31 March 2006

Hand Hurts

I must be a glutton for punishment. I've just finished writing my draft for my American Foreign Policy paper, I've been marking papers, writing other stuff, you name it. My right hand feels like it's about to fall off, and it's only Friday. By the time Monday rolls around it will be dead. It will be an ex-hand. Deceased. Done-fer. Finito.
On the bright side, I'm heading into the final week of classes and I'm seemingly ahead of the game. This makes me happy, and why worry when I've got a left hand too right? Left. Whatever.

29 March 2006

Michael Ignatieff's recent essay on whether liberal democracies should engage in the use of torture or its "gentler cousin," coercive interrogation, has caused a lot of controversy. Kinsella has jumped on it, I've had a couple of discussions with colleagues about it, and there's the usual misperceptions about what Ignatieff is actually saying. It's a long essay, and some people drop off after seeing him engage the idea of torture as a legitimate instrument in combating terrorism. They fail to reach the end where he comes down conclusively against both torture and coercive interrogation.
I found the article to be very engaging and insightful. It's not breaking any new ground, as anybody who has read The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror can attest. He's taken the argument from that text and expanded it somewhat, but he comes to the same conclusion as he did in 2004: torture is not something which liberal democracies should be pursuing. The temptations of nihilism, the physical barbarity, and the psychological effects on both the torturer and the tortured (he eloquently discusses this in the book) are but three of the reasons why an outright ban on the use of torture should be supported. See the chapter entitled "The Temptations of Nihilism," particularly pp. 136-144. The article is in the same vein of what is said in the text.
This article may be perceived as something of a response to Charles Krauthammer's recent article on torture, in which he heaps considerable opprobrium on the use of torture but does make the exception for the ticking time bomb case. This puts him directly at odds with Ignatieff, and though both make compelling arguments for the use/non-use in that extreme situation, I do concur with Ignatieff in that engaging in the "lesser evil" of destroying a small number of lives in order to save potentially thousands is simply to express "the state's ultimate view that human beings are expendable." This is a notion which I am certain we can all find repugnant and to be sufficient grounds for the repudiation of torture and coercive interrogations.
The incomplete sentence that begins Ignatieff's essay, "If Torture Works..." runs against the simple truth: torture doesn't work. It destroys a person's ability to be rehabilitated into society and indeed to ever trust humanity again. Ayman al-Zawahiri, best known as al-Qaeda's #2, was tortured in the aftermath of the assassination of Anwar Sadat by the Egyptian government. Upon his release, Zawahiri's hatred of his domestic regime and its ally, the United States, was vastly intensified and led to the amalgamation of his organization with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The use of torture is thus antithetical to the objective of liberal democracies in the War on Terror; far from stopping terrorists, the use of torture helps to spawn new ones who are endowed with an ever greater hatred for the perpetrators of the hideous acts committed against them.
There is a broad discourse on the legitimacy of torture/coercive interrogation; while I firmly side with Ignatieff over Krauthammer, that very smart people are engaging in lengthy debates over the efficacy of torture is helpful because it sheds light on liberal democracies' abuses and usage of the evils which we would otherwise ascribe to the terrorists. That some people will quote Ignatieff out of context is inevitable; sadly, the level of political discourse in this country is in a sorry state of affairs. By publishing a lengthy article and entertaining both sides of the debate before arriving at a definitive conclusion, Ignatieff is contributing to the elevation of our debates beyond capturing soundbites to be played endlessly. Frankly, I would much rather listen to Ignatieff talk about the nuances of torture than listen to Paul Martin read off the back of a napkin his strategy to remove the federal government's ability to use the notwithstanding clause. That may be just me, I'm extremely hopeful that such is not the case. Mr. Townsend, writing in the Grit's comments section makes a fantastic point: anybody who attempts to use the article to paint Ignatieff as being pro-torture is simply demonstrating the lack of an ability to read. "Political savvy" be damned; I'll take a lengthy essay that arrives at the right conclusion over a 10-second soundbite that is wrong any day of the week.

