What should Jack Layton do?

For those of you who are not Canadian political junkies, this may still be of interest.  The outcome may not affect you, but this is still a fun mental exercise!

This is the situation:  there are currently 4 major political parties in the Canadian Parliament:  Consevatives, Liberals, Bloc Qebecois (Bloc) and New Democrats NDP). 

The Consrevatives have a minority government.  This means that they may be in power, but do not have enough votes in the House of Commons to pass legislation unless one of the three opposition parties supports them (votes ‘with’ them).  Until now, they were kept in power by the Liberals (not a coalition, just vote-by-vote thing) and opposed by the Bloc and Jack Layton’s NDP.

Unsurprisingly, none of opposition parties are not too keen to support the government they need to oppose to self-define… but, at times, they have to. 

If they do not, and the government is defeated in a ‘confidence vote’, the most likely outcome will be an election.  So, unless they are ready (financially and poliltically) to fight an election, or if they actually support the government’s specific piece of legislation which is being voted on, at least one of the opposition parties must vote ‘with’ the government.

Aside:  here, in Canada, it is unusual for Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote their conscience.  The party leaders have great control over their members, so voting against one’s party position is extremely rare.  That is why the parties each holds a block of votes.

If an election were held today, the most likely outcome would be that Conservatives would win, and perhaps they would even win a majority government.

The recently annointed Liberal leader’s popularity is vaning:  the more people learn about him, the less they like or trust him… and that also holds true within his own party.  As a matter of fact, Mr. Ignatieff’s ineptness has just started a major power-struggle within the influential Quebec wing of the party!

Now, with his party in serious internal turmoil, Mr. Ignatieff has introduced a ‘confidence vote’:  if the Conservative government gets nobody to ‘vote with them’, we will likely go to an election. 

The NDP leader, Jack Layton, has announced he is likely to support the government because it would be irresponsible to cause an election now, since it would kill a lot of legislation he helped shape and which would help to those most hurt by the economic downturn would be much delayed.  In my opinion, that is the responsible thing to do. 

But – is it the best thing ‘politically’?  For Mr. Layton, that is…

After all, Mr. Ignatieff has just blown up the Quebec wing of his party: anything could happen there – and that ‘anything’ could even result in Ignatieff’s fall from the Liberal throne.  The Liberals are certainly not ‘election ready’ any more.

When the Liberals loose votes, the ‘beneficiaries’ are usually the New Democrats (and Bloc Quebecois, in Quebec).  So, if there is an election now, with the Liberals having a minor ‘civil war’ within their party, Jack Layton’s party would stand to win more seats!  His power would increase!

And, the Conservatives could win a majority government, too – and thus removing from him the influence he now enjoys…

So, what should Jack Layton do?

Vote ‘with’ the government, and get the help out to the people who need it?  But by supporting the government, he’ll anger some of his supporters who’d rather chew their own leg off than vote ‘with’ the Conservatives on anything!

Vote ‘against’ the government, trigger an election?  He would likely win many seats away from the Liberals, giving the NDP a stronger voice – but perhaps also handing the Conservatives a majority victory?  But opposing them now, after all the statements he made about needing to get help out to all the people quickly, that would make him look opportunistic and loose him popular support!

What should he do?

I don’t know.  But, I know what I would do if I were in Jack Layton’s shoes:  I would instruct all my NDP MPs to ‘vote their conscience’!

It is unheard of for a party leader to permit his MPs to vote however they choose themselves on a ‘confidence motion’.  It would be a very, very bold move on Jack Layton’s part.  And, it would make it completely impossible to predict how the outcome of the ‘confidence motion’ would come out…

It seems to me to be such an obvious answer! 

Jack Layton would then be able to vote for the legislation he helped shape – but he would not be using his influence to ‘prop up’ the government….  He would not be alienating the more radical elements within his party, all the while building loyalty in his MPs by showing he respects his MPs and their judgment, whichever way they choose to vote! 

At the same time, permitting his MPs to ‘vote their conscience’ would be an incredibly democratic thing to do – something the Conservatives, in theory, all support!  And, of course, it would force the Conservatives to seek support from individual NDP MPs – and this would necessarily increase the NDP’s overall impact!

