Sunday, April 29, 2012

The great unwashed

The expression “the great unwashed” has been attributed to many but was probably first used by Edmund Burke in the 1700’s to refer to the common man, the lower classes, the hoi polloi.

But today I think the expression is more appropriate to use for the majority of commenters on on-line news items or blog posts, particularly those of a political nature. The level of commentary belies the fact that we are supposedly an intelligent race, capable of rational thought and is often more suited to the gutter than public discourse. Of course one of the problems is that it is not public and that posters can happily wallow in their ignorance and share their ever-so-brilliant comments without ever having to stand to account for what they say. But that’s a reason and not justification.

By now everyone has heard of Bev Oda’s latest ethical lapse, and I’m not referring to a $16 glass of OJ but rather the fact that she only felt the need to pay for the incremental costs of her London accommodations when she was publically shamed into doing so. She is being pilloried in the press, and rightly so in my opinion. Even Adrienne Batra of the Toronto Sun has jumped on the bandwagon and, to prove my point, here is a brief selection of some of the 130+ comments left on her online article (typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors included) .

We know she is not spending any money on plastic surgery! Yuk!

Beyond her flagrant disrespect to taxpayers, OMG, is she ugly or what?

did roy orbison have a sex  change?

The ONLY positive thing I can say about this "women?" is: She definitely DIDN'T sleep her way to the top!

Isn't she lovely ?  NOT !   Its time to can this bitch !

Affermative action in all it's glory

Harper keeps her on because she once got herself laid by the Ayatolllah Khomeni and he's been a pussycat ever since.

She looks like a crack ho,why do WE put up with this crap??

Tired of making fun of her looks? Then lets throw in a few racist comments.

Bev Oda heap big injin

Alcoholism and Drug Addiction is a big problem in her neck of the woods. Not a good place for Children.In other words thay are all drunks or dopers.

And then there’s the requisite adhominem Liberal attack.

Bob Rae likely put up Adam Carroll to slime and sleaze our public safety minister.

computer_nerdWhile the media generally decries the lack of engagement of Canada’s youth in the political process you would be hard pressed to convince me these comments weren’t written by pre-pubescent males from the privacy of their bedrooms at 4AM when mom and dad are asleep, dreaming of the day little Johnny finally grows up but little appreciating that 30 years hence he will still be living in their basement expecting mom to pay for his Pepsi habit and wash his underwear, soiled at the mere sight of the Sunshine Girl.

It’s actually quite depressing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

“It’s not who I am as a person”

Marc Zanetti is captain of the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. In a playoff game against the Niagara IceDogs the IceDogs’ Tom Kuhnhackl scored the first goal. The Ottawa team’s response was to swarm Kuhnhackl, driving him to the ice at which time Zanetti skated over and kicked him in the head.

That kick has earned Zanetti an indefinite suspension, and rightly so. There is no place in this, or any game, for behaviour that would get one arrested if done on the street.

Zanetti of course was apologetic, saying “It was stupid” and that “It is not who I am as a person or as a player.” I suspect he is also ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour, as he should be.

But how many times do we have to watch sometimes tearful apologies from sports figures, politicians, and b-rated movie stars in which they profess that their outrageous behaviour is not representative of who they are as a person?

What nonsense! When the adrenalin is pumping, the blood is flowing, emotions are running high, or inhibitions are lowered the already-thin veneer of civilisation disappears completely and that’s precisely when we get to see the real character of the person. That’s when the body reacts without the tempering influence of rationality. And that’s when the true, base character surfaces, either to do something incredible and heroic, or something blindingly stupid.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shorter Vic Toews: “Criminals not co-operating”

So the Tories are closing a couple of prisons, including the Kingston Pen which has been in operation since 1835. Now I’ve never been in the Kingston Pen, but I have to imagine a penitentiary built 175 years ago, to the standards of the day, probably does not offer the latest in modern conveniences. In fact one imagines a bucket in the corner, a straw mattress on the floor, and a crust of bread and cup of water being the daily rations. Obviously it has been seriously upgraded but it’s still 175 years old and there’s only so much you can do to a crumbling pile of bricks and mortar.

All of which is to say that I have no idea whether closing the Kingston Pen is a good idea or not.

But what I did find interesting was this observation in the body of the news item.

