Friday, June 30, 2006

Dems finally get some backbone

This is awesome. It's disgusting how the Republicans are going on and on about the NYTimes for doing its job - reporting. The mock outrage coming from the GOP is appalling. Forget the real problems we face (all of their doing) like New Orleans, the war, the deficit, healthcare, the fact that the entire planet loathes the United States - they're not really a big deal. Oh no, we have to go after the New York Times with some pathetic resolution condemning it for reporting on something that terrorists already knew.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Snowflake's Chance in Hell

Oh poor, poor Snowflake. First it's revealed that his party knew and willfully ignored the fact that they were benefitting from sponsorship scandal funds (he claims innonence from involvement. Ask a guy named Martin how that defence played out). Then Harper and Co. arrive on his doorstep for a Quebec love in. Together with Charest, the heat is getting turned up, and he's slowly melting away...

Let's hope certain afflictions don't pop up again now that he's under stress.

Flag Burning Nonsense

At least the Senate saw some sense - barely - and defeated the flag burning amendment. Thank god.

The sanctimony that comes out of those in favour of the amendment is truly sickening. According to the Post, the proponents "said that burning a U.S. flag in public -- while rare these days -- is a reprehensible insult to the nation's founders and a dishonor to the Americans who died fighting tyranny."

Well. Doesn't that sound a lot like the nutjobs in the Middle East saying that some cartoons are reprehensible insults to Mohammed and such things should be banned?

America: Free Speech, unless, of course, the moral majority doesn't like it. Once you open up the Constitution to being amended to prohibit controversial speech (not harmful), where does it stop? What about criticizing the President? What about insulting the nation? These are popular sorts of laws in other countries, but conceptually, once you ban burning a symbol of the nation, you open a pandora's box.

The scary thing is that the Constitution is now considered a legitimate battleground for any particular group that wants to impose its way on others.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Things that unite us

It really is great how, no matter what your political stripe in Canada, the misfortune of separatists is something that can bring us all together. (On Kinsella's, scroll down to the Journal de Montreal entry).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Now that is power

I absolutely love that She doesn't even have to stand up to greet a premier.

For our American viewers, "She" is our beloved Governor General--I'm sure you've seen my adoration for her. The premier in question is the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, and arguably one of the more important political figures in Canada. This is from her visit to Ontario (cool pictures here).

Scalia, Bastard

The Court just decided that, in capital cases where aggravating and mitigating factors are equal, it is not wrong to require death. It's exciting to know, of course, that the top five countries in terms of executions include such luminaries as China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

But worse was Scalia's concurrence. He said,

The American people have determined that the good to be derived from capital punishment — in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes — outweighs the risk of error.

Um. No. This shouldn't be a risk-balancing test. You have a constitutional right not to be executed for a crime you didn't commit. The American people do not have a similar constitutional right to subject you to that risk for the purpose of retribution ("meting out of condign justice") or deterrence.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The politics of victimhood

I have to say I completely agree with Margaret Wente, which is probably going to get me labled as some sort of racist bastard. Oh well, tough.

The politics of "we're sorry for ancient wrongs that Canadians of generations past committed against your ethnic group, here's a cheque." Maaaaybe, and only maybe, it might be okay to say, "Yes, it was wrong to do x or y or z."

But when does it end? As Wente says,

Victim groups are swarming to this pot as bees to nectar. According to government records released to the Winnipeg Free Press, Ukrainians want $12.5-million for their internment during the First World War. The Germans want $12.5-million, too. The Italians want $12.5-million for the internment of 700 men during the Second World War. The Sikhs want $4-million, the Croats $2.8-million, and the Jews $2-million for being barred from immigrating to Canada between 1923 and 1945. African Canadians and Doukhobors want another $7-million for unspecified grievances.

It never ends. Okay, I'm a white male anglo-saxon, so I don't get any ethnic grievances, but I am gay, and even though my experience in Canada has been overwhelmingly positive (as likely is the experience of every hyphenated Canadian, particularly Italian, German, and Ukranian), my gay ancestors were the victims of institutional discrimination - which continued until just last year when we could get married! Where's my cheque?

And also: sure, by our modern standards, head taxes and other stuff might be bad. By the standards of the time, Canada was still a much better place than the rest of the world. Sure, we might have put Japanese Canadians in interment camps between 1939-45, but there were other camps in other places that were a little more unpleasant.

There is not a nation extant that has a perfectly clean past. The general human condition is to kill his neighbour, or steal his cows or is wife. As I've said before, the study of history is the study of human misery and suffering. As countries go, Canada was relatively mild. The Chinese lamenting the head tax might do well to think of what life in China at the time was like - or what it's like now.

And: what real purpose does giving someone now - who probably is living a good life - a cheque for wrongs committed against their ancestors? What good does that do? Do they sleep better at night? (Maybe, if they buy a new mattress) Does a cheque give them some greater sense of dignity or worth (other than financial)?

So, I just don't get it. I don't understand the logic of because the Canadian state, a century ago, didn't live up to 21st century standards in its conduct, and did something to your distant ancestors (maybe, given immigration has continued), the consequences of which are not impacting on your life now, we need to give you a cheque?

