Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sentence fragment of the day

My favourite would have to be this one:
Um, so one of the proposals I have is this that tomorrow's vote, if, let me phrase it in the abstract, if 2 members of the Conservative Party abstained...

Hey, maybe it WAS too early to award Scumbag of the Year!

I'll reiterate something I wrote in September:
They obviously have the wrong Queen's alum as Chief of Staff. It should be this guy; I understand he's a lawyer, who also possesses at least the rudimentary organizational skills required to operate a bowling alley.

Save us, Ed!!!

ADDENDUM: I'm sure I'll regret this, but let's drag some logic into this mess. Regarding the quote above from my fellow Queen's alum Mr. Murphy, absolutely the most charitable way to interpret it, to his benefit, is this: if any two other Conservative MPs were to abstain of their own accord, without any prior discussions with the Liberals, then Murphy would assist in figuring out how they could "continue to contribute" -- from the Liberal backbenches, shurely.

And just a question: anyone spoken the words, "Let me phrase this in the abstract" recently, while attempting to be principled and straightforward?

Stuff to Think About Dept.

1. Chris Selley is back from, uh, one of the -arias [Hungaria, I think - ed.]. Yes, Hungaria, thank you, and his return has been blazing. First, read his piece about teenage pregnancy (Coles Notes: it's a symptom of the root problem, not the root problem). Notwithstanding the issue at hand, I appreciated this widely applicable observation:
This sort of statistics-based fatalism denies the importance of personal choices and personal responsibility, and can only result in bad policy. You hear it all the time: "you have a one in X chance of being struck by lightning" is the classic example. But do I? Really? What if I never go out in the rain?

2. Selley repeats a protest (a slightly different version is noted here):
Why, why, why must these outrageously partisan organizations and their representatives constantly be edified in the press?

The context here underlines his point perfectly. Quoting the Elizabeth Fry Society that Karla Homolka doesn't belong in prison is insane, unless they're going to follow it up with a sentence like, "The Elizabeth Fry Society has never once said that any specific woman does belong in prison, so you can take their opinion for what it's worth."

[Note: I think the Elizabeth Fry Society, and the John Howard Society, perform a worthwhile service in advocating what is basically a contrary-to-public-opinion view about just how harsh prison should be. But per the above, I think their moral authority is compromised by their "nobody belongs in a cage" rhetoric.]

3. Colby Cosh's column in the National Post today should be required reading for all doctors and medical students. I had a discussion a few months ago with The Monger, and touched on the fact that a consequence of doctors becoming advocates for the government health care system (e.g. more funding) is that patients are increasingly coming to view doctors as agents of the state, and the doctor-patient relationship is being devalued.

Cosh comes at a similar argument from a different angle today, in the context of state-funded Viagra for sex offenders. What he gets at essentially (just buy a copy, OK?) is this: if doctors seek to have medical advice be valued as more than that (i.e. as something that ought to supersede all political aims, including public safety), then they can expect to have this advice challenged on political grounds, and again, the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship will be devalued.

Ahhh, concepts. What a delightful topic.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Whatever happened to unicycles?

Via A Complete Waste of Time, we find this incredible shelving system for the computer geek who has everything.

The massive pricetag aside, I could never buy it, because I could never put anything on the shelves. I would be pathologically unable to look at it for more than 5 seconds without succumbing to the irresistible urge to rearrange the pieces.

(Some of the comments are groaningly funny, too: "the problem i have with these shelves is when your neighbour stacks them properly another block falls through your roof").

Friday, May 27, 2005

Arguing on the Enemies' Premises Dept.

Here is a great exampleBBG) of how when you start arguing on the enemy's premises, you're half lost already. "The Amazing Wonderdog" picks apart the CPC childcare plan, the chief objection apparently being that it is insufficiently comprehensive, detailed, and/or focused to properly be called a "plan". On those criteria, the Dog is right.

A principled party of the right, when asked about their Child Care Plan, would respond thusly:

"We don't have a national child care plan, for the same reason we don't have a national breakfast cereal plan--because this is a free country, and we shouldn't be confiscating people's income in order to provide perverse incentives for people to eat what we think they should for breakfast."

"Furthermore, our involvement would make cereal cost more for everyone, whether or not they are personally paying the bill."

"And on top of all this, there is absolutely no widespread popular demand for the federal government to get involved in the breakfast cereal business, except insofar as if you ask, 'Would you like to pay less at Safeway for breakfast cereal?', most people would say Yes."

Regrettably for some of us, there is no principled party of the right in Canada. Kudos to Aaron Lee Wudrick in Skippy's comments (the 2nd one, anyway) for at least raising these principles, though achieving apparently zero impact.

