banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Clueless in Kingston

Thank goodness we have reporters to analyze things for us. CTV News Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin stated the blindingly obvious after the verdict was delivered in the Shafia honour-killing trial on Sunday:
Beauchemin said there will be no victim impact statement following the trial. She said that may be because relatives stood by the accused throughout the trial.
Do you think maybe the fact that the victims were found at the bottom of the Rideau Canal having died at the hands of their surviving relatives might have had something to do with the absence of victim impact statements? Just a hunch.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oops - forget global warming; there's a mini ice age coming

The UK's Daily Mail reports that the Met Office and the University of East Anglia have, "without fanfare", released data showing that there has been no global warming for the past 15 years and that a "mini ice age" may be imminent:
The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

You don't say. The UK's Met Office and the University of East Anglia are the chief proponents of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis that has resulted in the hasty implementation of poorly-planned, coercive and expensive "green energy" policy initiatives by governments world-wide. Dalton McGuinty - call your office.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: the late Eva Cassidy covers T Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday" in a 1996 live performance at Washington's Blues Alley:


Pierre Trudeau: "a run-of-the-mill social democrat"

Don't miss Conrad Black's comments on the late great Pierre Trudeau in today's National Post. An excerpt:
Nor is there truth to the theory that Trudeau possessed any original political ideas. He was a run-of-the-mill 1960s social democrat who wanted big government, the nanny-, know-it-all-state, high taxes, and the confiscation of income from those who had earned it for redistribution to those who had not in exchange for their votes (far beyond what could be justified by the acquisition of votes for federalism in Quebec, where the money transfer was also largely from the non-French to the French).

It was hard to square Trudeau’s professed enthusiasm for civil rights with his friendship with Fidel Castro and other dictators who ruined their countries, such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and his cold-shouldering of Soviet dissidents and other international civil rights advocates, and even the Canadian victims of the Korean airliner the Russians shot down. This was of a piece with his fawning deference to the Soviet leadership and his antagonism to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even Richard Nixon, who all regarded him as little better than a communist fellow traveller (and told me so).

His campaign to reorient the Canadian economy away from exports to the United States was authoritarian rather than based on any fiscal incentivization of competition, and was a fiasco. His pursuit of arms control was chimerical; he disarmed Canada, did nothing to reduce the country’s military dependence on Washington, and produced a nonsensical plan for more conferences to agree on the unverifiable “suffocation” of defence spending.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection - Jimmy Smith, the Paganini of the Hammond B3 organ, covering Blues in the Night

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Harper's true hidden agenda: promoting gay rights overseas

Matt Gurney of the National Post writes that, for a government with a supposedly anti-gay "hidden agenda", the federal Conservatives sure are going out of their way to stand up for gay rights in oppressive Third World countries. In his op-ed If the Tories hate gays, why are they standing up for them abroad?, Gurney writes:
Yes, it’s true. As part of promoting Canadian values abroad, the Conservative government has been speaking out at international forums, particularly the Commonwealth, against nations that oppress the rights of homosexuals. Embassy magazine, a weekly foreign policy journal published in Ottawa, interviewed a series of experts on global gay rights, and found that the Tories have spoken out forcefully against a series of Third World countries that were considering passing laws that would have made homosexuality illegal, or even subject to the death penalty. And the Tories, Embassy notes, have also made the decriminalization of homosexuality a foreign policy objective.

Nor are they doing it only through back channels. As part of the Conservative effort to draw attention to the oppression of homosexuals, both Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have spoken publicly against the oppression of gays. This might not get much notice inside Canada — some of the experts Embassy contacted hadn’t even realized the Conservative government was working to help gays abroad — but it is happening. Indeed, if one wanted to look for a hidden agenda, you could almost infer that the Tories are conducting a stealth pro-gay campaign abroad that’s drawing little notice in Canada.

