them for the same amount that we bought them for. We spoke to a number of people that we felt could benefit by utilizing the resource and so we started from there; we created a label, a design, the market based upon that label, and then we just proceeded to expand from there."

The RCMP declined to intervene so long as the Mohawk Tobacco Products were sold only on the reserve. When the tribe began selling the tobacco to non-natives who came to the reserve -- then re-selling them off-reserve -- the RCMP was forced to step in.

"I know that the government of Canada takes a very particular position - and a very specific position - on the legality of the creation of tobacco products and their distribution certainly within the Canadian state," Brant says. "There is a framework of applications, processes and approvals that govern when and how a manufacturing company can exist, so I don’t disagree that the government assessment of what we do as being not legal. But that is not the same position that we’ve taken."

Naturally, the issue of poverty reduction in Mohawk communities was raised as the motive for the scheme.

"I think that when we look at the creation of, or the base of financial independence, there needs to be a look at what resources are available within particular communities, within particular First Nations. Some have timber, some have diamonds or ore that can be taken from the ground," Brant noted. "[Because of] where we are located geographically – in southern Ontario – we have a limit to the availability of that type of resource."

What they did have to work with was a largely unenforced border through the middle of the Akwesasne reservation -- a reserve that spans from Southern Ontario into the United States -- making it possible for them to buy cigarettes in the United States (where taxes are remarkably lower) and re-sell them in Canada.

The Mohawk's objection to any Canadian attempt to regulate their scheme came down to two things: their sovereignty, and the sacredness of tobacco -- although selling tobacco for profit to non-natives for non-ritual purposes probably violated that particular cultural tenet.

The sovereignty argument also evaporated when Mohawk-branded cigarettes began to trickle into the United States via smuggling rings.

Brant's involvement in the tobacco-scheme-cum-smuggling-ring eventually blossomed into a continual cycle of arrests, bail, and bail violations resulting in further arrests.

In the end, it's hard to deliver a verdict on Shawn Brant. If anything, his greatest crime (though one would hesitate to call it that) is frustration with methods that all too often don't garner results. The long history of dealings between the Canadian government and native bands is wrought with drawn-out disputes that would frustrate anyone -- particularly people living in poverty.

At the same time, Brant's tendency to resort to what often amounts to armed insurrection cannot be ignored, either. Eventually, Shawn Brant will have to go to jail to stay. His tendency to violate bail conditions demands that the revolving door of bail be closed and locked for good.

The issues that Shawn Brant is protesting need to be resolved, but Brant should not be granted bail this time around, protests by his supporters to the contrary.

Sudan: 60,000 Refugees Can't Be Wrong

Despite Khartoum's denials, carnage in Darfur very real

Despite denials by the Khartoum government regarding the breadth and depth of the atrocities being committed in Darfur, more and more details keep emerging about the crisis.

This past week, the Sudanese government insisted that only 10,000 have died during the past five years of fighting in Darfur.

United Nations humanitarian affairs disagrees. In a statement this past week, UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes estimated that 300,000 have died in the course of the conflict -- an increase of 50% since the last time a count was taken.

The Khartoum regime's recent denial is only the most recent in a long litany of denial.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, recently received something that should more or less force him to take the Sudanese ambassador's categorical denials with a grain of salt: a survey compiled from among 60,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad.

Among the varying atrocities being perpetrated in Darfur are the largely indiscriminates bombing of rebel areas by Sudanese Antonov bombers. The Sudanese army resumed using the bombers in February of this year.

Despite the presence of African Union peacekeepers in the region, the slaughter by government forces and janjaweed militia has continued. But some activists are looking to the sources of the conflict for opportunities to spread the word on an olympic scale -- via the Olympics.

Dream for Darfur has taken the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to go after China for its investment in the Darfur oilfields by going after its sponsors, who organizer Mia Farrow insists "have been frozen into silence on Darfur."

"If the summer Games (in Beijing) go down in history as the 'Genocide Olympics,' it will be because of the Chinese government's support of the regime in Sudan, abetted by the moral cowardice of the sponsors who would not speak out publicly about the genocide in Darfur," Farrow ads.