In addition, permitting everyone to exercise their free will would show him to be a secure in his leadership and not threatened by MPs who think for themselves… 

I do not see the down side for Jack Layton in this!

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The negative impact of ‘spanking’

Pun 100% intended!

OK – this is usually a very heated debate, which has bubbled up to the surface (yet again) because of the release of a new study which claims to prove that people whose mothers reported spanking them grow up to have a lower IQ.

Those who would discredit this study have been quick off the mark:  and, I really don’t know if the study is any good or not.  That is why I am not linking to it:  while I have a lot to say about the topic in general, I do not wish to get ‘boxed in’ and limited to this study.

BUT…

…here are a few thoughts for your consideration which listening to the discussions this topic has raised have popped into my mind.

1.  Whose intelligence is being measured, anyway?

The study said that mothers were to self-report the discipline methods they used on their kids over a certain period.  Then, years later, the now-grown-up-kids intelligence was measured – and those whose mothers had reported not spanking averaged higher on the IQ scale: is this an indirect IQ test of the mothers?

We know that people who are intelligent often have kids who are intelligent. Could it be that more intelligent mothers do not resort to spanking their kids?

2.  HOW could ‘spanking’ affect ‘intelligence’?

‘Intelligence’ is defined many ways by many people:  however, the definition I like most defines ‘intelligence’ as ‘an ability to learn’.  In my never-humble-opinion, this means that there are three major components to ‘intelligence’:

  1. The genetic potential:  as in, how good the ‘blueprint’ for one’s brain is
  2. Nutrition/health: the proper building blocks must be provided in the food to ‘build’ the brain to the best potential of the ‘genetic blueprint’ – illness can interfere with this process
  3. Desire to learn

It is the third one that I think can be affected by spanking.

After all, spanking – corporal punishment in general – tends to discourage ‘asking questions’.  And, ‘not asking questions’ – whether out of fear or habit – will necessarily limit one’s intelligence.

So, without passing judgment on this particular study:  I find it plausible that spanking a child can, indeed, lead to that person not growing into their full intelligence potential.  Not proven – just plausible.

Now, having set this ‘study’ aside, I would like to make a few comments on using corporal punishment to discipline children – in general.

This issue is very emotionally charged for people, for all the obvious reasons!  Therefore, any discussion of ‘spanking’ becomes extremely emotional, early on into the debate.  So, how do we approach the issue and discuss it, without sinking into the emotional quagmire?

Personally, I think it is best to ‘remove’ the situation from the ‘particular’ to the ‘general’:  do we, as a society, approve of corporal punishment?  Not just of ‘children’ – but of every citizen/resident.  Do we, as a society, approve of using caning or whipping or other forms of corporeal punishment?

For example, should an employer discipline an employee using corporal punishment?

Why?

Or, should nursing-home care-providers use corporal punishments to’ teach’ their elderly patients, who may have diminished mental capacities and might not understand long explanations, to comply with the nursing home’s rules?

Why?

Now, regardless of what your answers were, ask yourself if you think that a country’s laws ‘ought to’ protect every individual equally.

I think they must!  Our very civilization is founded on the principle that all people are equal in the eye of the law!

Or, at least,we ought to be…many of our lawmakers have been forgetting this bit lately, giving some groups privileges over others.  So far, these privileges do not include the right to inflict corporal punishment…. so why are these already existing laws not enforced when the victims are the most vulnerable members of our society:  children?!?!?

As my favourite philosopher wrote, a person’s a person, no matter how small!

P.S. Before anyone raises the ‘hot stove & other immediate dangers’ objection, arguing that it is important to make kids avoid ‘immediate danger’ so it is acceptable to hit them to make them comply with associated rules…  That is the worst possible argument EVER!!!  ESPECIALLY in situations of potential ‘immediate danger’, it is really, really important that children – from the moment they learn to crawl – are taught to UNDERSTAND what is dangerous, instead of being taught to OBEY rules!

How could replacing the understanding of danger (and, even infants can learn to understand danger!) with a mere arbitrary-sounding rule keep a child ‘safer’?  Rules will be broken… so making rules to cover dangerous situations is setting the child up for failure!  A dangerous failure, to boot!