That’s not particularly likely, either, of course. What’s more likely is that gay rights and Conservative ideology have finally aligned in Canada. Many conservative voters, and Tory MPs, may well have moral objections to homosexuality, but they also have a strong, patriotic belief that their country has superior values worth exporting, and those values include such things as equal rights for citizens, even homosexuals. As uncomfortable as homosexual sex may still make many people feel, those same people will have no trouble believing their country’s equal treatment of gays proves its moral superiority. Patriotism, in short, trumps squeamishness.
Gay rights are human rights, and that's the common ground that conservatives who believe in the sanctity of individual liberty share, whether they're gay or straight.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: a live version of Buddy Guy performing Damn Right I've Got The Blues, with a virtuoso backup performance on the Hammond B3 organ.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gay marriage meltdown in Ottawa

I hesitate to weigh in on the gay marriage "controversy" now raging in Ottawa because the left is going absolutely apoplectic about it, but it needs to be pointed out that this is not an issue about gay marriage, but about gay divorce, and the legal facts are getting lost in the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The Globe and Mail breathlessly reported today that the Harper government had made an "about face" on the issue of gay marriage and was arguing in Federal Court that gay couples from foreign jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is not legal cannot be legally wed in Canada:
The Harper government has served notice that thousands of same-sex couples who flocked to Canada from abroad since 2004 to get married are not legally wed.

But speaking in Halifax Thursday, the Prime Minister said the issue was not on the agenda for his majority Conservatives. “We have no intention of further re-opening or opening this issue,” Stephen Harper told reporters when asked about The Globe and Mail’s report.

The reversal of federal policy is revealed in a document filed in a Toronto test case launched recently by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce. Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple have been told they cannot divorce because they were never really married – a Department of Justice lawyer says their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.

...

The government’s hard line has cast sudden doubt on the rights and legal status of couples who wed in Canada after a series of court decisions opened the floodgates to same-sex marriage. The mechanics of determining issues such as tax status, employment benefits and immigration have been thrown into legal limbo.
First of all, let's look at the plaintiffs in this case, who were married in Canada but live in Florida and the UK. Florida does not recognize gay marriage, and the UK has civil partnerships for gay couples but not marriage. It seems self-evident to me that the "rights and legal status" of a Canadian marriage as outlined in Canadian law apply only if you live in Canada. Canada has no power to extend rights to non-citizens who are resident in a foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize the legality of their union. If a foreign couple from such a country wants legal recognition of their married status, they have to live in Canada.

Secondly, the couple is seeking a divorce in Canada, not a marriage. The Federal Divorce Act is crystal clear on who can divorce in this country:
3. (1) A court in a province has jurisdiction to hear and determine a divorce proceeding if either spouse has been ordinarily resident in the province for at least one year immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding.
The goverment's hands are tied; they cannot hear a divorce case for a foreign same-sex couple (or a heterosexual couple, for that matter) unless at least one spouse has lived in the country for one year. This fact was pointed out to gay couples who flocked to Canada to get married when it became legal to do so here - in fact the CBC warned gay couples of the potential difficulty back in 2009:
Some same-sex couples from the U.S. who got married in Canada are running into trouble getting divorces, according to an Oregon lawyer.
Gay couples have been flocking to cities like Vancouver with its large gay community since same-sex marriage was first legalized in the summer of 2003.

Several of those couples have since approached Oregon lawyer Beth Allen looking for a divorce, but Oregon doesn't recognize gay marriage, or divorce, so they can't get a divorce there, she said.

As well, a residency requirement in Canada's Divorce Act requires one of the two married people to live in this country for a year before a divorce can be granted, and those U.S. states which recognize gay marriage also have residency requirements for divorce.

The news almost always comes as a shock for the couples, Allen told CBC New on Friday morning.

"It's really a horror story for those who went up there hoping for a lifetime of happiness, wanting to break up, and having an extra layer of trouble on that dissolution," said Allen.

