Sunny ways, continued

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Almalki et al.jpg

First it was brokering the sale of billions of dollars of military equipment to the mediaeval torture-state of Saudi Arabia. Now the Trudeau Liberals are in court trying to deny compensation to three Canadians, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad El Maati, who ended up in Syrian dungeons when the Chrétien and Martin Liberals were in power. They were tortured in captivity, thanks to the RCMP and CSIS, who shared false information with the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Here’s the exhaustive Iacobucci Report on the matter. Iacobucci’s words are measured, but his conclusions are damning.

Documents have now surfaced about Almalki’s case. Even though they were unsure of their facts, the RCMP denounced him to the Syrian authorities, and sent along a list of questions to be asked during Almalki’s interrogation. They had nothing on him, said one RCMP official in a memo, “other than the fact he is an arab [sic] running around.” But that appeared to be enough in itself.

Nothing new here. Maher Arar’s torture by the Syrians was given diplomatic encouragement during the same time period. The Canadian ambassador to Syria was a boob named Franco Pillarella, who had the face to testify at the Arar inquiry in 2005 that he was unaware of any human rights abuses in Syria. As the kids say, SMFH.

The Liberals are going even further than the previous regime to protect CSIS, which had worked with the RCMP all along. Anyone still hopeful that C-51 will have its fangs drawn?

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A modern tragedy

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Greek theatre.jpg

Remember when people asked about victims of domestic assault what appeared to be, on the surface, a reasonable question—“Why didn’t she just leave?” More and more people now recognize how fatuous the question is. Not only might there be financial dependency in some cases, or children to consider: there are also complex human dynamics involved. “Maybe it was my fault.” “He apologized.” “I still love the guy, I don’t want him in jail.” “He was drunk.” “Maybe I just imagined it.”

Cognitive dissonance is part of the human condition.

Trying to make sense of it all. Refusing to believe what is unfolding. Reluctant to admit that the past with him has been an illusion. Attempting to avoid the question, “How could I have been so stupid, so mesmerized, so swept away?”

The list goes on, and on, and on.

And yet there are those who would feign surprise that victims of a sexual assault tried to comprehend what had happened, contacted the abuser afterwards, still had feelings for him, couldn’t believe he was really that sort of person.

Those who like to see things in black-and-white nod knowingly. Maybe she’s misunderstanding what really took place, days, months, years ago. Maybe she was complicit at the time, but now sees the whole thing through a different lens. Maybe she’s just making it up.

A defence lawyer plays on those fashionable doubts. People don’t like to recognize human complexity, ambivalence, incomprehension—except, perhaps, in themselves. They construct simple stories about other people. There are a lot of stories like that about women: they’re a species of urban folklore. We’ve all heard them, and maybe told them, too.

“She said she’d wanted sex with him. Sexual assault? Come on.”

“She slept with him, in fact she still does. Now she dredges this up.”

“She’s a prostitute. How could she be raped?”

“She didn’t come forward until now. Just jumping on the bandwagon.”

“She went to that party and got drunk. She was asking for it.”

We make excuses, we explain things away. We provide moral alibis. The process of justice is reversed, in the public mind and in a courtroom, each shaped by patriarchy. The victim is put on trial, her self-doubts and uncertainties held to be proof of deceit or error, her life and her experience reduced to salacious media soundbites.

So once again we find ourselves engaged by an ever-appealing narrative. Essential elements of a Greek tragedy are present. The tragic male hero, with hubris aplenty, fallen from his former glory. Sudden reversals (peripetea) to enthrall the audience. A chorus of media pundits and commenters to tell us what we’re seeing.

In a culture of misogyny, women cannot be the protagonists. For the media, the story is about a man on trial. He is the centre of the drama: his victims are bit players, trying to drag him down. The chorus sings of their flaws, not of his.

Expect, then, no anagnorisis on his part—no sudden recognition, no critical self-discovery. This is real life, however dramatized. We’re spectators of a tragedy, without a doubt, whose dénouement is fast approaching. But it’s a tragedy, I suspect, that will have no catharsis.

