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)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

John Baird pisses off the Ugandans

Well done, Minister Baird!  It's about time someone told these neolithic governments exactly what is expected from a civilized country:
Speaker [of the Ugandan Parliament] Rebecca Kadaga caused a diplomatic stir on Monday on her official trip to Canada, getting involved in a spat with the host Foreign Minister, Mr John Baird, whom she accused of attacking Uganda’s human rights record in respect to sexual minorities.

In a stinging retort to Mr Baird’s statement at the ongoing 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Quebec, Ms Kadaga told off Mr Baird and reminded him that Uganda was neither a colony nor protectorate of Canada and as such her sovereignty, societal and cultural norms were to be respected.

She told IPU organisers that she was not aware that the assembly had been summoned to promote gay rights.
Earlier, at the inaugural plenary on Monday, Mr Baird had demonised Uganda on allegations of persecuting sexual minorities. The Foreign Minister referred to the specific incident of gay-rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in January 2011.

Responding to the unprovoked Baird attack, Ms Kadaga said: “When we came for this Assembly, to which we were invited, we expected respect for our sovereignty, our values and our country … “I, therefore, on behalf of the Ugandan delegation, and, indeed, the people of Uganda, protest in the strongest terms the arrogance exhibited by the Foreign Minister of Canada, who spent most of his time attacking Uganda and promoting homosexuality.”
Baird's comments at the conference were in response to reports that Ms Kadaga would expedite a vote on an anti-homosexuality bill  as soon as possible. The bill proposes draconian measures to be used against the gay citizens of Uganda that would make even the most enthusiastic gay marriage opponent in Canada blanch:
...the current bill reiterates a lifetime imprisonment on conviction of homosexuality, and defines a new category called “aggravated homosexuality” with provisions for the death penalty upon conviction. Among the factors which can lead to “aggravated homosexuality” is if one partner is HIV-positive. This bill would mandate HIV testing to determine eligibility for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Also like the earlier draft, the bill includes a complete ban on all LGBT activities — including blogging — which could be construed as “promoting homosexuality.” This infringement on free speech, peaceful assembly, and redress of grievances marks the elimination of fundamental human rights for LGBT Ugandans. The bill also bans all organizations which advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens and holds their leadership criminally liable with fines and imprisonment for up to seven years.
The bill also retains provisions which require that if someone knows that someone is engaging in homosexuality, that person is to report them to the police within twenty-four hours or face fines and/or up to a three year prison sentence themselves. The bill also extends jurisdiction to acts committed outside Uganda by Ugandan citizens. In other words, if a Ugandan citizen is known to be in a gay relationship outside the country, he will risk lifetime imprisonment (or death, if he’s HIV-positive) upon his return. The bill also provides for the extradition of citizens from abroad.
The bill also voids all treaties and international obligations which violate ” the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act.”
The new bill adds some additional provisions over the previous draft. This bill adds the category of “attempted homosexuality” and provides a penalty of seven years in prison. For “attempted aggravated homosexuality,” the penalty is lifetime imprisonment. It also provides for compensation for “victims” of homosexuality, a provision in law which is sure to result in consensual partners turning against their partner to not only avoid the draconian legal penalties, but to claim the status of victim and seek compensation.
Further, the bill now adds an explicit ban on same-sex marriage. Anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage, either in Uganda or abroad, will liable for a lifetime imprisonment. New charges of “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality” would carry a prison sentence of seven years. There is also a new charge for operating a brothel, with a definition so broad as to include any hotel owner. That, too, carries a prison sentence of seven years.
This is not acceptable anywhere in the world, and sovereignty or not, the government of Uganda needs to be called out on this. I'm glad the government of Canada stepped up.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Off with his head

