Friday, April 30, 2010

Liberal Senator Asking Tough -- But Wise -- Questions About Human Trafficking Bill

Unlike other critics, Lilian Eva Dyck could improve the bill

Unlike some other individuals who have opposed Bill C-258 -- Conservative MP Joy Smith's bill to impose mandatory minimum sentences on the human trafficking of children -- Liberal Senator Lilian Eva Dyck has raised some very reasonable concerns about the bill.

"While I agree that we do need such a bill, and while I believe that the intentions of the bill are laudable, Bill C-268 will not have any real impact on preventing child trafficking unless it is amended to incorporate tougher penalties and defines the criminal offence specifically as trafficking of minors for commercial sexual exploitation," Dyck recently told the Senate.

Dyck is precisely right about the length of the mandatory minimum sentence imposed by the bill -- five years is actually far too short. (A case clearly exists against Dyck's second suggestion. Conservsely, the bill should define the trafficking of a human being for the purpose of sexual exploitation as a criminal offense, with separate sentencing provisions for cases where the victim is a child defined within the bill.)

The issue of human trafficking is important however, and as Dyck points out, the links between the sex trade and human trafficking must be addressed.

"Honourable senators, there are basically two types of human trafficking," Dyck explained. "People are trafficked to work in the sex trade or other forms of servitude, such as domestic labourers, agricultural workers, hotel or restaurant workers, or other forms of servitude. Sex trafficking, or trafficking of persons specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation, is the most common type of trafficking. In fact, the US Department of State estimates that 80 per cent of all victims of international human trafficking are forced into the commercial sex industry."

Smith suggested that the bill should be amended to match the mandatory minimum sentence in the United States.

"I think we all agree that Bill C-268 ought to be passed but, unless we strengthen it by setting a minimum sentence of ten years to match the American legislation, how can we expect to stop American traffickers who are next door to us from setting up shop here in Canada?" Dyck asked.

(Some would actually argue that the American mandatory minimum sentence itself is too lenient -- a mandatory life sentence would be more appropriate.)

But as Dyck points out -- and Smith would agree -- additional protections for children must become a goal of this bill.

"The vast majority of children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation," Dyck said. "Everyone agrees that trafficking of minors for commercial sexual exploitation is heinous. It is a despicable act that should be punished severely. The US Department of State estimates that 80 per cent of all victims of international human trafficking are forced into the commercial sex industry. In most circumstances, children under the age of 18 are channelled into the sex trade industry and, because of this, child trafficking is considered one of the worst manifestations of human trafficking."

Moreover, Dyck suggests that Smith's bill doesn't pay sufficient attention to human trafficking for the purpose of slavery. Nor does it recognize the differences between human trafficking for the purpose of slavery and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

"Virtually every email message and letter that we received about Bill C-268 mentions the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation," Dyck explains. "None, however, mention trafficking for forced labour. Trafficking for forced labour is not mentioned on the main page of Joy Smith's website, and she spoke almost exclusively about the trafficking of women and children, using examples of sex trafficking. There was very little mention of trafficking for forced labour in her speeches and letters."

Unlike some other critics of the bill, for whom an ideological opposition to the notion of mandatory minimum sentences was the animating motivation for their opposition, Dyck has at the forefront of her mind the protection of children from the sex trade.

"Though the horrific stories of child trafficking victims evoke deep emotional responses, we cannot let emotion outweigh reason," Dyck announced. "I fear that the bill in its present form will not do justice to children because it does not address sex trafficking directly. Most children are trafficked for victimization and commercial sex trade, but Bill C-268 does not differentiate between children trafficked for exploitation in the sex trade and those trafficked for forced labour. These two forms of trafficking are not equivalent; they are significantly different. A child trafficked to work in the commercial sex trade is in a far worse situation than a child forced to work as a labourer in a hotel, restaurant, agricultural industry or other type of servitude."

These are certainly tough concerns to raise about the bill. But they also raise important concerns regarding the bill itself, and don't detract from the ultimate end: toughening Canada's criminal justice system to properly deal with the atrocious crime of human trafficking -- unlike the objections raised by individuals like Libby Davies.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Elect It!

Tories introduce Senate election billConservative Party introduces senate election legislation

As promised long ago, the Conservative Party has begun to move forward with its Senate reform agenda.

And the road to Senate reform will begin in the Senate, as the Tories opted to introduce their legislation there.

The bill will allow all of Canada's provinces -- not merely Alberta -- to elect Senators-in-waiting. The decision abour whether or not to actually hold the elections will remain up to individual provinces, but Canadians will no longer have to wait for each province to pass individual legislation.

Senator Bob Runciman is particularly excited to have this legislation before the Senate.

"It boggles the mind that one of the world's greatest democracies appoints people to a House of Parl iament, considering that as we stand here we have troops in Afghanistan fighting and dying to support a budding democracy," Runciman announced.

With a plurality in the Senate, the Conservatives will still face some challenges in passing this legislation: notably, bringing Progressive Conservative and independent Senators onboard to vote for it.

But should this bill pass in the Senate, the Liberal caucus in the House of Commons will have a very difficult time justifying opposing a Senate reform bill that will have already won the approval of the Senate itself.

Elitism, As It Were

In an amusing dispatch from the far side of the Blogging Iron Curtain that's actually been festering for a few days, Enormous Thriving Plants' Audrey wants to offer a lecture on elitism:
Envoking Plato in order to critique conservative attitudes toward elitism actually reveals a rather dark element to Audrey's attitude toward the same topic.

Plato argued that direct democracy would facilitate tyranny in a case where the majority could not recognize an unjust tyrant, or simply didn't care. He argued that direct democracy in a society where a majority were themselves criminals would produce a government that is similarly corrupt, and would lead the country in the wrong direction.

Plato's thoughts on elitism were fundamentally based on the notion that the people may not know what is best for them, and so needed people with the wisdom to make good judgements on their behalf.

While those with a cynical attitude toward democracy may hold deep appreciation for Plato's thoughts on the matter, many others would likely prefer Socrates, and prefer the notion that a critically-thinking citizenry, taught to deliberate on and question those who aspire to leadership can hold the would-be elites accountable by requiring them to demonstrate their wisdom.

This would include questioning and challenging the wisdom of the elite Audrey seems to yearn for, and requiring them to prove they are qualified to lead "John Q Public".

This is, of course, all before one even addresses the approach individuals like Audrey and the demented narcissists she imitates adopt toward elitism.

From reading Enormous Thriving Plants, it becomes clear that Audrey considers herself part of the group that she believes should be considered the elite. Yet, just as Plato and Socrates both warned, her path to that place amongst the elite is not one of merit earned on the basis of the strength of her ideas.

Rather, reading ETP, it becomes clear that Audrey doesn't have any.

Resultingly, she's content to simply attack the ideas of others. The logical implication of this is that Audrey believes that by discrediting others, she earns credit for herself.

Audrey and the lunatic she emulates both demonstrate that there is a dark side to the philosophy of Socrates: one that emerges when Socratic methods are turned toward the ends of sophism. Particularly, a vicious brand of sophism that reocgnizes no limits to what it can do to anyone it deems to be an enemy.

But they've forgotten the most important lesson posed by history. Simply discrediting others isn't enough. At a certain point, what emerges amidst that questioning of others needs to be a package of ideas fit to serve as an alternative to the ideas one seeks to challenge or, more fickly, single-mindedly discredit.