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Mural York.jpg

Another signifier detaches from its signified and floats off past the horizon.

The mural at York University that has exercised mogul Paul Bronfman is shown above. In it, a bulldozer is starting its work to uproot an olive tree. This happens all the time on the West Bank. Again and again and again and again. Surely this everyday practice of the occupiers is denied by no one at this point?

The words “peace” and “justice” appear below, in several languages. The bulldozer is unmarked, but we can easily tell its provenance. In the foreground stands a Palestinian youth with a couple of stones in his hand.

David vs. Goliath.

But this mural, we are told, is “anti-Semitic.” With staggering irony, a Jewish student says it depicts violence against the nation of Israel. It makes her feel “unsafe.” (See how that “safe space” nonsense works?)

And it’s equally ironic, isn’t it, that Bronfman is so assiduously cultivating a hoary old anti-Semitic trope himself—the fabulously rich Jew exerting political control over our institutions? Except that York University isn’t playing: it’s resisting, as indeed it must. Even here, Bronfman fails.

UPDATE: To re-cap: a monster bulldozer trashes the livelihood of indigenous Palestinians to make way for a Jewish settlement on the West Bank. Both trees and Palestinians are being displaced. The youth in the mural faces this steel behemoth with a couple of stones. A moment in time, pregnant with possible actions and consequences. Beneath, ironically, ambiguously, are inscribed the words “peace” and “justice.”

The CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), Avi Benlolo, shrieks that the mural is “a clear call to murder.” And Paul Bronfman enlarges: the mural is “pure hate.” A dogged refusal to acknowledge what they are seeing. But the picture doesn’t lie.

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The creepy Gregory Alan Elliott, above, has been acquitted of criminal harassment after a three year legal proceeding. (Main deets here, including the judgement in full.) This sort of thing is what was immediately vomited up by the gender fascists. Read, and try to grasp what feminists Steph Guthrie and Heather Reilly, no strangers to vicious stalking and threats, were thinking when they went to the police after a massive onslaught of hostile Tweets from Elliott.

Context is everything. But the full context, in my opinion, was not taken into account by Judge Brent Knazan. One does get the impression that he was trying to be fair. He found that Guthrie and Reilly were both honest witnesses. He agreed that harassment had indeed occurred. He made a valiant (but not always successful) attempt to grasp the mechanics of Twitter. He reflected to some degree on the fact that he himself was male. He took due note of Elliott’s crude misogynist Tweets. But he ruled that the element of “reasonable fear” of harm—key to a successful conviction for criminal harassment—was not present.

One has to dig a little deeper, I think, than His Honour was willing to do. Fear is, after all, never reasonable per se. It’s an emotion, generated by perceived threats. Knazan was not of the view that those perceived threats were founded in anything that the defendant did or said. Yet they were real enough for the two honest witnesses, living in a world that contains the deranged individuals referenced here. Elliott’s obsessive fascination with the two women, combined with his obvious hostility to them, would reasonably set off alarm bells, at least in my view.

Key to the judgement was the refusal of Guthrie and Reilly to play the classical victim role. They didn’t faint on the spot, overcome with dread, but fought back, as one might expect from two feminist activists. They published their own acerbic Tweets, vilifying Elliott and encouraging others to do the same. He picked the wrong women to harass, for certain, but he appears to have risen to that challenge, his Tweets becoming more numerous and more insulting as time passed.

His acquittal sets a dangerous precedent. In the current rape-culture climate in which women are forced to live and breathe, being followed around by a hostile, apparently single-minded man who even noted their physical location at one point should be sufficient grounds to create fear in any woman’s mind. There is obviously a line to be drawn somewhere—lewd shouts from a passing car of drunken dudebros wouldn’t, for example, meet the bar for criminal harassment, but direct threats to commit sexual assault would. In the grey area in between, however, the cultural milieu adds weight to hostile male behaviour that is less explicitly threatening. Yet the judge took no note of that.

