Thursday, September 27, 2007

CCR Release: Refugee system made vulnerable


Release: Refugee system made vulnerable

Well, this is patently ridiculous. By not appointing new Members as others' terms lapse, the government has managed to reduce the number of adjudicators by almost 40% through sheer attrition. Apparently it would take two and a half years to get through the backlog. About a year and a half ago, we were well on our way to eliminating the backlog and achieving a one-year processing period. All this does is encourage more people to file sketchy claims because even if they fail it will have bought them 2 to 5 years in Canada. Not to mention keeping legitimate refugees in uncertain situations for 2 to 5 years.

BBC: "Couple stand by forbidden [incestuous] love"

I know I've posted about this before, but it was revived this week due to Slate's sex and sexuality special, and I can't help being fascinated by it. The story is here.

The thing that attracts/repulses me about this how it tests my small-l liberal impulses. They're not exactly hurting anyone by having the relationship, except the kids (two of the four have special needs, and apparently there's a 50% chance of that with siblings). But what if you and your non-related partners were both carriers of a genetic disease, and there was a 50% chance your children would inherit? Should the state prevent you from having kids, much less getting married?


On a related note, I was looking up autosomal recessive disorders  for the purpose of understanding the above, and I came across this nugget of trivia: heterozygote advantage: certain pathological genetic disorders can help protect you from other diseases! Apparently being a sickle-cell anemia carrier brings enhanced protection against malaria, and being a cystic fibrosis carrier may help protect against cholera (not the infection, but the damage it does) and tuberculosis.

And in case you doubt how helpful an extra protection against malaria would be, the July 2007 issue of National Geographic has this to say:

It's endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world's population. In recent years, the parasite has grown so entrenched and has developed resistance to so many drugs that the most potent strains can scarcely be controlled. This year malaria will strike up to a half billion people. At least a million will die, most of them under age five, the vast majority living in Africa. That's more than twice the annual toll a generation ago.

Compare that to the WHO 2006 data on HIV/AIDS: estimated 39.5 million people are living with HIV. There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006 with 2.8 million (65%) of these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and important increases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where there are some indications that infection rates have risen by more than 50% since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

HIV/AIDS = 4.3 million infections   Malaria = 500 million infections

HIV/AIDS = 2.9 million deaths   Malaria = 1 million deaths

And bear in mind, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, whereas there are plenty of cheap malaria drugs. It can become a lifelong, chronic condition, but it can also be fought off by the immune system alone. So all in all, as horrifying as the HIV/AIDS epidemic is, malaria is worse.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I coulda been a shepherd

According to this Medieval vocational test, a millenium ago, I would have been a shepherd:

Your distinct personality, The Shepherd is to tend to your human flock. You understand the needs of those for whom you are responsible. Shepherds are vigilant and reliable. You realize your obligation and commitment to the well being of those entrusted to your care. Shepherds are very dependable. You engender a feeling of comfort and stability to those within your charge. On the positive side, Shepherds can be empathic, caring, understanding, practical and realistic. On the negative side, you may be manipulative, close-minded and sentimentally rigid. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.

The ubiquity of my profanity

I decided to take a cue from Language Log, wherein Google is often used to take straw polls of usage, and see how common my occasionally odd turns of profane phrase are. Here are the stats:

  • "Oh my gentle Jesus": 1,610 hits, and notably featured on That 70's Show, episode 6X07:  "CHRISTMAS" (December 11, 2003)
  • "Sweet merciful motherf**k": unique! Woot!
  • "Green and gracious God": also unique. But possibly a bastardization of "great and gracious God," for which there are over 3,000 hits
  • "F**k f**k f**kity-f**k": only 888 hits, but also has an entry on
  • "Mom-effing": 65 hits
  • "Mom-effer": 3 hits
  • "Mom-effing mom-effer" (my preferred usage): unique!

