Thursday, June 29, 2006

Free speech, dumb speech

I read that the US Senate narrowly defeated a vote to amend the US Constitution such that Congress could ban flag-burning. The vote was lost 66-34. That is, 34 Senators voted against it; one fewer, and it would have had the 2/3 support necessary to go to the various states for ratification. Cheers to Senators who, sadly in the minority in opinion though they are, stood up for free speech.

But there's free speech, and there's dumb speech. I read this in the same article:

"Our country's unique because our dissidents have a voice," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii...

Has this man any idea, the faintest idea at all, how gallingly offensive it is for him to say that? There are dozens, scores of countries in the world with civil rights records that match or even rival those of the United States. And yet, this man is a supposedly educated, informed person holding a rare office in the upper house of the US Congress. I can't believe he's that ignorant, so the only answer is he's jingoistic and exceptionalistic. Is there nobody left in the whole USA who isn't a pale, ersatz echo of George W. Bush?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

You just never know...

I was downtown at the Lesbian Pride Parade on Saturday, and I posted some of the photos I took down there. One photo, among what I considered the more innocuous of the bunch, attracted the attention of another Flickr member, whose comments turned almost immediately from the photo to the politics behind it. It's a rather badgering litany of screeds, all of which I've heard before umpteen times, but gathered here almost stereotypically. It nicely illustrates the mindset against which the Palestinians continue to struggle in their quest for nationhood, sovereignty, and self-government, and which creepingly erodes the civil rights of other people of good will...

[Commenter's comments in blue, my replies in black.]

Jewish Women Against the Occupation
Jewish Women Against the Occupation
Not just freedom here, but everywhere

Only in English the sign reads Jewish women against the occupation. In the other languages, it just says 'women'. Do you have a problem with Jewish women who support the large-scale settlement of the land and security measures against Palestinian Arabs? Are you really ready to talk of freedom, when you do not even accept a fellow Jew whose opinion differs from your own?

Do you have a problem with Jewish women who support the large-scale settlement of the land and security measures against Palestinian Arabs?

I have a problem with illegal occupation. How about you, friend? Do you support it?

In and of itself, the term 'illegal' does not have a negative meaning. There exists an important (Jewish) principle of 'life over law'. Indeed, when one's physical life is in immediate danger, an individual may undertake actions which are otherwise deemed 'illegal'.

I think this principle is applied by the Israeli community as a whole, which must defend itself, again and again, against enemies who intend to destroy it. As long as this threat exists, the law, including any 'international' law, is practically less relevant than the will to survive.Since these conditions continue to prevail for the foreseeable future, yes, I will support the 'illegal occupation' or any other Israeli measures.

BTW, I am also in favor of the ongoing 'illegal occupation' of America by the white people.

Indeed, when one's physical life is in immediate danger, an individual may undertake actions which are otherwise deemed 'illegal'.

This likewise justifies the acts of the Palestinians that you, I presume, would take to be the treat to Israel. This is a circular argument that only feeds a cycle of violence and makes it self-perpetuating.

I think this principle is applied by the Israeli community as a whole

Not by the world as a whole, and more to the point, not by the Palestinians who are guaranteed a state by the very same UN Resolution by dint of which Israel itself claims legal existence. Were they fully furnished with the same rights, they would have the chance to build something the which they were unwilling to lose. Right now, they are a people with nothing to lose. We see the results.

I am also in favor of the ongoing 'illegal occupation' of America by the white people.

Yes, very clever. Where, though, are Israel's treaties with its native inhabitants, Israel's Royal Proclamation of 1763 (as such)?

In contrast with Israel's citizens whose lives are never secure, the individual Palestinian Arab's life is not in danger of a random attack. Neither is the Palestinian Arab nation at stake - something which does not yet exist can not be at risk.

The only thing REALLY being threatened is the Palestinian Arabs' blind hatred towards the Jews and Israel. They express extreme xenophobia and there is absolutely no justification for Arab anarchy and acts of terror. He who defends lawlessness and hooliganism as a way of life supports the demise of his own community and invites being 'occupied' forever. Same for Afghanistan, Iraq and all the other places.

Even while being under a constant threat of annihilation from its neighbors, the Jewish State manages to remain a free and democratic country, also for its own Arab citizens (20%). I suggest that this remarkable fact alone already exceeds such promises as were given in the 'Royal Proclamation' of 1763.

You're asking here for an artificial standard to be created for Israel alone, all others excepted, exempting it from the standards expected of the rest of the world. And I can illustrate the nature of it very plainly for you.

Suppose the shoe were on the other foot... suppose it were 1947, Arabs controlled the state of Palestine, and on the basis of such attrocities as the attack on the King David Hotel, et al., they had herded Jewish refugees behind walls, denied them work, bulldozed their homes for the crime of being related to people who were agitating for a Jewish state, killed them at checkpoints, and refused them a government on the international stage or one whose workings they did not supersede, overrule, and undermine. Now, on the basis that the Jewish refugees were a threat to the state of Palestine (and were it not for the fact that it existed as the artifice of a British protectorate at the time, this would essentially be the case), by your own logic, you would have to consent to the likewise treatment they experienced at the hands of the Palestinians as right as just in the pursuit of Palestine's right to self-defense. If you cannot, then your argument is, as I indicated, ethnically exceptionalist in its conception, and your position is hypocritical and cannot stand on the logical basis of equality of condition. If, on the other hand, you can consent to that treatment, then this argues away the aegis by right of which Israel claims its legitamacy, because it was created in prejudice against the rights of the existing population at the time, done so without the treaties or Royal Proclamation that retain the force of law and form a part of the Constitution (in Canada, at any rate; the United States may answer as it pleases).

It would, in fact, be impossible for Israel's assurances to its Arab population to in any way correspond to the original intention of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which in part forbade British settlement of the interior beyond the Appalachians. In this aspect it was abrogated by the United States at the time of the Revolution (if not undermined prior to it), which perforce fell superfluous to the remainder of British North America.

Moreover, the argument that Israel, a nation armed with over a hundred nuclear weapons, is at risk of extinction at the hands of the Palestinians, a stateless people armed with rocks, is the height of a self-serving conceit that only the very very willful could accept as valid.

With regard to blind hatred... something about the beam in one's own eye, sir.

The 'artificial standard' for Israel is called the right to exist in peace. In some regions of the world, the right of Jews to live is not a given. Gaza is one of those places. If you are Jewish, praise yourself lucky that you do not live there.

Fact is, that the shoe is NOT on the other foot. Fact is, that Israel has quickly grown to become a high-tech society with an army which has not yet lost a war. Fact is, that the Middle East is one of the poorest regions in the world. Fact is also, that the Arab countries are ruled by decree, and that together, they have an annual production less than Spain.

