Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Can We Talk, For a Moment?

Can we just agree that the 1995 Referendum was a complete fraud? Seriously, the whole Option Canada thing; they spent 539 460$ (what, no decimal?) illegaly - ten bucks for every vote past the 50% mark. Yes, it was illegal. Yes, it was corrupt and yes, the No side should feel ashamed.

But the Yes side wasn't lilly-white and completely pure either. That's the problem, both sides did some seriously shady business; the referendum itself was shady! The question was obtuse, unclear and deceitful and the whole thing should have been declared invalid on that basis alone - that is essentially what the Clarity Act did - so revisiting the event twelve years after the fact is relatively futile. In fact, that the statute of limitations on any illegal activities was surpassed seven years ago; the pursuit of the truth is a waste of taxpayer money at this point. Anyone who wishes to employ an independent party to inquire into the truth, using private funding, may do so without any interference, but I refuse to continue wasting money on something we cannot do anything about!

The Yes side, it's been admitted and played down, disqualified No votes and disenfranchised No voters. The No side spent hundreds of thousands in a mad dash to save the situation at the last moment and spent hundreds of millions of dollars after the fact trying to "promote Canada's image" in Québec. The latter offense is still being prosecuted and the former is unprosecutable. The Yes side got away clean because the system was so decentralized that there was no specific person at whose feet the blame could be laid, but it is still clear that criminal and undemocratic practices were employed.

So we write it off; 1980 and 1995 should be written off as wasteful exercises in how not to run a referendum.

We have the Clarity Act now; it's a good law and, assuming it is observed, any referendum held from here on in will be fair and genuinely representative. The only problem this would leave is the inherent problem of democracy, but it's a problem most people are willing to live with.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen

André Boisclair's political suicide left a nice little void at the head of this Province's Natural Ruling People, as the RoC liberal pundits put it, a void which the party has yet to officially fill. It looks, however, as though - just as I stated last time I discussed the matter - Pauline Marois will lead the Party into the next election; it may be much sooner than we might think.

Reportedly, madame Marois was consulted - make that gave authorization to the PQ's recent move to oppose the Liberal budget proposal. That gives you an idea how tight the leadership race in that party really is.

The opposition to the budget is interesting. Both the ADQ and the PQ are likely to tow that particular line, but the PQ opposing a tax-cut means two things; they're moving away from the right side of the political spectrum, rather than towards it as was previously thought and their being the first to oppose the motion says that Marois actually trusts she has enough political capital to make a significant gain for the PQ in the election that the defeat of this budget would eventually entail.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this budget and the reactions to it. Firstly, I like keeping the money I make; it's this crazy thing about being poor, so I applaud any motion to give us a tax-cut, however... Quebec's finances are, er, not in what could be called an idyllic condition and cutting away more revenue doesn't strike me as the best way to help that. The tax-cut could still be achieved if the Quebec government did a bit of, er, pruning.

The primary reason that the ADQ got my vote was their 'cut away at bureaucracy with the big knife' policy and... Well, if that policy were to somehow find it's way onto Jean Charest's desk... Well let's just say that we could more than afford that tax-cut.

But why listen to little old me? It's much more fun to have the OLF and dozens of useless programs to help artists and bolster francophone television ratings.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Human Trafficking in Laval

A Laval couple has been charged with Human Trafficking under the Canadian Criminal Code; I'll refrain from getting into the details, you can get those on any news site around the net, especially any dealing with the Montreal area, but needless to say that this is er... Unsettling news.

There's already people rising to the defence of the couple, saying that the woman in question wasn't mistreated, imprisoned or subjugated; let's hope that this is the case. A deranged illegal immigrant with an axe to grind against her employer is far more pleasant a thought then the alternative. Unfortunately, I doubt this is the case.

What is far more likely is that these people are sick, disturbed and completely fucking inhumane. I will keep an eye this case as it progresses, because it will likely have implications more or less all across the board; if they're convicted, there'll be a call for more vigilance with regards to illegal immigration, there'll be a call for tougher laws with regards to human trafficking and there'll be a media blitz to find out "How could this ever happen here?!"