25 March 2006

Awesome. Best news of the day. I wish him the best of luck and if he should become the leader of the Liberal Party I will more than likely rejoin its ranks after a probationary period to make sure he doesn't cave like Paul Martin in the face of a public opinion poll. Go Iggy!!

23 March 2006

A Monumental Day for Canada

Today has been an incredible day in the battle for Iraq, and there is a distinct Canadian twist to it today that should make even the most ardent of anti-war folks proud of our Canadian Forces. As we all know, the two Canadian peace activists have been rescued, along with their British counterpart--tragically, the kidnapped American hostage was murdered by the terrorists a couple of weeks ago--and the latest news is that Canada played a significant role in rescuing its citizens. The British Foreign Secretary (Britain led the rescue mission) acknowledged that this operation was conducted by British, American, and Canadian officials, and speculation is that not only was the RCMP involved, but so were Canada's elite special forces, the JTF2. For this force to be in Iraq may cause some controversy among those who oppose any Canadian involvement in Iraq or other fronts of Operation Enduring Freedom, but in my view, to use them in this type of operation is both appropriate and demonstrative of Canada's interest in seeing Iraq remain out of the hands of the terrorists. We may have opposed the initial campaign to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all states have a vested interest in the future of Iraq.
I listened to the Prime Minister's address today while writing a paper for American foreign policy. I was filled with pride to hear his words of support for the American and British forces who worked alongside Canadians to rescue these civilians, and I am highly impressed by the manner in which the Prime Minister has conducted himself in Canadian foreign policy. He has taken a strong leading role in promoting Canada's Afghanistan mission, and has surpassed the expectations of many in speaking with a clear voice for Canada. This is something for which we should all be proud, regardless of political affiliation. I have really come around on Harper in recent months, and I am definitely not the only Liberal, past or present, who has expressed respect for his policy agenda and leadership. He's doing good for Canada, and that is what is important here. He, like the Canadian officials he lauded today, are most definitely doing "excellent work."

20 March 2006

This Should Surprise Nobody

I could swear that I've been saying for weeks that this is exactly what would happen in the Emerson floor crossing inquiry. They could have saved a bunch of money by just asking me; I could have assured them that there's nothing illicit about the Prime Minister of Canada placing a phone call to a respected Member of Parliament and asking if he'd be interested in joining the Cabinet to give Vancouver some representation in the new government.

I hereby declare myself available, effective 01 September 2006, for the position of Ethics Commissioner.

19 March 2006

Even When They're Down, They Still Think They're On Top

I managed to catch a good portion of the Liberals announcing their next Leadership Convention. Now, I realize that it's the duty of the Party President to rally the troops and all of that, but to boldly state that in December they'll be choosing the next Prime Minister of Canada is more than a little presumptuous and reflects the long-running view of the Liberals as being an arrogant party, divine right to rule, all that stuff. Now, yes, it is true that in the history of Canada there have only ever been two leaders of the party who did not become the PM, but at this time, when they're desperately searching for something to stand for and establish themselves as a party with some beliefs, to proclaim that they're doing anything more than choosing the next Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is inappropriate. Stephen Harper is the current Prime Minister of Canada, he hasn't even had a single day in the House of Commons in this role, and to hear that the Liberals are already talking about his successor, before they've identified a party platform and outlined their vision for taking Canada forward, is troubling.
In my opinion, unless the next leader of the Liberal Party ends up being Michael Ignatieff, Paul Martin's heir will not be the next Prime Minister of Canada. Two of the speculative "front-runners" are Tory turncoats, one is a former NDP premier who would have no shot in the West, and the rest are relatively unknown. Ignatieff has his own shortcomings, the big knock that I hear about him is that he's not a "real Canadian" because he's been living in the States or England for most of the past 30 years. Guess who else spent a lot of time being a global citizen before coming out of nowhere to capture the Liberal leadership? Pierre Trudeau. Yeah, that Pierre Trudeau. That kind of undermines that argument eh? There will be many who bristle at Ignatieff's support for the Iraq war and his stance on the global Campaign against Terrorism, but there will surely be an equal number of red tories who like what they see. In all honesty, I'd rather have the latter on my side than the types who would seek to undermine the credibility of the Canadian Forces and the work that is being done in places like Afghanistan to protect our security over there so that we don't get attacked here.
I'd like to talk about this in greater detail, but I'm hungry for food and have other work to do. Perhaps at some point in the near future I'll do a longer talk about "Ignatieff for Liberal Leader."
Ah Sunday

