sliced bread #2

Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006



Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

this blog has grown from a personal ranting outlet to a political and philosophical soapbox -- and everything in between -- over the past 2 years i've maintained it... i've rambled about things both mundane and sublime and chronicled many significant events of my life during this period for the random visitors -- however many or few there have been -- who have stumbled on this site... alas, in recent months, i've had less time to compose original thoughts and relied too heavily on other people's commentary to fill its content, without really engaging the referenced material critically... it's a product both of my laziness and the sense (resignation?) that there's been little to distinguish my voice from the cacophony of the blogosphere... perhaps it's also because the premise on which this blog was built is no longer relevant to my current perspective and life situation...

all this is to say that sliced bread is officially toast...

however, i've laid the foundation for a new home for my online ramblings... as i enter my final year of law school and, soon thereafter, the next phase of my personal and professional life, this new forum is being designed as a different creative outlet with a broader perspective... the intent is to have it house some of my better articulated and/or more developed ideas and more relevant commentary on issues that "matter"... while i still intend to tackle a wide range of subjects, i'm also hoping that i'll be better focused and organized with my content... how successful this project will be remains to be seen...

in any case, i've had the time of my life, with this phase of my life...

if you care to follow my journey, update your link accordingly...


Saturday, July 29, 2006

quote of the day


We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.


Friday, July 28, 2006

required reading


to "celebrate" Call Day...

FROM: Anonymous Lawyer
TO: All partners, associates, e-mail correspondents, support slaves
RE: Required reading

Announcing a temporary change to the firm's long-standing policy that employees are not allowed to read anything besides lease agreements. Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel hit stores this week and is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's, or your favorite on-line retailer. No, not that one. I mean the one that sells books.

Barnes & Noble:

In the novel, Anonymous Lawyer sets out on a quest to eliminate his biggest rival, The Jerk, and become chairman of the firm -- while dealing with incompetent associates, his spendthrift wife, and the inner torment deep in his soul. Very deep. It's not a compilation of blog posts. That would be like double-billing a client. And we never double-bill clients. Okay, we do, but not this time. New material.

USA Today calls the book "wickedly amusing," Publishers Weekly calls it "side-achingly funny," the New York Post gives it 4 stars out of 4, and my grandmother really loves it too.

We'll also be needing you to work this weekend on a memo for a case we've already settled, and there's a typo somewhere in the tax code that we need you to find. Thanks.

Back to work!

Anonymous Lawyer


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Anonymous Law Firm LLP


Our firm was founded in 1908 by 13 lawyers who believed that the practice of law did not have to be merely one aspect of an attorney’s life but that it offered enough rewards – mentally, spiritually and financially – that it was all a person needed to live a complete existence. Our commitment to this ideal has driven us throughout our 98-year history, and continues to guide us as we approach the century mark.

With lawyers in offices around the world, Anonymous Law Firm offers clients comprehensive legal services, no matter their needs, and no matter the expertise of our staff. We are distinguished by our pledge to offer advice on whatever matters concern our clients, regardless of the skills and knowledge we bring to the table. This philosophy has enabled us to grow, shrink, and then grow once again as the market has opened up new opportunities with corporations who are unfamiliar with our work. Our unsurpassed record of involvement with our clients in all areas of their business has given us a dossier of experiences other firms simply cannot match. We have one compelling mission with regard to our clients: We can do the work, or at least we will spend the hours trying.

finally... an honest recruiting pitch...

good luck to everyone this Friday on Call Day!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

letter of the day

I am sure that all the Canadians who have managed to get out of Lebanon must be heaving sighs of relief that they are on their way back home to safety. But the media have been full of reports showing angry and tired people who feel that our government has not done enough to get them out of Lebanon.

Unfortunately, their comments irritate and anger many of us, so I would like to voice a few questions that I have heard many times over the past several days. First, did the Canadian government force you to go to Lebanon? Second, has our government ever had to arrange such a huge evacuation? Third, of course you were tired and frightened when you arrived in a safer place, but did you have to show such vehemence and animosity toward those who were trying to get you out of that dangerous war-torn country? Fourth, do you really believe that this is a simple exercise for our government and armed forces?

My husband was fortunate enough to escape from Hungary during the 1956 Revolution. He was sent to England for several months, and then was given passage to Canada. Without much understanding of the English language, he had to sit on the floor for three days in an English airport before boarding a plane that took 24 hours to bring him, along with many other Hungarian refugees, to Canada. They were not given food, water, or anything else, but they did not complain because they were grateful that our nation was willing to help them.

Of course, gratitude is a feeling that appears to be missing in most of the scenarios we see playing out before us today. Co-ordinating this huge exodus would not be easy at the best of times, but it is a huge undertaking when bombs might be dropped on any of the ships that have been sent to help with the rescue.

So instead of complaining, be grateful that you, at least, made it out, and if you have other family members who are still waiting to be rescued, thank God for the fact that they are still alive. Many people are not. On behalf of many ordinary citizens, I would like to commend our federal government for its efforts to rescue stranded Canadians in Lebanon.

— Claudine Goller, Toronto Star (2006/07/21)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

on a less serious note...



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the "crisis" in the Mid-East


I'm afraid I can't really offer an opinion either way. Being born in 1982, I'm simply one of the many who have been dropped in the middle of this long and bloody political story. Moreover, being an outsider to the narrative, it seems one couldn't escape charges of anti-Semitism or anti-Muslimism (is that a word?) should one offer an opinion one way or the other.

