Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mealy-mouthed Traitor

That's the only phrase I can think of to describe our Prime Minister.
“The allegations are not being made – I hope – against Canadian soldiers,” Mr. Harper said in a year-end interview with the French-language television network TVA. “… Our diplomats reformed the transfer system. We are speaking here of a problem among Afghans. It's not a problem between Canadians and Afghans. We're speaking of problems between the government of Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan. We are trying to do what's possible to improve that situation, but it's not in our control.”

First of all, no one is accusing the soldiers of anything. That apparently can't be said enough times to sink in to the thick skulls of our leading cabinet ministers. The suspicions and accusations are against the cabinet ministers for giving immoral and illegal orders.

Second, what a cowardly way to approach to the issue.

A "problem among Afghans".

Let me tell you, Mr. Harper, how this works. I shove someone at the top of a flight of stairs. As a consequence, he falls down the whole flight and breaks both his legs. Guess what? I'm legally responsible for his broken legs. You know why? Because physical damage is a reasonably predictable consequence of shoving him down those stairs. If I went before a judge and said, "All I did was shove him near the top. The rest of the problem is between him and the stairs", the judge would either laugh at me or declare me psychotic and have me institutionalized.

Of course, the difference between me and you, Mr. Harper, is that I can't violate the law and put black magic marker over all of the evidence. Boy, that must be convenient.

No, Mr. Harper, we don't accept your latest ignorant argument. We've seen the reports from Amnesty, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and from Richard Colvin. We've heard that soldiers had actually photographed it happening. We - the entire nation - are slowly becoming aware that you knew what was going on.

And regardless of the evidence, you kept our nation in the immoral position of handing over more prisoners to be tortured.

If those reports were available to you, and it certainly looks like they were, torture was a reasonably predictable consequence of the actions take by your government. And that would make the bunch of you war criminals.

Best of luck at the trial.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Torture Really Means to Canada

Occasionally, in the middle of all of the politicking and nonsense that goes on, one person makes a simple statement. There aren't often big words in this statement. It's rarely meant to be taken as some grand pronouncement.

But somehow, it sums up exactly what the problem is.

Today, I found that statement. It was in a letter written by Richard Colvin, the much abused diplomat who blew the whistle on the government's mishandling of prisoners detained by Canada.

It's not a Colvin quote, though. It's Colvin quoting someone else.
One detainee told Canadian monitors that at first, he did not want to tell them about having been tortured because Canadians had been responsible for his detention and therefore he did not trust them.

Remember the good old days? Remember when we thought of ourselves as the world's peacekeepers? Remembered when we were well thought of throughout the world? Remember those days?

Those days are gone. Now people who are being tortured are afraid to run to us for fear that they will be tortured even more.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Freedom of Speech vs. Bullying

This decision sounds wrong.

One student made a youtube video denouncing another girl as a spoiled brat and a slut.

The victim, crying, complained to a teacher. The school took it up and had the offender suspended for two days.

The case was brought to a judge, who wrote the following:
“To allow the school to cast this wide a net and suspend a student simply because another student takes offense to their speech, without any evidence that such speech caused a substantial disruption of the school’s activities, runs afoul [of the law],’’ judge Stephen V. Wilson wrote in a 60-page opinion.

“The court cannot uphold school discipline of student speech simply because young persons are unpredictable or immature, or because, in general, teenagers are emotionally fragile and may often fight over hurtful comments,’’ he wrote.

That sounds well and good. But this isn't merely "taking offense" by one student. This is meant to attack and humiliate another student. And no one is preventing the bullying classmate from posting more screeds on the Internet. What the school is doing is making a decision regarding how students are to treat one another. Stepping outside those bounds is grounds for suspension.

I'm going to guess the judge has never been a teacher. Keeping discipline in the classroom can be difficult. The school has a right and a responsibility to keep the classroom an open and peaceful forum where every student feels welcome. This judge has now decided that schools don't have that right. In other words, even if the school knows that cruel bullying is going on, the school can't do anything about it because that would be infringing on the bully's right to be cruel.

I've said it before and I know I'll say it again: the rules are designed to protect bullies. That's because bullies are the ones with the aggressive natures that get them in to the position where they can make rules.

This situation is no different from many others throughout schools in North America.

h/t to Freddy Stubbs democratic underground.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Presumption of Guilt

You know what, Mr. Harper? Mr McKay? Mr. O'Connor?

I'm going to go right ahead and assume you're guilty; that you're all war criminals. That's right. I'll say it. I'm going to right ahead and assume that you're lying, untrustworthy crooks guilty of heinous crimes and deserving of jail time.

I know what you're saying: innocent until proven guilty. That's the letter of the law, right? That's how things work in this country.

Well, apparently things have changed.

You see, there's this 15 year old kid that got arrested in Afghanistan. He's been in jail for most of a decade now without a trial. You haven't even tried to repatriate him. You just went and ahead and assumed he was guilty.

Then there was that lady, I think she was in Kenya, trying to get back to Canada. You assumed that she was an impostor and forced her to prove she was innocent. You didn't assume her innocence.

There was another guy that you let the Sudanese torture. He had to get holed up in our embassy in Sudan for months before you let him come home, even after the Sudanese had tortured him and determined - under torture - that he wasn't guilty of anything. What more could a guy do?

So you know what? If you're doing away with the presumption of innocence for other Canadians, I don't see why we should presume you're innocent.

Especially since you're hiding something. Absence of evidence is, after all, absence of evidence. I'm sure you'd agree if, say, the Liberals had tried to put black magic marker over all kinds of documents related to something like the sponsorship scandal.

And that brings me to my last point. Because the Liberals were crooked too. I won't even argue. The Liberals stole my nation's money, and that made me angry.

But you, you sons of bitches, you've stolen my nation's honour. And that makes me furious.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

You're Way Too Fat

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Kind of offensive, isn't it?

What if I sat next to you in a cafeteria, presuming us to be previously acquainted, and told you that you were too fat, that you were eating too much unhealthy food? What if I told you that the sight of you was so revolting that you should immediately lay off the bacon and the salad dressing? What if I started counting the rolls of fat on your stomach or the number of your chins? What if wrinkled my nose at you and told you to get some exercise?

I think we could all agree that every one of those statements would be considered offensive in our society. For whatever reason, much like the 1970s era taboo against telling smokers to frak off, we’re supposed to dance around fat people as if there’s nothing wrong with them.

But not skinny people.

You can say whatever you want about skinny people, especially children, especially if you’re related to them. Try these out for size.

“You’re too skinny. Eat more food.”
“Oh my goodness! You poor thing. Do they feed you at home? You look sick. Eat some more.”
“Look at you! I can count your ribs.”
“He’s so tiny. Have you taken him to the doctor?”
“Someone should pour fertilizer in your shoes, little guy.”

Not nearly as taboo, are they? Why is it you can ‘count my ribs’ but not your own rolls of fat? Where do we get this assumption that fat people have fragile egos and we need to dance around them? Where do we get this idea that skinny kids are expected to suck up all of the insults and destruction of their self esteem? Oh, don’t let the fat, unhealthy people have negative self images, but let’s all go to town on the healthy, skinny kid. You can trash his emotions all you want. Drive him right in to the ground.

You know what? The next person who insults a skinny kid is getting an earful from me.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Yahoo Embarrassed

You would be embarrassed, too.

Yahoo has a list of services it provides to government agencies. (warning: that list may be taken down at some point). They'll provide your emails, account information, IP address you've logged in from etc. etc. And each service has a price.

This list was leaked from inside Yahoo and is now available online.

Yahoo has decided to use copyright law to make Cryptome take the document down.

This seems, to me, to be an unbearable stretch of copyright law. Copyright was intended to protect authors from having people copy their works and resell them without paying royalties. Copyright law was not intended to let corporations keep their businesses secret.

The telling point comes in part of the takedown notice as quoted at
“Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,” the company added.

Paraphrasing: Don't tell the truth about us. Our customers won't like it.

If the truth is going to impair your reputation, you really shouldn't be complaining about the messenger. But then, Yahoo is a corporation, so what else should one expect?

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Universal Completion

There is a group of people that thinks the world will end in 2012. Some people believe in such end dates and the idea that the universe will stop existing or fall in to some kind of Armageddon/Rapture at some predestined point in time (I think the JWs had it pegged in 1925, then 1974, 1978 and some time in the 90s).

I am not one of those people.

I believe, rather, that a certain number of events must occur and a certain number of objects must be fashioned. When all of those events have happened and all of these objects exist, only then can the universe close itself up and cease to be.

Some of these things can be predicted in advance: for example, I don't see how the universe can close up until we have a sensible theory of quantum gravity and a Crash Test Dummies cover of The Gambler.

Other things, like a fully automatic, tripod mounted, belt fed Nerf machine gun, could not be predicted in advance. Nonetheless, in hindsight, such a thing is absolutely pivotal to finishing our universe.