All it will do is keep us mired endlessly in the past, with opportunistic groups seizing on their past identity, foresaking their modern identity as Canadians, lamenting some past mistreatment, and asking for a cheque.

The government should just say "Look, we regret that it took us some time to become the beacon of freedom and justice and tolerance that we are now. We are sorry that we couldn't get to our modern standards back then. We now regret some things that were done back then. Let's move on and keep building a better country, together."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Australia's GG's Abuse of Power

It's older news that the Australian federal government just nixed Canberra's same-sex marriage law. However, I didn't read until this morning about the procedural vehicle John Howard used.

The Australian Capital Territory passed a same-sex marriage bill. John Howard, the Tory Prime Minister, didn't like it. So he instructed the Governor General to decline Royal Assent.

This is wrong - a total abuse of power. Don't get me wrong. I believe that the GG - and the Sovereign - should have the power to disallow laws. But not like this. The GG isn't a device for the Federal Government to nix any law that it doesn't like. If the GG, on the advice of the PM, refuses to sign any bill that the PM doesn't like, then you run into the joy of a provincial government (e.g. Liberals in Ontario) being at the mercy of a federal government of a different political leaning (e.g. Tories in Ottawa).

The GG should be able to act on his or her own to protect the country as a whole - dealing with issues of constitutional importance, not political. I remember back in high school when the GST was introduced, we asked our history teacher whether the GG would veto the bill. He laughed, "It's only a tax bill." Exactly.

Imposing taxes, allowing same-sex marriage, creating agencies, reforming the criminal code - these are all political decisions, and should be left to the various governments, free of Royal interference. The Crown should move, however, when the state itself is threatened: if Parliament passed a law abolishing elections, or reversing the presumption of innocence, or abolishing the Supreme Court or judicial review. These are the sorts of decisions that the Crown should protect us from.

But using the Crown as a vehicle to stop decisions that the PM just doesn't like is an abuse. Australia's GG was wrong.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Unfairly singles out the South"

So the House, in its wisdom, has delayed renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, because apparently it unfairly singles out 9 southern states for special federal oversight.

Well, DUH. That's the POINT. It isn't the Northern states (or, for that matter, the blue ones) who go out of their way to keep black people from voting. Just like it wasn't the Northern states who had a poll tax on blacks to keep them from voting. For that matter, of course, it also wasn't the Northern states who, you know, had to have federal troops escort black kids to school.

It is ridiculous to me that the US, which advertises itself as the model democracy in the world, is so dysfunctional in its elections. The stories, every election, of trying to prevent blacks and latinos from voting (disguised as a concern over "voting fraud." Voting fraud happens in Kraplakistan, or in those countries where "elected" leaders routinely get 98.8% of the vote.) are sickening. Hanging chads, anyone? Stop the recount? Voting machines?

If the federal government didn't keep a gun against the heads of the southern states, they'd ban blacks from voting so fast it would be silly. But oh, no, we have to be sensitive to the South.

As the good folks over at Americablog point out:

First off, you southern states are the reason the law exists in the first place. Loving v. Virginia, anyone? Not to mention Virginia's penchant for being possibly the most homophobic state in the Union. It seems there is still a special place for hatred and bigotry in the soul of the south, so spare us the victim crap. And how about that old civil war war-horse you people can't seem to ever get over. A people who get beyond your past you are most certainly not. (Yes, yes, many of you are sane liberals and independents, and that's great, but far too many are not, and your representation in Congress proves what the majority of your brethren really are.)

Exactly. Fuck the South. Bible thumping conservative redneck hicks. It's time to stop letting them set the national agenda. Of course, the problem is that like rabits they breed faster than the rest of us . . .

God Save the Queen

Yet more proof that having an unelected head of state is a good thing. Elizabeth II's official birthday was last Saturday. Thousands came out to cheer. The quote that proves my point that an unelected sovereign (and for Canadian purposes, the GG) can be loved by everyone and can represent the state while rising above politics:
"As Americans, we're sort of in awe that thousands of people would come out for the queen's birthday," said Bill Wycoff, 59, of Sewickly, Pa. "I can't imagine Americans doing this for George Bush or any other American president."

Of course, I think we should be calling her Elizabeth I, but that's just me.

Getting blamed for having to fix the problem

A great posting by Stephen Elliot in Huffington Post. Top quote:

The story in the media: Democrats are losing because they can't agree on what to do in Iraq. It's like the older siblings who are punished because they can't agree on how to clean up the younger siblings' mess. The child has puked all over the kitchen and destroyed the vases and wrapped his fat fingers around the cat's skinny neck and now the parents are home and the older children are punished and the younger child is rewarded. Why? Because the young child is consistently wrong and has no intention of fixing anything. The Democrats are in trouble because they can't agree on how to fix the mess the Republicans have made. The Republicans are rewarded for staying the course.

(Hat tip to my buddy David in DC, who really needs to come back and visit).

If you're a part of the solution, you likely caused the problem

The expression usually goes like this: "If you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem."

