Friday, August 22, 2008

Taking Candy from Babies

Based on various internet sources it would appear that there is something to the allegations that some of the Chinese female gymnasts were under the age of 16. To wit, the IOC is investigating.

Seriously, though. Let's imagine that this girl actually is 14, as all of the evidence I could see on the Interwebs seems to suggest.

Okay, now what?

Are you seriously going to suggest that we find this 14 year old girl who worked her butt off and take back her gold medal? Yes, her tininess probably gave her an advantage. In this care, an unfair advantage. But is that her fault? At 14, we consider most criminal offenders to be minors and not fully culpable. There's a thing called informed consent.

Does she deserve to be punished for what is ultimately the crime of a dictatorial government trying to conquer a ludicrously competitive field in a dangerously over hyped series of athletic events?

I know. If I were the father of the 16 year old girl who worked her butt off to get a silver medal, I'd probably be singing a different tune. Maybe Lisa Simpson can get Bill Clinton to overrule.

There's no pretty way out of this. Technically this girl is probably in the wrong. Technically they should probably take the medal away.

But between the difficulty of proving someone's age (the older passport might be in error as easily as the new one might be forged ... and you can't cut people's legs off and count the rings) and the sheer ugliness of taking a gold medal from a child ... I don't see how the IOC could ever make a ruling against the current standings.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

If Hallmark Can Create Holidays ...

Most of the "holidays" that we celebrate aren't very traditional. I don't think Father's Day really existed until Hallmark invented it as an excuse to sell greeting cards. Following that came Grandparents' Day, Secretary's Day and a host of other things.

Simply by making greeting cards celebrating a nonexistent event, Hallmark brings the event in to existence. Hallmark may be the most powerful force for social change in the United States.

It's like that whole thing with Coke and the modern image of Santa Claus.

Why is this important?

Because Hallmark just started making gay wedding cards.

I think the debate is over.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harper's Ploy: Destroy Arts to Force Election

It's about the election he wants.

The Tories were the ones who brought in the idea of fixed federal election dates. They charged that previous governments had manipulated election dates in order to secure themselves the best outcomes. With the election spending scam going through the Ethics Committee, the Tories want to have an election now. They've stalled, stonewalled and filibustered as much as they can and they need to have an election before the amount of cheating they did sees the light of day.

They don't want to force one themselves, as they would appear to be the hypocrites that they actually are. Harper tried to declare that Parliament is "dysfunctional" but this isn't gaining traction. The only dysfunctional parts are the committees being disfigured by the Tories themselves.

They can't seem to get the Liberals to call an election. The Liberals would rather wait for the Conservative scandal to hit the papers and disgust the people. It's a lot like the sponsorship scandal ... except that the Liberals were open to having an inquiry and the Tories aren't.

So Harper has to do something to motivate the Liberals to call an election.

And the solution is to trash arts funding.

It's so easy and it accomplishes two things at once. First of all, it puts pressure on the Liberals to call an election lest they lose their own supporters who expect them to defend these various arts programs. Second, it plays well to the conservative base - those social conservatives who assume that any government money going toward the "arts" is just being spent on something gay or anti-Jesus (a drawing of a gay Jesus being their worst nightmare).

Yes, indeed. A nice trick to play. I wonder if it will work.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Politicians Say the Darndest Things

In response to the threats of retaliation from the Taliban, we have some very exciting comments from our politicians.

Peter McKay was disgusted:
This letter is a disgusting attempt to justify the deliberate killings of innocent civilians. There is no justification for these killings by the Taliban

That's true, but entirely beside the point. The Taliban are going to kill Canadian civilians in response to our killing of them and the civilians near them. Of course it's disgusting. You're fighting evil, theocratic despots. What precisely were you expecting?
Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of that country.

Well, that's simply false. Hamid Karzai and his bunch were put in place by a loya jirga acting under the expressed wishes of the American government. There was no general election, just a sort of "council of warlords". Democracy it is not.

Harper's communication direction tells us that this is "Taliban propaganda" which is also untrue. "Propaganda" is taken to mean "lies told for a political goal". The Taliban aren't lying, they're just promising to kill our civilians if we keep fighting in Afghanistan. "Taliban threats" would be more accurate. But maybe the intricacies of English aren't their strong suit.

The NDP chimed in with this from Dawn Black:
Of course, it's a very chilling situation and a rather dramatic example of the deteriorating security situation. There can be no justification, ever, for killing innocent aid workers.

Of course there are justifications for killing innocent people. We justify it all the time with all sorts of excuses (collateral damage, caught in the crossfire, human shields, bomb the village to save it, better dead than red). I can even imagine some really, really strange circumstances where killing an innocent person might be warranted in very specific situations (say, a virulent disease outbreak).

Everyone here is missing the point: are we willing to die to bring freedom to the oppressed people of Afghanistan? Are we willing to make sure that that's what we're doing in Afghanistan?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's Worth Dying for in Afghanistan?

I'm sure we've all seen this nastiness from the Taliban:

... if your government continues a reversed policy, the Afghans will be obliged to kill your nationals, in revenge for their brothers, their sisters, and their children ... Afghanistan looks at all actors that are established in the interest of America with an eye of hostility ... Therefore, you have to convince your government to put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, so that the Afghans are not killed with your hands and so that you are not killed with the hands of the Afghans.

I don't think I even have to look at what any of teh blogging tories are writing to know the sentiment the right wing will be expressing. It's guaranteed to be of the "never surrender, go get 'em" direction.

What's being said, parsed simply word for word, is perfectly reasonable. Stop killing them and they'll stop killing us. Our forces have been demonstrably killing their civilians and so they've begun killing ours. It's evil, but so are the Taliban. I'm only surprised it took this long. Spain got hit a long time ago.

But there's a price in walking away. We know what the Taliban are doing to their own people - especially their women. We knew about this long before September 11, naturally, but the media only directed the general public's attention to it then, so effectively no one cared beforehand.

So what? Should we be fighting for the freedom of the women of Afghanistan?

A long time ago, when the patriotic nonsense reached a fever pitch in late 2001, a reader of my column warned me that my "tune would change when bombs started falling on Ottawa". I pointed out to him, responding to his Rumsfeldian flourishes, that the Taliban had no reason to bomb Canada. We'd never done anything to them. If they were truly in league with Al Qaeda (which wasn't all that clear at the time, given that the Taliban had offered to turn over Bin Laden) the people they had attacked were the military, political and economic leaders of the United States. This had little to do with the purported religious motivations of Al Qaeda or with any issue in regard to those guys up in Canada.

Well, now they have a reason to attack us, don't they? We've sent our soldiers over to their country and our orders have led to the blowing up of a few weddings. Plenty of people here say that they deserve it. After all, they're sheltering the Taliban, aren't they? Well, no, they're living in a ridiculously crude, theocratic dictatorship and so have no choice in the matter.

We, however, are living in a democracy. That comes with a greater responsibility. We, not our soldiers or our military leaders, are responsible for what our nation does. That means that every one of us had better be deciding, right now, what price we are willing to pay to set free the women of Afghanistan.

And if we do decide that we are willing to take that risk, the risk of retaliation, then we had better whip our politicians and military brass in to line and make sure they are delivering - ONLY delivering - freedom to those oppressed people.

We had better make sure that they aren't just there to deliver natural gas and oil to India and Pakistan.

Because none of us are willing to die for that.

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