No, the Jews are NOT morally equal to those who choose to hate them. Indeed, they are superior. That is how they miraculously survived mighty Rome and devastating places like Auschwitz. And they will also weather the actions of Palestinian Arab kidnappers, hooligans and hijackers.

The 'existing population' of British-ruled Palestine consisted of Arabs AND Jews. 20% of Israel's citizens are Arab. Before statehood, the Jewish nationalistic movement did well, because litteracy, the ability to deal with the government and legal courts and the knowledge of languages were not developed among the Arabs. The lands were legally acquired.

In contrast to the Jewish State, refugee Palestinian Arabs yearn to create A STATE WITHOUT JEWS. At gunpoint. Read their newspapers, their curriculum, their sermons. Read their Charter(s). Their plan is not acceptable to the world, that is why it fails. Don't blame Israel for the Arab intentions.

The 'artificial standard' for Israel is called the right to exist in peace.

Same standard exists for the Palestinians... and unless I'm very much mistaken, it's not their armies that are occupying Israel. Peace is as peace does.

Fact is, that the shoe is NOT on the other foot. Fact is, that Israel has quickly grown to become a high-tech society with an army which has not yet lost a war. Fact is also, that the Middle East is one of the poorest regions in the world. Fact is, that all the Arab countries together have an annual production less than Spain.

Fact is, this nicely puts the lie to your assertion that Israel's about to be blanked off the map... wouldn't you say? Clearly, the risk it incurs in simply ending the occupation, in the face of all that, is miniscule in the extreme.

Nice deke, by the way, but you avoided addressing my point. You're just talking over it.

And they will also weather the actions of Palestinian Arab kidnappers, hooligans and hyjackers.

Yes, for years and years and years to come, I'm afraid, thanks to attitudes like yours. Let's face it; you're not talking about peace or security, you're talking about triumphalism. "A boot stamping on a human face forever," to quote the late Mr. Orwell. For this, I'm expected to feel sympathy?

20% of Israel's citizens are Arab.

And growing more numerous annually. That's something that would give me pause, were I making grief for them. Not all that long ago, the Catholic population of Northern Ireland was discountable too...

You don't have to blame Israel for the Arab intentions.

Maybe I don't, but obviously they do.

Yes, Palestinian Arabs have the right to exist in peace, but theirs is a tribal society: peace is not (yet) in their book. In the entire Arab world there is 'eternal' strife between one family and another; between Sunni and Shi'a; Arab Muslim and Black Muslim; Muslim and Baha'i; Muslim and Kurd; Muslim and Christian; heterosexual and homosexual.

The war of Arabs against Israel is just another tribal war for them. Unlucky for Israel, traditional Western Jew-haters - including some Jews - fan the flames on the Arab side for the 'kick' they get out of it.

However, compared to the immense problems of the stagnant Arab and Muslim world, the Palestinian Arabs, who are already largely fed by Western agencies, get far too much attention. Also from you and me.

Yes, Palestinian Arabs have the right to exist in peace, but theirs is a tribal society:

It wouldn't matter if they were a Martian society. The point is, they have a right to their own state and self-determination, unqualified by the opinions of others, and regardless of whatever attitudes are ascribed to them either as a polity or as individuals. Exceptionalistic excuses don't impress me.

Unlucky for Israel, traditional Western Jew-haters - including some Jews - fan the flames on the Arab side for the 'kick' they get out of it.

The old trump card of shouting "anti-Semite" (a misnomer here anyway, since Arabs are also Semites) is intellectually disingenuous and people have increasingly less patience for that sort of cheap closure on debate. The fact is that Israel and its policies may be legitimately criticized without the source of criticism being hatred or bigotry, but a desire for justice and different ideas on how a lasting peace will be achieved.

the Palestinian Arabs, who are already largely fed by Western agencies, get far too much attention.

Far too little advocacy or action, I would counter.

'They have a right to their own state and self-determination'. Where did you get this extraordinary idea? Even if one UN-resolution after another would assert the Palestinian Arab refugees' NEED to self-govern, that would still not be a guarantee for success. There is no freedom in Gaza and the West-Bank, but neither did freedom make an appearance ANYWHERE else in the Arab world. It is ludicrous to blame Israel for the Arabs' ineptness.

It would be wonderful if antisemitism were just a 'trump card'. But it is not. Vicious, specific Jew-hatred is alive and kicking all over the Arab press. Look
here for a sampling. Also, you can read this. I would say that Palestinian Arab bombings, kidnappings and murder attacks are motivated by antisemitism. Just watch their television: theirs is a racist war against the Jews.

When one understands that theirs is just a tribal war for power, it is possible to take Arab racism with a certain grain of salt. But America and Israel shall NOT allow the creation of a independent nation whose leading political party Hamas officially intends to destroy its neighbor(s). That is where we draw the line. Hostile Arabs can be under occupation forever, if that is what they want.

'They have a right to their own state and self-determination'. Where did you get this extraordinary idea?

Where did you get the idea it was extraordinary?

There is no freedom in Gaza and the West-Bank, but neither did freedom make an appearance ANYWHERE else in the Arab world.

Especially not in such places as are occupied by foreign armies. Of course, if you have no objections to such things on principle, perhaps the Italians might be invited back to oversee the administration of Israel as they did 2000 years ago? By your definition, that would not preclude the freedom of the Israeli people, who were, after all, a troublesome tribal people to the civilized Romans...

It would be wonderful if antisemitism were just a 'trump card'.

I have little doubt you wish it were so.

Jew-hatred is alive and kicking all over the Arab press.

Gee, I wonder why. After all, the rest of us just loved Germany when it was occupying France, after all.

Just watch their television: theirs is a racist war against the Jews.

Hmmm... well, I recently heard this little bit of racism from another quarter: "No, the Jews are NOT morally equal to those who choose to hate them. Indeed, they are superior." You might recognize the source. Pretty disgusting stuff, this racism, don't you think? Boy, I sure do. Not hard to see how it poisons the well, though.

Hostile Arabs can be under occupation forever, if that is what they want.

It seems obvious to me that is in fact what Israel wants. To quote again from Mr. Orwell:

'The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.' He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: 'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?'

Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said.

'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation."

In conjunction with the above, a couple of links for you, BTW:
this one and this one, for starters.

Where did you get the idea it was extraordinary? - Most cultural groups in the world do not have their own country. Why should the Palestinian Arabs be supported to establish a sovereign state without Jews?

Especially not in such places as are occupied by foreign armies. - Syria has martial law. Saudia is ruled by one family. In Egypt, there is no democratic spirit. Sudan fights its own black Muslims. All Arab countries forbid the academic research of Islam. There is no freedom, religious or otherwise, anywhere in the Arab world. Why blame Israel for the Arab condition?

the rest of us just loved Germany when it was occupying France - Even when most of Europe was occupied, people did not hate the Germans as such. The fight was against Nazism, not against Germany or the Germans. Have you read the link regarding Arab antisemitism?

