Goodbye Section 13, we knew ye too well

Posted June 11th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

The news that parliament will soon repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been mostly welcomed by both left and right leaning supporters alike. While previously persecuted victims like Ezra Levant and Marc Lemire are naturally happy to see the door hit Section 13′s butt on the way out, there are plenty of voices in the media who agree.

Jonathan Kay of the National Post writes that the legislation is outdated and the “object of mockery.” The Chronicle Herald writes that the anti-free speech legislation was “administered through a quasi-judicial tribunal system which denies those accused the robust tools they should have to defend themselves.” Even the Toronto Star argues that given the existing legal safeguards against vilifying speech, “it’s hard to see why the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) also should be in the business of handing out fines.”

I agree, as I think most reasonable people do. It was time to send this absurdly vague law packing, and all the attendant bureaucracy with it. But as I think you know, when we’re on the subject of politics not everybody will agree. And those who don’t agree are made up of a rather predictable demographic.

Warren Kinsella, who ironically writes for a rightwing news syndicate, wrote a diatribe that led with a series of racially charged and homophobic epithets. For effect, I suppose, though it could also have been just an opportunity to write the word “nigger” and get away with it. The basis of his argument is that without Section 13 of the CHRA, we’re all going to hear a lot more of that word than we did before. Which I think if you’ve ever visited a YouTube channel, you know is utter nonsense.

Whether or not there’s legislation prohibiting those words from being spoken or written, they’re being thought by people. That’s a simple fact. All that, of course, and worse. Though Kinsella keeps his spectrum of victims of hate speech limited to those people who have been what you might call “historically persecuted minorities,” you can be assured there are plenty of white Christian males who have heard their share of hatred.

The insidious notion that you can hide racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination by forbidding the speech out loud is akin to the proverbial dust hidden under the rug. It still exists, it’s still being said, only now it’s whispered and thought and shared in private. And I don’t see how it serves a society to prosecute people for saying something but not for thinking it. Without digressing into the thought crime argument, there isn’t any purpose to it.

And the fact that Kinsella’s argument isn’t even convincing for the Toronto Star should probably tell you something. The legislation and associated kangaroo courts installed to keep the justice aren’t even hauling in racists and homophobes anymore. Now it’s cases like the one where an obese woman was fighting with a woman with a dislocated shoulder in her sixties over who has more right to a strata condo handicapped parking space. God have mercy (though it should be noted the tribunals don’t care if you damn God, whether that’s likely to cause offence or not).

As people like Ezra Levant have successfully argued, whether or not something is likely to cause somebody offence is pretty irrelevant. People are likely to cause offence to other people every single day they live and breath of this Earth. It’s kind of part of the deal you get when you take your first breath and begin squalling in the birthing room, your piteous cries an offence to every person of decent hearing within ear shot.

I would also like to point to another veteran of the HRCs, Mark Steyn, who argued a ban on hating someone or something is absurd. If mankind is given to extremes of emotion, then the polarization of love is hatred. We wouldn’t think to legislate against falling in love, since such a thing is widely viewed as involuntary and emotional. So why is hatred viewed so dispassionately? And what makes anybody think it’s a good thing to demand somebody not hate something?

The argument that hate is a vehicle to violence has merit, but hatred isn’t in and of itself violence. Nor does the potentiality for causing something render it probable to cause it. I think we can all agree that the socially normative attitudes and behaviours in our society has a far greater corrective and effective method of changing attitudes of hatred and dislike than a million human rights commissions ever could.

A no-zero policy society only breeds zeroes

Posted June 10th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair


Photo credit: EDMONTON, ALTA.: MAY 31, 2012 – Ross Sheppard high school teacher Lynden Dorval is suspended for going against the school’s no-zero policy when grading students’ tests. Photo taken on May 31, 2012 in Edmonton. (Rick MacWilliam, EDMONTON JOURNAL)

By now you’ve probably read about the Edmonton school teacher who broke school policy by giving a zero to students who refused to hand in their work. I wish I could say I was surprised to learn he’s since been suspended by the school board, but sadly it’s all too expected. Our coddling of the bubble wrap generation has degenerated to such a degree that we shield them from everything in life, including the harsh truth of their mediocrity and uselessness.

