Wednesday, March 29, 2006

La Frontera Es la Frontera Solamente por la Gente...

In certain parts of the southwest US, Chicanos (people of Mexican extraction whose ancestors were living there when the territorial cessation happened) say "No cruzamos la frontera; la frontera nos cruzo," or "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us." This is particularly noteworthy given the recent debate about immigrants and immigration in the US, where the campaign seems to be a thinly-veiled campaign against Hispanics of all flavours. Immigration and its sister phenomenon, emigration, are also hot political topics here in Canada, in the UK, and across Europe; this is not news.

Most people writing on the subject have been paying the most attention to social-justice issues as they impact illegal immigrants, citizens of the receiving country, and economics. I'd like to look at the flip side of that coin, and point out one of the other elephants in the room. There are at least two, and one of them seems to be going largely unnoticed. (It's a big room.)

Leaving aside the problems of illegal immigration for a moment, let's look at legal immigration. I think it would be safe to say that most people really have no idea how difficult it really is to become a legal immigrant to an industrialised Western country. I am going to provide facts and figures for Canada because they're easiest to find, being as the Canadian government has some of the best governmental websites in the world.

The three major points I'd like to mention about trying to become a legal immigrant into Canada or elsewhere (based on personal investigation and experience) is that it takes longer than most people realise, it takes more money than most people realise, and it takes more credentials (academic, professional, and vocational) than most people realise.

Speaking of Canada, the wait time to get an immigrant visa can be up to two years, depending on how backlogged the system is, whether you have an immigration lawyer, whether all your paperwork is complete and correct, and other factors. To qualify as a potential immigrant to Canada in the skilled worker class, you must obtain a 67 or better score on the Self-Assessment Test, and then provide documentary evidence to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer.

Since it's likely the most common type of application, I'm going to focus on the skilled worker criteria, although there are various other classes of application available. In order to qualify as a skilled worker, you must have a significant amount of education (usually at least a postsecondary degree or diploma), a minimum of two years work experience, marginal fluency in at least one, possibly both official languages, and possibly have arranged employment, and/or family or a spouse in Canada, or who has studied in Canada. (I ran the test on myself, and as a highly-educated, moderately bilingual unmarried person with more than four years' work experience, I'd be eligible to apply with an 80 score without arranged employment.)

However, one of the other criteria immigration officers look at (and which likely disqualifies me as immigrant material, since I'm poorer than the Mouse Interfaith Prayer Breakfast) is, of course, money. I'm given to understand that most immigrants are expected to have a certain sum in cash and assets on hand, sufficient to support themselves for a given period of time upon arrival. (The length of time changes jurisdiction by jurisdiction.) Also, once an immigrant arrives in Canada, he or she will be assessed a "Right of Landing fee" of $975 (this is slated to go down by half in the near future), on top of permanent resident fees of $75 for application processing and $475 applicant fee. (Source: CIC Canada) Right away, that's $550 just to get your paperwork looked at, and another $975 if you get accepted and into the country, for a mind-boggling total of $1525 per immigrant.

Ostensibly this is to defray administrative and assimilation costs. However, if you are unfortunate enough to come from a country where the currency has a low value comparative to the Canadian dollar, coming up with $1525CDN could be a daunting task, even if you make a decent amount of money in your home country.

There is, of course, the kicker. Money. How many of you, Constant Readers, have investments? Any of them overseas? These days, it's getting more and more common for people in the investor class (so to speak) to have a well-diversified portfolio in more than one, maybe several, currencies. A lot of people invest overseas. You can spend your money abroad easier than you can spend a year abroad.

I hear heads rattling as people are nodding as if I'm an idiot. Think about it for a moment: Why do we assume this makes sense?

To reframe the debate in scurrilously Marxist terms, capital is borderless; labour is not.

Personally, I'm relatively well-integrated into the global economy. I've gotten cheques deposited from three different countries, had a person in Korea pay me regularly by wire transfer, and done wire transfers and suchlike to overseas as well. I know what transit codes and SWIFT codes are. I'm not knocking global finance or international business...but it strikes me as kind of agendist that the moneyfolk who deign to run the show for us are vocal opponents of erecting even nominal borders to the flow of capital (like, for instance, the Tobin tax) and are ardent supporters of the "managed commerce" (in the same delightful sense as the US euphemism "managed health care") known as "free trade."

(The exact practical definition of "free trade" is a rant for another time.)