If one can't produce any ideas as the basis of their purported wisdom, they aren't fit to be considered part of any elite. In a healthy democracy, citizens will be able to recognize that.

Perhaps that's what Audrey fears the most: a healthy democracy. It's very clear she holds the notion itself in disdain.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Government Took 102 Minutes to Do What I Could Do in 12

Terrorist-funding George Galloway inadmissable to Canada

A recent report by the Globe and Mail maintains that Citizenship and Immigration Canada took less than two hours to rule that British MP George Galloway was inadmissable to enter Canada to give a series of speeches.

Many Canadians, knowing the facts of the case, would have taken less than two hours to make such a decision.

The story alleges that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was involved in the decision, via an email sent by his communications director to bureaucrats at the ministry.

The report will almost certainly help those predisposed to argue that Galloway was ruled inadmissable due to political reasons snowball this story into a freedom of speech outrage.

And the truth be told, they may be right about whether or not politics played a role in his inadmissability. Sorta.

As Terry Glavin points out, Galloway has been far less than truthful about his decision to donate 25,000 pounds sterling to Hamas.

More recently, Galloway has claimed the money was given to the Gazan ministry of health. It seems that doctors salaries had been going unpaid until Galloway's intervention.

"I didn’t give any money to Hamas, I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza to pay for the salaries of the doctors and nurses who hadn’t been paid," Galloway insisted. "By the way, we’re talking about 20 odd thousand pounds, not millions. It’s a symbolic donation. I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza and I’m proud to have done so."

The problem is that Galloway was lying.

When Galloway actually made the donation, he portrayed it rather differently.

I, now, here, on behalf of myself, my sister Yvonne Ridley, and the two Respect councillors – Muhammad Ishtiaq and Naim Khan – are giving three cars and 25,000 pounds in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh," Galloway announced in a televised address. "Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics."

Considering that Hamas is a banned terrorist organization in Canada, providing them with 25,000 pounds violates both the letter and spirit of the law.

Moreover, Haniyeh was not the Prime Minister at the time when he accepted that money from Galloway. He had been fired as PM by Gaza President Mahmoud Abbas, and has been unlawfully occupying that office ever since.

At the time of Haniyeh's dismissal, Hamas was known to be torturing and murdering Fatah members that had been scapegoated for the 2007 setback experienced by Palestinian militants when Israel responded to a number of rocket attacks with military incursions into the Gaza strip.

(For their own part, Fatah wasn't any better during the conflict.)

But as it stands, it turns out that it very much was politics that influenced the decision to rule George Galloway inadmissable to Canada. Trick is that it was Gallowya's own politics, as he himself defined them, not Jason Kenney's.

It shouldn't have taken nearly 102 minutes for Citizenship and Immigration Canada to rule George Galloway inadmissable. It should have taken approximately 12 minutes -- maybe even less.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who Says Hollywood is Too Liberal?

After a recent blogpost by Bobby Drake, the time seems prescient for some discussion of films that exhibit conservative values.

Many conservatives consider Hollywood to be far, far too liberal. Often, they'll complain about alleged hostility to conservative values in the entertainment industry. To do so, they'll cite a veritable who's-who of left-wing celebrities.

But there is no shortage of films that exhibit conservative values. Some of them are well-known. Others are a little more obscure.

Equilibrium may fall into the latter category. Years before Christian Bale starred as Batman, Bale portrayed John Preston, a Tetra Grammaton Cleric. A member of an elite secret police-like organization, it's Prestons job to seek out and destroy art, culture and "sense offenders" in a society that has banned emotion.

The film is set in the future, at a time following a global war that nearly extincted mankind. Humankind's leaders blame emotion for the war, and force humanity onto a drug called Prozium, which flattens the affect of its users.

Preston's slide off of his daily dose begins when he is forced to liquidate his partner, Partridge (a brief appearance by Sean Bean). After accidentally missing one of his doses, Preston eventually decides to come off it altogether, and then the worst (and best) thing for him imaginable happens: he becomes smitten with Mary O'Brien (Emily Watson), a sense offender.

In time, Preston recognizes the pervasive evil of Libria, joins the resistance, and helps them destroy it.

The film is a libertarian opus, reminding one what happens when the state begins to think of itself as omnipotent, and begins to interfere in the lives of its citizens (or, more properly described in such cases, subjects) at an existential level.

Hannah Arendt wrote about this: she considered it one of the building blocks of fascism.

It's actually a shame that director Kurt Wimmer followed Equilibrium with a contemptible piece of crap like Ultraviolet.

Tag! The following bloggers may now consider themselves "it":

Bobby Drake aka The Iceman

Canadian Sense

Dean Skoreyko

Jay Currie

Walker Morrow

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Labour Party Chasing Away the Catholic Vote

If Christians swing British vote, Labour in serious trouble

In September, Pope Benedict XVI may be visiting Britain. Or he may not be.

The Vatican is considering cancelling the pontif's visit after reports that some peurile antics within the British Foreign Ministry managed to seep into some leaked memos.

The memo suggested that the "ideal visit" to Britain by Benedict would witness the release of a special "Benedict condom", and see the Pope bless a same-sex marriage and open an abortion clinic.

The Catholic Church stringently opposes same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion -- the former two to their detriment.

But one's views on the Vatican's stance on these issues aside, it's generally poor form -- to put it politely -- to lampoon a foreign leader prior to a high-profile visit to one's country.

"On these memos, it's absolutely despicable," spat Jim Murphy, Labour's Minister of State for Scotland. "These are vile, they're insulting they are an embarrassment, and, on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom, we'd want to apologise to his Holiness the Pope."

For many Labour MPs dependent on a healthy Catholic vote, this issue could prove to be extremely dangerous.

With Christians potentially becoming a major factor in this election, which has tightened to the point of defying anyone to call a clear winner, the insult to not only the Pope, but to Catholics in general, could prove to be a fatal blow to many Labour MPs, making it even less likely that Labour will continue to govern after May 6.

If the Vatican announces that it will cancel its visit outright over the matter, this will be one tide that Labour will have difficulty trying to stem.

Keep These People As Far Away From Abortion Policy as Possible

In the most recent dispatch from Sister Sage's Musings, CK reminds us of why she and her cohorts should be kept as far away from abortion policy as humanly possible.
One would scarcely believe it if they hadn't read it with their own two eyes -- mostly because the pro-abortion lobby, if asked whether or not women have ever procured abortions for fickle reasons, tends to freak the fuck out over it.

And yet there it is, on one of the most feverishly incoherent pro-abortion blogs on the internet:

"Being pregnant would have been a huge embarrassment," the woman writes. "The other alternatives of keeping the baby and getting married, or giving the baby up for adoption did not appeal to me in the least."

This is a woman who had an abortion because pregnancy would have been too embarrassing for her. Allowing her child to live with an adopted family, or raising the kid within a marriage? Just not appealing. And this is who pro-abortion activists like CK want as the spokesperson of their movement.

It certainly isn't right that this woman was arrested for procuring an abortion. And while there are numerous good reasons for abortion to remain legal, providing women with a convenient out for avoiding having to admit the "embarrassment" of irresponsible sexual behaviour (perhaps using a condom just wasn't appealing) just isn't one of them.

