Monday, February 28, 2005

More than your Standard fare

Babble on.

The Phantom Observer has compiled the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard:

I know our history as a nation, as well as the geopolitical pressures we are under. I am well aware of the Canadian Dilemma: we know what we are not, but we know not what we are.

Nowhere is this dilemma more personified than in our current national government, under our current leadership. He, like his predecessor, is a manager rather than a leader, spouting empty platitudes about vision and believing it a substitute for the real thing.

Go follow the links. There's gold in them-there hills, and VW has already done all the heavy digging.

Babble off.

Back to the grindstone

Babble on.

With a four-year-old and a fourteen-month-old, my weekends are generally spent chasing, tickling, snuggling, reading to, and dancing around with kids. Oh, I might throw in a little home improvement, and the odd date with my wife, but that's about it. I'm not complaining about the routine, mind you, but it's...well, routine.

This weekend was a little different. Friday night was the VRWC Toronto Chapter blogger bash (incriminating photos here and here - Chris put each photo in a separate post, and I'm too lazy to link to all of them - but look at this as well, and tell me he and Nick weren't separated at birth), with guest of honour Damian Penny showing up from Corner Brook for the weekend, and a surprise visit from Queen Z. I was quite flattered, although somewhat confused, when she mistook me for Bob Tarantino and introduced herself by poking a finger in my face and exclaiming: "You owe me a drink!" Still, good for her for dropping by and showing a healthy sense of humour. Much fun was had by all, although I think I might have offended Mike Brock with an offhand comparison between him and Ann Coulter. Upon further reflection, there's no real comparison: Mike doesn't have the legs for it.

Saturday night had more blogging cameraderie on the agenda, as Kathy Shaidle and Rick McGinnis graciously hosted a movie night for some of the VRWC crowd. Litlbit and I weren't able to stay until the evening's end, but we did enjoy "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" Of course, it forced me to further revise my comparison with Brock: he doesn't have the hair for it either.

Sunday was notable as my Chief Ottawa Correspondent dropped by unexpectedly on his way through Toronto, with his wonderful family in tow. Sitting at the kitchen table watching our wives chat and our kids playing together, I'm sure he was thinking the same thing I was: who'd have thunk we'd ever be this lucky? I'm blessed with great friends, and I'm cursed to have most of them live at least a day's travel away, so the visit was a fantastic surprise.

After they left, I helped my bratty kid sister Joge with an essay about the Secession Reference and the Clarity Act. I have to say, the more I learn about about that law, the more I think it's Jean Chretien's one valuable contribution to the country as Prime Minister. I've come to believe both the Supreme Court opinion and the resulting Clarity Act have set the bar so high that any attempt at secession is virtually impossible. We'll see if her Poli Sci prof agrees.

The Academy Awards were even more irrelevant to me than usual, as I hadn't seen a single picture nominated for a major award. But there were a few great dresses ("Honest, hon, I'm only looking at the dress"), a few fun acceptance speeches (a special-effects winner saying he's "just glad there wasn't a fourth Lord Of The Rings"), and the odd humourous zinger delivered. Chris Rock had what I think was the line of the night when he joked - and I'm going from memory here: "Oprah's so wealthy, I saw John Kerry proposing to her a half-hour ago." Heh.

All that's probably lame to you jet-setters out there, but for a homebody like me, it was a lot of fun. And if you just don't give a flying french seal about my weekend, don't worry, I'll be back to regular blogging shortly. Thanks for caring.

Babble off.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Pay attention - this is going to be on the exam

Babble on.

Professor Tarantino will now address his first-year political science class, otherwise known as the Conservative Party of Canada. The title of today's lecture is "How to Control Both the News Cycle and a Minority Government from the Opposition Benches."

Listen closely, class - you'll be tested on this at election time.

Here's what should have happened: the budget gets released. No Conservative says one. frickin'. word. "No comment". "We're reviewing it". "We'll get back to you". That's it. Jack Layton mewls about how he doesn't like the budget, and says he is going to vote against it. The Bloc complains about the budget not being in the interests of Quebecers and indicates it will not support it. Still no word from the Tories. Perfect. Why? Because the Tories have just changed the focus from "what's in the budget?" to "what are the Conservatives going to do about it?" The headlines write themselves.

Wake up in the back! The man is not talking to hear the sound of his own voice, people, he's trying to teach you something you obviously haven't learned yet.

And here are my two pennies: why is Stephen Harper getting better political advice from a blogger than he is from his paid minions? Why isn't someone with at least Bob Tarantino's tactical acumen on the payroll?

Babble off.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How much is a Liberal promise worth?

Babble on.

I've been wanting to rant about this for two days now, but I decided to wait for the actual budget to come out instead of frittering my indignation away on purely speculative stories. But Ralph Goodale's big day has come and gone, and the final numbers for the military are out in the open: $500 million dollars more in the DND budget than last year.

"But wait," you say. "I've read the papers, I've watched the news. The Liberals have given $12.8 billion dollars to the military - the biggest increase in twenty years!"


I can see how the general public might think that, given how the media has essentially parrotted the government's PR on this, but it's simply not true.

First of all, most folks watching the political scene wouldn't bet a wooden nickel this Liberal minority will survive another two years. With over $11.7 billion of the total promised to be delivered more than two years off, how much do you believe that promise is worth? Even assuming the Liberals survive in government through the full five years of their timetable, what unforseen circumstances - a downturn in the economy, a natural or manmade disaster, a drastic rise in interest rates, whatever: pick your poison - might make them rethink their promise to what is undoubtedly the last priority on their minds: the Canadian Armed Forces.

Secondly - and kudos to the Sun/Canoe journos for being the only media outlet I could find who pointed this out - $8B of the spending has already been announced. It's not new money.

Don't get me wrong: this is much better than the kick in the teeth our people in uniform have gotten for at least the past ten years. But to sell this bandaid as some blessed newfound commitment to our military is typical political dishonesty.

I agree with Declan. There should be accepted conventions for reporting and commenting on budgetary matters that allow the public to cut through the misleading shell-game rhetoric, and see just what the government is doing TODAY.

TODAY, the Liberals are giving our military $420 million to patch holes in in its fiscal situation and another $80 million to start the process of recruiting new soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The Toronto Star reports (registration required) that DND will also be required to find $640 million in cost-savings/efficiencies, although they don't specify over what time period.

As far as the rest of the promises, you'll forgive me if I wait until the money is in hand before slapping the Grits on the back and congratulating them on a job well-done.

Babble off.

Update: I'm reassured when a clear-minded individual like Paul shares my skepticism:

Given the typical lifespan of a minority government and its budgetary promises, I think I've seen pyramid schemes with a better chance of delivering upon their promised returns.

Even Timmy says "it is not so much a budget for this year as a payment plan for the next five years." Since many of us are working to see that Mr. Dithers doesn't hold the reins of government for nearly that long, I'll continue to dispense salt with this budget - grain by grain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Uh, Pierre? You might want to call Paul.

Babble on.

Here's what Pierre Pettigrew said to me mere days ago in an e-mail regarding how Canada is responding to the ongoing barbarity in Darfur:

Canada strongly supports an expansion of the AU mission in Darfur as the best way of resolving the crisis.

