Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hilarious + academic + identity politics = blogrolled

The always engaging author of Center of Gravitas lifts the curtain on his hectic daily schedule, as imagined by the fundies.

A glimpse:
5:30 – 6:00 pm: Break into heterosexuals’ houses in order to redecorate them.

6:00-6:45pm: Sensible dinner.

Go forth and read.

HPV...yes, again

This morning, the Washington Post writes that "More than one-third of American women are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) the time they are 24 years old..." This is an awfully interesting statistic, given the recent foofaraw about Gardasil, the anti-HPV vaccine. In fact, the subject group of the study was females aged 14 to 24, making the protests against vaccinating 12-year-olds seem naïve and reckless. The silver lining is that prevalence of the strains known to cause cancer are lower than previously thought.

The end of the article notes that "Merck, which sells its product under the trade name Gardasil, has been lobbying for laws requiring the vaccine for schoolgirls. After criticism from politicians and editorial writers, it recently said it will stop doing so." This, I do not understand. I mean, I have mixed feelings about laws that require immunization (on the one hand, it limits free choice, on the other, required vaccines are usually funded which means they're not required lightly and the public health benefits tend to be huge...when was the last time you got polio/smallpox/etc?). But why stop a drug company from lobbying for the vaccine? I mean, I assume the politicians can review the information and make a rational decision. I always worry when measures are taken to "protect" officials from undue influence...since uhm, isn't it a job qualification that they not be susceptible to undue influence?

Random aside: I could swear I've been told/read numerous times that untreated HPV can cause infertility. According to the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada, that's true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, all by way of pelvic inflammatory disease. Not so much HPV. From this, we learn that Gardasil ≠ no more pap smears.

Health Canada's HPV information page

Public Health Agency of Canada's HPV vaccine Q & A

Previous posts on HPV: #1, #2

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hijabs + Soccer = Bad?

Expect a lot of these. Why? Because it's reading week, and even I can only take so much CPAC.

Officially ON NOTICE is the Quebec Soccer Association that lead to this debacle:

Muslim girl ejected from tournament for wearing hijab

...I'm sorry...I can only assume I misheard you...but no, in fact, the girl (from the pic on the CBC site, I'm going to say she's 10-12) was ejected from the game, leading to a walkout of hers and several other teams. The Association claims that "...the ban on hijabs is to protect children from being accidentally strangled." *eyeroll* Right, because that's a common tragedy. K

...although I would hope that the girl was wearing a "sporty" hijab (e.g. the ones available at this Dutch site) i.e. one that involves minimal pins and hopefully velcro.

See also:Hijab Option for London Policewomen; Jewish dad backs headscarf daughters

The Beeb reports: Court clears Serbia of genocide (for "Court" read "International Court of Justice").

I'm not 100% sure about this one. I'll have to read the decision itself...but it doesn't jive with anything else I've read of the period. I mean, if ICTY was all set to try the Serbian leader, then there must have been was probably a high level of official collusion, n'est pas?

I suppose the ICJ may have chosen to follow the hilariously restrictive precedent it set in Nicaragua v. United States vis-a-vis finding a state complicit in crimes against humanity. Although oddly enough, this Wikipedia article on the case implies that the ICJ did find the US complicit, which is the polar opposite of what we're taught in Public International Law.

Of course, Serbia did not get off entirely. The ICJ found "...that Belgrade had violated international law by failing to prevent the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica." The ICJ also found that "'Financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation...'" That much I agree with. I mean, it would be one thing if there was a concrete damage requiring repair, but otherwise, what's the point? Monetary damages do not prevent this sort of thing. Treaty of Versaille, anyone?

So I'm trying a new thing...posting to Thinking Out Loud via Goggle Documents. Why? Because the distortions present in Blogger when I put pictures in my posts is just too aggravating to be believed. Oh plus, I suck at html.

So let's attempt a picture....

Oh look!

Allrighty then, lets test this thing out...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Supreme Court redeems Canadian rights

Yesterday, in what will undoubtedly come to be known as a historic judgement, the nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that security certificates violate the Charter.