Today I discovered something just like the Nerf machine gun. Something that, in retrospect, now seems absolutely, in a blisteringly obvious way, crucial to any declaration that the universe has fulfilled its potential and can just quit now because there's nothing else worth doing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, "Shakira covering Back in Black":

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Wait Just a Minute, Mr. Hillier

General, I'm having a hard time understanding your statements about what you knew about torture in Afghanistan.

On the one hand, we have these quotes from General Hillier:
The former general, who was Canada's top soldier during Colvin's posting in Afghanistan in 2006-07, said he has reread all of the diplomat's widely circulated reports to ensure that Colvin's alleged concerns did not escape his notice the first time around.

"There was simply nothing there," Hillier told a House of Commons committee on Afghanistan. "There was nothing there to warrant the intervention of the chief of defence staff."

So the General is telling us that there was never anything in those reports that amounted to torture. As far as he knew, there was no torture taking place. Nada. No need for anyone to take action.

Then what's this stuff doing in his book:

Rick Hillier, when he was Chief of the Defence Staff, says he kept his political masters fully informed about the harsh conditions of detainees in Afghan prisons, even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cabinet ministers claim they were told nothing.

In Spring 2007, The Globe and Mail reported on allegations of abuse of detainees in Afghan prisons. Mr. Hillier acknowledged that was to be expected.

"Their judicial and prison systems were still somewhat nascent, and there was always some risk that abuse could occur," he wrote.

... "we lost confidence that basic, responsible measures were in place to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners."

Throughout the process, Mr. Hillier writes, the federal government was kept fully informed of the military's handling of prisoners, which contradicts statements from the Prime Minister's Office.

So if we put that all together, there was nothing that made General Hillier worry about torture happening, and of course he kept the politicians in Ottawa informed of the torture.

In other words, if I may paraphrase: "I was unaware that a buck needed passing, but I passed the buck right quick."

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai's Debt: A Proposal

From the Globe and Mail:
"the emirate revealed this week it was asking for a six-month reprieve on paying its bills."

I say, "No problem, Dubai. We can work together on this.".

First of all, you can have six months with no payments on your $60 billion debt.

There will be a 5% administrative fee of $3 billion dollars.

Collection agents will be monitoring you for the next six months, calling you at all hours of the night to remind you that you're a dead beat.

Your interest rate will be 28.5% for the next six months, but as long as you pay back all $60 billion on the billing date (please allow three days for electronic transactions) you will only have to pay the administrative fee.

Failure to ensure that we receive all $60 billion by the due date will result in a charge of six months of 28.5% interest on the entire $60 billion (not just the unpaid portion), compounded monthly. The interest rate on any unpaid portion after that date will be 35.7%, compounded daily, in addition to a monthly 5% administrative fee on any unpaid portion.

Like I said: I'm sure we can work this out in a fair manner.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shorter Hillier: The Dead Didn't Tell Me

From CP and Globe and Mail:

"Hillier told a special Commons committee Wednesday that the reports by Richard Colvin in 2006 wouldn't have been passed to him because they contained only second-hand information"


I suppose that, if a guy were killed through torture, Hillier would demand that the dead guy come forward and say so himself. These things are second hand by nature. The question is whether or not all of the second hand reports are corroborating.

He also finds it unrealistic that all detainees are tortured in Afghanistan. He says he would disregard any report that made that claim and that Colvin's report made that claim. "How ludicrous a claim is that?"

I guess it is ludicrous unless you listen to those bleeding hearts at Amnesty International.

"Reports of torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest are so widespread in detention centres ... that Amnesty International wants NATO troops in Afghanistan to stop handing prisoners over to authorities there."

Frankly, I can't give a fig over Hillier. I don't care to go after people in the military. They were put in a terrible position and given few options. I'm after the bastards, Liberal and Conservative, who put them there in the first place and have kept them there since. I'm after the ministers who knew - or should have know if they were reading their memos - that torture was taking place. I'm after the people who gave the orders to let our nation continue to be an accessory to that torture.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

They Ought To Push a Law Against Premarital Sex

Seriously. A Congressman in the U.S. was (not quite) excommunicated because he took the position that abortion ought to remain legal.

Church asks Kennedy to forego Communion.

In case you're not a Christian, here's how it works: symbolically eating Jesus gets you in to heaven; not symbolically eating Jesus means you can't go to heaven; if you're Catholic, it's not symbolic, you're really eating Jesus. Communion is where you eat a cracker and pretend really, really hard that it's Jesus.

So the Catholic Church is upset that Kennedy supports abortion rights and wants to keep him from eating Jesus because the Catholic Church thinks abortion is murder and murder is a sin.

There's a problem, though. (Okay, there are lots of problems, but let's focus on just one).

What if all the Congresspeople simply didn't pass any legislation pertaining to abortion? What if no bills were ever even raised? Wouldn't the Church have to excommunicate all of the Catholic legislators for the sin of not even trying?

I'd think so, just in the name of ethical consistency (not the Church's strong suit, I admit).

The Church also believes that premarital sex is a sin. Should not the Church also be cracking down on any Congressperson who isn't actively trying to pass bills to ban premarital sex?

I don't see that happening though. Know why?

Because it would be stupid, that's why, and people don't like being laughed at.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Evil Muslims: What the Media Won't Tell You!

I got in to this discussion about the Fort Hood killings. Apparently the media are hopelessly remiss in not telling us how the Islam is the religion of evil. Heck, just look at the Koran (or Qu'ran, but let's not get all "literate")! Evil!

Sure, whatever. I have no doubt that, being a religion, it's full of hateful stuff: genocide; murder; rape; whatever. I can say the same thing about the Christian bible and that whole "Judeo-Christian" philosophy that some people think exists.

So why doesn't the media tell us how evil Islam is?

Well, first of all, it does. Second of all, it does tone it down a bit. There are two reasons for this

1) We've been trained to have a completely unreasonable reticence about criticizing religion. "Hm, a fourteen year old girl is pregnant and claims to be a virgin ... that's, um, totally reasonable." Somehow, it's acceptable for religious people to spout off the most ridiculous notions and it's taboo for the rest of us to call them on it.

2) The United States already has a lot of simmering anti-muslim attitude. Remember on September 12 when Sikhs were getting beaten up? Double-plus ignorance with a backflip, Batman.

The problem is not Islam or Christianity or Judaism or any other religion. The problem is that the people who devote themselves to these religions do so and abrogate their own moral filters. What do I mean?

The bible says to kill homosexuals. Do you? No, you don't.
The bible says to kill witches. Do you? No, you don't.
The bible says not to wear mixed fabrics. Do you? All the time.

See how that works? If your religious text tells you to do something completely stupid and immoral, you ignore it. You still call yourself Jewish, Muslim or Christian, but you don't obey the stupid, immoral rules. There's a bit of cognitive dissonance, but you can live with that. You've been trained to believe that your religion is right, but you have a moral centre which prevents you from blanking out.

Some people don't have that moral centre. Some people blank right out and do whatever their priest, imam or rabbi tells them their holy book says. Go smash a plane in to a building. Drive Magog and Gog out of the Middle East. Seize the Promised Land. Help the Jews seize the Promised Land so Jesus can return.

All of those examples are stupid and immoral and yet many, many people support the stupidity and immorality. That's what religion does. It tells you to obey without thinking. And that's where I disagree that humanism falls in with other religions. If a humanist leader told his followers to strap on suicide bombs, he would be turned over to a psychiatric hospital.

So rant on all you want about the evils of Islam. Hell, I might even agree with you on some of the finer points. But really, there's nothing especially evil about it that I can't find in any other mainstream religion.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Those Awful New Atheists

Frank Schaeffer, former fundamentalist, is angry about the "New" Atheists, who have a level of fundamentalism that he feels is on the level of Pat Robertson (lesbians caused 9/11) and Ted Haggard (anti-gay rights gay hypocrite).

The leaders of this movement make loud, repeated, and bold claims about atheism being better and more moral, more ethical, and a vastly improved alternative to religion.

The difference between the bold claims of atheists and the bold claims of christians is that the atheists can actually back theirs up. The christians have a book that advises wholesale slaughter of enemies and their children and the willingness to sacrifice one's own son to please one's deity.

Atheists can actually point to a thing called "humanism" for guidance in moral matters.
If we are to dismiss Christianity and other religions partly because of the likes of Oral Roberts, Ted Haggard, and their shenanigans -

You may as well stop right there. I don't dismiss Christianity because of the immoral acts of its followers. I dismiss it because a) it's factually incorrect and b) it encourages immorality. Whether or not atheists are mean people has nothing to do with whether they're right. And since atheism has no dogma, you can't claim that it has a dogma that causes atheists to be immoral. The argument doesn't wash, so don't bother.

