Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Give Joe a chance"

Linda Diebel at the Toronto Star has been writing profiles of all the Liberal leadership candidates. Of note was her glowing profile on Dion two weeks ago. Some would say 'too glowing' (but we certainly wouldn't!). Well today she proves today that she can write a profile that simultaneously lifts up and buries the profilee. Like say, Joe Volpe. Poor old Joe needs a break from the rabid anti-Italian conspiracy. He claims that the WASP crowd wants to keep him out and have resisted him his whole life. Others suggest that it's not because he's Italian, but because he's just an asshole.

A few choice nuggets:

"It's terribly, terribly unfair. It's absolutely outrageous the way Joe has been pilloried," says Barry Sherman, Apotex CEO and father of four children, one under 18, who contributed money to the Volpe campaign. Sherman describes himself as a wealthy man who wants to help Volpe and says pointedly the money was refunded. "Look," he says, "people like to sling mud. But if anyone did anything improper, it wasn't Joe Volpe. He's a principled person and he had no idea ... he's not in the pocket of the (brand-name pharmaceutical) industry like other politicians."

Nope, brand-name pharma doesn't own Joe! No, he's just in the pocket of the generic pharmaceutical industry! Ahem, I mean, in the pocket of the generic pharmaceutical industry CEO's children.

"Give Joe a chance," says lifelong buddy, Renzo Tanel. "He would make a great prime minister. He cares about people and he has a good idea where Canada should go."

Shudder at the thought.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Great ways to piss off your neighbours

This is fun. Apparently, Focus on the Family lets you buy their books--for free--and send them anywhere. So, for example, you can get this book, "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality" at absolutely zero cost. Send to your friends. Send to your enemies. Go to their homepage, click "resources" on the top left, and shop to your heart's content

The good thing is that it actually costs them. So if we all band together and get them shipping their books to people who will use them as door stops or litter boxes or kindling, that's less money that they'll have to do things like pass amendments.

The best part is that if you read through the selection you'd think that no straights were getting married and in fact gay marriage was actually legal over half the country. In fact, of course, 42 states either have constitutional amendments passed or pending banning it.

Land of the free.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush has read 60 books this YEAR?!

Apparently Dubya has read 60 books . . . this YEAR.

No way. No fucking way. I'm calling TOTAL bullshit on that one.

We're in August, the 8th month. That means he's been reading 7.5 books a month, every month, since January 1. That means one book every FOUR DAYS.

I can understand a book every four days. When I was a grad student in history, I was reading at that rate. For a few weeks at a time. Then I'd stop. At the time, of course, I wasn't, you know, the head of state of a superpower. I wasn't commander in chief of an army that was fighting two wars. I wasn't focused on winning wars on terrorism. Or fixing drowned cities. Or trade talks.

I work pretty hard, but I'd like to think that I have a lot more free time than the President. And right now, if all I did was to read when I wasn't working--no dinners with friends, no going out, no shopping, no cooking, no nothing--I might be able to manage a managable book in four days (I'm also thinking he's not reading John Grisham, given he boasted to Angela Merkel about reading books about George Washington and how he is apparently devouring the works of Camus right now). I might.

But for Dubya to claim he's read 60 books this year alone, that's crap.

If he's had time to read that many books then he should be instantly impeached for being a complete slacker who read books while Baghdad burned.

If he hasn't, he should be impeached for being a liar.

OMG Best Exercise Machine Ad EVER

This is simply too good. As Anna Marie Cox said, "So that's how they maintain their one child policy."

Crazy Bible Thumpers

Can you imagine what the reaction would be in any civilized country if a political candidate said this:

We have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.

Well, that's Katherine Harris (of Bush v. Gore fame) in a recent interview.

And while plenty of politicians in Canada are opposed to gay rights, very few would ever tout their opposition as a strength:

Civil rights have to do with individual rights and I don't think they apply to the gay issues. I have not supported gay marriage and I do not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality.

Um - what part of individual rights for gay people doesn't she get? If individual rights as applied to groups aren't civil rights, then you can replace "gay" with "black" or "latino."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mary Cheh in DC

This is a very welcome sight. For those who actually care about DC politics, Mary Cheh is amazing. She was my criminal procedure professor (easily my favourite class in law school) and downright awesome. She has her own style (always: skirt, blouse, blazer with cuffs rolled up, and a brooch), she's hysterically funny, and more importantly she's really really nice. She was always great to talk to in law school, about life, the universe, and everything generally.

So, Go Mary Cheh!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Evolution? Not for Americans

This chart is great--it's in response to the question of whether the respondent believed that humans were evolved from other animals:

Be Skeptical.

This is a great article.

