23 June 2008

George Carlin...

George Carlin is dead. The perpetually grouchy king of a cynical counterculture passed away. I found much of Carlin's work decidely too negative. His humour, at times, brutally unkind. But that was the appeal of this individual.

I like comedy. It is one of the rare tools which allows all of us to reexamine our own self-importance and challenge sacred beliefs. It is a platform for common understanding - given the right joke. We all seem to be able to laugh at simple, physical humor - a favorite of Citizen Prime. But it is the subtlety which prunes the mind allowing new ideas to grow.

If we can laugh at something, we can then begin to think critically about it. We can laugh at religion, politics, gender issues, ethnicity and other topics and start to understand that these concepts and ideas are not unassailable, monolithic constructs.

There are normal frailties inherent in these beliefs. This is not to say that they are deserving of ridicule, but that having been ridiculed - do they survive or even thrive?

There have been no shortage or jokes at the expense of the Catholic church. In fact, it is probably one of the longest standing institutions which has been subject to satire. It certainly has not vanished, althoguh one could argue that the changes in the church are due, in no small part, to satire.

Both recent presidents have been the helpless vicitms of satirical attack. Clinton for his lascivious nature and Bush for his public speaking. Neither really recovered from these pointed attacks on real character flaws.

Every day I tune in to my XM satellite radio and listen to a dose of stand up comedy. Whether it is left leaning (the majority) or right (Dennis MIller being one of the few in this space) it never ceases to provide me a smile (no matter how grim) and an insight into some modern conundrum.

I expect when George arrives at his final destination, the almighty (or whomever) will pat him on the back and say;

"That seven dirty words routine was f*****g hilarious."

17 June 2008

O Canada...

The most public case to date in the history of the Canada's Human Rights Commission is that of author Mark Steyn.  In this case, a Canadian magazine, Macleans, published an excerpt from Mark’s book America Alone.  The work is only controversial in that it points out uncomfortable facts about recent history, repeats public quotations from various figures and provides some postulations on the fate of world culture.


The Canadian Human Right Commission was founded by virtue of the Canadian Human Rights Act enacted in 1985.  This act is a supplement to the Canadian Constitution of 1867.  Canada has a Bill of Rights.  Despite the quotation by some in Canada that “free speech” is a uniquely American (meaning United States of America) concept.  It is codified in the Canadian Bill of Rights, adopted in 1960.  Additionally, a “freedom of the press” is also clearly detailed in the Bill of Rights, CDN. 


It would seem that the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) original construction was a rather straightforward approach to eliminating discrimination and providing equal opportunity to all.  Somewhere it’s enforcement arm, the Human Rights Tribunal, went horribly afield.  Individuals were summarily charged with “hate speech” and brought before these tribunals, which operate outside the normal realm of due process.  In fact, under the article creating the Human Rights Tribunal (HRT), the judge is specifically not bound by rules of evidence.


Rules of evidence

(9) In conducting an inquiry, the judge is not bound by any legal or technical rules of evidence and may receive, and base a decision on, evidence presented in the proceedings that the judge considers credible or trustworthy in the circumstances of the case.




There are some in Canada who are actively campaigning to bring the CHRC and HRT into line.  Some may have ulterior motives and I am not able to judge the legitimacy of their claims.  However, the simple fact that MPs are taking up legislative action implies that things may have gotten out of hand.


In the United States, a single court system handles almost all civil and criminal cases.  Lesser administrative courts, those handling discrimination, are empowered at the state or federal level and subject to further judicial review.  What is most disturbing is the general lack of concern amongst our northern neighbors.  Although no Canadian will admit to being “just like America”, both nations share similar histories and demographics.  Each nation has been a haven for immigrants and our passion for freedom, at least on paper, are nearly parallel.


It should be a caution for how the constraint of speech can become a suppression of speech and thus ideas and thought.  It is up to the citizens of a nation to reject clearly inflammatory, idiotic and hateful rhetoric.  It is up to the government to protect its citizens from truly egregious acts, not petty grievances cooked up by ideo-political thugs.