Mostly Schaeffer seems to be annoyed that atheists are declaring their opinions stridently, selling t-shirts with those opinions printed on them, and getting other people to stop following religions.

Schaeffer goes on for a long time about all of Richard Dawkins' sins, but none of them seem to me to be on the level of the divorce from moral reality that comes from adhering to the doctrine of a religion. There's nothing in my appreciation of Richard Dawkins (or any other atheist's appreciation) that would lead us to obey Dawkins if he were to tell us to - for example - smash a plane in to a building, shoot a gynecologist, deny condoms to starving, diseased people or blame a terrorist act on completely unrelated gays and lesbians or women wearing pants.

That's just not our thing. You see, atheism relies on reason.

In a nutshell:

If Richard Dawkins becomes demented and tries to get his followers to do something vile or insane, they will balk. Can you say that for the followers of Pat Robertson and Ted Haggard? No, you can't.

h/t to the PZ.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

That's A Lot Of Credulity

I mean, wow.

This is a lot like that time I was traveling through Chicago and overheard an American soldier in O'Hare airport tell his compatriot, "We saved their asses in world war II, why ain't they helping us in Iraq!?"

I mean, sure, I knew that this sentiment existed, but it's still a shock to hear it expressed.

But this particular thread is full of ignorant, naive people claiming to have experienced ghosts. Now I know that Huffington Post is a gathering place for all kinds of woo, from the anti-vaccination crowd to homeopaths, but it's still powerfully strange to see so many of these people in one place. It's enough to make me fear for humanity.

There are no ghosts. There's never been any convincing evidence for ghosts. They either turn out to be the result of pranksters (think "crop circles"), the result of dreams or hallucinations (especially the night-time experiences) or outright fraud (the medium who kicks the table). No one has ever presented any evidence that could withstand the light of scientific examination.

I know. The pro-ghost faction are now going to say I'm closed-minded. I'm too skeptical. "Science doesn't know everything" or "Science use to think 'x', you know!" where 'x' is some old belief that has since been corrected. Of course science doesn't know everything, but it is the best technique we have for examining positive claims.

You claim that ghosts exist. You claim that they frequent certain places. So we examine those places for the signs you claim to see. And we find nothing.

Now realize you've been credulous and naive and find something better to do with your time.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Got You Now, You Evil Lying Bastards

Got you good.

The only question is if the public will care.

Will we care about the fact that our government is made up of evil, lying, self-serving bastards who were a party to torture and crimes? Will we care as much about morals as we did about the petty dollars and cents involved in the sponsorship scandal?

I hope so.
Rick Hillier, when he was Chief of the Defence Staff, says he kept his political masters fully informed about the harsh conditions of detainees in Afghan prisons, even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cabinet ministers claim they were told nothing.

Evil. Lying. Bastards.

I mince no words. Not now. Not in this.

The "Harper government" told every enemy of Canada that it's okay to treat our soldiers as we treated our enemy's soldiers. That's what they're doing. They're taking away our moral high ground and endangering our soldiers. And they're responsible for torturing human beings.
"There are hundreds if not thousands of documents, reporters, memos, advice that come through all departments," Mr. MacKay told reporters outside the House of Commons.
"The fact that one report or a series of reports weren't read by a minister or a deputy minister shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone."

Condoleezza much, Peter? I know you hung around with her a bit, so this might seem nostalgic for you:

"I believe the memo was entitled 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside U.S.'."

Nothing to worry about there, obviously.

We're done with you people. We're done with your lying, your discrimination, your war-mongering, your America-envy, your lethal deregulation. We're done with you.

I only hope that my estimation of my fellow citizens' morals is accurate and they've seen enough to be done with you, too.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Police Officers Are Perfect

In fact, they're inhuman machines of perfection who never, ever allow their emotions to prevent them from acting in the exactly perfect, moral, legal manner in which they've been trained.

Or so the spokesman for the Ontario Police College would have you believe:
A spokesman said officers are trained to handle arrests in a professional manner, regardless of circumstance.

"The presence or absence of cellphone recording or other recording equipment is not relevant," the spokesman said.

That's right. Unlike the rest of us human beings, police officers behave exactly the same way whether you're watching them or not. And they never, ever lie about it either.

Police officers are amazing.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Sigh. The "Domino" Effect?

Retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie has some advice on Afghanistan. "Don't leave, because the commies ... er, the Taliban will spread."

They'll take over Pakistan, apparently, and seize the nuclear arsenal. This would cause the whole word to explode, starting with India and spreading to Russia and China.

You'll have to pardon me if don't jump at this. This was the same crap they peddled in Vietnam and all that did was get a lot of people killed. The Taliban were - globally speaking - harmless religious idiots who mostly tortured their own people (especially their women). Much to everyone's surprise, bombing the country did not improve this situation. The Taliban are not Al-qaeda and, as MacKenzie admits, would not welcome Al-qaeda back.

MacKenzie's major argument is that the Taliban would be frighteningly unstable at the helm of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While I'm sure that it is frightening, it might do us well to remember this quote from guy who was in charge of the world's largest nuclear arsenal for eight years running:
“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

Yeah, that was Bush.

So even the craziest religious fanatics, in charge of the world's largest supply of nukes, don't use them. Even assuming the Taliban could get hold of Pakistan's nukes, which is a lot of assuming, there's no reason to assume they'd be stupider or more fanatical than George Bush was.

Sorry, General, I'm not buying it.

We went in to Afghanistan to secure a natural gas and oil pipeline, despite the lies told to the soldiers and the citizens of Canada. We're staying there to continue to secure that pipeline, despite the new, deceptive rationale you're peddling.

Bring our soldiers home, now, and stop trying to deceive us.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Banning Burqas? No.

No. That's not Canada's job.

I agree that the burqa is a backwards, ancient, misogynistic piece of clothing. I agree that it places the responsibility for sexuality on a woman rather than sharing that responsibility.

I agree with pretty much every feminist who says the burqa is a bad idea and that the world will be a better place when women don't feel obliged to wear it - either out of religious need, fear of punishment or to protect themselves from the eyes of potential rapists.

But we're not going to make a law against it. Forget it. Even at the behest of progressive Muslims, we're not going to outlaw it.

Canada is a a free country. You wear what you like as long as it isn't dangerous. Until we have giant burqa crime-sprees there's no need to outlaw burqas as a security risk. Society has no right or reason to interfere here.

The best quote is the simplest one, that comes at the end of the article.
[Mr. Elmasry] believes those women should have the freedom to decide whether they wish to cover their faces, and that a ban would limit freedom of expression.

It's not for you and me to decide.”

You can close the case right there.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Prostitution: Let It Be

When the issue of prostitution comes up, I have to be consistent and apply the same logic that I apply to abortion: it’s her body; it’s her choice. If a woman (and it's mostly women) chooses – freely chooses – to sell sex, then she should be able to do so.

Society can intervene. I don’t want to mince words here. If some obvious and gigantically disastrous outcome were a direct result of prostitution, I could see that the rest of us would have a voice. You can’t run your prostitution outfit where it’s likely to attract minors. You can’t recruit prostitutes with drugs and alcohol. You have the same zoning restrictions that apply to everyone else.

But as it is, the disastrous outcomes are entirely on the side of Canada’s present set of laws which try to confuse and befuddle prostitution in to non-existence, but fail miserably. These laws only serve to force prostitutes in to the most dangerous situations. By outlawing safe forms of communicating for the purposes of prostitution and by prohibiting “bawdy” houses, women are forced out in to the streets, unprotected against unscrupulous customers

But the Crown wants you to believe something:
They also contend that prostitution is inherently degrading and unhealthy…

That’s a lot like saying that homosexuality is inherently unhealthy because homosexuals often get beaten up and set on fire. The problem in that case is society’s attitude. In the case of prostitution, it’s the laws that make it dangerous.

Laura Holland, of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, tells us:
“If you view prostitution as violence against women, as we do, you understand you can't make violence safer”

In order to view prostitution as inherently violent, we would have to view sex as inherently violent, view purchasing things as inherently violent or imagine that the two somehow magically become violent when tied together. The violence can be all but eliminated if we choose to make it safe. That’s the whole point.

In a way, that too makes me think of abortion. If you look at the horrific results of illegalizing abortions (namely: various home-abortion techniques) and you look at the horrific results of street prostitution (namely: beatings and serial killings), you can see the similarity.

And lastly, even if it were a good idea to stop prostitution, there remains one simple fact: we can’t.

We’ve tried it for thousands of years. Every force of logic, religion, social custom, physical punishment (up to and including death) has been tried. Nothing prevents the kind of demand that the sex drive brings from finding a willing supplier. There’s no point trying to stop it. All we’re doing is hurting people – mostly poor women.