Here's what Paul Martin, Pierre's boss, said in Brussels yesterday:

In an unexpected and passionate statement after a NATO summit that largely ignored African security issues, Mr. Martin declared that the African Union has failed to deploy effective peacekeeping units in Darfur.
"The African Union has made an important contribution but it is clear that the enormous needs on the ground outstrip the AU's current capacity," Mr. Martin said.

The new force may still be mostly composed of troops from African nations, but needs UN command-and-control experience built up over decades, Mr. Martin said.

First, credit where it's due: if your strategy isn't working, better to change it than to cling stubbornly to it out of pride or fear of bad press. Good for Martin for realizing Canada's current strategy just wasn't working.

But...GEEZ! What sort of a farm-implement-IQ hack figured Canada's "Walk softly and carry absolutely nothing" Sudan policy had a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding in the first place?

And if you're going to change policy, even for the better, as it seems Martin has (assuming he follows through on his grand rhetoric - OK, I'm not holding my breath), then don't you tell your people at DFAIT so they don't have quotes like this up on their website the next morning?

Canada actively encourages Sudan's road to peace by supporting African efforts that find a solution to this African crisis.

Hmmm. No hint of boots on the ground, or even helicopter support, there. Pierre, you might want to have a chat with Paul and get yourselves sorted out. 'Cause right now, you guys look like a bunch of chumps.

Babble off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Soft power and ongoing genocide

Babble on.

As it turns out, I have time for one more post today.

Imagine my surprise: Pierre "The Hair" Pettigrew has just responded to my e-mail of August 21st, 2004 regarding genocide in Darfur. I'm not one of those folks who think politicians should drop everything to answer one person's letter or phone call or e-mail: we elected them to do a job, and if all they do all day is respond to wack-jobs like me, they can't get that job done. But that assumes our Minister of Foreign Affairs is spending his valuable time actually doing the job. From his e-mail, I'm guessing he’s spending more time practicing 'spontaneous' facial expressions in front of a mirror than he is on the Sudan file.

Dear Mr. Brooks:

Thank you for your e-mail of August 21, 2004, regarding Sudan. I regret the delay in replying to you.

The Government of Canada has been deeply concerned about the serious humanitarian and human rights violations in Sudan, a country that has been embroiled in civil conflicts for years, including the long-standing conflict between the north and south. Since February 2003, conflict has engulfed the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Particularly troubling are reports of the plight of refugees who have fled to Chad, the increasing number of internally displaced persons, the violations of humanitarian law, including sexual violence, and the personal security of those affected.

Solving the north-south conflict is key to resolving crises in other areas of the country. Therefore, Canada applauds the signing, on January 9, 2005, of a comprehensive peace agreement to end the civil war in southern Sudan. The agreement has positive implications for a political settlement to the dispute in Darfur. The Canadian government is also pleased about the signing of a preliminary peace agreement on January 18, 2005, between the Government of Sudan and the National Democratic Alliance, the umbrella group encompassing most of Sudan's organized political opposition. This agreement positions Sudan to end more than a dozen years of conflict in the east and north, and bodes well for real progress for peace throughout Sudan in the near future.

Canada has adopted a two-pronged approach to respond to the crisis in Darfur. We are providing humanitarian aid to meet the needs of those affected by the violence and we are using our diplomatic channels to address the political root causes of the conflict. Since 2003, Canada has provided over $40 million for humanitarian aid, protection and peacebuilding efforts in Sudan, including over $26 million for Darfur. We have supported human rights initiatives in Sudan and we will continue to respond to evolving needs in consultation with other donors including United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations.

Among the first nations to respond to the crisis, Canada early on registered its concerns with the Government of Sudan, in both Khartoum and Ottawa. We have issued statements urging action to end the terrible violence in Darfur, and we have sent high-level representatives to Darfur to register Canada's concerns and to determine first hand, the gravity of the situation. The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister, met with President Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan on November 25, 2004, to convey Canada's concerns regarding the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, and the importance of signing a comprehensive agreement to end the southern civil war, and to propose practical measures with respect to the crises. Prior to the Prime Minister's visit, the Honourable Aileen Carroll, Minister for International Cooperation, delivered a letter on behalf of the Prime Minister to the President of Sudan in September 2004, urging the Government of Sudan to deal with the crisis. Senator Mobina Jaffer, Canada's Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, visited Sudan on several occasions and stressed to the Sudanese government the need to take direct steps to ease humanitarian access. On November 1 and 2, 2004, Sudanese and Canadian government officials met in Ottawa to continue discussion on domestic and regional issues.

Senior United Nations representatives who visited Sudan in September 2004, indicated that the Darfur situation remained serious and actions of the Government of Sudan to remedy the situation had not been adequate. They noted that human rights violations and impunity persist in Darfur. Canada urges all parties to the conflict to resolve it peacefully and ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, including by bringing perpetrators of serious violations to justice.

Canada urges the Government of Sudan to cooperate with the United Nations. On July 30, 2004, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1556 which sent a clear message that the UNSC was prepared to take action to end the crisis in Darfur and to protect civilians. Resolution 1564 followed on September 18, 2004, and emphasized the protection of civilians and called for an enhanced presence in Darfur by the African Union (AU). Canada is contributing $20 million to assist the AU with enhancing its observer mission in Darfur. Approximately $16 million of this contribution will be designated for chartered helicopters to assist the AU. This contribution is part of Canada's ongoing support to the AU to build its
capacity to respond to crises. Canada strongly supports an expansion of the AU mission in Darfur as the best way of resolving the crisis.

Let me assure you that Canada remains committed to constructive engagement to build long lasting peace for all Sudanese. We continue to urge the rebels in Darfur and the Government of Sudan to cease aggressive actions and to respect human rights and humanitarian law.

Should you wish additional information with respect to Canada's response to the situation in Sudan, I invite you to visit our Web site at

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Pierre S. Pettigrew

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs is 'concerned' and 'troubled'; he has 'urged' Khartoum to stop killing their own people through Senators and Ministers of the Crown; he 'remains committed to constructive engagement'.

That's a whole lot of words, Pierre. How many lives do you think those words have actually saved? How many perpetrators of the most heinous and bestial crimes have your words brought to justice? How do you figure folks in the refugee camps feel about your words, and the vaunted Canadian “soft power” they represent?

I can tell you I don’t think your words are worth my spit, Mr. Pettigrew.

What’s required in Sudan are honourable, dedicated, professional men and women who are armed to the teeth and possessed of a mandate to protect the innocent with deadly force. If the Liberal Party of Canada had any clue how to fund, prepare, and deploy such a force, Canadian soldiers would embrace such a mission. The fact that we’re not in a position to deploy such a force, even if Mr. Dithers and The Hair were to unexpectedly join the ranks of the skeletal, is a disgrace.

Babble off.

A smattering

Babble on.

Due to time constraints today, Babbling Brooks may not have any of the cutting-edge insight and commentary you've come to expect (wow, the acoustics in my office must be better than I thought: I can hear the blogosphere-wide chorus of "what else is new?" quite clearly). Instead, here's some BBG-style linkety-goodness for you:

A bird in majestic flight, set free from the bounds of gravity, watched with sorrow and with awe. Take care, Andrew.

