By Colby Cosh - Friday, May 10, 2013 - 0 Comments
All righty. Since Mark Warawa has finally kicked off that grand national conversation about sex-selective abortion we needed so badly, I’ll start by asking a question: exactly which sex-selective abortions should we outlaw? I think we know how Warawa would answer, given his druthers: “All of them, along with all the other abortions.” It is odd, though, how many of the people who are eager for a “conversation” have failed to supply their own answer. We hear that there must be some law—the truly civilized places, the superior polities, all have one!—but no one ever explains with any precision what that law should capture. Let’s imagine some possible cases:
1. An East Indian woman in a traditionalist marriage is found to be carrying a female fetus, and wants to abort it owing to her preference for having a boy.
2. A Toronto feminist in a radical same-sex life arrangement is found to be carrying a male fetus, and wants to abort it owing to her preference for a male-free household.
3. A mother of three boys is found to be carrying a fourth male fetus, and opts for an abortion and an attempt at a fifth pregnancy with a different outcome in the hope of “balancing” her family.
4. A mother who knows she is a carrier of red-green colour blindness, generally an X-chromosome-linked genetic defect, prefers to carry only girls to term because she selfishly prefers to have a more perfect child.
5. A mother who knows she is a carrier of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, always an X-chromosome-linked genetic defect, prefers to carry only girls to term because she selfishly prefers to have a more perfect child.
6. A mother, living in the imminent near future in which fetuses can be gene-sequenced almost immediately after implantation, who has no actual preference concerning the sex of her child, but makes an a priori decision to abort any fetus that displays some level—perhaps trivial, perhaps only the most staggeringly serious—of known genetic defect. The result, since God has arranged matters such that recessive X-chromosome-linked defects affecting only boys vastly outnumber any other kind, is a set of abortions that are collectively and strongly “sex-selective” in favour of girls, even though the mothers are indifferent. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:54 PM - 0 Comments
Have you heard? Free speech is a thing of the past. And religious liberty is dying fast.
It began last week when Arun Smith, a seventh-year human rights student at Carleton University in Ottawa, tore down a “free speech wall” on campus because it featured socially conservative comments. The action inspired three National Post columns and an Ezra Levant exclusive lamenting the end of freedom of expression as we know it.
Elsewhere, on the religious liberty front, the Canadian Council of Law Deans wrote a letter of protest to Canada’s Federation of Law Societies about Trinity Western University. The Christian liberal arts school in British Columbia wants to open a law school that would require students to sign a Community Covenant Agreement that pledges “Healthy Sexuality.” The agreement has nothing to do with gonorrhea or how to avoid it: what’s to be avoided is love and sex between people of the same gender (which is, I guess, by Trinity Western’s standards, worse than gonorrhea). “Sexual intimacy,” says the covenant, “is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.” In other words, gays need not apply.
In a bizarre twist, one of Trinity Western’s champions is the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, whose double-speak on this issue would confound George Orwell himself. From the Vancouver Sun:
“Despite TWU’s ban on homosexual relationships and sex outside marriage, Lyster [British Columbia Civil Liberties Association president Lindsay Lyster] also defended the evangelical school’s approach to academic freedom — saying secular universities often impose restrictions on free thought, including in regards to religious perspectives.”
Lyster’s concern, I suspect, is the same kind shared by Rex Murphy and Ezra Levant when they lament the end of free speech at Carleton University. There’s no denying most secular liberal arts schools are left-leaning, but do they really “impose restrictions on free thought and religious perspectives” draconian enough to match the injustice of Trinity Western’s ban on homosexuality?
Secular schools are by and large socially liberal, yes, but the mere presence of seventh-year human rights students and atheist professors in blue jeans does not equal discriminatory policy against socially conservative, religious students. Nor does the overwhelming presence of socially liberal thought prohibit social conservatism. Telling gays they are going to hell probably won’t make you valedictorian, but there is no rule against doing so. Arun Smith ripped down the “free speech wall” because written on it, among other things, was “Traditional marriage is awesome,” and “Abortion is murder.” He was wrong to do so. But the fact remains: he was punished. The students who wrote the conservative comments were not. As for the free speech wall? There is a new one in its place.
Freedom of expression: 1.
Arun Smith: 0.
Free speech dead? Apparently not.
Socially conservative students may find that in a modern university classroom, they’re uncomfortable stating their views on the civil rights of gays and lesbians (possibly that they shouldn’t have any), but that doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to. However, your right to speak freely doesn’t negate someone else’s right to tell you to stop talking. And asking that you do so because your argument has no place in an institution of higher learning, or in a court of law (my right to marry my girlfriend is no longer a valid debate topic, nor is it any of your business) is not a letter of expulsion.
Echoing the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Barbara Kay writes in the National Post that secular law schools are breeding grounds of their own a-religious philosophies; prone to different but equal prejudice. Here she is below:
“So although white Christian students of European descent don’t actually have to sign a Covenant attesting to their original sin of white or male privilege when they sign up for law school, they may as well have had to, considering what they will be taught once they’re in, and the way they’ll be treated if they dissent from the critical race theory or feminist line. Unlike gays, who have their pick of law schools that cater to minority sensibilities, those who reject the Marxist-based faith governing most law schools in the West are forced to submit to their tenets.”
Let’s assume for a moment Kay is correct: Canadian law school is a three-year pinko party to which all would-be gay law students aspire. And one at which all socially conservative law students feel out of place.