Rain Henderson, a Vancouver lawyer and expert on matrimonial law, says marriage application forms should include a new warning for same-sex couples.

"It just talks about you can't marry your uncle, your aunt, your brother or sister kind of thing. It doesn't say be cautious, because you might not be able to get divorced," she said.

Henderson has this advice for gay Americans looking to marry here: "I would say not to do it, because it is, at this point in time, such a procedural bar."
The truth is that same-sex Canadian marriages are NOT legally valid - if you live in a foreign jurisdiction that does not recognize gay marriage. This was true under the previous Liberal regime and is still true today. The Canadian government cannot compel sovereign foreign nations to recognize Canadian laws no matter how enlightened they may be.

The legend of Harper's "Hidden Agenda" refuses to die, though, and clowns like Bob Rae and Olivia Chow are doing back flips to point out that the Tories are now trying to turn back the clock on gay marriage. As reported by the Toronto Star, Rae sanctimoniously intoned that
Harper’s Conservative government was making a move to gut same-sex marriage rights 'by stealth'
and Chow stated that
the Harper government was using a “back door way” to deny the marriages of thousands of gay couples who married in Canada and live abroad in states hostile to gay marriage.
US advice columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage fears that his own marriage is in jeopardy and that
If same-sex marriage isn’t legal for foreigners in Canada, if our marriages aren’t valid in Canada, it’s possible that this move by Harper’s government means that couples like us — same-sex couples from WA (Washington state) who married in Canada — are no longer domestic partners under the law here in Washington state. What a headache.
Take a tour through the comments in the Globe and Mail if you have the stomach for it. Here's one example:
What did you expect from Mr. Harper, the right-wing extremist and reactionary!! If he could, he would probably make homosexuality illegal and put women back into the kitchen (you know the old German saying that a woman's domain are "Kinder, K├╝che, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church). Harper and his so-called conservatives are more akin to the Fascists of 1930s Germany and Italy. They are certainly not interested in democracy, but in heavy-handedly imposing their views and philosophy on others, their constituents. They are also much too much influenced by the American Right, and will likely do anything to get and remain in their good graces.
I hate to spoil a good hate-fest, but the hysterical left is way off base on this one. Harper was apparently unaware of the case now before the courts, and he and Justice Minister Nicholson immediately clarified the Government's position:
Stephen Harper said it was news to him and muttered he was not interested in re-opening the gay marriage debate.
Later Thursday, Nicholson released a written statement to clarify the government “has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage.”

“I will be looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada.”
That's it, folks - show's over. Everyone move along now. No one is trying to make anyone's marriages retroactively illegal, and in fact the government is now apparently going to make divorce easier. That doesn't sound much like a hidden agenda to me, but I'll be the first person to admit it if I'm proven wrong.

UPDATE: In the January 13 National Post:
A clever lawyer, not a hidden agenda
Same-sex union issue 'closed'

FURTHER UPDATE:
Andrew Coyne - "Shoddy reporting and cheap politics create a phony crisis":
You would never know from any of this that in fact there had been no change in policy: that the position advanced by the government lawyer was not new, but merely a statement of settled law. You would never know because neither the Globe nor anyone in the frothing mob it aroused bothered to ask a lawyer — other than the one contesting the case. Had they done so, they would have been told some version of the following:

Normally marriage law is relatively straightforward. Each country defines marriage for itself, and within its borders its citizens are bound by that definition. Where citizens of one country marry in another, however, responsibility is divided between the two, according to the set of common-law rules known as “conflict of laws.”

The “formal validity” of the marriage — that is, whether the vows were exchanged in the appropriate manner— is determined by the laws of the place where the marriage was performed. But the “essential validity” — that is, whether the couple were eligible to get married at all — is determined by the laws of each partner’s “ante-nuptial domicile,” the place they lived before they were married.