Damian Penny pointed yesterday to an insurance story I'd meant to blog, but didn't get to. I posted a comment there to give a little balance. I work in the P&C industry, and I battle with insurance companies all the time on behalf of my clients; I know how backwards they can be sometimes. But if a disaster had hit in Canada last year, the insurers would have ponied up, and no-one would have given a rat's back-end about their losses. Feast and famine, and all that - 2004 was simply a feast.

Kevin Jaeger has today's best line regarding a doctor shortage in Quebec:
"'The law of unexpected consequences is taking place here.' I'll be generous and assume he meant to 'unintended consequences', as this result can hardly be called unexpected."

The Dancer gives us some insight into Syrian promises and Lebanese resolve.

Pogge provides a valuable link to a site devoted to protecting bloggers. Today they highlight the plight of two Iranians imprisoned for blogging. (On a side-note, I find it interesting that Ellen Simonetti - a woman fired because of what she posted on her blog - is involved with this project. Good for her.)

Babble off.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The geese laying the gold are starting to squawk

Babble on.

As I've mentioned before, when Paul Wells gets it right, the ball doesn't just go over the fence, it goes intercontinental. Yesterday's explanation of Ontario's place in the equalization formula qualifies as a rocket off his bat:

You see her point. If anyone's mad at Ottawa, it's like Quebec being mad at Ottawa, and the more provinces that are mad at Ottawa, the better.

And, one assumes, you see how spectacularly wrong this is. Ontario is mad at Ottawa because it pays $23 billion more in tax revenue into the federal pot than it receives in government services and debt servicing. And it thinks that's too much.

Quebec — it kind of amazes me to have to point this out — is mad at Ottawa because it receives $2.8 billion more in government and debt servicing than it sends in tax revenue. And it thinks that's not enough.

It's worth your time to read the rest. Dalton McWeasel doesn't strike me as an Atlas shrugging; but if the federal-provincial fiscal balance is out of kilter badly enough that this pencil-necked twit and his intestine-less excuse for a government are trying to stand on their hind legs, the have-not provinces in Canada should start worrying. Because while McWobbly might not have the stones to really throw Ontario's weight around, he won't be in power forever.

Babble off.

Fiscal conservatism from the left

Babble on.

I've never run a business, and I've never held office and made decisions on public spending. My entire experience with money is as chief bill-payer and breadwinner for my family. From that perspective, a lot of the arguments flying around regarding government spending and debt repayment seem alien to me.

Like when Jack Layton says stuff like this (not a recent quote, but still NDP policy from what I can see):

I don't believe that now is the time to accelerate the paying down of our national debt. Paul Martin does. But, if we follow his plan, even according to their own numbers, that'll take $30 or $40 billion over the next ten years out of what we could otherwise spend on healthcare, education, environment, cities and a childcare program and so on. We think that paying down debt, you know it's interesting people say, 'should we have less debt?' well, it would be nice…let's suppose you're having a family discussion. You have a sick grandmother who needs some care, you've got a kid who wants to go to university and you're wondering about tuition and you've got a leaky roof. And, dad walks in and says, 'you know what we're not going to do any of those things because we're going to pay back the mortgage even faster than the bank says we have to because we just have to get rid of that mortgage, I'm fixed on it so we're not going to take care of any of those needs.'

Am I the only one who thinks this is a silly argument? Government debt isn't really like a mortgage at all. Eventually - years, and years, and *sigh* years from now - my house will be completely paid off. Can anyone seriously say our federal debt will eventually be completely paid off like my little house?

Isn't Canada's debt more like a revolving line of credit? And how many of us think having a line of credit worth a quarter of our annual income in perpetuity is an "aggressive" long-term debt-strategy?

As I've said, I'm not an economist - and since economics seems to be the new alchemy, I wouldn't brag about it if I was - so maybe I'm just desperately in need of an education as to why government finances are completely dissimilar to family finances. That remark isn't entirely facetious, either: I wouldn't be surprised if there were substantial differences of which I'm completely unaware.

But when thoughtful Canadian lefties like Declan at Crawl Across The Ocean post in defence of fiscal conservatism and "aggressive" debt repayment, you have to wonder if all the common-sense types are out to lunch, or if it's the politicians and the economists instead. Because arguments like these seem pretty solid to a layman like me:

Holding ~$500 billion in debt as we do currently, every 1% rise in interest rates puts a $5 billion hole in our budget. i.e. we are very vulnerable to a large interest rate shift. If we were to get hit with an economic mess like we got hit with in the 70's, but starting from this debt position, well, it doesn't bear thinking about.
Russell says,

"Using budget surpluses to repay debt is a highly dubious gesture of inter-generational fairness if today's children are neglected in order to lighten the load of future taxpayers."

But today's children and future taxpayers are the same people - the fairness issue has nothing to do with them. The fairness issue is about all the people who benefited from piling up the debt who will soon be leaving the workforce and will no longer be in a position to repay their debt before it passes on to their children. And the fact that controlling spending to pay down the debt affects all members of society, including children, doesn't mean that the children of future generations should have to pay interest on $500 billion of debt that we piled up and never paid down.
Now, consider one of the primary spending objectives that Russell suggests: "rebuilding the wide range of social programs that play a role in combating poverty and promoting social equity". Now, does anyone think it is really possible to do a study which will accurately estimate what the impact of doing this on total tax revenue collected by the federal government would be? And if this policy is implemented can we track whether we are getting the return we expected? And if we aren't, will these programs be shut down? We have to remember that government is not a business.

Read the whole thing. If you disagree, please tell me why, because until someone can present a more compelling counterargument, I'm inclined to agree with him.

Babble off.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Pieces of fragments of a big picture we'll never see...and pachyderms too!

Babble on.

You know the joke: five blind men bump into an elephant and try to figure out what it is. One touches the trunk and exclaims it's a snake. One puts his hand on the beast's side and says it's a wall. One wrappes his arms around a leg and calls it a tree. One gingerly touches the tip of a tusk and proclaims he's bumped into a spear. Attempting a humourous departure from the traditional version of the ancient Indian folk tale, the man at the back end of the elephant says he doesn't know what the heck it is, but it sure smells like crap.

Recent pieces on Nepal published by both The Tiger in Winter and The Globe and Mail make me wonder what the Nepalese political elephant really looks like. Probably a mix of the two different accounts, with other points of view we haven't even learned of yet; although I find myself more inclined to lean towards Ben's account than towards some Reuters employee shrilly quoting Amnesty International in an attempt to sell newsprint and ink.

Curtailing civil liberties is a serious matter, but, practically speaking, how free was Nepalese society if corruption and graft were as rampant as the King alleges? Especially with the ongoing civil war against the Maoists - a situation that was apparently not improving under the previous government?

My overarching concern with this reverse-coup and the abrogation of Nepal's constitution is the long-term message it sends to Nepali citizens. Democracies are self-governing by definition. Corruption and poor management by politicians are supposed to be punished by vigilant voters, not by a patriarchal head of state. King Gyanedra has effectively told his people that they cannot be trusted, and I'm concerned that they will believe him.