So I sit idly by and listen to the talking heads go back and forth. It's like tennis... with words and bombs. While I would like to think my interest in the issue has more of a philosophical and humanitarian underpinning, I can't help but think I'm just one of those effete "intellectuals".

Maybe I'm no better than "Ed".

At one level, I feel ashamed of myself. There's a war going on. People are getting killed. Missiles are falling on Haifa and Beirut and all I can think about is what time I'm getting off work and what I'm doing this weekend.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Jon Stewart: America's last best hope



Thursday, July 13, 2006

my new nephew


Jeremiah Thomas Saguil was born on July 11, 2006 =)


Monday, July 10, 2006

the "best" in the world?

Staff at the British office of Information Builders (IBI) tracked a string of alternative statistics during Germany 2006, including dives, feigned injuries, referee intimidation, and tantrums. According to their findings from watching TV broadcasts of the games, Italy leads in dives (32), France in tantrums (28), and Paraguay in fake injuries (12). Croatia, France, Italy and Portugal are tied in bullying the referee incidents with five, although Croatia played half the games (3) than the others did.

Information Builders devised the "IBI Foul Play Index" by awarding points for yellow and red cards, bullying the referee, dives, fake injuries and tantrums. The total is then divided by the number of games played. Paraguay leads the tournament with an index of 45, followed by Italy (40) and the Netherlands, Ivory Coast and Portugal (37). France is tied with Germany, Switzerland and Togo for 14th at 26. England, tied with South Korea, is 19th at 23. Trinidad and Tobago was the best behaved team the tournament, with a Foul Play Index of just 14. They were nailed for just four dives, three tantrums, and two fake injuries.

I attribute Italy's win to two things: (1) their admittedly impressive impenetrable defence and goaltending (I've been sold on Buffon and Cannavaro being the best at their respective positions); (2) the last-minute job of the Aussies in the second round.

But alas, as they say, it's not about "how", it's about "who".


Saturday, July 08, 2006

misguided identities

What's been on display during the World Cup hasn't been anything nearly so exciting as alleged plots to blow up buildings and behead the Prime Minister. But because it's involved thousands of normal, well-adjusted people, it's far more useful for assessing social trends.

What's been on display has been an aggressive brand of tribalism. It would have been a deeply uncomfortable experience to walk through the Portuguese celebrations on Dundas Street wearing the colours of a rival country -- or maybe, for that matter, of Canada. And while it's been amplified during the World Cup, it's not unfamiliar to those associated with the younger generations of some of Toronto's larger cultural communities.

Speak to a first-generation Canadian who came here during the wave of Italian immigration in the 1960s or Portuguese immigration in the '70s, and you'll hear considerable allegiance to their adopted country. That's not mutually exclusive with pride in their mother country and adherence to some of its traditions, but it takes precedence. Then speak with some of their children, or their children's children, and you'll get something different -- young men who define themselves first and foremost as Italian or Portuguese, and the occasional kid who will tell you that "Canada sucks."

This is not a question of age; it's a question of experience. Younger Canadians who themselves grew up elsewhere will speak contemptuously of second- or third-generation members of their ethnic groups who feel more connected to a country they've never lived in -- in some cases, never even visited. Because like the older members of local communities, recent immigrants know that there's a reason they came here -- Canada offered them a better life.

For those who instead embrace a mythical utopian version of their mother countries, Canada can never compare. And in a sprawling city in which a sense of community can be hard to find, allegiance to their ancestral homeland becomes a defining part of their identity.

The answer is not to attempt some form of cultural assimilation, which would inevitably have disastrous results -- and rob Canada of the cultural diversity that's central to its modern identity. But the brand of multiculturalism we embrace should dictate that ethnic heritage and traditions are a worthy way to supplement one's identity as a Canadian -- not to supplant it.

It falls to parents to instill in their kids the same sense of Canadian pride that they themselves feel. And it falls to society at large to examine how we can get members of various communities to turn outward, rather than just inward.

— Adam Radwanski, National Post (2006/06/30)

Friday, July 07, 2006

happy birthday, mr. president



Thursday, July 06, 2006

(mis)quoting the Bible


The next time a Christian partisan shouts a Bible verse at you — as if citing Leviticus 18:22, Exodus 20:13 or 1 Corinthians 7:4 ended all discussion of homosexuality, abortion or women's rights — shout back, "Acts 4:32-35!"

That's the passage that might have inspired Karl Marx: "No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common," and wealth "was distributed to each as any had need." No free-market capitalism in that biblical economy. No "prosperity Gospel," either, certainly nothing as lax as a tithe of merely 10 per cent.

Or you could shout "Exodus 22:25!" about not charging interest on loans, or "Deuteronomy 15:1-3!" about forgiving debts every seventh year, or "Leviticus 19:9-10!" about leaving grain in the field for gleaners, or "Luke 19:8-9!" about Zacchaeus giving half of his wealth to the poor.

You'd be shouting alone, of course.

Partisans and politicians won't be quoting those Scriptures in the next campaign on so-called "social issues," even though excessive personal indebtedness, unconcern for the poor and concentration of wealth pose a greater threat to the American way of life than divergent patterns of sexuality and marriage.

Such Scriptures don't apply, modern folks will say. Utopian experiments never work. Without the ability to charge interest, no one would lend money. Sabbath years of debt forgiveness would disrupt banking and real estate. Gleaning is fine for ancient grain, but modern managers must maximize profit.