Mr. Toews said the Tories are closing the prisons in part because the increase in jailed population expected from new harsher crime laws has not materialized.

He said the rise in inmate numbers has even fallen short of his own department's estimates.

Or put in mathematical terms:

tougher laws + minimum sentences ≠ more prisoners

So what does this mean?

Maybe tougher laws didn’t increase the number of convictions for Stock Day’s infamous unreported crimes.

Perhaps the police and the courts weren’t really just handing out slaps on the wrists and turning violent offenders loose after all.

Or maybe, just maybe the Harper Cons’ tough on crime legislation was, and is, nothing but crass political pandering to their red-meat base which will have little or no impact on crime in this country.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Smaller government? Or just dumber?

I’ve long been a proponent of smaller government. Far too much money and effort goes into regulating my private life as a citizen, to support questionable business practices (inside and outside of the bureaucracy), or to bail out entire industry sectors that were too stupid or lazy to respond to changing market conditions.

But where there is a role for strong government is in the areas of public health and safety, which I would have thought would also be a key consideration of this Con government.

If that is the indeed the case, why then did the recent budget implement the following?

  • Cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, charged with protecting Canada’s domestic and imported food supply.
  • Cuts to front line border control officers responsible for identification and interdiction of drugs, guns, and illegal immigrants, including 25% of the CBSA sniffer dogs used in airports, ports, and border crossings.
  • Cuts to the Environment Canada unit responsible for coordinating the clean up of toxic spills to ensure human health is protected in the event of an accident.
  • Cuts to Defence Research and Development Canada who’s mandate (in part) is to develop new and improved techniques to protect the lives of our military.
  • Cuts to Transport Canada’s air safety inspectors who help ensure Canada’s record of air safety is maintained.

And there are more.

Now the cynic could say that these cuts are being implemented and announced to the media in this way to embarrass the Harper Cons (and there’s likely some merit to that argument), but the fact is these are coming as a result of yet another inept and half-hearted attempt to reduce the cost of government.

The Cons are not unique in this regard; this is one case where they can rightly claim “The Liberals did it too.” Instead of a process of rational debate about the merits, and eventual elimination, of entire programs, it’s easier to just tell every manager to cut their budget by X%. The political calculus is that the general public will view this more positively (“About time they made those lazy civil servants work for their pay like I do!”) than alienate thousands of Canadians (i.e. voters) by deciding to cut special tax incentives for children’s sports, lunch money for truckers, and so on. There are literally billions of dollars to be saved by simply reversing politically expedient tax loopholes and programs that serve no other purpose than to generate votes from an easily (and cheaply) bought populace and kudos from friends in big business (along with the periodic invitations to a hunting or fishing lodge). That’s before even looking at entire government departments and agencies that should be shuttered because they have either outlived their usefulness or cannot demonstrate that they have actually been successful in achieving their stated mandate(s).

Doing more with less in an idiotic turn of phrase; all you can do with less is less. But successive governments (at all levels) persist in the mythology that they can remain all things to all people and it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny more (or, in a few years, a nickel).

To which I say bullshit.

Monday, April 9, 2012

By-product of the sex offender registry

In this story, CBC reports that a Brockville man has had to “spend a lot of time and money” to clear his name because he has the same birth date as someone on Canada’s pardoned sex offender registry.

There are approximately 15,000 names on that registry. Assuming an even distribution of birth dates among a population of predominantly 20- to 60-year-old males, that means that anyone born between 1952 and 1992 is very likely to get a “hit” on the registry. This could result in millions of false positives that will then have to be disproved at (if the story is correct) a cost in time and expense to the individual trying to get a security clearance. It’s the classic “guilty until proven innocent” model favoured by the law‘n order crowd, with the onus on the individual to prove himself innocent.

Because of these false positives the police doing the checking are now requiring fingerprints to verify identity. This in turn raises some fundamental privacy questions: What happens to the applicant’s fingerprints after identity is confirmed? Are they deleted? Are they entered into a national database? Who decides?

As this policy could affect such large numbers of Canadians, it’s worth asking and demanding answers to those questions. Unfortunately the reporter was satisfied with a couple of fluffy police quotes and didn’t deem it worthwhile to dig even a little deeper into the story to provide readers with those answers.