Why not just take the easy way out and teach the child to understand the danger?  It’ll make them safer – and might just increase their intelligence in the process!

Diaspora and our ‘bronze-age-brains’

There are two common-use meanings for this term:  diaspora and Diaspora.

The ‘little d’ diaspora refers to any (more-or-less) peaceful migration or immigration or general re-settlement of a socially cohesive group of people with a well-defined social identity into an already populated area, with no intention of integrating into the host society.  The ‘capital D’ diaspora refers to one specific ‘little d’ diaspora:  the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans and their resultant scattering around the World.

At this point, I am only focusing on ‘little d’ diaspora.

This ‘diaspora’ is a curious concept:  a group of people who share a common ancestry/language/culture/religion – such as a tribe, or a clan, settle in an area already inhabited by ‘different people’.  Once there, they do not attempt to gain the land by conquest:  they either legally purchase it or, if the population density is low, they simply settle there and eventually claim squatter’s rights. So, there is no war.

The ‘newcomers’ are usually not perceived as hostile, so the people in the ‘host culture’ do not harbour hostility towards them.  Or, at least, not particularly so.  At the beginning.

But, we, humans, have come to be who we are by following a certain path of social evolution.

Each one of us is, first and foremost, an individual.  And, even in the most collectivistic of human societies, there is an acknowledgement (or a lament) that we are, indeed, individuals.

This fact that each of us is an individual does not, in any way, change that we are also very social:  we nurture our young and have long learned that pooling our resources can help us survive and succeed.  We don’t always agree on how much of our resources ought to be pooled, and how this pooling ought to be accomplished – but that is a different matter.

Different human societies have indeed reached different states of balance (or, imbalance) between the ‘individual’ and ‘society’.  This is only to be expected, because humans are such a prolific organism that we thrive – or, at least, survive – in greatly varying regions of the world.  These produce very different pressures (stresses) on the different human groups and their social rules that they govern themselves by.  Thus, very different attitudes, moral codes and social rules had developed.

Many people I have talked to seem to think that there is some sort of a ‘universal’ set of rules of ‘morality’ that all people subscribe to.  I am sorry to disappoint these people:  there is no such thing.  It is only because most cultures which had, historically, interacted with each other had been ones which were also in physical proximity:  thus, both a similar set of environmental pressures and long-term contact (such as trade) between the cultures served to spread ideas, learn of each other’s attitudes – in short, served as a ‘normalizing’ pressure on the development of these cultures.  This then gives an ‘appearance’ of ‘universal’ concepts of ‘right and wrong’.

Thus, this ‘universality’ is no more than an appearance.  What worked for one group of people in one specific time and place became their set of ‘right and wrong’.  Sure, if they learned a rule that seemed to produce better results, they usually found a way of incorporating this new rule into their society.  (Often, this was in the form of a new deity – which is why so many monotheistic cultures seem to freeze in their ‘moral’ development… but THAT is a completely different post!)

Isolated cultures are  prime examples of just how different ‘right and wrong’ is, depending on the pressures on the society.  Most ‘mainland’ cultures prospered if there were more offspring:  the more babies born, the more were likely to survive and become productive members of their clan, the better the clan did.  So, in most of these cultures, homosexuality (actually, most activities which would divert natural sex-drive away from baby-production) was forbidden and became considered ‘immoral’.  I remember my Anthropology prof telling us about an isolated culture on a small South Pacific island, where the overpopulation was the stress which drove the development of the society.  On this island, homosexuality was not only permitted, it was considered to be morally superior to heterosexuality!  As a matter of fact, heterosexual sex was taboo for over 300 days of the year…

The same is true of ‘murder’ – the concept of ‘killing another human being’ as ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ is actually not all that common… as I have ranted on before.

As any physician will readily confirm, our brains are not any different from those of our bronze-age ancestors.  Sure, when we have better nutrition and vitamins, when we grow up mostly free of diseases, our brains develop into a much fuller potential then they would otherwise.  But not all our ancestors were malnurished or ill….  Our brains are have the very same physical characteristics, the same ‘blueprint’, if you will, that the brains of our bronze-age-ancestors did.