So the upshot is, moving money abroad, that's easy; you can do it in an afternoon, and it'll cost you about 30 minutes with a jamook in a suit and a service charge. Moving yourself abroad takes about two years, multiple reviews, thousands of dollars, and having the right credentials.

You think maybe that's because it's convenient for some people?


Postscript: Illegal immigration is the other option, which may or may not present such significant barriers to entry -- you can fairly easily scoot across a border to Canada, the US, or the UK, and forget to come back...if you're a white native English speaker with a fairly generic name... Even in these times of paranoiac security, you just might be able to slip through the cracks with very little difficulty. (Your mileage may vary, however, likely in proportion to the hue of your skin.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Device as Device, or Trope-a-Dope

I've been hearing more and more about Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for years now, with the rise of the Dominionist movement in the US, and the spreading of their Taliban-like agenda throughout "mainstream" US evangelical Christian culture. (Someone on one of the blogs I read likes to refer to them as "Talibornagains," which is amusing, although inapt, since "talib" comes from an Arabic word meaning "student," unless I'm very much mistaken, and the Christian version are, if anything, even more anti-intellectual than their Islamic counterparts.)

That said, I would like to bring up a minor lit'ry quibble here, speaking about The Handmaid's Tale. Since we've pretty well established the analogical basis of the book, can we please reshelve the thing off the SF shelves and into the polemic section now?

Disclosure: I have never liked the book, but I especially have never liked how, for years, people have been insisting that it belongs in the same broad genre as Neuromancer and The Demolished Man, or even The Left Hand of Darkness, instead of alongside other dystopian political fables like 1984 and We. Instead of being a story about ideas, the exploration of a "what if?" scenario, polemic uses the tropes of a genre to drive the point, rather like Munro's Lives of Girls and Women uses the tropes of the bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel) to drive home the lesson that all gender exploitation doesn't have to be overt.

As a polemic, Handmaid's Tale is a great cautionary tale. As a science fiction novel, it's completely lame. Atwood is one of those Canadian writers who came of literary age before Canadian writers, the CanLit "scene," of which she's an integral part, really understood science fiction, and it shows. (I'm speaking as someone who is Canadian, has studied CanLit, and recently compared Firefly to Roughing It In The Bush.)

For one thing, the universe of a science fiction book needs to be plausible and internally consistent, which pretty much eliminates any of the dystopian fables from consideration. (He, She, and It might be an exception here, because Piercy does spend a fair amount of time in the novel setting up the conditions of her world.) Thus, we never hear why or how the televisor screens in 1984 continue to work, or work at all, when the entire rest of the 1984 world is brutally low-tech, dilapidated, and falling to pieces. Would it not, then, make sense (in a consistent world) for the televisors to occasionally fail, and perhaps not be repaired immediately? He could have done it with a throwaway line, and still maintained plausible paranoia: Winston had even experienced one of these moments of respite, when his televisor broke, and it was three months before The Party could get a repairman in -- even for his televisor! However, the absence of Big Brother from his home did not mean he was not being watched, oh no, for the neighbours had been instructed to be extra vigilant (and the walls were thin), and old Mrs. Avery down the hall would invite him in every day for televisor -- and he could be sure someone would find out if he didn't go.

We also never figure out why, in an anti-education society like D-503's in We, they nevertheless have just enough high technology to build The Mighty Integral. (Bonus points to the first astronaut, public or private, to name his or her craft the Integral.)

Granted, it's been a few years since last I read the book. However, as best I can recall, we never quite learn how Atwood accomplishes her adversarius ex machina wherein every female in would-be Gilead is stripped of her money and credit cards. A sudden, massive transfer of wealth and shutdown of that much of the economy? With barely any consequenses or explanation? She's done an inadequate job of explaining how that could be, contrasted against a system that likes everyone to be able to spend more than what they can earn (teenagers can get credit cards in the US), and ready access to money if you have it to spend is considered one of the fundamental marketplace freedoms in North American culture. How does she get around having to explain this mysterious shutdown, given that there are hundreds and possibly thousands of banks in the US, and they can't so much as agree on a single standard for debit transactions, let alone for anything else? How does she get around the fact that the majority of low-level workers who actually run the machinery of credit processing are women? She doesn't describe resistance of that sort, nor agents of the state holding entire offices full of low-level functionaries at gunpoint to enforce such a thing. (If you knew that the government wanted to take away not just your bank account and credit card, but all women's, would you come to work to pull the switch, or would you and everyone else be striking?)