It will be absolutely frightful but, if these allegations prove true, it won't be half as frightful as the ordeal this Ethiopian woman's been through. Anyone who's spent even a moment perusing this blog will know how much I value individual freedom (yes John, I know), what these people are alleged to have done is so antithetical to my worldview that the very thought of it boils my blood.

What the swine who buy and sell people do to get themselves to sleep at night has got to be fucking effective, it's the only way to explain that they aren't all dead - and the world is worse for it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Facts of the Supermarket 'Scene'

If you've ever gone to a grocery store and purchased anything, more than once, and you've never worked in one, chances are you've done something so heinously thoughtless that a grocery store employee has harboured fantasies of peeing in the hollowed out eyesocket of your fleshless skull.

I'm sorry if this is disturbing to you, but it's just the truth; the average human being turns into an uncaring savage upon setting foot in a grocery store through some process I've yet to identify.

Significance in Insignificance

On George Stroumbolopoulos' CBC programme, The Hour, I had the peasure of watching an interview between the man himself and a certain Alister McGrath, last night. It really was a genuine pleasure; regardless of his funny ideas (stupid religion...), he is a genuinely intelligent and interesting man with some valid points to make. He did, however, say something that struck me as... Well... Being the opposite of the truth.

The claim that made me raise an eyebrow was the claim that theism somehow improves or increases the appreciation one can have of science and nature; he added that this was because science is not equipped to answer the question "do we matter?"

I am afraid I must disagree with him on both points. Science is not only equipped to answer the question, it already has; if, by some horrible accident, mankind suddenly ceased to exist right this minute, the universe wouldn't change at all. We are so insignificant that the effect wouldn't even be noticeable further out than Jupiter. The reason that this fact increases our appreciation of science and nature is that this very insignificance makes us important.

I've already expounded this briefly in previous posts, but basically it goes like this; if we're the product of some great supreme being who has a plan for us that we cannot circumvent, then for all the meaning that imparts on us - being His chosen people, yadda, yadda, yadda - we're still just matter hurtling along a course it cannot alter. But if we look at the reality of the situation; if we're just the freak consequence of an even more freakish chemical reaction in an isolated corner of the universe, then the fact is that we're something absolutely unique; a new type of matter.

Until now, all matter in the universe has done the same thing; cause & effect, action & reaction, basically just stuff smacking into stuff and making other stuff. Until us, that is. We're matter that sees the other stuff coming and can avoid it. We can think and we can conceive and we can create. We're matter with our own little universe inside. We can appreciate science more through its telling us of our insignificance because we can appreciate science.

It is discouraging to me that so many people simply write us off as meaningless unless we act according to some Grand Plan. There is so much meaning for us to make for ourselves, so much for us to see and learn and acheive that abdicating the right to that glory and majesty, giving it up to some deity - regardless of that deity's existence or non-existence - is absolute folly. We are better than that.

We are so awesome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I am SO Great

You'll notice that I didn't even mention Gilles Duceppe during my post about the PQ leadership; there was a very good reason for that, as we can now tell.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Clearcut Woodlands

Well, André Boisclair's gone.


He's not dead or anything, though politically he might aswell be. After thoroughly bungling the last election campaign and getting the smallest party representation the PQ has reeled in over the past thirty years, the heat was on for him to step down; it finally got too hot for him, today.

This is good news for Québecois. This is bad news for Québecois. Really, it's both.

For the next few months, at least, the separatist representation in the national assembly will be in disarray, leaving the Liberals and the Action Démocratique to get on with the business of actually governing. I mean, I know it's a stretch, but maybe with less hysterical interjection, the floor of the national assembly will be open to actual progress within the framework of its new minority.

Further, the discord that the citizens of Québec will be witnesses to within the party should help to drag voters kicking and screaming away from the nationalists. Unfortunately, this is far less likely than I dare hope. The more likely situation is far more unpleasant, politically.