Hope everybody out there is having a nice day. My ranting below aside, it's been a good 24 hours in which I've let my mind have a bit of time off from school stuff. It's been a very long week and I'm glad that it's over. Now it's a three-week sprint to the finish line...the end is in sight. Along the way I'll get to see Michael Ignatieff, Bryan Adams, and turn 25. 2 out of those 3 things ain't bad, I guess.
I would also like to point out that I deleted a comment from someone this morning. I'm not a fan of censorship generally, but it's my blog and if I don't want somebody's hate-filled venom on my site, then I have the option of dealing with it as I see fit. Let it be known that any future comments from this same person will receive the same treatment. I don't like having my integrity questioned on my positions, and false allegations made against me in order to fulfill someone's old grievances or continue some long-running grudge will simply be deleted. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it also allows people to hide behind anonymous facades so that they can insult people half a world away because they still live in the mindset of being a student politician whom I once disagreed with on some student issue. Such is the universe, but holding the moderation key here allows me to make a small part of my universe free of hatred.
To everybody else, enjoy your Sunday.

18 March 2006

Just One Day, Wouldn't It Be Nice?

If we could all go one day without a reminder of the fact that we live in a Pornified society? Whether it's prostitutes trying to defend their industry by referring to themselves as "sex providers," women "celebrating" St. Patrick's Day by going out dressed in short shorts in the middle of March (somehow I don't think that's what St. Patty quite had in mind), or discovering pornography hidden behind a rather less repulsive DVD, my concerns about this world are running high today. I feel surrounded and trapped by all of this, and I don't like it. Someone help find me a moral compass so that all of this can be escaped!

16 March 2006

Musings on Post Responses

Since the publication of my most recent letter to the National Post (see below), there have been responses from a prostitute who is so proud of her contributions to society that she withheld her name and refused to be identified, and from a john who likes prostitution but only when they haven't been abused. If only they came with stamps like "Abuse Free" while you were throwing money at them to have "sex"--not the same thing as you have with a woman that you truly love and respect--with you, you isolated, pathetic loser.
Let's delve a little deeper into these letters and their implications, shall we? First, the women who describes her work as "the escort profession." She believes that she is admired; does the admiration come before or after you strip before a complete stranger? Are you granting him "dignity and respect" by taking his money before you take your clothes off, or are you kind enough to him and his sensibilities to wait until you've put them back on? Does any of this sound reasonable to a rational person of sound mind? Have the dehumanizing effects of your "industry" entered your mind; you speak of the shame and fear that stems from prostitution, but have you considered that it is indeed because of the prostitution itself? You sell your body for "sex"--what you do does not deserve the term. Think about the hard-working mother of two who works a 10-hour day and comes home "exhausted and depressed" for doing so. Do you think she feels any shame or fear in providing for her family? Have you considered what a disservice you are doing to women such as this? What you do is a slap in the face to every honest hard-working woman; in order to gain the "admiration" of men and steal it away from those women who truly deserve it, you lower yourself to being a piece of meat. You are not admired, you are not respected, you participate in your own exploitation and you don't even realize it.
Turning to the john. First, you are a scumbag. Your self-serving distinctions between the sex slave, the escort, and the self-employed sex slave are contemptible. To suggest that there is less abuse involved is ludicrous, because every time you solicit a prostitute you are abusing their dignity and determining their value as a human being based on how well they "do their work." Do you not realize the inhumanity of your actions, or were you too busy thinking of how to convince yourself that what your doing isn't deserving of moral opprobrium? As for your preferences, as I stated above, would your conscience be so much cleaner if you knew that the prostitute you've picked up entered the "profession" completely of her own accord? Do you bother to ask them? Or do you just pay your money for "sex"--I use quotation marks because what you do with a prostitute is not sex--and just tell yourself that this is one of the innocent ones who is just looking for a good time and a few bucks to pay for college? Does that make you a better person than the john who simply doesn't give a fuck? No. Because let me tell you something: at most, 1% of the prostitutes out there voluntarily choose prostitution. That means there's a 99% chance that the woman you are abusing has been abused for a good portion of her life, including when she was a child. What you do is an affront to humanity, all the more so because of your blatant hypocrisy.

