Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 30, 2012.

Daily Brief and Arena

Pre-empted by coverage of the crazy foot guy. I generally think it's not a good idea to give someone like that too much attention. It's a variant on the "don't feed the trolls" motto; some people do things for attention, and this guy seems like a clear case. (As of right now, of course. Yesterday, I didn't consider that he might be genuinely sociopathic, which now seems to be the case.) Furthermore, overemphasis on violent crimes, without noting that they are becoming less and less common, leaves people jumping at shadows.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that's why Sun News did it. It's easier to sell people bullshit when they're afraid.

Adler

The stupid it burns.

Bonokoski thinks that separation of church and state means that religious institutions should stay out of politics (correct), and that governments should not tell publicly-funded religious schools what to do (incorrect).

Bonokoski thinks that no one should tell parents what to do with their children, unless their children aren't being active "enough" (whatever that means), in which case he and he alone can tell parents to stop being such pussies and let their kids play.

Honestly, this one's a little tragic, as I don't disagree with the conclusion, but the way he makes it is just idiotic. It's true that parents are paranoid and should let their kids play. It's also true, though, that you can't consistently complain about parents being told how to parent and then go ahead and... tell parents how to parent.

Oh, and, Ian Lee of the Sprott School of Business continues to disgrace himself. This time, he was comparing our EI system to Greece and Spain -- and these people accuse the left of hyperbole? -- and saying it's a good thing to force people to take lower-paying jobs that are beneath their skill level. Because what they want or what leads to a fulfilling life for them is apparently not worth worrying about.

Byline

Really not much here. As I said, Lilley's having an off-week. He really doesn't have much to talk about, so he's just going back to his tried and true stand-bys -- and saying the same old thing about them.

One new thing that cropped up was the abortion issue. I know you'll be shocked, but the Sunites are "pro-life", in the sense of the phrase which means pro-capital punishment, anti-abortion, anti-welfare state.

Here's the thing. You can't discuss abortion seriously and focus entirely on the interests of the fetus. For one, it's obscure how a fetus can have interests. It's not a separate biological entity, after all, never mind a developed person. For two, there's some very obvious people who thus get overlooked -- in particular, the woman who is actually bearing this fetus.

The only sensible argument against abortion that I know points out that a woman cannot demand that her fetus die. That's true; the most that a woman can reasonably demand is that the fetus be removed and, thus, no longer her responsibility. Right now, that means that the fetus will die. Medical techology being what it is, I can see a day where that isn't the case; that is, where fetuses can be removed even very early in development, and still develop to term.

In that case, I can see policies about abortion allowing women to give up their fetuses, and have them become wards of the state. (Then, into the foster system and onto adoption. All fine and dandy.) As things stand, though, the options are: force women to carry their fetuses to term (and criminally charge them if they don't) or allow abortion.

The "poor little babies" argument is the usual anti-abortion argument trotted out, though. And it's stupid. It's blatant emotional manipulation, and it pretends that a potential person's interests -- the fetus -- automatically override the interests of an actual person -- the woman in question.

There is something deeply morally wrong about treating an actual person as some sort of prop in a romantic fantasy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 29, 2012.

The Sunites are really sleepwalking through this week. It's honestly hard to find new things to say about their topics, as they keep rehashing the same old nonsense. It's one thing to have a series of topics that you keep returning to; it's quite another to keep saying the same thing about them. The former speaks to interest, but the latter speaks to obsession -- and a lack of both insight and imagination.

Daily Brief

Akin is always reliable, in that, as the closest to a news program on the slate, he always has new things to talk about. And he's also, I think, the brightest of the four -- certainly the one with the broadest interests -- thus he rarely runs out of things to say.

Yesterday was no different. Did you know there's a Minister of International Trade? Yeah, me neither. His name's Ed Fast, and he's the MP from Abbotsford, BC. He was on to talk about a "blue chip panel" to advise the government on free trade.

This is fine, in theory, except for two problems. First, I can't find a list anywhere of who's on the panel. If some folks are advising the federal government on policy, shouldn't we at least know who they are? (To be fair, this may just be a failure of my Google-fu.)

Second, the folks on the panel are all CEOs, as if the only interests that matter in free trade are business interests. Certainly, business should be at the table. But who is going to speak for the rest of us? In theory, the Minister, I suppose, but how likely is that? What about labour? Environmental groups? Aboriginal peoples?

