Thursday, January 31, 2008

If I had a million dollars...Real Estate Edition

Currently I am salivating over the new development at St. Clair and Bathurst, pretentiously named "The Forest Hill".

500 St Clair W

Located practically on top of all necessary amenities (Loblaws, Shoppers, Subway)? CHECK

Has amenities (Multimedia room, exercise room, etc.), but no pointlessly luxe ones (Olympic size pool with swim-up bar)? CHECK

Gorgeous exterior? CHECK

Microwave, stove/oven, fridge, dishwasher, all in pretty pretty stainless steel? CHECK

Ensuite laundry? CHECK

Individually controlled heating? CHECK

Suites wired for high-speed Internet? CHECK

Honestly, I don't know what else I could ask for...mmm....condolicious...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bush did something right? *shockedface*

So, another day, another questionable (but not offensive) e-mail forward from relatives:

George Carlin's Solution to Save Gasoline
Bush wants us to cut the amount of gas we use..... The best way to stop using so much gas is to deport 11 million illegal immigrants!
That would be 11 million less people using our gas. The price of gas would come down.....
Bring our troops home from Iraq to guard the Border....
When they catch an illegal immigrant crossing the border, hand him a canteen, rifle and some ammo and ship him to Iraq ... Tell him if he wants to come to America then he must serve a tour in the military....
Give him a soldier's pay while he's there and tax him on it.....
After his tour, he will be allowed to become a citizen since he defended this country.....
He will also be registered to be taxed and be a legal patriot..... .
This option will probably deter illegal immigration and provide a solution for the
troops in Iraq and the aliens trying to make a better life for themselves.. ....
If they refuse to serve, ship them to Iraq anyway, without the canteen,
rifle or ammo..... Problem solved.....
If you think this is a good solution to both the problems, forward it to your friends. ............
I just did........

Okey dokey, so, yes, an oversimplification of the US immigration problem. But it does seem fair to fast-track those willing to fight...and in fact, it's being done right now!
Active-duty servicemen and women from all branches, as well as certain
components of the National Guard and reserves, can move to the front of the line
for U.S. citizenship under an executive order that President Bush signed July 3,
2002. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Saturday, June 3, 2006)

This makes sense, seeing as how military service has been the basis of citizenship for centuries. (See Wikipedia, "Athenian Democracy"). It is the basis of the French Foreign Legion. It has even been considered by Canada, despite the fact that citizenship is currently a requirement of military service. ("Military considers citizenship-optional recruitment drive", Montreal Gazette, Monday, August 21, 2006)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger dead at 28

First, depressing NYT article:

The Death of Heath Ledger

Longer, more detailed and up-to-date depressing NYT article:

Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28


“There was no indication of a disturbance,” he said, adding that there were no signs that Mr. Ledger had been drinking. Nor were any illegal drugs found in the loft, which takes up the entire fourth floor. Neighbors said Mr. Ledger had occupied it for several months.

Police officials said that a bottle of prescription sleeping pills was found on a nearby night table, but that they did not know whether the pills had anything to do with Mr. Ledger’s death. Officers who checked the apartment found other prescription medications in the bathroom. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said an autopsy would be conducted on Wednesday.

Mr. Browne said no obvious indication of suicide, like a note, was found in the bedroom.


The housekeeper and the masseuse pushed open the bedroom door and saw Mr. Ledger, unconscious, on the floor. They shook him but could not revive him, and then called for help, the police said. The housekeeper told officers that she had heard him snoring in the bedroom around 12:30 p.m., the police said.


[Regarding Brokeback Mountain:] “Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character,” Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times. “It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn.” Mr. Ledger was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor, but the Oscar went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Capote.”


[Regarding his daughter, Matilda Rose, born Oct. 28, 2005:] “You’re forced into, kind of, respecting yourself more,” he said. “You learn more about yourself through your child, I guess. I think you also look at death differently. It’s like a Catch-22: I feel good about dying now because I feel like I’m alive in her, you know, but at the same hand, you don’t want to die because you want to be around for the rest of her life.”

Oh no.