Maybe so. Maybe those Scriptures don't apply. Maybe early Christians were wrong to try communal living. Maybe a modern economy requires better management than the Torah can provide. Maybe Jesus didn't link everyone's salvation to generosity, just Zacchaeus's.

By the same token, maybe Paul's insistence that women be subservient to men applied to one claque of gossipy women, and otherwise he stood with Jesus in welcoming women as equals. Maybe partisans for "protection of marriage" are right to ignore Paul's counsel that believers not get married at all.

Sound biblical scholarship isn't content to find the one verse that proves a point. Sound scholarship considers the whole, the thousand-year trajectory of Scripture, realities of authorship and changing contexts, contradictions, new directions that emerged in the Christian era, changing manuscripts and evangelists' promise of more revelation to come. Sound biblical scholarship takes effort and discernment.

Those who claim they are "defending the biblical faith" by demanding a certain doctrine or moral code based on a few convenient Bible passages that prove their point are actually undermining biblical faith in order to get their way.

It is unlikely that we Christians will abandon our 2,000-year quest for power. Like other people, we tend to believe that power, wealth and right opinion will make our lives safe and our days long. But let's at least be honest about our addiction to control and stop calling it faith. As it is, in flinging carefully selected Scripture-bullets at each other, we sound like children playing: "I got you!" "No, you didn't!"

— TOM EHRICH, Toronto Star (2006/06/24)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006




All hope is on France now... Allez Les Bleus!!!


Monday, July 03, 2006

Canada in 2020


To get Canadians thinking about the challenges our country will face over the coming decades, the Dominion Institute - in partnership with the CBC, La Presse and The Toronto Star - has brought together twenty top thinkers to kick off a debate about what issues, events or trends could fundamentally transform Canada by the year 2020.

What for example would Canada look like if oil cost $300 a barrel in the year 2020? How would the country function, or not, in the aftermath of the separation of Quebec? Where and how would we live if global temperatures rose dramatically in the next fourteen years? What will our cities look like by 2020? What forces could transform our economy, the healthcare system or role in the world?

Visit the
Canada in 2020 web pages of the CBC and The Toronto Star.


Sunday, July 02, 2006



How to cope with loss?

Psychologists say you first have to experience the emotion of loss to process it properly. After more than 40 years of hurt, some may say England fans have certainly done that. On Saturday at the campsite in Gelsenkirchen, decorated with a scatter of St. George's crosses, hopes were raised, hearts were packed with expectation, tents were pitched and sights were set on the semis.

But now the tumbleweed of loss is blowing through.

For the rest of the tournament, I'm chanting "Auf gehts Deutschland schiesst ein Tor!"


Friday, June 30, 2006

diversity in Canada


This Canada Day weekend, in light of recent events, it might be worthwhile to ask what it's like to be part of an ethnic minority in Canada.

The experience may depend hugely on where you came from originally, what you look like, how the media view you and whether your ethnic community has a voice in the political arena. The Diversity in Canada survey, conducted among 3,000 Canadians 15 years of age and over in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver between June and August 2005, took a closer look at how major ethnic groups perceive their treatment by the most powerful institutions of society: police, courts, employers, media and government.

In addition to immigrants' strong attachment to Canada, the poll also shows that they view Canada's respect for legal rights, security and safety, health care, cultural diversity and education system as much better or somewhat better than their birth countries.

But there are several clouds on the horizon.

Underemployment, discrimination and lack of cultural and political representation are immigration flashpoints reflected in the poll. The lack of recognition for foreign-trained professionals has made a cliché out of the Toronto taxi driver with a PhD. Employment is ranked as the most important issue governments should address among immigrants here less than 10 years. Although not a dominant sentiment among visible minority groups, a worrisome 37 per cent say they have personally experienced discrimination. About 50 per cent of visible minorities feel the mainstream media present negative stereotypes of many people from racial or ethnic minorities.

These issues seem all the more poignant in light of a heated argument I got into with a friend about — ironically — the World Cup. Part of the implication in the exchange was that persons who do not have ethnic roots in countries participating in the tournament — i.e., me — should not comment on the sport of football. Sounds like some of the rantings of one Don Cherry — an icon of Canadian xenophobia if there ever was one.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

it's not about how... it's about who...


"It's not about playing beautiful football. It's about getting a result. I watched the Ivory Coast in their first game against Argentina, and I thought, 'This is a wonderful team. They play beautiful football.' And now they're home, watching us."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

the Italian job


Another questionable call in this World Cup showed Italy the way to the quarter-final yesterday, giving the Italians a penalty kick that Francesco Totti converted for the 1-0 win as time expired. Moments earlier, Italy's Fabio Grosso was dribbling a few strides from the goalmouth when Lucas Neill slid in front of him. The Italian cut in Neill's direction and tried to leap clear, but tripped over the defender's back.

To the amazement of the Socceroos, Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo immediately ruled it a penalty with 12 seconds remaining in extra time. Totti, a second-half substitute, sent his penalty kick high and to the right of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who guessed correctly but couldn't stretch far enough to stop it.

But when exactly is a free kick direct or indirect?