In case you folks haven't figured it out yet, I am against prostitution. It is a blight on our society, and those who engage in it, from the pimp to the prostitute to the john, deserve our scorn, but the women involved also deserve some measure of compassion. As I said, 99% of them did not choose this life. We as a society need to recognize that there is a need, a pressing urgent requirement, to help get these women off the streets, away from the predators and the pimps, and help them. Get them clean. Get them off the drugs. Get them into school. Get them in the real workforce. Save them.

14 March 2006

**This appears in today's edition of the National Post** As was the case with the last one, it's in the paid section of the site, so if you don't subscribe to the E-edition, there's no sense in me putting up a link. Pretty cool that I've been in there twice this year already! :)

The Blight of Prostitution

The debate playing out in the National Post's editorial pages contemplating the legalization of prostitution has proven engaging and illustrative. MP Dr. Hedy Fry's comments (see Saturday's Post) about the contributing factors that force women into prostitution are accurate, but I disagree with her contention that some women"chose" this life. Nobody with true freedom of action voluntarily deprives themselves of their dignity to sell their body for sex. To suggest that such is the case contradicts Dr. Fry's statements about what compels women into prostitution in the first place; the women in the sex trade are victims of abuse and degradation, often addicted to drugs, who recourse to selling themselves because they cannot contemplate any alternatives. Is this what we define as "freedom of action?" Hardly.
I also find myself in agreement with Roman Jarymowycz's statement that prostitution is contemptible and a blight on our society. However, he neglects to mention the role of pimps and johns, who prey upon these women, exploiting their drug dependencies and lack of self-worth, in order to attain their own depraved financial or sexual desires. The pimp is the ultimate denigrator of a woman, treating her as a resource with no compunction about depriving her of her value as a human being with dreams and aspirations of her own. That"pimping" in the image of 50 Cent flirts with mainstream acceptance in our society is indicative of the lack of education as to what a pimp does in objectifying and degrading women.
In prostitution there are no angels, only degrees of evil. To sanction this vile industry is to permit denigration of a person's self-worth and defy the principles of "life, liberty, and security of the person" as provided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

12 March 2006

Mr. Harper Goes to Kandahar

Stephen Harper has just made his first foreign visit, and it is appropriate that he goes to Afghanistan to meet with the Canadian Forces stationed in Kandahar. Amid all the public questioning of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, inappropriately led by the Liberals (who were the party responsible for sending Canadian troops there in the first place), it is a tremendous gesture on Harper's part to demonstrate the Government of Canada's resolve to see the mission through to a successful conclusion. Canada is doing great work in that country, assisting in the Afghan government's establishment of security and stability while contributing to the international mission to ensure that the despotic Taliban never again takes hold of the reins of power. Our troops are protecting civilians from terrorist attacks, setting up schools and hospitals, making crucial contacts with factions in civil society, and taking the fight to those who would try to revert Afghanistan's progress back to what it was when 9/11 occurred.
I send my thumbs-up to Stephen Harper for making this gesture in support of the Canadian Forces, and I hope that this will begin a campaign to inform Canadians of the mission in Afghanistan so that this ill-conceived attempt at raising questions about the viability of the campaign is quickly nipped in the bud.