It's disturbing to think that, not only are bad free trade deals going to be negotiated that favour multinational business over anyone else, but representatives of business are going to be the only ones at the table. It's the same crap that led to (for example) that terrible copyright bill, which protected industry at the expense of everyone else.

Let me be clear: I think business should have a voice in free trade negotiations, and I have no in principle objections to free trade. However, bad free trade deals result when one voice drowns out the rest; and that's guaranteed to happen when only one voice gets to speak.

Arena

Poor oppressed Catholics have to live in society with the rest of us and can't do whatever they want with public money. Waah. Next.

News Update

This human foot story is weird. I was reading updates about it all night, in the other part of my job. Initially, I thought it might just be a sick prank -- fake foot, fake blood, maybe with some raw meat thrown in to generate the smell. Then I read that the foot was real, and still thought it was a really sick prank, from someone with access to body parts. (Not as odd as you might think. Someone who worked in a medical lab or for a medical supply company could have access.)

Then we hear that there's a torso in Montreal and another body part sitting in a Canada Post sorting facility and... yeah. This isn't just a joke from someone with a weird sense of humour. This is something else. I"m not sure what. Some sort of a "don't fuck with us" message? If that was the idea, then there would've been some sort of indication of who was responsible -- the person we're not supposed to be fucking with. The only other idea I have is that this is a mistake. The foot wasn't meant to go to the Conservatives, but somewhere else.

Adler

It's so wrong that I miss Adler, but, while Adler's amusingly crazy, Bonokoski is just obnoxious. Bonokoski was pushing the climate change denial line with some douche offering fatuous, simplified arguments on a complex problem. The latest cherry-picked data point is that the planet hasn't warmed in 15 years. Which is, of course, meaningless, as the claim is about an overall trend, not one line from one arbitrary historical point to now.

I really don't see why the right has to oppose the reality of climate change, honestly. What could be wrong about saying that, hey, let's make less pollution and maybe use our resources more efficiently? Aren't efficiency and keeping to yourself supposed to be classical conservative values? (That this breed of "conservatives" don't actually hold to conservative values is one reason for refusing to call them such.)

As far as I can tell, it's not ideology, but cruelty, that motivates the opposition. Some people are passionately worried about the environment, so let's make them feel bad. And nothing about that deserves to be called conservative, or taken particularly seriously.

Byline

Lilley is having a really off week. Like his heart just isn't in it. Some paint-by-numbers smears of Tom Mulcair, which make Lilley look stupid rather than Mulcair look bad. And some bizarre conspiracy-theorizing about the UN. Apparently they want to rule the world or something.

I guess Brian Lilley doesn't pay too much attention to how things work internationally, but the threat to sovereignty and liberty doesn't come from the UN turning into some sort of One World Government. They're far too bureaucratic and consumed by in-fighting.

No, the real threat is the fact that the businesses which exist domestically, and are at least somewhat restrained by domestic governments, are largely unrestrained internationally. There is no authority that they answer to other than themselves, once they cross borders or step outside them completely.

In other words, it's not that there are no governing institutions internationally, and we need to resist the creation of one. It's that there are governing institutions, but they are distorted. The international realm is governed by international business. And that's probably the biggest threat to our freedom there is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 28, 2012

Here we go again! In case you're wondering, I only work Sun-Thurs, so I don't get to watch the Friday Sun shows. Not to mention that they don't produce new ones on the weekend. Guess that's the vaunted right-wing work ethic. They might bitch about unions, but when it comes to something like a weekend, which unions got for us, they're totally cool with taking it.

Daily Brief

Ted Opitz -- y'know, the Con MP whose election was nullified by a court -- was on, trying to defend his appeal of the court decision to the SCoC. Here's my thing: Opitz has every right to appeal. That's the process; and, since the whole issue is about technical details of process, I don't think anyone can reasonably deny the man the use of a part of that process.

However, Opitz didn't argue that point. Instead, he tried to argue that nullifying the election would disenfranchise all the people who voted for him. Memo to Ted: dude, that's just first-past-the-post. If Wrzesnewskyj actually won, then, yes, technically, everyone who didn't vote for him wasted their time in voting. And?

Second memo to Ted: dude, if you didn't win, then you're disenfranchising all the people who voted for Wrzesnewskyj by staying in office. Why doesn't that bother you?

