A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

25 March 2005

While You're Here

It is coming!

The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor!

As with the Hitchiker's Guide movie, I'm in something of a state of trepidation. The new series has a slickness the old one didn't. The Doctor has somehow gained a London accent, and he's younger than ever. Natural enough, for a Time Lord, I suppose.

But it's Virgin TV, and according to reports, the first thing Virgin did with the series when they bought the rights was sex it up--literally. The old series had very little in terms of romantic entanglements, and the Doctor was always sort of above that sort of thing.

I just worry that what happened to "The Office"--and indeed any Brit-com that made the crossing (Such as any of the reality shows . . . What? You didn't know they were comedies. No--waitaminit--you took that stuff seriously?)will happen to HHG and DW both. Hey! Marvin's voice is Alan Rickman! And John Malkovich is the (new for the movie) villian! I feel better already.

But the audience is new, so the mores have to change. I'm okay with that. If I hate it, no-one says I have to watch.

And they kept the Daleks--It can't be all bad.

Everything old is new again, and there are new old things under the sun.

I know where I'm gonna be on April 5th.

Oh--We could cover this.

The problem is, there's bugger-all to discuss. When you sign up to be a soldier, you sign up to take orders. You can't say "Oh--may I be excused please? I didn't join to fight this war".

I rarely use the word "disgusted". Human behaviour is too interesting and varied, although the behaviours of certain presidents and their brothers tempt me greatly. But I am disgusted that the federal immigration authority would even countenance the idea that a deserter could get refugee status.

During Viet Nam, US deserters and draft dodgers were welcomed here, and I'm not against that. My issue is with desertion followed by some pretence at moral argument. The irony is that I'm also against the war due to the weakness of the moral case and the non-existence of a strategic case for it.

As a former soldier myself, I tend to believe that I'd rather have a blank file (ie. no-one) on my flank than an unwilling conscript. But this guy walked into the army, signed a paper saying he'd go fight if so ordered, and then jammed out.

So far, no problem. But instead of taking a principled stand and accepting that refusal to fight carries a penalty, he's trying to use a mechanism intended to help the victims of persecution get clear.

Another phrase I almost never use is: "Send 'em back where they came from."

The risk of being a participant in a war is inherent to a term of service as a soldier. They may pretty it up with veteran's benefits and free education, but in the end, you're cannon fodder. Most soldiers are aware this, and accept the consequences.

Well What Else Is There To Talk About?

If we’re going to get all political on this blog, and somehow we tend to, it seems necessary to pay some attention to the Terri Schiavo case. Personally, I’d rather not. Yet there’s something fascinating about it—it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime incident, the lifetime in this case being Mrs. Schiavo’s.

It’s hard to get the straight dope on this case with every spin doctor and pundit offering three different perspectives, but basically here are the facts:

1.Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack and stopped breathing in 1990.
2.For the past fifteen years she has been in a “persistent vegetative state”.
3.Her husband wants her feeding tube unhooked.
4.Her parents really, really, don’t.

I won’t bother arguing the “persistent vegetative” thing. This woman is pretty much out of it. Otherwise she’d surely have said or done something in those fifteen years to let someone know there’s still a synapse or two firing. And don’t mention the videos—they were carefully edited for television to arouse certain sympathies.

The reason this case has made headlines is that A) No-one knows what Terri might have wanted, and B) Two groups care very deeply about what happens to her. There have been a number of nasty rumours, all started by “pro-life” types, that Michael Schiavo didn’t do enough to help his wife immediately after her accident, or that he’s been fighting to murder her for fifteen years, yadda yadda yadda.

Let’s assume that he’s a generally good fellow who just wants to get on with his life and allow his wife’s to end. Michael Schiavo has been living with another woman for a number of years, has had kids by her. It’s hard to blame him. The Florida courts could have, presumably, granted him a divorce and let him ride off into the sunset while her parents got custody. Yet he’s still around; which suggests that he truly believes his wife might prefer the Great Beyond.

Likewise, her parents have no choice—as parents they must fight for their child.

George Bush, who hasn’t stopped vacationing for war, terrorism threats, or head-of-state visits since being enthroned, actually flew back to Washington to write a special law affecting only this woman. Isn’t that unconstitutional, by the by?--Certainly is in Florida.

His brother (a poltroon) has gone so far as to ask if he can adopt Terri Schiavo. In stark contrast—I cannot recall ever hearing that GWB or JB ever offered to adopt any of the 147 or so death row inmates that W topped off during his gubernatorial reign--or even interrupt a vacation to save one.

And every pundit and blogger (now including me) has an opinion.

Myself, I’m sort of on the side of right-to-die. If Terri Schiavo had lived in any number of other countries, such as Russia, Bangladesh, or Thailand, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.