This is excellent news. I'd hate for my swearing to be common. I didn't bother searching for "Jiminy Cricket" on the assumption that many cites would be referring to this fella:

jiminy1 than would be referring to the euphemism.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Testing, testing, 4, 5, 6...

Feeling: productive
Hearing: the Dog Whisperer

Now I miss the LJ-style headers. Must find a way to include those...

One thing I miss about LJ

Is the friends page!

Mind you, everyone but me seems to have curtailed their bloggery by a huge amount.

Nevertheless, how will I monitor the minutiae of the lives of my friends/acquaintances?

And I need to find a way to inflict my icons on you people...bwahahaha

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good news for a change: WaPo says bin Laden "Sinking in the Polls"

According to yesterday's column in the Washington Post:

  • Currently, bin Laden is unpopular with over 90% of Afghanistan and Iraq
  • "... polling in Turkey two years ago found that 90% of citizens believe the al-Qaeda bombings in London, Istanbul, Madrid and Egypt were unjust and unfair; 86% thought that there was no excuse for condoning the Sept. 11 attacks; and 75% said bin Laden does not represent Muslims."
  • Support for "justifiable" suicide bombings has fallen from 74% to 34% in Lebanon, with similar declines in other Muslim-majority countries
  • Majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, and Morocco agree: "Groups that use violence against civilians, such as Al Qaida, are violating the principles of Islam. Islam opposes the use of such violence."

Now, perhaps this should be taken with something of a grain of salt, since the author is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She also conflates one problem--popular support for terrorism--with an unrelated issue--the lack of popular support for the US.

While it is good that many Muslims are recognizing that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are a common threat, many polls show that much remains to be done to improve foreign perceptions of the United States. The drop in support for violent extremists presents an opportunity to expand our efforts to nurture common interests with people overseas and work with them to counter al-Qaeda's attempts to radicalize young people.

Al-Qaeda's growing Internet propaganda activities glorify violence and seek to exploit local grievances, from political oppression to a lack of economic opportunities. In contrast, America's public diplomacy programs are engaging young people constructively, through English-language teaching, educational exchanges, music and sports diplomacy.

While I truly feel Ms. Hughes's heart is in the right place, two years of critical theory being pounded into me at Oz definitely makes my scrunch up my nose at some of these statements. I find the first statement (underlined, above) more than a little patronizing. ("While it is good that Susie has learned to use her words, she must be more patient and wait for her turn to speak in class.") I'm also amused/perturbed by the unexamined promotion of cultural hegemony contained in the last statement. And she states that al-Qaeda is exploiting "local grievances" without acknowledging that these "grievances" are sometimes as severe as crimes against humanity, and are often perpetuated by the US or its erstwhile allies.


...oh dear. I do believe law school has made me cynical.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on the veil controversy

An editorial in Tuesdays Globe & Mail deconstructs the to-do over women voting with veils. It is not a policy change or an accommodation--leaving aside the issue if such an accommodation should be made. As the editorial states:

...the rules designed by Parliament for that purpose do not require photo identification. ... Voters don't have to show a photo identification card for the simple reason that many - those without drivers' licenses, for instance - do not have such a card. That is why the Elections Act offers alternatives. Those without government-issued photo ID may show two pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, as long as one shows their address. Or they may have another voter vouch for them (no more than one person per "voucher"), if each swears an oath.

But much more concerning is this:

Mr. Harper surely knows what that law says. His government passed it with opposition support earlier this year. He also knows that eligible voters living temporarily abroad may vote by mail; they do not show their face, except to a mailbox. Yet on the weekend in Sydney, he accused Mr. Mayrand of defying the will of Parliament. "The role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws." This false accusation against an independent Officer of Parliament smacks of intimidation.

Well, goodness gracious. There's the resolution of the whole thing right there. Yet, of course, the blathering continues. Many articles every day on the subject.