Only time will tell what Nepal's elephant truly looks like. [mischief] Who knows? Maybe it's one of these. Or worse, one of these. Guard your honey with your life! [/mischief]

Babble off.

Blogging about an article about blogging

Babble on.

You could burn out a couple computer monitors scrolling through all the pixels devoted to introspective blogging about the influence, the advantages, the drawbacks, the evolution, and the future of the blogosphere. This sort of navel-gazing is exceptionally difficult to do with any real insight given the rapidly-evolving nature of this medium; worse yet, it tends to get boring after awhile.

This is not to say that all writing on the subject is tedious or flimsy, as Peggy Noonan brilliantly proves in yesterday's WSJ Opinion Journal (nod to Penny). She lists seven core strengths of the political blogosphere, and explains why bloggers are actually performing a public service. She also wades into the Bloggers vs. The MSM melee and delivers the best one line rebuke to journalists whining about blogger scrutiny I've seen yet:

If you can't take it, you shouldn't be thinking aloud for a living.

The only issue I have with Ms. Noonan's piece is that she writes about blogging as if it's all political. Pundit blogging may be the most well-publicized segment of the blogosphere, but Flea's eclectic explorations of pop-culture are on track to bring him close to 3,000,000 page views this year. will get close to 5,000,000 unique visitors this year if people's mouse-clicking habits stay constant. Gawker pulled more visits last hour than I've seen in my best month, and their overall traffic is in the same range as InstaPundit. Most political bloggers I know can't even dream about that type of traffic.

I'd love to see any of the journalists who talk about blogging - as an ally, as a foe, or as a supposedly unbiased observer *snicker* - try the Blogger Navbar Drinking Game. I'm pretty sure their paradigms would get the spins even before they did.

Babble off.

Update: The Master of Castle Argghhh!!! also directs his readers' attention toward Noonan's remarks, and repeats a familiar military admonition to denizens of the MSM: "Adapt or die."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Party uber alles

Babble on.

Partisan politics before responsible government: five words that convey what I most despise about the Liberal Party of Canada.

Greg Staples describes the latest ignorant stunt perpetrated by the Martinite Mediocrities:

[Liberal MP Pat O'Brien] was interviewed on CBC Newsworld's Politics last night where he revealed that he will no longer be representing Canada in an upcoming Summit on the peace process in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, another member of the Canada-Ireland group, Liberal John Maloney, has been told he won't be going either. Would it have anything to do with the fact that MP Maloney will vote against Bill C-38 as well?

Instead a rookie MP will be sent in their place.
MP O'Brien commented that he thought the Irish Peace Process would come above internal Party bickering but Party Whip Karen Redman thinks otherwise.

So much for PM Martin's promise to bridge the "democratic deficit."


Babble off.

Reality show fantasy

Babble on.

My Chief Barrie Correspondent (whose aboriginal name is Butt Breaks Bus Windows) has pointed me to this little piece of reality show fantasy on CBC's website:

Trump: Gary, Bob, you guys know why you've been brought to the boardroom, right? The NHL is one of the top brands in all of sports. There are hockey fans everywhere. But a $2-billion industry is in jeopardy because you two can't find a way to divide the pie.

(Gary and Bob sit quietly. Gary is leaning over the table, his weight bearing down on the mahogany slab. Bob leans back in his chair.)

Trump: If you ask me, that's some awful leadership. Both of you performed horribly in this task.

The ending is predictable - and a lot less severe than most hockey fans would have done in The Donald's place - but it's still a funny read overall.

This has been talked to death, and by people much more well-informed and passionate about NHL hockey than I am. But I'll add my two cents anyhow.

I'm OK with the players bargaining hard to get the best deal they can for themselves and their families. And I'm OK with the owners trying to set up a system that allows them to run their businesses profitably. As a result, I'm also OK with both sides losing hundreds of millions of dollars by bargaining hard: their gamble, their loss.

What bothers me about this - and it's something I don't think we hear enough about - are all the non-combatants getting caught in the crossfire between the league and its players. I'm talking about the folks who sell tickets, or take you to your seats, or get you your popcorn and soft drink at the concession stand.

Hockey fans understand that when big boys play a fast and tough game, one team wins and the other team loses. Injuries are bound to happen too. But imagine an NHL hockey game going on full-pace with thirty toddlers wandering around on the ice. The NHL and the NHLPA are playing that game right now, and the ordinary folks who rely on hockey for their non-millionaire livelihood are the innocents caught on the ice.

How many of them have to go down in a pool of blood before the two sides come to their senses and call off this reckless game they're playing?

Babble off.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Where were you?

Babble on.

Where were you when the NHL season finally swirled down the drain?

Me, I was at The Longest Yard having lunch. Yup, just me and Doug Gilmour watching Gary Bettman's press conference on the TV behind the bar. In fact, he might still be there now. Not like he has to get back to work like the rest of us hosers.

One memorable moment in an entirely forgettable season.

Babble off.

Second verse, same as the first

Babble on.

Vicki Robertson writes an essay for the CBC today that touches upon familiar military matters from a seagoing perspective. It's worth reading:

Truthfully, the military is more plagued by politicians than technical glitches. The way we operate, argue about, and fund our military is political. Popular files are easy to throw money at: health care, education and child care are always safe bets. The military reaches that stature only when tragedy strikes and the media pick up the scent.

But the news cycle is short and the election cycle is long.
Still, we can't pin the blame on politicians. They take their cues from us – the voting public.

Every time a talk-show caller wants to see tax dollars fight homelessness rather than buy new aircraft, our politicians hear it. And when we elect a party that promises to cancel the contract for much-needed helicopters, our pilots hear it.

I said it worth reading - I didn't say it was original.

"Canadian foreign policy requires a stronger, more capable military." Yup. "Our soldiers, sailors, and airmen deserve better." Uh huh. "Canada has a proud military tradition that has been squandered by thirty years of cheap politics." You're tellin' me. *stifling yawn* "We're losing capabilities through underfunding and lack of direction that will take years, maybe decades, to regain." Shameful! *checking watch* "How can Canada remain sovereign without the means to defend our own borders?" *SNORE*

Yadda, yadda, yadda...the general public is tired of hearing these pleas, and to tell you the truth, those of us in Canada who care about our military are tired - so very tired - of pleading.

That doesn't mean we're going to stop, though. Because what we're saying is important, and it's true. And like it or not, Joe and Jane Canuck need to hear it again, and again, and again...and again, and again, and again....and again, and again, and again, AND AGAIN until it starts to sink in.

You want me to move on to other topics? Vote for someone who gives a rat's ass about our men and women in uniform, who understands a military's purpose in a modern, free nation, and who's willing to make the tough political decisions to fund and direct our armed forces.

Until you do that, you're going to have to get used to hearing a broken record with the volume cranked.

Babble off.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hamster scabs are a guilty pleasure

Babble on.