It’s time to grow out of our puritanical, religious roots and start applying reason and logic to this profession. It’s time to respect the people involved as human beings – even if you don’t agree with them – and let them do what they want.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Catholics Fire Transgendered Teacher

Of course it's wrong to fire someone for that.

It's also wrong for a public institution to fire people for:
a) living with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage
b) being gay
c) not going to church often enough
d) being the member of the wrong kind of church
e) not having your children baptized Catholic

But as far as I can tell, the permission that the province has granted the Catholic Church to control a publicly funded education system includes the permission to discriminate in hiring and firing practices.

They can discriminate against you and you have no recourse.

The problem isn't the Church. I expect ignorant, deluded, power-hungry idiots to behave this way just to avoid the cognitive dissonance of having reason and logic invade their rose-tinted bubble.

The problem is that we allow them to control public education and allow them to educate people on our dime. If we continue to allow this, everything they do is in our name. If we continue to fund them, their cruelties, discriminations and other abuses become our fault.

End this stupid farce.

Take the power of public education away from the Church. Take away their funding.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bank Woes: Quantum Mechanics vs. Nanotech

Seriously, the banks are complaining because of the rules being imposed on them for credit card statements.

The only question is: should I play my Quantum State violin or my nanotechnology violin? Which one is smaller?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

We're Winning

The Catholic Church is closing three churches in Ottawa.

I won't pretend I'm jumping with glee or anything, just smiling and nodding in appreciation of a population that is slowing wising up to reality.

Of course we're also getting in to more "New Age" nonsense to backfill for the people who apparently have some kind of supernatural void when religion is taken away, and it does lead to the death of innocents occasionally, but closing churches will always make me hopeful.
“When I was a kid, you never missed a weekend church service. You just had to be there. Today there are hardly any kids going to church. Families used to have six or seven kids, but not anymore.”

Well, that really tells the whole story, doesn't it?

The church used to work pretty hard at opposing birth control; hard enough that their parishioners really didn't use birth control. By 1982, 91% of Catholics were actually okay with using birth control. In 2005, in the U.S. 75% of Catholics felt the Church should change its position. The Church won't, naturally. And now the demographic is playing out. People are having two or three kids instead of seven or eight.

Worse yet is the tendency in modern times to reduce the strictness of child raising. Children, even at very young ages, are not forced to go to church. They're given the choice. And a lot of them say, no, I'd rather sleep in.

Quite simply, the Catholic Church no longer has the frightening stranglehold of "The Devil Will Get You" that it used to have and its parishioners have wandered in to rationality.

It's a lot like third world countries, really. If we would just stop propping up crazy right-wing dictators, they actually do quite well all by themselves. By the same token, former Catholic families quickly become non-religious if they aren't constantly brainwashed.

Score one for the good guys.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Horrors of Socialism: An Open Letter to Americans

I want to write now directly to the American people. I want to warn our neighbours to the south about the horrors of adopting a Socialist system. I want to tell them about the horrific nature of things they can’t understand. I want them to know the consequences of electing Barack Obama.

First of all, you will be surprised to see how the insidious tendrils of Socialism will penetrate to every facet of life. In Canada, we have Socialized nearly everything in the name of, “quality of life” and “health” and “equality”.

For instance, unlike everywhere in America where people rightfully pay to have their houses doused with water when they catch on fire, the Socialist Fire Department of Canada comes to house and business fires and puts them out. Sometimes they take up to ten minutes to reach the scene and, in a move destructive to the righteous philosophy of capitalism, many of the firefighters are volunteers.

I know. Earth shattering isn’t it? Take a minute to catch your breath before going on.

We don’t have a lot of mercenaries in our country either. The Socialist Police Department collectively (I know, it makes me gag, too) protects everyone, equally, and never charges money to the victims of crime. The only people who pay money are the perpetrators of crimes and that only happens after they go through a trial.

Take a deep breath. I have to explain to you about our Socialist Book Network. We have these buildings scattered throughout our country called “libraries” that are maintained through tax dollars. There you can get books free just by providing identification. You have to return them, though, and there are often “waiting lists” to get some books. You’ll notice when you visit Canada that this has destroyed the private book industry completely.

I’ll let you finish retching, because it gets worse. This is the part that directly affects you, so take a deep, deep breath so you can read it.

Our entire medical and hospital system is Socialized. It’s governed by a ministry with the clever name “Health Canada” so that anyone who is upset about it can be accused of being an unpatriotic traitor. It’s horrific. I’ll give you an example:

Four years ago, my father had a horrible heart problem. He found himself suddenly weak and nearing death. My mother helped him in to their vehicle and whipped him over to the hospital. There a doctor – without having to check with my dad’s insurance company – diagnosed my father with clogged up arteries. The government paid for the entire examination and the clot-busting drugs that were used on him.

The only people who made money off this transaction were the doctors, nurses and receptionists who directly interacted with my father. Don’t you get it? This system is doomed! How can a system of health work if there are no shareholders demanding a profit? How can the efficiency of the system improve if completely unrelated people aren’t demanding more and more money for their invested dollars?

My father was taken by a Socialized Public Ambulance to another hospital where a cardiac surgeon waited. By 6pm on the day of his near-death, he was under the knife for triple bypass surgery. During the surgery, the surgeon discovered that the fourth artery was also nearly clogged and she performed a fourth bypass. She did not stop during the surgery to seek additional approval from anyone. Her expert opinion was enough.

I can only imagine the pasty-white look of horror on your face. She could go and do an extra bypass because she thought it was best for her patient? And no one made money off my father’s illness? No profit, anywhere? How can you Canadians even run an economy like this? And really, waiting six hours for a quadruple bypass? I’m sure the waiting times for a retired teacher in his sixties are so much shorter in your country. I’m embarrassed to even mention that part of it.

And to think, no one even weighed his life. No one looked at his salary or his pension to decide if maybe a retired teacher hadn’t contributed as much to society as, say, a CEO or banking executive had. No one considered that maybe my father wasn’t worth saving. They just fixed him because Socialism says that, “Every Life is of Equal Value.”.

I write this letter not to disparage my own country. We are too far gone down the path of Socialism. There’s no hope for us. But you! You I can save from this horror. Keep the profit motive in your health system. Keep judging people by their salaries. Don’t let Socialism ruin the beautiful, efficient system you have!


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autism: Science vs. Ignoramuses

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the H1N1 vaccine has "stirred the debate" over the link between autism and vaccines.


Let's examine this debate. On the one side we have Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones:
"The studies have been pretty clear and consistent that vaccination is not the cause of many of the things that have been claimed around the vaccine," he said.

And there's this from Health Canada:
Misconception: Vaccines are linked to chronic diseases such as autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Crohn's disease.
The Facts: These are false claims made by anti-vaccine books and Web sites. Recent research using the best scientific methods, and reviews of studies from around the world, provide strong evidence that ...

I could go on and on. The side telling you that vaccines are safe and one of the greatest tools of modern medicine is the side that does scientific research and that has your interests at heart. They're the educated, intelligent, careful people.

On the other side is Jenny McCarthy and her band of technical illiterates. Jenny is mad and has decided, in the face of all evidence, that vaccines made her son autistic. She and others like her have forced the scientific establishment to prove relentlessly something that was already beyond a reasonable doubt: vaccines have no relationship to autism.

But that's not how the Citizen paints it. There are "two sides" to this debate. And the Citizen is going to tell you both of them.
The theory that childhood vaccines are behind an upsurge of autism cases emerged in the 1990s and in recent years has gained high-profile advocates such as Hollywood star Jenny McCarthy

That's not a theory. It's completely unfair to use scientific language to make stupid, illiterate, many-times debunked claims sound scientific. A "theory" in science is an explanation for a body of facts. The anti-vaccination crowd has no facts. There's no correlation between vaccines and autism. There's nothing to explain. Their "theory" is an explanation for something that doesn't exist.

I could as easily have a "theory" on how to keep leprechauns from stealing your vegetables. Until someone finds leprechauns in their garden, it's not a theory.

The Citizen ought to be blisteringly excoriated for this pathetic attempt to stoke a controversy and for its endangerment of the general health of the public.

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Curious Decision: Abusive Husband gets Alimony

You'd think that this would be an exception to the rule.

I'm all for consistent application of the law across genders. If a woman can cheat on her husband and get support payments while the divorce is pending, so should a man. But does that law really, as the judge suggests, extend to making death threats to your spouse and committing assault?

The assault is not in question. The man received a suspended sentence and was ordered not to come anywhere near his wife and children (the divorce is still pending). But the judge in this case ruled that his conduct wasn't relevant at this point.

Mind you, once they hit the actual divorce trial, his assault will come in to play - just as infidelity or other "misconduct" would.

But it still seems unjust and damn strange that the law compels someone to pay $6000 every month to the a guy who threatened to kill her. Note that he might not have actually laid a hand on her. If the writer is using the legal definition of "assault", it might mean that he only threatened her. As if that matters.

