Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

University of the People

An interesting looking project. A tuition-free online university.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marty Stuart and the Dragon: Part 1

Marty Stuart slumped into his swivel chair, shoving a lattee towards the IN tray with rather more force than was quite wise. This was not going to be his morning. This was the latest in several mornings that had not been his mornings. This was going to be.... Marty mentally broke off his train of thought as horror superseded fog. Not Jen this morning. Not Dr. Jennifer Smath MA, PhD, Director of this that or the other. Marty got a stab of pain through his head just thinking about her. She had been primarily responsible for most of his troubles in the office he was sure of it. Probably most of his troubles in life too.

Dr. Smath as she was known to her subordinates (to her face), or Her Reigning Majesty Queen Jen of Perfection (behind her back), knew this was going to be her morning. Not only had the Panroy contract been dealt with yesterday (to the immense satisfaction of the Minister who was able to put out a smug press release on the subject of environmental responsibility) but she had finally found a way to get rid of her number one problem.

Marty just rubbed her the wrong way.

“He's irresponsible.” she complained to her administrative assistant.

“He's a bum,” she said to her domestic partner, “Or rather he would be if that wasn't disrespectful to homeless persons.”

“There's this guy at the office, I've sent him for three rounds of diversity training and it hasn't changed anything.” she breathed deeply as she tried to relax in her therapist's office. Marty was almost singlehandedly responsible for her being in the therapist's office in the first place. “And two rounds of sensitivity training.” she added later.

The topic of Marty's diversity training was a sore one for Jen. The last one in particular had been the hardest. It might have been easier if Jen's domestic partner (she would never use the patriarcal and oppressive term husband) Hal didn't run the program and Jen didn't sit in on it to monitor her employees' progress. That was mistake number one, and two, three, six, and 359. Maybe if she hadn't seen it all it wouldn't have galled her so much.

Marty just couldn't seem to get it.

It started with the Icebreaker, when everyone had to say their name and preform a gesture. Like hopping around or waving. Marty didn't help the atmosphere at all when he burst out laughing and said, “Man, are you serious? Is this lame or what?” It went downhill when he was asked to make his gesture and he mimed shooting a gun. A few hysterical woman started shrieking at that point.

“Why can't I tell the chick who answers the phones that she looks cute in her new dress?” The entire room went into a collective shudder. Hal pursed his lips in a way that made Marty shudder.

“It is harassment.” Hal intoned with the air of a harassed robot. Marty found himself inexorably reminded of C3PO. A joke about the subject rose in his mind but he didn't have time to make it. Hal continued, trying to explain why this was harassment, that it was inappropriate, that it was objectifying and demeaning to the woman.

“But,” countered Marty with an air of finality, “They like it.”

“It wasn't supposed to be like this.” Jennifer had said that to herself a thousand times if she had said it once. Standing in front of the full length mirror in her room, aggressively brushing her shoulder-length hair, putting on the perfectly tailored suit, adding the conservative watch. She had cultivated the business woman ideal for so long that she never felt dressed on the weekends. Somehow it seemed an indecency to wear casual clothing, worse in it's own way than going naked. At least that could have some redeeming “liberation” attached to it. It was one of the reasons she had insisted they give up the idea of a cottage.

Dr. Smath spent long periods of time at her desk dreaming about firing Marty. She had always been a union girl. Many late nights in college had been spent studying the works of great union activists and apologists. Had even helped out in a few union strikes. Now, inexplicably she was entering a mid-life crisis, wondering whether she had perhaps been wrong all along, wondering if perhaps employers should have the right to fire employees just because they didn't like them. Wondering if there were any conceivable grounds in the civil service rule book for firing Marty. There weren't, she knew. She had gone over it several dozen times before.

The fact that he was shaking her long and devoutly held beliefs didn't improve her attitude.

Jennifer Smath, was in a good mood this morning though. If she wasn't a highly successful career woman she would have skipped across the room towards her nemesis. As it was she just threw a little more self confidence and purposful pep into her stride. Marty shrank internally, trouble was coming down the line and it was almost certainly going to land smack on his desk. As usual he decided to brazen it out. As usual, he made the wrong decision.

“Good morning Mr. Stuart.” The smile on her face might have looked professionally detached to an innocent and casual observer. Marty being neither and having a well developed psychosis about Dr. Smath in a good mood, something along the beware of Greeks bearing gifts thing, immediately jumped to the conclusion that she could only be that jocular if she was about to fire him. He jumped to his feet, got tangled in the legs of his swivel chair and lurched toward her is a manner that led Jen (who also had a well developed psychosis, about Marty) to assume that he was either going to attack or kiss her. She jumped back with unusual dexterity and Marty caught himself on the edge of the desk, managing to remain in a semi-upright position.