That she can even allude to the isolation of socially conservative students on secular campuses proves my point precisely. They are allowed on secular campuses. They don’t have to sign a covenant. They may not Take Back the Night, or Occupy Bay Street, but nobody’s stopping them from going to school. More on point, their rights to rant and lobby against my rights does not bar them from enrolling in a secular institution. But my right to be myself would bar me from enrolling in theirs.
So let’s be clear. We are not dealing with equal prejudices. One is far more insidious. Secular law schools, no matter how annoyingly liberal, do not have the power to expel socially conservative, religious students simply because they are socially conservative and religious. Trinity Western University’s law school, on the other hand, would have the power to expel gays because they are gay.
Social conservatives of this ilk are not defenders of liberty. They are its thieves.
By Emma Teitel - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 6:31 AM - 0 Comments
In the National Post yesterday, Kelly McParland coined a new term for the progressive social movements of our time: the Arab Spring, Occupy and Idle No More.
“The great International anti-The Man movement,” is what he likes to call them — a catch-all phrase for bacchanals of smelly young people clutching placards, weighed down by the billion Che Guevara pins on their canvas bags, the Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians who died brutally for democracy—and now—the aboriginal Canadians who block roadways to protest treaty violations. Who knew they had so much in common?
I would like to coin my own term for people like McParland, and Barbara Kay, and Margaret Wente, pundits who defecate rhetorically on every liberal protest movement that makes the nightly news. My term is easier to remember.
I like to call these people FAIPOFS—For all Intents and Purposes, Old Farts. Not necessarily physically old, that is (I’m not ageist), just unfathomable to fathom as young: like Ms. Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, who admits she doesn’t care for children because she never was one. You try to picture the FAIPOFS young at heart, at a party, maybe even sitting friendless in a high school cafeteria, but you can’t. Because unless their long-form birth certificates verify otherwise, it’s almost certain they exited the womb fully grown, hurling insults at shiftless grad students. Or in Wente’s case, imaginary shiftless grad students.
Yesterday’s star FAIPOF, Kelly McParland, actually doesn’t mind the original sentiment behind Idle No More, likely because it would have remained idle without the radicalism, road blockades and hunger strikes clogging news feeds every hour. Below, he writes approvingly of the original movement’s website.
“The photo section is like a suburban family’s Facebook page, with shots [of] kids and nature, and what looks like someone’s vacation snapshot from Beijing. It’s pretty harmless and well-meaning. But it’s been largely co-opted by the great international anti-The Man movement.”
That McParland wouldn’t be aware of the website’s existence without the great anti-The Man movement seems lost on him entirely. And that is—to everyone who looks at Theresa Spence’s tent with annoyed bewilderment—precisely the point.
Like clockwork, every time people take to the streets or roads or parks with a cause, they are celebrated and disdained. The Toronto Star says good for them, the National Post says get a life, and the Globe and Mail says something I can’t remember.
What matters though, is that right or wrong these people are seen and heard. If they stayed home, or as every FAIPOF suggested—went through the appropriate channels to voice their concerns—we wouldn’t know their names or their grievances. Now we do.
Now we can’t avoid them. Now, some of my friends, most of whom have never paid attention to aboriginal affairs, are talking about Idle No More. My extended family, at our weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner, is talking about Idle No More. Most of them (one FAIPOF in particular, you know who you are) don’t particularly like the movement, but the fact remains that without it, we would not have replaced our Israel-Palestine debates with discussions on First Nations policy—and thank God we did, because the Israel thing was getting really old.
Chances are, my friends and family will not heed the call of Chief Spence (they are still, as far as I tell, very much idle), but at least they’ve heard it loud and clear. At least they can pronounce Attawapiskat.
As for the old farts, they’ll fart on until the end of time, content, I’d imagine, with the recent discovery that two thirds of Canadians think “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers,” and the Aboriginal peoples themselves will be content that we’re thinking of them at all.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
Last month I wrote about Iranian efforts to reach out to ex-pat Iranians and other Muslims in Canada, through its embassy, front organizations, student group, and funding a lavish “student conference” for those who belong to approved “cultural communities.”
My story included reference to a Farsi-language interview given by Hamid Mohammadi, Iran’s cultural counselor in Ottawa, to an Iranian government website in which he talks about the embassy’s outreach program, which includes establishing new cultural centres, sending students and professors to Iran, and equipping Canadian universities with Farsi books.
In the last two days, the Ottawa Citizen and National Post have run splashy front-page articles based on Mohammadi’s interview. These have included a healthy dose of torque. Iran does engage in espionage in Canada, and is particularly interested in the loyalties of the Iranians here, who are watched and intimidated. Those who openly oppose the regime in Tehran risk endangering their families back home. My article gave an example of a young man who protested an embassy-funded event at Carleton University and subsequently had a court summons delivered for him at a relative’s home in Tehran. But for Postmedia papers to frame Mohammadi’s remarks as essentially an admission that Tehran is recruiting spies and potential terrorists is a stretch. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 6:53 AM - 0 Comments
I almost never disagree with Chris Selley. Indeed, I am almost willing to make it a rule not to disagree with Chris Selley. But his analysis yesterday of Brad Trost’s groping for more backbencher power in Parliament is uncharacteristically superficial. Selley celebrates Trost’s public ruminating over his inability to spurn the party whip on polarizing issues; wouldn’t it be nice, he asks, if we had a Conservative Party more like the eclectic, dissent-tolerating one in old Westminster? Perhaps it would be. But there is an awkward plain fact staring us in the face. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Friday, February 3, 2012 at 6:05 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday, the National Post ran a story about a report in Nature that suggests sugar is toxic. It’s so bad, says the research journal, that the government might want to restrict the sale of soda pop to those who are at 17-years-old. That would put sugar in the same latitude of evil as alcohol and tobacco. And like those other two harbingers of depravity, sugar is everywhere: from sweet, colourful cereals to candy, fast food and sports drinks. But the real target of the report seems to be soda pop.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:26 AM - 54 Comments
Today’s front page of the National Post features an amusing column by William Watson about an “access problem” that Canada Post has very suddenly discovered at the Montreal domicile he has occupied for two decades. Watson’s entryway has a few wide, shallow steps with no railing. It’s a situation that would not challenge an infant above the age of twenty months, and no particular carrier has filed a complaint, but a safety officer doing a “preventative” check of Watson’s premises has decided that he must either renovate or cease receiving his mail at home.