I think I’m a pretty reasonable person and I try and understand the rationale behind any rule or policy before I pass judgement on it. The thinking behind the policy is that failing to complete assignments is a behavioural issue and marks should reflect ability, not behaviour. And I suppose that might make sense in academia, but we’re not preparing children for a life in academia. We’re preparing them for the real world, where behvaioural issues result in a loss of income, employment and socioeconomic stature.

Simply put, if you refuse to do work in the real world, you’re sent packing. In fact, in many places just refusing to give a full effort of your abilities can result in termination. The harsh reality of losing your job in a weak economy is worse than the reality of handing out a zero to a student who decided a test or an assignment wasn’t worth doing. And not handing out a zero to a student who deserves it is doing a disservice to every other student who actually tries, despite whatever shortcomings or lack of ability they might possess.

Being judged mediocre despite having great talent is not without precedent. A person can have all of the intelligence, ability and skill in the world, but when talent refuses to work hard then hard work beats talent every time. And most employers would rather keep a less talented person with good work ethic and reliability than one who relies on ability to overcome a sense of entitlement and laziness.

I fear that schools have lost focus on what the point of education is really for. We’re not just teaching children how to think, a revolutionary concept that took flight in the sixties and seventies with the advent of social responsibility and “queer musicology” courses, but have we forgotten to teach them how to prepare for the real world?

Most kids who graduate from high school don’t know the first thing about getting a job, managing money, or paying taxes. They don’t know about investments, savings, or preparing for retirement. There’s no game plan, so many of them fall flat on their faces, expecting society to pick them back up, brush them off, and apologize for failing them. That’s basically what the school has done by suspending Lynden Dorval for handing out zeroes. It’s not the fault of the failures, it’s societies fault for nurturing an attitude of failure.

Just look at the self-righteous, clinically delusional students protesting some of the lowest tuition rates in the western world in Quebec. Where is it written that the world owes anybody a free education? And where is it written that your education should take precedence over things like balancing the provincial budget, keeping services and people from being cut in the public sector? Have any of these people the slightest notion of what the real world beyond our borders is like?

There are countries in Asia and Africa where students go to school under the trying conditions of risking murder from marauding militias. There are kids who struggle to rise above the crowd and stand out by being exceptional, since they realize only a very tiny number will go on in their education to jobs that will pay enough to sustain a living. In these countries a student wouldn’t dare miss an assignment because of “behavioural issues” and if they did it’s likely because they were absent that day when they got killed in a suicide bombing.

I’ll be the first to admit that an unforgiving school system doesn’t work either. When I was struggling in high school I never received the kid gloves treatment that might have turned me around. After dropping out of high school it took me years of abject poverty and suffering to realize my great mistake. By then it was too late. The world had failed to realize my great potential and was busily ignoring me between the cracks of the sidewalk of society. For years I kept waiting for the world to own up to its mistake, but I waited in vain.

Kids need zeroes for refusing to do work. But they also need to be taught the harsh realities of what that zero entails. A person without a proper education will suffer tenfold whatever troubles they think they’re going through in academia. Whether the solution to that is taking them on a tour of minimum wage places of employment and single-occupancy rooming houses downtown, I don’t know. But I know that’s what truly awaits the kids who benefit from the “no-zero” policy.

Related

We need more of the “you are not special” reality checks for students.

Failing vicariously through my children

Posted June 10th, 2012 in Personal by Adrian MacNair

[Note - This post was written June 6 but the server went down 10 minutes later and stayed down for four days so I'm bumping the timestamp to June 10.]

“I’ve enroled Jude in Little League,” she said casually.
“Oh yeah,” I answered, not really hearing.
“Yeah, you’ll have to take him.”
“Sure.”
“If I left it up to you he would never play anything.”
The subtle jab had woken me up.
“What do you mean?”
“What I said. You never do anything with him.”
“That’s not true.”

But it was. He’d never played sports and he was now 10. Could it really be possible? How could a decade have gone by already? Wasn’t 2001 only yesterday?

Oh, certainly, I’d made feeble attempts to get him into sports before. Well, I suppose that was my wife as well. When he was six or seven he was enroled in Lacrosse, but that ended when I uprooted the family and moved to British Columbia.

I think he played a little soccer, but it wasn’t a league with games.
I tried to get him into rock climbing once, but when I took him to the cliff he shrieked like a girl until I was forced to climb up and rescue him. He never showed any interest again.