“Um, ah uh”, he garbled for a few moments before regaining what he considered control, “Well, well, well my dear Mistress of the Department what news have we? What hapless bit of paperwork am I to deface today?”

Jen froze, remembering too late that he was still going to be in the building for the next two hours, and dismissed whatever still remained of her breezy attitude.

“Nothing bad I hope,” she said with a smile that even the innocent and casual observer couldn't have mistaken for a friendly one, “You've been reassigned to an amazing new position.”

Marty continued to look like a victim of a particularly sadistic concentration camp where they torture victims until they assume a ghastly facade of cheerfulness. On another morning he might have been able to handle Smath and her “good news” but this wasn't it.

“You have been assigned to field work.” Jen plunged ahead, abandoning cheer for clipped efficiency. “You will report to R-'s office in 15 minutes where you will be issued a vehicle. You are to inspect and monitor our various environmental inspectors as they conduct their work.” Jen turned on her heel and started to stride away briskly leaving Marty in shock. Too soon he recovered and sprinted after her.

“Wait, wait, wait”, he babbled. “You mean go, like where, and do what?”

Jen looked at him the beady eye of irritation not softened by her internal jubilation at having scored a hit.

“You will be going with environmental inspectors as they work to make sure that they are doing a good job.” she explained flatly.

“In the country?” Marty frothed. “As in rural? As in, like, nature?”

“Yes,” said Jen now smiling sweetly. “Yes.”


There is, believe it or not, a difference between, say, sensitivity group therapy and the Olympics. For one thing, in the Olympics you aren't supposed to go easy on your opponents to boost their self-esteem. At least I didn't think so.

Learn somethin' new everyday.

And I mean, speaking of arrogance... those in glass houses.

And not everyone seems to agree.

Proof by Statistic

I think this is a very old one but...
  1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
  2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
  3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations
  4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
  5. Bread is made from a substance called "dough." It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average North American eats more bread than that in one month!
  6. Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and osteoporosis.
  7. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.
  8. Most bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.

In light of these frightening statistics, we propose the following bread restrictions:

  1. No sale of bread to minors
  2. A nationwide "Just Say No To Toast" campaign, complete celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.
  3. A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread.
  4. No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
  5. The establishment of "Bread-free" zones around schools.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fatwa against Scanners

Muslims are not to go through body scanners because it violates Muslim law.

Remind me why we are installing these things again?

Personally the whole debate has a "Would you rather be shot or drowned?" quality to it, but forced to choose I would rather go through a body scanner than be patted down. At least then you don't have anyone manhandling you. And you don't know who is looking at you.

The fatwa was issued by Fiqh Council and supported by CAIR.

Christmas Christian? Discrimination!

The BC Tribunal - Christianity and Christmas are not connected you bigot! And talking about religion at work (if a Moslem might overhear) may be humiliating and discriminatory.

[61] Ms. Hamedanian alleges that Mr. Gallagher and Ms. Rovner discussed loudly that the Christmas party was a celebration of Christianity. Ms. Hamedanian states that she found this humiliating. Mr. Gallagher and Ms. Rovner deny making such remarks......

[107] Third, with respect to the alleged comment about Christmas being a celebration of Christianity, such a comment may, depending on all of the circumstances of a case, form part of an allegation of discrimination. My determination with respect to the significance of this comment will depend on my more global findings below relating to Ms. Hamedanian’s complaint. In other words, whether this allegation supports a conclusion that there is a reasonable prospect that Ms. Hamedanian’s complaint will succeed depends on the global context, which I discuss in more detail below.

On another note, maybe we should send some Plain English Campaign material to the Tribunal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Geert Wilders Summons

Geert Wilders is a Dutch MP who is on trial for insulting and inciting hatred and/or discrimination against a group of people (Richard Dawkins do not visit the Netherlands).

His summons can be read here . It helpfully cites the instances of hate speech that he is being prosecuted about.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Whitewashing History

I have noticed before that the people who seem most zealous in the work of removing "hate" from the public square can be sometimes not so squeaky clean themselves.

But then, liberals seem to be a bit tone deaf in the irony department. (and we all know that the term "hypocrite" is synonymous with "evangelical fundamentalist" therefore by definition it cannot apply to a liberal)

So let's spell it out for them shall we?

To set up the scene. (Decision here)

Cheryl Balcilek is a university student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. During her studies there she took a course called "Psychology of Genocide" taught by Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani. She is of Turkish origin.