If you're going to pick at a scab when you know you'd do better just to leave it alone, then by God, rip the whole damn thing off. So long as you know that the vitriol of narcissistic left-wing bloghaters is rarely, if ever, diluted by more attention before you start bloodily picking away.

Having said that, Shannon Davis sure knows how to rip a scab. Her flawless technique? She mocks a hamster. She mocks an evil self-absorbed Liberal lawyer hamster, in fact. Heh.

Babble off.

Nitor day or night

Babble on.

What a conspicuously unclever title. Oh well. This is the second day of a two-day 'vacation' to do the final finishing work on my basement. You ever try to put baseboards in after a room is packed with furniture? That's what I get for not completely finishing the damn thing at the time, I guess.

But I'm sure you, dear reader, didn't drop by just to scroll through my feeble bellyaching. Too bad - that's all I've got today.

Instead of loitering around here, why don't you go check out the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard at Nitor in adversum?

Regular blogging will resume once the swelling in my fingers goes down.

Babble off.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Are any of these stiffs getting the message yet?

Babble on.

Not that yours truly had anything at all to do with it, but another charter member of the MSM has discovered that stupid comments don't just slide away like they used to - not with bloggers around they don't.

CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan quit Friday amidst a furor over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq.

Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy. [Too late...way too late - Babbler]

During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum last month, Jordan said he believed that several journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted. [Which is journalist speak for "the f#$@*ing baby-killers are shooting reporters for kicks, man!" - Babbler]

At least this time it didn't take six months to get rid of the guy.

Props to Kate for pointing the way.

Babble off.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Economic transition

Babble on.

A number of folks who blog well to the left of me - POGGE, Sinister Thoughts, Voice in the Wilderness - are up in arms (figuratively, of course) about the announcement to close a Wal-Mart in Saguenay, QC rather than give newly-unionized employees an improved deal.

As regular readers (almost a full column out of a small-town phone book, I'll have you know) might have guessed, I'm not a big fan of unions. I'm one of those troglodytes who feel that unions long ago crossed a line between protecting the abused Dickensian masses, and holding employers hostage while encouraging their own members to become economically sedentary.

That doesn't mean I'm unsympathetic to those who will lose their jobs as a result of this. For a number of years, my single mother raised me on a bank-teller's salary. If she'd lost that job because of a battle between a union she didn't vote for and an employer she didn't care for, we'd have been in deep financial trouble. Of course, my mom being who she is, she would have had another job very quickly - sweeping floors at night, waiting tables during the day, moving us if neccessary to find the work. A resourceful lady, my mother, and not one for crying into her drink for too long.

It also doesn't mean I'm particularly enthused about Wal-Mart. My wife and I shop there from time to time when we find a particularly good deal on diapers or some such staple. But most of the stuff in the store is low-end junk. And while I admire many aspects of Sam Walton's story and his influence on retailing, even he admitted in his autobiography Made In America that he drove his employees, including the store managers who really bought into his plan and helped make him a quite sizeable chunk of coin, too hard for too little money, for far too long. When the top executive has that sort of an attitude, it sets the corporate tone, and I have a hunch Wal-Mart hasn't completely expunged it yet.

Having now used up my monthly allotment of weasel-words, I must echo Materry Fenwildini, and point you to this most excellent treatise by Evan Kirchhoff:

But what we absolutely do not owe anybody is the pretense that increasingly valueless labor is worth more than it really is. In fact, I would say that we have a positive moral duty in the opposite direction: our priority should be to discourage young people (for example, through low wages) from becoming lifelong grocery baggers in the first place, since that profession is about to die and their labor is urgently needed elsewhere in the economy. Where would "elsewhere" be? I'm not sure (although I'd start with "plumber" and "housecleaner" and the other manual trades where wage and price increases signal obvious shortages). But it is extremely unlikely, after several centuries in which nearly every profession has been repeatedly destroyed and replaced with something more valuable and higher-paying, and unemployment has decreased to within single digits of zero even while the labor pool has increased dramatically, that the death of the supermarket grocery bagger marks some kind of special tipping-point. I realize that intuitive plausibility will always be on Reich's side; I would argue that on mine is a healthy chunk of human economic history, plus the fact that global poverty is at both an all-time low and a record rate of decrease.

We're all free - thankfully - to make whatever buying decisions we choose, for whatever reason - economic, moral, or any other that tickles our fancy. Boycott Wal-Mart if that floats your boat. But while you're chanting angrily on the picket lines and writing outraged letters to politicians and editors, not to mention blogging the living bejezuz out of the issue, ask yourself if you really want employment at Wal-Mart to become a more attractive prospect than it is now.

Call me a cruel-hearted S.O.B., but I'd much prefer to see each of those displaced Wal-Mart employees doing something far more productive, and far more rewarding with their working lives.

Babble off.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A younger Castro with oil...

Babble on.

Bruce Gottfred is one of the few folks in the Canadian blogosphere who continues to follow the decline of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.

According to Miami's El Nuevo Herald, Chavez has granted Cuban judicial and security forces extensive police powers within Venezuela. Cubans are already running the intelligence services and indoctrinating and training the military. They will effectively bypass what is left of Venezuela's judicial system when they exercise new powers to investigate, seize, detain, and interrogate Venezuelans and Cubans living in Venezuela, with the right to extradite them to Cuba and try them there. This threatens the safety of some 30,000 Cubans in Venezuela.
Chavez, in turn, provides Castro with 80,000 barrels a day of essential oil. Venezuela's rich flow of oil revenues has enabled Chavez to buy the support of sectors of Venezuelan society and assert himself as the leader of what he calls a "jihad" against American imperialism. Chavez's sense of moral justice is manifest in his alliance with the worst criminal organizations in Latin America, especially the narcoterrorists in Colombia. Just recently, he denounced Colombian authorities because they arrested a senior member of the narcoterrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who had been given sanctuary in Venezuela.

To get a sense of the degree to which Chavez is intimidating his opponents and harassing dissidents, just read the language of a new criminal law that he pushed through the legislature: "Any individual who creates panic in the community or makes it restless by disseminating false information via print media, radio, TV, phone, electronic mail, or pamphlets will be punished with two to five years in prison." Even the most popular form of political protest, banging pots and pans, done in the presence of members of his government, now carries with it up to a three-month jail sentence.

When the recall election was held in August of last year, I was one of those simple, trusting souls who swallowed Jimmy Carter's endorsement of the process as a fair and democratic one. I should have known better.

Carter's people counted fewer than 1 percent of the polling stations, which, instead of being selected at random, as originally anticipated, were selected by Venezuelan officials. Even then, only 76 of the previously agreed 192 ballot boxes were counted, with either opposition witnesses or international observers present at only 26 out of the 76 boxes reviewed. The Chavez-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) forbade access to the tallying centers, not only to Carter's people but to the representatives of the opposition, and even to the two members of the CNE who opposed Chavez. Two professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report concluding that there was at least a 99 percent chance the election was a fraud. The audited sample (Carter's) was simply not a random sample, the professors concluded. Various independent exit polls showed that Chavez had lost the vote by 59 percent to 41 percent, instead of Chavez's contention that he had won by that margin.