Of course, abortion is a topic that really gives lunatics of various political stripes their time to shine. And when that time comes, CK tends to shine on like a crazy diamond.

Consider this particular post, a seething pseudo-rebuttal to an article wherein Brian Liley considers data from four separate abortion-related polls.

CK accuses Liley of being a sucky news reporter, and a sucky statistician.

Her argument is that she doesn't like Mike Duffy, Ezra Levant, Shona Holmes, Afghanistan, 10 percenters and corporate welfare. Ergo, Brian Liley sucks.

And yet Liley's conclusions from examining four different polls on abortion likely sound far more like the opinions of most Canadians on abortion than CK is likely comfortable with:
"If we put all four polls together what we find is that Canadians likely find abortion to be morally wrong, something they think should be restricted at some point before birth, something that should receive limited public financing, something that should remain legal and a true hot button issue as to whether Canada should fund abortions overseas."
That may sound far more like the opinion of most Canadians on abortion than anything that has ever been produced at Sister Sage's Musings, or by CK's fellow Chickenwankers at Unrepentant Old Hippie or Dammit Janet. So CK's apparent response is to scream "I hate all of these things, ergo you suck!" at any journalist who draws any conclusion other than "Canadians think abortion is nifty".

It's frightening to think of where Canada would be if individuals like CK got their wish and the abortion debate were reduced to this kind of level -- one where in journalists are forbidden from exploring the nuances of Canadian attitudes on the issue, simply because it doesn't advance the pro-abortion lobby's extreme ideological agenda.

Fortunately, a great many Canadians aren't prepared to simply allow the erstwhile "cultural warriors" of the far left to have their way on this issue: no matter how much they may demand it.

You, Murray Dobbin, Own This

As Canadians continue to wonder precisely what they should make of Frank Graves' recent suggestion that the Liberal Party should provoke a culture war for political gain, one should take some time to remember some of Canada's other erstwhile cultural warriors.

"I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy," Graves told Lawrence Martin.

People like Murray Dobbin.

Nexus readers may remember a recent article about Dobbin's objections to a poll commissioned by the Manning Institute that indicated Canadians' political attitudes were becoming more conservative.

As it turned out, Frank Graves featured prominently in Dobbin's original article.

In particular, Dobbin took exception to the Manning Institute poll's conclusions on abortion, which indicated that 60% of Canadians considered it to be immoral. He countered that with results from an EKOS poll that concluded that 52% of Canadians describe themselves as "pro-choice", 27% described themselves as "pro-life", 10% answered "neither", while 33% declined to provide an answer.

Dobbin and Graves seem to suggest that only one of these polls can be correct.

But in order to accept their conclusion on this matter, one would have to overlook that the question of whether or not abortion is immoral and whether or not women should be allowed to choose are actually two very different questions.

If a belief on the part of Canadians that abortion is immoral automatically meant that Canadians believed that Canadian law should not allow women to make this decision for themselves, Canadians would be adopting a strictly moralistic attitude toward the law.

That polls could indicate that the majority of Canadians believe that abortion is immoral while also believing in the right of women to make their own choices about moral behaviour could be argued to indicate that Canadians do not hold a strictly moralistic attitude toward the law.

In other words: that Canadians believe that morality shouldn't dictate legality, and that legality doesn't dictate morality.

Each poll clearly asked different questions about abortion. One asked whether or not Canadians considered abortion to be immoral, and another asked them whether or not Canadians favoured a woman's right to choose. The very different conclusions reached by each study demonstrate how the questions asked shape the answers received.

Dobbin and Graves make it clear that their greatest objection to the Manning Institute study is that they don't approve of the questions that it asked.

Dobbin and Graves must know that by defining what questions may be asked about abortion, they stake out that issue for themselves. This is a hegemonic tactic that forgets the most important element of hegemony as defined by Antonio Gramsci -- the notion that hegemony is not dictated, but rather is negotiated.

Instead of hegemony being a remarkably democratic concept, hegemony instead becomes dictatorial.

What is a culture war if not the exploitation of negotiated hegemonic ideas in order to be able to dictate those ideas in future?

One should direct their attention toward the values that Graves advised the Liberals to divide Canadians over: Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy.

Cosmolpolitanism, secularism, tolerance and democracy are all hegemonic ideals of Canadian society, socially negotiated between Canadians through their day-to-day interactions for decades.

By invoking these values as part of a culture war, Graves has suggested that the Liberal Party identify a group of Canadians they will allege do not share these foundational values. By doing so, the Liberals will brand these individuals as cultural outsiders within Canadian society.

Graves has made it clear who he wants to identify as such outsiders: the Conservative Party of Canada. In time, his strategy will not only counter-brand card-carrying Tories as outsiders, but will in time counter-brand anyone who votes for that party as outsiders.

In the end, that will likely amount to approximately 30% of Canadians. That is a lot of Canadians to attempt to force to the periphery of Canadian culture through a culture war.

But once the Liberal Party have branded themselves as the altar keepers of Canadian values, they will have made a bid not only to make themselves the standard bearer of that culture, but also to empower themselves to define what Canadian values are, without the participation of the so-called "outsiders".

Should the Liberals embrace Frank Graves' potentially destructive advice, their goal will become attaining the power to themselves define -- in effect, dictate -- Canadian values. The same Canadian values that form the hegemonic basis of Canadian culture.

So, judging from the title from this post, one may wonder precisely how Murray Dobbin has to take ownership of this purported culture war.

Dobbin takes Graves' upcoming EKOS poll -- which, as already demonstrated, distorts many of the answers in accordance with the questions it asks, and how -- as triumphal proof that Canadian political values are not, in fact, "blueing".

Dobbin thus infers that if Canadian political attitudes were in fact shifting toward conservatism, it would be a defeat for he and his ideological cohort, and that anything Frank Graves could do to stem perceptions of such a shift would be a good thing.

Dobbin's commentary on Graves' promised forthcoming polling results indicates that he has believed there is a culture war at the centre of Canadian politics for quite a while.

So as Canadians wary of the social damage a culture war would inflict begin to wonder who else is in favour of such a conflict, many Canadians should wonder how badly Murray Dobbin has wanted such a culture war, and for how long.

It may not be unfair to suspect the answer is "very badly", and "very long".

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Frank Graves Is Not:


Ever since it was revealed that EKOS President Frank Graves recommended to the Liberal Party that they start a culture war, a great deal of intellectual and rhetorical energy has been expended trying to figure out precisely what Graves is.

Very little such energy has been spent trying to elucidate what Graves is not.

So much so that Graves himself doesn't seem to know, as revealled by some of his recent comments.

“Whether or not I am a centre-moderate in my political beliefs – which I am, which I didn’t think was a matter of great shame in this country – is irrelevant to the question of whether or not I can conduct myself as a sociologist or pollster in a fair and neutral fashion,” Graves insisted.

After suggesting that the Liberal Party spark a culture war for political gain, Frank Graves has the temerity to insist that he is a moderate.

No one who would so much as dare recommend turning Canadians against one another for political gain is a moderate.

One need only look south of the border to see the divisive and destructive nature of what Graves has recommended to the Liberal Party: partisan ideologues casting vapid aspersions of racism at fellow citizens simply because they dislike and actually fear what those citizens have to say.

It takes a particularly dangerous brand of ideologue to look at that conflict and believe that we need the same in Canada, just so their political party of preference can govern.