Pretty disgusting stuff, this racism, don't you think? - In contrast with the Arab countries, Israel allows full religious freedom. Do you perhaps think it is wrong for Israel to act in a morally superior way?

It seems obvious to me that is in fact what Israel wants. - I think it is fine for Israel to defend itself against attacks. If the Palestinian Arabs really wish to continue their war, that is fine, too. However, the efforts towards their national independence will then be put on hold. No negotiations under fire.

By making him suffer. [...] In conjunction with the above, a couple of links for you. - All humanity suffers, even in Holland there are real problems. But blaming the Jewish People is plain age-old antisemitism. One may have prejudices against the Jews. It's OK. But kidnapping Israel's soldiers or firing rockets at Israel's non-combattants are simply acts of war. In contrast with past centuries, the Jews can now respond militarily. May the best army win.

I'd like to bring this to a close. This is not a forum for philosophical debate; this is a place for me to share photos I've taken, comment on what I found interesting about them, and enable others to express themselves with relation to the photos. I paid for this account. I consider it an extension of my home. You're welcome to come in and look around, comment on what you like and make suggestions with regard to its presentation, but persistent attempts to rearrange my intellectual furniture in a venue like this amounts to real rudeness. I think I've been patient and indulgent in giving you free voice here for last three days, particularly when you were generally unwilling to address my points before simply tossing your own and presenting them as a new salad. I've done my bit as the good host. Please do me the courtesy of finding a corner outside for your soapbox.

For what it's worth: I understand your point of view and the points your making; I simply do not agree with them anymore. Prior to the intafada, I did; I held views nearly identical to yours. Since then, I've slowly had to change my opinions; I've come to see the ones I held previously as bigoted and supremacist. What I see when I look at the Palestinian areas today and the treatment of its people and its sputtering attempts at self-government is a huge bear-baiting show with human beings in the place of the bears, kept in chains to be poked with sticks, their every roar and swipe trumped as justification to poke them all the harder. It's disgusting, and the longer it persists, the less fellow-feeling I have for Israel, though it once abounded in me. Many Israelis have taken all the wrong lessons from the Holocaust: "Never Again" should mean everyone, not just them. A bullied child will either grow and learn to become a defender of the meek, or shrink and adopt the ways of violence to become a bully himself. That Israel, at least for the time being, has elected the latter path is abundantly clear to me, and I cannot support that. More to the point, neither can the women in the photograph.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

John Sewell? Oh, God, no...

John Sewell's back. Well, he's trying to be.

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that John Sewell, former mayor of Toronto — whose policies ensured that one two-year term was more than enough for the citizens of Toronto, even back when "Toronto" was just the chunk between the Humber and Victoria Park — is running for city council.

Around ten years back I bought a book of his about the nature of Toronto's growth in the 20th century. I still have it. It's well written, and well researched. But there's no question of it; the man was born 100 years too late. The Toronto he'd be comfortable in — one of tiny, quaint little hamlets separated by a mile and a half, where everyone walks everywhere — had vanished by the time of Confederation.

The big controversy this time out is jaw-dropping, for me. Streetcar lines, in most places in North America, hearken back warm memories of black and white television, Leave It to Beaver, and kids avoiding swimming in late summer so they didn't get polio. In Toronto, we still have a number of streetcar lines downtown; we never lost them (in fact, we added one on Spadina Avenue in 1997). So you would think the issue would be that someone's trying to kill a line off, right? Wrong! There are plans to segregate the line on St. Clair Avenue from the traffic, which seems eminently sensible to me: better traffic flow with a much lower risk of accidents. But John Sewell and his supporters want to kill the plan. Why? One of his supporters, Margaret Smith, as quoted thus:

"I think many of us believe that if we had local democracy in Toronto, if neighbourhoods really counted in Toronto, then we wouldn't have a dedicated right-of-way forced down on our community and our neighbourhood," Ms. Smith said.

Oh, great. "Local democracy in Toronto", yeah, I just thrill to those words. Speed bumps every seven inches. Threats of turnstiles and tollbooths. Territorial pissing contests at every major intersection. Turf wars for soccer moms. As if this fucking town weren't already a massive pain in the ass for getting around in, constipated at every turn by some selfish self-appointed local saint of the Church of NIMBY. These are people who think just because they live on or near a street, they own it. At least, more than you do. No, folks, you don't. We all own it. Streets are first and foremost for getting around on. That's why they exist. Your right to jaywalk or not to have to look at a 18" concrete traffic barrier does not trump the right of hundreds of thousands of people and tens of millions of dollars in commerce getting to and fro as easily and efficiently as possible. These are our streets, not just yours because you happen to see them when you look out your window. Nowhere in the whole article, as far as I could see, did the exact issue they have with the dedicated right-of-way come up. I'm forced to conclude it's nothing more than a petty reaction to the fact that the city is daring to change city property in a part of the city... where they happen to live at the moment.

(Note: I actually went to Save Our St. Clair's website and, yes, I made a pretty good guess at it. Foremost is their 'right' to cross the street or turn left wherever they want without having to go to an intersection with a crossing signal, and the psychological burdern of having to conceive of their neighbourhood as "divided" outweigh all the practical considerations of the entire rest of the GTA.)

And John Sewell stands at the apex of all this. When the province was amalgamating Metro into a single city in the late 90s, I remember Sewell complaining that not only was one city a bad idea, even the six we had were too few, and that we ought to go back to the bucholic chaos (my words) of the thirteen municipalities we had before 1967! I was waiting for him to suggest every street should have its own mayor and council (the man actually used the long-forgotten word "megacity" in the article, as if that debate hadn't been put to bed before the first firecracker went off at the new millenium). I, on the other hand, feel it didn't even go far enough then. Metro shouldn't have vanished; it should have expanded to take in the other four regions of the GTA, giving us a single transit authority to get people moving and out of their cars (hey, isn't that what you wanted when you killed the Spadina Expressway, John?) instead of — as they generally do now — stopping at municipal borders as though they were the Berlin Wall; and to redistribute the tax burden so that downtown can be preserved while growth is better and more sensibly managed in the fringes. Toronto in particular and the GTA in general need the insularity of John Sewell and people like him about as much as we need a ricin injection.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Not the Country Club: Those were the days...

You folks who don't want Iran to have nuclear plants, you just run off and have yourself a look at this:

Not the Country Club: Those were the days...

Hypocrisy in the name of military and economic hegemony?

Schadenfreud!! ...Pardon my French.

Y'know, after all the kvetching and whining and harrumphing and moralistic posing the PQ in particular and Quebec separatists in general did about the sponsorship scandal, does this news from this morning's Globe and Mail ever go down like a cold beer on a hot summer day...

PQ knowingly took illegal donations, judge says
Groupaction skirted law by funnelling political contributions through employees

MONTREAL -- The Parti Québécois was on the defensive yesterday over embarrassing disclosures that it knowingly accepted $96,400 in illegal donations from Groupaction, the ad firm at the centre of the federal sponsorship scandal.