Now before I start attracting the ire of friends to the left of me who supported this latest incarnation of the Tin-Hat Latin Strongman with reflexive anti-American solidarity, let me say that the government of Venezuela should be free to peacefully disagree with the government of any other nation on any matter they choose - including the mighty Yanquis.

But when an autocratic cabal seeks to oppress its own people under a flaking veneer of populism and democracy, I think that ruling clique should get called out by the international community. Incidentally, I'd include the collection of stiffs who ran Venezuela prior to the Chavez thugs among those who should be on the wrong end of worldwide censure.

Venezuelans deserve better than this. To those on the right I say: actively support true liberal democratic efforts in Venezuela, even if it results in a government that you don't like. A spanish-speaking Chirac is preferable by far to a younger Castro with oil, people. And to those on the left I say: stop shacking up with autocratic tyrants just because they hate America as much as you do (y'all look as dopey as Rummy shaking hands with Hussein - or Bush shaking hands with Crown Prince Abdullah for that matter).

Babble off.

The Tiger on an elephant, and online

Babble on.

So as it turns out, Mr. Please-Don't-Squeeze-The-Sharma is fording rivers in wildlife reserves on the back of an elephant, getting soused on local rice-liquor, and sending e-mails from internet cafes - although he complains they only have dial-up access. The horror!

Seeing how Ben seems to be having trouble posting to his own blog by e-mail, I'll give you his slightly-edited account of the goings-on in Nepal these days:

Dear friends and family,

Rest assured, I am well. Please don't spread this e-mail around to anyone of an official or media nature, as I'm using a connection that HM the King has not found out about and therefore not cut off. And I should hate to get the good people allowing me to send this short missive into trouble [Babbler - Too late, as apparently the Army burst in just after Ben logged off. According to a later missive recounting his adventures in the countryside, King Gyanedra "has figured out that cutting communications for too long will collapse what is left of the Nepalis economy" - hence the resumed communications.]

You will all have heard of the palace coup that took place on Feb. 1st -- the King has declared a state of emergency, locked up the politicians, and suspended all constitutional rights which were not already suspended except for habeas corpus, in declaring a national state of emergency. He has promised to restore multiparty democracy within three years, after having dealt with the Maoist insurgency and restored order in the kingdom.

Here is my take on it -- I've quizzed various people about what they think about it all, and distilled their opinions into a coherent narrative.

There are two questions for consideration:

1. Is King Gyanendra sincere?

I wonder -- he has always been hostile to liberal democracy -- he did not favour his late brother's decision to grant a constitution. Though he pledged to respect the constitution when he ascended to the throne, he dismissed Parliament in 2002 and has been unable (or unwilling -- not sure, given that there is no effective government control of the country outside the KTM Valley) to hold elections for a new one since then.

Given the state of the politicians -- they are corrupt, and have been unable to form a stable national government or war cabinet in the two and a half years they've had since Parliament was dismissed -- I tend to sympathize with the King. He has locked down all the bank accounts, too, in order to take back the money that various ministers have embezzled from the treasury.

2. Assuming that he is sincere in his statements, can he get the job done?

Of this, I'm also not sure. The Royal Nepalese Army, invaluable as they've been in keeping civil order in Kathmandu, is armed with WWII-era weaponry. HM will have to re-train his whole army, possibly with American assistance, in order to re-take his country. I fear that he may be going the way of Tsar Nicholas II, after he took
personal command of the army in 1915, in that he will be held personally responsible for any failures in future. Essentially, the King is gambling his throne on his ability to restore order and to restore the state. Whether he can get the job done is unknown.

The mood among the largely well-educated crowd I know is surprisingly upbeat. They value law and order, and think that the present situation could not go on. One effect: the Maoists called for a three-day bandh (gen'l strike) from 2-4 Feb, and nothing happened -- people went about their business as usual, instead of being cowed by threats from Maoist goons. So, this is a good thing in their minds.

BBC World and CNN International were restored by the evening of the 1st and so I got to watch some of the international coverage (and to see Pres. Bush's State of the Union address -- v. exciting stuff).

Went to a wedding on the 1st and 2nd -- and the reception is this evening -- for a childhood family friend of mine. (You know me from my year in Halifax -- "state of emergency" = "time to go out and party". Martial law a bit more serious than hurricane or big snowstorm, but the principle's the same.) Was very interesting -- the royal wedding was a Chetri (sp?) wedding, whereas this one was a Brahmin one. More or less similar, except that the Army "brass" band this time included two drummers, two saxophonists, two clarinet players, a guy with a tuba, and two bagpipers. (The pipes are quite popular in S. Asia -- I think there are more here than in the UK, actually. Saw some pipe band stuff on TV for celebrations of Republic Day in India, which I found rather humourous.)

Indian news stations are censored here right now, as are the Nepalese ones -- there apparently is an army major at every channel monitoring what can go out -- for six months, they say.

As much as I value order, though, I think that the extraordinary measures the King has taken will backfire on him. One simply cannot arrest all the politicians, no matter how corrupt they are, and the Constitution, though it should not be a suicide pact, should not simply be suspended at will. I mean, what's the point of having one, then? (But he didn't want it, of course.)

My travel plans will remain relatively unchanged -- I'm still planning to head to Pokhara and Jomsom, though I may have to ditch the safari at Chitwan (I'm v. sad at the prospect of missing out on the rhinos, tigers, and crocodiles, not to mention the elephant ride) [Babbler - as mentioned above, Ben did get to Chitwan in the end - lucky sod].

Anyway, though, I've had the opportunity to see a coup up close and live through it -- I've always wondered what it would have been like to be living in a St. Petersburg suburb in October 1917, so I guess that this is the closest I'll ever get to it.

All best, and stay well,

...proving the adage once again: God takes care of fools and small children.

Babble off.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Keep your eyes on the ball

Babble on.

Today's newspapers are full to the brim with Jean Chretien's theatrical testimony at the Gomery inquiry yesterday, and rightly so. Not only is this story worth keeping on the front pages, but Chretien and his unholy cabal of back-room arm-twisters and professional dissemblers are masters of political spin, and yesterday's choreographed appearance was a tour-de-force in that respect. As John Ibbitson said in the Globe & Mail today, this "is why we miss him so, and why we're so glad he's gone." Too true.

A cursory spin around the Canadian blogosphere looking for commentary on this subject earlier today was quite frankly disappointing.

Treehugger pushes the 'context' argument as hard as I've seen him push anything. It's an uncharacteristically poor effort, as this entire line of reasoning misses the point.
Calgary Grit repeats all the Chretienite talking points, including the 'Liberals are the only federalists in Quebec' excuse.
Jay Currie takes aim at that particular argument, as does Damian Penny. Personally, I think their points of attack play right into the Chretienites' hands - but more on that later.
Peter Rempel is disgusted with Chretien, and finds nothing redemptive in his testimony whatsoever.
The Hack, being an admitted political creature, is amused by the theatrics, but only reminds us at the very end of his piece: "Just don't forget the rest of the testimony and why we're here in the first place."
Stephen Taylor echoes that sentiment, nodding to Liberal mastery of political wet-work.
Don at All things Canadian... continues to focus on the behind-the-scenes efforts to smear Gomery, and has both a trolling megalomaniac and Paul Wells join in on the conversation - neither of whom, strangely enough, contribute much insight.
The various contributors to PolSpy seem to be all over the map on this.
Andrew, as usual, provides a couple of views, and insightfully points out that "Liberal supporters are latching on to today's bravado from Jean's like a lifeline - they've been so beat up lately that they will cling to any glimmer of hope" without really addressing why Chretien's testimony is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Bob Tarantino and Greg Staples are the only bloggers I've read who tap into the core of this mess: whether you agree or disagree with the idea of a sponsorship program to combat Quebec separatism, this particular program was spectacularly mismanaged to huge partisan benefit.