I understand the paradigm she's working from -- the witch trials, and later, the Holocaust, where the Nazis were able to just yank the citizenship rug out from under the feet of large numbers of people quite quickly, although she's obviously misinterpreting or misunderstanding the mechanism and the speed at which it happened. Even the high-tech Holocaust took months and years to accomplish, and wasn't 100% effective. (If it had been, there would be no Jewish culture left in Europe, and no Medinat Israel.) The scenario from Handmaid's Tale isn't a case of using census information and superior technology and buying the requisite bureaucrats, all of whom stand to profit from the deal. The modern, and five-minutes-from-now world diffusion of high technology into the commercial environment makes it, in some senses, harder for a central governmental authority to divest someone of all vestiges of selfhood. If it were that easy, identity theft wouldn't be a problem, because it'd be spotted almost instantly by law enforcement. On the other hand, the system as it stands right now is almost stochastic.

How do we get from here to there, plausibly and consistently? Atwood can't tell us, but the devices are sure useful.

Given that, The Handmaid's Tale fails the consistency test and the plausibility test required of science fiction, so can we please stop referring to the book as anything but a polemic now? Especially now, when everyone's using it as a political trope?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What Happened In 1996?

I'm going to slip into technical writer mode (since that is what I do for a living, mostly) for a moment here, to show up some insteresting statistics I found.

  1. Go to Open Secrets.
  2. Click on "Who Gives" in the tabbed menu at the top of the screen.
  3. On the "Industry Profiles" page, click on the drop-down menu labelled "Locate industries by economic sector."
  4. Pick a sector. In fact, it works better if you look at several in succession. You may want to look at all 13 listed on that menu.
  5. On the sector-specific page, look at the breakdown of contribution moneys, either in the bar chart format or in the table below.
  6. Pay specific attention to the last two columns of the table, primarily between 1994 and 1996.

Here is the breakdown in digest, in case you missed it:

Sector: Agribusiness

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 59%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 41%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 74%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 26%

Republicans: +15%

Sector: Communications/Electronics

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 41%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 59%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 48%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 50%

Republicans: +7%

Note: This is one of four sectors (out of a total of 13) which consistently leans Democratic in contribution pattern.

Sector: Construction

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 60%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 40%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 68%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 32%

Republicans: +8%

Sector: Defense

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 46%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 54%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 68%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 32%

Republicans: +22%

Sector: Energy/Natural Resources

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 57%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 43%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 72%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 27%

Republicans: +15%

Sector: Finance/Insurance/Real Estate

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 51%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 49%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 60%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 39%

Republicans: +9%

Sector: Health

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 51%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 49%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 61%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 33%

Republicans: +10%

Sector: Lawyers and Lobbyists

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 25%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 74%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 32%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 67%

Republicans: +7%

Note: This is one of four sectors (out of a total of 13) which consistently leans Democratic in contribution pattern.

Sector: Transportation

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 55%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 44%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 70%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 30%

Republicans: +15%

Sector: Misc. Business

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 58%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 42%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 62%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 37%

Republicans: +4%

Sector: Labor

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 4%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 96%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 6%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 94%

Republicans: +2%

Note: This is one of four sectors (out of a total of 13) which consistently leans Democratic in contribution pattern.

Sector: Ideology/Single-Issue

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 41%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 59%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 54%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 46%

Note here that the trend toward increasing Republican contributions began between 1992 and 1994, with the Republicans gaining 10%, to go from a 31% share of contributions to a 41% share.

Republicans: +13%

Note: This is one of four sectors (out of a total of 13) which consistently leans Democratic in contribution pattern.

Sector: Other

Contributions to Republicans, 1994: 60%
Contributions to Democrats, 1994: 39%

Contributions to Republicans, 1996: 61%
Contributions to Democrats, 1996: 38%

Republicans: +1%

The trends get even more interesting when you look at the entire data sets. So please, please follow the given links and look at the trends in the last 16 years. There are some startling anomalies to be seen. The recent changes in the data could be a result of the increasing importance of "the netroots" to politics, but it would be irresponsible to speculate in the absence of better and more complete data.

In any case, the space between the 1994 and 1996 election cycles in the US seems to be the tipping point whereupon Republicans made major gains in the percentage of overall contributions. In some sectors, this trend reverses itself during or after the 2000 election cycle, but mostly it seems consistent. I really lack the energy to do a complete breakdown and analysis of these data right now, so please look at it yourself.

