Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Allrighty then, darling readers...

I'll be away till early May. Till then, please do check out some of the more awesome stuff I read daily (or so). I'll update my blogroll/linkroll later when IE and Blogger aren't both being difficult.




Monday, April 21, 2008

Massive Casting Fail

The 2007 movie Rendition was clearly about Maher Arar.

They did do too bad a job casting the Maher Arar replacement, as you can see.







However, attempts to cast a counterpart for Arar's wife (Ph.D., federal NDP candidate, observant Muslim) pictured here:


Ended in...well, this:

November 22, 2006
Photo by Sam Emerson/

To license this image (12571057), contact NewLine:
U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207-868-8940 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020
+1 212-686-8901 (fax) (e-mail) (web site)

No. No no no no no.

I would have recommended Anne Hathaway,

anne hathaway a hijab, thankyouverymuch.

Catherine Keener would also work.


Excellent news if true: Hamas "prepared to accept Israel"

Of course, slightly ironic...given that Israel, you know, exists. One reason I can be more critical of Israel than some of the Palestinian groups is that Israel always seems in touch with reality--law maybe not always so much, but reality, yes. Contrariwise, advocating or asserting that Israel doesn't exist is just so totally crazy I cross the people who do so off my "capable of rational argument" list.

ANYHOO: Carter: Hamas will accept Israel (BBC News)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quotable: Justice Brandeis

If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means—to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal—would bring terrible retribution.


Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperilled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously.

Justice LOUIS D. BRANDEIS, dissenting, Olmstead et al. v. United States, 277 U.S. 485 (1928).


Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

LOUIS D. BRANDEIS, “What Publicity Can Do,” Other People’s Money, chapter 5, p. 92 (1932). First published in Harper’s Weekly, December 20, 1913.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Quotable: Ambrose Bierce

Appeal. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914), U.S. author. The Devil’s Dictionary (1881-1906).

Quotable: Raymond Chandler

The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.

Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), U.S. author. Sewell Endicott, in The Long Goodbye, ch. 8 (1953).

Quotable: Billie Holiday

You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.

From Lady Sings the Blues (1956), Holiday's autobiography; co-authored with William Dufty.

Provisional Holiday Calendar for York?

Further to the last post, may I present:

2008-2009 All Holidays Calendar (version one)

Running from June 1 2008 to May 31 2009, this includes approximate sunset times, as well as all the more important (i.e. to be taken-off) holidays I could find. is a kick-ass resource for this, btw

Of course, some of the dates are also approximate, but it's interesting how some of the holidays seem to align. I wonder if this would be feasible...

And please let me know about any errors!

Friday, April 18, 2008

In which I ask, "Why not indeed, Israel?"

“We call ourselves a Jewish, democratic state. But the less Jewish we are the easier it will be for others to say, ‘Why not just be a democratic state for Jews and Arabs to live in together?’ ”

The quote is from an article in the NY Times about the secular/religious divide in Israel, and how even secular Israelis support the public imposition of religious laws in order to bolster the state's collective religious identity.

I can't wrap my head around how being "a democratic state for Jews and Arabs to live in together" is bad, let alone a nightmarish worst-case scenario. I am such a devoted little classical liberal.

On the other hand, things like this baffle me just as much: the Ontario Human Rights Commission is investigating whether York's practice of closing for the High Holy Days is discriminatory (see the Excalibur article). From what I can tell, Jewish students are the largest religious minority group at York:

But a recent report prepared by York professor Thomas Klassen paints a highly diverse picture of the 51,000-student campus, with Jewish students estimated to represent about 5.8 per cent of students, Muslim students about 4.8 per cent, Catholic students 34.9 per cent, Protestant 22.1 per cent, other Christian 7.3 per cent, Hindu 3.6 per cent, Buddhist 2.1 per cent and Sikh 2 per cent. (Toronto Star)

All that tells me is that maybe we should have more days off for the major Muslim holidays. I hesitate to say Hindu because different sects celebrate different holidays to differing degrees...which I guess is true of Muslims as well...hmm...

I'm developing a suspicion that take off Christian and Jewish holidays only because they're the easiest to schedule...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In which I Learn from Television

Well...somewhat. Watching the episode "Sophia Lopez", I was once again reminded of an aspiration I have had for about five years now: to start a foundation which helps fund sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

Through my work (well, one of my works) I have met quite a few transsexuals, pre- and post-op. The medical treatment they require used to be funded by the Ontario government, but no longer ("Ontario Isolated and Alone in Refusing to Fund Sex Reassignment Surgery"). Some other provinces do fund it, as do some states.

The thing with SR is that it's incredibly expensive. According to Lynn Conway's very detailed information site (NOTE: NSFW medical photos) the current cost is US $30-40k. What Conway notes (and which I have seen with my own eyes) is that the success of MTF SR is inversely proportionate to the age at which it is begun. Now, the good news is that increasing openness about transsexualism is making it easier for people to self-identify at a younger age, and access the information they need to make decisions about what, if any, procedures they wish to undertake to allow their external identity to better match their identity.