One is mindful, reading of Watson’s experience, that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is still bitter about being sent back to work by statute with a poorer-than-expected wage deal. His tale sounds like the outcome of a work-to-rule effort, and that is certainly what one would anticipate after a
strikelockout that had been ended by fiat. Canada Post’s customers want to put a Conservative government in Ottawa?—Very well! Let’s see how they like the results! How happy for CUPW, really, that one of the suckers to whom it’s applying random abuse turns out to be a loathsome, venomous right-wing pundit of the sort that’s forever agitating for privatizations and competitiveness and the rest of the gore-grimed apparatus of capitalism. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 29, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 37 Comments
The National Post endorses a Conservative majority.
The main question in this election is about who can steer Canada forward during uncertain economic times. Given Mr. Harper’s record of intelligent, sober leadership, and the many question marks associated with his opponents, his Conservatives are our clear choice in Monday’s election.
The Toronto Star disagrees.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:04 AM - 253 Comments
Eleven years before he declared himself and his side to be “Canadians first and only,” Stephen Harper declared his allegiance to an Alberta quite apart from Canada.
The following op-ed was published by the National Post on December 8, 2000, shortly after that year’s federal election. Sorting out how he got from writing what appears here to saying what he says now probably goes as far as any question towards sorting out Stephen Harper. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 6:26 PM - 177 Comments
It is a tradition that binds us together as a nation, our eternal obsession over the ever-imminent downfall of our elected leaders. And so we return now to the question of just how profoundly, unavoidably, indisputably screwed is Michael Ignatieff.
At last report, he was most immediately doomed by Monday’s by-elections. As the conventional consensus had it, the Liberal party was to lose all three. Defeat in the former Liberal stronghold of Vaughan would be particularly resounding—it would be what Outremont was to Stéphane Dion. What once was a Liberal caucus of 77 would be reduced to a mere 76. Everything else would subsequently come crashing down around Mr. Ignatieff. By Christmas, he would be deposed as leader. By spring, he would be bussing tables at Harvey’s on Elgin Street. His household’s cats, Mimi and Eric, would hiss at him when he returned home from work each day.
As the day dawned on Tuesday in the capital, it was but a trifle that Monday night had not at all gone according to plan. The Liberals had indeed lost Vaughan, but by just less than a thousand votes. Meanwhile, the Liberal candidate in Winnipeg-North was victorious in a riding the party had not won in 17 years. What was a Liberal caucus of 77 is still a caucus of 77. He had broken even. He had exceeded expectations.
Rest assured, the Liberal leader is still destined to soon be asking the public not for their support, but rather whether they’d like fries or onion rings with that. “Vaughan by-election loss adds to Ignatieff’s woes” explained a Globe headline this morning, that atop a story that spoke ominously of “Michael Ignatieff’s troubled leadership.” “For Ignatieff,” preemptively eulogized a Conservative operative now lending his analysis to the National Post, “his days are numbered”
Though a doomed man, he arrived this morning to the House foyer looking mostly undead. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Lorne Gunter has a column.
The Citizen covered last night’s conference.
Here is the original story.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:23 PM - 0 Comments
The National Post, 12 years old on Oct. 27, has now been published under three proprietors. Only a year ago the Post was part of an industry-wide Asper family bankruptcy watch, and the assumption was that bankruptcy would lead to the liquidation of assets, and the obits for the Post that our friends and colleagues began writing before we had ever published a copy would finally come due. Yet the Aspers cashed out and the Post, after a fashion, endures.
This matters. When a newspaper comes out most days, year after year, from one owner to another to yet another, in much (though never all, and lately less) of the country, it starts to look like an institution. Not a juggernaut, not a cultural centrepiece, but simply part of the landscape that lasts, more permanent than the various corporate structures through which it passes. What’s more, it is still a damned good paper in many ways on many days. Its staff, most of whom arrived after the paper launched and have no patience for this corner’s annual bout of nostalgia, is full of brains and creativity. Its arts and living pages are still almost always the best among Toronto-based papers. Its news pages are full of surprises, often the good kind. The columnists can surprise you. George Jonas wrote a humdinger today.
None of this is a guarantee for the future. The Post has never enjoyed the luxury of any guarantees for the future and by now its staff would surely be suspicious of any that were offered. It’s in a daily fight to survive, still, just like old times, and that doesn’t change just because it is joined by the entire industry in that precarious battle.
So with that in mind, and the annual congratulations aside, I think the Post is well due for a rethink, and it would benefit from remembering some of the thinking that went into its creation. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner is impatient with the columnists cawing against Justice Susan Himel’s prostitution ruling. This morning he exasperatedly tweeted at them that “You don’t have to agree. You do have to read”—that is, read what Himel wrote. I’m on Dan’s side in this debate, but, hey, isn’t he being a little unfair and obnoxious? Surely respectable writers like Daphne Bramham wouldn’t denounce the Himel decision in such strong terms without examining the evidence:
If prostitution were a job freely chosen, as the pro-legalization forces would have us believe, it’s unlikely that the average age of entry into that workforce would be 14.