POSTSCRIPT: I thoroughly enjoyed this snippet from an old Reason story, dredged up by Nick Gillespie in his weekly bitch-slap of Sen. John McCain:
Some years ago, a newspaper sent me to interview S.I. Hayakawa, by then a retired senator from California. Hayakawa was legendarily combative: Asked once during a campaign stop what he thought about a local referendum on legalizing greyhound tracks, he snapped: "I'm running for the U.S. Senate. I don't give a good goddamn about dog racing."

Such anger--I wonder how he ever got elected?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Oh, just look at it

I've made a few additions to the blogroll. The London Fog and The Tiger in Winter are two very good Canadian blogs that I've ignored for far too long. I've also added Punditry By the Pound and The Agitator. Gene Healy seems enjoyably grumpy, as exhibited here.

Radley Balko is rather prolific, and has been fighting the good fight on a couple of fronts, most notably of late hammering on the U.S. DEA for (1) targeting doctors and pharmacists who prescribe pain medication and (2) either bragging about it or denying it depending on the audience.

On a lighter note, today Balko points us to the Phallic Logo Awards. Possibly not safe for work, if you work in a church or amongst many nosy pre-teens. My only comment is, despite the quality (and hilarity) of the nominees, no judges in the history of contests have ever had such an easy time picking a winner.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"I Love That Thing That Happened Five Minutes Ago"

Conan O'Brien, on the future of television (ÞWalker):
However, these minor setbacks will soon be overshadowed by a stunning scientific achievement: Mars is finally explored and colonized simply because it's an even cheaper place to produce television shows than Canada. Producers cheer this cost-saving move but, typically, some New Yorkers complain when the latest "Law & Order" series depicts Manhattan as having a jagged red landscape and two small moons.

Leno can't retire fast enough.

"Jury duty? I'll see that Quimby kid hang for this!"

It's not often I find fault with the guy at the top of the Mandatory Reading section of the blogroll--in fact I give him plenty of gloss--so I ought to take this opportunity to say that maybe Bruce Rolston was right, and Colby Cosh's bullshit detector needs new batteries.

He comments here on the question of "whether the Conservatives [won] by losing last week's non-confidence vote in the House of Commons". I don't have an opinion on the broader question, but I find his interpretation of this Decima poll as a data point to be pretty nonsensical. Here's the results in discussion:
Respondents were asked which of three reasons (a list was read to respondents) was most likely to dissuade them from voting either Liberal or Conservative. The results show:
  • There are two leading reasons cited for not voting Liberal, [the] feeling that it is time for a change (29%) and disagreement with Liberal policy (27%). Discomfort with Paul Martin as PM trails these considerations, at 17%
  • The leading point of resistance to voting Conservative is the desire not to have an election right now (31%), followed by disagreement with Conservative policies (25%), and close behind, discomfort with the idea of Stephen Harper as PM (23%).

The glaring problem here (i.e. why I find this poll meaningless) is that saying you won't vote Conservative because you don't want an election right now is a flat-out non-sequitur. Say you're on a long-haul bus trip, and the driver stops late at night for food in a small town where Subway is the only place open. You may be pissed at having to eat a sub or nothing, but that's not a reason (good, bad, or otherwise) to say that you're not going to get it toasted.

The only flaw in this analogy is if you believe the notion that the 31% of non-CPC voters above would actually vote for someone else entirely because it was the CPC's "fault" that they're going to the polls at all. I guess this is where the BS detector comes in; I don't find this plausible at all.

But on top of that, there's no need to stand purely on political instincts here, since we have had minority governments before. In both 1974 and 1980, the party that "caused" an election (the Liberals in both cases, roughly two and one years after the previous election, respectively) went on to win a majority.

If that's not enough, imagine if Paul Martin stood up today and said he was calling an election. According to the results above, that 31% would ostensibly vote against the Liberals, and the CPC would win a massive majority. What-everrrrr.

Lastly, Cosh's remark here...
..the Liberals' main problem ("time for a change") is only going to get worse..

...is a bad assumption; of course there are voters who may decide next month, or next year, that the Liberals aren't doing such a bad job after all, and choose to stay the course. There are a few people who hold the non-partisan, non-policy belief that "change for the sake of change" is important for the vitality and honesty of government. Is that principle fundamentally underlying the intentions of fully 29% of voters who wouldn't vote Liberal today? I don't believe that for a second.

As a fan of House MD should know well, "Everybody lies."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Too clever to leave in the Babbler's comments

Well, not really, but here's a riddle:
Me: "Hey Peter, what's the difference between party principles and election promises?"

Conservative MP Peter Van Loan: "I don't know."