But in Liberal land, you can be part of the problem, pretend you had nothing to do with it, turn around and offer solutions to anyone who will listen!

The Star reports that the Liberal grassroots are not in a good mood . While I'm not entirely sure how you determine this by talking to about 5 people (all from Ontario), it does contain this gem of a quote:

"This isn't an unusual problem for the Liberals. They always tune out the grassroots until they are out of power and need them," said Ottawa consultant Jamie Deacey, who co-chaired Paul Martin's leadership campaign in 2002/03.

But wait, it gets better!

Another problem, according to Deacey, is that since the leadership convention won by Pierre Trudeau in 1968 (and despite the 1990 convention that elected Chrétien), "there's always been an heir apparent, robbing the party of the necessity of really defining itself through a healthy leadership debate. There's been an accumulation of frustration at the grassroots who have no sense of being part of the party."

Do I need to re-emphasize that this guy co-chaired the heir apparent's Paul Martin's steamrollering of the grassroots leadership campaign?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We are well and truly screwed

So. For years, we're told that the single greatest threat to the world is Iraq. Condi tells us all about mushroom clouds. We're told that Saddam has some really bad weapons. If we don't go and invade now, our children are all going to be gassed/nuked/zapped.

And we get there and he's got nothing.

Meanwhile, Iran's mullahs get pretty hardcore about the bomb.

And now, North Korea claims it has a bomb, and is about to test a missle capable of reaching parts of the US.

Certainly took our eyes off the ball there, eh?

But what kind of principled response can we make? The "there's a treaty that forbids you" is a bit rich, given the number of treaties Bush has ripped up.

"The international community and the UN say now." Right, that's credible, from Bush.

"Unilateral action to protect your security" rings a bit hollow too.

"Oh and empty your prison/torture camps while your at it" might not work either.

Basically, every single mechanism other than force which might work has been previously ignored by the Bushies. Offensive nonmutual collateral estoppel anyone?

We're screwed.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Republicans just aren't cute

Okay - Wonkette here has a list of the top ten male hottie White House staffers.

I wouldn't do a single one of them. Actually, that's a lie. I'd do all 10 - hard - give them a taste of what Republicans have been doing to the country since they've been in power.

But seriously. They all have that boring, dull, preppy frat boy look. Do you reckon a single one of them has ever drank anything other than Bud Light? I love the surfer boy who needs to put the little III after his name. I'll bet that they ALL wear blazers with khaki pants.

Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi

Leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi is 61 today, and still under house-arrest after winning elections in 1989. It is heart-breaking. The whole story of Burma is heart-breaking. But she perseveres, as the Burmese always have.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Our head of state is hotter than yours

I think Jean wins hands down over Bush on the sexiness front.

Simpson on Air Canada, Part 3!

Montie Brewer, CEO of Air Canada, responds

Thoughts on the whole Pride thing

So LA just had its big Pride parade and whatnot. I'm not so sure how I feel.

I really have no issue with certain parts of the parade. I mean, the various activist groups, charity groups, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Red Cross, PFLAG, Gay Men's Chorus, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, support groups - yeah. Bring 'em on.

But there are points it starts to get silly and we start to get used.

I think I'm pretty much okay with bars having floats. I mean, they're sort of safe spaces, places that really offer the only place to go and be confident that most people are gay (the Abbey notwithstanding) and thus suitable targets.

But I was a little shocked that bathhouses have floats. I mean, come on. What does that say? Part of the gay community is a place you can go have anonymous sex? People do it, sure, but does it have to be so . . . accepted?

And then the brazen advertising gets to me. How many different alcohol companies had floats? What is that - "Ooh, look, Bud Light is supportive! They come to Pride!" Great. They ticked that box. What else do they do for us? (I have no idea about Bud Light. I just pick it as an example.) Great, Absolut - you got a float and put a bunch of half-naked probably-straight muscleboys on it. Do you give domestic partnership benefits? Do you give money to gay charities? Do you give money to fight Republicans or the FMA?

When we let that happen, we're just getting used. Those companies go, aha, this is good advertising, we know gay men and women can consume prodigiously, let's toss them a bone and look supportive, they'll buy it, and then we can say we've done our part.

I say keep them out. Let the people who really do something for us march, and let them march because it's a statement or a cause, not because some straight guy in a suit saw a marketing opportunity.

Simpson on Air Canada, part 2

Jeffrey Simpson take note: instead of your unproductive bitch-fest on the weekend, Macleans puts out a balanced (and actually informative) take on the new reality of airline travel.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reasons to care

In response to my posting about the Brokeback Mounties, one of our readers posted this comment:

But, if the majority of Canadians are, and, want the definition of marriage to stay between a man and a woman, what does it matter??