Pierre Curzi & Pauline Marrois are well liked by the Party and they're well liked by the province and one of the two is definitely next in line for the PQ hotseat. What's worse; both are competent. That's the worst combination we could ever come across: nationalism and competence. The last time that combination came onto the political scene, we had a referendum. In fact, we've had referendums both times that combination has come onto Québec's political scene.

René Lévesques, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard... It was scary how charismatic, competent and just plain crazy those guys were. I fear a ressurgence.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dessicated Journalists

Last year was the deadliest on record for journalists with over a hundred men and women dead, the world over. Investigations into the deaths have shown that a great many of these deaths were deliberate and premeditated murders. While a significant proportion were the result of collateral damage - attached to military units that fell under attack and the like - the fact that so many people were killed intentionally for reporting what they saw is frightening.

Unfortunately, it isn't surprising. Men in charge, on all sides of these conflicts, are all subject to public opinion, both directly and indirectly. The primary mission of a journalist is to ensure that his fellow citizens are informed and knowledgeable, so as to allow for the smooth flow of the democratic process; in that capacity, they hold immense power over the power-hungry politicos and the leaders of those countries which might become their targets. It is no surprise that when, every so often, a journalist comes upon information that could put either in a very bad situation, well... Those same power-hungry politicos and the people who may become their targets might find it convenient if that journalist were to suddenly... Er... Disappear.

This is, of course, as are most such actions, directly calculated to screw people out of their democratic prerogative.Which people are being screwed? Well, us, of course. We are being deliberately kept blind at a disturbingly high price. Unfortunately it isn't within our power to make this stop. This isn't a legislative matter and it isn't an administrative matter; what is happening to these journalists is immoral, illegal and downright wrong and the only thing we can do, as citizens of a free and safe western "democracy," is to thank them.

These brave men and women go into dangerous situations on an alarmingly regular basis so that we may remain safe and free and their job may just be as important and significant as any soldier, peacekeeper or officer's serving in the most volatile warzones. We owe them - well, the responsible ones - our freedom just as much as we do any veteran of any of the great wars.

It is shameful that our freedom should have to cost so much, but as they say: freedom isn't free. Sometimes we can only keep it by accepting the generosity of others.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Appointees Suck

The senate has officially screwed us. Let me say that clearly; the senate, a group of people appointed by people who have a vested interest in having a complacent oversight group, has gone and fucked us in the asshole. With a penis.

Jest aside, the fact that we now (barring Michaëlle-Jean's vetoing the ratified law) have a fixed election date - October 19th, every four years, as of 2009, for information purposes - is bad news. In the system we've been used to, the opposition parties did have to face the rather mild unpleasantness of the incumbent party being the group to fix the election date, which affected preparedness, after a fashion. This was a tradeoff we lived with because we saw what the alternative - what we've now adopted - means, just south of our border.

A fixed election date does a number of things which are actively detrimental to the function of our government and which are just fucking annoying; in the first place, suddenly we go from election campaigns which last, at most, a couple of months to the monstrous, two year long campaigns of the United States. Which is annoying, though it is not detrimental in and of itself, unfortunately, its immediate consequences are.

Long and fixed election campaigns focus the attention of our already incompetent government away from the work of governance; the political parties, for years at a time, become more focussed on gaining or maintaining power, than on making sure the country runs smoothly - this is a lesser problem in the USA because it is a country which imposes term limits on presidential candidates; here, where the possibility of a Maurice Duplessis-style dictatorship still exists, it is downright dangerous.

I'm going to write my MP to urge that a repeal of this law be proposed; Canadian parties have become proficient at coping with a suddenly announced election date and the incumbent advantage is negligeable. The benefits - short campaigns and government focus - of non-fixed election dates far outweigh that small detriment. Our political process, with its first-past-the-post system, unelected senators and symbolic monarchy needs all the benefits it can get.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Metro Lines and Greenpeace

On my way into Montreal this morning, I was greeted by an announcement on the subway's public address system by a number of influential people from Montreal and Canada's political landscape, starting with Montreal's Mayor, Gérald Tremblay and running through a gamut of people who I'm certain I was supposed to know, but whom I could not care less for; until the voice switched to a man representing Greenpeace who began, at once, to laud the city of Montreal for expanding its public transit system, declaring it a victory for the environment and another step in the journey to combat global warming - or something to that effect.