From, via Boing Boing:

Israel Eyes Thinking Machines to Fight 'Doomsday' Missile StrikesPac3_dvd10733_300x375_2

Israel has been hit in recent years by thousands and thousands of rockets, mortar shells, and missiles.  And that could be just a preview of the onslaught Iran may one day unleash. So Israeli military leaders have begun early planning for a new, robotic defense system, armed with enough artificial intelligence that it "could take over completely" from flesh-and-blood operators.   "It will be designed for... autonomous operations,' Brig. Gen. Daniel Milo, commander of Israel's air defense forces, tells Defense News' Barbara Opall-Rome.  And in the event of a "doomsday" strike, Opall-Rome notes, the system could handle "attacks that exceed physiological limits of human command."

How do you say "Skynet" in Hebrew, again?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Who is a "black" Toronto Student?

Something that hasn't been addressed in the "Afrocentric Schools" debate:

This 2006 StatsCan breakdown shows that Toronto's Caribbean immigrant population is 7% of the total, and it's African immigrant population is about other words, a fairly even split. In all this talk of "Black" and "Afrocentric" schools, I've yet to see a single mention of the fact that "blacks" from the Americas and "blacks" from Africa have different cultures, religious groupings, languages, etc etc (and I am ignoring, for the moment, the differences within black African Canadians as a heterogeneous group, and black Caribbean Canadians as a heterogeneous group).

This is merely anecdotal, but my brother went to a majority-black school where the major racial divide was between the African kids and the Caribbean kids...and the handful of white kids picked sides. Now, it never really concerned me that my brother was in the minority (as a middle-class white Canadian male, I figured it was an experience he should have once in his life) but I was intrigued with that dynamic.

If I Had a Million Dollars... (Part III)

Philips' Eco TV


Amazon Kindle e-book reader


Clear2O water filtration pitcher


It's about damn time: "Canada puts Guantanamo on torture watch list"

As reported by the Globe, CTV, and many others...

From the Toronto Star:

While Canada's foreign affairs officials publicly state they accept U.S. assurances that Toronto-born detainee Omar Khadr is being treated humanely, consular officials are being warned privately that Guantanamo Bay is a possible site of torture.

A Foreign Affairs Department training manual titled "Torture Awareness Workshop Reference Materials," gives the legal definitions of torture and instructs consular officials how to detect signs of abuse of Canadians detained abroad.

Under the heading, "Possible Torture/Abuse Cases," the manual lists Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Guantanamo Bay, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Syria and United States.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Guestblogging by KellF

My good friend Kelly got into it with a National Post "writer"...displaying the usual eloquence via rage that is usually my stock in trade. It's such a spot-on comment that I am reproducing it here, for posterity.

The article:

The comment:

This is the first article I've read by Karen Selick, and I have to say I was surprised and dismayed to discover at the bottom of the article that she is a lawyer. I felt this way because of the absurd language in which Ms. Selick has couched her argument, nay, diatribe.

Ms. Selick, have you read the actual judgment, or just a headline, before you went on your neoliberalist rant? As there is so much to respond to, I'll try to make this as orderly as possible.

Use of Terms in Article

1)  Using words such as 'victimization' to characterize airlines and passengers  who bear the extra costs for disabled persons is, to make an understatement, grossly inappropriate. The term 'victim' carries with it notions of an imbalance of power which causes harm to the less powerful of the parties amounting in some wrong-doing. It also (inappropriately here) congers up images of recipients of physical abuse. Common law, equitable doctrines and statutes arise throughout our legal history to mitigate the power imbalances in order to protect the less powerful. This history has culminated into such important documents as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Code. The individuals and entities which are negatively impacted by the re-distributive effects of these legal instruments are NOT victims. They have been given an opportunity to present their case, have been heard, and the values Canadians have enshrined in our legal instruments and common law has determined that the airlines are to bear the cost at issue. Due process combined with Canadian values does not amount to victimization.

Use of Analogies in the Article

1) Comparing the re-distributive effects of the above mentioned instruments to a thug steeling (even if for good reasons) is likewise comparing the Government of Canada to a thug. Taxation of wealth, through GST, Income Tax, capital gains tax and the like are means of providing services and redistributing wealth. It is a pillar of the Canadian ethos to provide for those who are in need. This value exists, and manifests, within  a democratic society, which is certainly not  tantamount to two thugs steeling, but to a system which theoretically provides a voice and agency for those in our society to make change and hold accountable decision-makers. If this system is unsatisfactory to you Ms. Selick, then I put it to you to critique our political system rather than the values it upholds in our legal traditions.