That’s the way of it with everything. My son is intellectually gifted but has little interest in the physical side of life. I’m not using the word gifted in the figurative sense either. We had him tested a few years back and his IQ is absurdly high.

I have to admit, however, it bothers me he doesn’t like to get a little dirty and do the silly, reckless things 10-year-old boys like to do. When I was his age I rode my bike in crazy and dangerous ways, climbed trees to the topmost branches, played hockey and lacrosse and threw all manner of balls around every free moment I got.

My wife came back from the store with a ball and a glove. The ball was soft rubber and pink, the glove too small, made of unyielding synthetic materials. I could see it was no good.

I headed outside with my son. Could this be the first time I was throwing a ball around with my son? At the age of 10? What kind of a shitty parent was I, anyway?

From the first throw I cringed. He throws like a girl, I thought to myself. This is a disaster. Practice did not immediately improve things. His throwing and catching were horrible. Beyond bad, it was statistically impossible to be this terrible at such a simple pastime.

We went and got a new baseball glove, this time made of leather. Something that had once lived and was now dead, its skin would be the training ground of my son’s hand-to-eye coordination.

His catching improved immediately, but his throwing remained awkward. It confused me a little bit, actually. Now that I thought about it, my dad never threw a ball around with me either. I had learned these things in school, playing handball or foot hockey a million times behind the school, using a jean jacket as an impromptu goalie glove.

Perhaps schools no longer let children play with balls, fearing they might experience the joy and pain of either scoring a goal or getting a ball in the teeth. Damned schools.

When he went out for Little League I told the coaches he had never played before. The tryouts would determine whether he would play with kids his own age in the minors (10-12) or with the little kids who were just learning like him in rookies (7-9). He was placed in rookies.

My boy towered over the other kids as he ran onto the field, trying and failing to catch the ball and trying and failing to throw it back. But that was ok. Everybody else was terrible, too. Nobody could really manage the task of stopping an infield drive from passing by them, picking it up, and throwing it to first before a runner arrived. In fact it was a challenge to keep a kid off second or third if truth be told.

In that sense these kids were all symbolically playing positions since the odds of securing an “out” were remote to nil. Thankfully the pitching machine did the striking out now and then.

Our team started out ok, winning a few games right off the bat. The scores were absurd for three and four innings, with 15-12 and 11-10. Thankfully there was a 5-run mercy limit per inning, which kept children and parents alike from feeling like this had all been a big mistake.

I had to admit, this was pretty fun to watch. I’d never really watched my son do sports before, so I was beginning to get the whole “I want to vicariously through my kids because I’m too old to do this now” thing. But I also understood the “I want to scream at these kids to wake up and use their brains” when they would field a ball and then stand there and watch the other team round the bases, helpless as to where they might throw the ball.

The season was full of ups and downs, and the playoffs finally came. We finished in second place and we were set to play the red team in the first game.

It was a disappointing game to say the least. My son struck out and grounded out with the bases loaded twice. He’d never really figured out how to bat properly and his stance kept changing. I kept waiting for him to get his first hit out of the infield but it never came. He was older than everybody on his team, but it was clear his athletic maturity was well behind. We lost 15-7.

On the way home I lectured my son about not caring enough, screwing up in the clutch, dropping the ball, robbing his teammates of victory. He got defensive. My wife got mad.
“Why are you bending your knees when you swing?”
“I’m not.”
“You are, I told you that you are. It’s in the hips. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“I got a hit the last time.”
“No, you didn’t. Hitting the ball isn’t a hit. You were out at first base. You stranded three runners.”
He didn’t understand.

The next game was the real dealbreaker. They took an early lead 4-0 and my son struck out with the bases loaded again. Although he struck out again later, it seemed to be ok. We were winning 14-7 headed into the bottom of the fifth inning. We just needed to hold the seven run lead to close out of the bottom of the sixth and there might be some playoff glory for Jude.

It was not to be. The fifth inning started out with a series of errors, and when the five-run mercy rule was called it was 14-12. Although we scored two in the top of the sixth, I somehow already knew it wasn’t going to be enough. They lost in the bottom of the sixth 17-16. Devastation.

My black mood was so fierce I couldn’t speak to my son. Within a half hour he was laughing and playing at home while within me the storm raged. When dinner was called I took the food and slopped it on my plate, throwing the serving spoon down unceremoniously with the plate.
What was wrong with me? Wasn’t this what I wanted for my son?