Afghanistan Means "The Place Where Empires Go To Die"

Thanks to "Moe Szyslak," an American ex-pat and frequent commenter at Eschaton, I picked up this neat and accurate summation of exactly what's wrong with Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. I can add a few more points beyond that, but this is a good primer:

- whatever [might, could, and should have been] is irrelevant. The fact is, for all the rhetoric about peacekeeping, Canadian troops are there as an adjunct to the Americans. Canadians aren't calling the shots -- Americans are.
- Canadians have agreed to give prisoners over to the Americans, almost certainly assuring that some of them will be tortured. Canada is complicit is terrorism.
- Whatever all good Canadians think is going on, the bottom line is that Canadian troops are in Afghanistan to free up American troops to fight in Iraq. Canada, in other words, is at least partially responsible for what goes on in Iraq.

This isn't about "peacekeeping." According to this article in the Toronto Star, "since the mid-'90s, Canadian soldiers have been moving increasingly into what the government calls 'peacemaking' and what others call counterinsurgency — that is, intervening directly on behalf of one side in what, to all intents and purposes, is a civil war."

This is not UN blue-helmet stuff; this is exactly the same as the Allies or the Axis in WWII, except within a nation instead of among several. We're not going in there to prevent the two factions from shooting at each other, we're there to try to prop up the one side over the other.

My question is, since when did nation-building become part of the Canadian mandate?

Worse, we aren't really doing any good. "Our side," such as it is, controls maybe one tiny area in the capital and around it. The rest of the country is a mess of warlords, anarchy, and danger. On top of that, we're seeing lots of deaths of innocent civilians because, as Walkom puts it in the Star, our soldiers "do not, and cannot, trust the very people they are ostensibly there to help. Every pot-maker in a motorized rickshaw — every teenager with an axe — is a potential enemy." So if we don't control enough of the country to actually be putting a stop to the warlords and Talibani, and we can't trust anybody not to be an enemy, and we're only freeing up US troops to go off and perpetrate horrors in Iraq, and we're contributing to the torture of persons innocent or not (no difference, torture is still torture, and still not something Canadians should ever have anything to do with), then what the hell are we doing?!

According to Stephen Harper, we're "staying the course" and defeating the "scum." Of course, framing it as "We're acting as the enslaved Gauls to the US' Romans, propping up the empire on one mad foreign adventure after another" won't actually do any good with Harper; he's cool with being the Canadian Procurator.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Real World Experience Project

Here's a challenge for all media types, independent journalists, and concerned citizens:

I was just reading this post over at Rising Hegemon (thanks to Atta J. Turk), which features this interesting snippet of Presidential monologue.

This guy has got a great question because really what he's talking about is transparency in pricing. When you go buy a car, you know exactly what they're going to charge you. (Laughter.) Well, sometimes you don't know. (Laughter.) Well, you negotiate with them. (Laughter.) Well, they put something on the window that says price. (Laughter.) His point is, is that the more you know about price, the better you can make better decisions, and I appreciate that.

Here's another example of Bush putting his foot in it -- when you go to buy a car, you don't know exactly what they're going to charge you. You don't even, I'm given to understand, know whether in some cases they'll even condescend to sell you the car you're looking at -- that's what that "OAC" thing is they always talk about in car commercials, "On Approved Credit," and ask anyone with a spotty work history or skin darker than light pink about "redlining," which car companies do all the time, the same as the rest of the lending industry. (Car lending is big business; look at the squabbling recently about GMAC, General Motors' credit and lending division.)

I'd posit, then, that as the current POTUS, the son of a former President, and someone who comes from several generations of serious money, Bush doesn't know Thing One about buying cars, or, for that matter, groceries, toothbrushes, or replacement toilet seats. He probably hasn't even had the iconic teenage experience of sneaking off to the 7-11 after curfew to grab Coke, nachos and cheese, penny candies, and other such staples, and/or to try to convince the clerk to sell him cigarettes or beer, assuming of course that he was in a jurisdiction where beer is sold in 7-11s, as I am not. (In my misspent yout', we also specialised in lifting skin mags, but that's another story entirely.)

Then again, this probably doesn't make Bush all that out of the ordinary for a high-level politician. Most of them probably don't do their own shopping; they have enough money to hire someone to take care of all those tedious details de menage. That's why the challenge. If you should get the chance, ask your local elected leaders if they know how much a loaf of bread costs. Just an ordinary, not fancy loaf of bread from any of the local grocery stores; not a fancy gourmet loaf from the local specialty bakery, either.