What differentiates us from our ancestors is our culture – our learning and our social attitudes.  In other words, ‘culture’ is what ‘defines us’ as ‘us’.

As opposed to ‘them’.

And this ‘them’ concept is extremely important to the way our ‘bronze-age blueprint-of-a-brain’:  because in our bronze-age past, ‘them’ could never really be trusted!  The simple fact that ‘they’ were not ‘us’, but ‘they’ meant that ‘they’ did not have a vested interest in ‘our’ survival.

That is why so many ‘ kings/chieftains’ would marry a daughter of a king/chieftain with whom they had just reached a peace-treaty:  the ‘father-king’ would have a vested interest in the survival of his grand-children, just as the ‘bride-groom-king’ has a vested interest in the survival of his own children.  This marriage and its ‘blood-bond’ reduces the ‘they’ factor and makes both sides see the other as at least a little bit more part of ‘us’.

Which brings me back to the ‘diaspora’:  the very point of a diaspora is that the newcomers do not become part of the ‘us’ which surrounds them. By the very definition of the word ‘diaspora’, these newcomers have a fully formed cultural (which includes religious) identity of their own and are not willing to compromise it in any way – especially through mingling of the blood!

In other words, the newcomers – by their choice – do not become ‘us’ to their neighbours/hosts.

This results in both sides being unable to fully trust each other:  blame our ‘bronze-aged brains’!

Heroes are no longer welcome in our society

Many people in the Ottawa area are discussing  how active a role citizens ought to take in the protection of our community and our fellow citizens.

Let me set the stage:

Two men were driving down a road, in a hurry (as they were late for a Kim Mitchell concert).  A woman jumped onto the road in front of them – they almost hit her.  Since she appeared not to be in perfect control of herself (the men thought she was drunk), they stopped in order to make sure she’d be OK.  She wasn’t…

This is where the situation takes a turn towards the surreal:  the young woman was hysterically screaming into her cell-phone, talking to 9-1-1,saying she had just been sexually assaulted.  Our two men immediately offered her assistance.

The woman was not perfectly coherent:  she had just been through something horrible, was bleeding… not exactly composed (screaming hysterically, as the 9-1-1 dispatcher put it).  Understandable…  But, she did convey to ‘or guys’ that her attacker was an acquaintance who was giving her a ride home, that he raped her and tried to choke her to death, and was sitting in that car over there!

The man she indicated started yelling rude insults at her and threatening to kill her and ‘put her in a cornfield’…. and appeared to take a drink from a bottle of Tequila.  Then he drove off.

Please, keep in mind that in Ontario, if you see someone drinking (alcohol) and driving, the law says you are to make a ‘citizen’s arrest’.  This is a bit of an ‘aside’, but it is important to the way the events unfolded.

‘Our guys’ took the injured woman into their car and, using her cell-phone to talk to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, they followed the man who had just they had just witnessed drinking and driving – and whom they heard threatening to kill the distressed woman.

This is where the controversy comes in:  many people have condemned the young men for chasing after the attacker!

The whole discussion is hardly helped by a very ‘misleading’ (according to the lawyer for one of the protectors) article about this event in the Ottawa Citizen:  today, I was listening to CFRA (an Ottawa radio station) when the lawyer for Ryan O’Connor called in and filled in some information.   (And, yes, it is ‘reporting’ like this that drives people away from the mainstream media…  It seems obvious that to them, this is no more than ‘just a story’… so the reporting is either unbelievably shoddy or intentionally misleading!)

OK – I heard the interview live, so I do not have a link to support my assertions (soon to follow).  Still, the lawyer (whose name escaped me) said his version of events would be brought out when the 9-1-1 transcripts will be released, so I am trusting that I heard things ‘right’.

The article asserts the woman knew her attacker and his name.  Well, he was an acquaintance – someone she had seen around.  And, he told her his first name.  I think that when a ‘familiar stranger’ – a person you know by sight, but little else – tells you his first name, it really ought not be reported as ‘the woman knew her attacker and his name’.  There is a serious difference between the two!

Also, there was the assertion (in the article as well as in much of the commentary that followed) that the man’s identity was clear because they noted his car’s license plate number.

Really?