"In reflection, it was inappropriate and I should have used more measured terms and I don’t think the Prime Minister’s racist or a homophobe, nor do I think members of his cabinet or his caucus are," Graves continued. "I do believe, and this gets more subtle, that there is a higher incidence of people who are less tolerant to homosexuals and more wary of other races, within the Conservative Party. I can demonstrate that empirically."

First off, this reminds one that Graves work is now highly suspect. Graves has revealled himself to be a consumate cultural warrior. When one is examining polling to determine whether or not it's biased, it isn't at all unreasonable to start with the evident bias of the individuals crafting the polling questions.

This becomes especially apparent when one considers the extent to which the questions asked during a poll influences the results that poll will produce -- the very same complaint that Graves levied against a recent poll commissioned by the Manning Centre.

Moreover, some Canadians may even recognize the insinuation present in Graves' words.

It's nearly precisely the same phrase Warren Kinsella wrote about Preston Manning in Web of Hate. Kinsella remarked that Manning had done a great job of removing any racial supremacists from the ranks of the Reform Party. But he continued to cast aspersions against Manning based on the number of racists that his party had attracted, despite the fact that it became clear that their beliefs were not welcome in that party.

Some of the efforts to attribute racism to the Reform Party were actually rather remarkable. In Slumming it at the Rodeo, Gordon Laird put then-Reform Party MP (now embattled and disgraced former Conservative MP) Rahim Jaffer into the spotlight with an account of alleged racism at a Reform Party Stampede barbecue that reads as if it were fictionalized.

(The account is written as if it were a first-hand account of an event that Laird makes it clear he would not be caught dead at, and declined to identify any sources who had been present.)

But this has proven to be the remarkable quality of such accusations. When one doesn't have to name any names, one can claim nearly anything. The sources referenced could be anyone... or no one.

Likewise, the "empirical evidence" that Graves cites could be conclusive or largely inconclusive.

Because Frank Graves has made his motivations perfectly clear in this matter, there is simply no reason to trust his data on this subject. Many pollsters have demonstrated, time and time again, that they can get the results they want -- both in a general and more specific sense.

After all, it's clear that Frank Graves is not at least one other thing:

An impartial pollster.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Montreal Simon - "Frank Graves and the Con Homophobes"

Officially Screwed - "Liberal Pollster Frank Graves (or Frank Graves’s) Mistake"

Lee Hamilton - "Morning Brew: 'Invoke a Culture War'"

Edmund James - "A Culture War in Canada?"


For many people in the late '90s, watching Red Dawn on the TBS Superstation (back when there was a TBS Superstation) became something of a Saturday afternoon tradition.

It seemed like it was on every other Saturday.

Produced at the tail end of the Cold War, Red Dawn is a film about what was probably the more likely scenario of conflict. While the notion of nuclear war kept people around the world awake many a night -- and for good reason, as the United States and the Soviet Union alone had enough nuclear weapons to extinguish all life on Earth, before one even gets around to considering Britain, France, China and (eventually) Israel -- the more likely scenario was that of a ground invasion of one country or the other.

Red Dawn is despised by the left-wing for its hyperbolic treatment of the Cold War. There is some grounds for this. The film was released in 1984, and portrayed the ground invasion of the United States by the Soviet Union as a horrific affair in which Soviet soldiers open fire on a school with no amount of provocation.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev would take over as General Secretary of the USSR. His reforms of Glasnost and Perestroika would, in the end, spell the end of the Soviet Union.

Far from being in any condition to launch a ground invasion of the United States, the Soviet Union was at this time actually deeply embroiled in their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan, attempting to prop up the Najibullah regime.

Many conservatives love Red Dawn even knowing how unlikely the scenario portrayed in the film actually was. Many love it for its camp value alone.

Some others may love it simply because the left dis likes it so much. While this alone doesn't justify an appreciation of anything (it would, in fact, be ad hominem reasoning -- assuming something is good just because the political opposition dislikes it), it does remind one of the fickleness of the left wing.

In particular, one is reminded of the left's simmering hatred for neoconservatives, and their insistence on treating them as a grave threat.

But then, one must ask themselves: what is neoconservatism, really?

Unless one were to read some of the literature on the topic produced by conservatives -- those nearest to this particular sub-category -- one may never know what neoconservatism actually is. The left tends to label small government conservatives neoconservatives. Yet, when one reads what actual small government conservatives have to say about neoconservatives, it becomes clear that small government conservatives may love neoconservatives even less than the political left.

As it turns out, the original neoconservatives -- those with whom the movement originated -- were, in fact anti-communist liberals who reocognized the oppressiveness that was so commonplace in communist countries, and were disgusted with what they perceived as the political left's softness on communism.

In response, they shifted right and joined the conservative movement. Small government conservatives became -- and remain -- wary of the big government conservatism offered by neoconservatives. Fairly recently, Michael Tanner referred to it as "leviathan on the right" (in the book of the same title).

Individuals like Adam Curtis have argued that, after the dissolution of the USSR, neoconservatives turned their focus on international terrorism out of need for another external enemy to focus their project of global dominance.

The truth is actually very different. Having once belonged to a movement that proved soft on one particular threat, they became determined to never be soft on another. And while neoconservatives recognized the threat of international terrorism, some of those who came to power by assembling an electoral coalition between small market conservatives, neoconservatives and religious conservatives -- speaking, of course, of George W Bush -- didn't recognize the danger until it was too late, even despite being amply warned.

The left's deep hatred for neoconservatives seems easily explained in one of two ways: either the left is ignorant about the true nature of neoconservatism, or they are well aware of it, and simply resent neoconservatives for recognizing at least elements of the left that were soft on communist tyranny.

Perhaps some of those on the left who seem to despise neoconservatives most -- Murray Dobbin comes to mind -- merely despise them so much because they remind them of the extent to which some elements of the instutionalized left were actually rather sympathetic to communism, perhaps even hoping that foreign communism could help them advance at least portions of their own agenda.

Ruminations on neoconservatism aside, what makes this particular version of Red Dawn so priceless is that it treats the film with the seriousness it deserves, particularly when Russian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan soldiers happen to be speaking over subtitles.

Lines such as "homey don't PLAY this shit" and "we got some haters up in here now" make this version of the film worth watching the first time, but also for the second, third, or (possibly) thirty-third time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Losing Proposition for All Canadians

Frank Graves calls for "culture war" in Canada

EKOS pollster Frank Graves recently offered some advice to Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff that should make the blood of all Canadians run cold.

“I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy,” Graves is reported as having said. “If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”

Once upon a time, as many Canadians will recall, it was the Liberal Party that accused the Conservative Party of divisive politics. Now, it's the Liberal Party's favourite pollster encouraging them to do the very same.

Then again, this is really nothing new.

Under Jean Chretien, the Liberal Party thrived off of false chariactures of their principal opponents. In the discourse offered by the Liberal Party, Preston Manning was transformed from a forward-thinking conservative on matters such as language policy (his proposed Fair Language Policy would have been a multi-cultural upgrade on official bilingualism) into a thinly-veiled bigot.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. But under Chretien, the Liberals were willing to do anything -- anything -- to gain or keep power. Even if it meant stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers.