Hopefully, the survey sent to Gordon Brown will give him a little extra incentive to bring up the Darfur issue with the Sudanese ambassador to Ottawa, while it spurs the Summer Olympics' sponsors to pressure the Chinese government to "deal with this whole Darfur thing".

If not, it may be time for the UN to finally send a peacekeeping mission into the region.

And although we may not necessarily trust them -- with incidents like Tienanmen Square permanently at the front of the international community's mind -- China certainly has the troops to make such a mission possible -- provided that they are willing to submit to foreign command (trusting a Chinese general would be a bit of a stretch).

The attention being directed toward them during the Olympics should certainly give them an incentive to be on their best behaviour -- and the possibility of 60,000 Sudanese refugees casting a pall over the proceedings should give them an incentive to get involved.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Will Martin's Release Finally End the Media Circus?

Or will the government's efforts be rebuked again?

If recent history has taught us anything, it's that Canadians in legal trouble can bail themselves out by attracting a large enough media circus.

Recent history has also shown us that they need not always be honest about their situation, either. Brenda Martin and her supporters politicized her predicament by claiming the government had "abandoned" her and not done enough to help her -- claims that were proven to be false.

Now, the Brenda Martin case has come to a sad conclusion a Mexican court has found her guilty of knowingly accepting fraudulently-obtained funds, despite an alleged lack of evidence (her lawyer, Guillermo Cruz, says as much).

Regardless of whether or not Martin is guilty of her alleged crime -- and given the equally-sad state of Mexican "justice", there's an excellent chance she is innocent, and merely being hung out to dry so the system can save face -- there is little question that she and the terminally dishonest Liberal party hacks who have been milking her story for all the political gain they can manage are guilty of concocting a media circus around false pretenses.

Now Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney is riding off to Mexico to prod the release of Martin into the custody of the Canadian justice system along, and now another Canadian family has decided to try their luck at the media circus game, too.

This particular case swirls around Jimmy Chen Jian Yuan, who is currently imprisoned in China while being tried on a four-year-old $2 million fraud case.

Predictably, Chen's family is insisting that the government hasn't done enough to help him, despite the fact that, unlike Martin, he has been formally charged in China, has been tried, and is now awaiting a verdict.

Given the way in which details trickled out of the Martin case painfully slowly (and all too often were simply disregarded once it became apparent they didn't fit the standard politicized narrative), judgment will be reserved on the Chen case here.

Chen may be as innocent as his family insists, and as abandoned by the Canadian government. Or, as with Brenda Martin, there may be more to the story. Only time will reveal the details of this particular case.

However, one has yet to see if Brenda Martin's return to Canada -- and inevitably almost immediate release from Canadian custody -- will put an end to the partisan media circus that has surrounded the entire sorry affair.

One thing remains certain: only the in hands of a pack of unrepentantly dishonest Liberal spin doctors could the Conservative government -- which had done almost everything possible to ensure Martin's fair treatment -- be cast as the villain in this case over the irredeemably corrupt Mexican justice system.

Will Martin's return to Canada end the media circus? Only time will tell. But with the real masterminds of the media circus apparent -- Liberal MP Dan McTeague and former Prime Minister Paul Martin -- one has to suspect that will be rather unlikely.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillary Clinton Stayin' Alive, Stayin' Alive

Race not over yet, Clinton declares

Going into today's Pennsylvania primaries, Hillary Clinton needed a margin of victory of 10% to justify staying in the race for the Democrat Presidential nomination.

As the last precincts in Pennsylvania report, it looks like she just might have gotten her wish, by virtue of a 55-45% win over rival Barack Obama.

"It's a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and it runs right through the heart of Pennsylvania," Clinton announced during her victory speech. "I'm in this race to fight for you ... You know you can count on me to stand up strong for you every single day in the White House."

Obama still leads in the Primary Election, but Clinton hopes her strong performance in Pennsylvania -- coupled with what she hopes will be strong performances in upcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina -- will help to sway enough superdelegates to lure the nomination away from Obama at the convention.

Intriguingly, however, word within the Democratic party is that they want to decide their nominee well in advance of the Democratic National Convention so that they may use the Convention as an opportunity to stage a dramatic rally around them.