To experience success, yes. But not failure. I didn’t want him to know of what it felt like to have everything slip from your fingers in the blink of an eye, to walk from the field in shame because he hadn’t been good enough. And the fact he didn’t seem to care made it all the worse. He should be feeling what I’m feeling. He’s the one who should be depressed and enraged. Why wasn’t he?

Because it didn’t matter to him. It only mattered to him that it mattered to me. Beyond that he was just having fun, which as the saying goes, is the whole point. Perhaps not to me, but perhaps I was the problem.

When I became a father I knew this moment would come and I dreaded it. That may be why I didn’t put my son in sports, so he would never experience the let-downs and the failures and the blowouts I experienced in sports. The self-doubts and self-confidence slipping away with every subsequent act of futility. I only played on in search of the fleeting moments of glory betwixt agony.

But losing wasn’t having the same effect on my son, I saw. Actually the only negative effect on my son was my own reaction and his self-doubt and confidence was diminished by me and not the game itself.

Part of living vicariously through your children is in recognizing what it is that they take delight in, not forcing them to do what you believe they should enjoy. It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart. I’m not a bad father for starting him in sports at the age of 10. I’m a bad father for damning him because of it.

A close call with a degenerate reprobate

Posted May 4th, 2012 in Personal by Adrian MacNair

I ranted about this before when my car was broken into but it bears repeating. Today, while I was at work, my wife walked into our house to discover an intruder. He fled out the back door just as my wife got inside and it took a few moments before she realized it wasn’t me she was seeing but a stranger.

The man couldn’t have been in the apartment for very long since he only stole a laptop cable and a Nintendo DSi. He also took my wife’s cigarettes on the way out but I’m not torn up about that one. The laptop was literally right there for the taking but luckily he didn’t reach for it.

This bastard had gained entry through a bedroom window that didn’t lock properly. He went into the children’s room and searched their underwear drawer for reasons unknown, moved a desk and knocked over a lamp. Considering how little damage he did and how little he stole he couldn’t have been here for longer than literally a minute.

The police dusted for fingerprints but determined he must have been wearing gloves and my wife didn’t get a look at his face because he was wearing a hoodie. I suppose he’s not only a reprobate but a well-prepared reprobate.

Look, here’s the thing. This is what bothers me more than losing possessions. It’s the laziness of theft. I’ve experienced extreme poverty. I’ve known what it’s like to have nothing and to work for minimum wage. Going out and stealing would have been easy. And also gutless.

I live in a 2-bedroom apartment and my kids share a room. I don’t have much money. We live mostly hand-to-mouth. I never owned a laptop until I went to school in 2010 and it was the cheapest money could buy. The Nintendo was a gift from my brother. Aside from that we have a few meager possessions. I drive a 15-year-old car. It’s obvious this is a lower class family home.

So why rob me? I mean, I don’t want anyone robbed but why would this degenerate scum rob from people who clearly have next to nothing? Because it’s easy? That must be it since my wife’s friend was similarly robbed by a mechanic she had used and who came back to her house while she was out to steal her laptop.

In the ancient times society used to disfigure thieves, even in Europe. At first they wouldn’t amputate limbs. They’d simply scar their faces as a warning to others. Seems fair to me. Let’s tattoo the faces of these people so the world will always know the dishonorable wretched bastards who walk among us preying on the poor.

Adventures in Journalism

Posted April 28th, 2012 in Personal by Adrian MacNair

I enjoy being a municipal reporter. That’s because on a local level I think it’s probably the easiest way to practice unbiased journalism, particularly if you don’t even live in the community in which you report. That happens to be the case for me, so it certainly allows me to report on subjects that would nearly be impossible to become invested in or inappropriately attached.

I suspect the heat grows as you report for larger municipalities, like a Toronto or a Vancouver newspaper. And once you begin reporting provincially or federally, it’s got to be difficult to please all of the people all of the time. Eventually someone, somewhere is going to think your newspaper articles are written favouring one side.

Reporting in a community where you don’t live is pretty much the heart of journalism. You don’t really know the place as well as somebody who lives there. And that’s partly a good thing, since it allows you to stand back and look at things objectively. You don’t necessarily care if some gigantic event is going to change things for better or worse since it doesn’t affect you.