Legal Argument

1) Ms. Selick suggests that the legal entitlements to disabled-persons is to consume like everyone else. The actual legal entitlement is something quite different. Rather, "persons with disabilities have the same rights as others to full participation in all aspects of society and equal access to transportation is critical to the ability of persons with disabilities to exercise that right. Persons with disabilities have the same needs to travel as others - for example, for business, for pleasure, and for medical reasons - and should have the same travel options that are provided to others, such as those respecting mode of transportation, departure times, cost, quality of service and the ability to travel with friends, family or colleagues". It might be worth reminding Ms. Selick that the plaintiff in this case is dependent on a disability pension, which means her ability to save is in some measure determined by the government. To argue that she should simply save longer, or to argue that other working people may not have the opportunity to fly, is disingenuous given that she does not have the opportunity to 'work harder' or whatever it is that the neoliberalist agenda suggests that those in poverty ought to do to un-mire themselves from their own situation. If those who require disability pensions are not able to afford air travel because their salary does not allow them to save enough to pay for a necessary companion, then the government is choosing to disallow, wholesale, a segment of the population from those rights enshrined in our legal instruments.

The Result

While I disagree with the principles that you have outlined in your argument, and I agree in principle with the result of the CTA decision, I might suggest that the cost would be more squarely redistributed to the government itself rather than the private carriers. The issue is not whether the aircrafts themselves are wheelchair accessible (as in the recent VIA precedent), and so the duty to accommodate may arguably have been fulfilled. The right to full access and enjoyment by disabled-persons, in cases such as these, might better be born by the government as it would be distributed to the tax-paying population generally, and the access to such services would be administered in a reviewable way by an agency of the government. This cost is properly born by taxpayers as the provision of such opportunities is consonant with the values upheld in our fundamental ideas of human rights.

The "response":


Second, to kellf: 

I assume that by "congers" you mean "conjures" and that by "steeling" you mean "stealing". 

The rest of your comments are more  severely flawed, but would take longer to answer.  I'll get around to answering all of them, sooner or later, in my National Post column, which appears approximately every two weeks, but not on any fixed day.

That will allow my arguments to reach more people than the number who will bother reading all the way down to the end of this comment site. 

However, I've already dealt with arguments like your many times in the columns I wrote for Canadian Lawyer magazine from 1990 to 2006.  They're all posted on my website: 

Happy reading!

The response to the "response":

I applaud your use of 'Appeal to Ridicule' argument fallacy. Yes, my spelling was incorrect for two words - something which happened in my haste to post to your column. Hopefully you'll be able to see past the errors (although somehow I doubt you did - stating something is erroneous and not backing it up is another fallacy you've attempted to use: "Appeal to Authority"), and in this post be able to read through the exact words used to detect the sarcasm in the first sentence. Best of luck.


Oh, PS, I think you meant 'yours' in your last post.

How come I never Overhear anything funny?

From Overheard In New York

The United Nations, Encapsulated

Dude #1: They have been underestimating my power.
Dude #2: What?
Dude #1: They have been underestimating my power for quite some time now.
Dude #2: What are you, a supervillain? Who's been underestimating your power? The justice league?
Dude #1: No, the electric company. They say I owe them eight hundred dollars.
Dude #2: Dude, you and I were having two totally different conversations.
--Penn Station
Overheard by: 13Atlantic

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If I had a million dollars... (Part II)

Archos TV+ - digital AV recorder

Archos TV

From the CNET review:

Looks like Archos has finally let the cat out of the bag on their first set-top DVR, the Archos TV+. Offered in 80GB ($249) and 250GB ($349) versions, the Archos TV+ looks to do about everything the Apple TV failed to deliver, including: an onscreen recording guide; 640x480 video recording quality; a QWERTY remote control; an infrared emitter for controlling your cable box or TV; a built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet that can be used for on-demand video downloads from CinemaNow; a fully-functional Opera web browser with Flash video support (YouTube, DailyMotion, CNET TV, etc.); optional Flash video game downloads; and it even includes cables (gasp!).

Monday, January 14, 2008

If I had a million dollars... (Part I)

Nightingale Headboard from


Apple iPod Touch


Object permanence/I'm bad at Peek-a-boo

Ever since I took Psych 100 at Queens, I've had a fascination with describing people's quirks (very much including my own) with genuine--if pop--psychology. My stepfather and I had a discussion a while ago about the fact that I'm a clutterbug, and he attributed it to my being such a visual person that things are literally "out of sight, out of mind" for me (e.g. if I don't see my new box of highlighters, I will buy more on the assumption that I'm out).