With party brass clearly pulling the strings in the Democratic party, it will be interesting to see which way the party elite will push the nomination.

Clinton currently maintains a slim lead in superdelegate endorsements, although enough remain to still swing the Convention in favour of Obama -- that is, if the contest makes it that far.

So for now, Clinton is still alive in the Primary Election. But if the extremely undemocratic superdelegate process discards the democratically-expressed will of rank and file Democrat voters, whether or not the Democratic party survives her will be another story entirely.

Al Qaeda, Iran Fighting Over Who Gets Credit for 9/11

Al -Zawahri: Israel conspiracy theory meant to discredit Al Qaeda

In yet another turn of events that throws the allegedly indisputable relationship between Iraq, Iran and Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's chief deputy, has accused Iran of trying to steal the credit for 9/11 from Al Qaeda and give it to Israel.

The conspiracy theory in question -- one of dozens on the subject -- insists that 9/11 was perpetrated by an Israeli spy ring intent on pushing the United States into war with Iraq.

The argument is that this was done to make Israel more secure -- although it ignores the fact that Iraq posed no credible threat to Israel at any point following the conclusion of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Al-Zawahri accuses Iran of circulating the rumour through Hezbollah's Al-Manar television, which was acting as a proxy.

"The purpose of this lie is clear -- (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said. "Iran's aim here is also clear -- to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq."

(Of which it actually had none, just to underscore the fact that Al-Zawahri isn't exactly playing with a full deck of cards here.)

In all likelihood, this story should take the wind out of the sails of those who insist that Al Qaeda wasn't really responsible for 9/11 -- that they were merely scapegoats so the United States could flex its imperialistic muscles in the Middle East.

After all, if an individual like Ayman al-Zawahri is willing to fight over credit in the 9/11 attacks, that's a pretty explicit statement -- notably, an admission of guilt.

Painful Pandering in Presidential Election

McCain, Clinton, Obama embarrass themselves on Monday Night Raw

In a historically unprecedented move, all three Presidential candidates appeared on Monday Night Raw last night.

Unfortunately, what transpired should properly be considered an agonizingly humiliating experience for all three candidates, as they took an opportunity to promote themselves to wrestling fans as an opportunity to shamelessly pander:

Which was followed by a parody wrestling match between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama impersonators. Unfortunately, these things are always pure death:

And one of those three individuals will be leader of the free world. It just makes a person feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Elections Canada More (and Less) Transparent Than it Would Like

Little substance to "in and out" scheme, and too many unanswered questions

As more and more details begin to emerge about the recent RCMP raid of the Conservative Party headquarters, the more and more it seems to be a simple rehashing of the same old story: another manufactured scandal with little or no substance behind it.

Logically, the charges by Elections Canada are actually fairly difficult to support. The claim is that the offending ads, paid for by the party which was then reimbursed by local candidates with funds provided by the party in the first place, were actually intended to support the party, as opposed to the candidates.

The ads in question were reportedly mostly identical to the federal party's ads, except with portions endorsing local candidates added to them.

While the back-and-forth transfer of funds -- hence the "in and out" label -- appears at its basest level to be rather suspicious, the charges thin out considerably once one realizes that the charges basically amount to the ads produced for local candidates being too similar to the federal party's ads. Given that the ads, in the end, supported the candidate, Elections Canada's complaints seem to have little substance to them at all.

Furthermore, Elections Canada seems to be overlooking a few intracies about Canadian politics: most importantly, creating an artificial distinction between supporting local candidates and supporting the parties they run for.

A simple fact regarding Canadian politics is that election campaigns tend to be very leader-centered, and thus party-centered. While local candidates inevitably benefit from such partisan consideration, it doesn't change the limited amount of influence many candidates have over their own election.

Certainly, some candidates do have the good fortune to overcome partisanship -- consider the cases of Belinda Stronach and Scott Brison, who have been elected as both Liberals and Conservatives. But the severe glut of so-called "stronghold ridings" where partisan is so entrenched as to ensure the election and reelection of candidates from certain parties suggests that these ridings are fewer and further between than we'd like to think.

