The Rants of Issachar

Friday, February 29, 2008

Songwriters Assocation of Canada propses the ridiculous...

I should have commented on this a few days ago, but the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) has added a proposal to the ongoing debate that I can only characterize as mind bogglingly stupid. That they think that it's a "good proposal" and has any chance of being implemented I also find nearly unbelievable. The only explanation I have for it is that they're living in an echo chamber of like minded people and just don't realize how ridiculous the idea sounds to everyone outside their group.

The proposal is pretty simple. The government would put a $5 per month tax on all high speed internet connections and give everyone the right to swap as many songs online as they like. The money would go into a fund that would be distributed to compensate artists/writers/whoever in the proportion that they're being downloaded.

Obvious problems with proposal:
I also heard Eddie Schwartz the acting President of the SAC on the CBC the other day being questioned about the proposal.

A few things stood out:
  1. He didn't mention the "recognized Canadians only" issue. That's just dishonest in my book.
  2. When asked what this would do to online music stores, (a sector that's growing every year), he responded that it was a "good question" before essentially saying that online sales weren't significant enough to matter and therefore it was just too bad that this would destroy that market.
  3. He said that the proposal would give us a situation where all content could be freely & legally downloaded. That's just false. He said "content" and that's not the same thing as music.

The only good thing about this proposal is that it's just too ridiculous to be implemented. At it's core the proposal is that the government force everyone to pay for an entertainment product whether they like it or not. Ridiculous...

:: posted by issachar, 3:08 PM | Permalink | 0 comments | Links to this post

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Publicly funded faith based schools...

Jim Pettit made a comment on Raphael Alexander's post about John Tory that got me thinking.
There's no way that I'll let religious whackos determine what goes into the school system.
It's a pretty reasonable sentiment that I'm sure most people would agree with although they'd tend to differ on who the "religious whackos" were.

I might as well start out by saying that I'm not a seven day creationist, although I obviously believe that God created everything. I find Rikki Watts' lecture on the meaning of Genesis extremely compelling if you're interested.

But back to funding faith based schools. Obviously parents can teach their kids pretty much anything they want to. Equally obviously, society has a interest in universal education which pretty much means we need publicly funded education.

So should parents have a choice in what their children are taught in a publicly funded educational system? Obviously on a wider level in Canada they do. The contents of the public education system are ultimately publicly determined by the government which is dependent on a democratic mandate.

So in a pluralistic society should we have a choice of publicly funded schools and if we do should those schools be allowed to add to the standard curriculum? (I'm excluding the possibility that they should be allowed to deduct from it).

I taught for three years in a partially publicly funded faith based school, so I might have a vested interest here, but it occurs to me that public funding is actually irrelevant to the real question which is: should our society allow minority groups to send their children to schools that teach a different curriculum. I would have the same objections to a hard-core Islamic school that taught the inequality of women and preached jihad against non-Muslims whether it was publicly funded or not.

So why is it reasonable that Christian parents sent their children to the school I taught at, but these hypothetical Muslim parents can't send their children to this hypothetical Islamic school?

I think it ultimately comes down to whether or not the faith based school in question is sufficiently in line with the values we collectively want to instill in our children. Of course this question applies to secular public schools as well. One of the primary objections many parents have to public schools is that they believe the schools are attempting to instill values they don't share. Now if the parents values are out of step with our generally shared cultural values, I don't have a lot of sympathy. Where I have a lot of sympathy is when educators are attempting to instill values they think society should have rather than values it actually does have.

The sentiment behind the Jesuit saying "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man," is either encouraging or very, very threatening depending on who is saying it. Educators who believe in public education need to remember this.

:: posted by issachar, 11:25 AM | Permalink | 5 comments | Links to this post

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Canadians Debating Canadians. (For a change)

It occurred to me this morning that with all this Afghanistan debate, there's something missing that always seemed to be there a year or so ago. That's the Canadian campaign against George Bush. For ages it seemed as though the strategy of the Canadian left in criticizing the Conservative government on anything was to briefly equate Harper with Bush and then campaign against Bush rather than the Conservatives. Up here we call that shooting fish in a barrel.

I suppose it's because the American media focus is on the Democratic primaries, but whatever the reason I'm glad to see the end of Bush derangement syndrome in Canadian politics. (Or at least a serious decline).

I also find it entertaining that it goes without saying that the "Canadian" choice for President would be Obama or Clinton rather than a Republican or "none of the above". Up here Obama & Clinton would likely be too far right on our sacred cow issues to make it in politics at all. Of course the divide between the Canadian centre-left and the US Democrats has always been a lot larger we admit. I'm reminded of when I saw Bill Clinton speak when he was in Kelowna. He specifically thanked Canada for our contributions in Afghanistan and urged us to maintain our military commitment. Not exactly a position of the Canadian left, but I digress...