Me: "No shit."

I quite liked this one from N = 1, where apparently I am a Full Professor:
Knock knock

Who's there?


Belinda who?

What, is it 2006 already?

And one more for the road:
Q. What did one billionaire say to the other billionaire?

A. You're out of Peter Mackay's league. And isn't this chocolate Semi-Freddo divine?

I don't think Frank J. is looking over his shoulder quite yet.

Reviewing Roundup

I loved this graf by Lileks:
“Team America” was made by 17 year old boys who cut class to smoke cigarettes. “Star Wars” was made by a sophomore who was bumped ahead to the senior class because of his smarts, but never fit in and spent lunch hour drawing rocketships in his notebook. “The Incredibles” was made by 30 year olds who remembered what it was like to be 16, but didn’t particularly care to revisit those days, because it’s so much better to be 30, with a spouse and a kid and a house and a sense that you’re tied to something. Not an attitude; not some animist mumbo jumbo, but something large enough to behold and small enough to do. “Duty” is a punchline in “Team America”; it’s a rote trope in Star Wars that has no more meaning than love or honor any other word that passes Lucas’ cardboard lips. But it meant something in “The Incredibles,” and all the more so because no one ever stopped to deliver a lecture on the subject.

You should read it all, as contrary to what you might glean from this bit, he likes them all. I think his characterizations here are spot on, although that may be because I'm 30 with a spouse, kids, house, and that "sense". As well, I should confess I haven't seen any of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, though I'm familiar with the plot of The Phantom Menace thanks to Weird Al's The Saga Begins. (Gratuitous Weird Al quote: "I've always been a fan of Don's, and it was a real honor to be able to record the 2nd funniest version of American Pie ever, right behind Madonna.")

Here also is Evan Kirchhoff's entire review of Revenge of the Sith, titled "A GOOD THING ABOUT THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE":
...is that nobody at the end says, "And this, at last, represents a new hope...in these, our star wars". Although you know that was an earlier draft.

More entertaining still are Kirchhoff's video game reviews, having attended "E3", which appears to be some kind of tradeshow/geek heaven.

I have zero interest in video games. In fact, I have never played any version of Nintendo (or PS or XBox or whatever) in my entire life. This fact did not prevent me from enjoying his post tremendously. My favourite would have to be his take on the Chronicles of Narnia, for Gameboy:
I played a little girl in a dress (Lucy, presumably) wandering in a mysterious snowy landscape, with an "A" button for jump and a "B" button for kick. I was approached by a faun, one Mr. Tumnus, who rapidly broke down and blurted out his story about a White Witch whose spell had been cast upon the once green and pleasant land. I tried to kick him repeatedly in the groin: B B B B B B. The game tediously refused to acknowledge this attempt. He asked me to shove some boulders out of a path, even though I was a tiny weak girl and he was at least eight pixels taller than me; after another frustrating round of B B B B I gave in and cleared the path, which allowed us to walk into his home, where I went around unsuccessfully trying to break stuff (B B B B B).

I think this game would be sort of like a heavily-abridged book on tape where the author made you solve an arithmetic problem before hearing each passage. On the other hand, it was fun to imagine going back in time to tell my young self reading the book that one day it would be reconstituted on a lightweight, portable electronic device with an animated color screen where I could knee Mr. Tumnus in the 'nads.

Hooray, I now have a new "life meme" (relaxation mantra, whatever). Whenever I encounter someone in everyday life who is irritating me, I'll just think to myself, "B B B B B B", and my worries will melt away. Thanks, Evan.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

If you don't like it, move to Canada

Gene Healy, discussing smoking bans in bars, has a great take (btw, "Lisa" represents the person who always pops up in these arguments with how much better her hair smells when the bar is non-smoking):
I don't take politics too seriously. Really. I can have calm, polite discussions with people about whether the state should seize my property to add a parking lot to Walmart or whether we should bomb innocent foreigners simply because we can achieve good results by doing so, and I generally don't personalize it. But I think I'm congenitally incapable of sober argument with a despicable harpy with a boundless sense of entitlement like "Lisa." No further argument should be needed, beyond "this is America. We can smoke in bars here."

Friday, May 20, 2005

"Come on pretty pretty, let's see a smile..."

Language warning!

Anyone headed out to the campground (or backyard) for the weekend? If you're looking for some background noise, I heartily recommend David Cross' standup effort, Shut Up, You Fucking Baby! - Disc 1 of 2.

Colby Cosh commented on Disc 2 a few months ago; he gets it right, although I'd say the anti-Bush stuff is more than tiresome; it's embarrassing. The best that can be said is at least he's explicit about his contempt for Bush voters, and I mean explicit in every sense of the word.