The answers might be instructive, provide great segues to follow-up questions ("Actually, Mr. Premier, a loaf of bread doesn't cost 59 cents; it costs $1.09. Given that you don't even know that, don't you think it's time for you to review social assistance rates comparative to the actual cost of living?"), and really great negative ads for the next election campaign.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Give An American A Privilege Long Enough, They'll Think It's A Right

I was just reading about Gilmore v. Gonzales, which I think is a deeply flawed case being argued from entirely the wrong perspective, for entirely the right reasons. Here is the actual Ninth Circuit opinion, if you want to read the other side.

The crux of the matter seems to be Gilmore's objection to the Transportation Security Administration's directive that airlines must either ask for identification of passengers, or subject them to further screening. To quote the judgement:

Gilmore asserts that because the Government refuses to disclose the content of the identification policy, it is vague and uncertain and therefore violated his right to due process. He also alleges that when he was not allowed
to board the airplanes, Defendants violated his right to travel, right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, right to freely associate, and right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

While I agree that a government should not keep relevant parts of its security procedures from its citizenry, he ought to be glad I'm not the judge hearing his appeal, since I find his argument to be spurious on several grounds. First of all, he does not have a "right to travel" in the broadest possible sense. He has the right not to be asked for identification while crossing state borders while inside the United States, owing to border transparency in that jurisdiction. That doesn't mean he can just get on an aircraft without telling anyone who he is, or otherwise following the rules.

As to his charge of "unreasonable searches and seizures," while I do think that some of the current restrictions in place in the commercial airline industry are ridiculous, I also don't think that a security screening constitutes an "unreasonable" search, since there are many other reasons for a security screening than the obvious one at the top of everyone's mind, which is (of course) to prevent bomb-wielding maniacs from boarding aircraft. Unfortunately for people who like to latch on to the airborne terrorist meme, there are plenty of other reasons to have security searches on aircraft besides simply making sure "bad guys" don't get on the plane. One of them is so obvious it might get overlooked: to make sure the passengers don't possess items or engage in behaviours hazardous to the safety and well-being of the other passengers and flight crew. My father is a commercial pilot and has given me chapter and verse on this, detailing exactly why there are restrictions on air travel with everything from pressurised containers to firearms to certain electronics to wearing stiletto heels (if that one seems not immediately obvious, it's because aircraft cabin floors are not designed to take the pressure of even a small woman's weight on a tiny amount of space). The other non-obvious reason for security screenings is to familiarise passengers with the minimal personal safety procedures required for air travel, which is why, when you travel by air, there are all those signs around saying what you can and cannot take aboard an aircraft, and actions you must take in order to clear the screening. Viewed from that perspective, the formality of a security procedure -- while invasive -- hardly seems unreasonable in the legal sense.

Similarly, I think, contrary to his claim, that the governmental and airline requirement to either show ID or submit to an extra search hardly impinges on his right to free association, or not sufficiently so to warrant a legal claim, considering the wealth of other available options (especially for someone who literally has wealth, and claims on his website to have "made [a] fortune"), and the extenuating circumstances.

On the other hand, I don't like secret laws. I don't feel governments have much business keeping things from their citizens, especially things that relate to how those citizens are expected to behave in certain circumstances. If there is such a "secret policy," it needs to be non-secret, and available on request to people who want to make informed decisions about their actions.

That said, he ought to be glad I'm not hearing his case, because I can trump most of his arguments with an even more basic (small-l) libertarian argument: private property. If the government had not issued the directive dictating that all passengers must either show identification or undergo an additional security screening, if it were merely an airline policy (as has been the case in other jurisdictions), I would still feel compelled to uphold that policy on the grounds that the aircraft are the airlines' private property, and they have the right to know who's using them. This is not news; it's not even precedent. It's the same established principle that, for instance, allows a campground to set a "no firearms" policy, and then expel anyone who violates it, even if firearms are legal in the surrounding jurisdiction. It's the same principle that allows restaurants to have "No Gang Colours" dress codes.