This makes sense to me. I also tend to do this when grocery shopping, for instance buy 2 of something I have 3 of because it's a dry good and therefore lives in the back of my cupboard, but forget to buy milk even though I'm almost out because it's in the front of my fridge.

Anyway, I've been trying to remember what that's called, and I finally did, which is why I'm blessing all of you with this long-winded explanation. The Wikipedia article is short, so I'm going to quote the whole thing, more or less:

Object permanence is the term used to describe the awareness that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible.

Jean Piaget conducted experiments with infants which led him to conclude that this awareness was typically achieved at eight to nine months of age, during the sensorimotor stage of cognitive development. Such experiments consisted of behavioral tests with infant subjects. The infant would be shown a desirable object or toy, for example, and the toy would then be covered by a blanket or otherwise obscured from view while the infant was watching. Some of the infant subjects would immediately exhibit signs of confusion or dismay. Piaget interpreted these behavioral signs as evidence of a belief that the object had somehow 'vanished' or simply ceased to exist.

Piaget concluded that some infants were too young to understand object permanence, which would tend to explain why they cry when their mothers were gone ("out of sight, out of mind"). A lack of object permanence can lead to A-not-B errors, where children reach for a thing at a place where it should not be.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Video Trailer Roundup

Wanted (June 08)

Batman: The Dark Knight (July 08)

Get Smart (June 08)

Babylon A.D. (August 08)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 08)

no trailer...lame!

News Roundup New organ donation rules don't exclude gay men

New Health Canada regulations won't prohibit sexually active gay men from donating their organs, but will merely formalize standard industry practice to prevent transmission of disease, according to several Canadian transplant associations.


Suburban sex-trade workers more vulnerable

Suburban prostitutes are more vulnerable to attack or even murder because of a lack of support services compared with their big-city counterparts, says a former sex-trade worker who once strolled the streets of small-town British Columbia.


U.S. doctors weigh in on right-to-life case

Samuel Golubchuk, the 84-year-old Orthodox Jewish man whose life has become the subject of a court battle over his family's right to demand he be kept on a life-sustaining ventilator, has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks and may not be near death


‘Sanctuary’ means nothing in Canadian law: Day

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Friday that it doesn't matter if Laibar Singh is hiding out in a place of worship or a mall, he's still not entitled to stay in Canada.


Trio charged with human trafficking

Eastern European woman helps uncover ring involving dizzying array of suspects and countries

New Links Page

Rather than clog up everyone's RSS/Facebook feeds when I'm too lazy to, ya know, post an interesting link, I've set up a account for this blog. I can use it to do news roundups too.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Why don't Canadians understand Canadian Refugee Law?

The CBC reports that the Canadian Border Services Agency is trying to deport Laibar Singh, a paralysed Sikh man who has taken refuge in a Vancouver temple. (here and here)

Singh came to Canada in 2003 on a forged passport. He suffered a massive stroke three years later that left him quadriplegic and unable to care for himself.


Singh initially sought refugee status in 2003 on the grounds that he would be persecuted by police in Punjab, where officials have accused him of links to separatist militants, but his refugee claim was denied that same year.

Now, what bothers me is not the fact that Singh's health problems are not grounds for his refugee claim, since that's settled law and although it seems harsh, consider how quickly our whole system would collapse if we accepted refugees on the SOLE BASIS that they came from countries with poor(er) medical care.

Canada (Attorney General) v. Ward, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 689, 103 D.L.R. (4th) 1, 20 Imm. L.R. (2d) 85: restricting mechanisms reflect the fact that the international community did not intend to offer a haven for all suffering individuals. The need for “persecution” in order to warrant international protection, for example, results in the exclusion of such pleas as those of economic migrants, i.e., individuals in search of better living conditions, and those of victims of natural disasters, even when the home state is unable to provide assistance, although both of these cases might seem deserving of international sanctuary.

However, I'm perturbed by the numerous comments here, which often come down to a simplistic "he's illegal, deport him!" analysis (if it can be called that).

The Refugee Convention expressly forbids such tactics:
Article 31
Refugees unlawfully in the country of refugee
1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
If you're being persecuted by your government, how exactly are you going to obtain a passport? Or, if you need to escape that country to save your life, but you need a visa to enter a reasonable country of refuge, but that country won't issue you a visa if it thinks you're going to become a refugee, are you supposed to just sit there and die?