To make matters worse, Lawrence Martin -- who brought Canadians reports of Graves' commentary -- seems to think that Ignatieff has taken this advice, and that his attempt to exploit issues like the long gun registry and abortion as ideological boilerplate mark the first steps in a stark turn down the low road of politics.

This can only serve to transform Canadian politics into something darker, more divisive, and dishonest.

It takes a particularly dangerous brand to ideologue to look at the divisive and destructive political canflaguration in the United States, then tell one of Canada's political leaders that we need that here. Canadians cannot afford to turn their back on Frank Graves.

His advice to Ignatieff would make for a losing proposition for all Canadians. Hopefully, any attempt to spark a culture war will make like everything else Michael Ignatieff has attempted to date -- and blow up in his face.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Montreal Simon - "Frank Graves and the Way to Beat the Cons"

Sort of Political - "Kory Teneycke ROCKS!!!"

BC Blue - "Stunning Advice to Iffy by Liberal Pollster"

A Hung Parliament Will Hang the Government

Gordon Brown must turn election around, or resign as PM

With the British election chugging toward its May 6 conclusion, the looming near-certainty of a hung Parliament has Britons wondering precisely who will reside in Number 10 Downing Street come May 7.

With the most recent polls having Labour slide behind the Liberal Democratic Party for second place in this election, 27% to 29% -- with the Conservatives continuing to narrowly lead at 33%.

This clouds the question of who -- current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg -- will be Prime Minister.

According to British Constitutional Convention, Brown would retain the office of Prime Minister under a hung Parliament, and Labour would receive the first opportunity to seek the confidence of Parliament.

That means that, if Brown can't turn his electoral fortunes around and David Cameron can't find a way to restore a strong lead, Labour could come in third in the election and retain government.

The tenuous position this would put Labour in could not even possibly give it the opportunity to govern.

For his own part, Clegg doesn't seem prepared to tolerate the prospect.

“It would be preposterous for Gordon Brown to end up like some squatter in Number 10 because of some constitutional nicety,” Clegg insisted.

If Gordon Brown continues to trail the Liberal Democrats after the election is concluded, he will have little choice but to resign the office of Prime Minister and allow another party to seek the confidence of Parliament.

To be the third-place party in Parliament and continue to govern is simply untenable on principle alone.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Commonwealth of States Should Define Britain's New Global Role

Commonwealth could provide muscular alternative to US, UN

As the 2010 British election prepares to turn its attention toward foreign policy in the next leaders' debate, many Britons are speculating about the role Britain should play on the global stage.

A study conducted by the Royal United Services Institute suggested that a majority of Britons believe that Afghanistan is crucial to the United Kingdom's security. A similar number -- 58% -- believed that a special strategic relationship with the United States is necessary. A strong nuclear deterrent was also highly favoured.

But Britain cannot move forward with a revitalized foreign policy based on a strategic relationship with the United States alone. If Britain is to play a stronger role on the global stage, it must also look to its other allies.

In order to take on such a hefty role, Britain would need to look toward a special relationship it has not with the United States, but with another country:


And also Australia and New Zealand.

Of all the countries that currently hold membership in the Commonwealth of States, four are uniquely poised to lead: Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

India, Pakistan and South Africa each face unique challenges that currently prevent them from realistically being able to aspire to leadership. But these are challenges that can be overcome in time, with help from the rest of the Commonwealth.

With Afghanistan central to the national security of Britain, whichever party takes the offices of government after May 6 need to understand that Afghanistan is not an issue that can be solved within the borders of that country.

Rather, continuing tensions between India and Pakistan, and nuclear proliferation between the two countries, must be addressed.

Afghanistan's border with Pakistan -- one that remains largely unrecognized by Afghanistan -- must be stabilized and secured in order for stability to be brought to Afghanistan. But in order for this border to be secured, Pakistan must come to view itself as secure enough from an Indian incursion to move troops away from its border with India.

This requires that the issue of Kashmir somehow be settled -- certainly no short order for any one country. But if Canada, Britain, India and Pakistan were able to come together with a broad coalition of Commonwealth allies, a peacekeeping mission in Kashmir may be possible. This mission would serve the purpose of stabilizing the entire region, allowing for greater security and stability in Afghanistan.

In a world where the United States is over-engaged on the global stage, and the United Nations far too weak to address key challenges -- such as the Sudan -- a revitalized Commonwealth of States could prove to be key to British and Canadian leadership on the global stage.

For both countries it would prove to be an excellent supplementary strategy to simply snuggling up to the USA.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When Twits Tweet

Gordon Brown Killing His Own deal

Nick Clegg apprehensive about dealing with "desperate" Brown

As a hung parliament looks more and more like the likely result of Britain's General Election, the balance of power is sliding more and more toward Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democratic Party.

This puts Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a difficult position. In order to retain power, he'll need Clegg and the Lib Dems to come on-board with his government.

As Nick Robinson points out, Brown's own troubled past with the Lib Dems makes such an arrangement very difficult, if not outright unlikely.

Brown has reportedly scuttled two previous promising deals between Labour and the Lib Dems. Brown even had a troubled exchange with Clegg over as simple a topic as expense reform.

In light of recent attacks on Clegg by Brown, Clegg isn't taking the matter likely.

Even on Brown's recently-adopted agenda of electoral reform, Clegg isn't taking the bait.

"I think he is a desperate politician and I just do not believe him," Clegg recently remarked.

He insists that on many topics -- not just electoral reform -- Labour had its opportunity to deliver and failed to do so.

"Do I think Labour delivered fairness?" Clegg asked. "No. Do I think the Labour Party, in its heart, has a faith in civil liberties? No. They are clutching at straws."

If the Liberal Democrats do reject a partnership with Labour, Britons can expect to see a tumultuous and troubled Parliament ahead of them. One wherein virtually anything could happen, including a prompt return to the polls.

Somehow, It's Conservatives Who Are Always the Bad Guys

Clifford Olson killed eleven people. Karla Homolka participated in the torture and murder of four people. Graham James sexually molested an unknown number of hockey players during his time as a coach.

Yet somehow, to some people, conservatives are always the bad guys. Even if they haven't killed or molested anyone.

That's about the only thing that can be taken away from this most recent dispatch from the most demented of the Chickenwankers.

In a post about the controversies surrounding the pardon of James, the (seemingly) pending pardon of Homolka, and the thousands of dollars in pension funds being paid out to Olson, Sister Sage's Musings proprietor CK insists that an evil conservative conspiracy simply must be afoot:
First off, contrary to what CK may think, decisions about pardons are not made by the Minister of Public Safety. Rather, they're made by parole boards according to criteria that, as a consequence of Liberal Party thug huggery, has allowed one of the worst of the worst to slip through the cracks and be pardoned.

One doesn't have to be Frank fucking Castle to figure out what's wrong with this picture, and that something needs to be changed.

In fact, that the very idea that changes need to be made to the criteria for the granting of pardons could lead to an accusation of planning to scrap pardons altogether is nothing more than the product of a fertile imagination. No one in the government has ever suggested such a thing.

Likewise with old age pensions. Perhaps the idea that serial murderers serving more life sentences than they could serve if they were cloned multiple times shouldn't receive an old age pension is a revolutionary and subversive idea for CK. Not to those oversensitive to the fact that Olson killed eleven people, two of them children.

Likewise with the notion that cutting old age pensions is on anyone's agenda. No one in the government has so much as spoken of it, so this accusation has basically been invented out of whole cloth.
Certainly, CK has done many, many stupid things since turning 18.