Who said it was his car?  It could have been stolen.  It could have been borrowed.  It could have been just about anything! Claiming one could ‘prove’ the man’s identity by the license plate on his car is so idiotic, I don’t even know where to begin.  Jumping to conclusions without considering what evidence you actually have is bad – but when lives are at stake, it is inexcusable!

People have been condemning the two men who helped the victim, for a whole slew of reasons:

It turns out they were driving a Porsche – so they must obviously be bored rich kids looking for an excuse to live out a Hollywood – style high speed chase!

The fact that they were helping a woman in obvious distress, that they had abandoned their plans to go to a concert (the tickets to which they had already bought) and helped a woman who was hurt in body and spirit –  that little fact did not seem to matter to these petty complainers!  Nor did they seem to care that ‘our guys’ were well within the law to attempt to execute a citizen’s arrest on a drunk driver…

One of the two men turned out to be Matt Spezza – a brother of a very popular NHL hockey player on our local team, the Ottawa Senators.  The amount of venom this brought out in people – the ‘you know, he has a famous big brother so he thinks he’s God’ sentiment… that truly sickened me.  Why are people so warped and steeped in envy?  Does it not eat away at them?

The car chase reached ‘high speed’ at some points.  This means that they endangered themselves, the woman they were trying to help – and everyone else in the city!  They could have hit someone!  They just wanted to be heroes! (A woman said that last sentence at a call-in show.  She spat it out with such hate, as if wanting to be a hero was the most disgusting thing EVER!)

Yes, they could have hit someone.  But they didn’t.  The chase did reach ‘high speeds’ of 160 km/h (some reports go up as high as 170 km/h).   Not ‘Autobahn’ speed, mind you, but this is Canada!  We don’t think people ought to drive faster than a horse-buggy goes….you know, it could be dangerous!  The fact that the driver actually races cars – and would be quite capable of handling these speeds – seemed to only pour oil onto the fire of indignation against him!

Oh – and the driver continued to talk to the 9-1-1 operator while he chased the baddie:  talking on cell-phones while driving is bad!

Yeah!  He was talking to the 9-1-1 people!  As in, following their instructions…and, are our 9-1-1 operators not experts specially trained to assess the dangers of a wide range of situations?  And did not this expert assess the situation and decide that the danger of pursuit was ‘the lesser evil’ than unleashing a homicidal drunk on the public?  (By the way – this dispatcher has also been much maligned….before all the facts are known!)

They knew the attacker’s name and had his license number:  there was no need for a chase!  The cops could have just gone to his home and arrested him there!

Oh, like he was just going to orderly drive home?  Or, perhaps, he was going to drive to the nearest police station and respectfully request to be arrested? And then kiss some babies and donate to charity, too!

EVEN IF they knew exactly who he was (and, by now, the guys chasing the baddie and the 9-1-1 operator knew that the man did not own the car he was driving and that the victim knew nothing about him except his first name), LETTING HIM GO would have simply meant some other woman was going to be murdered that night.

This was a guy who was trying to live out a sadistic ‘rape-murder’ fantasy – and got interrupted half way through.  He was still high – on adrenalin, for sure, other stuff perhaps… and his reaction to having the victim snatched out of his grasp showed unabated rage!

Had the good guys not pursued him, he would – most likely – have snatched another person and carried out his murderous fantasy!

The cops certainly did not join in the chase – it was not until 15 minutes after the chase started that the cops got involved, stopping the suspect at a roadblock.  As in, no police helicopter.  No police cars or motorcycles joined the chase.

The baddie would have had 15 minutes (at least) to disappear!  During those 15 minutes, the suspect could have reached a spot where he could have abducted another victim, and then hidden away in some secluded area (the road on which the fist victim was assaulted borders the Green Belt:  an area filled with ‘nature paths’ and quiet, dark, secluded parking lots).

Yet, those who think it is unacceptable for citizens to take any action to protect themselves, that it is solely the job of the police (must be a union thing) – these people have won.  Today, the police chief announced that in the future, no citizen is allowed to lift a finger to help.  Anyone.  Ever!

Nobody expects the police to be able to be everywhere, right away.  It is not physically possible.  So, next time you see a crime in progress – just keep on walking!  It’s none of your business.