Elections Canada's ruling may reflect what many Canadians could be argued to theoretically prefer politically, but preferences do not necessarily constitute reality.

For example, Elections Canada may prefer that local candidates produce their own advertising, in its entirety, but nothing in the law demands that they do this.

Elections Canada's own preferences don't necessarily constitute reality.

Of course, there may be more to Elections Canada's actions than their own publicity suggests. Whether more (or less) cynically-minded observers want to give the presence of Liberal party photographers at the site of the raid the attention it warrants or not, one also has to consider the fact that Elections Canada has, to date, declined to investigate an obvious example of the Ontario Liberal party (another organization awash in cash).

After all, there's little question that "No Gun, No Funeral", considering it's evident purpose, was as much a violation of Election law as anything the Conservative party has done.

The more details of this story emerge, the more one wonders whether or not this really isn't just some Elections Canada bureaucrats trying to enforce their own preferences on Canadian politics.

It is, however, interesting to see how selectively they're doing it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Residential Schools: Canada's Holocaust?

Alleged mass graves raise uncomfortable questions for Canadians

There is little question that of the few blemishes to Canada's human rights record, the sad atrocity that was Residential Schooling is the most disfiguring.

The atrocities that took place there have long been recognized by Canadian law, although many surviving victims still wait for even the most basic recompense.

Recent events, however, have shed some additional light on those victims who didn't survive, some of whom were never accounted for.

In an announcement largely ignored by the mainstream media this past week, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, an organization dedicated to uncovering the truth regarding reportedly tens of thousands of Aboriginal children who disappeared from the schools. According to former United Church minister Kevin Annett, the number of unaccounted for ranges from 40,000-50,000.

The statement released by the organization alleges that many of those children can be accounted for in mass graves at 28 residential school sites.

While the allegations alone are unsettling enough, there seems to be some work yet undone on these claims that may have made an announcement more than a little premature.

To start off with, no physical evidence has been found to corroborate the claims.

However, it's well known that a significant number of children at the schools died tuburculosis -- at one particular school, up to 63% of the children are reported to have died (although none of the sources available seem to actually identify the school). All those dead children have to have gone somewhere, and their families have the right to know.

There are, however, some intracies in the story that stretch either the credulity of the claims, or the what remains of the credulity of, in particular, the Churches involved in Residential Schooling.

Consider, for example, Kevin Annett, a former Reverend ordained by the United Church of Canada, was defrocked by the United Church in 1996. He has become one of the leading figures demanding further investigation of Residential Schools. It's not hard to imagine that he could be conducting his crusade as a measure of seeking revenge against the Church.

However, he was defrocked to "inadequate pastoral skills", a charge vague enough to suggest that he may have been defrocked for asking too many questions about the Port Alberni Residential School.

The story would also seem to be contradicted by the stories told by individuals like Sylvester Greene, who, while working for a United Church-run residential school, was paid to dig a grave for a deceased five-year-old boy.

Greene, who worked at a St Albert-area residential school, was hired to dig only one grave, for only one child. According to Greene, a friend and cousin of his told him that they also buried one child apiece.

The St. Albert school -- now the Poundmaker's Lodge, an addiction treatment center -- is among the sites named by the oddly-named International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (oddly named because it doesn't seem to be an international panel at all, but rather an investigatory arm of the The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared).

It would seem strange that the United Church would bother to dig individual graves if they were maintaining mass graves during the duration of the residential schooling.

One other issue undermining the credulity of the mass grave claims are some of the other claims made about Residential Schools in the past: namely, that Residential Schooling was a genocide. This particular claim confuses genocide, which -- whether they will admit this or not -- requires large-scale killing (although sterilization could actually do just as well), with ethnic cleansing, which only requires the destruction or removal of a particular ethnic culture.

(The rejection of Residential Schooling as an example ethnic cleansing in favour of the more spectacular claims of genocide and Holocaust actually makes little sense when one considers that ethnic cleansing is no less reprehensible than outright genocide.)

Likewise, it's not hard to believe that the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared could be making mass grave claims where unmarked grave claims would be more appropriate. (And likewise, unmarked graves are bad enough on their own.)