11 March 2006


So I'm sitting here all day-long at the computer doing research and typing for my Canadian Politics paper, trying to find a statement by Ann McLellan regarding how Paul Martin never thought to tell her about his neat idea to ban Ottawa from using the notwithstanding clause, and what do I find? Me! Specifically, a past incarnation Liberal-loving version of me protesting Stephen Harper's appearance in Kelowna during the final stretch of the 2004 election campaign. Don't tell Stephen, OK?

09 March 2006

A Fun Deadline Day

As I was writing furiously again today on a paper and a paper abstract, I was watching a lot of the NHL trade deadline stuff, still trying to absorb the reality that my favourite goaltender is no longer a member of my favourite team. Today I've retired my jersey to a box of stuff, where it shall stay along with the other Theo merchandise. I was interested to see if the Habs would make any more moves, as they'd been rumoured to be after Bertuzzi, while the names of Zednik, Ribeiro, and Souray were bandied about a bunch. Alas, nothing major happened outside of the deal for Todd Simpson, which will add some depth to the blueline. This is the team that will carry us into the playoffs (hopefully), and it's going to be a fun spring.
Not a whole lot else happening in RGM World today. There's now less than a month until: the end of the semester, Bryan Adams, my birthday, all of the above. Oh yeah, I found out today that the government has been stiffing me on my GST cheques for the past couple years, so I got that problem redressed and there will soon be some much-needed funding coming my way. It's like found money, so I will accept suggestions as to fun ways to blow the money. Although, there is that Tim Horton's IPO coming up soon, that could be a neat way to spend it. Or not. I don't know.

08 March 2006

Today is International Womens' Day

No I did not forget. Yes I realize that it's 10 minutes before midnight. I've been trying to formulate the words for what to say about this subject, and truthfully I've been having a difficult time with it, which is unusual for me. I've done 5000+ words in the past two days on the Charter of Rights and the notwithstanding clause, you'd think I'd have something in there to recognize and demonstrate my affirmation of the notion that women deserve equality with men, and that they should be accorded a far greater measure of respect and dignity than they presently receive from society.
That means educating people about subjects which degrade, humiliate, and oppress women.
That means overcoming our socialized perceptions about pornography, sexuality, and other inappropriately-framed debates that nominally "empower" women but in actuality maintain the status quo.
That means listening, talking, and discussing amongst our respective genders and across that border to gain a fuller understanding of what women truly want.
That means many things that I don't even understand. I humbly accept that I do not have a full appreciation for what women endure on a daily basis, the discomfort that they feel whenever a man gives them a cursory body-scan to determine their attractiveness, the internal confidence questions that arise whenever they see their boyfriends glancing, subtly or brazenly, at some dolled-up/airbrushed/artificially-enhanced woman, or the plethora of other things, large and small, that men don't even consider.
A North American woman has to live in a world in which virtually every aspect of consumerism is targeted towards pleasing a man, whether it's the endless parade of weight-loss commercials, magazines highlighting how much more "attractive" celebrities et al. are than the average woman, pornography, and on and on. As bad as it can be here, women in other parts of the world have it far, far worse. In many places in the Middle East, a woman doesn't have the right to an education, to even make the choice of buying the latest "hot" fashion from The Gap, or to leave the house without a male companion. In parts of Africa, women are subjected to forced genital mutilation. They also have something in common with women in the Far East, many of whom are not even teenagers, who are sold into sex slavery and forced prostitution before they are the equivalent of being in the fifth grade.
Some very educated and intelligent women believe that it is impossible for a man to be a feminist. Because men aren't women, they can't legitimately lay claim to being in support of the principles of feminism. I disagree with that concept, and I know that I am not the only one. There is an excellent series of essays and speeches at the one angry girl website that are written by men, who make a passionate invocation for the rights of women and for recognition of them as true equals. We are different, there is no doubt about that. But we are all people, and it is our shared humanity that makes the cause of equality one that deserves affirmation. We can end sexism, but it can only be done together.
*jaw drops*