Don't get me wrong: Currie and Penny can make perfectly lucid arguments against the wisdom of using federal tax dollars to fight a PR war in post-referendum Quebec. But then Chretien's Colonel KLAPP rebuttal comes into play. The man in the hot-seat makes the best decision he can with the information available to him at the time; if it's the wrong decision, then so be it. The Monday-morning quarterbacks look petulant, and 'wrong' isn't on the same ethical plane as 'corrupt'. Besides, 20/20 hindsight has the disadvantage of missing all the other what-if possibilities - like what-if the feds hadn't pushed a Canada-brand across Quebec for all those years?

This line of argument will always remain inconclusive, because we can't play the game all over again a different way to see if things would have turned out better or worse. And inconclusive means a win for Chretien on this file.

That's why I think Gomery's "small-town cheap" comment was a double-whammy. Not only did he give the Chretienites a blunt object with which to beat his judicial impartiality, but he framed the issue as a 'golf-balls: good or bad' question. When JC pulled golf balls from a couple of different holders of the title "Most Powerful Human On Earth" out of his briefcase, that question was effectively answered.

The real issue should have been why the hell it costs Canadian taxpayers over $83 to get a single golf ball with a maple leaf and Chretien's name on it. Because the patriotic necessity of fighting Quebec separatism doesn't answer that question. The only plausible answer to that question is that the Liberals were either incompetent or corrupt.

To be clear: once the decision has been made that a PR campaign will be waged in defence of the country, I don't care if Liberal-friendly ad agencies get the contracts. Honest to heaven, I don't. The idea that all the best agencies in Quebec are either separatist or Liberal/federalist doesn't surprise me, and the decision to use only federalist/Liberal ones doesn't trouble me.

But even if you concede those points, that doesn't mean the governing Liberals were free to overpay for services rendered, or - more incredibly - were free to overpay specifically so contracted firms could funnel tax dollars into Liberal party coffers. Corrupt or incompetent, take your pick.

No matter how many decoys the Chretienistas throw out into the public forum, there remain a number of core defects to AdScam. That's where the focus should remain. To do otherwise plays to the one Liberal suit that remains strong: misleading, unethical political spin.

Babble off.

Update: Timmy the G breaks from leftist ranks and *gasp* agrees with Stephen Harper. Scandalous!

Your political theatrical skills are impressive Jean, but at the end of the day, the sponsorship program accomplished exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. That's your legacy.


Another update: Matt Fenwick hits the ball out of the park.

But back to Bob's piece, post-segue. He identifies essentially four questions, which the Liberals are indeed trying to intertwine:
1) Was the sponsorship program a good idea?
2) Does the Gomery inquiry cost too much?
3) Is Gomery biased?
4) Was the execution of the sponsorship program somewhere between a nasty mess and a criminal enterprise, where Liberals and their friends enriched party and corporate coffers with taxpayers' money?

The thing is, it takes a clever person like Bob to articulate that the answer to #4 is not at all related to the answers of #1/2/3, but just about anyone can recognize it.

And further to basic intuition: is there much of the public, when hearing Chretien, Pelletier, Kinsella, et al harp on Questions 1/2/3 - in the context of an inquiry struck to answer #4 - who dismiss the self-interest involved?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mea culpa

Babble on.

It looks like I was a little too quick to condemn our new CDS as just another bureaucrat in uniform.

In his change of command speech - his first public statement as Chief of Defence Staff - he bluntly stated that the CF needs more money. In fact, he phrased it as an admonition to two of his political masters seated on the dais with him: Paul Martin and Bill Graham.

"In this country, we could probably not give enough resources to the men and women to do all the things that we ask them to do," [Gen Hillier] said at the Ottawa ceremony marking the transfer of command from his predecessor, Gen. Ray Henault. "But we can give them too little, and that is what we are now doing. Remember them in your budgets."
"The difference is that he said it in public. . . . So at least he's broken that taboo," said [Conservative Defence Critic Gordon] O'Connor, a former brigadier-general and once Gen. Hillier's superior officer.

Nicholas pointed me to another story that, if accurate, also raises my estimation of Gen Hillier.

A senior defence department official said Gen. Rick Hillier took one look at the much-ballyhooed defence policy review shortly after his promotion Jan. 14 and scrapped it.

"It was boring, dry and dreadful," an official close to Hillier told Sun Media of the report, which would have had the blessing of outgoing CDS Gen. Ray Henault.

Contrary to what I wrote earlier, this is a promising start. I definitely jumped the gun on Hillier. Now let's see how hard he fights and how effective he is.

Babble off.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Call your lawyer, ma'am

Babble on.

I wonder if this bereaved mother is going to get sent legal papers as well?

“I have a beef with the government for even buying these things,” said [Lt(N) Chris Saunders'] mom, Debbie Sullivan.

“That’s not the navy’s fault; it’s the government’s fault.” (Babbler's emphasis)

Babble off.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

...and then you wait some more...

Babble on.

Still no word from Ben. When he gets back, he'll be drinking out for years on the stories he'll have, I'm sure. In the meantime...

Here's the latest news & analysis.

Babble off.

Hitting a little too close to the mark?

Babble on.

I find this post, and especially the associated comment-thread, quite interesting. Not being a lawyer myself, I'm curious where the threshold for disciplinary action might lie.

Babble off.

Another voice in the faint chorus

Babble on.

Brenda takes the skeletal idea I sketched out here, and puts some much-needed flesh on the bones:

Let two consenting adults (any two) sign a partnership contract agreeing to formalize financial and legal obligations to each other and to share assets and debts acquired from that time forward. In return for this commitment, state agrees to enforce this contract and to enforce certain rules regarding the relationship of this partnership with third parties like employers, banks, financial institutions, etc. (and even with itself, eg, with respect to taxation.) Due to the nature of the financial and legal commitments in the partnership, only one such partnership may be in effect at any time. You want another partnership? Then dissolve the one you currently have, according to the pre-defined rules of dissolution. (Get a divorce!). There would be a kind of boilerplate partnership contract, but the two adults would also be free to write in specific clauses per their own situation. (Sign that pre-nup!) Adults have unending (for 18 years at least) and onerous obligations to their children, whether biological or adopted. But the obligations to children are independent of the obligations of an adult to their "contractual partner" or to the child's other parent(s?).

I'm not sure why you couldn't extend that contract to more than two partners, as I suggested, but that's a quibble.