For those outside of Canada, or who do not follow security law generally, a brief background:

Security certificates can be issued by the executive (in the person of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration1 and/or the Minister of Public Safety, which is a brand-new post-9/11-hysteria position) to deem any resident non-citizen "inadmissable" to Canada--this is obviously a misnomer, since the person has been admitted, and may have legal status, e.g. as an accepted refugee who has not yet applied for citizenship. The grounds usually involve serious criminality, e.g. human rights abuses, ties to organized crime, and the like. I doubt many Canadians object to--or were even aware that--a certificate was used against Ernst Zundel, famed anti-Semitic whackjob. One was not issued against anti-Tutsi hatemongerer Leon Mugesera, because he faced a more straightforward deportation process.

So what's wrong with security certificates? Well, for one thing, since 9/11 they have ben largely used against people for "national security" risks, which is a much greyer moral area than deporting genocidaires. Secondly, the proceedings against a person held on a security certificate can take place entirely in secret, secret even from the accused, because the prosecutors might have to advance evidence that is sensitive for national security reasons. This breaches one of the fundamental rules of law, audi alteram partem: the right to know the case against you, and to respond to it. To call the system Kafkaesque2 would not be an overstatement.

You may find the decision itself here: Charkaoui v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 SCC 9

Also the Beeb has a brief article here

  1. Things I learned today: CIC Minister Diane Finley wears tinted lenses at all times because of a thyroid disorder.
  2. Referring of course to Kafka's The Trial.

Monday, February 19, 2007

According to the Beeb, The Indian government is planning to set up a network of cradles around the country where parents can leave unwanted baby girls. The country has had a problem with sex-selection for a while now:

Research for the year 2001 showed that for every 1,000 male babies born in India, there were just 933 girls.

Research published last year estimating that the number of female abortions was as high as 500,000 a year was disputed by the Indian Medical Association.

Originally the biggest todo was over the use of amniocentesis or ultrasound/medical ultrasonography to determine the sex of the fetus, then selective abortion if the fetus is found to be female. I distinctly remember thinking to myself at the time this became Big News that's a problem, but it's better than infanticide...

According to The Lancet, according to Wikipedia:

...there may have been close to 10 million female fetuses aborted in India over the past 20 years. This is extrapolated partly on the basis of reduction of female-to-male sex ratio from 945 per 1000 in 1991 to 927 per 1000 in 2001. The female-to-male sex ratio is even lower in cases where a couple has had a previous daughter, but no sons, dropping to 759 to 1000 for the second child if the first was a daughter, and 719 to 1000 for a third child if the first two were both daughters.
Now, I think it's easy for us in the developed, "Western" world to shake our heads in disdain at this, because we don't appreciate the reality that, in primary or secondary-sector industry economies,1 parents may depend on their children for income, and male children are more likely to fare better. Add to that a socio-cultural/religious preference for (or need for) male children--one which is only a generation or so away in our own society--and you have a perfect storm for femicide.2

It would also be shooting ourselves in the foot, given that, in Canada at least, women spend twice as many hours caring for seniors as men.

  1. On a related note, check out this ridiculously awesome map on industry sectors. Although it goes to show there's a lot more to the story than sectors--compare how Canada and India have GDPs similarly tied to industry, but recall that certain industries, like mining, are sufficiently mechanized in Canada that women are capable of more than they have been, traditionally, in terms of primary sector employment.
    Note also
    this map on sex ratios worldwide.

  2. NOT "gendercide"...gender is psychological and social, so a fetus has no gender.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Because the sex trade can handle more bad press...


How the heck did I miss this news item? ("Richmond woman faces bawdy house charges"). My first thought was: of all the places in the world to complain about bawdy houses, the Lower Mainland is likely the most ironic. For those of you who don't follow the Canadian news or the non-Ontarian news, that's because Vancouver is currently hosting the trial of Robert Pickton, charged with the murders of 26 women (many of them prostitutes, many of the First Nations, many of them addicted to drugs) from Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside.

Generally speaking I support the decriminalization of prostitution, based on the argument that we're never getting rid of it, and keeping it semi-criminalized seems to endanger sex trade workers more than it helps them.
Of course, as it turns out, it was more of a human-trafficking/sweatshop situation...thus restoring my faith in Vancouver as the least puritanical of Canadian cities.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I've long been a semi-faithful fan of Wil Wheton's blog--a fact which my mother must never learn, since she still teases me about having a raging crush on him, which is odd, since I was like 8 years old when ST:TNG was at its peak--and I have recently started reading his reviews of classic episodes on TV Squad.