Montreal just traded away Jose Theodore to Colorado for David Aebischer. Wow. I've always been a big Theo fan, and it's been hard seeing him struggle this season and have the fans rapidly turn against him. It's an unforgiving atmosphere in Montreal, and I'm sure the message boards are lighting up with glee and delight at his departure. That is regrettable. He carried the team into the playoffs in that magical spring of 2002, and if it weren't for a team collapse in Game 5 against Carolina, they would have gone even further. He, like every Habs goalie since 1995, has been in the shadow of Patrick Roy's success and had to live up to the incredibly high standard of being a goaltender in the city of Montreal. That is arguably the largest task in all of sports. He handled the pressure well, until this season. And maybe that's what did him in, we may know more tomorrow if there's a press conference. It's sad to see happen, I've got a ton of Theodore merchandise sitting around here, from an autographed puck to my jersey to the action figure, etc., I don't really know what I'm going to do with it now. eBay maybe? Whatever the case may be, the Jose Theodore era of the Montreal Canadiens story is now officially over. Good luck to you, Jose, and thanks for the memories.

05 March 2006

Busy Busy

I know that you've all been clamouring for an update for the past few days. I've been ridiculously busy this past few days, trying to get settled back in the groove of being in Halifax, going to classes prepared, shopping, yada yada yada. It's March, I've got about 6 or 7 assignments due in the next 4 weeks plus my DND application. So that's where all my time has been going since I returned from BC. I think I did my taxes too. I've made the comment to a couple colleagues that I could use a couple extra hours in the day and that is an idea which seems to be gaining traction. I'll have to ship a letter or something off to Stephen Harper's office to see if he can facilitate the grad students at Dalhousie. It's not like he's going to be chatting with the ethics commissioner anytime soon, he should have enough time to make that happen. Zing!
I'm really only struggling with one of my assignments at this time, and that is my Canadian Politics paper. It's on the notwithstanding clause and the emerging taboo surrounding its use. It's not the most interesting subject material in the universe, but the real problem I'm having is in finding references to it by academics and government folks, as well as to the Charter of Rights' predecessor, the Bill of Rights. I've read four or five articles on Diefenbaker today, and none of them gives anything more than a cursory acknowledgement of the fact that he got a non-entrenched Bill of Rights passed.

Update: The paper is progressing nicely today. I had some great ideas occur to me overnight (always a good sign when my brain is registering things at 1am and I'm remembering them the next morning. Historically whenever I get ideas like that, I have to write them down immediately or they're lost), and that's translated into over 6 pages being written so far today. That almost doubles my word count from where I was at before, and now I've got a solid blueprint marching towards the deadline.

In non-curriculum news, I'm reading a book entitled Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and our Families. Excellent piece of literature by a very bright young feminist who has had some influence on the most important woman in my life. She read the book before Christmas, and I've taken to going thru a few pages each night before bedtime and after I'm done the course reading. I highly recommend to anybody out there who has the idea in their head that pornography is a harmless masturbatory aid that doesn't "mean anything" and is an industry that "isn't hurting anybody." Your eyes will be opened.

Also, a quick word on the Oscars: how awesome is Jon Stewart, and how lame is the Academy for giving props to a song entitled "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"? Please, don't forgive me for being unsympathetic. In a year in which the award could have gone to "Battle of the Heroes" or any of the magnificent tracks from Walk the Line, they honour a song that talks about the hardships of an "industry" that degrades and humiliates the women that it essentially forces into sexual slavery. Hollywood sucks, and I lost all respect for Clooney last night for declaring that he's so glad to be out of touch with the rest of the world.