Damn, I guess Dan was right after all. This soundbite is a poor choice for an opening salvo against Himel, since it came up specifically in her hearing of the evidence from supporters of the existing law [emphasis mine]:
I find that Drs. Raymond and Poulin were more like advocates than experts offering independent opinions to the court. At times, they made bold, sweeping statements that were not reflected in their research. For example, some of Dr. Raymond’s statements on prostitutes were based on her research on trafficked women. As well, during cross-examination, it was revealed that some of Dr. Poulin’s citations for his claim that the average age of recruitment into prostitution is 14 years old were misleading or incorrect. In his affidavit, Dr. Poulin suggested that there have been instances of serial killers targeting prostitutes who worked at indoor locations; however, his sources do not appear to support his assertion. I found it troubling that Dr. Poulin stated during cross-examination that it is not important for scholars to present information that contradicts their own findings (or findings which they support).
Himel’s judgment gives the impression that she carefully scrutinized and weighted the massive body of evidence before her; Bramham, by contrast, uses cherry-picked stats in a way that recalls the old proverb about the drunk and the lamppost. Indeed, her column is such an impossibly confused piece of argument that one is tempted to think the drunkenness literal.
Like other critics of Himel, Bramham sneers at the idea that selling sex can possibly constitute an exercise of “choice”; you know this, she suggests, because you wouldn’t want your sister to be a prostitute. Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want my sister to be a columnist at a Postmedia newspaper; I did that job, and, given my sister’s other options, the uncertainty and meagre pay certainly wouldn’t maximize her happiness or her income. It’s nonsensical to criticize someone’s means of earning a living from the standpoint that she could just presumably go be a master mariner or an accountant tomorrow if she didn’t have an imaginary gun to her head.
We are all trying to get by within a context of skills, credentials, abilities, and tastes, and these things are limited by our life experiences (particularly the horrible ones) and our inherent endowments. This is not the prostitute’s condition; it is the human condition. Sneering comments about the meaning and value of choice don’t reflect well on any commentator’s realism.
They’re especially odious when realism is precisely what those commentators claim to be advocating. Bramham writes: “Selling sex is dehumanizing and soul-destroying to most of the people who do it. That’s not a moral judgment. It’s fact.” This couldn’t be more embarrassing if she’d shouted “SCIENCE!” instead, could it? Has this soul-destruction been quantified by a graduate student? Is there an SI unit of dehumanization? Or is the columnist simply reluctant to admit that there might, in fact, be some irrational prejudices and scolding Methodist ghosts swirling around in her hindbrain?
Oh, not possible: Bramham eventually comes around to advocating the progressive, presumptively sex-positive “Nordic model” of prostitution—having either forgotten or never realized that the crux of the Nordic model is decriminalization of the supply side of the sex trade. It’s the pre-Himel law that’s inconsistent with the Nordic model! As Himel’s decision points out!
In Sweden, where prostitution is approached as an aspect of male violence against women and children, buying sex and pimping are illegal, but the seller of sexual services is seen as a victim and not criminalized. Public education campaigns targeting buyers of sexual services have reduced demand. Intensive police training has led to a 300 per cent increase in arrests and a reduction of complaints that the law is too difficult to enforce.
This evidence suggests to me that Canada’s prohibition of all public communications for the purpose of prostitution is no longer in step with changing international responses. These legal regimes demonstrate that legislatures around the world are turning their minds to the protection of prostitutes, as well as preventing social nuisance. The communicating provision impairs the ability of prostitutes to communicate in order to minimize their risk of harm and, as such, does not constitute a minimal impairment of their rights.
I don’t mean to pick on Daphne Bramham in particular; she’s just the latest target to pop up, and the faults in her rhetoric, enormous and fatal though they are, don’t descend to the level of Barbara Kay, who is sure that legalizing prostitution today means she’ll be clapped in irons for being agin it tomorrow. Still, at least my friend Barbara is upfront about not giving a fig about any harm done to prostitutes by the law. I was criticized a little bit last week for suggesting that opponents of the Himel ruling, people who don’t like to entertain arguments about “harm”, should logically regard serial killers as Dexter-esque defenders—perhaps distasteful but in a sense admirable—of the social order they value so highly. I’m afraid this implication is hardly even disguised by Mrs. Kay: in her first column on Himel she brings up Robert Pickton explicitly, mentions in a flat, neutral way that his murder spree “seem to have been a strong motivation for [Himel's] decision”, and goes on to dismiss the question of “harm” willy-nilly. You’re left to infer her feelings about Pickton: she doesn’t take an explicit position. I think I know that she would oppose his particular species of social activism, but given her arguments against harm reduction, I can’t really account for why she would.
Espousal of the Nordic model of supply-side decriminalization is probably more reasonable, and Bramham should be given credit for that, even if the idea collides with absolutely everything else she apparently believes. For myself, I’d prefer it if we could just get past our superstitions about power imbalance in technically victimless exchanges. Our law, in practice, now pretty much treats pot growers as Satan and pot smokers as delusional, lazy unfortunates; suppliers bad, demanders OK. When it comes to prostitution we take the opposite tack: suppliers victims, demanders monsters—though at other times, for no better reason, the reverse approach has prevailed. I’m content to let the Nordic model be judged on a close, unbiased study of its practical effects (and I certainly do believe that policy surrounding prostitution should facilitate, even encourage exit from it), but at root, do all these just-so stories make sense?