Disc 1, however, is laff-a-minute. I listened to it with a friend and our wives winding around the Avalon Peninsula last week. This is probably like verbally explaining a comic strip, but here goes. The highlight for me was his bit about loving New York City, and the strange but urgent decision you have to make every 30 minutes or so: "Should I look at the hottest girl I've ever seen, or the biggest lunatic I've ever seen?"

This moved on to his tale about watching a garbage truck roll along the curb at three miles per hour, and realizing that the driver is trying to pick up a woman walking down the sidewalk. Everything inside the quote marks is delivered in Tim Meadows' Ladies Man voice:

"Come on baby, how 'bout a smile now, come on pretty pretty, turn that shit upside down for me, come on now..." etc. Here I'm laughing - then Cross starts an imaginary Tony Robbins-style monologue by Mr. Garbage Truck Driver: "I don't sit around, I make things happen, I allow things to facilitate, I am a facilitator..." etc. Now I'm really laughing. Finally Cross hits the punchline, presumably a nod to the SNL Eddie Murphy-as-Michael Jackson appearance on "Guy Talk":

"I might get 99 'No's--but maybe that hundredth girl likes to fuck on a pile of trash."

- and, that's where I drive off the road and kill everyone in the car, but still die with a smile on my face. Anyway, it's an hour of laffs. Happy May-long.

What an awesome quote

Thanks to Jaeger for emerging from his secure whatever to post it. Also, thanks to Bruce for the pointer, and may I add, also for his ongoing takes on our Parliament and the CPC. I've retired from commenting on partisan politics, but I haven't yet managed to completely stop caring. Anyone wondering what I think about the crisis of the day, any day, is hereby advised to read Bruce and assume I concur.

Anyway, here's the quote:
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed'' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents "interests", I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can. -- Barry Goldwater

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What was I saying about Hit & Run again?

Oh yeah. Move over, Anthony Lane--"Break me a f**king give" (ÞCosh) is no longer the funniest line on Revenge of the Sith. Hello, Nick Gillespie:
As the final Star Wars flick bursts onto movie screens like 10,000 supernovas, I remind us all that you can't spell Sith without s, h, i, and t.


For the juvenile man who has everything

My brother-in-law was in T.O. recently, and brought me back an unbelievably hilarious gift. I can't beat this intro:
The next time you're in an argument, don't waste your time searching for an effective comeback. If you want to get the last word, just use the incredible Mr. T In Your Pocket

It's everything you would imagine from the link (except that jeez - Mr. T doesn't groan, he growls). Also, the printed word fails to capture the full hilarity of the fifth saying. This would be slightly better:

"First name - Mister. Middle name - Period. Last name - [voice goes lower] teeeeeeee."

Ages 5 and up, though only 25 and up will truly appreciate it.


While I offer no comment on the generalizations made about "The Left" by Wretchard hereReynolds), it is absurd to use the Canadian political crisis to draw them.
What characterizes much of the Left today as exemplified by behavior from George Galloway to Paul Martin is the increasing necessity to maintain their position By Any Means Necessary.

No. Political ideology has no relevance to this fooferaw. Nice to see furriners taking an interest, though.

Screech-in at Trapper John's

Serendipitous question from Nancy, in the comments to my previous Newfoundland post: "Were ya screeched in?"

That's a big 10-4, along with a dozen or so other mainlanders. (That's Mrs. Aldini and I in the blue and orange, respectively).

I had done it before, in 1995, but since it was in Fredricton, I had to stand on seaweed and face the Atlantic. (That was also during the cod moratorium, so we had to kiss a turbot, or "steakfish", or some damn thing).

At Trapper's, the tradition is not a fish at all; the local fauna to be smooched is a puffin, ass end.

Good times. That's the mother of the groom on the right (in red), wearing a hat that I think was made from the fur of an entire walrus.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"They appear to accept the trade-offs"

Sometimes I hate linking to a piece found via Hit & Run. It's not that I care that many of you have probably seen it already; it's that my intro-blurb could never sound as right as the one crafted by the H&R contributor. Here's Tim Cavanaugh:
Poor folks have cell phones, billionaires are running around in shades and baseball caps... It's hard to tell who's a lowlife anymore in this crazy, hill-of-beans world, but The New York Times can try, and Ron Bailey can make fun of them.

The Bailey piece, which observes that the Times appears to be fomenting a new round of class warfare, is wonderful. It also contains this fascinating nugget:
What does it say about class differences in "culture and taste" when the lowest price ticket for the NASCAR Pocono 500 is $99.00 while the cheapest ticket for Tosca at the Met is $26.00?