This misses the point. The whole reason why we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is so that the majority cannot decide the rights of an unpopular minority. As the court so majesterially stated in Vriend v. Alberta, [1998] 1 S.C.R. 493 at 69:
It is easy to say that everyone who is just like “us” is entitled to equality. Everyone finds it more difficult to say that those who are “different” from us in some way should have the same equality rights that we enjoy. Yet so soon as we say any enumerated or analogous group is less deserving and unworthy of equal protection and benefit of the law all minorities and all of Canadian society are demeaned. It is so deceptively simple and so devastatingly injurious to say that those who are handicapped or of a different race, or religion, or colour or sexual orientation are less worthy. Yet, if any enumerated or analogous group is denied the equality provided by s. 15 then the equality of every other minority group is threatened. That equality is guaranteed by our constitution. If equality rights for minorities had been recognized, the all too frequent tragedies of history might have been avoided. It can never be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual.

As the Court later stated in the Separation Reference, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217 at 74:
First, a constitution may provide an added safeguard for fundamental human rights and individual freedoms which might otherwise be susceptible to government interference. Although democratic government is generally solicitous of those rights, there are occasions when the majority will be tempted to ignore fundamental rights in order to accomplish collective goals more easily or effectively. Constitutional entrenchment ensures that those rights will be given due regard and protection. Second, a constitution may seek to ensure that vulnerable minority groups are endowed with the institutions and rights necessary to maintain and promote their identities against the assimilative pressures of the majority.

So we see two threads: the protection of the rights of a minority matters, and the rights of the minority cannot be subject to majoritarian rule.

While, then, for our reader, it may not matter whether same sex marriage happens or not, for those whom it is deprived, it matters quite a lot. The Courts have said marriage to another person to the exclusion of all others is a fundamental right. That fundamental right cannot be restricted by the will of the majority.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Toronto the Safe

Seems the internet is abuzz with tourism promotion ideas to counteract any possible negative fallout from the recent terror arrests in Toronto.

Warren "Kicking Ass" Kinsella, Dennis "I invented the UN" Mills and Jerry "Ain't no problem a megaconcert can't fix" Graftein are pushing the I am not afraid movement, and here we have a fun new slogan.

So let me put forward my own more direct, slightly dark, tourism slogan idea:

Toronto, Canada: We caught ours!

Quebec suddenly loves Dion!

Can our national columnists at least get their tired assumptions consistent?

from Ibbitson in today's Globe&Mail:

"...although Mr. Dion is waging a surprisingly strong campaign, he remains a tough sell outside Quebec."

Next, we'll hear that although Bob Rae's campaign is surprisingly strong, he remains a tough sell outside Ontario...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Simpson on Air Canada

The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson departs from being irritating, to become down-right unreadable.

It used to be that Simpson's favourite hobby horse was to bitch about VIA rail, and wish he had flown instead.

Now that he has decided to fly, he has gone and written an absolute smear column against Air Canada.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Air Canada, but I've never hated them either.

But with Simpson's selective use of the truth, and selective use of worse possible experiences, largely anecdotal with few explicit references, if not completely made up based on mumblings overheard in the check-in line, he paints a picture of a horrible, cold and sadistic airline, out to torture its customers with some perverse sense of glee.

The fact is, look south at any mainline carrier in the US. American, Delta, United, Northwest; their level of service pales in comparison to Air Canada's. In addition, all of them are struggling just to survive. Among the so-called 'legacy' carriers of North America, Air Canada is one of the few to survive and now after restructuring, it is just starting to make some money in the face of high gasoline prices. Not to mention being hobbled with an inefficient cost structure thanks to its early days as a crown corporation.

Simpson says attitudes start at the top, so Air Canada's management is to blame for poor service. Ok, so WestJet is better? Yeah, if you define "better" as "engage in corporate espionage".

Air Canada is a rare bright star in the airline landscape, and we should be glad that they are a success today. Simpson cites the airline's thirst for profits as the reason for their 'evilness'. It's not a thirst for profits that drives them, it's a thirst for profitability. The airline needs to make money just to survive. If that means cutting out pillows and blankets, so be it. Would he rather they cut it from the safety and maintenance budget?

Simpson asks where the food has gone on AC flights. Well surprise, WestJet never served food. Simpson complains about Air Canada's ageing fleet. Ageing fleet? Air Canada has the youngest average fleet age of any North American airline.

Simpson asks why Air Canada ignores rural Canada, and delivers crap service when it doesn't ignore them. I suppose those locations will just have to rely on WestJet, or CanJet. What's that? They don't serve those communities either? You forgot to mention that, Jeffery. He says to bring on Open Skies, the proposed opening of the Canadian domestic market to US carriers, as a solution to the rural lack of service. Well, if our own airlines won't operate on the route, why on earth would US airlines do so? An unprofitable route is an unprofitable route. Open Skies solves nothing.

Simpson complains about having to deal with a call centre in India to find his lost luggage. Well, sorry Jeffrey, but you're probably talking to a lot more Indians than you think whenever you call any company's call centre. Maybe Air Canada skimped a bit, and didn't go for the western-accent trained Indians. And please, get with the times. Nobody checks luggage anymore (a tiny nod to Dean. But since you're waiting to pick me up in baggage-claim anyway...)

The rest of Simpson's article comes off as sour-faced grumbling. At the best of times, his columns rarely have anything new to say. When he does say something new, he's intellectually lazy about it.

disclaimer: the author of this post has an Aeroplan number AND a WestJet Gold airmiles credit card.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pundit Hair Watch

On tonight's National, the At Issue panel was discussing the terror plot.