It will certainly remain difficult for the media to take the claims of mass graves seriously until physical evidence of them can be produced.

But frankly, the allegations alone are disturbing enough, and warrant investigation. This is a matter that should, nonetheless, be taken seriously by both the Federal Government and the RCMP.

Even if the only role served by investigating these allegations ends up being dispelling them, it will have been well worth the time, effort and funds expended to dispel this shadow of doubt upon the Canadian psyche.

But by the same token, if the claims of mass graves do turn out to be true, it will only demand that Canadians ask more uncomfortable questions of themselves, and of their history. But such questions would be necessary, and the result of an investigation that is equally necessary.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Think Of It As An Incentive to Walk

Gas prices will continue to rise so long as customers continue to buy

Drivers everywhere in the country are getting mad as hell... and they're probably going to keep on taking it.

Fuel prices in Montreal hit 129.9 cents a litre -- an infantesimal amount short of $1.30 -- yesterday, and CIBC figures it's not going to come back down anytime soon.

"My feeling is that oil prices are probably going to rise for the foreseeable future. Generally speaking, gasoline prices are going to track oil prices higher," said CIBC World Markets economist Jeff Rubin. "People should get used to the idea of $1.50 a litre gas."

"The major factor is, of course, the cost of crude," says Roger McKnight, a senior anaylst at Oshawa, Ontario's En-Pro consulting. "A year ago, the cost of crude was about $65 a barrel. Today it's about $114 a barrel. If the price of your feedstock goes up close to 50 per cent, then the price coming out of the end of the pump ... would expect to reflect that increase."

"Right now gasoline is quite a bargain," McKnight said. "When you look at the differential in the crude costs - you haven't seen anything yet."

Of course, one of the biggest factors in crude oil pricing is demand. And so long as we continue to live in a society where we deem it acceptable to do things like drive to the 7 11 for a pack of cigarettes, we aren't doing ourselves any favours in terms of gas prices.

Gas prices -- generally considered to be price inelastic (which indicates that demand is largely unresponsive to price) -- will only continue to rise so long as a market willing to pay the price for it exists. And while many people certainly don't have the option of walking or busing everywhere, the exorbitant price of gasoline could be considered an incentive for those who can, and an incentive for those who need to commute to work to at least start fuelling more of their casual travelings with two feet and a hearbeat.

The point is that while most people don't have an immediately available substitute for gasoline to fuel their vehicles, they do have an immediately available substitute for their cars -- at least for short-distance travelling.

It could significantly reduce demand for gasoline, increase the price elasticity of that commodity, and provide producers with an incentive to keep the prices lower wherever possible (and considering that production costs remain largely static despite the higher market price of oil, an incentive is what's needed here).

Most importantly, walking a little more will also pay dividends in terms of local air quality and health.

So think of the higher fuel prices as an incentive to do something our society should have been doing for the last thirty years: namely, a lot more walking and biking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

John McCain Too Old to Start His Jedi Training

Jack Murtha says so

At 75 years old, Rep. John Murtha thinks John McCain -- three years his junior -- is too old to be President.

"This one guy running is about as old as me," Murtha insisted. "And let me tell you something, it's not [an] old man's job. I mean the campaign, the stress, so forth."

Of course it's unsurprising that Murtha, a Democrat, would prefer a younger candidate to McCain. Then again, Hillary Clinton, whom Murtha reportedly supports, is 61. If Murtha really preferred a younger candidate, he should probably think about supporting Barack Obama, who is 47.

But at least we know Murtha's been watching the Colbert Report.

Gay Marriage Hardly "Canada's Biggest Mistake"

But it's not altogether unsurprising Michael Coren would think so

It hasn't taken Michael Coren very much effort to be one of Canada's most controversial media figures.

From managing to get blackballed by the CBC to suggsting we should drop a Nuclear weapon in Iran, Coren has proven to be a walking, talking controversy machine -- one only marginally more worrying than Peter Worthington.

As such, it's unsurprising that Coren would use the National Post's Canada's Biggest Mistake series to rock the boat on a very controversial topic: same-sex marriage.