Arena

Michael Coren likes to end his show with a segment he calls "Corenucopia" (which doesn't even work, as the "en" adds an extra syllable), where he presents some weird or unusual story. There was certainly a cornucopia of bullshit in last night's show, though. Is that the truly weird bit? That someone this uninformed and logically deficient gets to go on TV and spew his nonsense?

Here's one: it's, apparently, religious indoctrination for a professor to pressure Catholic students to critically examine their religious beliefs. No, seriously, he said that.

Here's another: it's bigotry to point out that Catholics are bigots when they oppose same-sex marriage, but it's not bigotry to oppose same-sex marriage, as long as you're nice when you say it. He said that, too.

Third one: Coren agrees with author David Cohen that "liberal" ideals are best served by "conservative" policies. (Scare-quoted because they actually mean something more like "social democratic" and "socon libertarian", respectively.) One such ideal is equality, which is currently being decimated by the policies of our Conservative government. Counter-examples are apparently not worth mentioning in Coren's world....

News Update

In Krista Erickson's world, Thomas Mulcair raising concerns about the development of Western resources is "bashing" the Western economies. The fact is that AB Premier Redford and SK Premier Wall (ignoring BC Premier Clark, who isn't going to be Premier much longer, and MB Premier Selinger who at least seems to understand the point) are screwing over their provinces, by letting foreign -- principally, American -- companies extract resources and take the overwhelming majority of the wealth home; screwing over the rest of Canada, by turning us into a precarious resource economy, rather than a stable mixed-economy; and screwing over the world, by allowing extraction, and thus burning, of resources which will accelerate climate change and further poison our air and water.

But, y'know, if you point any of that out, it's "bashing". Honestly, what is with these people? First Christy Clark calls Mulcair "goofy", now people say he's "bashing" them. Did no one actually graduate from high school?

Adler

I'm not really going to bother with Mark Bonokoski's opening "editorial", where he rambled on about how he's morally superior because he never drew EI, even when he could, and thus no one else should be able to draw it, unless he thinks it's acceptable. It's much more fun to point out how stupid he is when it comes to transgender rights.

Bonokoski went on and on about how it's somehow bigoted to support transgendered people's right to determine their own gender identity. Apparently, this is part of the homosexual agenda (really, someone should start a newsletter or something with that title, then sue if people like this claim the "Homosexual Agenda" said something it didn't). His big example was of a transgender woman who wanted to use the women's changing facilities and showers at a healthclub, and the women objected. No, really. It's bigoted to say that since you identify as a woman, you should be able to use the women's facilities.

This was followed by the lovely suggestion that the real reason people are transgendered is that they have some sort of mental illness. Really. And the reason given was that not every transgendered person is happier after sex-reassignment surgery. No, really, that's the argument.

And this was capped off with a claim that transgendered people are such a small fraction of the population that it's really not worth worrying about their interests and needs. Yet, it was worth an entire segment smearing and dismissing their concerns.

Ya gotta laugh at these people, or else you might start taking them seriously.

Byline

So, Brian Lilley tried to revive the Yellow Menace last night. Apparently, the Chinese are doing something nefariously anti-Western by... investing in lots of Canadian companies. Because nothing says "we hate the West" like "hey, make a bunch of money for us, please".

The meat of the show was a totally incoherent attempt at an argument -- it's not even a bad argument, just mush -- where Lilley stated that the government was trying to control our lives and remove our freedom of religion because of such nefarious initiatives as schools trying to socialize children, regulating water heaters, and requiring the publicly-funded Catholic schools allow gay-straight alliances.

At no point did Lilley notice that the federal government is trying to control our lives by forcing us into lower-paying, more distant jobs through the gutting of the EI system. Because, you see, he agrees with that, so it's an acceptable form of social control.

I'd have a lot more respect for this line -- and might consider it a real argument -- if Lilley could manage a little consistency. Either you're against the government getting involved in people's private lives, or you're for it (possibly under a set of independent conditions). You can't just be against it when it negatively affects you, and for it when it doesn't. That's completely self-serving and not worthy of the slightest further consideration.

Friday, May 25, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 24, 2012.

I'm not sure what was up with the Sunites yesterday. I mean, they all went through the motions, but it really seemed -- to me, at any rate -- like their hearts just weren't in it.