Similarly, journalism is about reporting on events and things that you only have a superficial understanding about. Today I might have to write about municipal taxes and tomorrow I might have to write about a musician touring through town.

I don’t own a house so I don’t really know much about municipal taxes, and there’s a high probability I’ve never listened to the music of the band, but with a little research and some interviews I can become an expert for a day. It’s enough to help people understand the basics and then leave them the prerogative to dig deeper.

This whole process works for me. Something is happening, I find out what it is, I ask experts what they think, I print the story. Nowhere in that process do I really need to worry about what I think, other than trying to evaluate where the balance of sides might exist in a dispute. For instance, a new commercial development will have supporters and opponents and it’s important to get both sides.

But if there’s one thing that I believe has affected me after one year in journalism, it is the attitude some people have with regards to what other people are allowed to do with their own property. It’s not that I’m “pro-development” so much as I feel the whole “NIMBY” attitude is frustrating to deal with. And what’s worse is that if you don’t share sympathy with the NIMBYists, then you get the sense that they feel you’re against them. When the truth is I don’t care.

For example, the municipality I report in receives a large number of development applications. Some of them are big developments that affect the whole community and I can understand why people have reservations and want to voice their opposition.

But many of them involve modest changes where the owner of some land wants to subdivide his property and build new homes. Other applications just ask for variances to their property to build another structure, like a secondary dwelling or a coach house in the back.

It irritates me when people actually believe they have the right to get upset about what somebody else does to their own house or property. I think it’s bad enough you need to get permits and pass environmental inspections to make changes to your own property, but when other people decide to butt in I just don’t get it.

What business is it of theirs? Why do homeowners have to worry about what other people think? Why do people care how many trees get cut down on a piece of land that doesn’t belong to them?

I think the concept of property rights and land ownership is now so weakened in Canada that we all honestly believe we have the right to block other people from doing whatever they want to do. And to make things worse, I often hear complaints about how a proposal will ruin the neighbourhood, when it sounds exactly like the one I’m living in.

It’s almost a denial of reality and acceptance of how the rest of the world lives. If people don’t want things to ever change maybe they should move to the great barrens of northern Canada. Then they’d have nobody to worry about, and nothing bad will ever happen to the surrounding landscape.

Unambig daily digest: Issue 4

Posted April 11th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Yes, it’s a book igloo. Good for surviving in the harsh elements of a public library.

And it’s not even an episode of the Walking Dead

A baby, presumed stillborn, revives after 12 hours in a refrigerated morgue after the mother demands to see her one last time.

Well, it’s good to see we can agree on what’s important

Canada and Denmark have come to a deal that would split the contentious Hans Island, a barren piece of Arctic rock in the middle of nowhere in particular. The uninhabited island will be divided in half, presumably so that puffins can enjoy the benefits of universal health care.

No, I won’t be quiet, wanna fight about it?

You will soon be able to drink alcohol in B.C. movie theatres. Which based on my experience at hockey and baseball games should be roaring success. Nothing bad has ever come out of having alcohol at those venues.

“I don’t give quotes for fear of being misquoted,” he said.

As a writer, I can’t understand the point of plagiarizing anybody. Certainly, I’m no Gene Weingarten, but I enjoy writing in my own distinct style and using my own peculiar vocabulary. Although if you’re going to plagiarize anybody in the google era, you should at least make an attempt to jumble up the story a little bit.

Now this is a good advertisement

The CBC might want to take notes.

Yes, it’s yet another article about the Titanic

But it’s not just any article. It’s by Daniel Mendelsohn of the New Yorker, and the story is well-researched, well-crafted, and above all very compelling. By the by, does anyone recall singing this song at summer camp?

Irony of ironies, Gloria Stuart, the woman who played 100-year-old Rose Dawson in James Cameron’s epic Titanic in 1997, died in 2010 at the age of… 100. She was two years old when the Great Ship went down.

The day evil was defeated

It was 67 years ago today that the Nazi death camp Buchenwald near Weimar, Germany, was liberated by the US 9th Armored Infantry Battalion. The soldiers found 21,000 emaciated survivors:

“As we got close to the camp and saw what was inside… a terrible, terrible fear and horror entered our hearts. We thought, what is this? Where are we going? Why are we here? And as you got closer to the camp and started to enter the camp and saw these human skeletons walking around—old men, young men, boys, just skin and bone, we thought, what are we getting into? ”

—A Canadian airman’s recollection of his arrival at Buchenwald

Unambig daily digest: Issue 3

Posted April 10th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

All the news not fit to print, but works in a pinch when you’re out of toilet paper.