According to the "Laws of the Game", a free kick is direct when a player:

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent
  • makes contact with the opponent before touching the ball when tackling
  • holds an opponent
  • spits at an opponent
  • handles the ball deliberately

If any of these offences are committed by a player inside their own penalty area, then it's a penalty kick. An indirect free kick results when, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
  • impedes the progression of an opponent (obstruction)
  • plays in a dangerous manner
  • prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands

At most, Neill was guilty of "impeding the progression of an opponent" (i.e. obstruction) which is an indirect free kick. Penalties are a result of direct free kick deserving fouls, which was hardly the situation in this case. Check the replay.

The Aussies got screwed... talk about an Italian job!


Saturday, June 24, 2006

victim politics


It has become fashionable to apologize, and this is particularly true with respect to historical wrongs which, since they involve actions of others, long dead, and hence are free of any personal culpability, are apologies that are inherently easy to make. We have seen Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, apologize for British indifference to the potato famine of the 1840s. On the other hand, Mr. Blair has steadfastly refused Archbishop Desmond Tutu's demand that he apologize for Britain's role in the "immoral" Iraq war. Former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney apologized to Japanese-Canadians in 1988 for their internment during the Second World War, and offered a settlement costing taxpayers $422-million. However, Mr. Mulroney has yet to apologize for putting Canadians through the wrenching and divisive national debate over the Meech Lake Accord.

Now, Stephen Harper has stood in the House of Commons and apologized for the Chinese head tax that was established in 1885 under the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald, and last collected 62 years ago under the government of William Lyon Mckenzie King. Mr. Harper also announced the government would pay financial compensation and fund programs totalling $35-million.

There is no doubt that the head tax was racist, and its use to try to limit Chinese immigration was shameful. It is not, however, equivalent to the plight of the ethnic Japanese in Canada during the Second World War. It was an unfortunate episode in Canadian history, of which there are many. To deal with these issues, the government of Canada has established a pot of money, appropriately called
Acknowledgment, Commemoration and Education. However, the government is not so awash in tax dollars that it can begin to pay compensation for everything.

Victim groups are swarming to this pot as bees to nectar. According to government records released to the Winnipeg Free Press, Ukrainians want $12.5-million for their internment during the First World War. The Germans want $12.5-million, too. The Italians want $12.5-million for the internment of 700 men during the Second World War. The Sikhs want $4-million, the Croats $2.8-million, and the Jews $2-million for being barred from immigrating to Canada between 1923 and 1945. African Canadians and Doukhobors want another $7-million for unspecified grievances.

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, rare among journalists, has counted 13 such groups, and rightly sees Ottawa's surrender to the CCNC as flipping open Pandora's box. When ACE took shape, Simpson wrote, it "quickly attracted lineups of groups claiming victimization and demanding their share of the pot: Ukrainians"
already given some compensation for their internment in the First World War "Italians, Germans, Croatians, Chinese, Sikhs, Jews, blacks. Others are sure to follow."

Stephen Harper has made a huge and costly mistake
it is stupid, divisive and, emphatically, fresh discrimination, since it "discriminates" against other groups that demand similar treatment. History is never black and white — except for the approved Canadian version, which is increasingly a narrative of oppressors and oppressed. A mari usque ad mare, we are a group of victims united only by our collective sense that, somehow, somewhere, Canada has done us wrong. I believe the general principle enunciated by Pierre Elliott Trudeau holds true: we, as Canadians, can only aim to be just in our own time.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

what a good legal education is worth


On June 19, 2006 the Board of Governors of York University approved a three-year tuition fee schedule to commence in the 2006-07 academic year. This new fee structure will replace the original fee structure approved by the Board for Osgoode in June, 2004. Pursuant to this new fee schedule, fees for entering students will increase by 8% annually and fees for students continuing in the LLB program will increase by 4% annually.


Monday, June 19, 2006

on pride and conformity


today is the official kick-off of Toronto's Pride Week... the theme this year is "Fearless"... is Joseph Briante just that, or did he expect too much "freedom" or "diversity" from his corporate masters?
When Joseph Briante sent an emotional e-mail last week to more than 100 fellow lawyers at the Vancouver office of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, he wrote that he wanted to put an end to a "barrage of uninvited comments" about his sexuality and colourful wardrobe. Instead, the 31-year-old associate became an Internet sensation overnight as his furious digital rant and New Age ramblings ricocheted through law firm inboxes and blogs around the world. By the end of the week, the e-mail had been so widely circulated that Mr. Briante's story landed on the Vancouver Province's front page with the headline: "I got in trouble for being a snappy dresser . . . and too gay!"

A spokeswoman for Faskens said Mr. Briante handed in his resignation Thursday night and the national law firm issued a press release announcing it had hired an independent expert to investigate the harassment allegations. The Faskens spokeswoman said the firm takes the accusations "very seriously."

It is doubtful that the outcome of the probe will ever see the light of day because of employee privacy issues. But what has landed with a screeching thud in the public spotlight is the very inconvenient reality that major law firms, for all their expertise in human rights and labour law, are still struggling to calibrate their conservative cultures to adapt to diversity, including homosexuality, among their employees.

Gay activists interviewed said working conditions at major law firms have improved in recent years, but many middle-aged gay or lesbian lawyers have been reluctant to openly discuss their sexuality until they are made partners for fear that their careers or access to interesting case files might be cut off by disapproving senior partners or firm clients.