I also liked the way she boiled the practical issues down:

For me it comes down to a distinction between tolerance and acceptance. In the civil society in which we live we can ask people to tolerate many things with which they might not agree, as long as those things generally do no harm to others (recognizing that the phrase "generally do no harm to others" can be the subject of great debate). But we can't demand that people accept things which they may have very strong views against. We can ask people to tolerate homosexual relationships. We can't demand that everyone accept homosexual relationships as equal to heterosexual relationships. "Tolerating" is something we do and the way we act. "Accepting" is something we believe. (Babbler's bold)

But, as the Bear says about this wonderful solution to the marriage question, "That, of course, ain't going to happen." Problem with this solution is that it would never be seen as some kind of middle ground where everyone wins, but as a compromise where no one wins.

I couldn't agree more.

Now if I could only get Brenda to spell my name correctly...

Babble off.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Unfair labels and sloppy language

Babble on.

'Social conservatives' get a bad name because of idiots like this who appropriate the moniker:

At the funeral of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard, they held up signs reading "No Fags in Heaven" and "God Hates Fags." According to their Web site, they have staged "20,000" protests across the nation and around the world in the last decade. They believe that "God's hatred is one of His holy attributes." They are the congregants of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

But that's not the whole story, as the more shrill and extreme liberal activists would have you believe. The same-sex marriage debate - heck, the social conservative movement in Canada in general - needs more voices like Chris Taylor.

Chris quite rightly takes me to task for my sloppy language - I should have qualified the term 'so-cons' with an adjective such as 'radical' - and lays out a faith-based position, supported by scripture, that isn't often heard in the uncivilized screaming match we charitably refer to as the same-sex marriage 'debate'.

I take the scriptural injunctions against homosexuality as personal direction. In other words, if I ever had any sexual attraction toward the same sex, I would be prohibited from consummating it. And since I cannot have sex outside marriage, that rules out same-sex marriage as well. For me. For notional non-religious gay neighbours, it would be a different story. I have no desire to deprive them of the physical aspect of their relationship. It's none of my business, and as far as I can tell none of the biblical injunctions against it have the state as their intended audience. The notional gay neighbours will answer to God for their own spiritual condition, and I have no desire nor scriptural basis for policing it.

Yes, God's design for marriage appears to be one man and one woman. Christians embrace this concept whole-heartedly, as we should. I'm not entirely convinced why anyone else who is not Christian should abide by that, though. Quote Leviticus all you want. That book concerns priestly duties, and ordinances for sacrifices and ceremonially purifying oneself. I know there are specific commands against homosexuality. Again, directives for individuals, most particularly the Levite priesthood of the Israelites -- hence the name Leviticus. Sorry to you radically Orthodox Jewish GLBTs descended from Aaron or Levi -- no priesthood for you. And no crustaceans either.

Now you may say that this is not truly a socially conservative argument, and I would disagree. I am socially conservative within appropriate bounds -- my own life, and the lives of those I have direct responsibility for. I believe that Christians should behave according to Christian standards of morality and ethics. I have no illusions about whether my fellow citizens (albeit non-Christians) should do likewise.

To those who would tar all social conservatives as knuckle-dragging bigots, I point to this gentleman - in the truest sense of the word - and ask you to reconsider your own prejudices.

Babble off.

With friends like these, who needs homophobes

Babble on.

I'm pretty sure this isn't what the framers of our Human Rights laws intended (kudos to The Last Amazon):

The Knights [of Columbus], adhering to church teaching, which is against homosexual marriage, cancelled a rental contract that had been signed, returned the couple's deposit and paid for both the rental of a new hall and the reprinting of wedding invitations after Ms. Chymyshyn and Ms. Smith complained that invitations listing the hall's address for their reception had been mailed. (Babbler's italics)
Their case points to what many legal scholars and religious leaders say is a murky area between protection of freedom of religion and protection against discrimination. They say it could lead to religious organizations and individuals by the phalanx heading to courts and rights tribunals once the same-sex marriage legislation becomes law.

"It's going to be endless," said University of Toronto law professor Brenda Cossman, a specialist in freedom of expression and legal regulation of adult relationships.

The B.C. Knights of Columbus case focuses on whether a church-related organization is the same as a church and whether freedom of religion extends beyond refusing to perform a same-sex marriage to refusing to celebrate one.

Provincial governments, which license civil commissioners to perform marriages, are wrestling with allowing them to follow their conscience and religious belief when it comes to same-sex marriages or, as Manitoba has done, ordering them to surrender their licences and find another line of work.

When I have a problem with a retailer, or restaurant, or any other commercial entity with which I do business, I expect them to indemnify me for any pecuniary loss due their mistake. Once they've done that, I shut up. Oh, I might not ever buy anything from them again, but the specific matter in question becomes closed.

What these two activists are doing is directly attacking the Knights' freedom of religion, here. It's petty. It's counterproductive. It makes a mockery of true human rights violations. And it does nothing - NOTHING - to win the hearts and minds of moderate Canadians on this issue.

Babble off.

Update: As usual, Kate - a self-described "ambivalent athiest" gets to the real heart of this story much better than I do.

When push comes to shove, the "truth" of state-defined equality rights will always trump the "false" God-defined morality. The problem stems from something deeper than simple disbelief in God. Permitting freedom of religion to supercede equality rights is to acknowledge the possible existence of God - an authority higher than that of the state.

That's just a taste - read the rest here.

Nagging worry

Babble on.

Here's a little more background on what's going on in Nepal right now.

The constitutional coup staged yesterday by King Gyanendra, who sacked the Government, arrested ministers, declared a state of emergency, cut communications and seized power for himself, ensures neither stability nor peace. Instead, the grab looks certain only to compound Nepal’s problems and hasten the demise of the world’s last Hindu monarchy.

Nepal News remains down.

I'm getting that familiar feeling again. And I'm guessing the feeling, along with my newfound obsession with Nepali politics, won't go away until I hear from Ben.

Babble off.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Calling Kathmandu

Babble on.

Given this news, I hope Ben's hanging tight. Check in as soon as you can, buddy.

Babble off.

Shiny and happy once again!

Babble on.

I'm thrilled to announce that Jay Random has returned from three months wandering the trackless wastes of The Gulag.

Upon his return, he did something I quite frankly did not feel was even possible: he fisked Eric Margolis more soundly and thoroughly than the brilliant Tarantino did. Heresy, I know! But true nonetheless.

The Toronto blat titles this column 'Real freedom still far off', but the Calgary edition bills it as 'Iraqi quagmire grows deeper'. Both good, stock Idiotarian headlines, good for almost any Bush-bashing story about Iraq. Both have precious little to do with the substance of Mr. Margolis's screed. But that's OK, because the substance is so thin and paltry that it would be uncharitable for the Sun chain's headline writers to draw attention to it.

I mean, if the column had been slugged 'Bush's plan works, but he's still evil, wrong, and unusually retarded for a chimp', that would at least have been an honest label of the contents. Which contents we shall now examine line by line, as they contain about the best summary of pig-headed fatuousness on the subject of Iraq that you will ever see gathered under one byline...

Go read the rest, line by shiny, happy line.

Babble off.