Just lately, some evidence has surfaced that the mind functions to some degree, even in just the sort of state Mrs. Schiavo is in. This puts something of a different spin on it for me. Honestly, I’d prefer to let her die, were it my choice. But it seems unreasonable and a bit cruel to allow a person whose mind may be functioning, somewhere in that lump of paralysed flesh, to die from starvation and dehydration.

Because amidst all the rancour, there’s a person at the centre of this mess. And no-one will ever know if she wanted to lie there wearing a diaper and having her meals piped in for the past fifteen years. She may very well be a bit tired of it.

The two main questions here are “Who decides?” and “Is a feeding tube some sort of heroic measure?” Because the truth is, Terri Schiavo can breathe on her own. And as long as someone’s willing to assume the cost of her care, why shouldn’t this one person, in this one case, be left alone?

Terri Schiavo can’t decide—or rather, apparently can’t tell anyone what she may have decided. I’m beginning to think that Michael Schiavo, as a husband who presumably swore “’till death do us part”, is finding it a very tough go. Poor bastard.

17 March 2005

3:30 AM, As Usual.

Anne McLellan, deputy PM and Public Safety Minister, is agitating for more and tougher enforcement against marijuana users. Like many others, she has tried to link pot and violence in the wake of the murder of four mounties in Alberta.

She's wrong. Pot doesn't kill people. People with guns kill people. James Roszko was, by all accounts, a "police incident" waiting to happen. To tie in the actions of a lone gun-toting loony with marijuana culture is disingenuous to say the least.

There is rightful concern about grow-ops, in that they tend to be linked to various gangs. But the violence those gangs bring goes hand-in-hand with large-scale grow ops, and is endemic to gang culture.

Once we enact a simple law such as that in force in Western and South Australia, which effectively legalizes posession and cultivation of small amounts of weed, people won't need to get their cannabis from gangsters.

But nutjobs will continue to attack and kill cops. There's little we can do about that except learn from experience.

It Ain't Justice, But It'll Have to Do

Ripudaman SIngh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were found not guilty. Listening to the judge's remarks on radio, I was struck by what he said, and by the reaction:

In short, Justice Josephson said that the Crown failed to prove its case, and that the witnesses weren't credible.

Relatives of the 329 murder victims varied in their reactions on the theme of "I'm disappointed". One widow called the verdict "A victory for terrorism in Canada", and one lawyer echoed this idea.

I'm disappointed at the verdict too. That they got off in itself is disturbing. But what really bothers me is that the Crown lost evidence (inevitable in a 20-year investigation), and so wound up bringing a case so weak that the only people to be charged in the case walked free. The judge choked up while reading his decision, and he had a right to.

Then Anne McLellan said there would be no public inquiry. After 20 years, well over $45 million in court costs alone, and the heartache that goes with justice delayed and denied, there will be no review, although the RCMP are apparently continuing to investigate the bombing.

I believe the two men are most likely guilty. At the very least I feel sure they had a hand in the bombing, that they directly or indirectly participated in the mass murder of over 300 men, women, and (at least 80) children. My feelings largely derive from the "He's bound to be guilty or he wouldn't be here" school. Twenty years and many, many pieces of evidence were required to bring even the feeble case the Crown presented.

But my feelings aren't proof. The testimony of liars isn't proof. And the wishes of the families aren't proof.

And our justice system is supposed to defend the innocent by requiring that a person be convicted by proof of their guilt.

Canada may be playing host to up to 1000 "possible terror suspects"--well, 999. But this isn't a victory for terrorism.

It's a victory (albeit a sad, phyrric one) for justice.

Two men were arraingned on serious charges. The state failed to prove its case. The men were set free.

That's what the system's for.

12 March 2005

An Afterthought

First, about the template. I'm working on revamping the links section and the archive titles. Hopefully I'll get it all inserted this weekend.

Secondly: The SO and I process things differently. This was brought home with some force when we were discussing our experiences of Grow, the flash game referenced at the bottom of the last posting.

The SO stated that she found it quite intuitive. First you had to have certain elements in place to have things work in a certain sequnce. She said she found the game metaphorical. A sort of flash "In the Beginning".

Myself, I looked at my losing scores and tried to figure out the sequence by how many levels I acheived on each element in the game. So far, the SO's approach seems to be leading.

We've Got To Stop Meeting Like This

It's "oh-dark-stupid" in the morning, as we used to say in the army. But after a night of burning some excess paycheque at the bar, I'm narrowly awake (like wide awake, only rather less so).

Looking at the headlines, I notice that US Senators from both parties are paying careful attention to the side their bread's buttered on.

They prefer to reduce subsidies to the poor by cutting food stamps, rather than end the obscene practice of shovelling money into farms, which the US and other countries have pledged to end under the WTO Doha agreement, and tentatively agreed to cut down under NAFTA.

It's no co-incidence that poor people can't afford the best lobbyists.