We had Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert, and Michael Byers from UBC.

On how Canadians were dealing with the revelations, Chantal Hebert pointed out that domestic terrorism is nothing new to Canadians, citing the gunman in the National Assembly in the 80s, and that we would take this too in stride.

Peter Mansbridge said that it was all the buzz in Central Canadian media. He asked Michael Byers how it was playing out in the West.

He said that BC people were used to terrorism investigations, citing Air India. Then he had the nerve to actually say that if there was a flash and a bang, and the screens from Montreal and Toronto went dead, it wouldn't be such a big deal, life would go on.

Andrew Coyne nearly lost it. He angrily stated (quite rightfully) that an attack on any Canadian was an attack on all Canadians.

Then Byers said that Canada had an ethnically diverse nation full of people from troubled parts of the world, and who where therefore used to such trauma. As a result, he claimed that we would apply measured, rational responses to this threat, because Canadians aren't people who over-react, unlike our hysterial American neighbours.

This time, it was Chantal's turn to respond. She actually broke her usually composed face, and laughed.

Her reply to the claim that Canadians don't over-react? Three words: War Measures Act.

Whoever this Byers character was, he was not making a good impression with Coyne and Hebert. And his hair! His hair was a complete mess, and this in comparison to the other two panelists, of whom I'm never all that forgiving.

The panel wrapped up with their thoughts on Stephen Harper's comment about being more afraid of his caucus than threats to behead him.

Coyne: Too glib, given the gravity of the situation.
Hebert: Perfect, something Trudeau would have said. Did she just favourably compare Harper to Trudeau? Ok, maybe the critics of Mike&Dean (we have critics!) are right, she IS a bit biased towards him...
Byers: I can't remember. I was too transfixed by his hair. It was such a disaster, the Red Cross wouldn't even give it coffee.

"We've never had . . . any kind of a homosexual relationship."

Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oaklahoma, made this little announcement today:

"As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of a homosexual relationship."

Um, Sen. Inhofe, given your quite clear anti-gay stance, I have a question: If one of your kids or grandkids were gay, knowing your views, do you actually think he or she would tell you?

(Hat tip to my Mom, who actually posed that question.)

Devil Day, Part II

Reflections on 6-6-06, on 7-6-06 (or in Canadian Gov style 06-6-6 and 06-6-7; for you Americans 6-6-06 and 6-7-06): If you drink with the thought that the world is about to end so damn the consequences, and it doesn't, be prepared for a nasty hangover.

But to the boys and girl with whom I planned on seeing Argmageddon, or staring the Beast down, cocktail in hand: love you all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

O'Connor's C-17s (part 2)

An open letter to Parliament, published in the Canadian American Strategic Review (good reading for anyone interested in Canadian defence procurement policy, or lack-thereof), complaining about Defence Minister O'Connor's intention to single-source the Canadian Forces' new strategic airlifter. By purchasing the Boeing C-17, Porsche of airlifters, Canadian taxpayers may be on the hook for a very expensive piece of equipment to operate, while keeping the residents of southern California comfortably employed (apologies to Dean).

Also in the Review, this interesting offer from the Russians for a MUCH cheaper airlifter.

Will O'Connor consider it?
Will the Opposition pick up on this? (Assuming they've figured out how a debate in Parliament works)
Will this purchase become, dare I say it, Harper's magical fourth Achilles Heel?

Well, when put that way, it's kinda embarassing...

Confusion over debate procedure on the part of the Opposition resulted in the budget being passed unanimously today.

Seems like a funny trivia story, but look at how Bloomberg, news sources for the financial world, described it:

Canadian Lawmakers Accidentally Pass Budget in House

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- The Canadian government's C$227 billion ($204 billion) budget was passed in the House of Commons after opposition lawmakers accidentally failed to stand up to debate the spending plan.

That's right. They forgot to stand up, and $227 billion dollars worth of budget was passed without any debate. Not only are the Liberals a danger to themselves now, they are a danger to the proper functioning of Parliament!

Devil Day

I really hope that most mad Christians are out there praying away and hoping the world doesn't end. Here's a little gem from the Independent (my emphasis):

Others believe today will draw us closer to "the rapture" - when the Lord calls his Christian faithful up to the heavens. (Non-believing mortals will know this has happened because millions of born-again evangelicals will disappear overnight; a not-altogether unwelcome development for atheists.)

Exactly. The sooner all the born against piss off, the sooner we can actually start to deal with real issues.

Brokeback Mounties (again)

Well, it seems at least that the mainstream media here is taking notice.