Leaving aside my views about the global warming issue, and leaving aside the fact that this will, in fact, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions - which is a good thing - I want to focus on the fact that we, as a society, put any stock in a single thing Greenpeace has to say.

It is absolutely stunning to me that Greenpeace, in the current political climate, manages to maintain a positive social image. By any conventional definition the group is an umbrella organization for terrorist groups. Sea-Shepherd and the Animal Liberation Front being two such groups which instantly come to mind. Both groups have either passive or active support, at any given moment, from Greenpeace for actions which are meant to affect political change through violence. Sea-Shepherd rams and sinks whaling boats with reinforced barges. They value the lives of whales above the lives of human beings!

Greenpeace itself engages in misinformation campaigns and contradictory protests which impede economic and political growth between Canada and the USA. A few years ago, Greenpeace blockaded an American Aircraft Carrier, which ran on nuclear power, with a fleet of gasoline-oil mixture burning, internal combustion powered dinghies. At last check, nuclear power produces zero greenhouse gas emissions and IC engines produce a metric fuckload.

We live in a time when terrorists are hunted and killed for their actions - or so we're told - yet here we are, sitting on our laurels while a terrorist organization operates within our own borders to destroy the material basis of our society. Greenpeace is a group dangerous, luddite, misinformed (see their releases about Genetically Modified Food Testing) terrorists who prefer animals and plants to people and who would rather see civilization reduced to ashes than see another old-growth tree get a hunk chainsawed out of its trunk.

Trudeau the Younger

If there is any one person in politics I genuinely do not envy, it's Justin Trudeau, the most politically active son of the late Pierre-Elliot Trudeau. He catches breaks from no one. The anglophones who support him decry him as using his father's legacy to advance his career, which he'd be stupid not to do, and of not having any notable accomplishments or antecedent political positions of note, which is altogether false. The thirty-five year old politician (I'm assured that 35 is pre-pubescent in politician years) has been a successful lobbyist for the better part of a decade, even managing to pry a few million dollars from a conservative government's tightly clenched purse for a social program benefiting kids and cultural exchange.

What's worse than the grudging support of anglophones and different ethnic/immigrated groups is the outright hostility of francophone nationalists. Trudeau might be able to recapture Papineau for the liberals, but he stands not a chance of success off the island, where the Trudeau name is synonymous with pleasant words like "scum" and "gonorrhea." Here, the long memory of the francophones and the skewed historical education system they've implemented is to blame. The october crisis of 1970 is remembered not as it should be - a martial response to a province's quiet support of a terrorist organization operating within Canadian territory - but rather as a massive infringement on the rights of francophones by an english Canada which hates, reviles and despises the french because of their moral, intellectual and cultural superiority. (I don't make this stuff up) Justin Trudeau's father, having been the prime minister to call on the War Measures act in the first place, is seen as the source of all the evil which has been visited upon the french since.

They are fucking twisted sometimes. What this means, though, for Trudeau the younger is that he will have to walk a while yet before he can hope to step out of his father's shadow, which has led to a misunderstanding; this has little or nothing to do with Justin having accomplished little and far more to do with the long shadow cast by his father. In both the positive and negative lights of history, P.-E.T. stands as a monolithic figure in Canadian politics, and expecting his son to stand as tall and accomplish as much in what has been a relatively short career is patently unrealistic. That he seems competent, has actual charisma and seems to genuinely care about the people he represents should be enough and I wish him well in his career.

I do not fully endorse him, he is still young and still has time to surprise us all, one way or the other, but I do urge patience and suggest that he deserves at least one half of a chance.