December 29, 2006

Na na na na, hey hey hey, Allahu achbar

As I write this, it's just been reported that Saddam Hussein has done the fresh-air jig at the end of a rope.

To [mis]quote Macbeth, "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." Good riddance.

December 28, 2006

Passages of note

My parents' PC is seven years old and seriously underpowered. They have high-speed Internet rather than dialup, which is its one saving grace. But the consequence is that I don't blog as frequently as I would like to. It's too much of a pain. Nonetheless, I always like to note the passage of someone whom I find personally significant for one reason or another. Better late than never.

James Brown (1933-2006)

Notwithstanding his many arrests, multiple marriages and other personal problems, Brown didn't earn the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" for nothing. A James Brown CD in my personal library was the "gateway" to other funk acts such as Kool and the Gang, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Barry White on the one hand; and more mainstream R&B such as Al Green and the Four Tops on the other.

The world is a less funky place due to his passing, and that's a shame.

Gerald Ford (1913-2006)

At 93, Ford was the longest-lived President of the United States, and the last living one of whom I had no personal memory, being too young to follow the news and international politics any time prior to the Carter administration. From everything I've heard of him, he was an otherwise unremarkable President, other than the fact that it was his job to pick up the pieces of the Nixon era (and the unique circumstance of his presidency, in that he was never elected to the office of Vice-President or President). Still, he served his country with integrity even if he wasn't a legend in his own time, and it's always sad to see a world leader pass into history.

December 23, 2006

Living in an Amish paradise

I went to school in Waterloo, Ontario, only a few miles away from the heart of Old Order Mennonite country. The local culture had me hooked pretty much from the first time I spotted a horse and buggy. There are relatively few places in the world where you can find a hitching post or stall standing outside a modern supermarket - or, as often as not, find it occupied as its owner shops for prepackaged groceries inside, while dressed in a long black dress, bonnet, and . . . Nikes. As I knew of the Old Order Mennonites and Amish only as a sect that had eschewed modern technology, the seemingly selective morality the Amish practiced in their day-to-day lives fascinated me for the eight years that I lived there.1

In the aftermath of the Amish school shootings on October 2 in Lancaster County, I heard an interview on CNN with Donald B. Kraybill, a sociology professor at nearby Elizabethtown College and expert on Amish culture, give a background interview and discuss how the community would cope with the tragedy. Later the same day, I came across an article by Howard Rheingold from the January 1999 issue of Wired, also citing Kraybill, about the adoption by some Amish of cellular telephones.2 This article suggested that there was actually a (more or less) logical rationale behind the selective rejection of technology. I decided to find Kraybill's book The Riddle of Amish Culture3 and finally learn something about this paradoxical sect.

December 06, 2006

The CUSA Thought Police win this round

Under the leadership of Menard, CUSA moves forward!

I halfway figured it was a foregone conclusion anyway, but after five hours of debate last night, in the name of women's rights, CUSA voted to pass the infamous "anti-choice" motion limiting the rights of pro-life groups to assemble and speak on the Carleton University campus by denying them equal access to resources. The vote was 26-6, with one abstention and one absence.

I was not present myself (didn't realize until later that the meeting was open to the public), but Suzanne of Big Blue Wave and Deborah Gyapong were. You can read their reports of the night here and here, respectively.

The young-adult pastor of my church was also in attendance (along with a few of our Carleton students). He stayed a little longer than Suzanne or Deborah, and so I heard from him something about the presentation made by Don Hutchison, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. As a former constitutional lawyer himself, he shredded every argument CUSA could make in favour of the motion, and chastised them for taking it upon themselves to interpret the law (which, he argued, was the purview of the higher courts).

Ironically, Hutchison also said that during the 1970s, as a lawyer, he had argued in favour of of pro-choice groups receiving CUSA funding on the basis of freedom of speech. Too bad the present incarnation of the student Politburo has their heads too far up their "collective" rear (pun intended) to return the courtesy.

Another part of the discussion supposedly hinged on CUSA's defining themselves as a "political organization" rather than a student government. Someone asked how he/she could opt out of membership in the "political organization" and having to pay fees to it. That didn't go over too well with the CUSA people. (So much for "pro-choice"!)

All in all, this has been a disgusting episode, and one that current students, employees, and alumni of Carleton University should be ashamed of. In the name of "free speech," CUSA has presumed to define the limits of what you can say about abortion as a dues-paying club member. You can now say that a woman should carry a baby to term, or that abortion on demand is immoral, but if you dare to suggest that it should be illegal, the Kampus KGB will be coming for you.

I have no doubt that the long, public debate was nothing but lip service to public opinion; the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile, of course, their PR machine has been vilifying the pro-life movement, calling it "discriminatory," "violence against women," and 'hate speech," and drawing comparisons to the KKK and other white-supremacy groups; CUSA president Shawn Menard actually falsely accused the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (which sponsors the Genocide Awareness Project and employs pro-life debater Jojo Ruba) of Holocaust denial. This bit of slander has resulted in the threat of legal action against CUSA, and I hope CCBR carries through with that.

Anyway, on that sour note, I'm officially wrapping up my commentary on this particular issue and moving on, though if anything interesting further transpires, I might come back to it now and again.

Note on the image: The original propaganda poster shows Stalin pointing to a map of Russia, which I have replaced with an aerial photo of the Carleton campus. The original motto was along the lines of, "Under the leadership of Stalin, Communism moves forward!" I have used Carleton's official motto, "Ours the Eternal Task" - or, at least, as close as I could get using Babelfish's English-to-Russian filter, as I don't speak Russian. (The trick was to find an English equivalent that translated into Russian, then back into English halfway sensibly. The closest I came was "We own the eternal task.")

December 04, 2006

CUSA president slanders; CCBR pushes back


I guess the folks at the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) heard Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) president Shawn Menard on CFRA last Wednesday morning, when he told radio host Mark Sutcliffe that the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) was, "as you know, a group that talks about the fact that the Holocaust did not happen."

This, I'm sure, came as a great surprise to Stephanie Gray and Jojo Ruba: the latter referenced the reality of the Holocaust several times during the October 30 debate on abortion on campus, including his closing remarks about Corrie ten Boom, the sole survivor of a family that helped hide Jews from the Nazis and was sent to the camps for it. Indeed the very premise of GAP, which calls abortion a modern genocide, relies on the fact that the Holocaust (and other genocides) actually happened.

Well, Menard's slander didn't go over very well with Gray. Big Blue Wave has obtained a press release from CCBR demanding "an unambiguous retraction and apology." Specifically, they demand that such a be submitted to CFRA and the Charlatan student paper, and posted on CUSA's own Web site. If this doesn't happen by this Friday, it'll be lawyer time.

Man. I thought that one way or another I'd be blogging about something else by tomorrow.

December 02, 2006

CUSA gears up the damage-control machine

CUSA needs to remember the First Rule of Holes: When you're in one, stop digging.

This week, there was a blogstorm and a small media frenzy concerning a motion proposed at the November 21 meeting of the Carleton University Student Association, affirming that CUSA is "pro-choice" and banning "anti-choice" groups from using CUSA resources. This came about after an October 30 debate sponsored by Carleton Lifeline, on the question: "Should elective abortion be illegal?" Some campus womyn [sic] were upset that their "safe space" was violated by having someone disagree with them. Hence this motion has been, rightly in my opinion, viewed as a restriction on freedom of speech on Carleton campus.

Since then, various CUSA members and sympathizers have been active in the media and the blogosphere trying to do damage control. Here's a look at some of the more common talking points.