Imagine a woman strolling in a public park, being followed at a little distance by a man. He keeps hailing her, making disrespectful remarks about her to other people, and will not go away. She tells him in no uncertain terms to f*ck off, to no avail. After a while, would the woman’s rising fear not be reasonably grounded? Would the man be justified in saying that he made no explicit threats of harm to her? And that it was a public space anyway, where he had the right to walk wherever he wanted and say whatever he wished, so long as no such threat was made? Would we tell the woman to avoid the park in future, that she knew what she was doing by choosing to go there?

By failing to take the larger context into account, the judge effectively licensed this kind of thing on the Internet. And, as we have seen, the gender fascists lost no time stampeding through the door he flung wide.

Without re-opening the “safe space” debate, which has wandered well off the rails at this point, is it too much to propose that unsafe spaces for women not be legitimized and expanded? The Elliott judgement, behind the cloak of reasonable deliberation, accomplishes precisely that.

UPDATE: Gregory Alan Elliott would appear to have form. [H/t]

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Refugees, then and now

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The reaction to recent events in Cologne and other European cities—not to mention the reaction in some quarters to the mass influx of Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees in itself—has put me in mind of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. I’m old enough to remember that, and the warm welcome that Canada gave to Hungarian refugees at the time.

Not all of the 200,000 people who fled Hungary after the Soviet invasion actually qualified as “refugees” under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines a refugee as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Some were indeed freedom fighters. But others were members of the intelligentsia seizing the opportunity for a better life, and still others were criminals, released when prison doors were blown wide open by the revolutionaries.

It didn’t matter. The backdrop of the Cold War shaped events; all of those fleeing were perceived as anti-Communist, and hence on our “side.” Most of them flooded into an ill-prepared Austria, which coped as best it might, and a smaller number fled to Yugoslavia. Then, as now, a majority of the refugees were young and male—two-thirds of the total, with more than half of them under 25.

Canada, with a population at the time of just over 16 million people, took in more than 37,000.

Unlike the Syrian refugees, these were not people fleeing from mass bombing and civil war. There were no Hungarian metropolises left devastated like the Syrian city of Homs, seen in the photograph above (the latter a fitting response to the bigots who ask why those people just don’t go back where they came from). But, rightly, the nation offered these displaced people new lives and opportunities just the same.

As one might expect, there was a domestic reaction to Canada’s generosity. Some feared that wages would be undercut. Others (including the RCMP) worried that Communist agents were concealed within the ranks of the newcomers. Immigration Minister J. W. (“Jack”) Pickersgill, however, despite a rising unemployment rate, expedited the admittance of the Hungarians, waiving medical tests, setting up reception programs, relaxing security screening, and providing free passage to Canada.

In that same year, however—and we should take note of this—Minister Pickersgill took a hard line against admitting refugees from the People’s Republic of China.

There are refugees, and then there are refugees. The Hungarians were European, and white, and therefore like us. And they were fleeing Communism, which endeared them to the powers that be. The situation for the Syrians is far more complex. They are fleeing a hellscape of government starvation-sieges and barrel-bombs on one side and ISIS/al-Nusra Front savagery on the other. Most are Sunni Muslim. And there are not hundreds of thousands, but millions of them, a human tsunami crashing onto the shores of Europe.

Such multitudes will inevitably contain criminals and psychopaths, as in every human population. It is equally inevitable that the behaviour of the latter will be amplified by regular and social media. But we cannot so easily dismiss the gross misbehaviour of migrants and asylum-seekers in Germany and elsewhere a few weeks ago. The sheer scale of these incidents, the organized nature of them, the demonstration of male entitlement conveyed, served to inflame an always-festering stereotype—the perennial bugaboo of the Other as sexual monster. We think of the Southern American preoccupation with supposed Black threats to the “purity” of white women. And we are reminded of Hitler’s own racial obsessions:

“The dark-haired Jewboy lurks in ambush for hours, satanic joy upon his face, for the unsuspecting girl, whom he poisons with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.” Then again he tells of the “rape of hundreds of thousands of girls by bow-legged repulsive Jew-bastards.” And another time: “These dark parasites on our people deliberately rape our inexperienced young blonde girls and thus destroy something which cannot be replaced in this world.”