It would be nice, at least, if some of the nutcases here who are planning on constitutionalizing banning gay marriage would take a look to the north and see what's going on. Let's look at where we stand:
  • The Canadian forces have no problem with same-sex marriage and indeed, last June two servicemen were married. Gay men and women serve openly. The Canadian military hasn't fallen to pieces.
  • The Mounties have no problem with same-sex marriage. Gay men and women serve openly. They're still getting their men.
  • We've had same-sex marriage for almost 3 years. The straight divorce rate hasn't spiked, nor has the marriage rate dropped. Canadian society hasn't fallen apart. Bestiality hasn't been legalized, nor paedophilia, nor polygamy. Religions have not been forced to solemnize gay marriages if they don't want to.
  • God clearly approves (assuming His existence). Since gay marriage started, Canada's economy is going full steam ahead, we're running budget surpluses, the weather's been good, we caught the terrorists before they did anything (ahem, Pat "God will punish you" Robertson), and every single man and woman and child, gay or straight, has healthcare. In contrast, the US is in massive deficit, stuck in a messy war, has lost a major city, has almost half the population without healthcare, and has a President who's basically considered the worst ever. If there are meant to be Divine consequences for gay marriage, well, it seems that they're good.

In short, the Canadian example refutes every single argument against gay marriage that fanatics here raise. It doesn't threaten straight marriage. It doesn't increase divorce. There's no slippery slope. It doesn't threaten the military. God isn't hurling lightning bolts.

All that they're left with is: "We think it's icky." At its core, this Marriage Amendment is nothing more than rank, blatant hate.

A proud day for America that it's even being discussed, and by no less than someone as august as the President himself.

Pundit Cliché Watch

Forget my monitoring of Chantal Hebert's hair, it's far more rewarding to monitor her use of "Achilles Heel" .

On April 19th, it was Charest .
On May 10th, it was Afganistan .

An on June 5th, in Chantal Hebert's Monday column in the Star , Stephen Harper magically grows another heel!

"...many of the issues that may have legs in the next campaign dovetail with the priorities of Canada's major cities. That is never more true than when it comes to the environment, the issue that has so far emerged as the Achilles heel of the government. As the next election inches forward, it will increasingly become a sensitive matter for the Conservatives."

That's three Achilles' Heels for poor Mr. Harper.

The Peace Tower

I have to say, and I know Mike agrees, that the idea that those 17 terrorists were going to bomb the Peace Tower shocks me to the core.

Now: Let me say right now I am all for due process of law. Try them in an open court and give them every protection. If they are not guilty, let them go. I do not - not for an instant - think they should get any other treatment. The reason why we as a society are better than nutcases and terrorists (and most countries) is that we believe in innocent until proven guilty and we don't have secret prisons and we don't torture.

But - the Peace Tower? What part of PEACE didn't they get? The Peace Tower is not triumphant. The Peace Tower is a monument to grief, not to glory. The Memorial Chamber inside is one of the most solemn and moving places I've been to. [ps take the virtual tour. Read the plaques on the walls.] More pics here, here, here, and here.

The Peace Tower is nothing about what Islamic radicals complain. The Peace Tower is the physical statement of how our small and beautiful country has been dragged into wars that were not - ever - of its choosing. The Peace Tower is that momument to our country's intense desire for peace, for tolerance, for kindness. The Peace Tower has no injustice, no oppression, no cruelty, no imperialism.

Try them and give them full process of law. But if they are convicted - and I hate that I sound bloodthirsty - let them hang. I would not feel this way if they had planned an attack on an office building, or even on the Throne itself.

But to target the Peace Tower means to target Canada and our values - our values of kindness and openness and tolerance and diversity and multiculturalism - is too much.

Those that would attack the Tower reject Canada. They have no place among us.

Distracter in Chief

Eugene Robinson gets it right in the Post (Washington, not National). As does Froomkin.

Iraq is a mess. Iran wants a bomb. North Korea has one. The deficit is skyrocketing. New Orleans is gone. The world hates us.

And the singular most pressing thing is the definition of marriage. More important than anything else - it's time to talk Constitutional Amendment.

The arguments as to why this is a solution in search of a problem are so old that I'll not repeat them. But I was incensed at the CNN headline today. I don't remember specifics but it spoke of the "fight against gay marriage."

What FIGHT? I mean, to say there's a fight against gay marriage implies that gay marriage actually exists or might exist, and really, this country's going the OPPOSITE direction. We've LOST. How many states have amendments to their constitution?

[Aside: this is why referenda are so flawed: The point of constitutional bills of rights are to protect the minority from the will of the majority. If you allow a constitutional amendment by ballot, you hand the protection of rights back to the majority, and the constitution becomes nothing more than a statute.]

And to all those who think this is a state-by-state issue, I say this: BULLSHIT. Fine, I accept that I have to be pragmatic, that the coastal states and those that border Canada will have gay marriage and the rest of the country won't. California Republic, baby. But I don't like it, conceptually. When have we in the US ever accepted that civil rights stop at the border between one state and another? Didn't we fight a fucking civil war about that?

I love it: the country that brags to the world about how great it is, is currently debating enshrining discrimination into its constitution, and who it is exactly that can be tortured.

Well fucking done. I hope the fools who voted for this monster are proud of themselves.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Hereditary Elite

I really hate it when Americans go on and on about how the UK is class-based and the US isn't.

Maybe that was the case back in 1782 or whenever. It's not now.

The obscene gap between the poor and the rich here, the increasing lack of social mobility - it exists far more in the US than it does in the UK, or, for that matter, Canada/Australia/NZ - the other remaining monarchies.