Not-so-shockingly, he's not a fan. He does, however, have some lucid moments in the course of his ruminations:

"What makes the national mistake of legalizing same-sex marriage unique in Canadian history is that to even discuss the issue is considered by many, particularly our elites, to be at the very least in extraordinarily bad taste. Although this is a valid and vital debate about social policy, anyone critiquing the status quo is likely to be marginalized as hateful, extreme or simply mad. Social conservatives aren’t just wrong, they’re evil."
Social conservatives do indeed carry a demonstrable stigma. Labeled as selfish, uncaring and compassionless, social conservatives have often had to tiptoe around their own views.

Very recently, they represented a group that had largely been pushed to the margins of Canada's political discourse, and literally had to pull the rug out from under Canada's conservative elites in order to get their voices heard.

While Canada's social conservatives enjoy a more secure place in Canadian political discourse -- yet never quite as comfortable as they'd like -- the stigma remains, and that stigma has underscored the entire debate regarding same-sex marriage.

"The discussion, we are told, is over. Which is what triumphalist bullies have said for centuries after they win a battle. In this case, the intention is to marginalize anyone who dares to still speak out. In other words, to silence them."
Clearly, the discussion is not over. The fact that Coren is discussing the matter at all -- let alone under the heading of "Canada's biggest mistake" -- is evidence enough of that.

But one also remembers the Conservative party's controversial move to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage for debate in the House of Commons. One also remembers that Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself declared the issue closed, once the motion -- which was debated in the House -- was defeated. It had been both supported and opposed by members of both the Liberals and Conservatives.

Canadians have had plenty of opportunity to discuss same-sex marriage -- once while the same-sex marriage-supporting Liberals were in power, then again with the largely same-sex marriage-opposing Conservatives in power. And now, again in the pages of the National Post.

How much more discussion does Coren really want?

"It’s important to emphasize that this is not really about homosexuality at all, and has nothing to do with homosexual people living together. Opponents of same-sex marriage may have ethical and religious objections to homosexuality, but they are irrelevant to the central argument. Which is not about the rights of a sexual minority but the status and meaning of marriage.

Indeed, the deconstruction of marriage began not with the gay community asking for the right to marry but with the heterosexual world rejecting it. The term "common-law marriage" said it all. Marriage is many things, but it is never common. Yet with this semantic and legal revolution, desire and convenience replaced commitment and dedication. The qualifications, so to speak, were lowered.
Perhaps so, but it was done long in advance of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

And while common law marriage certainly represented a milestone in the eventual legal recognition of same-sex marriage -- same-sex couples were recognized as entitled to the benefits of common law marriage in 1999 -- the argument is largely moot.

Common law marriage, like same-sex marriage was a legal reaction to the need for individuals under many emerging familial models to be legally recognized. It was a recognition of the evolving nature of the Canadian family.

Certainly social conservatives can't be expected to appreciate that -- certainly not with any enthusiasm -- but the fact is that social conservatives aren't the only ones with a stake in the matter.

"And one does indeed have to qualify for marriage; just as one has, for example, to qualify for a pension or a military medal. People who have not reached the age of retirement don’t qualify for a pension, people who don’t serve in the armed forces don’t qualify for a military medal. It’s not a question of equality but requirement. A human right is intrinsic, a social institution is not.

The four great and historic qualifications for marriage always have been number, gender, age and blood. Two people, male and female, over a certain age and not closely related. Mainstream and responsible societies have sometimes changed the age of maturity, but incest has always been condemned and, by its nature, died out because of retardation.
Yet this doesn't change the number of people who live together under marriage-like conditions -- people who will continue to do so whether the law recognizes it or not.

It isn't the role of the state to rule which human relationships are legitimate and which ones aren't. Refusing to recognize common law or same-sex marriages is akin to precisely that.

"As for polygamy, it’s making something of a comeback — and here begin the objections."
In all reality, the nail-biting over polygamy in Canada is overrated. Then-Prime Minister Paul Martin commissioned a study into the legality of polygamy mere weeks after commissioning the study that culminated in the legalization of same-sex marriage, and polygamy hasn't been legalized yet.