Hilarious. Dude writes like I talk. I highly recommend.

I have basic cable with timeshifting, which basically means I only get up to channel 28, and then into the 100s at completely random intervals. Currently, however, I am getting Discovery Health for free, and in the background am listening to a forensic explanation of whether or not some guy died from choking on a sandwich.

...what? Where are the nymphomaniacs and the primordial dwarfs and the 300lb tumours?

And finally, I have been downloading the trial version of MSOffice 2007. All. Freakin. Day. And then? It timed out. At 96%.

*growls in frustration*

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Difference of opinion is helpful in religion." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Under discussion today: Is freedom of religion a legitimate right, or a tool of Western hegemony?

No, seriously.

It's an interesting discussion, one of the few in which I can't actually comfortably place myself on either side of the debate.

The question was based on the use of Abrahamic religions to establish imperial regimes, and more specifically on trading conversion for education/health care. I 100% agree that this was bad.

...but what the hell does it have to do with freedom of religion? That's like decrying democracy because Hitler was elected, or freedom of expression because Little Mosque on the Prairie is a terrible, terrible show.

Any right, any thing can be used as a tool of oppression. But to suppress evangelism, obnoxious as it may be, is simply to reverse to polarity of oppression.

PHRASE OF THE DAY: "Gunboat evangelism" -- Jack, on Christian hegemony in Europe, in International Human Rights Law

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Liberals may ban male cadidates...what?!

Dion may bar some male candidates

Ok, I understand that this:

During last year's leadership race, Dion promised that under his watch at least a third of the party's candidates in the next election would be women. upcoming possible elections may mean a bit of a crunch for the Grits. But I really don't see how this:

So-called green-light committees, set up to run the party's nomination process in each province, have been empowered to ensure the 33 per cent target is met. Among other things, the committees can approve or reject nomination papers from would-be candidates.

Where necessary, the committees will be able to simply refuse to allow men to run for nominations in some ridings. a viable solution. And I can't believe, after that went public, that they said this:
"We're trying to find the techniques that are consistent with our democratic processes to the greatest extent possible," said Gerard Kennedy, Dion's special adviser on election readiness.
I'm sorry..."to the greatest extent possible"? Do they hear themselves when they talk, or do they just move their mouths? Now I'm having flashbacks to the women in politics conference I attended in high school, when we were told by several female MPs--without irony--that Parliamentary politics should be made nicer and more polite so that women would feel more comfortable there...

Which is not to say that I'm entirely against any type of affirmative action, but I have always firmly believed that you have to push up from the bottom, not cherry pick from the top. So, scholarships for female MPA/poli-sci students makes sense, programs to familiarize and recruit female candidates makes sense, widening criteria to include practical experience and diverse experiences makes sense. This? This does not make sense.

The Dangerous Life of a Nobel Laureate ("Nobelist Wiesel accosted at hotel")

Nobelist Wiesel accosted at hotel

Apparently some psycho Holocaust-denier assaulted and tried to kidnap Elie Wiesel from a San Francisco hotel.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

You say you want a revolution?

The Globe & Mail reports on more Israeli conflict. No one is shocked, of course, but I do find the precise cause of the conflict interesting.

There is a pre-construction excavation going on near the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. "Israel says the dig is a necessary precursor to replacing an access ramp connecting the Jewish quarter of the Old City to the compound, which is in the Muslim quarter. Muslim leaders complain they were not consulted about the dig, and say that the foundations of the al-Aqsa mosque could be damaged."

The al-Aqsa Mosque is a very holy place in Islam. The Temple Mount, however, is a very holy place in both Islam and Judaism (and Christianity, but honestly, they have enough to go around). The Temple Mount also contains the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

The al-Aqsa Mosque has always been a target for Islamophobes and a flashpoint for rebellion--much of it unjustified. The Wikipedia article has a good summary here. In 1969 an evangelical Christian-Zionist set fire to the mosque. Israel was incorrectly blamed. In 1981 an American-Israeli soldier opened fire in the mosque, killing two.

In September 2000, future Israeli PM Ariel Sharon "visited" the site--with an armed escort of several hundred policemen--which contributed to the al-Aqsa Infatida. Aside from being a champion of the settlement movement, Sharon was viewed by Muslims as a war criminal for his part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982. In short, he was a bogeyman, and although the visit was not the sine qua non of the ensuing 4.5 years of insurrection, I suspect it could rightly be called a contributing cause.