The judge didn't seem to like making the ruling, noting that it was a matter of principle and that the whole thing should get ironed out at the divorce trial. In the mean time, somewhat passive-aggressively, the judge increased the child support Mr. Takhar must pay to his wife by $1000/month.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Now I'm Defending Religious Expression

Of course I am.

You've got the right to express your religion in your self-employed, private workplace. I can't imagine it any other way.

Apparently this secular Jewish fellow can't, though, according to Montreal bylaws.

I'm not a big fan of religion. It reeks of despotism and mindless obedience. But if you're choosing to be mindlessly obedient, that's your thing. As long as you stop swinging your fists at my face and your mezuzah isn't a fire hazard, it's really none of my business how you waste your time.

He hangs family pictures and religious/cultural artifacts around his cab. A Christian will hang rosary beads around his mirror. A Hindu, Muslim and Sikh are welcome to do the same as long as they're following laws about keeping the road visible from the driver's seat. Followers of the IPU can hang punctured red socks.

I can't imagine that this "Montreal bylaw" which says cabbies can't have objects or inscriptions in their cabs that are "not required for the taxi to be in service." could possibly be constitutional.

If he were a public servant, employed by the government, I could see invoking a rule.

If he were posting religious passages demanding the death or mutilation of others, I could see invoking a rule.

But in his cab? His private cab? Tiny, religiously inspired texts calling down blessing of protection?

No. There's no need to push this guy around.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

The NDP Need To Pick a Side, huh?

That's what Ignatieff told us.

It seems like a stupid thing to say, but it's not the first.

The retort is blatantly simple. The "sides" in this discussion are not "conservative politicians" and "liberal politicians". One does not choose "sides" between two sets of elites.

The side that the NDP has taken is that of the recently unemployed, the victims of the banking shenanigans that caused the economic mess in which we find ourselves. They took the side of some of the worse off.

Maybe it's not a side that entered in to Mr. Ignatieff's thoughts. Maybe he's a little too mired in politics to realize that he's supposed to be on the side of the people, not the side of a political party.

Mr. Layton's move was surely calculated. I'm sure polls and party financing entered in to it. To pretend otherwise is naive. These things are always calculated.

But in this case he did pick a side: the side of people. It may mean voting with the Liberal Party - occasionally. It may mean voting with the Conservative party - somewhat less frequently. But straying from one party to another doesn't mean he doesn't have a philosophical guideline, which seems to be Ignatieff's implication.

Nice try, Iggy. Better luck next time.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

I Don't Remember Voting For Your God

There's a pretty strong contradiction there, isn't there, when you're listening to the Right Wing?

Mostly I'm talking about the conservative U.S., but you get it in Canada too.

On the one hand, we should be out there bringing democracy to the unenlightened. On the other hand, we're supposed to obey the religious edicts of their particular creed: no sex before marriage; no contraception; no abortion; crosses everywhere; evangelization. The list could go on.

If you read those posters at the anti-Obama rallies (and I'm talking about the crazy tea-baggers) you see a combination of people demanding their rights and people demanding that Christianity come to the forefront.

Obama is a Marxist, Muslim, Fascist thug! That's anti-democractic! He's taking our freedom! He's taken our rights! (not that we could name one of the rights he's taken) Now let us pray to Jesus and obey the bible-god thingie instead!

They don't actually want freedom. Religion and especially religious obedience are the antithesis of freedom.

I didn't vote for their god.

I don't even remember having an election.

He seems to be running the show though, and in an extremely undemocratic fashion.

The guy sounds like a Marxist, Communist, Fascist thug to me.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Long, Mary

And to answer a few questions:

You just called him a man, so "zero".
Probably not even one. They get tired quick.
The cannonballs will always fly. Sad, but true.

The life expectancy of a mountain varies with glaciation, tectonic uplift and rainfall.
Some people live their whole lives in slavery.
People can ignore reality for a long time. We like to think they confront it on their deathbeds.

Once. I mean, really, the sky's right there.
Again, one ear should be enough.
Sadly, it takes far too many deaths before people grow sick of it.

Maybe we'll stick with Puff, the magic dragon.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Old "Dysfunctional Parliament" Gambit

This time, it's John Ibbitson parroting the party line.

Mr. Ibbitson can't believe we're about to have our fifth election in six years. He also insinuates that we're some kind of banana republic.

Why would we have another election? "Employment Insurance reform? Come on.", he pleads. I presume Mr. Ibbitson has secure employment. Someone standing on the other side of that issue might have a different opinion.

Then he offers us quotes from various sources that blame the dysfunctionality of Parliament on all parties:
"We are in a continuous election campaign with no discussion of issues"

I wonder if that has anything to do with a Prime Minister too busy with name-calling (Socialist! Separatist!) to have a serious discussion.
Major concerns ... languish, as the parties use Parliament for an elaborate and futile game of political chicken.

Indeed. Let's blame all parties for the Conservative's disruptive "point of order", "showing up at the wrong time" and "walking out of meetings" strategies.

Now some statistics:
From 1969 to 1973, Parliament sat, on average, 163 days a year. From 2004 to 2008, it was down to 105.

I have a word for you: "Prorogue". As in, "The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament". How many days did we lose there? How many days did we lose because the Prime Minister broke his own election law and called an extra election?

But, of course, it's the fault of all parties, isn't it, Mr. Ibbitson?
"Parliament as an instrument is not being used properly either by the opposition or the government."

Yes, yes. Blame everyone for the intentional mangling and disabling of our government. Whatever you do, don't investigate what's actually happening on a day-to-day basis.
The nineties also witnessed the rise of the Bloc Quebecois and the threat of Quebec separation.

Now you're just being intentionally stupid. What planet are you from that you think the 90s were unique in the spectre of separation? In fact, that decade probably saw the end of separation when Parizeau gave his famous tirade about immigrants ruining his version of Quebec's destiny.

There follows some nonsense about the federal political parties becoming "regional". They're not. Even where one party appears to take a whole province, you'll find that, in many ridings, the other parties aren't far behind. If the conservative bastion of Alberta distributed its 28 ridings proportionally, it would have come out something like [Con:18, NDP:4, Lib:3, Green:3].

Ibbitson ends his column with the following pronouncement:
Party leaders must look at each other as legitimate representatives of sectional interests whose needs deserve to be accommodated. That is no easy concession in any Parliament, and especially difficult to imagine in this one.

It seems that every political party does this, Mr. Ibbitson, except the Conservatives. Paul Martin reached a compromise with the Conservatives to maintain his government. When the Conservatives tried to pull the plug, he created a new consensus with the NDP (Egad! The Socialists! Lock up your children!) When the Conservatives came in, they tried to take all public financing away - retroactively - from the other parties. They vilified their opponents with name-calling. They stormed out of committees and disrupted them with loud-mouth tactics.

We already have three parties in Parliament that understand the need to build consensus in a grown up manner.

And we have one group of pouting children. Call it like it is. Enough of this false notion that everyone shares the blame for the Conservatives' petulance.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conservatives: Party of the Wealthy

In case there was any doubt in your minds, in case anyone was still confused about Stephen Harper's loyalty, in case a sliver of wonder existed in the Canadian psyche, you can put all that aside.

The Conservatives are going to hike E.I. premiums to help cover the federal deficit.

Now I know everyone hates the GST. But the fact is that a value added tax is one of the fairest ways to collect taxes. It hits the rich and the poor at the same rate. It applies to what you buy and doesn't care if you earned that money through capital gains or by working for a living. It only makes an exception for food and children's clothing and the like, to take the burden off lower income families.

Value added taxes are fair.

Therefore, Stephen Harper wants to reduce them. He wants the burden to be on income taxes where his wealthy friends can hide their incomes in stock options, capital gains and all sorts of schemes that I can't even personally describe.

"But come on, Greg", you're probably saying, "He lowered a tax that everybody hates, right?"

Maybe. But remember how the Martin government wanted to lower the tax rate on the poorest in the country via cutting income taxes? Remember how the Tories opposed that move in favour of GST cut? That tells you a story right there, doesn't it? Cut the GST for the rich while keeping the income tax rate higher for the poor. If you're a rich guy buying a yacht, you're very happy with the GST cut. The income tax cut barely affects you.

And now this. Let's crank up the E.I. rate. Employment Insurance is a very special kind of tax, isn't it? It stops applying to your income once you hit about $40k. It's a very regressive tax, meaning that it affects the working poor more than the rich.

Are we done with this story now? Can we stop pretending there's a "he said, she said" going on with who supports working families the most? Can we call a spade and spade and simply say that the Conservatives don't give a damn about your family and are selling this country to their wealthy party donors?

You know what? I think we can.

Tell you what, Mr. Prime Minister. The current E.I. rate is 1.73% on the first $42 300 a person earns. You can raise the E.I. rate on one condition: instead of stopping at $42 300 and having that be the end, you can raise the rate as long as you start a new bracket somewhere in the $250 000 range where people will start paying 1.73% again.