There’s no actual controversy on this point. It’s supported by reams of precedent. It’s not some invention of this government, or of Canada for that matter, but is part of the fabric of international law. Nor is it surprising: I’m basing this article in part on a piece by Jeffrey Talpis, professor of law at the University of Montreal, in the Lawyer’s Weekly of Sept. 22, 2006. It’s hard not to sympathize with those who were told when they came to Canada they were legally married. But the fault lies with those who misstated the law then, not those who correctly interpret it now.

STILL FURTHER UPDATE:
Jan. 14 editorial from the National Post: Hidden agenda hysterics:
So why the nervous breakdown? The most charitable answer is that Canada's left is genuinely fearful of an erosion of gay rights in this country. But these people can't all be that dumb. What's more probable is that most of them know the Tories have no desire to revisit the gay marriage issue, and are merely clinging to the notion that the Conservatives are homophobes to score political points.

It won't work, though. Both Paul Martin and Michael Ignatieff, when they led the Liberals, tried repeatedly to sow fears of Tory plans to ban abortions, revive capital punishment and discriminate against gays. None of it happened, and Canadians have shown an admirable resistance to being duped by such baseless claims. The Harper government's alleged homophobia is a cynical, slow-news-day media invention, and casts far more discredit on the government's hysterical critics than the government itself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Washington Post hearts Michelle Obama

Washington Post blogger Judith Howard Ellis gets the vapours and writes a love letter to the US First Lady:
The film characters she reminds me more of include a bunch of the classy black and white women from the past that some Republicans so love to glorify. She ranks with the iconic and trailblazing Ruby Dee, Lena Horne and Suzette Harbin because she is a woman who simply knows how to be. There are also aspects of her that make me think of spirited Katharine Hepburn in Holiday, elegant Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, wise and proud Greer Garson in The Valley of Decision, and adventurous Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Michelle Obama is not any of these characters, of course, but bears traces of the universal characteristics these women brought to life. As the first lady said today, she’s “just trying to be me, and I just hope that over time, that people get to know me.”
I'm a fan of Katharine Hepburn. I know Katharine Hepburn. Madam, you're no Katharine Hepburn.

"She's a woman who simply knows how to be"? Good grief.

How gay marriage could lead to the end of humanity

Jimmy Kimmel explains the Pope's recent pronouncement:



(HT: Towleroad)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Rick Santorum & America's "decaying culture"

Steve Chapman at Reason points out that Rick Santorum's mission to heal a morally sick America may resonate with religious conservatives, but his claim that social liberals (read feminists, atheists and homosexuals) are destroying the very foundations of America is not supported by facts:
[Santorum] thinks America has been on a downhill slide for many years, thanks to feminism, gay rights, pornography, and other vile intruders. But where is the evidence that the developments cited by Santorum are producing harmful side effects?

In the past couple of decades, most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse. Crime has plummeted. Teen pregnancy has declined by 39 percent. Abortion rates among adolescents are less than half what they were.

The incidence of divorce is down. As of 2007, 48 percent of high school students had engaged in sex, compared to 54 percent in 1991. What "decaying culture" is he talking about?

It sounds obvious that when people practice a religion that preaches strong morality and responsible conduct, they will behave better than people who follow their own inclinations. But what is obvious is not always true.

...

Does gay marriage undermine the health and stability of heterosexual marriage? Not so you can tell. Massachusetts has the nation's lowest divorce rate. Iowa and Connecticut are also better than most. Vermont and New Hampshire are about average. In the Bible Belt, by contrast, marriages are generally more prone to break up.

Santorum presents himself as a man of faith who insists on confronting stark facts that many people would rather ignore. In fact, in his indictment of tolerance, individual conscience, sexual freedom, and secular morality, he is not telling truths but spinning sanctimonious fairy tales. American culture is not sick, and Santorum is no healer.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection - an amazing guitar duet by Larry Carlton and Robben Ford:



Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Jay-Z in Washington

It's official - the collapse of western civilization is imminent now that both the President of the United States and the House of Representatives Majority Leader have tunes by Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne on their iPods.