Not sure and don't much care, which I believe is Bailey's take as well.

Room in your foxhole for me, Jay?

I am ceasing comment on partisan politics, effective immediately. Our country has not a single (elected) political party with principles that are not, to borrow a phrase, "entirely mutable in the face of urgent political goals". That defines the Liberals, of course, and has for years. The Conservatives change their minds about something every five minutes. The Dippers no longer have any claim on moral consistency. As the Babbler wisely pointed out, they are willing today to disregard parliamentary conventions and non-statutory rules, despite the fact that virtually all their "rights" as a fourth party derive from these conventions.

So, they can all go to hell. Beyond that, I'm becoming more and more enamoured with Jardine's principled anti-voting stance. And none of this is to mention that the Liberals lost in Lethbridge by a 3-1 margin last time, so truly, my one vote does not make a difference.

Luckily, there's all sorts of other good things to blog about. There's still public policy, as well as sports, tee-vee, and the various travels that Equipe Fenwick will be undertaking through September. Yay! Time to start having some fun around here.

Speaking of which, if you really feel bad for Peter Mackay, the medicine is obvious. In a few weeks (maybe six), he needs to show up in public with a date. A hot date. Preferably a woman of some reknown; maybe an actress or singer. And most importantly, she must be at least several years younger than Belinda. This is 100% guaranteed to frost the new Minister's ass, even if everything else in her life is sunshine and lollipops.

Come on, Peter - return the burn! Who's the best candidate for the new lady? Nominations are invited in the comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Allergy sufferers love the climate!

So anyway, having been on vacation for a week, I really don't care about politics right now.

St. John's was fantastic. Awesome scenery. Great company. Beautiful place to stay. Incredible settings for the wedding and reception we attended.

Weather? Well, you gotta have something to complain about, right? This picture of Signal Hill was taken from the balcony of our B&B during the 15 minute sunshine break in St. John's last week.

A couple more photos to follow, if I'm happy with this Flickr setup. Good to be back in L.A.!


Thanks to Lisa Simpson, I know that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity. The Stronach defection is as good an example of this as I can imagine.

Hopefully this will force Harper et al into the course of action they should have been following the past 10 months - being the Opposition. By that I mean these words of John Robson: "..opposing the government while offering an alternative program..".

This is not at all to wave aside the "banana republic power tactic". But there is nothing more that Harper can do to tell Canadians that they ought not to vote Liberal based on ethics. Nothing. In fact, he should state this publicly, then go on to promoting his agenda.

Two choice quotes to finish. First, from Damian Brooks:
The people who support Martin - or more accurately, oppose the Conservatives; nobody supports Martin...

And second, from Paul Wells:
It's usually a bad sign for a relationship when your girlfriend refers to you in public by both names.

Truer words were never spoken.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

You know I still love you, baby

2005 is Alberta's Centennial, and as things have turned out, I'll be honouring it by leaving several times over the next six months.

August will feature 2 weeks in BC; then there's a weekend in September to rejoice in the glory of Sci '95. My wife and kids will be driving to Manitoba for a week or so in June.

And today, we're off to that godforsaken rock. It's my first time. There may be reports from abroad; there will certainly be some when I get back.

Long may your big jib draw!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Reality check:

Casual Canadian Sports Fan: simmer down about Steve Nash being voted NBA MVP.

He performed extremely well this year, and has helped his team become very, very good. But geez--he's not even the best player on his team!

I'm all for recognizing the intangibles too. But I've never heard of an MVP in any league where you could name twenty other players whose GMs would not, under any circumstances, trade them for the MVP.

Of course, far be it from me to pass judgement on the hundred-odd fatties who watch basketball for a living and vote on the award. What I will object to is the ridiculous discussion I heard twice on the radio today: "Where does this accomplishment rank in Canadian sports moments?"

Being voted an award is not an "accomplishment" in and of itself, and yet I heard several people argue today that, essentially, what he did to earn it is not important. A sidekick on The FAN960 brought up the argument that, without demeaning Nash, his teammates are terrific, so how much individual credit is he owed? Good old Joe Sports actually attempted to say roughly the following: "Well hell, Gretzky was great, but just how great would he have been without Kurri, and Messier, and those dominant teams in the 80s?"

What an easy question to answer: he would have been singularly great. He would have made any team he was on infinitely better. You would have gladly traded any other player in the league for him one-for-one.

That's the big, large, huge, wide difference between Steve Nash and someone like Wayne Gretzky. And when the NHL played hockey, I was a Flames fan.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Redneck Christmas UPPERDATE!

