Saturday, April 25, 2009

All over the map

I don't understand this man. Last week he was abso-fuckin-lutely nuts. This week he's sane:
Last week I said that an intensely inexperienced 21-year-woman should not have had to give her life in the pointless war in Afghanistan. The responses were fascinating.

Most of the critical ones seemed obsessed with the fact that the poor girl indeed should have been able to die. A rather perverse way to support her and her family.

The vast majority of these were the usual nonsense. "Everyone is equal," "you're a dinosaur," "I hate you." Then all sorts of delightful and failed attempts to spell the word "misogynist."

OK, let's go a step further. Anyone who claims the war in Afghanistan is about gender equality is either supremely naive or extraordinarily dishonest. We said hardly a word about women's rights in that country until the United States was attacked on 9/11. So, apparently, women were treated well before the Twin Towers outrage but badly afterwards.

More than this, while the Soviet Union was a repugnant regime, the Afghan government begged for Russian help when it was attacked by the Taliban and one of the policies Moscow advocated was women's rights.

You figure him out.


I wonder if Henry Winkler knew the contribution he was making to Western Culture when he went and jumped that shark. The phenomenon has bled off of TV, and has become a sort of catch-all for when someone becomes a parody of themselves. Some people get to jump that shark over and over: Pat Robertson is a great example. There are a lot of repeat offenders, to be sure.

Sometimes the shark-jumping happens on the DL, and it kinda slips under the radar for a while. In fact, I think sometimes the shark-jumping relegates people to the shadows for a while. It's like a time out: "You've exceeded your crazy. Go into the corner and wipe the froth off your chin. You can come out when you're ready to apologise."

I think Michael Coren jumped his shark last weekend. It took me five days to notice, though, because his crazy finally bumped him from the pages of my local fishwrap.

Caring for Karine
Sending our daughters to war in Afghanistan is just wrong

No need to beat around any proverbial bush, is there? Let's begin at the beginning. It is apparently for our sons to go kill brown people, but sending our daughters is just wrong. Why, you ask? Good question.

So Canada sacrifices another victim on the altar of equality.

Last week a young girl dressed up as a soldier died in the increasingly futile and pointless war in Afghanistan. She was 21 years old, had been in the country for two weeks on her first tour of duty and probably weighed a little over 100 pounds.

Oh. Girls can't fight wars. Right. Hang on, children. It gets better.
Please know that I mean no disrespect to Karine Blais or to her family...

He doesn't mean the disrespect, but there it is, possums. That's some pretty good disconnect.
...and I grieve for her and them. But what on earth was she doing in such a place and in such a job?

How does grieving for her involve insulting her? I missed that stage of the process. Maybe it's a subset of anger: being a misogynistic asshole.

Look at the photograph of this beautiful girl. Look at the innocence, the gentleness, the grace. All of them precious aspects to the human character. So when I say that she was "dressed up as a soldier" I mean it as a compliment. I've known soldiers all of my life and I have an invincible respect for them. I've seen their courage, integrity and sheer decency.

He has respect for all of them, except this one. And it probably would have been okay if she was an ugly girl. But she was beautiful, innocent and gentle. He can apparently even detect grace from the photo, which, while irrelevant, is pretty damned impressive. I don't like this war. That's not a secret. I think the courage of our soldiers is being wasted and misdirected. But I don't think any of them are playing dressup. Killing people is deadly serious. Mr. Coren needs to keep that in mind.

I've also seen their capacity for controlled and righteous violence, which is
absolutely essential for any fighting man. Yes, man. Because there are few if
any women who have the skills required to serve as a front-line combat trooper.

The thing here is that he's not talking about skills. Skills can be learned. I'd wager that anyone (almost) could learn the skills necessary to be a combat trooper. What he claims is that women (or at least most of them, and certainly not this one) don't have the TEMPERAMENT to be a soldier. He means that as a compliment. I suppose maybe it is, if, like me, you think that soldiers are misguided weapons, perpetuating a fundamentally unjust system. If, however, you claim to believe that being a Canadian soldier is just too cool, and you say that girls can't do it, you're a sexist jerk. Besides, what the hell does he mean by righteous violence? I don't think the violence in Afghanistan is particularly righteous. And how is it different from any unrighteous violence our soldiers may be compelled to commit.

Yes, yes, yes, I know it's fundamentally anti-Canadian to say this but I'd prefer to articulate the views of the silent majority than hide behind some modernist fetish that places more importance on the myth of absolute equality than the safety of a girl who should be laughing with college friends rather than fighting theocratic madmen.