My ideology is that it takes two to tango and that people should be allowed to tango. Nobody wants to argue for a man’s right to buy commoditized sex, just as he buys commoditized brainpower (in theory) when he buys the Vancouver Sun or the commoditized sweat of Mexicans when he buys garlic and oranges from California. The anti-prostitution regiment, though it may appear in our minds arrayed in the black bonnets and hoop skirts of our Victorian foremothers, seem to me like nothing more than degraded Marxists or hippies carping about alienation, or about how we don’t deal with each other as real human beings, maaaan. We commoditize each other and are commoditized; that’s where everything that lifts us above the miseries of subsistence farming comes from.
And that’s really pretty OK. Unless you’ve breathed in too much nonsense borrowed from nitwit German philosophizing about “the I and the thou”, you know that capitalist alienation doesn’t prevent civilized persons from forming genuine connections, or acting with decency and kindness, within a client-servant framework. As prostitutes will be the first to tell you. My argument here would probably seem stronger if I had some good, obvious objects of pathos to parade—if, for instance, ex-johns wrote as many blogs and books and news articles as ex-hookers do. But that’s the price of monsterizing the john: people can blather on about how “prostitution is violence” without even having seen or heard of the widowers, the social castoffs, and the deformed and disabled who make up part of pretty much every whore’s clientele. (Whether that whore is male or female.)
This is not to say that a lot of johns aren’t woman-haters: the only question, absolutely the only question, is how best to protect the women. Which brings us back to Bramham. She cites a case, and it is a fantastically rare case, in which a Vancouver “incall” prostitute was murdered by a client in an apartment being used as a massage parlour. (OMG! Another “Craigslist killing”!) But as Bramham presumably understands, many women are killed every year by husbands, boyfriends, and acquaintances under similar circumstances; we probably cannot expect prostitution policy to make sex for pay any safer than sex in general. So how is prostitution relevant to the example at all?
If anything, its relevance would seem to be that there was a record of the man’s internet browsing, a record of the cash transaction, and security-camera images of his arrival at the illicit business. The commercial aspect of his visit is almost certainly the reason he got caught; it’s the only way Bramham is able to give us the exact amount he paid. As an argument that violence against prostitutes can’t be deterred by making indoor security arrangements legal, her anecdatum isn’t just ineffective, it’s self-annihilating.
So, too, is the quote she provides from a UBC law professor who says “says at most the decision might change [prostitution] from ‘an extremely dangerous job to a very dangerous job’.” Here, again, the idea that prostitution should be made safer is just being laughed at. We have a whole universe of occupational health and safety regulations devoted to making extremely dangerous jobs very dangerous, don’t we? Are these rules somehow bad or ridiculous?
A useful exercise in assessing columns about prostitution is to substitute “taxi drivers” for “sex workers” and see how the rhetoric holds up. Driving cab carries the highest risk of violent assault and homicide of any commonly performed lawful profession—higher, easily, than that faced by cops. So imagine Bramham writing “What are the chances, if driving a taxi really were a choice, that so many who choose it are poor, under-educated immigrants or members of minority groups?” Whoa, the demographics check out and everything! Could Bramham find a lawyer to say that it is “naive, disingenuous and dangerous to frame cab driving only in terms of safety, choice and individual autonomy”? I wouldn’t bet against it. A journalist—particularly one who’s a brilliant, tireless reporter—can always find what she has decided to look for.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Gordon, a Quebec university professor (“What a surprise. End of comment,” writes one commenter), tries to demonstrate how the mandatory long-form census has often been a tool for demonstrating the futility of large interventionist government schemes. His commentary appears on the National Post website, where it is read by National Post readers, and hijinx ensue in the comment boards.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 7:27 PM - 0 Comments
“Cold War weapons expert warns Wi-Fi could cause birth defects” cries the National Post, heralding Barrie Trower’s arrival unto the good microwave-fearing people of Simcoe County. Who is Barrie Trower, you ask?
Barrie Trower, who specialized in microwave “stealth” warfare during the Cold War, was to lecture at the University of Toronto on Tuesday night…
“When I realized these same frequencies and powers [as weapons during the Cold War] were being used as Wi-Fi in schools, I decided to come out of retirement and travel around the world free of charge and explain exactly what the problem is going to be in the future,” Mr. Trower told Postmedia News in an interview on Tuesday.
…“What you are doing in schools is transmitting at low levels,” said Mr. Trower, who teaches at Britain’s Dartmoor College and holds a degree in physics.
You will notice what’s very specifically not been said here, which is that Mr. Trower teaches physics at a university. Lest anyone should carelessly arrive at this impression, it ought to be said that what the Post calls “Dartmoor College” is South Dartmoor Community College, a state comprehensive school for children aged 11-18. They are doubtless lucky to have a “weapons expert” like Mr. Trower on staff (assuming he is on staff), although it is damned hard to be a military expert in anything for any length of time without inadvertently getting your name on any patents or peer-reviewed papers to speak of. Trower has said he worked for what he called the “Government Microwave Warfare Establishment”; it’s possible the Post judged this a strong claim after Googling “Government Microwave Warfare Establishment“, or just “Microwave Warfare Establishment“, and finding links to loads of pages related to Barrie Trower and not much else. Excellent work.
[UPDATE, 1:15 a.m. Eastern: the Post's original story has vanished from the Web, so you'll have to visit the Vancouver Sun's site to read it.]
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 16, 2010 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
Not even the National Post editorial board can find the courage to defend Tony Clement.