My filthy, broken sandbox (pictured here, in grey) is gone. I also notice someone picked up the old fire extinguisher, which is sufficiently ancient, grimey, and gigantic that its only conceivable contemporary use would be to break down an especially heavy door.

My reaction to this is still generally one of amusement, but it does make me wonder: who are these people, for whom evidently the stuff at garage sales is of excessive quality and/or too expensive?

Radically stupid, but essentially S.O.P.

Paul Wells, on the Martin-McGuinty "negotiations"(?):
This is a radically stupid way to do federalism. I just thought I'd point that out.

Pithy, and as he tends to be on the subject of federalism, correct (although we probably have our differences as to the fixes).

I wish I'd written more about this in the past 11 months. Let's set aside for a moment the question of whether it's wise to have governments involved in so much stuff (or to put it Jardine's way, I'm going to argue on the enemy's premises). Why does it cost so much, and why aren't problems being solved?

The most important answer to these questions is that, in too many areas, neither level of government is clearly responsible enough for the program for we citizens to know who's accountable, and thus demand satisfaction.

My look at this, as it pertains to the health care system, is here.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Do you know what I'm talkin' about, Ladies,

Chris Selley has well and fairly rejoined on the topic of the B.C. Jehovah's Witness girl and consent for blood transfusions. He makes his point clearly; there's no value in me going over it sentence by sentence.

Neither do I want to rehash my own previous comments. However, having digested Selley's clarification, I am relieved that I pinned very little of my argument on religious freedom - because this take from Selley is pretty good:
..here's one of my all-time favourite religious-themed quotes: "The Witnesses do not feel that the Bible comments directly on organ transplants." Really? Nowhere? What about in the New Testament, next to the stuff about MRI scans, epidurals and hyperbaric chambers?

I mean… arrgh! Am I really prohibited from commenting on this on the grounds of letting everyone live his or her life however he or she wants? The Bible doesn't "comment directly" on anything that didn't happen or wasn't invented until after the Bible was written. I question the sanity of those who disagree with that, and renew my demand that children be protected from the negative consequences of such beliefs.

A few days before Terri Schiavo's death, Colby Cosh touched on this same theme--without making much of an impact, apparently. This is basically what it comes down to: if you want me (or the state) to respect, or defer to, your beliefs because they are "religious" beliefs, you had better be prepared to address any internal contradictions of those beliefs.

I have zero theological education, so I'm willing to hear rebuttals, but: God may be omniscient, but He doesn't see the future. If He knows everything in advance, then concepts like redemption, and prayer, are meaningless. And like Selley, I decline to accept any old belief as legitimate merely because it is a RELIGIOUS BELIEF, like that bestows some kind of magic force field around it.

If it looks like I'm softening my stance, I'm not--I just think that the best arguments for not intervening in this girl's case aren't necessarily intertwined with religion. I probably won't elaborate on this; I have another Redneck Christmas update.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

How many zeroes is that, again?

Turn-of phrase du jour:

"..the zillion-pound shithammer of the federal government.."

Long awaited follow-up

The retail liquor privatization meme is long dead, but now that I have photoshop and screen-capture utilities working, I thought I'd revisit it briefly.

Please direct your attention to the unauthorized use of Google Maps below. The 'M' up near the top right represents Chateau Fenwick. The multiple 'X' marks represent establishments of various sizes selling beer and liquor.

It's about 1200m from the top of this map to the bottom.

Delicious, convenient liquor Posted by Hello

Ever been driving home, realized, "Damn, I forgot to stop at the liquor store", and had to turn around? I haven't! And did I mention that you never, never wait in line?

Colby Cosh made another good point back when we were discussing this:
I don't buy enough booze to be super price-sensitive; the one change I have noticed is that certain items go on sale when the private retailers want to clear out stock, so there's absolutely no question that you can drink more cheaply if your shopping tastes are even slightly elastic.

Indeed. Even outside the context of stock rotation, some retailers appear to put the same markup on all their products; some obviously sell certain products at or near cost while adding big margins to others. Yet another advantage for the engaged consumer!

One other anecdote I think is barely interesting enough to share: like most products, you tend to receive a certain volume discount when buying beer (i.e. a two-four is cheaper than two "dozens", which is in turn cheaper than four six-packs; we tend to attribute this to economy of packaging).

This is also true of the prices paid by retailers to the government wholesaler, which led one of my local retailers to detect an opportunity. Take typical Kokanee can prices (includes tax & deposit):
  • 24 for $36.69
  • 12 for $18.89
  • 6 for $9.79
My favorite local guy picked up a six-pack holder-putter-onner somewhere. He doesn't buy flats containing 4 six-packs, only cubes. Then his staff rips apart cubes, makes six-packs, and sells them for $9.19.