Found a loophole in the laws, which might let you help save a life?  Don’t worry, we’ll soon have those loopholes plugged!

John Robson: ‘They mean what they say’

An excellent post by Mr. Robson:  “They mean what they say”.

It is not just disrespectful to dismiss what people say they believe and what they will do – it is dangerous.  And arrogant.

John Robson is, yet again, right.

Will we be complicit in the ‘honour killing’ of Rifqa Bary?

Are we about to hand Fathima Rifqa Bary to the custity of people who swore to murder her?

It would not be unprecedented…

14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone escaped from Jeffrey Dahmer, but  the police officers handed the unfortunate boy back to the sadistic murderer, even while smelling the decomposing body of a previous victim…  The cops even laughed about the whole thing!

Have we not learned anything?

Rifqa Bary is a 17-year-old, all-American girl, an honour student, a cheerleader, and a battered child.  Perhaps it was her father’s violence towards her, perhaps it was something else.  The fact remains that Rifqa converted from Islam to Christianity….and, following phone calls and emails to the family from  their local Mosque, her father told her he must kill her to cleanse the family honour of her apostasy.

Fearing for her life, Rifqa fled from her home in Columbus, Ohio, to Florida. She did all the ‘right’ things:  she removed herself from the most immediate danger and directly asked us – the society – to protect her.  The Florida authorities took charge of Rifqa and her ‘case’.

Is she being taken seriously?  Or…

Is she ‘just another rebellious teenager’ – as far as the very people who are supposed to protect her are concerned?

Is she ‘yet another teen run-away’ who ‘ought to be returned home, into the custody of  her parents?

Is she simply an ‘attention-seeking teen’ who ought to learn some respect and obey her parents’ rules?

May be, may be not!

With her life at stake, the ‘authorities’ ought to take great care to find out. That, however, does not seem likely…

If you have not heard Rifqa’s story, it is documented here.  Here is a ‘short version‘ from ‘Atlas Shrugs‘ (her version has MANY links with deeper info).

In a nutshell, in July 2009, the 17-year-old Rifqa got on a bus and fled to Florida.  Now, she is in foster care supervised by the Department of Children and Family in Florida   Juvenile Court Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson, who is presiding over Rifqa’s case, had ordered a report to assess just how much this 17-year-old apostate is in from her family and Mosque, before he decides  Rifqa’s fate.

So far, not that bad.

Except that…

Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has just released their report – the one which assesses the threat to Rifqa. And, the report is, to say the least, a curious piece of work which could actually endanger this young woman’s life!

The FDLE report is, in my eyes, unexplicable.  Not only did they not interview most of the witnesses and people most close to Rifqa (whom they interrogated for hours, without her lawyer or any other representative present) and then concluded that there were no people who corroborated her story, not only did they disregard the facebook group which bears her name, and whose over a hundred members are openly calling for her death because she is an apostate…they did not even consider an incident which her father ADMITS TO!  They never asked about the incidents her mother admitted to!

But, they respectfully interviewed CAIR (an Islamist organization with known ties to terrorist groups – and which is facing many charges of intimidation against moderate Muslims).  The FDLE even allowed CAIR to control their ‘investigation,’ ‘helping them choose’ whom to interview, and how!

These *#$)(#%$ people actually refused to consider the tradition ‘honour killing’ or how it might relate to Rifqa and her current situation… as in, do her parents and their friends (and co-religionists, along with the prevailing views at the Mosque they take their guidance from) subscribe to the belief that they must kill Rifqa for rejecting Islam and becoming a Christian.

Why?

Quoting the report:

“An investigation into any person, religious or social organization without a specific identifiable criminal predicate is inappropriate.”

Pardon me?

Is this what our society has been reduced to?

Here is ‘Center for Security Policy’s’ review of the FDLE report – the FDLE report is included.

Now, please, excuse me – I have to go shopping for a burka…


Obama insults Canada

I guess if our Prime Minister were a Muslim Monarch, Obama would be bowing to him instead of snubbing  him – and, by extension, all of Canada.

Perhaps this is a signal that President Obama is not planning to live up to the Free Trade Agreement…  The arrogance of this man has no bounds!

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