Much less reticent is the younger generation of law school graduates and associates who are increasingly forthright about their sexuality and workplace rights. As Faskens learned with Mr. Briante, the younger generation's candour can set them on something of a collision course with staid major firms. "I used to tell students that they shouldn't give any clues about their sexuality on their résumés unless they were certain that the person reading it would be receptive. Today I get attacked if I say that," said Doug Elliott, a prominent Toronto litigator and president of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association.

Now, young gay lawyers are "much more in your face" with potential employers. While such honesty is "refreshing," Mr. Elliott said it can present career hurdles. "Things are improving slowly, but big Bay Street law firms are struggling with diversity. . . . There is still this residue from the past that demands conservatism in the big firms. The only thing they want you to stand out in is billable hours."

In an interview, Mr. Briante said he stood out at Faskens because he wore vibrant pastel shirts, edgy suits and has an effervescent personality. At Faskens, Mr. Briante said he found that individuality was not an asset: "There was an unwelcoming environment for people who are not cookie-cutter lawyers." For legal watchers sensitive to the cultural nuances of the top law firms, the irony of Mr. Briante's story is that Faskens has long been regarded as a "gay friendly" firm. Under the leadership of famed litigator Walter Williston, Faskens was known as early as the 1970s as a firm that welcomed a variety of lawyers, including, one partner said, a handful of gay partners.

Ken Smith, a Vancouver-based lawyer and noted defender of gay legal rights, said while there is much more openness in the profession, most lawyers he knows at big firms do not come out until after they have been made a partner. "There is still a glass ceiling at the partnership level for gay lawyers."

— JACQUIE McNISH, Globe and Mail (2006/06/14)

We can certainly keep trying to "open up" the legal profession, but in some sense, there will always need to be a consideration of the level of professionalism that is projected by lawyers — that is, after all, one of the foundations of our legitimacy. Skin colour, religious attire, signs of sexual orientation, and the like are not guideposts for professional appearance. Professional dress, on the other hand, is. In my view, pastel shirts and edgy ties are on the same vein as purple hair and nose rings — it simply doesn't work in the corporate world.

On one hand, it's unfortunate that "professional appearance" can be used as code language for other more discriminatory attitudes. If it's in fact the case that Briante was a victim of discrimination based on his orientation, then he should have pursued the appropriate complaint mechanism, within the firm or with the provincial human rights tribunal. On the other hand, the very headline used by The Province and Briante's own comments only serve to maintain the stereotype that all gay/bisexual people have to look colourful and "fabulous" and/or be paragons of style and fashion.

I'm more concerned about being perceived as a serious professional.


Friday, June 16, 2006

the beautiful game


The rather worn cliché that sport is war without guns, that our support and loyalty to our teams and nations is our modern-day expression of our tribal roots, happens to be true. If fundamentalists would just play sports instead of assassinating tennis players for wearing shorts, no doubt they'd spend less time flying planes into buildings.

Last week, the biggest sporting event on Planet Earth kicked off in Germany. The World Cup makes the Olympics look like an elementary-school sack race, and inspires a more passionate following than global jihad. Soccer is being hailed as the true ambassador of Olympic spirit — less specialist, less corrupt, less phony than the actual Olympics.

Soccer "closes the schools, closes the shops, closes a city and stops a war," the lead singer of U2 says in those lush Irish tones as your giant HDTV fills with images of children in war-torn rubble playing keep-me-up and women in burkhas having a kick around in front of the secret police. The World Cup is undoubtedly about more than just soccer: it is geopolitics laid bare. Hooligans abound, but ask your average soccer-nut to defend his sport of choice and he'll look at you tearfully before launching into a poorly articulated explanation about how "soccer is a universal language, a symbol of the essential unity of mankind, an expression of our global harmony, and all that kind of stuff."


Thursday, June 15, 2006

What say the reeds at Runnymede?


Today is the anniversary of the Magna Carta, the English charter signed by King John on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede. The King -- who had just lost in battle against his English barons -- promised to respect his subjects' rights and agreed to be bound by the rule of law. In 1911, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about the momentous occasion.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
What say the reeds at Runnymede?
The lissom reeds that give and take,
That bend so far, but never break,
They keep the sleepy Thames awake
With tales of John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:
"You musn't sell, delay, deny,
A freeman's right or liberty.
It wakes the stubborn Englishry,
We saw 'em roused at Runnymede!

When through our ranks the Barons came,
With little thought of praise or blame,
But resolute to play the game,
They lumbered up to Runnymede;
And there they launched in solid line
The first attack on Right Divine,
The curt uncompromising 'Sign!'
They settled John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
Except by lawful judgment found
And passed upon him by his peers.
Forget not, after all these years,
The Charter signed at Runnymede."

And still when mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.

And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

alternative dispute resolution


Faced with the inability of bickering attorneys to resolve even the most innocuous scheduling questions without his intervention, a Florida judge ordered the two to meet on the steps of the federal courthouse and resolve their latest quarrel by playing "one (1) game of 'rock, paper, scissors.'"

Judge Gregory A. Presnell of Orlando ordered the unusual measure, which he characterized as "a new form of alternative dispute resolution," after the two Tampa attorneys had proven unable to agree upon where to hold a deposition, even though both of their offices are just four floors away in the very same building in Tampa. The Solomonic ruling comes in an insurance dispute filed last September by Avista Management against Wausau Underwriters Insurance Co.