President Obama held a press conference recently in which he said goodbye to his personal assistant Reggie Love, who is leaving the White House to attend the Wharton School of Business full time. The President thanked Mr. Love for his service, which included updating his musical tastes:
One thing Love does to perfection is help make the president look hip. He taught Obama how to fist-bump, bought him a silver iPod for his birthday and introduced him to the music of Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. Last year, Obama playfully referred to Love as his "iReggie."
Not to be outdone, Republican Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, revealed that he too is a fan:
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and President Obama have butted heads on many legislative policies during the last year, but there’s one thing they can both agree on: they heart rap music.

The House Majority Leader revealed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday his (perhaps unexpected) love for a variety of rappers, including Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z, and Wiz Khalifa.
What the hell is going on here? The President of the U.S. and the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives are listening to rap music? For those of you out there who are not familiar with Mr. Z's oeuvre, here's a sample of the lyrics from a 2009 track called Ignorant Shit:
This is that ignorant shit you like
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, trick, plus ice
C'mon, I got that ignorant shit you love
Nigga, fuck, shit, maricon, puta, and drugs
C'mon, I got that ignorant shit you need
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, trick plus weed
I'm only trying to give you what you want
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, you like it don't front
Mr. Cantor professes to be a Li'l Wayne fan. Here's a sample of his 1999 release Kisha
Her name's on my beeper
I called her on the Nokia
And told her come pick me up
As soon as I got in the house she got on her knees and grabbed my penis
Ate it up like some peanuts
I said oooohhhh Kisha
This what I got to meet her
She drunk it like a 2 liter
She blow like a pro
Oh no I got to keep her
Told her l'd be back about eleven I'm gone creep her
But don't go to sleep
I got some more meat to feed ya
Or maybe 2007's Time For Us to Fuck is more to Mr. Cantor's taste. Maybe he plays this for his wife Diana (who is a successful lawyer and accountant) during a romantic candlelight dinner before bouncing her booty like a basketball:
I see ya, I see ya
Girl I wanna love you long like ether
I know you want that pita
Girl I say I know you want that pita
That banana like Chikita
I'ma hit it like Derek Jeter
The neighbors gon' think I beat her
I'll throw that dick much deeper
Come be my wide receiver
I'll give that girl a seizure
She forget her boyfriend, amnesia
She wanna ride it, I let her have it
She betta ride it like Danika Patrick
I get behind it, and move her
Like the Heimlich maneuver (OW!)

[CHORUS]

I don't know about you (chea)
But I'm really, really fucked up (chea)
No more liquor in my cup (chea)
I think it's time for us to, time for us to, time for us to fuck (let's go)
I think it's time for us to fuck (let's go)
I think it's time for us to fuck (let's go)
I think it's time for us to, time for us to...

Bounce that booty like a basketball
See, I'm a ball-hog; I don't pass at all (ha-ha)
And now she wanna put her sister on
Now I got twins like "The Whisper Song"
And you could call her Mrs. Me Too
I say I'm on a strict diet, I can only eat you
Lick it lick it, lick it, lick it; I like to
Lick it lick it, lick it lick it..(ha-ha)
I got that Goose in my system
Somebody gon' be my victim
I got patrone in my system,
Somebody gon' be my victim (OW!)
President Obama of course has two daughters, and Mr. Cantor has three children - two sons and a daughter. Are neither of these men worried about the message that the music they are listening to sends to their kids, especially their daughters?

And more to the point, is anyone concerned about the complete degradation of modern culture that is evident in the trajectory of black music? Black Americans have created modern music, from Jazz and Blues to Rock and Roll. In one generation the tradition that gave us Duke Ellington and Chuck Berry has not only degenerated to Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne, but the President of the United States is listening to it on his iPod.

There's no hope.