So, why the history lesson? It's just another lesson in the stupidity of the species. Clearly, the state of Israel should be very cautious in dealing with the site (parts of which, I should add, are under Muslim administration, so it's not like it's being held hostage by Israel--quite the opposite). And yet, and in spite of the warnings of his own Defense Minister, the Israeli PM Olmert is ordering the excavations to continue.

Which once again begs the question: why do so many on both sides of the conflict seem determined to prevent peace?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Refugee claimant who didn't prove he's gay denied asylum (CBC)

On the one hand:
The reasoning of the Board member as expressed in the article is highly suspect. Plus the kid's 19, plus he has excellent grounds for a sur place claim (gay or not, everyone now thinks he's gay, so he's in danger).

On the other hand:
Do you have any idea how many patently fake sexual orientation claims the Board sees? It's like the back injury of refugee claims: impossible to 100% prove or disprove, and thus subject to as many fake claims as totally legitimate ones.

Dual Citizenship Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Celil's family had given up hope1
The Globe & Mail reports that Uyghur-Canadian Huseyin Celil is alive--though not particularly well--and made a court appearance in China last week. Celil fled China and was granted Canadian refugee status, and eventually citizenship, but while on a trip to Uzbekistan he was arrested and extradited to China as an alleged terrorist working for the Uyghur separatist movement. Canada's gotten no traction when it comes to diplomatic access.

Chinese officials have repeatedly rejected Canada's contention that Mr. Celil is a Canadian citizen. They even refuse to recognize the name on his Canadian passport. Instead they call him by his Chinese name, Yu Shanjiang, and they insist that he is a terrorist and a Chinese citizen.

Why is that? you may ask. Well, its because of the biggest wrinkle in the whole nationality/protection edifice. It goes something like this: nationality/citizenship has two elements, a) that it is recognized by the state of purported nationalism (in this case, Canada), and b) that it is recognized in international law.2 Some countries, like Canada, accept dual citizenship (which is a relatively new idea on the international law front), and some, like China, do not.3

However, there doesn't appear to be a rule in international law that requires states to "give up" their citizens when that citizen obtains foreign citizenship. Some states phrase it logically (e.g., citizens lose their citizenship the minute they take on a foreign citizenship, which is efficient because it protects the state against dual nationals and the person against statelessness or impaired mobility rights), and some phrase it vaguely, like China, and what they really mean is "As far as we a concerned, you are a citizen from now until the day you die, and we will simply disregard any other citizenship you claim to have." Once a person is in the jails of that country, the other state (of actual or secondary nationality, depending on your point of view) cannot do much but put political pressure for access to or release of the prisoner.

This is the same quirk that caused serious delay in Maher Arar's case,4 and those of several other Canadian-Syrians. People who disagree with dual nationality may say: well, that's what you get--but the fact is that one cannot get rid of Syrian or Chinese citizenship (or at least, not if the Syrian/Chinese government wants an excuse to hold you). These are not dual citizens, these are forced citizens.

The only upside is that the opinio juris of the international legal community has shifted towards a more flexible definition. Whereas according to the 1930 Hague Convention on Certain Questions relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws stated:

Article 4: A State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a State whose nationality such person also possesses.

The International Legal Commission's Draft Articles on Diplomatic Protection, while not binding, are nevertheless persuasive and offer this far more nuanced approach:

Article 7
Multiple nationality and claim against a State of nationality
A State of nationality may not exercise diplomatic protection in respect of a person against a State of which that person is also a national unless the nationality of the former State is predominant, both at the date of injury and at the date of the official presentation of the claim.

This means that international law would allow Canada to assert its "ownership" or otherwise right of protection over Celil in an international forum (although what forum and on what grounds would depend what treaties are in force between us an China, among other things).

Cold comfort, I'm sure, if China executes him.