And now, they're poised to make it worse. This is like my strange mystification as to why poor people vote Republican. It's marketing: Bush peddles his tax cuts like they help people - everyone remember his "the average tax cut will be $1000." Well, yes. But the median will be $45. So most people think, oh yeah, it's great, the estate tax sucks, even though only 2% of households pay it.

Crazy. The country is run by lunatics.

Lions: 1, Christians: 0

This story just warms my heart. Apparently some guy lowered himself into a lion pit at a zoo, and announced that God would save him, if He exists. Guess not.

Though maybe God was just distracted by what was going on in the Rose Garden.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why won't they leave us alone?

The Gay Marriage thing. Again. Using the Constitution not as a limit on governmental power, but as a limit on personal freedom. Tomorrow, it all gets going. Even though it has no chance of passing, and even though gay marriage isn't exactly blooming around the country, it really looks good to stand up and get all pious about "family values" and sanctity of marriage (though, of course, "sanctity" is a religious term and civil marriage is not religious).

Over at Americablog, they're doing an interesting project to see just how many Republican senators have either divorced, cheated on their wives, etc., - basically to see just how many of those standing up for "family values" and the "sanctity of marriage" are saying "do as I say, not as I do."

And, of course, Mass. has the lowest divorce rate in the country, while all the red states have the highest. Apparently, the red state divorce rate is 27% higher than in blue states.

So we get for the next few weeks to endure the admiable spectacle of a bunch of old, straight men standing up and beating up on a small minority that has no way to defend itself in the Senate, that has only a few Senators who will stand up and say something other than "I'm against gay marriage but against changing the constitution."

Such a fudge by them: they know they have to pander to social conservatives, but can't lose their left-wing base. The reason why this country is going conservative is because Republicans stand up and state their beliefs. Democrats say they agree with the Republicans (gay marriage is bad), but differ as to the means. Where are the true leaders, the people who look forward rather than backwards, the ones who want to expand freedom and justice, rather than limit it?

For our nongay readers, and we hope you are many, it is worth stating just how much of a pain being gay can sometimes be. Example: I live in easily the most liberal city in the country (West Hollywood), surrounded by Los Angeles (itself liberal), in the most liberal state in the country. I work at a deeply liberal law firm. Yet still, in almost every social situation I'm in, I have to stop and assess the gay thing. Can I be out to this person? Will my career suffer if I'm out? I'm meeting a group of people, do I have to hide? Will I get beaten up as I walk home from the bar? Will I lose respect if I'm out? This, also, from someone who's grown up with supportive family, without hardship, with a good education and a job that pays well enough to ignore vast portions of the world and to live where I want to live. Imagine what being gay is like to someone growing up with ultra-conservative parents or in a conservative town, who doesn't have the education and self-confidence to turn the other cheek, who doesn't have a great network of friends for support? I can't imagine how tough that is.

And when, in our halls of power, the powerful stand up and say no, your love isn't equal to ours, your values are bad, your life isn't worth as much, and your love actually is destroying our own, and you're disordered - well, it makes it that much more difficult.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

God it really is Canada Bashing Day

From the Washington Post, this little gem:

It is pretty ridiculous that we spend twice as much per person on health care as citizens of other advanced countries -- the usual example is Canadians, because they are so nearby and so annoying about it -- yet we are less healthy, by standards such as longevity.

Annoying? Huh? Maybe it's just that we seem annoying when we know we're right. The scandal of this system is shocking. I think I've said before, I have, in theory, "excellent" healthcare. Yet I go to a doctor (I have POP) and I find out, oops, not in network, here's your bill.

A friend of mine - totally healthy, 29 year old, nonsmoker, etc - lost his healthcare (i.e. quit jobs), and now can't get insurance because of a MINOR pre-existing condition.

It's here in the US where some people, no matter what, CAN'T get healthcare. It's here where 25% of costs are based on administration and profit (mostly spent fighting claims), compared to 2% in Canada. It's here where 45% don't have healthcare, as opposed to exactly 0% in Canada.

So maybe it's right to be annoying.

(Oh, and for the record, I'm not pathetic and friendless. It's 1115 pm and I'm in my office working, just taking a break from the monotony of what I'm doing . . .)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mexico v Canada

This is hysterical. Hat tip to Wonkette, whom I love to the depths of my heart.

Cuddling other men makes you straight?

Okay, this is just too good. Apparently, to stop being gay, you have to beat a pillow with a racket saying, "Mom! Mom! Why! Did! You! Do! This! To! Me?!" and cuddle another man. What? It apparently restores a father-son relationship. Now, it's not cuddling another older man (how very greek). It's just cuddling another man.

Now, as far as I remember, most men, 'mo or breeder, don't exactly cuddle their fathers after about 2. But as adults? I thought it was enjoying cuddling men that made me gay.

I mean, surely if it's working and the guy's going straight, as soon as he started hugging the other guy, they'd both leap apart, yelling "Dude! That's like totally not cool! You know I'm not gay, man! Let's go to Hooters and pick up chicks, bro, and down some brewskies!"

(Bonus to our commentators: is that how straight people actually talk?)