The report says senior PQ officials were aware of Mr. Brault's subterfuge but accepted the "disguised contributions," which were made when the party was in power.

"The party knew the situation and closed its eyes," says the report by retired Superior Court judge Jean Moisan, who called 66 witnesses, including Premier Jean Charest.

...Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Burp. :)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Love is hate

Nice front page of The Globe and Mail today. A headline announces that Prime Minister Harper, to my surprise and delight, denounced the idea of cutting immigration, claiming it to be one of our salient national strengths, a view with which I accord. But just as the man's stock was rising with me, I made the mistake of actually reading the article.

Why is there strength in our diversity? Well, according to the PM, because it makes people hate us, of course!...

"It is true that somewhere, in some communities, we will find . . . apostles of terror, who use the symbols of culture and faith to justify crimes of violence... They hate open, diverse, democratic societies like ours, because they want the exact opposite," Mr. Harper declared.

That's right, folks. You heard it here first. We're strong because our welcome inspires... hatred! God almighty. You know, even when the man sets out to make sense, he just can't resist the urge to put on his ass and wear it for a hat, can he? Never miss a chance to put a negative spin on a positive item, or use it to stir fear in the people. What next? Vegetables are good for you! ...Except when they cause cancer. Oh, you didn't know...?

And can someone, anyone, please tell me why Stephen Harper has apparently thrown his hat into the ring to go toe-to-toe with George Bush as "North America's Most Brainless Rhetoricist"? This is one crown I would happily leave to that republic down south.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Confederate States of America

Yesterday (Sunday, as I write this) I went with a friend downtown to see a relatively obscure movie called CSA, dated 2004 but only just in limited release now. It's a sort of alternate history that presumes not only did the Confederacy win the Civil War, but actually overturned the government of the United States with the help of foreign arms, and reconstructed the North. A little far-fetched, but the idea was, I think, twofold: illustrate what a close call it actually may have been, and point out some uncomfortable truths about the legacy of slavery, particularly in the US but really, in the Western world in general.

The movie is set in the current day and purports to be a television documentary (complete with commercials) being broadcast by a television station in San Francisco. The documentary itself is portrayed as foreign propaganda, created by the fictitious British Broadcasting Service. In this history, Britain and America are not allies, in spite of the fact that Britain (and France) were instrumental in helping the South overrun the North in the Civil War. The turning point in history is that a southern diplomat named Judah P. Benjamin, who really lived and who came close to convincing Europe to intervene in the Civil War — at least diplomatically, if not actually militarily — succeeds beyond his wildest dreams and garners military support. The South conquers the North, exiles Lincoln to Canada, and gains ascendency over the entirety of Latin America. Slavery florishes. Canada, in an exaggeration of its historical role, becomes the sanctuary of escaped slaves and abolitionists, to the point that the Confederacy builds "the cotton curtain" along the border, and the Confederacy finally enters into a cold war with most of the rest of the developed world (except for South Africa).

The movie is largely tongue-in-cheek. There are many laugh-out-loud moments (JFK as the Lincolnesque Republican candidate facing off against Democrat Dick Nixon), but a lot of disquieting ones too. Seeing the Stars and Bars over the White House is oddly sobering. It's not so much that you feel it could really have happened, it's the idea of what would the world be like if attitudes in the Confederacy had somehow prevailed (or might yet) and were wedded today to that kind of power. Every so often, one of the interviewees lets slip something you suspect is less about a fictional alternate history, and more about what's really all around us that we ignore or take for granted. Just at the end of the movie, a black professor at the University of Montreal makes a comment about how the legacy of slavery is still with the children of slaves, which seems an anachronistic thing for her to say, given that in the movie, slavery is still a going concern, and you realize she's really talking to us, now, today. That's made very clear when it's revealed at the end of the movie that many of the spurious products advertized in the commercials were real products, many of them sold right up to the 1980s (such as the Sambo's restaurant chain). It's shocking to see a West coast chain called "Coon Chicken Inn", which ushered patrons in through a huge, grinning black face, and be told that it existed in Seattle, Portland, and northern California right up to the 1960s. Slavery might be dead in the literal sense, but the movie really drives home that its reverberations are still with us... even here in "Red" Canada.

Give and take in Purgatory

Many, many people reach a stage in life where they're so useless that the need to make exact change seems to overwhelm them, as though the one thing that will redeem their usefulness to society. Folks, it's not true. You have so much more to offer; don't sell yourself short. More importantly, quit wasting everyone's time. Because it makes Baby Jesus cry.

Here's how it works. It helps if you're Catholic, so you can follow the logic (but hey, if you're not, you're going to Hell anyway... at least, that's what I'm led to understand), but even heretics should be able to hum along even if they don't know the words.

Purgatory, of course, is where those who aren't damned must first go before entering Heaven in order to be expurged of their sins. I gather you basically relive them, probably from the other person's point of view, over and over and till you get why it was wrong. You know, kind of a big Twilight Zone episode. The worse you were, the longer you're there. So the less trouble you cause for others, the less you get for yourself! It's Catholic Karma. :)

So here's how it works with regard to making exact change...

1) The number of seconds you save yourself in Purgatory is directly proportionate, 1:1, to the number of seconds you saved the cashier not having to make change for you. In other words, if you save the cashier 11 seconds by giving him or her exact change, that's 11 seconds you shave off your sentence in Purgatory.


2) The number of seconds you increase your sentence is Purgatory is equal to the number of seconds you saved the cashier not having to make change for you, exponential to the number of the people behind you in line whom you inconvenience by doing so. So, if there are, say, six people behind you who only want to pay for their milk, bread, gas, and girly magazine and get the f*** out of Dodge, that's 11 seconds to the power of 6, or 20 days, 12 hours, 6 minutes, and 1 second you add onto your time in Purgatory. Minus that 11 seconds off for good behaviour, on balance it comes out to an additional 20 days, 12 hours, 5 minutes, and 50 seconds.

Let the cashiers make change; that's what they paid to do. Go home, roll pennies with no one lined up behind you, and take 'em to the bank. Now that's a public service.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Will liberty carry the day?

I begin to hope.

This, from today's Globe and Mail... My emphasis in red.

Security trumps all, Crown tells top court
Judges fire back on contentious security certificates, KIRK MAKIN reports

OTTAWA -- National security is an interest so vital that it trumps almost any other interest imaginable, a federal lawyer told the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday in a hard-driving defence of the security certificate system used to deport suspected terrorists.

"National security is not a societal interest like any other, such as the cost of drugs or investment in the health-care system," Crown counsel Bernard Laprade said.

"It is an absolute necessity. Without it, all the other rights become theoretical. Without it, we wouldn't be here to discuss these questions today. I don't want to be alarmist, but without it, there is nothing else."