It's not anti-Canadian, it's anti-twentieth century. And I would argue that the boys ought to be laughing with college friends as well.

How much more odious can this guy be?
Can we really imagine for a moment that if a group of Taliban tribesmen rushed a trench or an encampment this poor young woman could fight them off, could deal with the thrusts of their long knives and heavy clubs?

Oh. That much. He manages to be sexist AND racist there. Because the Taliban guys don't use guns or explosives (certainly not the kinds of explosives that actually killed Karine). And seriously, what the hell is he on about? If you're being swarmed by a whole bunch of men, I don't know that having testicles is going to be the deciding factor.
Do we seriously think that the men in the unit would not risk their own lives to protect a pretty young girl who was inevitably being beaten to the ground by salivating killers?

That's just stupid. Do you think they wouldn't fight for a mate if it were a man?
The very reason we have various weight categories for all forms of organized fighting is that whatever the training, a pugilist's weight and muscle bulk give an advantage to the heavier combatant.

That's also stupid. I doubt there's a lot of hand-to-hand combat happening in Afghanistan. And if it was, then training will mean a lot more than weight. I'm about 250lbs. I outweigh my brother-in-law by about a hundred pounds. I have no doubts that he could kick my ass.
More than this, even contrived cultural denial should not prevent us from admitting that the death of a daughter or a wife is different from that of a son or a husband. Women nurture, give birth, care in a way that is unique. Quite simply, they are different from men.

I don't even know what the hell he's talking about here. Women are different, sure. But the capacity for motherhood does not make one a bad soldier. This kind of talk went out of fashion while Queen Victoria was still alive.
If captured, of course, such a woman would be repeatedly raped. And tortured. Again, I'm not meant to say this. Not Canadian, not CBC, not Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Not the sort of thing we're supposed to feel, so we pretend that men and women in the army, police and fire service are given the same tests and have to fulfil the same requirements. Yet truth still breaks through.

This is misdirection. For one thing, while it may be true, male soldiers would likely be tortured. And the raping of women is ostensibly one of the things we're there to prevent. If a woman wants to help with that, I see no reason we shouldn't let her. Besides, she was killed, not captured. He also is putting words in the mouths of his opponents. I have no doubt that a female soldier would be raped (hell, US soldiers were raping their male POWs). Saying so is not a PC violation. I'm not sure anybody is denying it. But by claiming that liberals WOULD deny it, he gets to call us stupid.
We rightly condemn Islamic extremists in Afghanistan because they treat women so badly. Then we allow one of our own to give her life so that we can congratulate ourselves on how liberal and egalitarian we are, lie about how gender difference don't matter and then encourage our generals and politicians to obscure the truth on television about soldiers and causes.

WTF? Seriously: What. The. Fuck? Is he saying that because we let women into the military we are as bad as the Taliban? I think he is. Chew on that a minute, possums. Roll that stupid around in your mouth a bit. See how it tastes, and then spit it out. This guy is a joke.
What hypocrites we have become. Poor, poor Karine -- this is not the way it should have been.

You and your country deserved better.

What does that even mean?

Mr. Coren, I'm calling it again. You're a bigoted asshole.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Canada is apparently not a haven for Canadians.

Canada's Federal Court has ruled that the Federal Government has an obligation to try to protect its citizens even when they are abroad. It has indicated that the government has an obligation to its citizens that is greater to that of ou allies.

The Tories are going to appeal. Because they're just that classy.

The last time I wrote about Omar Khadr, I was accused of being an uninformed asshole. I'm going to go out on a limb here and do it again. We need to do what we can to protect this kid.

There are lots of reasons. Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11. The FBI has still not tied bin Laden to the attacks. NATO invaded Afghanistan when the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden. They offered to if any evidence could be provided that linked him to the attacks. No evidence as provided bcause as far as we can tell, it doesn't exist. When NATO did invade Afghanistan, this kid was helping to defend it. As a child soldier. He killed someone in battle. He was then captured, and was not declared a POW, but rather a new, made-up category of detainee, and then put into a prison in Cuba that was built there to avoid sticky legal things like the Bill of Rights.

Omar Khadr, even if he did kill a US medic, deserves to be held in a POW camp, and to be treated humanely. Those are the rules, and while the US is fond of making them up as they go along (such as redefining waterboarding as "not torture" when done by the CIA, but a capital offense when performed by another government), if they want to be the World Police, they should at least pretend to play by the rules. At least with citizens of allied nations.