Her blog alone is proof of that.

But well-earned comments on the dismal intelligence of SSM's principal author aside, it requires a complete lunatic to argue that Graham James sexually molesting young hockey players entrusted to his care is the same thing as the jay walking ticket written out to the 19-year-old down the street, or even the DUI racked up by your neighbourhood drunk.

The latter case in unquestionably cause for condemnation, but it isn't quite on the scale of murdering eleven people, or gleefully filming the pre-murder torture of four.

The average "stupid thing" done by many Canadians doesn't even begin to measure up to the misdeeds -- actual misdeeds, unlike the fictional ones CK is constantly attributing to Stephen Harper -- of these four. Not even in the same ballpark. Not even in the same league.

As for what incentive convicts would have for keeping their noses clean: how about not going back to jail? That would work for the majority of Canadians.

But apparently not for CK.

Another beef CK apparently has is that knowledge of James' pardon became public at all. The notion that knowledge that a multiple child molester has been pardoned for his crimes is actually a matter of public interest has never really occurred to her.

Of course, CK has proven herself remarkably favourable to the suppression of any information that doesn't fit her specific ideological agenda. No one should be surprised.

The truth is that CK's objection to this entire matter is simply so clearly confused that one wonders if she even understands half the objections that she's raising. For example, she accuses Harper of having no empathy for the families of the victims of Olson, James or Homolka...
But has apparently not bothered to stop for two seconds to ask herself two questions:

First off, would the fact that Olson has collected thousands of dollars in pension funds while serving time for the murder of said 11 people and the fact that James has been pardoned, with Homolka apparently set to be pardoned, cause more or less pain to the families of their victims?

Secondly, would the fact that these matters have become nothing but ideological boilerplate to a retarded lunatic like CK cause those families any pain?

Or would they in fact be comforted to learn that the government of Canada actually cares about their pain, and wants to prevent travesties of justice that actually serve to trivialize that pain?

In the minds of anyone but a terminally stupid twit like CK, the answer to this question would be obvious.

But it raises an important question about the mentality of individuals like CK. A couple of days ago, it was noted that CK had seemingly lost the popular left-wing narrative on Canada's Human Rights Commissions. It was pointed out that, contrary to her comments on the matter, Canada's HRCs were never meant to prevent bigotry outright, only to settle cases of discrimination.

But could CK's repeated insistence that things such as changes to Canada's pardon system to prevent the worst of the worst from getting pardons they don't deserve are pretexts for something allegedly ideologically heinous actually be a deeper indication of how CK herself thinks?

Perhaps, in CK's mind, the HRCs are really pretexts for thought-police-like institutions to crack down on ideas she doesn't like; starting with things like bigotry that the overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose, and eventually working its way up to broader anti-conservative thought-policing as societal barriers to such tyranny degrade.

One expects -- one hopes -- that no one actually involved with Canada's HRCs have any such tyranny in mind, and that plans for such tyranny exist only in the mind of CK.

Fortunately, considering that CK is so out of touch with Canadian values that she can't even get a simple matter like heinous criminals don't deserve to be pardoned or paid while in prison right, one is comforted that this is very likely the case.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

David Cameron More John McCain Than Barack Obama

In the British Conservative party's second TV address, David Cameron seems to emulate US Senator John McCain, famed for his "straight talk" on political issues.

In the second address, entitled "What it Takes to Change a Country", Cameron promises precisely that: straight talk on political issues. He also further explains his "big society" vision.

Cameron proposes the "big society" theoretically as an alternative to big government. The goal is clearly to brand the Conservatives as the party that can still deliver on social policy-related goals while cutting Britain's looming deficit.

This will prove to be an especially important message as talk of a coalition government between Labour and the Liberal Democrats becomes more and more prevalent.

While Cameron's message is a strong conservative message, one challenge for his party will be the presentation. While the Liberal Democrat messaging has proven to be eye-poppingly slick, deeply engrained with symbolism, the Tory addresses have, to date, been (unfortunately) characteristically bland.

While those predisposed to be receptive to the Conservative message will likely pay attention to this ad, others may be more likely than not to tune out.

This was the same challenge that confronted John McCain during the 2008 Presidential Election: convincing Americans to stay tuned to his message, favouring it over the more glamourous message of eventual winner Barack Obama.

Obama reportedly once remarked that Cameron is more sizzle than substance. Now the notion that the sizzle may be gone is becoming utterly unignorable.

This has become the challenge for David Cameron during this election: preventing Britons from simply tuning him out. To date, he hasn't been doing himself many favours.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thought Police - Sister Sage Lost the Narrative

Or probably never actually had it in the first place

Readers of the Nexus may have begun to think that Chickenwanker CK of Sister Sage's Musings was getting a free ride of late.

Were that the case, it certainly wasn't by intent.

The most recent dispatch smuggled from the far side of the Blogging Iron Curtain has CK complaining about the ongoing Conservative-sponsored Senate inquiry into free speech in Canada that has been so splendidly covered by Blazing Cat Fur and shows that CK has a very different take on Canada's Human Rights Commissions than their most reasonable proponents.

The most reasonable propnents of HRCs treat them as an institution dedicated to fighting against and remedying matters of clear discrimination. CK, apparently, has a different vision in mind for Canada's HRCs: that of making bigotry illegal.

That is, frankly, what one feels most temped to take away from something like this:
Contrary to what CK may believe -- and desperately want others to believe -- Canada's Human Rights Commissions do not, by any means, make it not OK to be a bigot.

Rather, existing social norms are what make it OK to be a bigot.

Rather, Canada's Human Rights Commissions -- and their tribunals -- have been abused by a number of activists who would love nothing more than to censor people with bigoted attitudes.

The problem is that such censorship doesn't render bigoted attitudes non-existent. Nor does it even reduce the prevalence of such bigotry. All censorship does is obscure that bigotry from public view.

But as with so many things, one is utterly unshocked to learn that, to CK, this is really just about her hatred of conservatives, and of conservatism:
For someone who is so keen on human rights law, one is actually surprised to learn the full extent to which CK is actually ignorant of it.

For one thing, remarks such as "let's torture the Brown people" and "let's kill all Gays" both meet the definition of hate speech under the criminal code. Complaints over remarks like this would actually have no place in an HRC. Rather, they're a matter for criminal courts.

Likewise, one is surprised to find that CK doesn't seem to understand that just because a school teacher believes that the Holocaust never happened doesn't mean that he can teach that to school children. The curriculum, after all, is decided not by individual teachers, but rather by provincial ministries.

The belief that the Holocaust never happened would certainly challenge the qualifications of a teacher -- particularly in fields such as history. Further, that would be a matter for licensing authorities, not for HRCs.

But in the end, apparently CK's ignorance isn't to blame for her outrage over the notion that her precious institutions of censorship may be eliminated. Rather, we're supposed to blame "evil" Stephen Harper.
As per usual, when CK has lost the narrative, she simply makes up her own.

Individuals like Ezra Levant -- who she also accuses of "selling out" his own people by defending Marc Lemire -- have complained not that the protesters made use of their freedom of speech. Rather, they have complained that the University of Ottawa acted preemptively to cast a chill over the free speech of Ann Coulter, and that the protesters themselves made the event itself unmanageable and unsafe -- even going so far as to set off a fire alarm.