"Mr. Laprade, if we don't have the rest, we'll be living in North Korea," Mr. Justice Louis LeBel interjected on the second day of a court test of the security certificate system.

Mr. Laprade also waved aside accusations that Arabs and Muslims have been the sole focus of security certificates, saying this is not only incorrect, but it ignores the reality that Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terror network are overwhelmingly an Arab and Muslim phenomenon.

"Non-citizens do not have an absolute right to come into this country and stay here," he added.

Three detainees -- Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat and Hassan Almrei -- have asserted that the certificates breach their right to life, liberty and security of the person. They are supported at the hearing by a raft of intervenors that include Amnesty International, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the University of Toronto and the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Tuesday, many of the 34 lawyers present in court rose to make their case that security certificates are an unjustifiable and dramatic departure from democratic legal traditions and that the court must excise their worst excesses or scrap them altogether.

Shortly before the Crown's case began yesterday, lawyer Neil Finkelstein of the Federation of Law Societies urged the court to create a right to legal counsel as an "unwritten constitutional principle."

He said this would ensure that people in the position of the detainees are not deprived of the fundamental case against them and of the right to instruct counsel properly.

Within minutes of launching the government's case in favour of security certificates, Mr. Laprade was on the defensive. Eight of the nine judges kept him hopping with a steady, two-hour barrage of questions that repeatedly diverted him from his prepared remarks and forced the Crown lawyer to confront the most contentious areas of the certificate process.

The judges grilled Mr. Laprade especially hard on the fact that evidence against detainees is heard in secret by a judge who decides whether the government has "reasonable" grounds to order their deportation on national security grounds.

The certificate procedure makes the same judge responsible for ensuring that the legal interests of the detainee are observed, and that the government's evidence and allegations do not go unchallenged.

Judge LeBel, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Madam Justice Rosalie Abella and Mr. Justice Ian Binnie took turns peppering Mr. Laprade with questions about how a judge can play the role of cross-examiner in a secret session, and how a detainee would perceive the fairness of the process if his only defender is the presiding judge.
"There is nobody there whose only job is to poke holes," Judge Binnie said.

But Mr. Laprade called it "offensive" to refer to the proceedings as secret trials, because the presiding judges work hard to keep them fair in the absence of lawyers for the detainees.

"The judges are doing exactly what we wish them to do and nothing less," he said.

"In reading their decisions, I don't see anything that would allow me to believe that justice has not been rendered and that they have not been a legitimate and useful attempt to reach the truth."

Madam Justice Louise Charron tried to pin Mr. Laprade down about the sparse evidence summaries that detainees receive.

"I've looked at the Harkat summary, and I don't really see any specific information Mr. Harkat can take home with him . . .," she said.

"You're not going to get that," Mr. Laprade replied. "The raw information is the very reason you are not going to get it. It is being protected."

Mr. Laprade said it could be disastrous if an information leak were to result in a genuine terrorist getting inside information about the identities of confidential informants or strategic plans.

Asked by Judge Abella whether this sort of information has ever leaked out of hearings that involve a more liberal flow of evidence, Mr. Laprade said it would be impossible to know.

"This suggests that we can tag information and follow it around the world," he said.

Besieged again by requests from the judges to rate alternative ways of structuring certificate hearings, Mr. Laprade finally said: "The problem with your question is that you're asking me to develop policy positions, when I believe that is a problem for Parliament that requires a judgment call. I believe it is not for litigants to make -- it's for Parliament."

The court reserved its decision yesterday after hearing a final word from Barbara Jackman, a lawyer for Mr. Almrei.

"Refugees make claims in Canada based on the very grounds that are before you -- secret trials and suspicion of membership in [outlawed] organizations," she said. If the court approves the certificate process as it exists, she said, repressive regimes abroad will see the system as an endorsement of their own dark practices.

"This case is fundamental not just for Canada, but for the rest of the world," she said. "I just want to remind you that the context is crucial, and it is global."

An open letter to Albert A. Gore, "recovering politician"

Dear Mr. Gore,

Thank you. I finally "get" global warming. I've spent 15 years as a skeptic, but your correlation between temperature and CO2 levels over 600,000 years was a solid enough demonstration of the science for me.

If I may say so, it's a pity you were elected by the people of your country, but failed by the Electoral College. I pity for us all, I think.


To everyone else... you should see An Inconvenient Truth. There were a lot of dots floating around out there and Al Gore deftly connected them for me. I see clearly now, as never before, what I only glimpsed but doubted: that our habits are demonstrably changing the climate of the planet, and that we are already seeing the consequences. The movie is worth seeing just for the coastline impacts of major metroplexes if half of Greenland and half the Antarctic ice shelf are added to our ocean levels, which now seems all but inevitable. I think you could stagger into this movie tanked to the gills and you would walk out stone-cold sober. It's that affecting. If your jaw doesn't drop at least three times watching this movie, then you're just not paying attention.

Okay, I get it now. I'm sold. If you're not, do us all a favour and check it out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Do right (by him), Dudley!

I've just heard, by way of another blog, that a pair of male RCMP officers in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia are going to marry. A little digging revealed that Const. Jason Tree and Const. David Connors will marry on Friday, June 30th, the day before Canada Day. Kind of makes me smile. It's certainly different, isn't it? We continue to glide into the future with a smirk, a shrug, and a beer, while so many others mire themselves in the past, sling mud, and bruise each other. Conform... conform... conform... Shudder.

Cheers mate! No problemo amigo!

What with the World Cup going on and all, cars with flags of the various participating nations are everywhere. On my way back to work after a lunchtime outing, I actually saw a car sporting both the flag of England and the flag of Argentina!

...Does this mean all's forgiven vis-a-vis the Falklands War? :)

Nukes and Nukesability

I read this morning in the Globe and Mail that Ontario is planning to build a couple of new reactors, and refurb upwards of a half a dozen we already have. Personally, I welcome this news, though I wonder if it means we can expect Condoleezza Rice to threaten to nuke us. I suppose being an active part of the Manhattan Project (as both Canada and the UK were) affords one certain philosphical immunities...

Joking aside, I think it's a good idea. Ontario's already having electricity problems. We're forecast to be 10,000 megawatts short by 2025 if we don't do something. It takes about a decade to build a reactor, and onto that you have to lard the provincial and federal environmental impact studies, and the obstruction from environmental groups. My feelings about Greenpeace et al. are like my feelings about unions. I'm generally a proponent and supporter, but I think there are times they go too far. This is one of them. We're trying to close coal-powered plants (we're down to four), and while urging conservation and wind power are worthy goals, they won't meet the challenge of an industrial province that needs power 24/7 regardless of whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Most of our major hydroelectric opportunities are already being exploited. We need new reactors. Greenpeace should be fighting to see to it they're as safe as possible, with as small an environmental footprint as possible, rather than trying to prevent their construction altogether. The Globe quotes a Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace Canada as vowing to be "in the ministry's face" for the next 10 years. I think it behooves Mr. Stensil to do his bit and swear off electricity while he's "in the face" of the province during this time, don't you? It's the least he can do to be part of the solution and not the problem, since I don't see him doing much else to ameliorate it.