Defense attorney D. Lee Craig, of Butler Pappas Weihmuller Katz Craig, proposed holding the deposition in his office, but plaintiffs' attorney David J. Pettinato of Merlin Law Group wanted it to take place at the court reporter's office down the street. Characterizing the disagreement as "the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts," Judge Presnell ordered each attorney, "accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness," to play the dispositive round of RPS on June 30. The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location of the . . . deposition," he ruled, so long as it was within Hillsborough County.

In an interview, plaintiff's lawyer Pettinato says, "I'm going to comply with the court's order to the letter." Defense lawyer Craig did not respond to a phone message, while Judge Presnell, 63, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 2000, declined comment.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

come on England!


You're the first in my life
To make me think that we might go all the way
And I want you to know that we're hanging on

They'll come and yes they'll try to break us down
But we know that we cannot lose
If we keep moving forward and don't look back

With the world at your feet
There's no one you can't beat
Yes it can be done
With the world at your feet
There's no height you can't reach
This could be the one

It's calling, it's calling you now
You know it's going to be our time
Cause the world is at your feet
Yes the world is at your feet

We're still hanging on
Like stars in the sky burning bright
Seen by a billion eyes
Know I want you to know
They're all turned your way

You'll lift it up with one proud kiss
There's nothing else that feels like this
So lift your arms and everyone sing

With the world at your feet
There's no one you can't beat
Yes it can be done
With the world at your feet
There's no height you can't reach
This could be the one

It's calling, it's calling you know
You know it's going to be our time
Cause the world is at your feet
Yes the world is at your feet


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

time to toss the salad and melt the pot


If Canada is the world in one place, as it proudly claims, what kind of a place is it becoming? In the troubling aftermath of 17 Toronto "terrorism" arrests, the answer is both dramatically different and depressingly familiar.

Just for a moment, turn a few hundred years of Western civilization on its head and presume the teenagers and men appearing in court today are not innocent but guilty. Should that eventually emerge as the legal rather than emotional judgment of peers, this country, led by its federal government, faces tough and lasting introspection.

Why? Because all those charged are Canadians, no more, no less.

That's pivotal because this is a domestic problem with offshore roots, not just a foreign problem manifesting itself at home. If the allegations are true and the plot more than a fantasy that became a conspiracy, we are under attack from ourselves.

After last year's London transit bombings, Britain faced the same wrenching realization that the enemy, by virtue of a tolerant culture and ethnic mosaic, is inside the wire. That makes resistance so much more difficult than demonizing strangers before sending troops to fight a distant war. Most of all, it means scrutinizing a complex mix of policies to determine if something is broken internally and urgently needs to be fixed.

What led to the weekend arrests isn't new and is only different in detail. Once again, those who have lived here long enough to distance themselves from inherited hatreds and imported conflicts allegedly found those passions irresistible. It's a familiar pattern that repeats with almost every immigrant wave. Among others, the IRA and Tamil Tigers found this country ripe for militant fundraising while constant Middle East violence continues to divide Canadian Jews and Canadian Arabs. Usually the worst results of those activities explode over there. But from time to time, as they did in the 1985 Air-India bombings, they implode here with devastating impact.

What's different now is that the danger zone has expanded beyond state-based conflicts into the no-compromise extremes of beliefs. Along with making it easy to tar the many with the actions of a few, it makes it attractive to assume the fault line runs through one community instead of across Canada. In pursuing multicultural tolerance, Canada has been negligent in reinforcing essential, common-denominator values. Most of those are self-evident: human rights, the rule of law and the understanding that one person's freedom ends where another's begins. These are all-defining and remain easily powerful enough to make this country a magnet.

But what's slipped through cracks is that being Canadian requires a commitment passed from generation to generation. Stripped bare of rhetoric and religion, politics and ethnicity, citizenship requires putting the national interest first. To their shame and often for partisan advantage, politicians have been blinking when influential communities and interest groups fall below the threshold of what it means to hold a share in a nation of 33 million. As this weekend's events compellingly argue, that blindness is not sustainable.

In celebrating its differences, Canada must also protect the values that map the perimeter of its shared and evolving space. Along with all levels of government, every community leader, group and ethnic fragment shares responsibility for deciding what is acceptable and exposing what won't be tolerated.

Canada chose long ago to be the world in one place and, happily, that choice is not reversible. But the tougher decisions remain ahead for a country that must forge cohesion as immigration continues to rise and becomes even more diverse.

— JAMES TRAVERS, Toronto Star (2006/06/06)

Monday, June 05, 2006

innocent until proven guilty


on the arrests of terrorism suspects in Ontario this weekend...

"Every person charged with an offence is presumed to be innocent, unless and until Crown counsel has proven his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The indictment is only a formal accusation or charge. It tells the person charged what specific crime Crown counsel alleges that the person charged committed. The charge is not evidence. It is not proof of guilt. The presumption of innocence means that the accused starts the trial with a clean slate."

Suppose, just suppose, that one or more of the 17 charged yesterday with terrorism is innocent. This is not the common assumption. I suspect most Canadians assume that Ontario was in great danger from terrorists, that police nipped this danger in the bud and that all of the 12 adults and five young people they arrested are guilty.

All of which may be true. Terrorists do exist. There is the terror we don't think about, committed by nation states under the rubric of security sweeps or targeted reprisals. And there is the terror we do think about, the terrorism of misguided individuals, loons, right-wing militias or Al Qaeda and its Islamist acolytes. Militant Islamists have committed outrages in the United States, Indonesia, Spain and Britain to counter what they see as the crimes of these countries against Muslims. There is no obvious reason to assume that similar criminals won't try the same thing here.