That ought to lick this "deficit problem" you're having.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Frightening: Coalition

Look out, here comes a boogeyman!

It's a good thing Stephen Harper is there to warn us that if he doesn't get a majority and rule over us for five years of tyranny, we may end up with a coalition representing a majority of the population!


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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My Employee said to Your Employer

I'm gonna set your factory on fire.

Iko Iko an de.

In Italy, that's what they do when Alcatel-Lucent threatens to shut down their factory.

I told you the gas cans wouldn't stay empty.

I just hope they don't actually set themselves on fire. That won't teach a corporation anything other than a convenient way to avoid paying severance. On the other hand, you'd have to burn down a lot of factories before the corporation's insurance would go up enough to make them notice, so I don't know if that's a good idea. But it would be flashy.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Agh! Chemicals!

Oh, no! The Chemicals are Here!

This is the sort of analysis that led Arthur Benjamin to give a TED talk to tell us that mathematical education ought to focus more on statistics than calculus, as statistics is far more useful in everyday life.

First off, you're ignorant if you want to rid your life of "chemicals".

When blood tests showed your body's chemical load was relatively low, did you feel any better?
It wasn't low. There was a presence of chemicals that everybody has but are there acceptable levels? Frankly, I don't think so.

A presence of chemicals, huh? Like hemoglobin? Vitamin C? Vitamin D? Zinc? Calcium? How about water? Was there any dihydrogen monoxide? You know how dangerous that stuff is. It causes asphyxiation and has been used to torture people for centuries.

But it's not just the ignorance of what the word "chemical" means. It's also statements like these:

If I use any shampoo or soap on my daughter, I buy them at the health-food store and the less ingredients, the better.

Really? I believe that Ivory advertises itself and 99.44% pure. No additives. No scents. How would your health-food store match up to that?

Today we have the highest rate of childhood cancer, unprecedented levels of autism and asthma, food allergies, skin allergies – all these sensitivities that are clearly related to environmental conditions. And this idea that past generations lived in surroundings that were chemically toxic and they survived is also quite false. One in three die of cancer.

This is a really long chunk of confusion.

Cancer rates for children are not rising. They've been relatively stable for the last 25 years.

The reason you see high levels of autism is because we've been changing the definition of autism to include more people. In a bygone era, most of these people were just referred to as "retarded" and left at that. As well, there's the term "autism spectrum disorder" which refers to a wide variety of minor social problems. As much as some want to blame the "growth in autism" on vaccines and other nonsense, the biggest cause is our widening definition and better diagnostic methods.

If you want to talk about food allergies, you have to wonder how many children simply died because of peanut allergies in the old days. Now that our infant mortality rate has dropped so severely, there are more people with allergies.

And it was way, way more toxic in the old days. There were no workplace safety rules. People died of cancer from breathing in horrible quality air in all sorts of mines and factories. There was almost no pollution control on cars. Paint was made out of lead (the article mentions this and fails to note the contradiction to her own premise). Buildings were made out of asbestos.

Finally, of course more people are dying of cancer. Everyone has to die of something and once we've fixed everything else, the last few things left are going to become bigger threats. This is the fault of improvements in medicine, not chemicals in the environment.

I read articles like this, these compilations of ignorance, and I have to wonder what people are taking away from it. Am I going to end up with people trying to outlaws vaccines? Enforce circumcisions? Outlaw fluoridated water again?

Yes, there are concerns about certain chemicals. Yes, we have to perform scientific studies to figure out which ones are real problems and which of these claims is nonsense. But articles written by a clearly ignorant person who wants you to read other ignorant things on the web and then "go back to your own spine" for guidance, are worthless.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

But What If Torture Works?

I've already written about torture, but perhaps it bears repeating when I see the following video.

"...whether or not these techniques are immoral, or how immoral they are, surely depends on whether or not they work."

No. No, it doesn't.

I don't have to examine the possible uses of infant blood to realize that putting a child in to a tree chipper is immoral. I don't need to measure the property tax benefit to a city to see that bulldozing a homeless shelter is immoral. I don't need to examine the shock and awe created by a nuclear explosion to know that dropping an atomic weapon on civilians is immoral.

And I don't need to know whether or not "torture works" to decide it's wrong. It's wrong because we will make ourselves at least as bad as we pretend our enemies are. It's wrong because it dehumanizes people, both victim and torturer. It's wrong because it's the worst part of us and our humanity demands we stomp that part of our psyches out of existence.

Nothing we learn from torture could ever be worth what it does.

And that conclusion doesn't have a thing to do with whether or not it works.

h/t Red Tory

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

God's Verdict

Stephen Harper, speaking on history's judgement of his term:

“To be honest with you, I am a lot more concerned by God's verdict regarding my life than the one of historians,” the Prime Minister said with a laugh, according to the article.

Er ... wow.

I suppose, if you're religious, that's the way to do things. Everlasting soul and all that crap.

But, really, it just sounds creepy coming from a politician. It makes me wonder if all this sucking-up-to-America isn't really sucking up to America. It may be part and parcel of the same belief system that led George Bush to telling people that his invasion of Iraq was a mission from god.

That's right. Harper's envy of America wasn't really envy. He wasn't really criticizing Canada for being a north-European welfare state. That was all just a cover for his jealousy of the way the United States was able to use its armies to pursue better standing at the gates of heaven.

Who cares if you ruin the country? As long as you did the will of Almighty God, I guess you're covered.


Just great.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Terrorist or Asshole

It occurs to me, after engaging in a discussion on Morton's blog, that we have to distinguish between two types of people: the terrorist and the asshole.

It's useful to have a definition of a terrorist: a person who uses violence or the threat of violence to create political change or change in public opinion.

The subject of the discussion on Morton's blog was that of honour killings. If a man kills his daughter for wearing the wrong clothes or courting the wrong suitor, is this an act of a terrorist, or is he merely an asshole? (We take it as read, here, that he is at least an asshole.)

Does this constitute an act of terrorism?

A lot of that depends on how we weasel the definition. If this act of assholery has the effect of intimidating other women from making the clothing and courting choices they truly want, the effect is that of terrorism. But did the guy who murdered his daughter intend that effect, or did he just go off in a murderous, punitive rage and only incidentally have that effect?

If he were to take his petulant child and, as the bible advises, bring her before the town and have her put to death, we could definitely conclude that he is a terrorist. He, and any townspeople helping him, are intentionally using violence to intimidate others in to obeying their moral code. That would be terrorism.

But if we include the unintentional effects of a violent act committed by an asshole and allow that to declare him a terrorist, I would think that pretty much every violent act would have to be called a terrorist act on account of the fact that violence is always intimidating.

This is probably why the designation of "hate crime" had to be created. We judge the crime not only on the intent or the result, but on that shady region in between, where the victim was chosen because of her membership in a group (young women, possibly "young women of a certain culture") and the effect of the assault was to intimidate others of the same group. Additionally, the violence is part of a system of behaviour that intrinsically intimidates that group.

So. Honour killers are terrorists? I don't think so (though I'm not married to not thinking so). But they are assholes and deserve extra time in jail for participating in a hate crime.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Billing Laws

Seriously, it's about time we made some rules for the people who send us monthly bills.

It seems that the goal of the billing statement is to trick you in to paying incorrectly - or on the wrong day - and charging you ridiculous interest rates.

At the very least, I expect the "payment" stub of the bill to list:
a) The amount I must pay to avoid any late fees
b) The date by which I must pay it, in long hand (none of this deceptive 07/08/09 nonsense)

Bell is polite enough to do that, although they mislead you at the top of the bill with a column of pre-tax calculations with a bolded total alongside the post-tax calculation with a bolded total.

The credit cards aren't so kind. Some list the real total (a) and the due date (b), while others only list the minimum payment and leave you to search among "Old balance", "Credit", "New Charges" and "New Balance" while leaving the date in a indecipherable numeric format.

We really ought to have laws, forcing these people - especially the credit cards - to spell things out deliberately.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Set Phasers To Stun? Apparently Not.

That's how they think of Tasers, isn't it?

We'll just stun 'em. All sci-fi and everything.

Apparently Braidwood doesn't agree.
2. I recommend that officers of provincially regulated law enforcement agencies be prohibited from deploying a conducted energy weapon unless the subject’s behaviour meets one of the following thresholds:

• the subject is causing bodily harm; or

• the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the subject’s behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm.

That's not the statement you make for a stun gun. That's a statement you make for an actual gun that kills people.

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Welcome to Canada ... Most of You

No, I'm not being sarcastic. I am greatly in favour of the positive attitude that Canada has for multiculturalism. We welcome people from different parts of the world, take their ideas and perspectives, examine those unique ways of viewing the world and make the best ones a part of our own heterogeneous way of life.