Mount 'n thrust??

I see in the news the name of our pending action in south Afghanist is... Operation Mountain Thrust. Mount... 'n thrust. Yes. Brilliant. Clever. Hilarious. Just who the hell are we getting to think up these names, anyway? The boys in grade seven health classes? Are Western operational planners really that juvenile? We're trusting our security to people who think military operations are an opportunity to poke one another in the ribs and giggle?

So the breakdown is something like three Brits to two Canucks to whatever number of Afghans are on "our" side. Seems to me the British Empire was running something like this in Afghanistan something like a century ago, weren't we? Man, memories are short. I think the best thing we could do for these people and our own is bring our troops home. Keep 'em home, till someone invites them. When two sides ask you to get between them, that's peacekeeping. When you go kicking in someone's door and firing democracy at them, that's not peacekeeping. That's an invasion.

I also notice that NATO is taking over the show this summer. 'Scuze me, but wasn't NATO about keeping everyone else out of our countries? Wasn't that the idea? When did it cease to be about collective security and become about empire building?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prepped for sketpicism surgery

I've decided to make a point, sometime this week, of seeing An Inconvenient Truth, the currently-showing documentary about global warming. Now I am one of those guys they really made the movie for: an undecided, unconvinced skeptic. I think they've got the goods, but I want to see for myself.

I'm old enough, just old enough, to remember the harsh winters we had in the mid and late 1970s. When I was a kid, the prognosis was: new ice age. How the science worked in those days was, pollution was blocking out the sun so the world was cooling down, you see. Made sense: smoke hides the sun, the world gets cooler, ice age on the way, and we were seeing the first hints of it in these headline-making winter storms and unseasonably cool summers. In case you think I'm just dreaming this up, check out the November 1976 issue of National Geographic; specifically the "What's Happening to Our Climate?" article.

Then, suddenly, the 80s came, and things went back to normal. All the talk about a new ice age evaporated like an ice cube on a warm summer day. Heard nothing about it till suddenly, in the mid to late 90s, we started having hot summers, milder winters. But then there were hard winters. And it was like, any aberrant weather, hot, cold, dry, wet, raining frogs, was all instantly trumpeted as proof of global warming. It was like arguing the Bible with born-again Christians: anything was proof, even the contradictions. So, to be blunt, though I suspect there's something to it, I remain not quite convinced. We live such short lives; we're like medflies, born to live for a single day, and seeing in the rain showers around us that day the coming of the Flood. I'm not sure yet this simply isn't a natural cycle (though we may be exacerbating it, I'm ready to admit).

So okay, this is the mindset with which I approach the movie. I'm not convinced, but I could be. Show me the evidence. I suppose I want this movie to convince me. If it's happening, if there's something I ought to be doing, fine, let me know. So off I go.

I'll keep you posted. Yes, I know, you can hardly wait. :)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Just the recent wanderings

About a week and a half ago I went with a couple of friends down to the nude beach on an overcast, drizzly Friday. It was a nice trip. The water was a little cool, but a good opening to the summer season.

It ain't exactly the Mayflower...
Taking the ferry over, first to Ward's Island, and then to Hanlan's point.

Blockhouse Bay
This is Blockhouse Bay, where the marina is. It's often full of the most pleasant sailboats.

The Road to Nudity
The boardwalk leading from the grassy area of the park through the screen of trees to the beach...

Entering Hanlan's Point beach
This is the end of the boardwalk onto the beach. It enters just the clothing side of the fence. Cross the fence and you can really frolic in puris naturalibus al fresco. :)

HDR IR The right side of freedom
This is a high dynamic range image compsed of three infrared images of varying exposures (pardon the pun); what I call "HDR IR". This was taken just inside the fence that separated the clothing optional side of the beach (where I'm standing) from the fabric side. The sign warns that you must be dressed on the other side of the fence.

HDR IR Rainy beach due
Another HDR IR image. This looks north over the fence towards the Humber Bay.

Hanlan's Point Nude Beach
This is a panorama of the beach, looking south (hi, Rochester!) from about where you enter the nudist side of the divider.

The obligatory cliche shot of the Toronto skyline
On the way back to the city from the islands. A stereotypical, but I think still lovely, shot of the skyline with a ferryboat in the foreground.

This is the start of Yonge Street
This is where Yonge Street, "the longest street in the world" according to Guinness, actually begins... a couple of yards behind the person standing on the sidewalk are the waters of Lake Ontario.

Looking up Yonge Street from its very start
Looking up Yonge Street from its very beginning. From here, you can drive all the way to the Dakotas, as memory serves. Along this stretch of sidewalk are mileage markers that tell how many kilometres to various Ontarian cities and towns along Yonge Street.

Last weekend I went down to the Distillery District with a couple of the guys to listen to blues music and drink organic beer. Yeah, it's that kinda town, what can I say. :)

HDR IR Canary Restaurant
HDR IR image of the Canary Restaurant to be found at Cherry Street (along which we're standing) and Front Street. As I understand it, this corner has been featured in any number of TV shows and movies for its rather authentic 1940s aspect. This restaurant is, amazingly, still a going concern.

An incidental note: I took the photo about five minutes after we were witness to a minor accident at Cherry Street and Eastern Avenue in which an SUV rear-ended a van at the intersection. No real harm done, other than that the van shed about 10 pounds of rust, I nearly shed 5 pounds of brown stuff in my jeans (I was standing less than ten feet from the vehicles at the time), and the guy riding shotgun in the van bailed clutching his neck and yelling "Whiplash!" That at least got a chuckle out of the guy in the SUV. They all seemed to take it pretty well. :)

HDR IR Toronto skyline
This is how the downtown looks from Cherry Street, but didn't not that long ago and won't, again, soon. The block was, till lately, an industrial site. It's been torn down to make way for condos. That's the fate of pretty much all the industrial lands downtown over the past 15 years or so. I suppose there are worse fates for a downtown than replacing over-carbonating heavy industry with over-oxygenated Yuppie hothouse flowers...

Famous gates
This is the entrance to the Distillery District on Mill Street (for which a still-resident brewery is named). I'm reliably informed that these gates appeared in the movies Cinderella Man (the looking-for-work scenes) and X-Men (the scene in which Magneto, as a boy in Poland, bends the steel with his mind).

HDR IR Blues
As we entered and made our way down the central drag, we passed the main band shell, where some blues musicians were tuning up. This is an HDR IR image.