Subsidies, particularly agricultural ones, are a way of rewarding inefficiency. If someone from another country can produce say, sugar, more cheaply than you can, should you be allowed to continue running your farm on tax dollars simply because you're "home-grown"?

A note: I'm a full supporter of free trade worldwide. But it doesn't work if you won't play by the rules, and it looks as though in the States, politics will trump trade nearly every time.

Consider softwood: Timber exported by Canada is subject to import duties worth roughly 30% of its value. The US then ploughs the revenue back into its own timber industry. Subsidy by another name.

The US-Canada border was to open to live beef shipments last week. But Montana ranchers sued to keep it closed "to protect public health". So a federal department has said we're doing everything right, but a group of people who are making money from the border closure can go to a judge and ask that they be allowed to continue making money in the name of health?

I'm going to ask that the border be closed to foreign chips in order to protect the public from obesity. The fact that I own a chip business is surely not relevant?

Sugar, cotton, and other agricultural goods are massively subsidized in America, to the detriment of importing producers such as India, who actually produce quality product cheaply. Sugar is an especially obscene case. And of course, much of that money is political subsidy as well, turning up in the pockets of (surprise!) senators lower in the food chain.

And finally, it comes down to this: we're not talking about "trimming the fat" from a bunch of welfare bums so that hard-working John and Martha Deer can go on working the family wheat farm. We're talking about cutting aid to people who are already malnourished so that agribusiness concerns can preserve their price ceilings.

Agricultural subsidies are outmoded waste, and should be phased out in all civilised countries. Unfortunately farm lobby groups are an essential part of the democratic political process.

And at the heart of it, apparently, is a desire by the once-elected President to "hold down future defecits"--The latest plan?

Quick quiz: Holding down defecits is something which could have been done by:
a) Not cutting taxes in the swingeing fashion he did.
b) Failing to invade a nation that had no weapons of mass whatever and no connection to the World Trade Center attacks.
c) Not pouring billions into the Missile Umbrella.

And if our major trade partner would shut down subsidies, then perhaps we'd end ours.

O for the day!

Speaking of agriculture, here's a rather addictive game: Grow.

06 March 2005

There are days I hate Microsoft.

As part of some work I'm doing at BLive's blog, I want to host an internet meeting. This apparently requires that I get an e-mail client up and running on my machine.

So far, s'okay. But all my e-mail's web-based. I want it that way, I like it that way.

But since the mountain won't come to me I set up Outlook.

First, I run into difficulties with the addresses. Finally, I configure it to open my Yahoo! mail, only to have Outlook tell me (after my grand mal seizure over 'error 888142679 . . . cannot open safe' or whatever the message was) that "Outlook does not work with this service".

So I go to MSN Hotmail, a service that I believe primarily exists to help deliver spam. There I set up an address. Returning to my desktop I configure an account to let me into this account.

"Microsoft Outlook no longer supports web-based e-mail for free versions" quoth the program.

Good thing I don't have children, they'd be totally traumatised by the words I said.

05 March 2005

What Have We Got To Catch Up On This Week?

Ah, yes: Item One.
It appears that ranchers are having too much fun to allow anyone to actually compete in the US beef market. Of course, they hate Oprah too.

This is the strength of local lobby groups, and possibly the weakness of elected judges--While I don't know if Richard Cebull is elected or appointed, but either way, he seems to know which side his beef is gravied on.

Item Two.
I owe Judi Sgro an apology. I truly suspected her of wrongdoing and saw her resignation as an evasion. Clearly I was wrong on that. Her accuser has been fighting deportation for fifteen years and his family has been accused of fraud in excess of $100,000.

Which links into this:

Kemal's a nasty sort all right, it appears, and this has prompted calls to strip him of his Canadian citizenship.

In my heart, I believe Canadian citizenship is always and forever. And ordinarily I believe it shouldn't be removed from anyone who has it--unless they obtained it under false pretences. But if there's one case where the sanction of stripping someone of their citizenship should be used . . .

And that's what makes me suspicious of my own judgement. Because when you hear someone saying " . . .but in this particular case . . .", what they mean is "we must suspend the rules of a civilised society to address this one instance." And they're most often wrong.

We hear it all the time. Is it worth keeping Olsen or Bernardo around? Of course not, not considered as a pure cost-benefit equation. But preserving their lives while they serve their multiple life sentences makes one vitally important thing possible:

1) It lets us know we're better than them. That we believe firmly in the rules we have created for a civilization--rules that they have broken. Allowing them to live says very clearly: "We do not condone nor permit the type of behaviour you indulged in, but we will not corrupt our own rules to punish you, nor to avenge ourselves."

For my own part, I believe that an immigrant to this country (such as myself and my parents) should be held to the same standard as any other citizen--not some imaginary construct of law which applies only to them.

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