Daily Brief

Perfect example. This was the least Con-friendly Daily Brief to my memory. A discussion of pork-barrelling by government MPs with someone from the odious Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- oh, and, memo to the CTF: I'm a Canadian taxpayer, and you don't represent me; so who, exactly, do you speak for? And an interview with Borys Wrzesnewskyj on a judge invalidating the Etobicoke-Centre election. Which, to be fair, did fall into the Conservative-friendly frame of "it's all Elections Canada's fault!", but that's pretty thin stuff.

So, yeah. No real issues for me here.

Arena

You'd think Michael Coren wouldn't disappoint me. But, he kinda got schooled by Sandy Hudson of the Canadian Federation of Students -- he couldn't even condescend to her properly -- and then there was a lot of nonsense about civility and "riot culture" and the sort of pseudofascist paint-by-numbers that Coren usually doesn't stoop to. (His stupidity is more sophisticated than that.)

Adler

And the trend continues! Bonokoski tried to hard to keep scaremongering about the mentally ill in relation to Vincent Li, but he completely botched it by inviting on Chris Summervile, the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. I don't think Bonokoski really knew what hit him when Summerville accused the Sun generally of allowing prejudice and hatred against the mentally ill to be spread on their network, in their newspapers and on their websites. And then he called Bonokoski ignorant to boot.

We should send the guy a fruit basket or something. If you can find the clip somewhere, it was freaking classic. Summerville completely smacked the taste out of his mouth.

News Updates

They actually featured Tim Hudak, who is apparently running to be Premier of Alberta. Why else would he go to Calgary and talk about how the oilsands are wonderful for Ontario?

Ontario PCs, seriously: you can do better than this guy.

Byline

More paint-by-numbers. Blah blah, CBC wasting money. This was actually more incoherent than Brian Lilley's usual blathering. The CBC is bad, you see, because they're using their status as a large broadcaster to set up (online) services which compete with private (radio, TV) companies. This includes a deal with Sirus XM satellite radio (a small private radio company). And that's bad because there's so many services available through private companies (if you're willing to pay through the nose and get a terrible service and/or don't live in Canada).

Yeah. It was that bad. And even Lilley got schooled, this time by lawyer Gail Davidson when trying to scaremonger about Omar Khadr. Davidson, who actually knows what the law says, pointed out that Khadr really can't be kept out indefinitely, and the longer he's out, the more compensation he'll likely win. And Lilley tried to talk over her, and she wouldn't have it, and he looked like even more of a tool than usual.

Oh, and, apparently Peggy Nash is a former "union boss". This came up during a discussion of the Cons' gutting of EI. It's really a lovely smear of a term; but, remember, Lilley's the same guy who whines whenever anyone says anything nasty about "corporate bosses", like Mitt Romney.

Not a good night for them, overall. It's says something when even the Conservative shills are getting tired of shilling.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 23, 2012.

Still playing with the format a little here. Rather than complain about everything the Sunites (good name? bad name?) have to say, I'll stick to just the main topics. Otherwise, this gets very long, and pretty tedious for me. I can only complain so much!

Daily Brief

I suppose I should say at least something official about the whole "Dutch Disease" thing, and it did come up in Akin's show. Tony Clement wandered around pretending to represent all Ontarians and said that Mulcair didn't know what he was talking about.

Yes, "Gazebo" Tony Clement tried to criticize someone else's grasp of sound economic thinking.

In any event. Dutch Disease is part of the problem, unquestionably; if you don't believe that, you don't know what Dutch Disease is.

The overall decline of manufacturing in North America is another part of the problem, however. Every manufacturing sector is hurting, likely because of the inevitable march of efficiency. All economies which focus heavily on one sector -- whether it's farming or resource extraction or manufacturing -- run into this. Sooner or later, any sector will be able to produce as much as is needed, if not more, with fewer and fewer workers. Efficiency gains are inevitable, as said, and they ultimately lead to unemployment. Unless you have a mixed economy, of course, plus some reasonable ideas on how to transition people into new sectors.

The other part of the problem is the unmanaged shift of the Canadian economy from a producer to a supplier. I call it "unmanaged" because it is. Effectively, the provinces and the feds are inviting foreign multinationals to come in, extract what they like, pay some pittance of a royalty, and skedaddle back to where they came from, laughing all the way. Going whole-hog for resources will lead to decline, either when the prices crash or, as noted above, when we get so good at doing it that we don't need as many workers.

The solution is to have a real industrial policy, with an emphasis on overall sustainability. (A word I'm starting to like, incidentally.) That would be not only environmental, but also economic. The Cons aren't providing that; the Liberals never have. Give Mulcair credit for seeing that we have a huge gaping policy hole and trying to draw attention to it. Like most, I'm waiting to see what the NDP comes up with in terms of fixes, but I'm willing to give them time to construct something. (Rather than the standard Liberal trick of stealing an NDP idea and using it to brand a pre-existing Conservative policy.)

Arena

You should see my notes here. Yeesh. The stupid, it does indeed burn.

The fundamental problem I have with Coren is he doesn't understand what he's talking about most of the time, and yet is too arrogant to just shut up and let someone more intelligent/informed explain things to him. For example, last night he was whinging about freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. In his view, both are violated when governments do such horrible things as, say, require Catholic employers to fund all healthcare for their employees, including reproductive services (this would be the US), or require Catholic schools to allow gay-straight alliance clubs, with the primary goal of illustrating that gays are not sub-human (this would be Ontario).

He's a very silly man, clearly. Freedom of conscience stops when it starts to infringe on other people's lives. You can believe whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. The moment it starts having a negative impact on me, however, then your freedom is exhausted. There is no freedom for someone -- Catholic, Muslim, Wiccan, whatever -- to impact on my life through their beliefs. If you're a Catholic employer and you don't want to provide healthcare for your employees, then you're basically screwed. Either don't employ people at all, or give them the healthcare they want and need.

Similarly, there is no freedom to take public money and spend it in a way which harms other people. If Catholic schools want to teach students how icky it is to be gay, then they can simply return all that lovely tax money they've received, and we'll plow that into the public school system. Hey, there's an idea for McGuinty: if he really wants to save money, why not dissolve the Catholic school system?

And, no, I have no idea how this all relates to freedom of speech. Coren invoked it a few times and I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about. Freedom of speech, legally, just means that the government can't force you to shut up. In these cases, actions other than speech are clearly what matters, so it's not even relevant. Furthermore, the government isn't telling people not to say things. So, who knows.

Adler

Mark Bonokoski. That's who this knob is.

We had a lot more nonsense tonight about "victim's rights", including the Vince Li case. Did you know that the mother of Tim McLean, the guy Li beheaded, is trying to get a law passed forcing all mentally ill people to be hospitalized indefinitely against their will?

You won't find this on the Tim's Law website, though. (Incidentally, if anyone from that site finds this page: it's "moot" point not "mute" point. Although, being mute would probably be a good idea in your case. Remember what Kipling said about fools.) They're very careful not to reveal the actual agenda, but Bonokoski tipped their hand a tish too far. The idea is that mentally ill people are so super scary, and psychiatry so super stupid, that all people who are mentally ill should be treated as sub-human animals and locked up to protect us decent normal folks.

I've frequently noted that there's a concerted effort in the world to wind things back to the Middle Ages. At least Bonokoski et al only want to wind us back to the Victorian era, with all its glorious asylums and abuse of the mentally ill.

Yes, of course, victims matter. The point is that offenders, mentally ill or not, matter, too. All this bullshit we're currently seeing, about reintroducing the death penalty (post-Rafferty trial), chucking the mentally ill into asylums, even those execrable "victim impact statements" that are now being read in courtrooms, shows a frightening degree of deference to the judgement of emotionally overwrought people, to such an extent that we forget that all people, even criminal people, are still people. And I know of no decent, reasonable morality that treats some people are deserving of more consideration than others.

(Suck it, egoists.)

Byline

Tra-la-la, climate change denialism. Love how they didn't mention that this is the last ever Heartland Institute Conference on Climate Change Nonsense. Open up your chequebooks, Sunites! You have nothing to lose but what little sanity still remains! Oh, and Tim Ball was on, with no mention of his economic ties to the oil and gas industry. Straight talk! What the consensus media won't tell you! And so on.

"Progressive" Blogger Warren Kinsella was featured in a bit on human rights. (I've never seen Kinsella as all that progressive, unless we draw the silly inference from Liberal to progressive. Furthermore, any aggregator that thinks the interests of women can be dispensed with in a discussion of abortion is not particularly progressive, either.) The discussion was about Human Rights Commissions "inventing" "fake" human rights. Scare-quotes for a reason; keep reading.

I'm with Bentham on this one, folks; rights are nonsense, and natural rights are nonsense on stilts. Now, I'm not enough of a Bentham historian to be sure, but I've always interpreted this as a point about morality, rather than a point about law. (With Bentham, it really could be either; his greatest work was, after all, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.) So, morally, rights are nonsense, unless you've got some kind of constructivist metaethic, in which case they are superfluous. (Everything a right does theoretically can be done by a carefully formulated duty; the converse, however, does not hold.)

Legally, however, rights make good sense. There are lots of laws which create rights, and those laws have (more or less) justification behind them. But that's the trick, innit: the law invents legal rights. They don't exist out in space somewhere, waiting for the law to recognize them. Law makes them up. So any debate which turns on a distinction between invented legal rights and non-invented legal rights is fatuous. All legal rights are invented.

The right question to ask is whether a legal right should be invented. The answer's not always "yes", of course, but it's equally not always "no".

The other point raised in the discussion related to the Charter, but anyone who takes the Canadian Charter as the last word on legal rights needs to swot up a bit. There are many other legal frameworks of rights, and it's far from clear that ours is the best. I'd suggest, in fact, given that the Charter does not protect a right to necessities of life nor a right to strike, that it very clearly isn't.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 22, 2012.

Sun News talkers from last night! Hooray!

Daily Brief

David Akin devoted the bulk of the show to fawning over the royals (a term I have trouble applying to Chuck Windsor, let alone Cammy). Now, it's clearly not fair to just jump on Akin for this, as most of the newscasts in the country -- I watch the majority every night, 'member -- did the same thing. So, read this as a general point about the news media's response to the royal visit.

I don't get it.

Okay, when the Queen shows up, I sort of get it. Liz 2 is the bloody Queen, after all. (Points if you get that reference.) And there's lots of pomp and pageantry, which appeals to a certain sort of personality -- not mine, but to each his own. That's all fine. But Charles is, not to put too fine a point on it, a goober. He's a son of privilege who's never done much with his life -- don't wave that charitable stuff in front of me; my money has always been that his mother made him do it -- and sincerely believes that we are all entitled to share in his brilliance.

Except, he's not actually very bright, and he really has no sympathy for ordinary people. Likely because he's never been one.

The whole royal family really does rub me the wrong way, though. They're an obvious anachronism; if we kept them around as museum pieces, I could understand it, maybe, but we actually deploy them as part of our political system and they get treated as symbols of something-or-other, never-quite-clear-what.

As said, I don't get it. These people are deeply uninteresting and incredibly overprivileged. We should grow up and abolish the institution already.

The Arena

Yap, yap, scary Moozlems, yap. Honestly, the man is obsessed.

Coren also spent a certain amount of time on Jenna Talackova, the transgendered Miss Universe Canada contestant. The first segment he devoted was utterly ridiculous. David Menzies -- who should really do his segments in motley -- dressed up in drag and affected a ludicrous falsetto, while "reporting" on the pageant. No, really. And Coren told us that we should "have a sense of humour" about it.

Keep in mind that this is the same guy who flips out whenever anyone is even slightly derisive of Christianity.

The second segment, surprisingly more serious, was an interview with Margaret Somerville. Yes, that Margaret Somerville, the ethicist who doesn't undestand ethics. She actually surprised me this time, which is rare -- I can usually predict what she's going to say before she says it. But, she made two arguments that were unexpected.

First, she actually explained the sex/gender distinction to Coren. He didn't understand it, but that's Michael Coren for you. Somerville got it mostly right, though. She did psychologize it -- she said that sex is biological, gender is how you feel -- but she correctly noted that gender is a socially-constructed set of expected behaviours and appearances.

Second, she didn't play the biological supremacy card that she usually plays. See her arguments about abortion or same-sex marriage for examples; basically, Somerville has a foolish habit of taking whatever current human biology delivers as inerrant moral truth. Calling it Thomistic is an insult to Aquinas; Aquinas' views on natural law are much more sophisticated. This idea is just dumb.

However, she didn't say that biology trumps when it comes to transgendered people. She actually acknowledged that there is something to the notion of being born one sex, but wanting to be the other gender. (Yes, that's an inartless way of putting the point, but I'm not trying to be too technical.) Coren blew right by this, but I was actually amazed to see Somerville demonstrate some understanding of a complex issue.

Adler

So much for understanding complexity. Where to begin? I still can't find the name of Adler's temporary replacement. He said something about formerly being opinion editor at the Ottawa Sun, if memory serves. That help anyone?

Anyway. We open with a rant that is less unhinged than Adler's usual opening monologue, but still appallingly stupid. And hypocritical. The punchline was that people who have suffered tragedies have more right to their opinion regarding that tragedy than the rest of us, a point that was then applied to the Vincent Li case and the Lockerbie Bomber.

It is, of course, specious nonsense; but what's staggering is how hypocritical it is. After all, Suzanne Laplante-Edward, mother of Anne-Marie Edward, who was murdered by Marc Lépine in 1989, supports the long-gun registry. Shouldn't we defer to her opinion, then? (No, clearly, but this nut can't consistently say that.) And, to make matters worse, the guest he brought on to discuss the issue was not the victim of tragedy -- Rodney Stafford, Tori Stafford's father, has been on the program, as has Doreen Graichen, Tori's grandmother, so either could've been asked -- but a Sun journalist.

Incidentally, lots of interviews on these shows are with Sun journalists. It's extremely incestuous.

News Breaks

I forget the exact name of the segment, but there are periodic interruptions throughout the evening -- usually during The Arena and Byline by Krista Erickson, informing us of three "top stories" of the day. Last night, she threw a minor shitfit over Omar Khadr, consistently referring to him as a "CONVICTED TERRORIST". Seriously, what is with these people and their blind trust in the justice system?

Selective blind trust, I should say. When it comes to corporations getting sued or people pressing for their Charter rights to be respected, they hate the whole thing. When it comes to somebody being convicted of a criminal charge, even if the charge is bogus or the process corrupt, they slavishly endorse it. As in the case of Khadr; also in the case of Michael Rafferty. Not that Rafferty is likely to be innocent, but the calls for Rafferty to be executed were fundamentally repugnant. Death penalty policies, regardless of the ethics of the death penalty, always kill innocent people. But, the Sun News crew apparently believes that the criminal justice system is inerrant. Hence, the support for reinstituting the death penalty; hence, the blunt declarations that Khadr, as a CONVICTED TERRORIST, should be persona non grata to return to his home country.

That's Canada, if you're not sure. He was born in Toronto. Sun Newsies -- I need a name for them -- don't seem to remember that.

Byline

Ah, Brian Lilley, the git to end all gits. I sort of like seeing his show, if only because it means I'm almost done with trying to peer through this warped window to the world I know.

Lilley is obsessed with manliness lately. How conservatives are real macho he-man -- unless you criticize them, in which case they whine and cry like the best -- and liberal intellectuals are wimpy and pathetic. I'm not entirely sure how often Lilley goes around wrestling alligators or roping cattle, but I'm sure they're his favourite hobbies. Or else he'd be a staggering hypocrite, and that just can't be.

In any event, Lilley's manly man show featured lots of people sitting around and talking about stuff, which is, after all, the manliest, least intellectual endeavour imaginable, and complained about the CBC. Which is apparently what real men do.

Okay, I'll stop in just a minute, but this is actually quite funny. Sun News likes to bash the CBC regularly, usually referring to them as the "state broadcaster". Which, if true, would mean that they were the voice of the Conservative government. You heard it here first, folks: Sun News is opposed to the views of the Conservative government.

The latest target -- targets, really, as Rick Mercer popped up briefly -- was George Stroumboulopoulos (there's a reason people call him "Strombo"; I can never remember where to put all the "o"s and "u"s), who had the temerity to point out that the CBC sort of, kinda, maybe unites the country in a way that Sun News doesn't, couldn't, and never will. Then there was a lot of malarkey about wasted money at the CBC -- basically, the CBC has a budget and actually spends it, therefore it is wasted -- but I couldn't help wondering: is Lilley's problem jealousy, in that Strombo's ratings are significantly higher than Lilley's standard ~10K per show? or is it that Strombo is significantly more manly than him?

I mean, compare the two (Strombo's on the left, if you're not sure):

To my eye, Strombo looks pretty confident in himself, while Lilley looks like he's trying way too hard. Now that's a man: someone who worries about whether everybody else likes him.

That's it for today. Enjoy tomorrow's insight into madness.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And I'm back.

Since leaving the academy -- gladly, willingly -- I've found myself a position at a media monitoring company. The basic idea is that corporations, unions and other organizations approach us with a set of keywords and topics they want us to find in newscasts, including print, tv and radio sources. The system automagically pulls relevant chunks of the broadcasts that contain the keywords, but these then have to be inspected for relevance by folks like me.

So, that's what I do. I also, however, have to skim through four nightly commentary shows on Sun News Network, pulling out the topics that are discussed in each segment. (This then goes into a larger report which is sent to part of the federal government.) And, generally, it's driving me frickin' crazy as Sun seems to be involved in some sort of outreach project to the terminally stupid.

Okay, to be fair, Daily Brief is watchable. David Akin is slanted, but at least he's honest and intelligent, and has a genuine sense of humour. I watched him interview Tom Mulcair a little bit ago and, while he was tough, he was also scrupulous and decent. So, I don't mind that one so much. It's also, I note, the least opinionated of the four, so that might be helping.

I also have to watch The Arena, hosted by the fortunately inimitable Michael Coren. Good lord, but the man is a smug bigot. Every show has something about the evil scary Moozlemz and the threat they pose to sweet innocent Christians like him. And that alternates with sneering at people whose views differ from his, while simultaneously complaining that people sneer at him for having differing views! Last night he opened with some maudlin nonsense about a childhood friend -- who I have no reason to believe existed -- who ended up killing himself. Not sure what that had to do with Victoria Day, but there you go.

Then comes Adler, hosted by everyone's favourite creepy uncle, Charles Adler. The opening segments of this show are hilarious, if only because they are completely incoherent. It's pure stream of consciousness, as delivered by a fragmented and uninformed consciousness. Then there's Coren-esque sneering at everyone who dares disagree with the mighty Adler, plus a lot of pandering to old folks. (I have no particular problem with old folks, but 15-20 minutes of "young people don't know how good they have it" every day is a tish bit tiresome.)

And, finally, Byline, hosted by Brian Lilley, the man for whom the word "git" was invented. Insufferable and hypocritical, Lilley's show is little more than the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped. For example, one show -- I swear this is true -- Lilley complained about Tom Mulcair being divisive for daring to say that oil sands development should be sustainable and benefit Canadians, rather than foreign multinationals; and then, after the commercial, suggested that Quebec should be kicked out of Canada. Somebody hand the man a dictionary, with the word "divisive" bookmarked and highlighted.

The commercials are equally funny. Most of it's late-night fare -- considering the shows start airing at 6pm and finish at 10, this is pretty sad -- informing us of useful kitchen gadgetry. These are supplemented with self-promotional nonsense -- I swear one commercial (I've never seen the whole thing) ends with the sound of a mooing cow -- and fringe political douchebaggery -- some group called Merit Canada which wants unions to disclose all financial information to the public, but is totally cool with corporations keeping their information secret.

To preserve my sanity, going forward, I'll be using this space to snark on the idiocy that I have to sit through each night. The phrase "embarrassment of riches" comes irrepressibly to mind.

Here's one. Adler's on vacation for the next few weeks, and is replaced by some Sun "journalist", who manages to be even creepier. For example, in his Victoria Day intro, he aired footage of a Victoria's Secret fashion show. Remember: these people are conservatives. And nothing says "conservative" like drooling over lingerie models.

Still, onward. He managed to scaremonger about schizophrenics while talking about Vincent Li. That's the guy who beheaded a guy on a Greyhound; he was found not competent due to mental illness and institutionalized; he's now on escorted community release, given that his delusions seem to be well-controlled with medication. The whole argument, such as it was, against letting Li out was based on the claim that Li was still a threat, because mentally ill people just can't be trusted. So, everyone who's ever had any problems with depression or anxiety or the like -- congratulations, you should be kept in jail away from the "normal" people. (Wasn't it Freud who said that everyone is neurotic?)

And then there was Coren, cheering on the thought of police beating up Quebec students, ignoring the fact that there are serious constitutional questions about the Quebec government's arbitrary and far-reaching ban on the freedom of assembly. Because nothing says "conservative" like hating the Constitution. You've also got to love how the periodic "news updates" which appear in the middle of Coren and Lilley refer to students' actions as "thuggery", but conveniently excuse any and all police violence. (To be fair, at least Lilley seems vaguely troubled about police going too far at the G20; but he tends to express the concern while complaining that the poor innocent police didn't have any choice when dealing with unarmed, unarmoured protesters.)

Honestly, I don't really know where I'm going with this, except to express some of the obvious errors of logic and fact that populate these programs -- I have no other venue, given that my job is just to report what they're saying, not argue with it. But I'll keep going; Aristotle teaches us of the value of catharsis, and who am I to disagree with him?