:: posted by issachar, 7:52 PM | Permalink | 2 comments | Links to this post

Monday, February 11, 2008

What the....

I just had a moment where I'm convinced I must be reading the news wrong.

Did the Archibishop of Canterbury really say that bringing parts of sharia into British law was unavoidable? Apparently yes.

I knew I should have had my headphones with me when I was watching TV on the treadmill yesterday. I saw the Archbishop on TV, but I can't really read lips on a tiny screen while running...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that adopting sharia law is a bad idea. I'm sure that there's more nuance to what Mr. Williams said or intended to say, but I would have thought that when being asked about Sharia you might generally comment on how it's incompatible with British law, (or even Western ethics) in many substantial respects. If you're going to behave like a politician, you'd better expect to be questioned like one.

I'm also going to throw it out there that maybe having an official state church is a bad idea. (Or at least a bit of an anachronism). Separation of church and state... Now where have I heard that before?


Update: Feb. 19th 6:17pm
Father Raymond De Souza wrote an interesting editorial in the National Post about this. I should have posted it sooner.

:: posted by issachar, 11:02 PM | Permalink | 2 comments | Links to this post

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Writing to parliament...

I believe in Canadian democracy. I also believe that the internet holds the promise of improving Canadian democracy particularly in how we communicate with our representatives.

That's why I write to my representatives. I get mixed results. My first letter to Svend Robinson who was my MP at the time received no response at all. My more recent letters about our upcoming copyright law Senators Ross Fitzpatrick, Pat Carney, Mobina Jaffer, my MP Stockwell Day, and Jim Prentice who is the minister responsible elicted a response only from Senator Ross Fitzpatrick who subsequently announced his retirement. (Ms. Carney retired in December and I didn't hear until after I sent the letter). Interestingly I sent e-mails to the Senators and Canada Post letters to the MP's and it was the e-mail that got a response. A later e-mail to Stockwell Day's office about the his office's mailings in my mailbox got a very prompt and personal reply from one of his staffers which seems to contradict the received wisdom that e-mail gets ignored, but mail with a stamp gets read.

So I'm reverting to e-mail. It's better anyway. Since I still don't have any response from Mr. Prentice & Mr. Day about the copyright I've rewritten my letters as e-mails. (I think I've waited long enough for a reply to a letter I mailed on December 12th.

If you haven't read up on the copyright issue, I strongly encourage you to do so and to write to your MP. This isn't some geek issue that doesn't affect you. It does affect you.

:: posted by issachar, 11:45 AM | Permalink | 0 comments | Links to this post

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Who wants an election?

Not me! And if you believe them, neither do any of our politicians. So why all this talk about an election? If you listen to the Conservative commentators it's the Liberals who will force an election if they don't sign on the confidence motions in the house, if you listen to the Liberal commentators it's Conservatives who are trying to engineer their own defeat with those motions.

So which is it? I don't have a crystal ball that tells me what Mr. Harper, Mr. Dion and the rest really think, but I do have some comments that I think I can defend.
  1. Having motions of confidence on matters that are fundamental to the Conservative agenda is not necessarily unreasonable.
  2. How "reasonable" that motion isn't primarily a function of how willing they are to compromise with the opposition.
The Conservatives have a minority government so they will need to compromise more than they would if they had a majority, but they are still the governing party and they are still conservatives.

The crime bill is a fundamental piece of Conservative legislation. It's also a piece of Conservative legislation that the house passed. It's being held up by the Liberals in the Senate and if it stays there until the end of the current session, it will not become law. They don't have to kill it, they just have to sit on it.

I'm aware that the purpose of our unelected senate is to provide a "sober second look", but it's been more than two months, and I think it's pretty safe to assume that the Senators were sober for most of that time.

The Senators don't appreciate being told to pass it or else, but the fact is that the Senate lacks the credibility of an elected legislature because the entire body is simply a roomful of political patronage appointments. They are not the house of commons and they don't have the electoral mandate to hold up legislation. Get on with the show and let's move on to the next piece of legislation.

As for the Afghanistan file, the Conservatives have made their position clear after the Manley report. They want a continued presence in Afghanistan that consists partially of combat troops as long as we get some significant help from a NATO ally. The NDP want an end to any and all combat operations and they're up front about it. The Conservatives had laid down their vision for Afghanistan and the NDP have laid down theirs. These two visions aren't exactly compatible and one is going to have to be Canada's. The Liberals have to decide which one they want because Canada has to have a position.