This is profoundly undignified governance. If, as it seems, the government cannot defend changing the census on any logical, resonant or particularly urgent grounds, it should abandon the undertaking until it’s prepared to do so.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
The other day the Liberal leader suggested that Stephen Harper was emitting the scent of sulphur—a smell that is variously associated with rotten eggs, flatulence, natural gas or, apparently, the devil. The editors of the National Post have since published at least four pieces for the purpose of investigating the meaning of this comment—one writer suggesting it is proof the Liberal leader is an elitist snob who will never understand Canadians, one claiming this is proof he is not actually smart, one exploring biblical history, one suggesting this somehow insults the Prime Minister’s wife and wondering what would happen if Mr. Harper said something similar of his political opponents. (Note: this latter bit of outrage is most understandable if you forget any reference Mr. Harper or his backbenchers have made to an “unholy” coalition of opposition parties.) The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence has since taken to Twitter to wonder if Mr. Ignatieff even believes in the devil, while the comment was made the subject of the first question of a scrum Mr. Ignatieff was giving on Parliament Hill just now on the occasion of the launch of his summer tour.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:43 PM - 17 Comments
Dear Rufus Wainwright, I know you’re reading this. Why? Because I was there last night at the Elgin theatre when you offered this half-joking confession between songs: “I don’t know about you, but I get sick of reading about myself every day on Google—it’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad.” That was after you had dedicated your song Pretty Things to the Toronto Star. The previous night, your opera, Prima Donna, had its Canadian premiere on that same Elgin stage as part of the same Luminato festival, and the Star promptly slagged it with a one-and-a-half star review, calling it “a dramatic wreck.” For those of us who never found the time to read the Star review, you were good enough to paraphrase the cattiest line— “you can’t get a Louis Vuiton clutch from a Loblaws grocery bag.” You then concluded with a catty swipe of your own, that the Star critic must be “a real label queen.”
You weren’t about to let this go. You went on to tell us that on the afternoon before the concert you just couldn’t resist reading more reviews of the opera, including those from the Globe and Mail, which was fairly complimentary ["paleo-tonal, dripping with Puccini-esque lushness] and The National Post, which was adulatory ["the work of a real composer who understands the proper use of a trained voice and speaks the harmonic dialect of romanticism more fluently than many of the crossover stars who gobble up commissions today"] You didn’t quote those reviews. But you explained your backstage conundrum: “I’m putting on feathers and black eyeliner than I read this National Post review. . . Shit! I have to be happy out there! It doesn’t match my outfit.”
Well, Rufus, if you’re still reading this, you can relax. I’m not a critic. At least not where you’re concerned. I don’t feel qualified to review your opera, which I attended Monday night. I mean, I’ve seen a few operas in my day, including the entire Ring Cycle, and as a film critic I’ve seen a lot of orphaned opera in movies—I know that Ride of the Valkyries is the sound that helicopters make when they set fire to Vietnam—but to be honest, I know my cappuccino better than my Puccini. And although I’ve heard some your music and followed your interviews over the years, I had never seen you perform until last night’s concert. So I have nothing to compare it to. But I can offer one or two modest observations, about both the opera, which you composed, and the concert, which you performed.
Loved the cinematic staging of the opera, with those church-high Parisian windows caging the Sunset Boulevard diva who is struggling to make her comeback and can’t get beyond the media interview that’s been set up to promote it. And I was tickled that the journalist who interviews her—a closet singer with seduction in his heart—shows up with notebook, pencil and . . . the score! That’s like me showing up to interview Meryl Streep and pulling a screenplay out my back pocket. I find it works every time. Makes them melt. Unfortunately, this journalist was in no position to evaluate the singing, because I was given a press seat at the back of the Elgin, and a lot of the lower-register vocals never made it that far.
As for last night’s concert, you were the diva. At the start of the show once again we were asked to hold our applause. But this time we were told to hold it until you had completely left the stage at the end of the first act, because leaving the stage was part of the show. You made a melodramatic entrance slow-marching across the stage, trailing your cape, and took your seat at the piano in hushed silence. You then performed your new album in its entirety—All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu. You didn’t offer a word or a glance to the audience, which I later learned was utterly out of character. Your voice performed remarkable feats, soaring up and down glissandi, great spiral staircases of vocal ambition, while your piano often bolted off in other directions entirely. Behind you were hypnotic images of a giant eye raccoon-painted with mascara; as the lid opened and closed in slow motion, it looked like some some oozing, oil-slicked sea creature. Between songs, you sipped water while we listened to the white noise of the air conditioning and held our applause. That’s when I realized that the applause is not just for the performer, but for the audience. It fills the awkward silence and gives us something to do. By the time you slow-marched off the stage, finally allowing applause, I’d lost the appetite for it.