In Canada I can get food prepared in the style of almost any nation on Earth. I can get it from a restaurant or buy the raw ingredients and make it at home. I can go to a park and watch as the Ultimate players come off the field because it's time for Cricket. I can go to a ball and see a guy in a kilt dancing with a woman in a sari. I, an atheist, have gone to lunch and sat at a single table with a Sikh, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist and three different kinds of Christian.

I like that aspect of my country. It's a source of pride that we have managed to make a peaceful society out of people with cultural backgrounds that would have them at war.

But we also draw a line. I can't properly describe the gap between the pride in peace that I feel most of the time and the disgust and rage I feel when I read about people who come here so tied to their cultural underpinnings that they carry their history of violent intolerance with them.

I'm not talking about the local supporters of international issues staging demonstrations. I'm talking about these awful things they call "honour killings".

I can, even from my left wing viewpoint, with absolute confidence and no hedging, tell these people that their culture is wrong. I have viewed their decisions to murder their daughters, and very occasionally their sons, for what they see as dishonourable actions, and I have concluded that I don't want that in my country. My multicultural mosaic will do fine without that contribution.

In summary, and quite simply, your multicultural fist must stop swinging at someone else's face. I don't care what your culture and your religion say. If it leads to you killing your children for disobedience, tough luck. Disown them if you want, abandon them to be wards of the state (for which you will be fined), but you're not allowed to kill them.

There, I said it.

A significant portion of your culture is so stupid and dangerous that I'm willing to pass judgment on the entirety of it. Dump it at customs or don't bother coming in.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Gas Cylinders Are Empty ... for now

At least we're getting to the point where the wealthy psychopaths who run so many of our corporations can be justified in their complaints that "class warfare" is actually happening.

Some workers at a French Nortel plant, laid off and presuming - based on historical evidence - that the corporation will screw them out of their severance and pensions, have threatened to blow up the company's buildings.

Workers ... have threatened to blow up their factory unless they secure decent layoff terms, but gas cylinders placed around the plant were empty.

Now we're talking about class warfare.

Sad but true, this may be the only way to get through to the selfish, economist types who are at the top of this pyramid. It's clear from the way that they have taken money from workers' pensions and from the way they timed layoffs and layoff payments to occur after bankruptcy was declared (so as to make layoff victims "unsecured creditors") that these people do not care, and can't be made to care, about the lives they are ruining.

When you're a sociopath, that's the way you act. And when you're a sociopath, you make an excellent corporate master. It's practically part of the job description.

It's also obvious that various levels of government will do nothing to pull these people up short.

I suppose they just expect laid off, victimized employees to quietly sell their houses in the night, go on welfare and eventually starve to death.

I'm sure that will work out, especially when they see all the executives sailing around on the new yachts they're buying with their bonuses.

The gas cans are empty ... for now. Don't expect them to stay that way. You can't do this to that many people without expecting some of them to get very, very angry.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stevie, My Sympathy is Limited

It's right about at that threshold I felt for the Enron employees who kept investing in their company's stock while it was going down, throwing more and more of their pensions in before the whole thing crashed.

Dave has written an excellent article saying that the issue should be dropped, that it's a distraction from bigger issues and that the Catholic Church has no business getting all moral with people. I mostly agree.

No, I'm not going to go after Harper for breaking some stupid religious rule. As far as the catholics are concerned, he was damned either way. Non-catholics aren't christians, according to the catholic church, so they have no business eating the cracker. Discarding is also unacceptable.

But I don't care.

What gets me is that the guy who is riding a frothing wave of Religious Nutbars (mostly protestant) is now going to invoke the wrath of a separate sect of frothing Religious Nutbars.

I can't pretend that I have any sympathy.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Just Say No To Diamonds

Would it be that hard to create a North American and European campaign against diamonds?

I don't mean the "blood diamonds" - just the ones that are acquired via slavery, beatings, civil war and other kinds of murder.

I mean that there should be a campaign against all diamonds.

The author of the Kimberley Process for certifying diamonds has resigned in the face of the fact that the people who should have been regulating the Kimberley process have simply failed to do so.

The United States apparently soaks up about half of the world's diamonds as a result of a concerted campaign in the 1930s, paid for by the diamond industry, to create an expectation among young women that diamonds are essential to a marriage proposal.

Maybe the money spent on the Kimberley process was spent incorrectly.

Wouldn't it have been more efficient to spend that same money on television, billboard and radio ads teaching everyone to be horrified at the presence of diamonds?

Take that guy in the fancy suit, down on his knee, offering a diamond ring and put him against a backdrop of blood and murder and slain children. How many times do you have to show that ad before nary a soul wants to be involved with diamonds at all?

You're probably saying, "what about the legitimate diamond miners?". To that I can only say that 'legitimate' is a funny word for a bunch of people running a worldwide monopoly and price-fixing scheme. Don't believe me? Take that heirloom engagement ring left behind in an inheritance and actually try to sell it. Don't just have it appraised. Actually try to sell it. You'll get about ten cents on the dollar.

The whole thing is a lie.

The whole thing is a scam.

If you want my opinion, the money that went in to the Kimberley Process could have been better spent on anti-diamond marketing.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

It's a Sad, Sad Day

One of Ottawa's most venerable institutions has been cited for a liquor license violation and had its license suspended for five days.

It used to be that this city stood for something. It used to represent a standard of morals and ethics that exceeded the norms, that symbolized all that this country ever was and ever could be.

A place where women dance on a stage, remove their clothing and squirm around on customers' laps was a place we could trust. It was a place with a code of honour and a certain heightened level of classiness.

But no more.

" ... an Ontario liquor inspector ... discovered an apparently drunk person in the BareFax."

It's a sad, sad day, ladies and gentlemen, when a institution like this, a backbone of the Byward Market, only blocks away from our federal Parliament, performs like this. Whom can we trust if we can't trust a strip joint to make sure everyone under their charge is sober? What kind of nanny state would we be?

Hopefully, this five-day suspension will teach the Barefax its lesson and, reproached, it will rejoin the community in a healthy, respectable and moral manner.

Until then, I suppose this should be considered an opportunity. Table dances are 3 for the price of 2 until the license comes back and it's a good opportunity for devout Baptists, Muslims, Mormons and others opposed to alcohol to go see some strippers.

Silver lining through the clouds, people. Chin up, we'll get through this blight on our city's reputation.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I've Always Been Cynical About Politicians

But sometimes their cynicism overwhelms mine, which just means I have to kick mine up a notch.

Cynicism: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

I know that politicians want power. But somehow, like those ridiculous Survivor participants who are surprised when they are betrayed, I am still taken aback when I find out how manipulative a politician can get.

Harken back, ye readers, to the age of Listeriosis. It happened under the Conservatives, a result of their own deregulatory practices. People were getting sick. Some were dying. Minister Gerry Ritz made a joke about the announcements of death as being "death by a thousand cuts" to his and his party's reputation.

A lot was made of his next dark joke, "Or should I say cold cuts." But that's not what matters. We've all made dark jokes at one time or another. What matters is that his party's policies were killing people, that he was in charge of fixing the crisis and that he was more concerned about his reputation.

Yeah. Poor guy. All those dead people were just murder to his reelection chances.

And now we see Minister Raitt. This isotope shortage will mean human lives endangered. Cancers and other diseases will go undiagnosed. People could die.

And, like Gerry Ritz, she's more concerned about political points. Sure, I saw her apology (dissected here). She's had cancer in her family. So have I. So has everyone, I bet.

Somehow, I'm sympathetic. I've had to wait in emergency rooms. I recoil at the misery this will bring to my fellow humans.

Somehow, her first instinct isn't sympathy. Is there a spot on that tape where she demonstrates human distress at the situation? Some kind of, "My God, Bones, what have we done?"? I doubt it, but I'm willing to be corrected.

I'm willing to bet that she's just so far gone in to the "rough and tumble" of the this new politics she touts that she's lost entirely.

I know I'm being very cynical, but whose fault is that?

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Monday, June 08, 2009

That's your Democracy Dying

And it's whimpering away, quietly in the night.

Minister Raitt, quoting leading bankers at a meeting of Council of Chief Executives:
“They did it at the Canadian Council of (Chief) Executives, there was three presidents of major banks who stood up in the room — and this is not from cabinet so I can talk about it — stood up and said, ‘Ignatieff, don’t you even think about bringing us to an election,’”

Is this a real quote? Is it even close to accurate? Is it paraphrasing a more subtle, veiled message?

John McCallum, Liberal finance critic, had this to say of the quote:
“That’s absolutely ridiculous. Can you imagine a bank president standing up in a room like that with more than 100 people in the room and saying something like that? It makes no sense.”

Yes, John, I can believe it.

I have no trouble at all believing that very wealthy people are indeed in control of our economy and our country.