Beyond that, any comeback for polygamy -- imagined, real, or otherwise -- has little to do with same-sex marriage. That is a recognition demand of an entirely different -- often religious -- nature.

"Whenever this is mentioned by critics of same-sex marriage we are accused of using the slippery-slope argument. Sorry, some slopes are slippery. Polygamy is an ancient tradition within Islam — and was in Sephardic Judaism and some Asian cultures. When the precedent of gay marriage is combined with the freedom of religion defence, the courts will have a difficult time rejecting it.

At the moment, the Muslim community is not sufficiently politically comfortable to pursue the issue; and the clearly deranged polygamous sects on the aesthetic as well as geographical fringes of Canadian society cloud any reasonable debate. But the argument will certainly come and the result is largely inevitable. If love is the only criterion for marriage who are we to judge the love between a man and his wives?

The state, though, should have a duty to judge and to do so based on its own interests. The most significant of which is its continued existence, meaning that we have to produce children. As procreation is the likely, if not essential, result of marriage between a man and a woman, it is in the interests of the state to encourage marriage.
But it's also important to mention that same-sex marriage and polygamy each present different dilemmas to society. Same-sex marriage effectively separates marriage from sexuality -- there's nothing in legislation to suggest that bisexuals couldn't get hitched under a same-sex marriage, for example.

But polygamy presents the dilemma of sexual abuse prevalent within many polygamist religious sects. Recent events in Texas only underscore this.

At least when domestic abuse arises within a same-sex relationship -- and often it's a good deal more brutal than within heterosexual relationships, according to sociological study -- it's between adults of consulting age. It's unlikely any eleven-year-olds will be forced to marry fifty-year-olds under Canada's same-sex marriage legislation.

Yet even in the case where physical abuse is being perpetrated between adult partners, the strongest remedy the law can legitimately -- or reasonably -- offer is the jailing of the offending partner.

The law has no ability to terminate a relationship against the wills of those within it. That should be deemed unacceptable to all Canadians -- social conservatives included -- on absolute terms.

On the flip side, it should be deemed unacceptable to all Canadians -- again, social conservatives included -- for the state to encourage (or coerce) legal marriage on anyone, as Coren seems to suggest. Again, this should be deemed unacceptable on absolute terms.

"Of course lesbian couples can have an obliging friend assist them in having a baby, and gay men can adopt or have an obliging friend have one for them, but this is hardly the norm and hardly going to guarantee the longevity of a stable society. Just as significant, it smashes the fundamental concept of a child being produced through an act of love. The donation of bodily fluid by an anonymous person, or that obliging friend again, is an act not of love but of lust, indifference, profit or a mere, well, helping hand."
Yet plenty of children are already born as a result of acts of lust, not love, and ironically, it's unlikely that Coren would object to those parents getting married. As a matter of fact, he thinks the state should encourage it.

"For the first time not only in Canadian but in world history we are purposefully creating and legitimizing families where there will be either no male or no female role model and parent. Anyone who speaks of uncles, aunts, communities and villages raising children has no real understanding of family life. Single-parent families exist and are sometimes excellent and, obviously, not every mother/father family is a success. But to consciously create unbalanced families where children can never enjoy the profound difference between man and woman, mother and father, is dangerous social engineering.

We made a terrible mistake, and may not appreciate the full consequences for a generation. We allowed emotion to obscure logic and belittled anyone who appeared out of step with the current fashion. To marry without good reason in regrettable, to divorce good reasoning from public policy is a disgrace.
Michael Coren is wrong. Our society made a terrible mistake when it outlawed interracial relationships (just think what repealing that has done for the porn industry -ed). Our society made a terrible mistake when it outlawed homosexuality. Our society has made plenty of mistakes in the name of social conservatism.

Our society has spent the last forty years fixing those mistakes. It was only a matter of time that we fixed the mistake -- made countless years ago -- of not recognizing homosexuals as full and equal members of our society.

And fortunately for Michael Coren, he's never lived with the consequences of those mistakes -- countless other people have.

Coren's objections aside, same-sex marriage is hardly "Canada's biggest mistake".