As for Coulter and George Galloway, CK may be shocked to learn that the difference between the two is that Coulter has never directly provided funds to an organization that is listed on Canada's registry of banned terrorist organizations. George Galloway has.

Moreover, CK seems to have omitted the fact that is a bureaucrat at Public Safety Canada -- a public servant -- that ruled Galloway inadmissable to Canada.

In the end, CK concludes, none of this could possibly because conservatives cherish freedom and want to preserve it against the tender mercies of an encroaching thought police-like institution. Rather, it's just because conservatives are hateful, and want to facilitate hatespeech.

But considering that CK herself has an unfortunate history making bigoted comments, one expects that she'll find that to be an awfully tough sale.

Preston Manning Not for Governor General

Manning not cut out for Vice Regal role

As Canadians continue to speculate on who Canada's next Governor General -- the successor to the incomparable Michaelle Jean -- will be, the editors of The Mark have begun to collect hypothetical nominations from prominent Canadians.

Ezra Levant has nominated former Reform Party founder/leader and Canadian Alliance founder Preston Manning.

"Preston Manning is an ex-politician, but he's non-partisan," Levant argues. "It could be argued that he was even non-partisan while he led a party - he often put reforming the democratic system above his own immediate political interests."

"Since leaving Parliament, he has built an even more impressive legacy: a non-partisan think tank dedicated to improving the political system in a practical way, with everything from political campaign training schools to workshops on journalism," Levant continues. "He's a true nation-builder."

But as great a Canadian as Manning turly is -- despite the simmering hatred bore for him by Canada's far left -- no one should count on him being appointed Governor General. It would actually be a mistake to do so.

Manning could certainly stand -- and deserves -- the opportunity to rehabilitate his reputation from the many slanders foisted upon it by the far left. Contrary to what ideologues like Murray Dobbin would have Canadians believe, Manning would have been recognized as a giant of Canadian multiculturalism had his policies not been misrepresented by the shrill harpies of the far left.

Manning's proposed fair language policy -- which would have declared Canada to be a multilingual, not merely bilingual, state -- better reflected the realities of Canada and would have better served hundreds of thousands of Canadians than the current policy.

Manning's policy would have seen government services delivered in any number of languages, contingent on a significant community speaking that language. It would have seen government services available in Chinese in places like Vancouver, Farsi in places like Montreal, and Ukrainian and Polish in Edmonton. Among others.

But there are two things that Canadians cannot afford their Governor General to be: partisan and ideological.

One can say what one will about Preston Manning, he is unabashedly conservative. While being conservative shouldn't in itself disqualify anyone from being Governor General, Canada's Vice Regal must represent all Canadians, of all political stripes.

It just isn't realistic to expect Manning to be able to do that. At least not in the minds of liberal Canadians.

Manning's status as a former party leader, however, should disqualify him outright. The office of Governor General must, above all else, remain entirely non-partisan. This, admittedly, is a challenge to the notion that the Governor General should be elected, one that would have to be solved through mechanisms in the nomination process.

Ezra Levan'ts heart may be in the right place in nominating Preston Manning for Governor General. But this is one thing that can simply never be.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Panic Under Pressure

Labour feeling pressure from Lib Dems, not quite sure how to handle it

A few days ago, the Nexus asked the question of whether or not the Labour Party was feeling the pressure being applied by the Liberal Democratic Party.

As it turns out, they are feeling the pressure, as the most recent polls have the Liberal Democrats inching closer to contending for power on May 6.

The problem for Labour is that they don't seem to know how they're going to cope with that pressure.

Lord Andrew Adonis, the current Secretary of Transportation, has called on Lib Dem voters to vote strategically to prevent a Tory government, and has reportedly been working toward the establishment of a post-election agreement.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown reportedly sanctioned Adonis' efforts.

Then, he promptly went on the attack, doing whatever he can to try to sour that particular well.

"The Liberal Democrats have got to be exposed," Brown recently announced. "I think they have made a mistake in their economic policy. Why do they want to cut child tax credits? I think that is unfair. Why do they want to cut child trust funds?"

This, of course, should deliver something of a death blow to Lord Adonis' claims that the Liberal Democratic platform is "just like Labour’s." While Lord Adonis insists that the two party's platforms are similar in the sense that they're both social democratic documents, it seems that Brown thinks of this election as far less of a "two against one contest" than does his Transport Secretary.

If Gordon Brown does intend to negotiate a post-election deal with the Lib Dems to keep power, one has to imagine how, precisely, he will do it after having attacked their platform during the election.

Perhaps proving himself to be a true political heavyweight is more important to Brown than maintaining a coherent front with his Labour fellows.

But then perhaps the idea of a deal isn't off the table at all. As Canadians can attest, political parties can try some awfully strange things when the prospect of keeping power -- or gaining it -- is on the table.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Stupid Future

In the Dilbert Future, Scott Adams mused about whether or not stupidity would increase endemically in the 21st century, and wondered how smart people might be able to profit from it.

In Dogbert-esque fashion, the book simply suggests that the savvy business people of tomorrow will find ways by not only exploiting, but facilitating and actually encouraging the stupidity of others.

It isn't at all outside the realm of imagination that we already see this in the modern economy.

Consider, for example, the advent of KFC's Double Down, a product that fortunately will not be available in Canada -- at least for the time being.

With the prevalence of obesity-induced heart disease in American society, one would imagine that a food item that is essentially two pieces of deep-fried chicken with cheese and bacon sandwiched in between it.

One would have had to imagine that the Baconator was bad enough. But the Double Down presents an entire new level of culinary stupidity that one has to simply shake their head in amusement.

It seems like the Double Down might be worth trying once. But no wise businessperson would dare introduce a mass-consumption product that the customer only tries once. Rather, they're banking on repeat customers for this item, and a lot of them.

So the question lingers: in a country where one of the leading causes of death is heart disease, how many people will give into stupidity enough to make the Double Down a regulat feature of their dining experience?

In Dogbert-esque fashion, the executives at KFC have clearly banked on that stupidity. It may well be dominant business model of the future -- it's already become so prevalent today.

As with all things stupidity-related, the answer may will disappoint humanity.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Legalize It (?)

Joyce Arhtur calls for formally legalized abortion, and more

When the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada's abortion law in 1988, abortion under demand, under any circumstances and for any reason, became legal in Canada.

In the years since, few governments have dared venture anywhere near the abortion issue. Brian Mulroney's government attempted to legislate a new abortion law only to be stopped by a deadlocked caucus.

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada director Joyce Arthur, however, thinks this state of affairs has gone on long enough -- and that Canada needs an abortion law.

Unshockingly, Arthur thinks that Canada should formally legalize abortion. She's actually right about this. But after a few more small details, that's where it ends, and Arthur's ideas diverge into pro-abortion authoritarianism.

Arthur is actually right to insist that provincial health ministries should ensure that abortion is available in each region of their province for those women who need them.

But Arthur's other proposals for such a law are fraught with problems.

For example, Arthur insists that all medical students should be required to be trained in abortion. She suggests that governments should be required to fund abortions, and that provinces be required to pay for reciprocally-billed abortions.

She suggests that the law limit conscientious objection by doctors, and ban abortion protests outside of clinics.

Clearly, it's Arthur's latter two suggestions that are more troublesome.