  1. Geoffrey York, Globe & Mail Online, 9 Feb 2007.
  2. Nottebohm Case (Liechtenstein v Guatemala), [1955] ICJ Reports 4; summarized at the ICJ website. In order for nationality to be recognized at international law, it must have a factual basis: the claimant must have a real and substantial connection to the nation of purported nationality. Of course, this particular case was wrongly decided, in my opinion, because the ICJ rendered the poor man stateless. His birth country didn't consider him a citizen, his country of residence refused to grant him citizenship, and the only country which did grant him legal citizenship was later told that citizenship was null and void. Nice.
  3. According to the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, Article 3: The People's Republic of China does not recognize dual nationality for any Chinese national. Availible here on the Government of the Hong Kong SAR Immigration site.
  4. Althogh the delay only occurred after Canada and the US had merrily sent him on his way to be tortured.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Election woes, and other ridiculous things

Liberals Forced To Change First "Fixed Election Date" Over Religious Conflict
According to this CityNews article, the Ontario Liberal Government has had to change the provincial election date from October 4, 2007, to October 10, 2007. The reason is that Shemini Atzeret (perhaps better known as Simchat Torah, and/or the day after Sukkot) falls on that date, which would prevent some Jewish people1 from voting. The opposition loved this, of course...

"We're happy the date has been moved," adds PC MPP Tim Hudak. "But my goodness, you think they would have thought of this two years ago when they set the election date."

Well, yeah, okay, it was a mistake...but let's be fair. The Hebrew Calendar is a little complicated to follow for those unused to it, specifically those used to the good old-fashioned (Christian/Euro-centric but stable) Gregorian calendar. I mean, even the calculation of Easter is based on the Gregorian calendar, albeit with a little lunar twist thrown in.

Thankfully, the Jewish community has responded positively to the date-change:

But Jewish leaders see it differently, applauding the government's courage to admit its oversight after first refusing to alter the timeframe.

"This is something that all Ontarians should take pride in, and it should give comfort to Ontarians," claims Steven Shulman of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "There's a clear statement being made by the government to accommodate this sort of conflict, and next time it may be another community that's in conflict."

Here's the Ontario Government news release.

Gay Sheep Revisited

Saletan breaks down the pros and cons of the research being done on ovine sexuality at Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University.

My problem with this is the same as my problem with the biological determinism argument in general: how long before the discovery of genetic/neurological causes of sexuality turns into the search for a genetic control of sexuality? Apparently there is good evidence to suggest a strong correlation between a belief in the inherent-ness of sexuality and acceptance of sexuality.2 But then, those who reject homosexuality currently tend to reject a biological basis for it.3
Alan Turing, the famed British polymath, was treated with hormones to "correct" his homosexuality. He killed himself. But even if treatment worked, the question for me is: should it? Should we try to "correct" a benign biological characteristic, which to my mind is as much an element of personhood as handedness, eye-colour, et cetera?

And furthermore, should the (hypothetical) finding that sexuality is not biologically determined change our acceptance of people who identify as homosexual? In a time when political adherence and religion, among other things, are considered inherent to the extent that no person should be required to change them, why should sexuality be considered not just chosen, but apparently chosen whimsically, and open to alteration without doing fundamental damage to the psyche and identity?

I fear that the hyper-focus on the biological nature of sexuality (true as it seems to be) misses the point rather extravagantly, and while we can hope it will lead to short-term gains in the area of increased tolerance and acceptance, I can't help being concerned about the ultimate consequences.

  1. According to Stats Can, and the 2001 census, there are about 191 thousand Jewish people in Ontario, out of about 330 thousand in Canada. That's a little under 60% of the Canadian Jewish popumation. Of course, not all of those would consider themselves unable to vote on Shemini Atzaret.
  2. From Wikipedia article "Biology and sexual orientation": Ernulf, K. E., Innala, S. M., & Whitam, F. L. (1989). Biological explanation, psychological explanation, and tolerance of homosexuals: A cross-national analysis of beliefs and attitudes. Psychological Reports, 65, 1003-1010. See also: Whitley, B. E., Jr. (1990). The relationship of heterosexuals' attributions for the causes of homosexuality to attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 369-377.
  3. See the "Pathogenic theory of homosexuality" article at Wikipedia.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Medical malpractice

As discussed here, Merck's come out with an HPV vaccine, and there's a growing debate over whether or not it's appropriate to be giving the vaccine to children.

Histological section showing cervical cancer specifically squamous cell carcinoma in the cervix. Tissue is stained with pap stain and magnified x200.

Seriously? Still? And apparently, "Texas became the first U.S. state to require that all 11- and 12-year-old girls be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus..."1 (Slate's Human Nature has a few more references to it).