HDR IR Distillery District alleyway
This is an HDR IR shot of an alleyway inside the District. It takes three shots to make an image like this; a woman entered the scene in the final shot. She comes out as a ghost in the left foreground. Kinda cool, actually. I still consider it rather ignorant to deliberately enter the field when someone is obviously compositing a photograph, however.

Ameri-- ahhh, Canadian Bandstand :)
From where we were seated, this was the view of the first live band, who were the self-proclaimed Lester McLean Band. They were just the thing to accompany a warm late spring afternoon and quality brew. :)

Yar, here be men!
Speaking of quality brew, here it is biting the dust.

My friend P-Doug consented to hold still long enough for my infrared camera to collect the requisite three images to compose this HDR IR portrait, which I believe is actually my first.

This bears repeating...

As I said to friends when I showed them this piece, which comes from Robert Fisk at CounterPunch, "bottom rail on top this time". Now it's Canada's turn to be upbraided by the American left, and rightly so. Read this and remember what's at stake.


June 12, 2006
The Case of the Toronto 17
Has Racism Invaded Canada?

This has been a good week to be in Canada--or an awful week, depending on your point of view--to understand just how irretrievably biased and potentially racist the Canadian press has become. For, after the arrest of 17 Canadian Muslims on "terrorism" charges, the Toronto Globe and Mail and, to a slightly lesser extent, the National Post, have indulged in an orgy of finger-pointing that must reduce the chances of any fair trial and, at the same time, sow fear in the hearts of the country's more than 700,000 Muslims. In fact, if I were a Canadian Muslim right now, I'd already be checking the airline timetables for a flight out of town. Or is that the purpose of this press campaign?

First, the charges. Even a lawyer for one of the accused has talked of a plot to storm the Parliament in Ottawa, hold MPs hostage and chop off the head of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Without challenging the "facts" or casting any doubt on their sources--primarily the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or Canada's leak-dripping Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) -- reporters have told their readers that the 17 were variously planning to blow up Parliament, CSIS's headquarters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and sundry other targets. Every veiled and chadored Muslim woman relative of the accused has been photographed and their pictures printed, often on front pages. "Home-grown terrorists" has become theme of the month--even though the "terrorists" have yet to stand trial.

They were in receipt of "fertilizers", we were told, which could be turned into explosives. When it emerged that Canadian police officers had already switched the "fertilizers" for a less harmful substance, nobody followed up the implications of this apparent "sting". A Buffalo radio station down in the US even announced that the accused had actually received "explosives". Bingo: Guilty before trial.

Of course, the Muslim-bashers have laced this nonsense with the usual pious concern for the rights of the accused. "Before I go on, one disclaimer," purred the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente. "Nothing has been proved and nobody should rush to judgment." Which, needless to say, Wente then went on to do in the same paragraph. "The exposure of our
very own home-grown terrorists, if that's what the men aspired to be, was both predictably shocking and shockingly predictable." And just in case we missed the point of this hypocrisy, Wente ended her column by announcing that "Canada is not exempt from home-grown terrorism". Angry young men are the tinderbox and Islamism is the match.

The country will probably have better luck than most at "putting out the fire", she adds. But who, I wonder, is really lighting the match? For a very unpleasant--albeit initially innocuous--phrase has now found its way into the papers. The accused 17--and, indeed their families and sometimes the country's entire Muslim community--are now referred to as "Canadian-born". Well, yes, they are Canadian-born. But there's a subtle difference between this and being described as a "Canadian"--as other citizens of this vast country are in every other context. And the implications are obvious; there are now two types of Canadian citizen: The Canadian-born variety (Muslims) and Canadians (the rest).

If this seems finicky, try the following sentence from the Globe and Mail's front page on Tuesday, supposedly an eyewitness account of the police arrest operation: "Parked directly outside his ... office was a large, gray, cube-shaped truck and, on the ground nearby, he recognized one of the two brown-skinned young men who had taken possession of the next door rented unit..." Come again? Brown-skinned? What in God's name is this outrageous piece of racism doing on the front page of a major Canadian daily? What is "brown-skinned" supposed to mean--if it is not just a revolting attempt to isolate Muslims as the "other" in Canada's highly multicultural society? I notice, for example, that when the paper obsequiously refers to Toronto's police chief and his reportedly brilliant cops, he is not referred to as "white-skinned" (which he most assuredly is). Amid this swamp, Canada's journalists are managing to soften the realities of their country's new military involvement in Afghanistan.

More than 2,000 troops are deployed around Kandahar in active military operations against Taleban insurgents. They are taking the place of US troops, who will be transferred to fight even more Muslims insurgents in Iraq.

Canada is thus now involved in the Afghan war--those who doubt this should note the country has already shelled out $1.8bn in "defense spending" in Afghanistan and only $500m in "additional expenditures", including humanitarian assistance and democratic renewal (sic)--and, by extension, in Iraq. In other words, Canada has gone to war in the Middle East.

None of this, according to the Canadian foreign minister, could be the cause of Muslim anger at home, although Jack Hooper--the CSIS chief who has a lot to learn about the Middle East but talks far too much--said a few days ago that "we had a high threat profile (in Canada) before Afghanistan. In any event, the presence of Canadians and Canadian forces there has elevated that threat somewhat." I read all this on a flight from Calgary to Ottawa this week, sitting just a row behind Tim Goddard, his wife Sally and daughter Victoria, who were chatting gently and smiling bravely to the crew and fellow passengers. In the cargo hold of our aircraft lay the coffin of Goddard's other daughter, Nichola, the first Canadian woman soldier to be killed in action in Afghanistan.

The next day, he scattered sand on Nichola's coffin at Canada's national military cemetery. A heartrending photograph of him appeared in the Post--but buried away on Page 6. And on the front page? A picture of British policemen standing outside the Bradford home of a Muslim "who may have links to Canada".

Allegedly, of course.

Remember this date...

In the history of great republics — and for my purposes, I'll number among them constitutional monarchies like our own — there inevitably come crucial turning points in their evolution or static development; those "what if" moments in which socities make the pivotal decisions that define who they are, for good or ill, thereafter. Though hardly anyone will notice, I believe today we are at such a crossroads in Canadian history...

"A momentous, impending clash in the Supreme Court of Canada between national security and the rights of terrorism detainees has taken on even more significance since the arrest of 17 terrorism suspects.

A three-day appeal -- the first major constitutional test of laws aimed at rooting out terrorists -- starts tomorrow and is expected to yield a blueprint for how the court sees fundamental human rights stacking up against the fear of terrorist attacks..."
(The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2006)

We, as a nation, are about to quietly face such a moment. Over the next three days, what is said and done in the Supreme Court will determine what sort of country we are going to be in the first half of the 21st Century — in other words, for the rest of our lives. Will Canada stay the course, holding dear to values, beliefs, and democratic strengths that have seen us through crisis after crisis, war after war, safely for generations? Or will we embark on a new course, abandoning ship needlessly for a dangerous lifeboat? Because rest assured, if history teaches us anything, it's if they can do it to strangers today, they'll find a way to do it to citizens tomorrow.