This sort of thing never lies far beneath the surface, and the New Year’s events were more than sufficient to permit them to burst forth once again. The defensive posture of the police and some media did not help matters, feeding fears of conspiracy among the tinfoil helmet set. It seems almost naive simply to insist that the law be applied, and that the wrongdoers be prosecuted no matter what their ethnicity or citizenship status might be. It is also obvious that the vast majority of asylum-seekers and migrants were likely as appalled by this loutishness as you and I are. At the very least, it made their own position even more tenuous.

But the new refugees are not our perceived allies, as the Hungarians were. In the latest Weltkampf, they stand in suspicious proximity to the forces of darkness—they’re mostly Muslim, after all. And they have other disadvantages, too. They’re swarthy, not white, for a start—at least in the popular mind. And they’re numerous—they continue to arrive in unimaginable, catastrophic numbers.

No wonder the discourse on refugees these days looks like something out of the white supremacist novel, The Camp of the Saints. Those of us on the Left have been reduced to feeble defences such as, very likely, this one. A decent outcome is of necessity long-term, and in my view somewhat optimistic. In the meantime, most of the four million Syrian refugees have literally nowhere to stand, let alone thrive. And so the question presses, in Europe and elsewhere: What is to be done?

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The refugee dilemma

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Germany was faced with only difficult choices when this current refugee crisis happened. Let no one fatuously imagine that an operative like Angela Merkel suddenly suffered from a surfeit of human kindness, particularly after the Greek saga. Every choice except the one that was made—-not an “invitation”, but the suspension of Dublin deportations—-would have led to the immediate collapse of possibly large portions of EU treaties and institutions in which Germany has the biggest stake. Even the suspension of Dublin deportations itself will have long-term consequences for the rest of the treaties, but less immediately so than all the other choices that they could have made. As soon as it came to be the case that millions of people would not be able to find a permanent home in the Middle East, the assumptions underlying European unity were going to face one of their biggest challenges yet—-one way or another.

What were the other choices? The institutions at the entry points to Europe (particularly Greece, which is situated, in geographic terms, particularly inconveniently) were not capable of handling the quantity of migrants that were arriving, even before Germany suspended Dublin deportations. Greece had no practical option other than to wave migrants through. Even European courts agreed that Greece was effectively no longer a safe third country, capable of processing the entirety of the influx. And yet, despite Greece’s inadequacies, people still kept arriving.

As the strongest, most economically successful, most institutionally capable country in Europe, it’s obvious why many refugees would prefer Germany and consider it their endpoint. Germany could have closed its own borders, and that would have been the end of the Schengen zone. Germany has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the lifting of internal borders in Europe. It would not slit its own throat that way. Deportation back to the point of entry (Greece, mostly) would have been rejected by Greece and attempts to coerce Greece would have been taken (correctly) as kicking Greece in the teeth when it was down (not to mention, as I said, that European courts had rejected it anyway). The less said about the other transit countries, the better.

The other option, at a European level, would have been to prevent migrants from landing, even if it meant that they would die. This would surely have been illegal, and only truly depraved people would suggest this as a solution. I mention it merely to remind you that there are truly depraved people, as though you needed to be told. Likely, the torture camps currently used by Australia to deter boat arrivals are also not politically viable in Europe (they are also extremely expensive and require cooperative neighbouring countries, which European politicians have been trying to recruit with only limited success).

There were better European-level options in hindsight, such as formulating a common refugee policy and actively choosing suitable refugees at source (as Canada, favored with geographic distance, is doing), but a fair division of refugees would have required e.g. Poland to agree at the outset to take a large number of Sunni Muslim Arabs (for values of large that would probably have amounted to a few thousand), and this is evidently unacceptable. Consequently, a forethought solution was never contemplated.

So it was left to Germany to take all of them. Many of them probably aren’t refugees in the classical sense, but economic migrants, although in the modern world, this line is somewhat blurry. Even if you believed a clear distinction could be made, it doesn’t matter, because it turns out that deportation is prohibitively difficult in many cases (they often come from countries that refuse deportation and over which Germany has limited clout).