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani is a professor who teaches at Kwantlen, UBC, and Capilano with a specific interest in "The psychology of terrorism, political decision-making, ethnopolitical violence and genocide, human information-processing". I don't know what his background is (Asian?, maybe East Indian??)

Are we all clear now? Good.

So in the course of the "Psychology of Genocide" class they talk about the Armenian massacre. It being, like, you know, something of a genocide and all.

Except Ms. Balcilek is not so happy. In the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal she alleges that she experienced discrimination in grading and so forth because she was Turkish. She also claims that a comment was made and reading material was assigned that was discriminatory. Leaving aside the matter of discriminatory grading/conduct (which the Tribunal dismissed anyway) we move onto the interesting stuff.

Exhibit A - Discriminatory Comment made in Lecture: "“he could not believe that Turkey, as a nation, “would not own up to the Armenian genocide”"

Got it? Criticizing a nation for being a genocide-denier is... hate speech? Moving on.
"Ms. Balcilek refers to reading material assigned later in the semester that made derogatory remarks about Turkish people and Turkey as a nation. In particular, she referred to the articles “Shall Armenia Perish” by Henry Morgenthau (the “Morgenthau Article”) which makes derogatory references to Turks calling them “unspeakable Turks”, “lower class Turks”, and other such references. She also refers to “another biased article by Miller and Miller” that was included in the Course curricula."...On October 24, Ms. Bakilek alleges that during a lecture (the “October 24 Class”), Dr. Jhangiani made eye contact with her and stated that the Morgenthau article “was excellent”....Ms. Balcilek submits that the Morgenthau Article, in particular, and an article by Miller and Miller amounts to discrimination by way of publication under the Code.
I don't know exactly what the Miller and Miller article was but I did find through Google search that there is a book called "Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide" by a Miller and Miller. Editorial review here.

The article by Henry Morgenthau "Former Ambassador to Turkey, and National Vice-Chairman of Near East Relief " is available here (it's short don't worry)

By the way, context for the "derogatory references to Turks calling them...“lower class Turks”".
"Next the women would be sorted out. Agents of the Turk officers picked the youngest and fairest for their masters' harems. Next the civil officials had their pick, and then the remainder either were sold for one medjidi-a silver coin valued at about 80 cents-or were driven forth to be seized by the lower class Turks and Kurds."
Somehow it seems much less... hateful when you realize that Morgenthau was using the phrase to contrast them with upper class Turks.

Then on to Dr. Jhangiani for an explanation.
Dr. Jhangiani provides an explanation for the educative role served by the Morgenthau Article first published in 1920. He admits that he may have made a comment that the Morgenthau Article was a good representation of attitudes held by a segment of the population at that time. He denies making any negative comments about Turkish people or Turkey as a nation. Dr. Jhangiani deposes that the Course and its reading list was modelled after a very similar course he took at the University of British Columbia called the Psychological Aspects of Genocide;
So hate speech aside maybe it didn't all happen anyway.

To their credit the Tribunal dismissed the application saying that,
"The articles complained of, the Morgenthau Article published in 1920, and the reference to the Miller and Miller article were included in a course that sought to understand human psychology in circumstances of genocide. In the context of a Course which critically analyses historical events of genocide, the use of historical articles to demonstrate principles or concepts would not constitute a violation of s. 7 of the Code. Considering all of the material filed, I conclude that Ms. Balcilek’s complaint under s. 7(1)(a) or (b) has no reasonable prospect of success. Her complaint under s. 7(1) of the Code is dismissed."

Leaving aside the fact that Dr. Jhangiani had to deal with allegations of discrimination, unfair grading, and insinuations that he might physically attack Ms. Balcilek.
Ms. Balcilek alleges that upon notification of Dr. Jhangiani’s complaint, she was hesitant to attend the Course because she feared for her physical safety.
We can only hope she didn't text too much of that stuff around to her friends at the university.

But I have tried your patience long enough after giving you that hook about irony at the beginning. The irony may be found in one of Ms. Balcilek's allegations against Dr. Jhangiani.
She alleges that he made inconsistent comments about her writing and reacted “offensively” when she asked him is he was having trouble following her writing because her English was too sophisticated. (bolds mine)
All right, so without making any unfounded judgments about motive here can anyone think of a reason why a student might ask a professor if their "English was too sophisticated" for them? Anyone? Anyone?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cause and Effect?

Pro-life = more female genital mutilation?

Well I guess if you don't have babies you can't do that to them but...

While we're on the subject a few thousand planes equipped with cluster bombs would be a great way to deal with overpopulation and thus reduce poverty in Africa. I mean if we are going to keep ideology out of it and everything...