Money quote:
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time. In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

Well, that was a bit of a firestorm


Who knew that suggesting sensible sercurity could set people off like that (see my post below).

First, the statement that I'm a "bigot" can be dealt with swiftly. That sort of response is typical of the PC set--the unintellectual, knee-jerk reaction that the instant you start characterizing anyone by anything other than the moniker "person," you're a racist. No facts. No logic. No attempt to refute anything. No attempt to explain why it makes sense to stop, say, orchestras from bringing their instruments on board (as reported on As It Happens last night) or to search wizzened grandmothers in wheelchairs. No--you just go for the jugular, the person is a bigot. Well, Ottawa Liberal, I breathlessly await an explanation.

And to Kris, who worries about the slippery slope effects, the answer is pretty straightforward: First, we reject slippery slope arguments all the time, notably that allowing gay marriage won't lead to fathers marrying their sons or women marrying their pet dogs. It's one thing entierly to say that in airport sercurity lines we'll be more attuned to risky classes of people. It's something quite entierly different to say we'll start rounding up anyone remotely middle-eastern looking in the streets and intern them.

And second, there's an even bigger hurdle: Constitutional issues. (I'm speaking from my understanding of American law). It is absolutely positively crystal clear that you cannot stop someone in the street just because he's black/gay/arab/muslim/purple. You cannot stop them without individualized reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, and you cannot detain them without individualized probable cause. Race/religion/class do not provide for individualized probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Period. Sure, in specific cases reasonable suspicion can be manufactured, but not on a wholescale.

That is not the case at an airport. At an airport, all passengers consent to searches--they don't have to board the plane and they have no more right to get on a plane without a search than they do to get into my office without my consent: the condition of boarding is that you consent to a search. Constitutional issues are not implicated. Searching can then be tailored. They can give grannies and babies quick searches, and more thorough searches to those who potentially are greater risk.

I know it's not pretty. I know it's not an ideal situation. But to live in the absurd situation we have now, all in the guise of "anyone could be a terrorist," is nonsense.

It's not like the world's dialogue doesn't acknowledge the problem. We aren't fighting against "people who want to blow up planes, irrespective of their religion or nationality." No. To quote from Thomas Friedman (hardly a right-winger), "the biggest threat to open societies today[is] violent, radical Islam." The papers have been full of the phrase "Islamic fascism" or "radical Islam." The groups that keep trying to blow things up aren't called "Tea-cozy grannies" or "United Church Brotherhood" or "Torah Martyrs Brigade."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PC Hogwash

Okay. Heard on NPR today that certain police chiefs in the UK are saying that airport security needs to be targeted, but that some top Muslim cop says that would be a bad idea because it would alienate the people we need to help combat terrorism.

I'm sorry, but I'm just a little over this nonsense.

The 19 Sept. 11 highjackers: Muslim men.

The London bombers: Muslim men.

The London liquid bombers: Muslim men.

The Spanish bombers: Muslim men.

The USS Cole bombers: Muslim men.

The Bali bombers: Muslim men.

Does anyone else see a pattern here?

But still at the airport we see the nonsense of old ladies having to take off their shoes, mothers with two babies having to take a sip of their baby formula, professional men and women not being permitted their laptops, teenagers being denied their iPods, all so we can maintain the fiction that everyone's a potential terrorist, not just the people who are.

The last time I saw someone blow up a plane in the name of the United Church of Canada, or some fanatic demanding strict adherence to the Thirty Nine Articles of Faith on pain of death (don't be celibate (article 32) or die!!!), or demanding that diapers be put on goats or the shepherd gets his throat cut was . . . well . . . NEVER (even though violating sheep is a real danger in Wales). Sure, during the Inquisition the Church did a lot of nasty things, but we're a bit beyond that in the 21st century now.

And every time some muslim blows something up or tries to blow something up, we get the usual PC hogwash--civic leaders saying it's important not to overreact, various muslim leaders equivocating ("Islam is a religion of peace, but we have to understand that . . ."), the police saying that no, there is no collective guilt.

Bullshit. Let's take some collective responsibility, folks. Next time, rather than ever Imam making some half-baked statement, let's get every last one standing up and saying "No." Let's get EVERY muslim civic leader not just condemning, but going out actively and doing something about it. Not the "Well, we have to understand that when a people are oppressed or degraded . . ."

The first thing it seems muslim leaders do is DISTANCE themselves from terrorists. How about the Germans? There's still a massive sense of collective guilt for things that their grandparents did. I went to high school in Germany and the faults of their forefathers are drilled into their heads, year after year. The Germans take responsibility for the horrors in which their ancestors were shareholders.

Not so the Muslim world. Bombers are always outcasts, they don't represent Islam, we aren't collectively responsible.

