Thursday, August 23, 2007

Agents provocateurs du Québec

Predictably enough, protestors were out in force at the Canada-US-Mexico summit at Montebello, Québec, voicing their opinions and those of many other Canadians. Which is all as it should be.
However, what is not as it should be is the allegation, and it looks a very convincing-looking allegation at that, that some of the demonstrators may have been planted by the Québec police in an attempt to provoke violence and generally give the protest a bad rap.
The Sûreté de Québec has a reputation for heavy-handedness and underhand operations over the years, which makes the allegation all the more convincing, although it is difficult to understand what their hidden agenda might be (unless it was dictated to them from above...)
The evidence in favour of the allegation includes:
  • the three men appeared not to be known by any of the other demonstrators;
  • one was clearly carrying a rock in an area of specifically peaceful demonstrators;
  • all three were wearing exactly the same type and brand of boots as the regulation-issue police boots;
  • all were masked, albeit unconvincingly, and fought strongly when attempts to remove the masks were made;
  • at one point, one of their number was seen to be calmly discussing something with police officers (as opposed to arguing or screaming abuse);
  • none of them ranted and raved or even argued when "arrested" - they were suspiciously silent;
  • when "arrested", they calmly disappeared through the police ranks and were not seen again;
  • no names of the arrested men have been reported, and police are refusing to comment on the matter.
Later, under media pressure, the police admitted to planting the agents, so everything is OK again.
Errr, now hold on...

Useless Information

I have been gradually working through The Encyclopedia of Useless Information, which I received for my birthday and which makes good bathroom reading.
I am only up to the B's so far, but here is the kind of uselss thing I have been finding out from the A's:
  • Age of Consent: The lowest age of consent ever was in England in 1576 when 10-year-olds were allowed to marry (although, even today, consenting 12-year-olds in Mexico are legally allowed sexual activity).
  • Alaska: Under the Alaskan penal code, "wanton waste of a moose" is a Class A misdemeanour, comparable to drunk driving.
  • Queen Alexandra: Edward VII's wife was left with a limp after an illness in 1867. Ladies at court copied the limp to be fashionable.
  • Alphabet: The dot above the letter "i" is called a tittle.
  • America: Recent evidence suggests that America is less likely to have been named after Amerigo Vespucci (which always seems suspect to me), and more likely to have been named after Richard Amerike, a Bristol merchant and one of the major sponsors of John Cabot's voyages to North Amercia, long before Vespucci or Colombus. Amerike's family banner also shows a flag in red, white and blue, depicting stripes and stars.
  • St Apollonia: The patron saint of dentists and toothache sufferers had her teeth knocked out by the Romans in in AD249. During Henry VI's reign in the 15th century, several tons of her alleged teeth, which were peddled as cures for toothache, were collected in a bid to stop the scam.
  • Apple: There are more than 7,000 varieties of apples in the world.
  • Armadillo: The nine-banded armadillo is the only animal other than the human that can suffer from leprosy.
  • Atlantic: In 1995, two Englishmen became the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean from east to west on a pedalo.
  • Australia: The top 14 deadliest snakes on earth are found in Australia.
They are supposedly collected from disparate and obscure but reliable sources.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Issues with religious education

The issue of Catholic (and other religious) schools in Ontario and Canada surfaces from time to time, and could conceivably become an issue in the next Ontario provincial election, which is looming upon us in October 2007, as the Conservative candidate John Tory has come out clearly in favour of them.
As a recent article points out, the only reason we have Catholic schools now is due to a rather iffy political deal struck back in the days of the Confederacy debate. Not much on which to base a whole educational philosophy, you might reasonably think.
Over the years, Ontario and Canada has been working on rectifying many of the other historical inequalities, inconsistencies and irrelevancies we have been saddled with. Maybe the time has come to do away completely with such anachronisms, and get religion out of state-funded education once and for all.
Certainly we should not go down the route of extending state-funding of religious education as Mr. Tory proposes (apparently, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Copts, and Protestants have all indicated their intention of applying for the funding that Mr. Tory has promised if elected).
I have no objection to any of these sects establishing their own schools, providing they are private. I do object to my tax dollars funding them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Same-sex marriage vs Polygamy

A thought-provoking (but fatally flawed) article about polygamy in the Globe recently caught my eye.
The author, who, one eventually realizes as the article progresses, clearly comes from the religious side of the tracks, posits the reasonable question that, if homosexual marriage has become socially acceptable in Canada and elsewhere, then why hasn't polygamy.
The article tries to be controversial by arguing that if we have left behind the concept of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman for purposes of the propogation of the race, then what is to stop us from legalizing marriages involving three or more persons (presumably of various genders).
However, rather than completing the argument (which actually seems a reasonable one to me, so long as the same checks remain in force to protect against spousal abuse, child abuse, incest, etc), the author then steps back and turns the whole argument on its head by insisting that actually both same-sex marriage and polygamy are just plain wrong because the whole point of marriage is procreation. She tries to make this appear as a self-evident truth despite offering no evidence to support it.
But, either way, she misses (or chooses to ignore) several points which give the lie to this line of thinking. Should all childless marriages therefore be summarily annulled? What about adopting children? Couples who are not married having children? Also, opening the door to polygamy does not necessarily lead to legalizing incest, bestiality and any number of other taboos - these are all individual and separate decisions.
I don't think an article this poorly argued is a very good advertisement for the book the author is trying to peddle, and from which the argument is taken.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Back to the same old news

Just back from a two week holiday in Peru (Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, etc), during which I managed to completely avoid world news, a quick scan of the newspapers reveals that very little seems to have change, and that I haven't missed any world-shaking events. Business very much as usual.
What do we have?
More investigations into the Maher Arar case are revealing exactly what everyone already knew.
Alberta won't budge on carbon trading and Ontario won't budge on California-style car emission standards (or at least not until Alberta budges first).
Putin's Russia continues to slide into autocracy, imperialism and Cold War machinations with their claiming of the North Pole, bombing of Georgia, fly-overs at the US base in Guam, and plans to operate their fleet out of Syria.
The UK gets yet another outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, blaming this one on the recent floods.
Toronto City Council is still broke and looking at new taxes or service cuts. No change there.
The US is still in Iraq. Canada is still in Afghanistan. No progress on either front.
Ah, how I have missed it all!
(zzz, zzzz, zzz)