It was with jaw-dropping astonishment that I read Dalton's McGuinty's lame reasons for proroguing the Ontario Legislature:
Ontario’s opposition parties reacted with disbelief Wednesday after Premier Dalton McGuinty dismissed a contempt motion against his minority government as “phoney” and blamed them for his sudden decision to prorogue the legislature.
“They consumed an entire week with a spurious, phoney contempt motion rather than do the people’s business,” McGuinty said when asked why he shut down all legislative business until at least February 2013.
“They allowed themselves to be consumed by that phoney contempt motion.”
...
McGuinty also blamed the Opposition for delaying legislative business by repeatedly ringing the division bells, something they haven’t done in months, and flatly denied he prorogued to avoid the contempt motions and more fallout over the gas plants.
“I prorogued because the place was becoming overheated and because the public interest demanded that we find a way to freeze public sector wages, and it became obvious that is not something we’re going to be able to do through the legislature,” he said.
“I blew the whistle. I said ’all right, everybody out of the pool. Let’s allow the waters to calm.”’
What the hell? Of all the slimy things McGuinty has done in his disastrous eight years at the helm of this province, this is the most reptilian. The Premier is annoyed that the elected members aren't cooperating with his plans, so he's decided to go ahead and rule without the inconvenience of having to answer to them, because "it became obvious that is not something we're going to be able to do through the legislature"? He's mad that the MPPs are "delaying legislative business" so he dismisses the legislature until February, effectively ending ALL legislative business? This is astonishing, even for a Liberal. He said to the elected representatives of the people of Ontario "all right, everybody out of the pool"? Not only is his snide statement arrogant, it's an insult. The people who screamed bloody murder when Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament when faced with a procedural coup d'etat by the opposition parties had better be marching on Queen's Park with torches and pitchforks pretty damned soon.

You know, there's a historic precedent for dealing with this situation. In 1629, King Charles I prorogued the English Parliament when it refused to cooperate with his plans for war on the continent, and he began eleven years of governing without the House of Commons in a period which came to be known as The Eleven Years' Tyranny:
In January 1629 Charles opened the second session of the Parliament, which had been prorogued in June 1628, with a moderate speech on the tonnage and poundage issue. Members of the House of Commons began to voice their opposition in light of the Rolle case, in which the eponymous MP had had his goods confiscated for failing to pay tonnage and poundage. Many MPs viewed the confiscation as a breach of the Petition of Right arguing that the petition's freedom-from-arrest privilege extended to goods. When Charles ordered a parliamentary adjournment on 10 March, members held the Speaker, Sir John Finch, down in his chair so that the dissolving of Parliament could be delayed long enough for resolutions against Catholicism, Arminianism and poundage and tonnage to be read out. The lattermost resolution declared that anyone who paid tonnage or poundage not authorised by Parliament would "be reputed a betrayer of the liberties of England, and an enemy to the same", and, although the resolution was not formally passed, many members declared their approval. Nevertheless, the provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved Parliament the same day. Moreover, eight parliamentary leaders, including John Eliot, were imprisoned on the foot of the matter, thereby turning these men into martyrs, and giving popular cause to a protest that had hitherto been losing its bearings.
Shortly after the proroguing of Parliament, without the means in the foreseeable future to raise funds for a European War from Parliament, or the influence of Buckingham, Charles made peace with France and Spain. The following eleven years, during which Charles ruled without a Parliament, are referred to as the Personal Rule or the Eleven Years' Tyranny.
Further conflicts with Parliament eventually led to the English Civil War. On January 30 1649, Charles I was executed in front of the Banqueting House in Whitehall by the victorious Parliamentarians. I'm not saying it's time to erect a scaffold in front of Queen's Park, but His Majesty Dalton I is certainly acting like he's exercising his Divine Right of Kings. Turn him out immediately. It's time he retired to his manor house and wrote his memoirs.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ontario Gothic

There's a small rural cemetery near the town of Madoc, Ontario where I frequently walk. Named after the O'Hara family which settled the area in the 19th century, it is a moody and atmospheric place at the best of times, but never more so than in the waning days of autumn when the trees are mostly bare and the weather is threatening.





















Part of the cemetery is still actively used, and loved ones still tend the graves and leave flowers.

















The older part of the cemetery, however, is unkempt and unloved and has an abandoned look. The grave stones tilt precariously or have fallen over and are covered in decades of lichen growth.






















At the very back of the graveyard, surrounded by a decrepit cast-iron fence, is a fascinating tombstone. It reads:

ERECTED
BY JOHN DICKIE
OF CHERRYVALE
IN ABERDEENSHIRE
TO COMMEMORATE THE
TRAGICAL DEATH
OF HIS SON
ROBERT DONALD DICKIE
BORN 28TH JULY 1825
AND WAS ROBBED AND
MURDERED
IN HIS OWN HOUSE
10TH JAN 1859
BY SAMUEL PETER BLOCK
ONE OF HIS OWN SERVANTS
WHO WAS TRIED AND CONVICTED
OF THE ROBBERY
AND MURDER
AND EXECUTED 18TH JUNE 1859






















Standing at Robert Donald Dickie's grave I can imagine the whole story - Samuel Block creeping through the house on a stormy January night intent on robbing his employer, perhaps being caught in the act by the surprised owner of the house who was murdered where he stood, candlestick in hand. I imagine the body being later discovered by the victim's father, the subsequent trial of Block with the elder Dickie glowering in the courtroom intent on revenge, the hanging of the convicted killer and the final act of the grieving father memorializing the crime on his son's tombstone forever.