Lorena Bobbitt has some new competition

This puts new meaning to the term “got you by the balls.” Or perhaps it’s the old meaning after all.

Christians versus atheists: Round 3

First, Christians put up a sign in a park reading: “Jesus died for our sins.” The sign was soon attended by a second sign reading: “Nobody died for our sins. Jesus Christ is a myth.” Score: 1-1. And then the atheist sign disappeared altogether.

The power of music

This is a beautiful, sad, wonderful video about the way music can act to heal people, or at the very least to restore some part of our humanity. The good stuff is about four minutes in so don’t get sidetracked and put off by the slow start.

How many thoughtless and stupid people are there in the world?

The answer is a lot.

God bless artists

This video shows a time-lapsed movie of an artist creating a water colour drawing. It is a beautiful and rather moving image in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. I could swear those eyes were real.

Like a trolling stone

I’m not sure if this is parody, but Ben Shapiro of Breitbart.com has a list of the top 10 most overrated songs of all time. And it’s basically a who’s who list of songs that could probably be on anybody’s top 10 list, including such untouchable classics as Stairway to Heaven, London Calling, and Satisfaction (although honestly, the last one does get annoying after the first 10,000 plays).

But the blasphemy to say that Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone is “lazy and stupid” is profoundly ironic. A lazier, stupider comment could not be made of one of America’s most celebrated poets of the past 50 years. It isn’t Bob Dylan’s fault that Shapiro isn’t bright enough to appreciate lyrical genius.

This could have been Obama’s “My Pet Goat” moment

We interrupt this breaking news event of a terrorist attack to give you a presidential rendition of Where The Wild Things Are. And in the event you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth checking out Christopher Walken’s version.

If you like guns, you’ll love this

From theblaze.com, the six top newest guns Israel could avail themselves of should a war break out with Iran. Or, anybody else silly enough to mess with Israel.

What are the two most offensive sounds you can think of?

If you said bongos and bagpipes, you’re right. I think perhaps my ancestors left Scotland in the first place to get away from bagpipes. I can’t be sure, of course, but it’s a safe bet.

Dredging the outhouse of news journalism

It’s bad enough that journalists feel the need to report on how much the mayor of Toronto says he weighs. But when the man pushing this contrivance of news doesn’t even show up to his regularly scheduled photo-op, you’d think the press in Toronto could find something else to write about. I said you’d think that. But you’d be wrong.

The blood-letting at the CBC begins

Gone are new 88 jobs, the cancellation of Connect, which airs on CBC News Network, and the radio show Dispatches, which will take effect in June, documentaries will be reduced and the South American and Africa bureaus will be closed.

Chances of the CBC making changes to programming and content that will cause viewers to tune in, thus driving up revenues, and enabling the Mother Corp to rehire these people and reopen closed foreign bureaus? Probably zero.

Unambig daily digest: Issue 2

Posted April 9th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

For those of you who work for the government, Happy Easter Monday. I hope you enjoyed your day off. For the rest of the world, belated Happy Easter Friday. For those of you who are devout Christians, I suppose the happy day was the Monday and not the Friday.

And now, following up on yesterday’s wildly popular and successful list of useless links and trivial information:

The Titanic has nothing on the MV Dona Paz

If you’ve read about or watched James Cameron’s sloppy lovefest about the Titanic, you might, quite wrongly, believe that it was history’s great maritime disaster. To quote George Costanza, the Titanic “eased into the water like an old man into a nice warm bath” in comparison to the 1987 maritime disaster in the Phillipines when the MV Dona Paz creamed into the MT Vector fuel tanker and created a rain of fiery death on the ocean.

Checklist of horror:

1. Ridiculous number of people perished.
2. Almost no survivors whatsoever.
3. Both ships caught on fire.
4. The ocean caught on fire.
5. There were no lifejackets.
6. No rescue came for 16 hours.
7. The ocean was known for man-eating sharks.
8. The disaster is believed to have killed 1,000 children under the age 4.