A quick calculation will demonstrate that he takes a mere 7 cents per 24 for his trouble. It's his business, and if he's looking for market share, he's got most of my business. What you may also notice is that it's cheaper to buy two six-packs than a dozen, even though there's extra labour associated with the sixers.

I'm not a big shopper, but I'm pretty sure it's unusual to find retail instances where it's cheaper to buy two units of the same individual item than a two-pack of the same item. Party on.

Redneck Christmas Update!

Another correct prediction by the publishers of Jerry Aldini!

My stroller with the wheel snapped off is gone. More interestingly, the old barbecue was disassembled in place: the tub and lid are gone, but the legs, dashboard, and fuel system remain.

Lethbridge, Alberta: where the dumpster divers carry tools, and know how to use them.

No, as a matter of fact, I can't drive my 2WD car into my garage. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Astonishingly weak indeed

Colby Cosh had this to say Monday about Tart Cider: "I don't even know what the heck Torontonian Chris Selley does for a living, but he's great." I tend to agree, which is why Selley's post about the teenaged Jehovah's Witness with cancer disappoints me that much more.

Minor quibbles first: there is not a good analogy between this case and Terri Schiavo. I would never speak for religious conservatives, but from where I sit, it's entirely different because we are crystal clear about the wishes of both the patient and the guardians. Schiavo's parents were arguing expressly that she was minimally conscious, and expressing her wish to live ("ahhhhh! waaaaa!" etc.). So the issue here is nothing about what the patient would want, and entirely about whether those wishes should be ignored.

Also, does refusing a blood transfusion against the unanimous recommendation of doctors qualify as irrefutably loony? Obviously Selley and most Canadians think it does; I do not, I don't expect to change anyone's mind, and that's not the aim of this post. However, I think it behooves us all to consider the question of whether there are worse things than death.

This doesn't require a religious perspective at all. I would guess that for nearly all of us there exists certain potential agonies, humiliations, or heartbreaks which we would assess as being less preferable than death. Thinking of some? Good - now imagine that someone else's list is different than yours. Would you replace his list with your own if you had the power, for his own good? Should we all take a vote on it? Maybe he feels the same way - should we all take a vote on your list?

This is mostly barking at the moon; legal precedent favouring the government is ample on the JW/minor/blood transfusion question. However, as usual, we should check our premises--and be reminded that deciding for someone else, child or not, what is better than death is a grave step to take.

All that said, what is most offensive about Selley's take is easily this portion:
I don't have much of an activist bent, but I'll lay my cards on the table here: we need to find this girl and take all medical steps possible to save her life. The arguments against doing so — including her own, I'm sorry to say — are astonishingly weak:

It's no different than somebody getting sexually assaulted or robbed or something. You'd feel violated because it's not anybody else's property, it's you.

Well, that does sound rough. But it's rather ironic, as one blogger observed, that:

This [comes] from a girl who has ingested drugs, had chemo, gotten through two surgeries and accepted the possibility of having her leg amputated.

Furthermore, while it may be like rape, assault and robbery, at least it's not like murder.

Ironic? What the fuck? Here's irony--read the entire paragraph written by "Charlie Quimby", the blogger whose observation Selley notes:
This from a girl who has ingested drugs, had chemo, gotten through two surgeries and accepted the possibility of having her leg amputated. Lifesaving blood is different because the Bible says so. I might differ on that point, but not with her position that having something inserted in your body against your will is like rape.

Even Quimby is explicit that there is a distinction associated with consent; regrettably, Selley offers no clue that he sees one. (This girl is willing to undergo some types of medical treatment but not others, whereas I would make a different choice. How ironic! It's almost like we're two different people!)

There is irony to be found here, though. How about this: there are undoubtedly Jehovah's Witnesses who today would be much sicker, or dead, if it weren't for their (cough) lunatic dogma against receiving blood transfusions.

And how's this for irony: sneering at a girl's comparision of a blood transfusion to sexual assault ("well, that does sound rough"), then expressing your wish to "track her down, strap her to a table and pump her full of medical science."

That's just brutal. Although we may have figured out Selley's job - is it M.D.? Because it's hard to imagine why else he would give so much creedence to the notion of doctor-as-God.

An otherwise unremarkable act performed in the absence of consent is serious stuff. This also brings up another point: while a 14-year-old has barely more legal right to run their own lives than a 4-year-old, it's not the same thing. A young JW child forced into a blood transfusion would not understand much of what was happening, would not appreciate the consequences in any meaningful sense, and stands a good chance of forgetting about the whole thing a few years down the road.