At the intermission, I ran into some longtime fans of yours who were mortified by what they’d seen. I reserved judgment, said I found it an interesting and daring experiment. One fan said it was like torture, and admitted he almost applauded before he was supposed to “out of spite.” Then I met a couple of friends who were disappointed because they thought they had tickets to the Rufus opera, not the Rufus concert. The previous night at the opera, no doubt there were some misguided Rufus fans who came to see you and were dismayed that you weren’t onstage. It does gets confusing, all this Luminato exposure coming all at once. Anyway, when you stepped onstage for the second set of last night’s concert—having changed into a comparatively subdued pink-and-orange-flowered suit and shirt—you were (apparently) your old self, joking with the audience and singing some familiar tunes. You were warm and generous and the fans screamed. “Thank you so much for playing along with me in the first act,” you said. “You were very well-behaved, very Canadian.” Later, as if acknowledging that so much Rufus at once might be a bit much, you said, “I really appreciate all the attention that’s been paid to my opera and my show. I will always remember it as a special time in a very dark season.” You were, of course, referring to the death of your mother, Kate McGarrigle, in January. You paid tribute to her in the final song of the night, a number by your mother, which was tender and beautiful. By then, this off-duty critic had been won over. I’d been Ruf-ied.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, February 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 19 Comments
Mitchel Raphael on senator Frum, princess Di’s lawyer and new lyrics for ‘o canada’
A Senator’s busy retirement
Tory Sen. Linda Frum held a book launch in her home for Anthony Julius’s new book Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England. Julius, a lawyer and professor, famously represented Diana, Princess of Wales in her divorce from Prince Charles. Diana knew Julius because he had helped her sue a newspaper after its photographer invaded her privacy by snapping photos of her working out.
When Diana asked Julius to represent her for her divorce, he had never done that kind of legal work: “This would be my first divorce,” he told her. Diana quickly said, “It will be mine, too,” and said they would figure it out together. Attendees at the book launch included Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and recently retired senator Jerry Grafstein, who is part of a group of investors interested in buying the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette, and who will soon launch the Wellington Street Post, an online paper named after the famous street that runs in front of Parliament Hill. The website plans to cover politics from a federal perspective.
Bev Oda’s hair fascinates
Three years ago, Liberal MP Glen Pearson, known for his humanitarian work in Sudan, asked the government for aid for Sudan, and $3 million was approved. The money went to such projects as women’s centres that helped on the educational and micro-enterprise front. When Pearson was in Sudan this year, he took with him pictures of International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda to show the Sudanese the minister who had approved the funds. They were surprised to learn it was a woman who had approved the money, and also that she was not white. But the most fascinating thing for them was Oda’s short blunt haircut. Sudanese women are known for their elaborate hairstyles.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 4:51 AM - 137 Comments
Hey, isn’t it a little early for Rex Murphy to be going after soft targets like Pat Robertson in the National Post? And isn’t intellectual hygiene a desirable thing even in the pursuit of such small game? I understand that no sensible Christian of any denomination would endorse Robertson’s Wednesday remarks suggesting that Haiti is cursed because it bought its independence by bargaining with the devil. But to make Robertson’s remarks the occasion for catcalling at the irreligious really seems like going over the top. Rex writes:
He, Robertson, fulfills every agitated secularist’s caricature of a “dedicated” Christian. If Pat Robertson didn’t exist, Richard Dawkins (with a little midwifery from Christopher Hitchens) would have to give birth to him.
Well, golly, Rex, that’s as may be, but Dawkins and Hitchens didn’t have to invent Pat Robertson, now did they? They found the world with him already in it. I’m afraid all of us, believers and infidels, must deal with the Christianity we’ve got.
Murphy goes on to complain that “Robertson’s outburst is pure gold for the ‘enlightened’ secularist view our age holds of the Christian outlook. It will continue to be mined in the late-night monologues, stuff the op-eds of ‘progressive’ papers, and will serve as justifying illustration for the demeaning hostility that is a marked feature of much modern thinking on faith.” Perhaps though carelessness on the part of the author, this has been stated in such a way that the most rabid atheist could agree unconditionally with it, and add that “The demeaning hostility will continue until it is no longer deserved.”
Since Murphy felt the need to lash out at an innocent third party while carrying on an intramural fight between Christians, I suppose one might point out that even the wicked Pat Robertson is entitled to just treatment at the hands of his critics. In talking about the “curse” he believes Haiti lies under, Robertson was referring to a genuine event in the annals of that country’s revolutionary struggle—the 1791 Voodoo prayer for liberty in the Bois Caïman. As some liberal and perhaps even “secularist” observers have pointed out, this aspect of Haitian history is something of a legitimate problem for traditional Haitian Christians. It might even be a problem for a sincere Catholic who took the trouble to inquire into it! Would Rex Murphy, squeezed into 18th-century breeches and sent by time machine to the Bois Caïman, have happily pledged his life to the destruction of the “pitiless” “white men’s god”? Freely inquiring minds want to know!
One way or another, we cannot find Robertson guilty of “telling [Haitians] the earthquake was their own fault”; as fantastic and irresponsible as his account is, it lays the blame at the feet of the country’s long-dead founding fathers, and there is nothing wrong with or cruel about that in itself. As one old philosopher might have said here, sufficient unto the day is the evil of Pat Robertson. We need not invent more.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 11, 2009 at 9:34 AM - 156 Comments
Diane Francis’s Tuesday Financial Post column calling for a global one-child policy as the real answer to man-made global warming has become an instant classic in the art of antagonizing readers. The piece could correctly be described as half-crazy, of course. Even granting that we are willing to endow the state with monstrous population-control powers, and Francis is obviously willing, her praise for China’s population-growth measures as “simple” suggests a willful blindness to its demographic effects and to the inegalitarian way the policy has actually been applied.
In China, the one-child policy has been a class war that skewed the natural sex ratio, introduced chaos into the family-formation process, and condemned millions of men to lifetime service in a reserve army of the unmarried. It’s the biggest, cruellest biological experiment in history. The results aren’t really in yet. And even if it “works” by environmental criteria, a project that the Chinese can pull off will not necessarily be scalable upward to the entire species. I feel silly even having to point all this out.