I wonder if Canada is strong enough, brave enough, to take it on the chin, or just a timid little coward who shoots first and asks questions later... if ever. We'll see.

Monday, June 05, 2006

And so it begins...?

I suspected this day would come sooner or later; I'm only glad that when it did come, it came as bloodlessly as it did. We were fortunate.

This morning the news is that a terrorist cell of 17 Muslim adults and teenagers have been picked up by Canadian police. Details are sketchy at this point, as you'd expect, but I've heard musings that they planned to blow up the Peace Tower (the tower in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa... something akin to blowing up the dome over the Capitol Building in you're reading this from a US perspective), among other places. A modern-day Gunpowder Plot.

Naturally my first gut reaction is anger at these people. And, of course, I'm presuming guilt here; my bad, but for the purposes of discussion, let's go with it, keeping in mind these all remain allegations for the moment. But my second reaction is fear over what this will do to our society. As the days unfold, and the extent of what was allegedly planned becomes more widely known, will Canadians abandon their fairness, and duck behind shields of paranoia, xenophobia, diminishment of civil liberties and a heightened police state? Will we take all the wrong lessons from this?

Two matters compel me to write. First of all, apposite to me is the fact that this nut was cracked long before it germinated, using the tools already at the disposal of the state. This speaks to me as clear and obvious evidence that we have already struck an adequate balance between the rights of individuals to privacy and the right of society to security. Yet, this plain fact will no doubt be ignored by many who will argue that we must now go beyond the beyond and demand the right to spotcheck people's underwear and eavesdrop on halal meat shops for evidence of unorthodoxy in the opinions of patrons. But why stop there?

Secondly, I hope one of the things that comes out of this will be a curiosity among Canadians as to why people living among us should target us. And I mean to the point of really listening to these people when they speak and give testimony, assuming they confess... which is probably unlikely (and again, I know I'm presuming guilt again here). We have to go beyond the facile and flatly false assumption they do it "out of jealousy"... what would such people be jealous of? They're here! Whatever we had they wanted, they have now acquired and achieved, and through their own labours in getting here! I find telling, though, that this all happens in the wake of Canada's increasing visibility in Afghanistan, the debate over our role there, and the extension of our military presence. Speaking for myself, each of those those strikes me as a much more credible causus belli than economic jealousy. It's relatively easy to pick up stakes and move someplace prosperous... but what do you do when an entire culture is invading nation after nation you identify with, carelessly causing the deaths of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and behaving as though rules existed only for the weak?

I believe we stand at a crossroads, where we will either listen to the grievances of others and begin to respect their rights even though they can't compel us, or else we will pledge our lives and blood to the futile project of maintaining the military and economic preeminence and hegemony of the Anglosphere and surrendering our freedom, our humility and our humanity to the (belated) founding of Orwell's Oceania.

Friday, June 02, 2006

On intent and example

Yesterday I wondered at the US 'offer' for talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions, which prompted the question,

Not to skirt your 'issue' here, but do you want Iran to have Nuclear weapons?

This is an interesting question, and one I have definite opinions about that are too lengthy and, I think, address an issue too important to be buried in a simple reply, and so I will post them here, more prominently...

I don't really want anyone to have nuclear weapons.

But that said, any number of countries do, and it's nothing but hypocrisy of the worst self-serving kind for them to suggest it's fine for them but no one else. Iran has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and under it (or not), has the right to a nuclear enrichment program and nuclear power generation. This makes sense to me; if the one thing you have to sell the world is oil, you're a fool if you're burning a drop more of it yourself than you absolutely have to... especially at $70 a barrel! People need to understand, though, that this is a sovereign right of any nation, and one explicitly confirmed in the treaty. Iran neither needs to negotiate for it, nor do they need anyone's blessing or permission to pursue it.

With regard to nuclear weapons, which is a different matter entirely, consider the circumstances in which Iran finds itself. Iran is surrouned by nuclear powers... Israel, Pakistan, India, China, and Russia ring it. I'm not convinced Iran is out to build nuclear weapons, but if they were, could you blame them? Both Israel and the United States have made first veiled, and then not-so-veiled, threats to use nuclear weapons on Iran as it suits them. My feeling is that is you're constantly threatening a person and his family by sticking guns in their faces, swearing to blow their heads off if they get a gun, a guy might be prevailed upon not to get a gun. But if goes on every time he goes to market, or in the saloon, or to the railroad station, and it becomes abundantly clear you just don't like his face it's never going to end, then sooner or later, he's going to get a gun... hell, he's going to become a gunsmith... because you've made it clear there is no other way it's going to stop. It's hard for me to think of a more sterling example of stupidity in diplomacy than the way the US and Israel have been treating Iran lately. If Iran didn't want the Bomb before, my God, they've got to want it now.

At the bottom of all this is the question of whether or not Iran would be a responsible wielder of ultimate force. I think past conduct is a fair measure of what we might expect of them, if and when they cross that threshold. Since such issues are largely concerned not with internal politics (such arguments in this instance are red herrings), we need to consider the conduct of Iran with regard to its neighbours and the world.

• How many troops has Iran in Iraq? (Particularly relevant given the fact unlike certain other countries who do, Iran is a country Iraq actually did attack, back in 1981...)

• How many Palestinians is Iran walling up extraterritorially and denying rights it guarantees to others?

• How many Iranian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan or sparking riots on the streets of Kabul, where they are increasingly seen as haughty, unwanted invaders?

• How many military bases does Iran maintain and staff in foreign countries around the world, with all the threats they imply to the security of others?

• How many carrier groups does Iran send to conduct provocative military exercises just outside the territorial waters of China?

The answer to all these questions is, of course, none. If one were to be cool and dispassionate about the world's situation and really inquire into who are the troublemakers in it, and who are the ones who seek security and the right to be left alone, I'm not convinced it's Iran who would come up morally wanting when it comes to trusting one nation or another with nuclear weapons. Do I want Iran to have nuclear weapons? No. But not so much because I distrust Iran per se, more because of the brutish, arrogant example set by others who do, who've abandoned almost all restraint and even the respect for the basic rights of other nations. I don't want Iran to become one of those nations... though it seems that role is being thrust upon them.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

But first, a word from our monster...

I see by the papers today that for the first time in 27 years, the US is offering to sit down, one-to-one with Iran, and negotiate. In this case, it's the whole question of Iran's nuclear program. But the US will only discuss the matter if Iran shuts down its nuclear program. Uhhh... isn't this like saying "I won't discuss buying your house until you sign it over to me and move out"? I hope nobody out there is dumb enough to fall for this shit and consider it a "serious" offer and point the finger at Iran when they inevitably turn it down... but you know conservatives. Any distort in a storm.