No such luck with a 14-year-old. She's going to be traumatized. Furthermore, how does she go about putting it behind her? "Living with the reminder" seems like the appropriate phrase here. Maybe, per Selley's hope, she'll grow up and "realize how stupid and backwards and nutty her parents' religion is", and find peace. Maybe she'll be so overcome with self-loathing that she jumps off a bridge. Maybe she'll be mostly OK, but will battle depression for the rest of her life. I don't know, but the idea of doing this risk-benefit analysis for someone I don't even know makes me queasy.

There is a base premise here that >90% of us could agree on: "There are certain extraordinary circumstances under which the state is justified in removing children from the care of their parents." We would all disagree on what constitutes extraordinary, but we generally agree that children have certain rights beyond what their parents may choose to bestow on them, and we ought to ensure that these rights are respected.

Selley has done a dismal job of asserting that this is one of those extraordinary circumstances, principally because he demonstrates no humility in vetoing the choices of the girl and her parents.

This is by most accounts a normal girl with a solid family structure. She does not "wish to die": she has pursued all other avenues of treatment, and is continuing to do so. Her refusal to accept someone else's blood is in accordance with the well-known beliefs of a religion that's been around for 100+ years. She would suffer an unknowable amount of emotional trauma if she is forced to accept the transfusion. Although we believe (probably correctly) now that a transfusion carries no real medical risk, there are presently thousands of Canadians waiting to be compensated for diseases contracted that way in the 80s and 90s. And by the way, forcing a blood transfusion into this may well discourage those like her in the future from seeking medical treatment at all.

On the other hand, the best medical knowledge we have in 2005 strongly indicates that the girl's immediate physical health would be best served by having a blood transfusion.

This is serious business. If you want to argue that various bits of prevailing medical wisdom ought to override the wishes of the patient and her parents, I'm listening. I'm objecting, but I'm listening. But don't come at me with this weak crap where not only do a doctor's orders amount to the word of God, but that all other considerations are comparatively so trivial as to be meaningless. A good doctor, after all, is supposed to treat the patient, not the illness.

Peace be with you, dear.

Monday, May 02, 2005

It's Redneck Christmas!

Here in Lethbridge, today is the first day of what is officially called "Spring Cleanup". The City hires extra contractors, and they go around picking up virtually any kind of garbage you want to leave out, no bags necessary.

I've posted before that in Southern Alberta, most of the salt-of-the-earth, make-it-on-your-own rhetoric is a bunch of crap. One thing that's not a myth, though, is the (ahem) thriftiness of many of my fellow citizens.

Among other things, I've put out a stroller with a wheel broken off, a filthy sandbox with a non-functioning high-hoe attachment, and a propane BBQ manufactured during the Diefenbaker administration. I fully expect many of these items to be gone from my alley before the City comes to haul them away.

And may I say, congratulations to the lucky dumpster-divers. I've been to several spring barbecues where the backyard furniture was newly-appropriated couches with sheets spread over them. And I'm only slightly ashamed to say that I have a "cooler" in my backyard that was originally someone's cast-iron bathtub; the addition of a hinged plywood lid was a minor and worthwhile bit of carpentry.

It's also about as easy to move as a snooker table, so I expect that when the day comes that I sell my house, the cooler will be included. (Free, natch.)

No tinfoil necessary

Having read Ginna Dowler, and Kate, and Penny, I was going to make roughly the same point as Andrew Coyne does here: namely, that Paragraph K is standard language for terms of an inquiry, and doesn't really mean that Gomery is limited in the broad conclusions he can draw.

In fact, I had an email exchange about the terms of inquiry with a different professional political writer a couple of months ago, and here's what he said:
I'll tell you straight, I haven't read Gomery's terms of reference. Any self-respecting head of a commission of inquiry ignores his terms of reference and goes where the evidence leads him. That's called "empire-building" when he goes somewhere inconvenient, but still, it's what I would do if anyone were dumb enough to put me in charge of a commission of inquiry. The upshot, in any case, is that it never occurred to me to read the terms of reference because I assumed they wouldn't stay relevant long.

That said, Coyne is far too harsh when he says, "At ease, Tinfoil-Hat Brigade!", and indeed, he shouldn't be dismissing whitewash concerns so outrightly. The point Ginna makes nicely in conclusion is basically that Gomery's final report will necessarily use some fuzzy language when assessing blame. He can't find anyone guilty, in a judicial sense, of criminal conduct, so his language will reflect that.

Does Andrew, or anyone else, believe that Paul Martin and the Liberals won't seize on this same fuzzy language as mitigating their culpability? As a famous TV dad once said, "Now who's being naive, Marge?"

No, it's not a fix. But the PMO knows exactly what they're setting up for.