Canada’s F-35 fiasco is about par for the course

From the esteemed Matthew Fisher comes an op-ed about sole source fighter jet contracts and the reality of military procurements. The salient bit:

Let’s live in the real world. Unless Canada decides drastically to change its defence strategy and becomes pacifist and isolationist, we will continue, as we have done for a century, to commit ourselves to military alliances and partnerships to further our national interests. To be worthy allies and partners we have to be more than peacekeepers uttering platitudes — the bulwark of the Liberal defence strategy for years.

Basically, we need to spend the money to keep up with the Joneses. Or in this case, with our allies in NATO. Although I think the possibility of conflict with Russia or China in 20 years is remote, Fisher hits most of the nails on the head.

(via the esteemed Mark Collins)

And here you though 3 1/2″ floppy disks didn’t have a purpose in a modern world

The link.

An early candidate for mother of the year?

Texting and driving is darwinistic enough. This San Diego mother did it while driving with her baby in her lap and her kids in the back seat without seat belts on.

No n-word and f-word for this CNN reporter

The direct quote comes at 1:55.

As always, YouTube commenters live up to their reputation:

Let’s do this all over again in a few years

In the event that hell freezes over and the NDP are ever elected to federal government, Thomas Mulcair would like very much to restore the gun registry. I can foresee a series of taxpayer-wasting games of legislative pong here, with the Conservatives scrapping the registry and then every few years the Liberals and NDP bringing it right back again in the same way they’ve been doing with the Court Challenges Program.

The CBC is the great protector of American culture in Canada

An excerpt from a very lengthy piece entitled “Salvaging the Unsalvageable: The Inside Story of Richard Stursberg and CBC TV”:

The CBC seems never to have been comfortable with the idea that its television mandate should be to create and exhibit distinctively Canadian entertainment shows. At the height of its power and wealth, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, its prime-time schedule featured almost no Canadian drama or comedy. Instead, prime time was a mix of U.S. entertainment shows, with Canadian news, documentaries and public affairs filling up the schedule. This was surprising not simply because the CBC made little or no attempt to address English Canada’s greatest cultural challenge, but also because—even then—there was no shortage of Canadian news available elsewhere.

Do yourself a favour and read the entire piece.

(via Jesse Ferreras)

This is why the death penalty is a superb idea

You’ll have to take my word for it that if you have any lingering doubts that rapists should receive swift and permanent justice, download the podcast for The Moth from March 26 entitled “Barbara Wiener.” You’ll linger no longer.

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Unambig daily digest: Issue 1

Posted April 8th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Just a collection of links, pictures and esoterica.

Because this excuse works so well with the wife

I really thought the Conservatives were going to find a deep hole on this one, hide inside for a while and scuttle the F-35 fiasco where nobody could find it. But instead you’ve got defence minister Peter MacKay coming on television in order to make some ridiculous claim that the $10 billion discrepancy between the government figures and the auditor general is “a different interpretation” of accounting.

Oy vey. This is pretty shoddy excuse-making, Peter. If this were an excuse-making competition and I were one of the judges, I’d give that swan dive a four out of 10. I’m not sure how many hours it took to come up with that one, but I’d fire your joke writer. Look, if you knew the actual costs for years and kept telling Canadians a different number, you can call it “a different interpretation” all you want. Us regular folks call it a “bait and switch.”

Ridiculously stupid people are everywhere on the Internet

I don’t know how or why Internet meming started, but it’s reached epic proportions. These days all it takes to get some stupid meme going is to find a random picture without knowing the identity of the person, the context of the photograph, or anything at all about the subject matter, and then make a joke about it using lettering on the photo.

The latest craze is some guy who was snapped looking casual while running a 10k race. Dubbed “ridiculously photogenic guy” there’s now a Facebook fan page, literally hundreds of thousands of meme jokes, and women everywhere wondering if this fellow is single. You know what this indicates to me? We need a violent, bloody, third world war, because we clearly have far too much time on our hands. Any of these bozos still camped out in New York City whining about the one per cent and the 99 per cent need only to look at Internet meming to realize that, if anything, life is too damned relaxing.

I call this “little brother feeling left out so he acts up syndrome”

I’m not quite sure why atheists feel the need to harass Christians on holidays with self-righteous nonsense. And I write this as an atheist. If you don’t believe in God, good for you. Then stop caring about it and let everybody who does believe in God do their thing in peace. Unless they’re crucifying you, it’s not really harming anybody, is it? If you think something is silly, ignoring it is a far stronger statement than validating it by setting yourself at odds with it.