There is nothing the least bit incredible about that.

And the fact that both Harper and Ignatieff are enslaved to their election funds is no surprise either.

Look what happened to Stephane Dion. He wasn't part of the business elite. He wasn't anointed by the wealthy. He received no funding and his bid for power ended.

We know who you people are. We know what you're up to. It's nice to have you out in the open, though. Thanks for that.

h/t Galloping Beaver

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Liberal Mafia vs. the Conservative Punks

When the mafia comes to your town, it's organized crime. They hit you up for protection money, do you a favour, you owe them a favour. Sure, it's crime and it's bad, there's no question. But there's also no question that it's organized.

And so it was with the Liberals and their Sponsorship Scandal. The Scandal was a well organized scam within the silliness of the Sponsorship program. Money was syphoned away. Kickbacks were attained. The government and the people were ripped off, but you had a sense that the thing had been carefully planned.

When a bunch of illiterate teenage punks comes in to your town, they like to swarm old people, mug children, beat up old ladies, set things on fire and generally vandalize your life for kicks.

That's how the Conservatives are. One of them leaves secret documents at his girlfriend's house. The other ones leaves other documents at a broadcast studio and then, infantile, the whole things gets blamed on an underling. Then they start selling off silver that doesn't even belong to Canada but to Buckingham Palace.

I get the vague impression that our government is being run by a bunch of juvenile jackasses slowly vandalizing our country. Given the choice, I'll take the previous criminals and their well organized, quiet, respectful thievery.

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Harper: "You're On Your Own"

I think it's important to know, as a Canadian, whether or not your government has your back. It's important to know if the Prime Minister who flew a photographer to Cyprus to show off his generosity is actually anything more than an opportunistic hypocrite.

And the results are in:

According to the "federal factum" written by our government:
"States do not have a duty to protect citizens held by foreign countries."

"The judge erred by transforming obligations to respect the rights of children within Canada into a new duty to protect Canadian children subject to mistreatment by foreign officials outside the territory of Canada"

So now you know. If you're caught up in some foreign country, snared or framed by some local con artist, stuck in a jail cell and being punished by some third world warlord, being handled by some archaic, disreputable farce of a justice system ... well, now you know that your country does not have your back.

Someone should probably add that to the international travel advisory.

"Canadians traveling to all other countries are advised that their government will abandon them to any kangaroo court that kidnaps them. Please use caution when visiting the world."

h/t Galloping Beaver.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

All the Bad Things I've Ever Thought About Conservatives

All of them are coming through.

I've always believed that Conservatives create deficits in order to force austerity on the population, reduce services and get people to expect less for their taxes. The goal is to get poor and middle class people to hate taxes as much as the rich do, even though poor and middle class generally benefit from our level of taxation.

And while they're doing this - racking up record deficits - they sell off public institutions to make the budget appear balanced while ensuring future austerity via a lack of public assets.

As well, I've understood the strategy of mismanaging public institutions on purpose in order to denigrate them. Remember Mike Harris and his Tories in Ontario, slowly destroying our public education system and health care system so that they could shrug their shoulder and say, "What do you expect from government? Government sucks. Let's do private schools instead."

And now we see this happening in our federal government.

You remember that reactor that produces medical isotopes for the entire world? The one run by AECL? The one whose shutdown they blamed on "Liberal appointee" Linda Keen, whom they subsequently fire?

Well, the Conservatives are in charge now, having ordered the reactor activated over the safety concerns of the people charged with protecting our health. And the reactor is, as one would expect, malfunctioning and shut down with no prospect of a quick turn around.

So what's the Conservative solution?

Let's sell the reactor to a private organization

I kid you not. Put the world's major source of medical isotopes in the hands of the profit-driven private sector. Give a private company a virtual monopoly on our health. Claim the sale price against the deficit so it doesn't look so bad. Hide the perpetual cost of this move in the distant future of rising health care costs.

It accomplishes everything the Conservatives could ever want: rising deficit; austerity measures; weakening public institutions; private profit. Some things just never, ever change.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's time to talk Capital Punishment

This happens every time an innocent person is killed in a stupid, callous or malicious manner.

This time the victim is an 8 year old girl named Victoria Stafford. Do the details matter? 8 year olds are, by definition, innocent of anything that could possibly deserve such a fate. Does it matter how she was led away by a person she recognized? Does it matter what was done to her? She was innocent. She was treated horribly and now she is gone.

And so it begins.

Let's kill the murderers!

I suppose I'd agree to capital punishment under two conditions:
a) we can be absolutely sure we have the correct guilty party
b) killing the murderer would bring the victim back to life

Because as I understand it, we can not achieve "justice" for Victoria Stafford with our present technology. The innocent eight year old is gone and we can't get her back. Even if you could, beyond any doubt, establish who killed her, what benefit is there to putting killers to death?

You can trot out all the arguments you want: not wanting to pay for the housing and feeding of the murderers while in jail; the deterrence factor for future potential killers; preventing these murderers from striking again.

None of those arguments (even though only the last holds up under scrutiny) make anything but a mash of the concept of justice. There can't be justice for Victoria Stafford. Nor for Kristen French or Leslie Mahaffy.

And what we have in this country is a system of justice, not a system of revenge. Other cultures have had revenge based systems. An eye for eye meant malice was answered with malice and the descent to madness was ensured.

Killing these murderers wouldn't accomplish anything except to demonstrate that we can kill them. We would not be a safer nation but a more brutal one. We would be a nation admitting that we can't defeat dangerous people except by sinking to their level. We would be surrendering to our bloodlust and bankrupting our moral fiber in the process.

Why shouldn't we put Victoria Stafford's murderers to death?

Because we're better than they are. That's reason enough.

Don't let an innocent child be an excuse for barbarism.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sanity with Bullying

There's never been a good system for dealing with bullying. Out of sight and out of mind until the victim fights back is the current policy.

So I was glad to see that the Asian kid who was suspended for fighting back against a racist bully has had his suspension canceled.

Victory, of sorts, although I think this is the funniest part:
He also would like to know why the school board sent a letter saying it would recommend the 15-year-old be expelled [from all regional schools], only to say three days later that the letter was sent in error.

Error? What kind of error is that?

"We meant to say that your son could be smelled from all schools in the region. Hygiene issue. Simple spelling error."

Or maybe: "We send out so many of these Regional Expulsion Letters that they go out by accident to the wrong people on occasion. Our bad."

One could only hope that they frequently come down this hard on actual bullies, but I doubt it.

Meanwhile, I dance the Happy Victory Dance. Hurrah for justice.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Systems for Bullies

The way we handle bullying in schools has always been archaic. In the rest of our civilization, we are not expected to put up with threats of violence. Threats of violence are considered "assault" and the perpetrators can be arrested and jailed. In school, though, local authorities have long expected victimized students to simply suck it up. Victims should either roll with the punches (i.e. capitulate to violence) or stand up for themselves.

Of course, they'd better not stand up for themselves too much, because then they get arrested. For example, we have this 15 year old Asian kid in Keswick, Ontario. He faced off against a racist bully. The bully punched first. The Asian kid punched last, breaking the bully's nose.

It'd be as well at this point to explain why I'm taking the story at face value. Why do I believe that, as written, the white kid was an aggressive, racist bully? Why do I believe that the Asian kid acted with the absolute minimum force at the last reasonable moment? Because I read the story. Keswick has a racism problem with documented assaults. 400 students came out to protest the Asian kid's suspension. The Asian kid has a 90% scholastic average. All relevant implications lead me to believe that the story is accurate.

I also believe the story because it is absolutely par for the course.

As far as authorities - police as well as school administration - are concerned, bullying is not a problem. The bullies only perform their assaults and batterings out of sight. There is rarely obvious bloodshed or broken bones. The victims are frightened in to silence. If the victims don't fight back, authority can blithely pretend that there is no violence in the school, that any rumours are just boys working things out for themselves, and fill out reports to that effect.

When the victims fight back, the problem is different. It is rarely effective for a smaller boy to wrestle or idly punch at a bully. Small amounts of pain are rarely a deterrent to large, aggressive people. To stop a bully, you have to stop a bully. And at that point, you often have blood, a broken bone or a concussion. Now the administration's "boys will be boys" ignorance falls on its face. They have an obviously damaged kid and another who damaged him.

So punish the kid who did the damage. Ignore all historical facts, torment and accumulated damage in the opposite direction. Wipe your hands and walk away. Done.

So that's what they did. They not only suspended the victim, they also had him arrested for assault. How ignorant is this? Let us take the punch completely out of context. Let us pretend that this Asian kid just whaled on the white kid for no reason. The Asian kid isn't bleeding, right? His nose isn't broken. So it must be his fault.

Kudos the kids at the high school for walking out and protesting on his behalf. I never saw the likes of that when I was growing up. If there's hope for the future, it's those 400 kids right there.

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