And the defense for not pushing for his repatriation? The Tories are continuing the policies of the previous government.

Know what? That just means that the previous government was wrong. By that rationale, Obama should keep Gitmo open. Hamid Karzai's government OUGHT to institute Sharia Law. Previous French and German governments invaded most of Europe. Maybe they ought to take another run at it. Maybe the US (and Canada, and the UK) ought to have a look at reinstituting slavery.

Basing your own policies on a previous governments is faulty reasoning. If someone else was an asshole, you are not less of an asshole for following through on their plans.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Canada is a haven for terrorists

For years, our leaders have tried to dispel the American myth that the 9/11 attackers got into the United States via Canada. It appears we still have some work to do.

On Monday night, in an interview aired by the CBC, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was asked why she wants to increase security on the Canadian border to the same level as the Mexican border. She replied: "To the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorist have entered our country across a border, it has been across the Canadian border."

"Are you talking about the 9/11 perpetrators?" asked interviewer Neil Macdonald.

"Not just those, but others as well," responded Napolitano.

Not just those. So the 9/11 myth persists, eight years and one administration later.

--The Toronto Star

The 9/11 bombers did not enter the US through Canada. That is a fact. But here's the thing.

So what if they did? Is it Canada's job to protect the US? Do we have to screen all our immigrants to find out if they harbour resentment toward the US.? And if they do, doesn't that just mean they'll fit in pretty well around here?

The US has the biggest defense budget on the planet. They have overlapping security agencies with overlapping jurisdictions. They have Border Security, Customs agents and Homeland Security. Not to mention Immigration, US Marshalls, the FBI, and the goddamned Coast Guard.

Even pretending that those 19 assholes entered the US via Canada, how is it OUR fault or OUR problem? Pretending that these guys came through Canada to get to the US to learn how to fly planes, and plot the act, OUR gus did their job. These men didn't commit crimes in Canada. Our citizens are safe.

If the US can't protect it's own citizens, it needs to figure its own shit out. It is not Canada's job to patrol the US border.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guns and Jennifer Connelly

Those are the things that generate the most traffic around here. I have no illusions about my skills as a writer, thinker or commentator. It's T & A or the possibility of violence that will draw the crowds.

In fact, the post I wrote about a handgun ban a while ago still generates traffic and comments. I'm not sure what to make of that, since I don't think I'm all that far out with my stance. It's based on, as far as I can tell, reason, not emotion. I know there are factors I have not considered, but the purpose of a handgun is not something I approve of. Murder is not a good thing. It's one of the few Abrahamic principles I can get behind.

Guns are for killing things. Handguns are for killing people. They're one of those things, to borrow a phrase from Nicholas Cage in The Rock, that I wish we could uninvent. We can't, so limiting the availability is the best option. There are all kinds of weapons we already limit, and I don't see people clamouring for their right to own mustard or chlorine gas, vehicle mounted machine guns, or high explosives. These things are also designed for killing people, and we have decided as a society that killing people is generally wrong. So we don't let these things out into general circulation.

I'm not the only one to think this way, either. There are people who are pointing out that the wide availability of firearms does NOT make people safer. That dude who went nuts on the Greyhound bus only killed one guy. Possibly because God only told him to kill the one, but probably also because he had a knife, not a gun.

Alternet posted a relevant story today, as well:

The Gun Lobby Asks You to Please Lay Off the Mass Killings While It's
Trying to Influence Legislation

"The NRA is asking gunmen to refrain from mass shootings while key gun
bills are before legislators," says a newscaster in a recent editorial

Say that! On a month that began with the Alabama, Illinois church and
Germany shootings and ended with the Oakland police killings -- a Miami mass
killing, a Turlock, CA church shooting and the Mexico shootings not even making
the public radar -- lawmakers are not thinking of gun owners as an oppressed

I'm not suggesting for a minute that people not be allowed to defend themselves, though the commenters on the last post are suggesting that I am. However, we have a system in place that's designed to defend us on our behalf. We hire people to carry guns so that the rest of us don't have to. If you think that a widely armed populace is safer, then I think you might be missing a few things.

Some crimes are violent by nature, and a ban won't stop them all. But most crime is not violent. Most is property crime, and that sometimes becomes violent. If we were truly serious about stopping violent crime, we'd address poverty and the horriying wealth imbalance. We'd address the illness inherent in a consumer society, where people are measured not by the quality of their character, but by the quality of their shoes. We'd look at improving education, health care, and addressing mental illness (which is a very small factor in crime, though it makes the best movies). We'd stop making violent people heroes.