Going by that argument, Gilmore loses. (It must suck for someone who's obviously a libertarian of a certain stripe to be out-libertarianed by a Canadian quasi-socialist, but there you go.) If private carriers want to keep passenger manifests, they're well within their rights to do so. If Gilmore wants to travel anonymously, as he obviously feels entitled to do (and why do I get the feeling this is more of a case of "rich guy who doesn't feel like he has to play by the rules" than an actual threat to freedom?), he's more than welcome to travel autonomously -- he can drive, walk, bike, or ride a horse. If he still wants to travel anonymously and have someone else provide him with his transportation service, he can take public transit. He can also stay home instead, and use his technological savvy to make travelling redundant -- teleconferencing is getting easy and cheap these days. However, in the case of air travel, at least, the rules exist for a purpose, so if he's unwilling to play by the rules, he shouldn't get a free ride.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Time to Combine the School Systems

I have tended to stay away from this issue on the grounds that it really isn't my purview, since I don't really have a dog in the fight, but I really feel like I have to step up. It's long past time for Canada, and Ontario in particular, to lose its "separate" (that is, taxpayer-funded Catholic) school system. We shouldn't dismantle it; it's a perfectly viable school system, but we should amalgamate it into the parallel secular system.

The reason I bring this up now is because of the recent revelations about sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ireland, Hong Kong, and the very large, high-profile abuse cases in the United States. All this gets heaped upon disturbing stories (now in the spotlight because of a new movie) about so-called "Magdalene laundries", which might more properly be termed hybrids of "maternity homes," convents, and concentration camps. Besides that, there's always the dark rumours about Opus Dei, the actions of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust, and the current Pope's being a former member of the Hitler Youth (an error very difficult to expunge, in my mind) and current reactionary. Let us also not forget about the very difficult campaigns waged by Catholic women to achieve even a modicum of voice within the active Church itself.

So why, why, given all that, is the Canadian government supporting and giving money to this corrupt, women- and children-hating institution? If individual Canadians wish to, I have no problems with that. If private citizens even wish to send their children for religious instruction at private Catholic schools, I have no problems with that, either. What I do have problems with is using public funds to support the Catholic Church. I was willing to basically let it slide until now, since I didn't see the harm in it, exactly, but no. Not any more.

Political Realism Note: The likelihood of this little proposal ever happening, in a country where the largest single religious bloc is Catholic, far and away, is negligible, but it doesn't hurt to air one's objections. Another day, another thing to be pissed off about...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

There's One In Every Minyan

According to this article in Haaretz (English), the Conservative movement leadership is proposing to recognise same-sex marriage and gay rabbis. This may actually wind up splitting the movement, unfortunately.

Nor is this the first time the same-sex marriage issue has come up in the context of Israeli politics, which always seem to involve religion, usually tragically. (The old Israeli joke is, "How is a computer like the Knesset? They're both full of jukim [bugs], and controlled by one dos," the pun of course turning on DOS and "religious man.") About a year ago, four Israeli gay couples got married (legally) in Toronto, partially to challenge the Israeli government's policy of only recognising Jewish marriages performed by Orthodox rabbis. Orthodox rabbis will not, as a matter of faith and doctrine, marry same-sex couples. (The supervision of marriage licenses by Orthodox rabbis only is a bone of contention for more than just same-sex couples, since it effectively requires adherents to other movements within Judaism in Israel to undergo Orthodox marriage.) Because, however, Israel recognises civil marriages from abroad, these four couples wanted to challenge the policy by forcing the Israeli government to either recognise their lawful (in Canada) marriage or violate its own rule and then re-write the law. (As far as I know, the case is still pending.)

If the Conservative movement does recognise same-sex marriage and gay rabbis, this may arm the non-religious and non-Orthodox factions within Israeli politics to fight for a reexamination of civil and same-sex marriage regulations, as well as other related civil policies. It is likely, however, to spawn a lot of intra-Israel dissention.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Irony: The Canadian National Pastime

From the good offices of the ever-vigilant Toronto Star comes this absolute gem:

There’s a possibility Stephen Harper’s first act as prime minister may have breached the parliamentary ethical code for MPs, the federal ethics commissioner indicated Friday.

This from a guy who basically campaigned on the premise that Paul Martin's people were all Sponsorship Scandal-tainted Chretien dead-enders, and that he could do the job better and cleaner than the Liberals. (Shades of "restor[ing] hono[u]r and dignity to the White House," anyone?)

In Canadian politics there's a longstanding axiom that Canadians elect a Conservative government once per generation to remind themselves why they vote Liberal. Myself, I'm torn between wanting to see Harper do a bit better than Mulroney, who, if I recall correctly, lost a Cabinet Minister per week through corruption-related resignations, and just watching the scrofulous bastard go down in a magnificent flaming wreck.

Hmm, considering that he's tapped the Mike Harris anti-talent pool, my viler nature wins out and I'm reluctantly (or not) opting for "flaming wreck."