The cemetery always makes me think of how hard life must have been for the first settlers of this area, who left their homes in Cherryvale or other little villages in the Old World, coming to the howling wilderness of Upper Canada looking for a better life. Even today it's a hardscrabble existence for farmers in the northern part of Hastings County trying to eke out a living on the marginal farmland. The area was described by Al Purdy in his famous poem The Country North of Belleville:

Bush land scrub land
        — Cashel Township and Wollaston
Elvezir McClure and Dungannon
green lands of Weslemkoon Lake
where a man might have some
          opinion of what beauty
is and none deny him
          for miles —

Yet this is the country of defeat
where Sisyphus rolls a big stone
year after year up the ancient hills
picnicking glaciers have left strewn
with centuries' rubble
          backbreaking days
          in the sun and rain
when realization seeps slow in the mind
without grandeur or self deception in
         noble struggle
of being a fool —

A country of quiescence and still distance
a lean land
         not like the fat south
with inches of black soil on
         earth's round belly —
And where the farms are
          it's as if a man stuck
both thumbs in the stony earth and pulled

          it apart
          to make room
enough between the trees
for a wife
         and maybe some cows and
          room for some
of the more easily kept illusions —
And where the farms have gone back
to forest
         are only soft outlines
         shadowy differences —
Old fences drift vaguely among the trees
         a pile of moss-covered stones
gathered for some ghost purpose
has lost meaning under the meaningless sky
         — they are like cities under water
and the undulating green waves of time
         are laid on them —

This is the country of our defeat
         and yet
during the fall plowing a man
might stop and stand in a brown valley of the furrows
         and shade his eyes to watch for the same
         red patch mixed with gold
         that appears on the same
         spot in the hills
         year after year
         and grow old
plowing and plowing a ten acre field until
the convolutions run parallel with his own brain —

And this is a country where the young
        leave quickly
unwilling to know what their fathers know
or think the words their mothers do not say —

Herschel Monteagle and Faraday
lakeland rockland and hill country
a little adjacent to where the world is
a little north of where the cities are and
sometime we may go back there
        to the country of our defeat
Wollaston Elvezir and Dungannon
and Weslemkoon lake land
where the high townships of Cashel
       McClure and Marmora once were —
But it's been a long time since
and we must enquire the way
        of strangers —

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This is why I'm a Conservative

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accepting the 2012 World Statesman Award, forcefully articulates core conservative beliefs and argues for a principled foreign policy:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"I am pretty, I guess, evil ... whatever"

I'm not sure what bothers me the most about this shocking crime - the senselessness of it, or the vapid moral vacuum that is the 17 year old killer.

Last week, Texas teenager Jake Evans killed his mother and sister for no apparent reason. The family lives in an exclusive gated community near Dallas, and his parents are both middle-class professionals. He was homeschooled and had never been in trouble with the law before. When he was arrested, Evans' mumbled attempts to explain his crime betray a moral bankruptcy that I'm afraid is not uncommon in young people:
Jake Evans, 17, called 911 to say that he shot and killed his mother and sister with a .22 revolver in the family's Aledo, Texas, home.

"I am pretty, I guess, evil...whatever," he told the police dispatcher, during the 911 call around 12:30 a.m. on Friday. When asked why he killed his mother Jamie, 48, and sister Mallory, 15, Jake explained that he was not even particularly mad at them. "I don't know…it's weird," Jake said. "I wasn't even really angry with them. It just kind of happened. I've been kind of planning on killing for a while now."

But he did eventually stumble through a confused explanation of his motive. "I don't really like people's attitude (sic). They're … verbally rude to each other and stuff like that," the homeschooled teenager said.

Jake was concerned that thoughts of the murders might torment him and asked the dispatcher if she knew of any medications that might help, reported The Dallas Morning News. "I'm really worried about, like, nightmares and stuff like that," he said. "I don't mean to sound like a wimp or anything, but this is, wow, I've never, like, done anything violent in my whole life."
I can think of a dozen teenagers who fit this kid's description: inarticulate, bored, and above all lacking any moral compass whatsoever. Think about that next time you drive by your local high school.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Richland Woman Blues by Maria Muldaur, with John Sebastian on guitar: