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Sometimes It’s Hard to be an Atheist

Particularly when you have the example of the couple in this story, who’ve pulled their children out of school in Ontario. Their problem? Their 10 year old daughter was in a school pageant and had to sing the 60’s anti-war anthem ‘One Tin Soldier’ – they objected, calling the song ‘violent and religious’. Now, I’ll grant you that the song does have some religious overtones – heck I can remember it being sung in church when I was a kid, and it does have some violence in it – but no more than most and it has some important lessons to teach children, namely that violence isn’t the best answer to things. Contrast that to what the children have learnt from their mother, which is that if something happens that you don’t like, what you should do is whine about it and run away….

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A Dirty Trick on Cheap Trick

is being played by Sony Music, who’s being sued by both Cheap Trick and the Allman Brothers Band for royalties they say are owed them from the legal sale of online music. The nature of the dirty trick mentioned is that Sony is treating the sales of online music as a physical sale, which allows them to deduct costs such as 20% for physical packaging, and 15$ for breakage, neither of which apply to a digital file. Let me say that this doesn’t surprise me, between the Sony Rootkit fiasco, and the original idea Sony has of Digital Rights Management – it’s obvious that Sony doesn’t give a hoot about their customers, so it only follows that they’re going to screw their artists over.

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Cloaking Device…Check!

Interesting story here, from the Toronto Star. A T.O. city councillor, Michael Thompson, was attacked in Nathan Phillips Square on April 26. The net result of this is a homeless man in jail, and another councillor requesting another go-round on a bylaw to restrict panhandling.
I’m honestly a little uncomfortable with panhandling, personally. I volunteer my time to help try to alleviate poverty in my community, and that to me feels better and more meaningful than shoving change at someone to make them go away. I may be wrong about that, but that’s my philosophy. I want to create an atmosphere of social justice, not soothe my conscience a quarter at a time. And, you get to meet a lot of people with a lot of heartbreaking stories. Real, human, unfortunate people. I would encourage people to get to know these people, and those that advocate on their behalf. Locally, the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty work hard to make their voices heard, and those of the poor, often against very strong odds. There are undoubtedly similar organizations wherever you, dear readers, may reside.

In a broad sense, the ‘safe streets’ laws that exist in some localities are more about the sensibilities of the rich than the needs of the poor, or the safety of ‘ordinary citizens’.
The process of gentrification, the reclamation of inner-city neighborhoods by the affluent, is praised by some as beautification, and as a move toward safer streets.
Those concerned with social justice, however, see it differently. It’s the displacement of low-income residents to ever-more-expensive locations outside the downtown core. When these people are displaced, they lose their ready access to services, and the cost of obtaining these services now has to include transportation to get there. So, people are driven to desperate measures: begging for change for the bus.
But, these people are begging in the city centre, the heart of the newly-affluent neighborhoods. ‘Safe streets’ laws make it possible to legally remove these people from the areas that used to be their homes.
Not enough to make them homeless and powerless, let’s make them invisible – all the easier to sleep well at night, I suppose.

The conscience doesn’t recognize what the self-indulgence refuses to see.

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Jim Crow visits Halifax

Earlier this month, Flash posted an article on the topic of a city in Nebraska that was talking about possibly creating what amounted to segregated school districts in order to create schools that would better represent minority populations. In a comment, I suggested that the problems to me seemed to be more economic – rich/poor rather than black/white, and I then suggested in a comment that we had a similar divide here in Nova Scotia.

Little did I know that someone was going to propose this for Halifax, too. Wade Smith, vice-principal of St. Patrick’s High School said in an interview on CBC radio this morning, and in this article, that Halifax schools are failing black students, who would be better served by a racially-segregated school.

To me, on the surface, this does not look at all like a good idea. As Flash wrote, schools teach a hell of a lot more than reading and writing, and setting up segregated schools is backwards. Among any good things it might do, it also will teach segregation, which I think we can agree is a bad thing. It is just too easy to extend the argument that if a separate school is good for self-esteem, maybe separate sections on the bus would work, too.

Simply from a mundane practical standpoint, how would this work? Where would this school be located? The black population in Halifax is spread quite widely, therefore students will have to be bused from all over the city; would the school have a larger budget to support that? If so, good luck selling that to the other residents of the city as their Art and Music budgets get cut still further. If not, will some areas simply not get bus service in which case those students would end up being an even smaller minority in a more white-dominated school? For those students, would African History courses still be available, or would they be cut for a more white-centred curriculum? After all, they have a school to go to for those courses. (I know, I know, the curriculum is already white-centred. Could this be the heart of the problem?)

I’m sure Mr. Smith’s concerns are valid, although I am not black and did not live here when I was school-age and can’t answer to it from experience. However, segregating the schools to teach self-respect seems counter-productive in the long run. There have got to be better alternatives.

I have no idea if this blog has any African-Nova Scotian readers, but I would love to hear from you on this topic. Heck, I wanna hear from anyone on this.

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Will the real Ken Lay please stand up?

Time for an update from the Enron trial!

Ken Lay has been testifying this week. His defence, for those who don’t know, is that he was just a wee, naive, somewhat incompetent CEO who was taken advantage of by a nefarious and scheming CFO (Fastow). The evil Fastow was wholly responsible for all the crooked bookmaking which led to the demise of Enron. All poor widdle Kenny-boy could do was watch as the world crumbled around him (oh…and sign all those financial reports/forecasts, expense reports, go forward documents, and whatever else CEOs are supposed to read and understand as part of their 7-plus-figure-salaried jobs). I’m starting to wonder if the defence team watched The Hudsucker Proxy while dreaming up this strategy.

Enough of the background. This week, the facade slipped. He’s attacked the prosecutor and even his own lawyer while testifying. What happened to the good-ole folksy charmer? Folksy charmers don’t try to tamper with witness testimony, Kenny-boy. They don’t ask their underlings to “reach out and contact” trial witnesses. That’s more of a mob practice, really.

And now for the laugh of the week! I will simply quote from the article, that you, the faithful reader, can enjoy the same gamut of emotions I experienced:

Lay said he is now worth negative $250,000 because he had so much debt, though he’s paid all of it except the $7.5 million owed to Enron. He explained that he accumulated so much personal debt because he was constantly encouraged to diversify and since he didn’t want to sell his Enron stock, he borrowed to invest elsewhere.

He later added that, although he’s sold his many homes (including 3(!) in Aspen), he has some swampland in Florida that’s still available, and perhaps a bridge or two for sale. See his website (http://www.Imjustapoorwiddlefarmboy.com) for details. If this link doesn’t work, it’s probably because Kenny-boy is just an innocent country bumpkin without the resources to run a website, or maybe there’s a conspiracy or something.

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On strange bedfellows…

If this has an ounce of truth to it, we are in deep, deep doodoo in Iran. The quick precis is as follows:

  • The Pentagon is trying to raise rebellion within Iran by supporting the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a right-wing terrorist (or inusurgent – your pick) organization
  • According to the Council of Foreign Relations, these guys have killed many civilians, but the US view them as a friend because the enemy of your enemy is always your friend. Right?
  • In order to make sure they would stay nice and loyal to the US, not like those Afghan mujahedeen turncoats that jumped into bed with the Taleban and al Qaeda, the US has made them swear an oath to democracy. I shit you not – read that sentance again; it’s one of those word tangles that a monkey might randomly generate with a typewriter and enough bananas, but not one that a sentient human should ever have to type.

This can’t possibly go bad, can it?

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More flappin’ flags

Of all the arguments being used in the half-staff flag debate, this is the one that I understand the least (emphasis mine):

My biggest concern with lowering the flag for soldiers killed in Afstan is that it creates a perception of inequality among soldiers killed in this mission and soldiers killed in other missions. Aside from special cases, it is unfair to the memories of our fallen heroes and their families to distinguish the deaths in this way.

Unfair? Really? This is all about conistency and fairness? This is such a bogus argument that I don’t know where to start.

We lower the flags for a Member of Parliament or an appointed (!) Senator, but not for someone who volunteers to put his or her life on the line and then pays the price, because we didn’t do it in the past every time?

How far back does one measure this “consistency” to form a useful measure? Let’s apply the same argument to healthcare – the federal government used to contribute 25% of the healthcare costs to the provinces – is Harper going to pony up that amount of cash now for historical consistency? Or, since for much of the history of Canada we didn’t actually have socialized health care, so maybe we should just scrap the whole damned thing? (Okay, this one might be on the table.)

There is a story from these here parts that Edward Cornwallis used to pay 50 pounds for the scalps of the local native populations. Isn’t it historically inconsistent to no longer continue this “tradition” with the Mi’kmaq?

Of course, the same person that posted this messy rationalization revealed their partisan stripes in this little unjustified snipe:

Today, in Sinai, Egypt, Canadian soldiers (multinational soldiers, infact) came underattack by two suicide bombers. *IF* this attack had killed a Canadian soldier and IF* the Liberals had won the past election, I guarantee you they would not have lowered the flag to half mast to honour the death.

*IF* this argument wasn’t specious and *IF* its author not blinded by partisan politics I guarantee that I would have saved fifteen minutes by not having to write this.

Can we at least talk sensibly about this issue? Please?