In the meantime, a reduction in the number of firearms is a good way (well, certainly better than no way) reduce the number of property crimes that turn violent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Energy Savings

Yeah, yeah. Never posting, being all lazy and shit. Not apologetic. I owe very little to my "audience", such as it is. I write for me, and lately I've been not writing for anyone. So, while I am ashamed of myself, it has nothign to do with my readers. I just need to write more.

I have, however, to return to a recurring theme around here, found an incredible way to save energy. Not like electricity, mind you, but my own. It's apathy.

Eventually, spending a lot of time in the echo chambers of the internet leads to an inevitable but discouraging conclusion. You're not going to change the world. You talk to other greeny-type people, and they agree (mostly) with you, and you all decide collectively that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and you'd better start a vegetable garden.

But all that does is ensure you have too many tomatoes in August (or whenever they come; I haven't actually started this vegetable garden yet), and it does very little to prevent the collapse of the resource-based economy.

You can talk to others, too. People who are different, conservatives, for instance. I was talking to one last night. I didn't understand her at all. At all. I can't begin to tell you how fucked up her perspective is. Oddly, she's one of our closest friends.

But eventually you get tied of talking to people who will not be swayed, or who already agree with you. You start to retreat. That's what I'm trying to prevent.

Call me out. Get me writing. I need to save the world. I have a daughter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Audience

I saw Misery at the Grand Theatre a couple weeks ago. I was disappointed. I was disappointed with the audience, for one. They thought the whole thing was funny. I was disappointed with the acting. Annie was nutty, not menacing, and considering the stories we've heard recently about people being held against their will (by their fathers, or by a government), that sort of geist should have been easy to muster. I was disappointed with the sound. There were cues that were spoonfeeding the audience, and I was insulted.

But the one thing that confuses my wife the most is that I was disappointed with the set.

The set was amazing. An entire farmhouse that could pivot to move focus to the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, or the exterior, plus a second-floor staircase that as best I can recall was never used. The bedroom consisted of a bed and bedside table, a chair, a lamp, and some stained wallpaper. The living room was minimalist, the kitchen was kitschy. The stairs were there. Study and superfluous, but there nonetheless.

In my opinion, the whole thing was superfluous.

Sure, you need the bedroom, and one other room that Paul explores, but that's it. The stairs, the outside, the living room, the upstairs hallway, the bathroom, and the alcove were all unnecessary. The geography of the house is unimportant, and you don't need to build a house for the audience to know that they're supposed to be imagining a house. We've paid our price, and we're willing to work a little for the experience. The kitchen can have a medicine cabinet (and if I recall correctly, the medicine Paul sought was in the pantry in the novel), and it's not unreasonable to assume that the scrapbook might be in there as well (or near enough to make no difference). What is important is that Paul leaves his cell while the warden is out. Who cares where he actually goes? The set was an unnecessary cost. I can think of ways that money might have been better spent.

Last night was a good example. Last night I saw two performances, one a staged reading on an empty set, and another a performance involving a chair. That nearly empty stage was a kitchen floor, inside a wall, a Venetian canal, a bar and a mausoleum in Paris, a New York alley, a midway, a bathroom, a stoner's kitchen, a ticket booth, a barker's podium, a Ferris wheel, the scrambler, the merry-go-round, the caterpillar roller coaster and the fun house.

I don't recall ever thinking to myself, What the hell? The stage is empty!

Jeff Culbert used language and storytelling to evoke the scenes, focusing on character rather than locale. It was a wise choice, because the stories are not about Mehitabel's drowning lover or Archy's cockroach orators. It's about Archy and Mehitabel. Jayson McDonald gave a very physical performance, playing half a dozen characters at home, in line, on rides and on the phone. Powerful, and no doubt exhausting, it rendered the set moot. Again, the characters were more important than locale.

And honestly, that's why we watch plays, movies and television, isn't it? Why we read books and magazines and poetry? To hear great stories about people. Stories that happen in places, for sure, but usually stories about people (or roaches and cats). Not all the time, to be sure. Sometimes they are stories about places, too, but there are characters in those stories, too (think Hell House, Sin City, or Cabaret for examples), because stories about places aren't enough for people.

The Grand Theatre hosts some amazing, inspiring and enviable performances. But as long as they keep mollycoddling their audiences, I'm going to continue to feel a little insulted, and prefer alternative theatre, like the stuff we have here.

Come see archy and mehitabel and Fall Fair. You have to work a little harder, but you won't be disappointed.