I say, no more. I'm over the fact that our governments spaces are now closed to the public because of a few MUSLIM terrorists. I'm over the fact that I have to submit to a ridiculous search at an airport, because of a few MUSLIM terrorists. I'm over the fact that our entire national dialogue has been hijacked by the right thanks to a few MUSLIM terrorists.

If Islam really is a religion of peace, let Muslims help themselves. And meanwhile, let's quit the fallacy that everyone is a possible terrorist. Because really, my 85-year old grandmother isn't. That 2 year old child isn't. The businessman and CEO isn't. My high-school principal mother isn't.

Let's drop the PCism and actually target those who are a real danger.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bush doesn't understand cause and effect

Bush and his lackeys have always been one to go full steam ahead, damning the torpedoes. They make their grand pronouncements, piss off the world, and don't care. Until they have to. As the Times today in an editorial says (in re Freedom Fries):

The renaming also was the embodiment of President Bush’s my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy. A French Embassy spokeswoman gamely told The Associated Press at the time that “we are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues, and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes.” But “freedom fries” was intended to be, and was, a poke in France’s eye. Harassing the French is probably not the wisest course now that America may need their help negotiating a ceasefire in Lebanon.

Exactly. All the countries that Bush has pissed off have memories. Think of Canadians: We've seen how outrageously the US has flaunted NAFTA in regards to softwood lumber. You think we'll forget when it comes time to sign new trade deals?

So the US is stuck in Iraq. It's got new problems in the Middle East. At some point, it's going to need help. You think, given the abuse that all those who were not members of the coalition of the willing got, that the world's going to quickly forgive and forget and help dig the US out?

Fat chance.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Israeli Restraint

All this call for "proportional response" is making me damn sick.

What do you think the US would do if Canada were taken over by, say, Al-Qaida and people started firing rockets at the US from downtown Toronto or the Village or something? You think it wouldn't carpet-bomb Toronto into a sheet of glass, to the howls of praise of every last American?

And Israel, going after terrorists who are firing rockets NOT at military targets but at civilians, happens to kill a few civilians in doing so. Yes, that's tragic. But Israel, unlike Hezbollah, is not specifically targeting civilians. Has anyone stood up and said, "Excuse me, Hezbollah, would you please stop firing rockets at civilians?" No.

Has anyone said, "Excuse me, Hezbollah, would you mind not hanging out in densely populated civilian areas firing rockets at Israel, which you know will provoke a response and which you know will kill your own people?"

What on earth is Israel to do? Hang out while terrorists fire rockets behind human shields? What sovereign nation on earth would be expected to countenance that? The fact that civilians are being killed is because the terrorists specifically intend for them to be killed. If Hezbollah fired rockets from unpoluated areas, no civilians would be killed. Plain and simple.

No one is demanding "proportionality" from Hezbollah - no one is demanding that THEY stop risking civilian lives, that they stop targeting civilians.

Israel's a country surrounded on every side by enemies that take the form of state actors (Syria, Iran, Saudi) as well as nonstate actors (Hezbollah, Whatever-council-of-islamic-jihadi-whatever). It's surrounded by rabid anti-semites who think Jews eat children and drink blood and who believe The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, chapter and verse. And the people who attack it do so behind ramparts made not of defensive fortifications but of populated apartment blocks. And by our calls for "proportionality," we give them free rein to keep doing so.

Musical Praise

Recently I heard an NPR special on a Canadian group called The Duhks. I downloaded them but only this weekend spent any time listening, and to be honest, I'm a little hooked.

They're a nice combo of folksy-blue-grassy music, mixed with some celtic and french folk songs. As one review puts it,

the group manages to cut a wide swath through music history, one that incorporates everything from Irish reels to traditional gospel-blues concoctions while also touching upon the contemporary folk of The Mammals and the reggae-tinted pop of Sting.

They also take a hand at various spirituals, which are pretty cool.

I'd recommend both albums. The later album, Your Daughters and your Sons, is a little more folk-music laden than their debut album, The Duhks, but both equally cool.

So buy them. Tracks I'd recommend if you want to sample include Gene's Machine (Irish reels with an eastern undertone) and Dover Delaware (just nice), as well as the first minute or so of Guiliano's Tune.

More free, my arse--what about the beers?

As I'm sure our (four) regular readers have noticed, I'm not such a fan of the shibboleth of "America is the freest land ever!" Familiar readers (we do love you) will note that I've often pointed to various things which make others in other countries -- freedom to marry, freedom to not get sick, etc.

However, this past week, I was in London for my best mate's wedding (and my meditations on weddings soon) and one critical measure of freedom was suddenly drawn to my attention.

In the UK, you can walk down the street drinking a beer.

If that's not freedom, I don't know what is.