What I like about the column is that it puts population growth front and centre in the emissions debate; it gets in our faces. When economists or environmentalists assemble projections of future global CO2 output, they sweat blood over the fine points of how economic growth will influence per-capita emissions… but the number of capita is basically treated as an axiom. This is probably appropriate: the interaction between economic growth and emissions is the part of the equation with the most uncertainty, the part that there exists a lively debate about. The problem is that when the scary hockey-stick diagrams are taken forth to the politicians and the public, no one ever mentions that population growth is part of the problem at the micro level—the level of “What can you do to change your personal contribution to carbon emissions?” We end up arguing nonsensically over whether we should buy an Escape or a Highlander to take the kids to hockey practice.
And meanwhile, we’re all left with the impression that we are a lot filthier and more sinful than our ancestors—that our exciting, affluent, high-tech lives are producing more eco-harm than theirs did. It’s mostly not true, in the countries that have been industrialized the longest.
Nobody is sure whether per-capita carbon emissions will, in the long term, hold steady in these countries or begin to decline. Pretty much everything depends on the energy technologies available to us. The environment has already benefited, as far as the developed world is concerned, from the abandonment of mass solid-fuel burning as a primary means of providing energy. We did that, not as a matter of environmental policy, but because cleaner alternatives to coal and wood stoves were also more efficient. The all-time peaks in per-capita carbon output in many countries are surprisingly far back in history. Canadians are thought to have reached a peak in CO2 output in 1948; for the UK, the worst year is said to have been 1913 [PDF].
In other words, mere economic growth might be part of the climate-change problem, or it might be the ultimate solution. Even granting that there is a man-made climate problem, trapping developing countries in the pollution-intensive phase of their history could easily be a huge mistake. The one thing we can be sure of is that fewer people will require less energy, however it is provided. I don’t advocate a one-child policy, or any policy at all that involves governments telling people how many children they can have, but I don’t understand why people who claim to be “passionate” about the environment of the future haven’t adopted zero-child policies for themselves.
Well, actually, I do understand it, because they all used to be big on Zero Population Growth as both a policy goal and a social ideal back in the ’70s. Diane Francis is singing an old song that environmentalists unlearned for strategic reasons. It made them look like she looks right now: authoritarian and nihilist and out of touch with the hopes and ambitions of ordinary people. And many of those environmentalists wanted to have kids themselves—i.e., they hypocritically put their personal desires above the interests of the planet when confronted with the biggest choice of all. Darwinian imperatives are not easily suppressed. It’s so much easier to nag the other guy about home insulation and bike paths, and, if necessary, take away his oilpatch job.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 12:23 AM - 40 Comments
We gathered a year ago at a pub off King St. that Jake Richler used to like, though it never did much for me. This wasn’t the league-sanctioned National Post 10th-anniversary party, which had taken place a few days earlier and, everyone said, had been as lame as Asper parties always are; this one was samizdat, and the jumble of current Posties (Steve Meurice, Gary Clement) and alumni (Uncles, Eckler, Onstad, Cooperman, Coyne, Whytes Murray and Ken) was happier and more celebratory than I think most of us had feared. This didn’t feel like a wake, in other words, even though we produced and pinned to the wall a life-sized photo of Mordecai Richler (so he wouldn’t miss the party) and even though Martin Newland and Kirk Lapointe sent telegrams (well, emails) of reminiscence from their distant perches, also duly pinned to the wall beside Mordecai.
All of this was a year ago. I’m sure nobody in the room expected the paper would last another year.
Oct. 27 — Tuesday — marks the 11th anniversary of a Canadian newspaper. Every day it comes out is a feat. The vultures are circling, but what else is new. Happy birthday.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 8:20 AM - 35 Comments
Execs get big bonuses, employees get squat; it’s ‘business logic’
If you were to ask the general public how much of a bonus Canwest Global Communications executives deserve for steering the country’s biggest media company into the ground, the answer would fall somewhere between squat and diddly. But according to their bankruptcy protection ﬁling this month, the correct response is $9.8 million.
The Key Employee Retention Plan (KERP) already approved by Canwest’s creditors, and given an initial thumbs-up by the courts, was the subject of “extensive” negotiations from the very beginning of the company’s efforts to extract itself from under its $4-billion debt load last December. Three directors, four top executives and 13 other senior members of management will receive two hefty cash payments—one at the end of this year, the other early next spring—in exchange for sticking around until the streamlined company emerges from the process. The details of just who is receiving the bonuses and how much have been sealed by the court at the company’s request to protect “sensitive personal and financial information.” But it’s clear at least some of the “retentions” will be decidedly short-term as the agreement calls for the three unnamed directors to resign from the Canwest board once the restructuring period ends. Leonard, David and Gail Asper, the children of the late Canwest founder Izzy Asper, are all currently directors, but are expected to have a much reduced role, and ownership stake, in the new company. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 11:42 PM - 10 Comments
Oh come on, somebody had to use that pun. L. Ian MacDonald says the wrong man has been let go; John Ivison hears a fascinating (if baroque) theory that accountability silliness was blocking infrastructure spending, and Lynch took the fall. I’m proud of my old paper for providing such thoughtful analysis (OK, speculation) on what could be dismissed as an arcane story. I wonder what the Post‘s competition will come up with tomorrow. So far this story has slipped through the cracks on what is normally the Globe‘s very good Politics website.
UPDATE: Eight paragraphs in the other paper.
UPDATER: Of course Kathryn May has this as the line story in the Citizen, and the Globe has salvaged its virtue with this very late-breaking piece.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 3:56 PM - 4 Comments
Silly question for a slow news day. At what point does a media outlet—keeping in mind the industry’s twin crises of economy and credibility—have a responsibility to check the minister’s recollection and clarify, if necessary, the facts in question?