I did not speak, for they did not come for me.


And when they did, there was no one left to speak for me.



13 June 2008

Fathers day...

June 15, 2008


Dear Dad,


Let me wish you a happy father’s day.  I expect this letter will arrive a little late, but no matter.  Just as some people proclaim that every day should be Christmas, perhaps every day we should honor our parents, especially our fathers.  In a world where the inherent qualities of being a man are continually challenged, the role of father has changed dramatically in the last half century.  No longer do we live most of our lives in small villages, drawing our existence from the lands around us.  We now are interconnected across the globe.  Citizens of the modern, industrialized world may live their lives with little real connection to their heritage or the planet upon which they live. 


There is some risk in disconnecting so completely from our past.  We put at hazard the values and principals which allowed us to develop a civil and respectful society.  The ignorance of our history will, in fact, doom us to repeat it.  This oft bandied cliché has more truth within it than it is credited.  And so to parents fall the responsibility of imparting the best aspects of history and experience while avoiding those darker elements which lurk within all human existence.  They take on this task with the hope that their children will emerge better, smarter and more honest than themselves.


For a mother, the roles have been clear since the dawn of time.  It is one which has changed little and is likely to remain steady for time to come.  For a father, the duty is not as evident.  And yet it is as unshakably continuous as the role of a mother.  It is my belief that the primary role of the father is to impart those values which encourage integrity, strength and mercy.  It is the place of the father to encourage self-reliance in his children and an understanding of the events and experiences which preceded their entry into the world. 


Parents, by virtue of being so, have engaged in a compact requiring sacrifice.  They have, knowingly or not, undertaken a task from which there is no release.  Some do not understand this great gift and burden.  The prospect of shepherding a young life into the fullness of adulthood does not always reveal itself to a parent as an honor.  It is viewed as an unwelcome task or trivialized by those who fail to grasp the awesome obligation inherent in raising children.


My childhood was not viewed trivially.  I was blessed by parents who understood and acted in the best interests of their children and honored the commitment to their own virtues.  In particular, my father demonstrated to me the value of sacrifice, honesty and courage.  It was he who imparted to me a respect for history along with a passion to improve upon it.  All of this was done with love.  It was an unconditional love I felt and shared among my brother and sister.  It is a love which endures regardless of the occasional hardships life offers us all. 


We tend to romanticize our memories about the past.  It is natural to want to believe the best about the things which comprise who we are.  And we are, indeed, the product of our experiences.  Somehow we become the sum of all the people whom we have known.  It is, therefore, imperative that we look for the best in those people in order to add the best to ourselves.  And thus, each parent must offer their best to their children.   Those children will carry with them whatever is offered, good or bad. 


I feel that obligation as I look at each of my sons.  I ask myself each day if I am offering them my best.  As a father I wonder what lessons they are learning from me.  Will they be kind?  Honest?  Strong?  Will they value knowledge and respect others, simply for their humanity?  Will they value and understand sacrifice?  If I can impart to them only a little of what my father gave to me, then I know they will be well.  And I will know that I have been a good father, as my father was before me.





02 June 2008


A US citizen is under arrest in Singapore for "insulting a public servant". This after comments he made about a judge "prostituting herself" on his blog. He then traveled to Singapore and taunted the local authorities online, including the location of his hotel and phone number. Singapore is one of those interesting locations which relies upon social conformity in the extreme and exhibits very conservative behavior. It is also essentially a city state that relies on the good graces of its neighbors to remain independent.

I wonder how this case will affect, if at all, international law? Does an individual have the right to free speech? Does a nation have a right to impose arbitrarily restrictive rules on individuals' expressions? We will see how open China has become during the forthcoming Olympic games. For all the hand wringing of multi-culturalists and moral relativists, there is little commentary on nation's or cultures which impose sanctions on classes of people. None of the left decries the lack of freedoms for women in Islamic cultures nor does the right spend enough time cataloging the abuses of repressive regimes like China and Burma (Myanmar).

I wonder if they are simply prostituting themselves to their own vested interests.

I think I'll stay away from Singapore for a few months.