But much worse it makes me gnash my teeth in anguished this ridiculous editorial from Sheila Copps in the Edmonton Sun. Now, full disclosure, the snarky Torontonian academic in me can't even say "Edmonton Sun" without smirking, but she is kind of an elitist bitch. Nevertheless, Copps misses the boat alluded to in the G&M piece:

The law states that the voter is required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and address. How can identity be verified if electoral authorities cannot validate photo identification?


The PM was right to slam Mayrand's harebrained interpretation of election law. All political parties should be wary of someone who exhibits so little understanding of the obvious potential for voter abuse.

No, no, no, Ms. Copps. What happened was, Parliament passed a woefully incomplete law, and now Mayrand is being slammed for interpreting it. It's just like when they flip out at judges for imposing the democratically-imposed Charter. Sure, he could have been more creative with his interpretation, but he might have gotten into just as much trouble for being "activist." He interpreted it (a) according to common sense, and (b) in a way that would allow the most people to vote. As always, it's open to Parliament to change the laws, and as almost always, it's easier for them to blame those forced to interpret and apply those laws for doing it wrong, rather than admit that the laws themselves have loopholes. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that jazz.

The Globe had it right:

Mr. Harper and the other leaders should take their own advice. They should respect the voting law, and not single out veiled women for special treatment.

As they say in politics: Oh, snap.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Canada hates on the UN...or does it?

Care of the CBC:

Canada to vote against UN declaration on native rights


Okay so, somewhat hysterically, we are joining forces with "New Zealand, the United States and Australia" in dissenting on the non-binding declaration.

As an aside, I'm not sure why we'd be so up-in-arms about a non-binding declaration, considering that we don't even consider binding agreements to be binding: see Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2002 SCC 1 (CanLII).

Anyway, the government's stated reason is that the declaration "lacks clear guidance for implementation and conflicts with the existing Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the government believes already protects the rights of aboriginals."

I can see where this provision would cause problems:

Article 26 of the UN declaration states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

Could they vague that up a little? Don't get me wrong, I am all about aboriginal rights, but I think the focus on land is a little ridiculous for 2007. Especially since history has shown that land isn't a panacea if it doesn't include jobs, healthcare, safe water, and so on. Land itself can provide these things, but not necessarily.

So I can see how the government might have sincere concerns here.

...I don't think they do...but I can see how the could...

You know you've got a problem when even the neo-Cons back away...

Care of the NYT:


Conscience of a Conservative


Published: September 9, 2007

When Jack Goldsmith took over as the key constitutional
adviser for the Bush administration, he soon found himself at odds with the White House.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3?

So, theoretically, I can post from Windows Live Writer to my Blogger blog. But will it succeed (in transposing titles) where Google Docs failed?


UPDATE: Holy heck, it works!

If you ever doubted that terrorist Muslims were bad Muslims:

The BBC, among others, is reporting: "S Koreans told 'convert or die'", and that the South Korean hostages were beaten and threatened with having their heads blown off if they did not convert.

Of course, their captors seem to have forgotten the general rule that forced conversion is not legitimate, based on the Qur'anic statement:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: (Surah 2:226)

Which is not to say that forced conversion has never taken place; like all proselytizing religions, like all religions that have held great political power, Islam is not immune to corruption and thus has been forced upon people in the past. Nevertheless, conversion requires that one state and believe the Islamic creed (the shahadah), and as such merely saying it is not sufficient. Good thing, too, or countless World Religion profs would have inadvertently converted over the years.

Long story short: being a good Muslim and a terrorist are incompatible, mutually exclusive, even. While Muslims, like Christians, may fight for certain causes, neither religion gives carte blanche for this kind of perversion, and Muslims the world over are done a disservice by these crackpots misusing their faith.

Best legal paper topic EVER

Via this BoingBoing post: "Magicians innovate without IP law" and availible via the SSRN here: "Secrets Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property without Law"


Intellectual property scholars have begun to explore the curious dynamics of IP's negative spaces, areas in which IP law offers scant protection for innovators, but where innovation nevertheless seems to thrive. Such negative spaces pose a puzzle for the traditional theory of IP, which holds that IP law is necessary to create incentives for innovation.