Sadly, the blogs still lead the media in investigative reporting

Racist shooters go on killing rampage of black people in Oklahoma, reports the CBC. No possible motive is mentioned in the article, but according to the Blaze, this incident might very well be an American History X version of retribution by a man whose father was killed.

Hubris, thy name is Apple

Rejoice, for every snobby Mac user who, when you told them you had a computer virus, showed no sympathy and instead told you to go and buy a $3,000 Apple product instead.

Eye colour: Not sure

I was doing a self-portrait with my camera and when I increased the light I realized my eyes aren’t just brown like I’d always assumed. Looks like when the genetics fairy was handing out colours he hid my father’s green eyes in there somewhere too.

Personally, I think eyes are pretty awesome.

Putting the “eff” in F-35

Posted April 4th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Hooooo boy.

It’s times like this that I wish my former blogmate Mark Collins was still here because while the F-35 fiasco is well above my pay grade, he’s been dubious of the entire procurement since day one. And while I have to admit that I don’t know enough about fifth generation fighter jet technology to produce more than a few crudely drawn words on a cocktail napkin, it doesn’t take much expertise to realize the defence department just stepped into a Jurassic Park-sized deposit of dino waste.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s rather confusing. I mean, the NDP are asking for defence minister Peter MacKay to resign for not knowing what he should have known, unless in fact he did know, which is much worse, though he claims he absolutely didn’t. Or as one Macleans magazine pundit put it, if a massive abuse of procedure and accountability falls in the forest, but no one is named, blamed and shamed as the culprit, did it ever really happen?

Clearly, somebody, somewhere in the government is due to take a very short walk off a long pier. Do you fire the military commanders who clearly did everything they possibly could to acquire the F-35s without undergoing proper procurement procedures and then fabricating a list of things they needed in a fighter jet so that the list dovetailed nicely with the specs for the F-35?

Or do you fire the people in the defence department who didn’t tell their superiors about the impending mountain of aforementioned dino doo doo about to fall on their heads? Or do you expect the defence minister to accept Thomas Mulcair’s suggestion that the loonie stops at the minister’s desk, and offer his resignation so that Stephen Harper can shuffle him some place else?

Or do you turf Julian Fantino, the man who is currently backing away from the spotlight as quickly and unsubtly as a man wearing orange at a St.Patty’s Day parade? Please don’t look at me, I just work here. One gets the sense, however, as one reads through older news articles quoting Fantino, that the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, and the language of the minister for military procurement had been evolving from certainty about the necessity of F-35s to one very much ambiguous that they might be jets at all, and not flying ponies or something.

The bad news is the Auditor-General’s report puts a giant cannon-sized hole in the F-35 procurement and its budget. The bad news is that the procurement appears to be manipulated to ensure a sole-sourced, untendered contract with Lockheed Martin which has or has not been signed, depending on which part of the government you ask at a certain part of the day.

The bad news is that the defence minister and the procurement minister had no idea about any of this, depending on which part of their mouths you believe when they’re speaking. The bad news is that the defence department itself told the House of Commons that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time.

Ok, that’s all the bad news. Well, probably not, but it’s probably enough for now. On to the not-so-bad news. The Conservative government, while deservingly drowning in its own arrogance for shouting down those who suggested the whole deal was rotten from the start, is not really complicit in this scandal so much as it is woefully negligent. At the very least they seem to be taking some responsibility now, have frozen spending on the program, spanked the defence department, and handed oversight over to a committee of deputy ministers.

Is it at all ironic that the man whom was hired as part of transparency and accountability legislation brought in by the Conservative government was the one who foreshadowed all of this long ago by saying the government’s numbers on this contract were wrong? And does it make it even more ironic that this same man who estimated the costs were nearly $10 billion greater than the government was saying gets by on a departmental budget of $1.8 million? Perhaps the feds should cut Kevin Page’s budget to $49 and give him coupons to Tim Hortons so he won’t cause so much trouble in the future.

The only actual good news I can pull from all this is that the money for these jets hasn’t yet been wasted, which saves Harper his Airbus A320 moment in power. Which is sort of like finding a wooden plank to float on after stepping off the Titanic. And as Harper is to Rose, who will play the role of Jack, slipping quietly into the deep blue sea?