Me think he doth protest too much

Once again, Sullivan's pretending he's the guy who was right all along.

Here he is, raging against all the anti-gay forces out there in the US.

Well, guess what, Andrew? You helped these people get to power. You defended Bush and the Bushites. You constantly take swipes at the Democratic party.

Oh, sure, maybe suddenly you've had some sort of conversion on the road to Provincetown, but that's too little, too late.

The Republican party's hostility to gay people is not a new thing. It isn't something that suddenly leaked out. The Republicans have been playing footsie with the religious right for a long time.

Sure, the Democrats aren't great, but compare to the Republican party, they're fantastic.

And I'm sorry, I won't be buying any nonsense about how you agree with some Republican policies and therefore you can forgive them for their homophobia. That's like a Jew saying that while he doesn't quite like the Nazi party's program when it comes to Jews, he likes the Nazi emphasis on the family and on physical fitness, not to mention job creation (going to war, hm...), so he'll vote NSDAP anyway.

Don't give me that "never again" nonsense. We are where we are thanks to people like you - who looked at the enemy and embraced him, your wheedling excuses notwithstanding ("closet tolerants" my ass - Bush is lobbying for the amendment). The only political party in the US which has done anything for gays is the Democratic party. The only party with institutionalized discrimination against gays is the Republicans.

Maybe I'm just a one-issue voter. I think that's okay. One-issue voting is silly when it's for something minor. But when one party is staunchly, implacably opposed to your civil rights, I think it's prefectly acceptable - and even necessary - to stand up and vote for your right to be considered a full-fledged, equal member of society whose love is just as good as that of anyone else.


Joe Volpe's comments on the youth donations scandal:

Mr. Volpe, who was attending a leadership fundraiser at an East Side Mario's restaurant in Edmonton last night, said the donations are legal, but he gave the money back because he "wanted to set a different standard."

He said he didn't know about the donation until recently and since the story broke in The Globe he has spoken to the Shechtman children and their mother, Mary.

"Apparently, I had seen the kids when I went to their school and gave a talk during the [federal election] campaign. They went back home and said 'that's a guy we want to help, we want to support.' The parents told them there would be a good time to do that and here is the time. So, I gather they thought about it as a family and they did what they did," he said.

"You might say that's a lot of money for kids. It's not a family that's unaccustomed to having those resources.

"[Now] they feel sorry for me, because someone has made something negative about their interest in being engaged."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christian Violence Hypocricy

I'm sure we've all heard about mad Christians lamenting that there's too much violence on television, in the movies, etc. They think it's bad for our kids. They don't like violence (or smut, of course) anywhere.

Except, of course, when it's against non-Christians. The "Left Behind" series now has a game. Recall that the Left Behind series deals with the end of the world and the anti-christ taking over the world.

So, in the game, marketed to kids, you can play the role of a true believer and blow away all those enemies of Christ: specifically, the UN, gays, muslims, hindus - you name it. Apparently as you kill them, you say "Praise the Lord." Oh and I hear that in the game, possibly also the movie, the Anti-Christ was made from the genetic material of two gay people, pleasingly tarring us with fathering Satan.

Heady stuff.

Is this, then, acceptable to Christians: Preach love and Christ, but then think it's totally okay to send out games for kids where they can blow up basically anyone who's not an evangellical Christian? Teach these kids that it's a-okay to shoot jews, muslims, homos, lesbians, and (presumably given the anti-UN sland), foreigners?

Great - well done Christians. Another step forward to making the world a better place.

God, apparently, doesn't answer prayers

This from Sploid: Apparently some mad Southen woman was praying for her relatives, and as she said, "Amen," her house exploded.

So let's see: Every time something good happens after a mad Christian prays, it's God doing a good thing.

But when God does not-so-good things, well, it's just chance/fate/natural.

Uh hun.

Um, the civil war is over

This article is nuts.

It's a story of those running for the Alabama Supreme Court (aside: this is why judges should never be elected.) Recall that Alabama is also the home of Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore, whose smackdown by the 11th Circuit ("If necessary, the court order will be enforced. The rule of law will prevail.") still gets me hard.

Anyway. He's running for governor, but scarier are those running for the Court. Four of the candidates have this crazy idea that the Alabama Supreme Court (and, indeed, any state court) should not be obligated to follow the Federal Supreme Court when it doesn't want to (in their words, when the U.S. Supreme Court is wrong).

Recall, of course, that this is what the southern savages tried during desegregation - saying that the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown was wrong and that they didn't have to follow it.

Um. I don't think there's a serious legal mind in the country who actually thinks that this view is correct. I did a quick poll here at work, and while of course I work for an ultra-liberal law firm's ultra-liberal office in an ultra-liberal city (well, as ultra-liberal as you can be while representing major oil companies), I didn't find a single person who didn't burst out laughing. Comments ranged from "um, didn't we settle this in the civil war?" to "if Alabama elects them and they turn the state back to the dark ages, who cares?"

The Supreme Court is law - and even though we may not like the decisions, we obey them.

But the message here is very Moore-esque: If you don't like the law, you don't have to follow it.