The effects on German society and politics have been complex. Angela Merkel’s popularity has gone down somewhat, and the far-right has gotten a boost. But in the main, despite standing criticisms of Merkel, it doesn’t appear that there will be many near-term consequences. Anyone who replaces Merkel will find themselves trapped by the same dilemma, with the only options being a more rapid deterioration of European institutions, morally depraved actions, or…making it work.

“Making it work”—-making, over the long term, the social and economic integration of a large number of Arab Muslim migrants most likely—-is, contrary to the claims of many, far from impossible. This migration is a little different from previous migrations, such as the Turkish guest workers, who were not really expected to remain and become a part of German society, and therefore little thought was given to their integration at the time of entry. So when they did stay, the construction of parallel societies was more likely than it might otherwise have been. In this migration, there has been a much swifter movement to ensure that as many new migrants as possible are taught about the society into which they have arrived as well as serious thought into long-term questions of preventing ghettoization, and so on. As the burden is very large, there is no guarantee of perfect outcomes, but it is possible that a better outcome can be achieved. (And it must be reiterated that the children of Turkish guest workers in Germany, while they have their on-going problems, have often succeeded in German society.)

The greatest danger is immediate distraction by particular incidents and short-term points of conflict. The sexual harassment events that occurred in Cologne that have reverberated around the world were likely perpetrated by only a small percentage of the new migrants, but nevertheless they raise natural questions about cultural and gender expectations. These are serious questions, but they risk getting derailed in lazy stereotypes about The Arab Man and his uncontrollable testosterone production. In reality, the questions are long-term: what measures to take in housing, education, and so on, not with the end goal of creating present-day Germans out of future Arabs, but instead with the goal of creating citizens who respect the rights of others. That requires the boring, practical, politically-correct discourses of inclusion and the much-maligned multiculturalism, not exciting and lurid analyses of inherent cultural character flaws.

In the end, it may be the case that Europe chooses otherwise—-either to end its partnerships in the face of exterior challenges, believing that individual nation-state solutions to problems that affect the entire continent are more sustainable and best for citizens, or to succumb to the forms of depravity regarding migrants to which I alluded.

(I haven’t included links in this post because most of my sources aren’t in English. I’m also starting to wonder whether treating blog posts that analyze widely available current affairs stories as academic articles is worth the effort…)

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Trump Youth

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Guest appearance at a Trump rally by the Bund Amerikanischer Mädel.

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Vote in Canada.jpgIt didn’t take long for Big Media to denounce plans for electoral reform, a promise that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to want to keep. Lining up with the Conservatives, their initial salvo was on a question of process: they are demanding a referendum on any proposed changes to the creaky first-past-the post (FPTP) system. Now comes the second phase—outright dissembling, with the clear aim of misleading the public at the outset of what will likely be months of discussion.

Let’s dispose of the referendum question first. The media have never much liked them before. The Quebec sovereignist referenda, for example, were fraught with Anglophone media fears about the nature of the questions on the ballot, and the difficulty of boiling down complicated issues into a simple Yes or No. That’s why we elect people to make complex decisions, rather than putting these matters out for a plebiscite.

The 2007 Ontario referendum on proportional representation suffered, analysts say, from a lack of public information and public education. It is hard to disagree with this conclusion:

The political advantage in referendum campaigns, particularly those dealing with unfamiliar issues, often seems to rest with the NO side. Those opposed to a proposal do not necessarily have to make a coherent case against it. Often, it is enough merely to raise doubts about it in the minds of voters, question the motives of its advocates, or play upon a natural fear of the unknown.

There is nothing theoretically wrong with a referendum on even a complex issue if it is properly canvassed and widely debated. New Zealand had three of them, electors voting first to change the system, and then to implement and finally to keep their Mixed Member Proportional choice. But the current hand-wringing by the media should be greeted with scepticism, especially in conjunction with their quick-off-the-mark campaign to defend the status quo. Are we prepared to trust the media and political elites to do a proper job of informing the electorate if a national referendum were to be held? Given their dismal past performances when the subject has come up, and their antics now, one would have to be naive to do so.