All of which is to say that the Mounties may be absolutely correct when they say they stopped the 17 from using homemade detonators and three tonnes of fertilizer to blow up as yet unspecified targets in southern Ontario. There may indeed have been a terrorist conspiracy that involved what the RCMP assistant commissioner Mike McDonell yesterday referred to as "training areas," where militants tramped about in big boots, cooked on outdoor barbecues, built bombs and used a wooden door for target practice. That's the implication from the evidence shown to reporters yesterday.

Or it is possible that the only thing that these bits of evidence prove is that a group of young men went somewhere where they tramped around in big boots, cooked on barbecues, played soldier and generally acted like jerks — which young men are occasionally wont to do. The three tonnes of ammonium nitrate allegedly purchased was, as McDonell said, three times the amount used in the Oklahoma terror bombing of 1995. But, as he also said, farmers routinely buy three tonnes of ammonium nitrate "every day." They use it for fertilizer, not bombs.

In short, we don't know much yet about what these men and boys were trying to do. We don't know if this series of arrests, called Operation O-Sage by the Mounties, pre-empted the kind of actions that in the United Kingdom led to last year's bombing of the London subway by otherwise unremarkable young Britons.

That's one possibility. It's certainly the explanation favoured by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who yesterday praised the police.

What we do know about Operation O-Sage is that the RCMP, as well as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, have been tracking the suspects since 2004. We also know that at least some of their neighbours knew police were watching them. Presumably, some of the suspects did, too. If the alleged conspirators knew they were under surveillance, it seems odd that they continued along merrily with plans to make explosives. But perhaps they are not bright terrorists.

Or perhaps they are not terrorists at all.

With luck, we will get these answers at trial. This time at least, Canada has chosen to deal with alleged terrorists in the proper way, by charging them with criminal offences and allowing the case to come to court — in Canada.

During the next few days, much will be written and broadcast on the 17. Their lives will be re-examined through the prism of the arrests as reporters try to retrace the steps that allegedly led them to violent jihad. Unnamed security sources will leak details designed to bolster the police case. Families and friends will proclaim the innocence of those charged.

Take it all with a grain of salt. We know that police arrested people. We know they seized some materials — all legal — that can be used to make explosives. So far, we don't know much else.

— THOMAS WALKOM, Toronto Star (2006/06/05)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

misled by multiculturalism


One recent Friday, I attended an Iranian Canadian event in Toronto where I was, perhaps, the only non-white, non-Iranian among the 1,000 immaculately turned out guests. When I asked friends at the table why there were no black, Chinese or Arabs at the event, I drew blank stares of bewilderment. Unsaid, but easily understood in the silence was the answer: "Why would a Chinese Canadian or an Indian Canadian be interested in an Iranian event?" So, I pushed the envelope further and asked: "If you feel a black or Chinese Canadian would not understand Iranian issues, why do you feel white Canadians would? Are they better disposed to grasp international issues than, say, an Arab Canadian?"

The interesting part of the evening was the reaction of a white Canadian MPP, who shared our table. She was quite taken aback by my candour and admitted: "I had not noticed the absence of these communities until you pointed it out."

Of course, this celebration of ghettoization is not the exclusive preserve of Iranian Canadians; other communities have mastered their own marginalization with equal enthusiasm, if not more. Earlier that week, I had attended a Tamil Canadian event, where, too, the situation was the same. Only Tamil Canadians and white Canadians were invited. No Arabs, no Iranians, no Chinese were among the audience; my presence being the anomaly. When I raised the same issue with my Tamil hosts, they, to their credit, were far more willing to accept the fact that they had overlooked the issue out of neglect.

This strange relationship of Canada's ethnics with the dominant community raises the question: Is this segregation a legacy of our colonial past, the rise of identity politics or the direct result of institutional multiculturalism? Why is it that whenever the Chinese or Pakistani or any other ethnic minority organizes events, the only other community invited to participate is the dominant white community?

Canada's ethno-cultural communities, who celebrated the advent of multiculturalism in the 1960s, are today increasingly cynical about it. One harsh view of multiculturalism comes from fiery Italian-born constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, who scoffs at the institution, calling it "the bone thrown to us dogs by the English and French masters." Galati suggests the institution has benefited only a very small number of organizations, which, he says, "extol the virtues of this nonsense for their own limited financial gain to the detriment of the equality and dignity of the rest of us." Dismissing any benefits of multiculturalism, Galati says, "What we have in Canada is multisegregation
de facto, and regrettably de jure."

Rocco Galati's cynicism may offend some, but there is no doubt that not only have the dominant communities of Canada successfully segregated us into our sometimes prosperous ghettoes, they have had near full co-operation by leaders of these communities. No wonder, whether it is Iranians or Tamils, they, like all other ethnic communities, feel they need to relate only to the mainstream community, not share their issues with fellow citizens from other racial minorities.

In this era of identity politics, where people are being pushed into religious and racial silos, multiculturalism can very easily provide fertile soil for nurturing our primitiveness, rather than celebrating reason and our common humanity.

Nobel Prize-winning author Amartya Sen, who as a child had to flee Pakistan for India to escape Hindu-Muslim carnage in 1947, has touched on this subject in his new book,
Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. Sen suggests that we, as human beings, cannot be classified simply in racial or religious compartments, arguing that we are all what we make of ourselves, not just what we inherit from our parents. He writes: "Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when the manifold divisions in the world are unified into one allegedly dominant system of classification — in terms of religion, or community, or culture, or nation, or civilization ..."