Arthur isn't only in favour of shutting down anti-abortion protest outside of clinics. She's also in favour of shutting down anti-abortion groups on university campuses, denying them both funding and club status.

It seems that Arthur is full of all kinds of ideas to curb the debate on abortion -- so long as it's her opponents who are being silenced.

The suggestion regarding limited conscientious objection is even more alarming. For one thing, Arthur declines to define under what circumstances she believes an appropriately trained physician could decline to perform an abortion. Her insistence that all medical students, even those specializing in otherwise-unrelated fields, be trained in abortion would confront a great many more doctors with that choice.

(Requiring doctors who decline to perform an abortion to refer appropriately is actually a reasonable requirement.)

Moreover, Arthur's proposed law speaks nothing to any kind of limit on abortion. The word "limit" appears only within her suggestion to limit consientious objection, and "late-term abortion" appears not at all.

If Canada were to legislate on abortion without including a limit on abortion on demand, it would be the only country in the developed world to do so.

Moreover, it's unlikely that any government could manage to pass such a law without any kind of limits on on-demand aboriton. It's actually unlikely that any government could pass such a law with such limits, as the Mulroney example clearly demonstrates.

Perhaps Arthur imagines that her the Liberal Party decline to nominate any candidates who are not pro-abortion fits in with this proposal.

That the Liberal Party could not win a government without tolerating dissent on the topic of abortion seems to escape her -- as does the right of others to disagree with her.

Leaving Broken Promises Behind

In the Liberal Democratic Party's first (rather long) ad of the 2010 General Election, Nick Clegg makes a stark (and predictable) pledge to British voters: no more broken promises.

The ad itself is actually rather brilliant. In the ad, countless sheets of paper -- each one presumably describing an election promise made by either Labour or the Conservative Party (well, in actually, most of them are probably blank sheets of paper) blow about in the wind while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg outlines his party's platform for the election.

Clegg insists that there have been too many broken promises not only in the past few years, but in the past 30 years.

The wind blows the sheets of paper all around in the background, as Clegg continually appears in the foreground, walking toward the camera, and away from the broken promises of his competitors.

The goal of the ad is very simple: Clegg and the Lib Dems want to counter-brand Labour and the Tories as the parties of broken promises, and brand his own party as the party for a fresh start -- leaving the broken promises of his opponents in the past by keeping its own promises.

The ad portrays British politics as a realm made by his principal opponents, as Clegg walks through streets littered with the broken promises of his opponents. But this may be an unintended message: the Liberal Democrats, after all, have governed Britain before.

The ad is also hampered by the vagueness of its message: merely promising "fairness" for British citizens. One can expect that the Conservative and Labour parties will also be offering fairness.

The Liberal Democrats may find that there is a premium on being a little more succinct.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saskatchewan Set to Lead on Human Rights Commissions

Saskatchewan to consider scrapping Human Rights Tribunal

In Saskatchewan, changes may be coming for the province's Human Rights Commission.

Notably, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal may shut down.

Justice David Arnot, Saskatchewan's Human Rights Commissioner, has recommended that Saskatchewan's Human Rights Tribunal be discontinued.

"Currently human rights law, I think it's fair to say, is evolving," Arnot said. "It's becoming more and more complex and the Human Rights Commission believes that judges are best placed to deal with those complexities rather than an administrative tribunal that really doesn't have any dedicated officers or assigned staff and has really little infrastructure."

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan has suggested that, if the tribunal is scrapped, that its cases will be forwarded to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench.

"This is a recommendation that's come forward and is a recommendation that, in fact, may have some merit. There are criticisms that the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal may be seen as too close to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission," Morgan explained.

Yet NDP MLA Frank Quennell decided to overlook the recommendation from Arnot, suggesting this all may be politically motivated.

"I think there are supporters of the Saskatchewan Party (government) who aren't happy with decisions of human rights tribunals over the years and that is part of the motivation here," Quennell grumbled.

Yet whether Quennell cares to admit to it or not, Canada's Human Rights Commissions and their Tribunals have been a matter of significant contention in Canada. Saskatchewan has been no different than any other province.

Saskatchewan is hardly known as a national leader on conservative issues. Should the province decide to scuttle its Human Rights Tribunal, it will have taken leadership the the rest of the country will not be able to help but consider.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Most Epic Twitter Fail EVER

'Nuff said.

The Limits of the Myth of Photographic Truth

Speaking via TED Talks, Jonathon Klein addresses the notion of the myth of photographic truth.

Put most simply, the myth of photographic truth infers that photographs -- noted to be worth a thousand words, and to provide an objective depication of reality -- are created through a variety of subjective processes, and thus do not really infer unquestionable truth.

Those who argue against this mytho of photographic truth note that the photographer makes myriad decisions in the course of taking -- or, as Klein notes, making -- a photograph. They choose the angle from which they will take the photograph, the lens with which they will take it, the time at which they will take it, and most importantly when they will take it.

Moreover, they argue that photographs have very specific meanings to people, and not everyone shares those meanings.

But, as Klein points out, there are some cases in which photographs capture an undeniable truth, and thus can be key to changing the world in crucial ways.

Consider, for example, the following photograph:
This photo should require no introduction. It's a picture of the protester who, at Tiananmen Square in 1989, stopped a column of tanks sent to quash the student protests there.

As the tanks rolled toward the Square, this brave man -- whose fate is ultimately unknown -- stops the column of tanks by standing in their path, and refusing to move. As video shows, when the tanks moved to roll around him, the man moves in front of them -- again stopping them in their tracks.

This photo serves as an undeniable reminder to anyone who views it of how the Chinese state handles political dissent: by deploying army tanks against unarmed students.

Photographic truth is indeed rarer than we give it credit for. But contrary to what those who dispute its existence insist, it does indeed exist.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The British Conservative Party: The Party of the People?

 David Cameron promises to empower Britons

Typically, nearly a week is a long time to wait for a political leader to set the tone for their party's election campaign.

Five days into the 2010 British General election, David Cameron has done just that.

The Tories' election maifesto is entitled "An Invitation to Join the Government of Britain". It sets a populist tone for the Conservative Party's campaign, one reminiscent of that offered by the late former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

"Real change comes not from government alone," Cameron declared. "Real change comes when the people are inspired and mobilised, when millions of us are fired up to play a part in the nation's future."

Cameron suggsted that government is actually powerless without the support of the citizenry. Therefore, the British people must be invovled in government as much as possible.

"Yes this is ambitious," he admitted. "Yes it is optimistic. But in the end all the acts of Parliament, all the new measures, all the new policy initiatives, are just politicians' words without you and your involvement."

"So my invitation today is this: join us, to form a new kind of government for Britain," Cameron said.

Saying this is one thing -- and certainly a great number of Britons will appreciate this message. However, delivering on this promise is another thing altogether.

Trudeau alienated a great number of his supporters when he failed to deliver on his promise of "parliamentary democracy". In the end, it became apparent that "parliamentary democracy" merely reflected privileged access of Liberal Party members to information about the decisions that Trudeau and his cabinet made.

The breaking of that promise -- closely tied to his promises of a "Just society" -- eventually led to a public perception of Trudeau as a disingenuous and self-interested politician.

Britons will have to wait and see if David Cameron actually delivers on this promise. He certainly couldn't do any worse than Pierre Trudeau.