“What’s the problem, anyway?” the Globe and Mail asks. “Ah, first past the post, how lovely you are,” moans the Ottawa Citizen. Democratic crisis? What crisis? asks the Toronto Star, proceeding to disgorge some of the worst claptrap on the issue that I can recall.

The Globe almost immediately puts up a strawman, and pay attention, folks, because it will not be the last time this mouldy old construction of dried grass is placed before you. PR, in its “purest form,” says the Globe, will give too much power to fringe parties. Just look at Israel.

Indeed, do look at Israel. In effect the country is one big electoral district, with no direct representation, but with closed lists of candidates. Electors get to vote, not for people, but for parties, which decide who will sit in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. It doesn’t work very well there, and it wouldn’t work at all well here—which is why no one is proposing it. Canada is a vast country in comparison to Israel, with widely differing regional interests, considerably more diversity, and a dynamic tension between the federal government and those of the provinces and territories. Direct representation in Parliament is, or should be, the sine qua non of any viable electoral system here, if those varying interests are to be mediated.

And this is precisely why the two alternate electoral systems being seriously discussed in reform circles retain that feature. Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) keeps ridings with candidates directly elected under FPTP. In addition, electors also get to vote for their party preference, so that the House of Commons would contain both directly elected representatives and enough party members (who can be selected in any number of ways, some democratic, some less so) to ensure proportionality.

Single Transferable Vote (STV), my personal fave, is even better in that respect: it calls for multi-member ridings where most electors get a voice in the House through direct election. I also like the higher threshhold—the percentage of votes that will elect a candidate. In the case of a five-member riding, that would be 16%, more than enough to keep out the fringe parties.

In each scenario, voters would have their local MP to talk to, and wasted votes (ones that don’t go anywhere and are effectively discarded) are much fewer than under the current system.

A third proposal, the preferential ballot, sometimes called the “instant runoff,” is favoured in some Liberal circles. It’s not hard to see why. It’s even more undemocratic than FPTP, and would likely produce Liberal majority governments until the end of days. If Liberal isn’t your first choice, after all, it’s likely to be your second, whether you are NDP or Conservative. With FPTP, most ridings elect MPs with pluralities, not majorities. When second choices are added to the mix, the Liberals are more likely to attain the 50%+1 required to put a candidate over the top.

But back to the media. The Globe merely lied by omission. But here is the Star, going that extra mile:

Proportional representation, or PR, would allocate seats close to the share of the vote received by each party. There are lots of variations, but it would generally benefit ideologically driven parties that have a fervent base of support but can’t win over most voters.

Would the Star be referring to the Liberals and the Conservatives, neither of whom can usually muster over 40% of the vote? Why, no:

The NDP and Greens, not surprisingly, support it.

And then the Big Lie:

[PR] breaks the link between MPs and voters in a particular riding. Trudeau cites that as the main reason he doesn’t support PR, and he has a good point.

See above. No broken links.

Turning now to the Citizen, this “argument” really says it all, doesn’t it?

Under first past the post, our governments are elected with wide — if perhaps not always deep — mandates to govern as they see fit. This allows us to get things done on a national scale, while providing clean lines of accountability.

Which means if we don’t like it…we can always toss them in four years.

Umm, what? What “we” are you referring to, Citizen editorial board? 60% of the population was unable to rid the country of the Dark Lord for ten.

A couple of facts to ponder for the moment. Only four countries in the developed world continue to use FPTP—the US, the UK, India and Canada. Where are those hotbeds of instability caused by PR to be found? Austria? Germany? Norway? Sweden? Iceland? Holland? Switzerland? Come on, media, pull the other one. Israel, which you keep bringing up, is an outlier, completely atypical.

The second is that eighteen months is a perfectly adequate timeframe to deal with the matter. That might not be the case if we were all starting from scratch, but we are not. As long ago as 2004, the Canadian Law Reform Commission published a lengthy report, after wide coast to coast consultation, concluding that a form of MMP should replace FPTP. It’s well worth a read, by the way.