In other news-of-the-horrible, "China's military is reportedly harvesting organs from prison inmates, mostly Falungong practitioners, for large scale transplants including for foreign recipients, a study said."2 The whole report is available here. The report quotes Amnesty statistics3 stating:
...that 66% of the victims of alleged torture and ill-treatment were Falun Gong practitioners, with the remaining victims comprising Uyghurs (11%), sex workers (8%), Tibetans (6%), human rights defenders (5%), political dissidents (2%), and others (persons infected with HIV/AIDS and members of religious groups 2%).
Of course, the investigators (distinguished Canadians both) were not allowed into China, so they had to look at organ transplant statistics. The whole thing is horrifying, but perhaps it will stop people from claiming this is just an urban legend.

  1. c/o Yahoo News, c/o Reuters.
  2. c/o Yahoo News, c/o AFP.
  3. U.N. Commission on Human Rights: Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, on his Mission to China from November 20 to December 2, 2005 (E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6), March 10, 2006. ( )

Quebec town excludes Muslims, human rights

(Apologies, my images won't post...will try to fix later)
Google News Canada brought this little gem to my attention: "Welcome to town, here are the rules" (Globe & Mail, 5 Feb 07)

It appears that, starting with the Municipalité Hérouxville. a number of Quebec municipalities are adopting so-called "Public Standards" that outline what is and what is acceptable in the town. The county (Mékinac) has a visible-minority population of only 0.16%, so I wonder why they feel so inundated that they must shore up the original cultural fabric, but the reason is less important than the method used.

Of course, the standards themselves are not as starkly exclusionary as the headlines paint them. This is not a case of a town posting a "No Fat Chicks" sign at the city limits. In fact, the standards state: "...we would like to invite, without discrimination, in the future, all people from outside our MRC that would like to move to this territory." They continue:

So that the future residents can integrate socially more easily, we have decided unanimously, to make public, certain standards already in place and very well anchored in the lives of our electors.

It is hard to criticize the people of Hérouxville for promulgating such core Canadian standards as the following:
We consider that men and women are of the same value. Having said this, we consider that a woman can; drive a car, vote, sign checks, dance, decide for herself, speak her peace, dress as she sees fit respecting of course the democratic decency, walk alone in public places, study, have a job, have her own belongings and anything else that a man can do.

Our children are required to attend public or private schools to insure their social development and to help integrate into our society. Any form of violence towards children is not accepted.


In our schools certified men and women teach our children. The women or men teachers can teach boys or girls with no sexual discrimination. They do not have to dress any different to accomplish their tasks.


...boys and girls [play] the same games and often play together.


Our immense territory is patrolled by police men and women of the "Surete du Quebec". They have always been allowed to question or to advise or lecture or to give out an infraction ticket to either a man or woman.


The employers must respect the governmental laws regarding work conditions. These laws include holidays known and accepted in advance by all employees.


You will appreciate that both parents manage the children needs and both have the same authority. The parents can be of the same race or not, be from the same country or not, have the same religion or not, even be of the same sex or not. If a boy or girl wants to get married, they may, they have the liberty to chose who their spouse will be.

Sure, the wording is a little graceless (bear in mind, this is not the original French, which I assume bore little or no grammatical resemblance to Yoda), but all in all the above is a reasonably acceptable code, more descriptive than anything else, and imposing very few positive duties...and those it does impose are, I beleive, of a character that even more libertarian Canadians would accept as neccessary. Unfortunately, the "Standards" go further than they should.

This particular line in the preamble disturbed me, despite its vagueness:

We would especially like to inform the new arrivals that the lifestyle that they left behind in their birth country cannot be brought here with them and they would have to adapt to their new social identity.

They would like to inform? Oh, how very kind of them...If I hear one more person say that those who come to Canada must "leave behind" their "old" culture, I am going to beat them senseless. Did the English leave behind their culture? Did the French? Note that these "Standards" were promulgated in English and French, not, say, Mohawk (which, thank your chosen gods, still exists, unlike so many actually indidgenous languages). But thanks for coming out.

And after the otherwise agreeable paragraph on the equality of women, this is thrown in:

...we consider that killing women in public beatings, or burning them alive are not part of our standards of life.