This paper presents a study of one such negative space which has so far garnered some curiosity but little sustained attention - the world of performing magicians. This paper argues that idiosyncratic dynamics among magicians make traditional copyright, patent, and trade secret law ill-suited to protecting magicians' most valuable intellectual property. Yet, the paper further argues that the magic community has developed its own set of unique IP norms which effectively operate in law's absence. The paper details the structure of these informal norms that protect the creation, dissemination, and performance of magic tricks. The paper also discusses broader implications for IP theory, suggesting that a norm-based approach may offer a promising explanation for the puzzling persistence of some of IP's negative spaces.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mel Gibson builds a $37m church

Mel Gibson builds a $37m church in the Malibu hills Entertainment

Okay so, we know Gibson is an old-school Catholic. And not in the Italian Grandmother sense, but the Breakaway Sect sense.

Gibson's secretive sect is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church because it does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope or the Vatican and rejects the universally accepted teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The church - which offers a daily morning mass in Latin - follows an antiquated ideology of Catholicism dating back to the 16th century.

Okay, let's play spot the oxymoron...

"...rejects the universally accepted teachings of the Second Vatican Council." Yes, um, see how that's not possible? I mean, I love JP2, and most people love the 2VC, but come on...obviously there are going to be some hardcore conservatives who don't like it. Witness Benny16's revival of the Tridentine Mass.

But really, I think the media is going out of its way to make this seem cultish. I find Christians are weird that way--a lot of the more conservative sects would throw an apoplectic fit if someone diverged from a strict but unwritten code of dress and behavior, but if that code is explicit, like here or with conservative Jews/Mulims, they freak right out.

Also, stop making Gibson out to be the next David Koresh. I've never seen a lick of evidence that he's any more than a lay patron of the Church, the way all rich people used to be, and the way most Protestant churchgoers strive to be.

Of course, he's anti-semitic, so that makes him a) brainwashed, or b) a jerk, but that doesn't necessarily correlate with being active in your chosen spiritual community.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Again with the veils?

Apparently there's another dust-up brewing in Quebec about a decision to allow women to vote while wearing a niqab or a burka/burqa, as long as they have two pieces of ID and another voter to vouch for them.

Visual aids:

Totally random aside...why are burkas always such screamingly bright colours?
ANYWAYS: I find it interesting that no one responded to Mohamed Elmasry's straight-forward solution:
Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress said that Muslims aren't asking to be allowed to vote with their faces covered, and that niqabs are a rarity. He said veiled women would have no problem removing a niqab before a female voting official for identification purposes.
I guess that's too simple, eh? The thing is, voting takes place in a public forum, which means if a woman removed her veil it would not only be seen by the elections official, but probably also by a dozen or more other voters waiting for their turn.
Another thing not mentioned is the whole how-important-are-ID-checks-really angle. As anyone who had underage kids in college knows, visual ID checks are sketchy (interesting article on eyewitness unreliability here ). And the elections officials are generally volunteers...trained, competent, but not experts, n'est pas?
Previous to-dos about veiled drivers being pulled over are, I think, a different issue. That's time sensitive, and there's no way to effectively get past the need for immediate identification in those circumstances.
The BBC has an interesting breakdown of the pros and cons--not of veils as a practical matter, but whether or not they are required:
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof…

Qur'an 24:30-31

As many have pointed out, if women are totally covered, why should men lower their eyes? and so on. Basically, my reading of the doctrine is that modestly is required, hijab is usually considered a part of modesty, but burkas and niqabs are not called for in scripture or Hadith and can theoretically be done away with. To me, this indicates that if a woman chooses to wear a niqab or burka, she may, and the fact that it makes people uncomfortable is not a good reason for banning it or making it functionally impossible. However, there will be circumstances in Western life where there are no work-arounds, and no woman should be (or could be, according to scripture) considered immodest for cooperating with police at those times.