The solution is that some trans patients seeking affordable treatment go abroad. It's huge in Thailand, as this 2001 New York Times articles explains. Surgery abroad costs a tenth what is might here. Even including airfare, it's conceivably affordable. Eastern Europe is also a popular destination in my experience.

So anyway, I think this is a niche that needs to be filled. Like Shriners, you know?

This may have ceased to make sense...

Operation Stay Awake

Current tactic: Nip/Tuck episodes and protein shakes. MASSIVE FAIL.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

That's SO Meta! I get namedropped on famouser blawg

Blawg is also covering the Rabbi Elior Chen story, and they mentioned me in their analysis. Woot!

Mind you, the title, "Wounder of Rivers Seeks Refuge in Canada" gave my a brief scare when I took it to mean he was claiming refugee status.

To which I say: please don't. Oh please. For the sake of all the non-dodgy refugee claimants out there, please don't claim refugee status, to which you are clearly not entitled.

Allow me to quote the relevant legislation:

96. A Convention refugee is a person who by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,

(a) is outside each of their countries of nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of each of those countries, or

(b) not having a country of nationality, is outside their country of former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.

97. (1) A person in need of protection is a person in Canada whose removal to their country or countries of nationality or, if they do not have a country of nationality, their country of former habitual residence, would subject them personally

(a) to a danger, believed on substantial grounds to exist, of torture within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture; or

(b) to a risk to their life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if

(i) the person is unable or, because of that risk, unwilling to avail themself of the protection of that country,

(ii) the risk would be faced by the person in every part of that country and is not faced generally by other individuals in or from that country,

(iii) the risk is not inherent or incidental to lawful sanctions, unless imposed in disregard of accepted international standards, and

(iv) the risk is not caused by the inability of that country to provide adequate health or medical care.

(2) A person in Canada who is a member of a class of persons prescribed by the regulations as being in need of protection is also a person in need of protection.

Chen is none of those things.

Let's deal with s. 97 first. Israel tortures, as the Public Committee Against Torture has documented. But these cases all appear to be in the context of the conflict with the Palestinian Territories--it appears that "regular" criminals are treated in line with international regulations. According to the US Dept. of State:

The law provides detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in IPS facilities for common criminals and security prisoners generally met international standards. (Conditions in four facilities for detainees are covered in the annex). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to IPS and IDF facilities. Overcrowding remained a significant problem. Regulations require at least 48 square feet of living space per person, but the Prisons Authority reported on October 16 that the average space per prisoner was 31 square feet. In a March report the Israel Bar Association (IBA) noted that despite regulations specifying a limit of four prisoners per cell, some contained up to 10 prisoners. On February 18, the High Court ruled that authorities were obligated to provide a bed for every inmate and, according to ACRI, as of August, all prisoners in IPS facilities had a bed.

Israeli citizen prisoners 17 years and younger were separated from adult prisoners.

The ICRC regularly monitored IPS facilities as well as interrogation facilities and the two IDF Provisional Detention Centers.

So that's that for s. 97.

In terms of persecution (s. 96) I suppose Chen might claim on religious grounds or particular social group. It really doesn't matter, since as a fugitive from justice, he can't be said to be suffering persecution anyway. Breaking a law of general application is a non-starter:

A person who is punished for having violated an ordinary law of general application, is punished for the offence he has committed, not for the political opinions that may have induced him to commit it. … [A] person who has violated the laws of his country of origin by evading ordinary military service, and who merely fears prosecution and punishment for that offence in accordance with those laws, cannot be said to fear persecution for his political opinions even if he was prompted to commit that offence by his political beliefs. [Musial v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1982] 1 F.C. 290 (C.A.) at 294]

Now, there are some exceptions, for instance if the law is persecutory in intent or effect, or if the punishment is disproportionate [see e.g. Cheung v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1993] 2 F.C. 314 (C.A.); Zolfagharkhani v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1993] 3 F.C. 540 (C.A.)]. But as far as I know, no such considerations apply to a Jewish Israeli facing prosecution for heinous child abuse.

That said? Abusing the refugee system would be a smart strategic move on Chen's part. Buy him time, give him a platform, etc. etc. Canada is generally too quick to reject claimants and to bar people from accessing the system all together, but this is one case where I could sympathize with a discretionary punt back to his country of origin.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oxymoron Alert: The Torturing Rabbi

S-dub brought up the following story in international criminal law:

Rabbi, wanted in child abuses, hiding in Canada: Israel to seek extradition for radical, so-called spiritual mentor of a group involved in systematic torture of children

A radical rabbi once linked to a plot to fire a missile at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, is hiding in Canada, Israeli police said yesterday, announcing that he is wanted for his alleged role in a series of ghastly abuses of his followers' children.

Hilariously, and I mean that in a dark and cynical way, since the torture of children is never funny ha-ha, is this:

A friend quoted in Haaretz yesterday said Mr. Chen and Mr. Fisher believed that "only in very exceptional cases does Canada extradite."

Um, no. That'd be a big no. We only deport to death penalty in exceptional cases, since Burns & Raffay (United States v. Burns, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 283, 2001 SCC 7).