There's so much wrong with this my eyes cross just reading it. First of all, what in the hell are they referring to? Sati? Please, real sati is incredibly rare, and always has been (and Canada and India have comparable suicide rates, according to the WHO) so that's crap. So then, so-called "bride burning" (dowry murder)? Well, no one's going to argue that isn't a serious problem (one which is slowly getting better?), but it is equal parts hysterical and hypocritical for Canadians--or Westerners in general--to point shocked fingers at other cultures for violence against women, just because other cultures have flashier, more exotic ways of killing females. Newsflash people: we don't have an iron-clad system of protection for women, we just have less imagination. StatsCan tells us that "Between 1995 and 2004, 39% of all homicides committed against females were perpetrated by a spouse..."

This provision, which of course gets most of the press, is stupid and xenophobic, but really is not saying much at all:

We listen to music, we drink alcoholic beverages in public or private places, we dance and at the end of every year we decorate a tree with balls and tinsel and some lights. This is normally called "Christmas Decorations" or also "Christmas Tree" letting us rejoice in the notion of our national heritage and not necessarily a religious holiday. These festivities are authorized in public, schools, and institutions and also in private.
I've never been a big fan of banning Christmas trees from public places; generally I prefer the "pack the lobby with as many diverse holiday decorations as possible" methodology. Forgive me, I grew up in Toronto, where eating latkes by the light of the Christmas tree was a standard activity and I was jealous of my half-brother because there were Muslim kids in his elementary school so he got to celebrate Eid too, the perfect Abrahamic hat trick. And don't forget Solstice or Lunar New Year or International Women's Day (always celebrated with pretzels in the venus-symbol).

Then there's this unsubtle dig:
In our schools the children cannot carry any weapons real or fake, symbolic or not.
Thanks? That is a heavy handed indictment on the recent decision of Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, wikisummarized here, wherein a Sikh student was found to have the right to carry a kirpan, as mandated by his religion.

Then there's this:

You may not hide your face as to be able to identify you while you are in public. The only time you may mask or cover your face is during Halloween, this is a religious traditional custom at the end of October celebrating all Saints Day, where children dress up and go door to door begging for candy and treats. All of us accept to have our picture taken and printed on our driver’s permit, health care card and passports. A result of democracy.

A...a what of democracy? Thanks, Jack Straw, but I hardly think the niqab qualifies as either a security threat or a threat to Western civilization, and by the way, in what alternate universe is Hallowe'en a) a human right, or b) a religious holdiay? It's a pagan holiday, you imbeciles, and by the way, your ancient pagan ancestors weren't above burning people alive, so lets not get uppity, alright? I say that with the greatest affection, too, being a sometime student of neopaganism myself, but truth is truth, and a history of human sacrifice is near universal.

There's some more assorted drivel about no extra holidays, no prayer spaces provided at work, no tinting windows so people can't see in to sweaty excercise rooms, and the like. Basically, ridiculous in a way that boggles the mind.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dear temporomandibular joint...

I realize I talk a lot. I have a penchant for nuts and other crunchy foods, and I clearly grind my teeth when stressed, busy, bored, asleep, and on all days that end in -y. I know that I must be difficult to work for.

But I have made compromises. I don't wear my night guard, because I know it upsets you, even though it will cost me hundreds in enamel repair. I have sworn off chewing gum and stick to those bizarre little sheets of concentrated death to freshen my breath.

All I ask in return is that you stop making it impossible for me to fully close my jaw; not just for me, but for my friends and family who are fast running out of lewd "why Sarah can't close her jaw" jokes.

I think if we work together, we can really make this having a face thing a big success.


Saturday, February 03, 2007


Thursday night I went over to the palatial new apartment of 3 (temporarily 4) of my friends. There, among other things, I ogled Hypatia's** collection of books. God I love books, and she has dozens that have been on my "must read when not braindead" list. Hypatia lent me The Bone Woman, which I proceeded to read cover-to-cover on Friday.

It brought back all the thrill and righteous anger of my first reading of Carol Off's The Lion, The Fox, & The Eagle, a book which remains dear to my heart. Which has motivated me to get the hell on my reading list. Currently decorating my shelf are:

And I'm sure one or two other delicious nuggets of nonfiction that I've yet to sink my teeth into. Since starting law school, I find I've become a feast-or-famine reader, when it comes to my own reading. However, I feel like fresh baked hell today, so perhaps I'll catch up?

**Rather obviously a pseudonym.