This is a reasonable matter for a confidence motion because it involves extending combat operations for Canadian troops. This is a serious issue and the Liberals have to decide what they want. The problem for Mr. Dion is that there are Liberals who support the Manley report and Liberals hold the NDP view the issue and he's trying to make them both happy. It cannot be done. Simply not dealing with it and letting both sides believe that their view was the Liberal view worked for a while, but that isn't a long term strategy.

Personally I hope the Liberals vote to accept the Manley report as government policy and move on from there. It's the right thing to do.

:: posted by issachar, 9:32 AM | Permalink | 1 comments | Links to this post

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Omar Khadr

Raphael Alexander has an excellent post over on his site about Omar Khadr. I think he does a fantastic job of summing up the apathy a lot of people feel about Khadr and why we feel that way. It's sad really. There just isn't a happy ending to this story.

I left my own comment, but you really should read Raphael's post first. Of course not everyone sees it this way judging from the comments over at Canadian Cynic.

Still, I think it's a good post. Collectively we don't care about Khadr and this is why.

I'm supposed to love my enemies, but I don't. I can honestly say that I don't hate anybody which is better than some, but that isn't that standard I was given to live up to. I'm supposed to love them.

Update: 2010-01-29: Adrian has updated his post and moved his blog. Here's the current link.

:: posted by issachar, 11:03 PM | Permalink | 3 comments | Links to this post

Free Speech is liberal value...

The free speech issue and the so-called "human rights" tribunals are still making news. I'm a little behind here, but if you don't already know Liberal MP Keith Martin introduced a private members motion calling for subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act to be deleted.

It's about time!

Of course not everyone is happy. Warren Kinsella thinks it's a bad idea, and he points to a post with a very long set of comments on Jason Cherniak's blog. Now it's one thing if Kinsella and a political blogger and a party official think that Mr. Martin is wrong, but I'm very disappointed to find out that Liberal Party leader Stephané Dion agrees and has asked Martin to withdraw the motion.

I'm really not a died in the wool Conservative voter. In many ways I'm a liberal. (Which is more than you can say for Stephané Dion on this issue). Seriously. Does the leader of the Liberal party even know what liberalism is? Here's a hint Mr. Dion: It is the political ideology that is primarily concerned with individual liberty! Freedom of speech is fundamental to liberalism.

What I find most frustrating about this issue is the fact that some people who I know are quite intelligent and educated, (and who have told me they don't wish to be named on my blog), seem to think that there should be legal consequences to saying or publishing things that simply upset people. This has nothing to do with whether or not things should be said. (The legal right to do something doesn't imply you should do it). This is about whether or not it should be illegal to say certain things.

I'm also frustrated by this seemingly pervasive sophism that action and speech are the same thing. (i.e. To insult someone is to assault them). There's a few examples in the comments on Jason Cherniak's post, but this is one of the more direct. Playing games with words can be fun, but it doesn't make speech into assault. Yes, I know that there are phrases like "an assault on the senses" in English, but that doesn't mean the man on the bus "attacked" you with his 14 day old body odour. We all know there's a difference between words and actions, and I'm disgusted that people who call themselves liberal would pretend that there isn't.

:: posted by issachar, 10:17 PM | Permalink | 2 comments | Links to this post

Friday, February 01, 2008

Update on Ezra Levant and the "Human Rights" Commission...

I posted this a couple of weeks ago about Ezra Levant getting hauled up in front of Alberta's so-called "Human Rights" commission for printing those Muhammad cartoons in the Western Standard.

I also read an interesting post on Mr. Levant's blog last night.
I think the commission is in a bit of a pickle: if they prosecute me, they will precipitate another storm of public derision, and perhaps even political action. But if they acquit me -- in the face of my bald-faced contempt for them, and my de facto plea of "guilty!" -- they consent to their own abuse, and set a precedent for others called before them.
Contempt would indeed be the word to describe it. It was a very smart move to tape the interrogation. Personally I think this whole episode shows that we need to rethink the whole idea of Human Rights Commissions in Canada. They're a noble idea, but the practical implementation, (and implications), are lousy.

I also gather from the quote that Mr. Levant isn't technically being prosecuted by the commission, only investigated. Unfortunately, in the case of human rights commissions, that's a distinction without a difference. Human Rights Inquiries are quasi-legal proceedings without the normal protections for the accused that we have in our legal system. So if someone is being investigated, they need to defend themselves.

:: posted by issachar, 7:32 AM | Permalink | 0 comments | Links to this post