We have also had four provincial referenda, including two in BC. The media have been happy to hold three of these up as proof that Canadians prefer FPTP. They forget to mention the first one in BC, in 2005, where nearly 58% of the voters supported STV, in 77 of the 79 provincial ridings. But the fix was in: a vote of 60% had to be achieved. A second vote took place four years later, but the counted vote dropped to 39%, despite an Angus-Reid poll that indicated a majority still in favour.

In PEI, the Premier at the last moment decided that a 60% vote would be required. The number of polling stations was cut by 75%, leaving some small towns with no polling-place at all, and producing long line-ups elsewhere, sending numerous potential voters home after a too-long wait. Under these circumstances, only one in three Islanders voted, an unprecedented small turnout.

One can speculate about the whys and wherefores of these losses, but at the very least the campaigns themselves indicate that the debate has been well under way for considerable time. We need to continue that debate, but we need to do so in an informed, responsible manner, with considerable public discussion and input, perhaps even convening a nationwide Citizens Assembly. The social media will likely play a major role this time around as well. But the establishment media, once again, can be counted upon to act as a filter, not a lens. We should pay no attention to those men behind the curtain.

DOWNDATE: Seems I was somewhat prescient six years ago.

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life of brian1.jpgJust reviewed a list of emergency supplies requested by the Oregon Popular People’s Libertarian Revolutionary Freedom Front, supplementing their earlier request for “snacks”.

Looks like the lads are settling in. Their “Updated Call to Action” now includes an urgent request that they be sent:

  • Cigarettes: Marlboro Red 100’s, Marlboro Lights 100’s, Pall Mall Menthol 100’s, and Chew Copenhagen. (Hmm. It’s certainly a manly list, but guys - think of the Oregon Popular People’s Libertarian Revolutionary Freedom Front Cadets. Seriously, are you being good models for the Revolutionary Youth?)
  • Tampons and sanitary pads (somewhat less manly, and perhaps a bit indicative of spectacularly poor planning? “What, AGAIN? Didn’t I pick those up for you LAST month already?”)
  • Gaming supplies (okay, did someone tell them there’s a new Star Wars Monopoly set out there?)
  • Plastic Silverware (Hmm. Didn’t know silverware came in plastic. Will silver plasticware do just as well?)
  • Ice Scrappers. (Either they’ve got unusually feisty ice out there in Oregon, or we need to add a dictionary to their list of needs).
  • Throw Rugs (because even revolutionaries need something to tie the decor together, you know?)

But most disturbing is their demand for “French Vanilla Coffee Creamer”.

FRENCH Vanilla? Damn. And I thought these guys were supposed to be PATRIOTS.

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Saudi Arabia.jpg

(Ottawa, January 7) DawgNews has learned that the new Liberal government will not tear up a multi-year deal to provide Saudi Arabia with a regular supply of high-quality swords. Floyd Merriwether, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs minister Stéphane Dion, confirmed that the arrangement will go ahead.

“We deplore the recent mass executions, and those still to come,” he said. “But a deal’s a deal.”

“Our steel industry needs new markets,” he continued. “And the heavy demand by Saudi Arabia for razor-sharp blades will create hundreds of jobs.”

The deal continues to be opposed by Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares. The organizations point out that many of those recently beheaded were domestic maids, accused sorcerers and rival clerics.

“Obviously, the executions have caused the government some concern,” said Merriwether. “But swords don’t kill people. People kill people. Besides, we have no evidence that Canadian-made swords will be used for execution purposes.”

During the recent election campaign, Trudeau pledged to honour the contract, referring to the implements as “lengthy, sharpened butter knives.” But in the past few days he has distanced himself, claiming that it was a private deal over which he had no control.

The Globe & Mail took Trudeau to task today for this apparent bashfulness. “He has the final say on this, and he has made a decision to proceed. The Prime Minister has nothing to apologize for. We’ve always sold sharp objects to bloodthirsty monsters. Besides, everybody else does it.” *

* This part isn’t satire.

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