It is time for ethnic minorities to take the next step forward in building a civic society based on respect, dignity and social justice. It is time for Indo-Canadians to interact with Arab Canadians, not only at nomination and leadership bid meetings of prominent white politicians, but to get to know each other as fellow Canadians. It is time for Iranian Canadians to attend the Harry Jerome Awards for black Canadians. That would be a multiculturalism true to the concept's original spirit.

Otherwise, we risk creating a fragmented nation, divided into 21st century tribes, segregated into silos, easily manipulated. While I value diversity, I am tired of celebrating it. What I truly wish to celebrate is our common humanity, not our tribal loyalties and affinities.

— Tarek Fatah, Toronto Star (2006/06/01)

Monday, May 29, 2006



I decide to water my lawn. As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing. As I start toward the garage, I notice the mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table and notice that the can is full. So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first. But then I think, since I'm going by the mailbox when I take out the garbage, I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Coke is getting warm so I decide to put it in the refrigerator. As I head to the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye - they need to be watered. I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning. I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the living room where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:

The lawn isn't watered, the car isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers don't have enough water, there is still only one check in my check book, I can't find the TV remote, and I can't find my reading glasses either, I don't remember what I did with the car keys, but my neighbor called to tell me he turned off the hose that was flooding the driveway.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I'm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it ... but first I'll check my e-mail.

Do me a favor, will you?

Forward this message to everyone you know, because I don't remember to whom I already sent it.


Friday, May 26, 2006

empire building


How is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build themselves the biggest embassy on Earth?

Irritation grows as residents deprived of air-conditioning and running water three years after the US-led invasion watch the massive US Embassy they call “George W’s palace” rising from the banks of the Tigris. While families in the capital suffer electricity cuts, queue all day to fuel their cars and wait for water pipes to be connected, the US mission due to open in June next year will have its own power and water plants to cater for a population the size of a small town. There will be impressive residences for the Ambassador and his deputy, six apartments for senior officials, and two huge office blocks for 8,000 staff to work in. There will be what is rumoured to be the biggest swimming pool in Iraq, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, a cinema, restaurants offering delicacies from favourite US food chains, tennis courts and a swish American Club for evening functions.

In the pavement cafés, people moan that the structure is bigger than anything Saddam Hussein built. They are not impressed by the architects’ claims that the diplomatic outpost will be visible from space and cover an area that is larger than the Vatican city and big enough to accommodate four Millennium Domes. They are more interested in knowing whether the US State Department paid for the prime real estate or simply took it.

Iraqi politicians opposed to the US presence protest that the scale of the project suggests that America retains long-term ambitions here. The International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said the embassy’s size “is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country”.

A State Department official said that the size reflected the “massive amount of work still facing the US and our commitment to see it through”.

— Daniel McGrory, London Times (2006/05/03)


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Daily Show Effect


Since taking over The Daily Show in 1999, Stewart's cut-the-crap humour and endless send-ups of politicians and the world they inhabit have made him a force to be reckoned with in American politics. He has been on the cover of Newsweek and won Emmy awards. His U.S. audience has doubled in the last five years, to 1.3 million. In Canada, his ratings are also on the rise, with 400,000 watching him on the Comedy Network and CTV, according to Nielsen Media Research.

But is his sarcasm turning those who watch him the most — young adults — into giant cynics with a diminishing trust in politicians and the institutions of democracy?

One new study, published this month in the journal American Politics Research, says "yes." Reseachers have connected The Daily Show to lower opinions of politicians and greater cynicism toward the mainstream media and the electoral process itself. At the same time, for reasons the study's authors propose are none too flattering, these same young people also figure themselves quite confident in their own knowledge about the complex world of politics.

The researchers took three groups of students, exposing one group to a video montage from The Daily Show and another to a montage from the CBS Evening News. The videos' subject matter was matched as closely as possible, including content about the two major presidential candidates, Bush (the Republican candidate) and Democrat John Kerry. The third group served as a control and viewed neither clip. Everyone was then given a questionnaire evaluating the candidates.

Watching The Daily Show, but not the CBS Evening News, led students to rate the candidates more negatively. The impact was more profound on those students who had had only limited previous experience with The Daily Show. Other questions revealed that those who watched The Daily Show but not CBS had less trust in, and thus were more cynical toward, both the electoral process and the mainstream news media.

— ANDREW CHUNG, Toronto Star (2006/05/21)

I totally agree that people in a democracy have a right and responsibility to be critical. The real issue is whether that translates into a "right" to be cynical. It's definitely not the fault of Jon Stewart or the Daily Show; they wouldn't have any material if it weren't for the politicians and leaders themselves providing the comedic fodder. But while it's all well and good to poke fun and laugh at the foibles of elected officials, it shouldn't be mistaken as a replacement for true civic engagement.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

clerks cashing in


Finishing a year as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the summer of 2005, Joshua Klein had his pick of high-powered jobs. The firm he settled on, Baker & Botts, offered him a congenial atmosphere and an opportunity to get trial experience. It didn't hurt that there was a hefty signing bonus, too.

"Around $200,000" was considered "market rate," Klein says.

Now, as the current court term winds down, the justices' brilliant and industrious aides can once again expect to be wined and dined by major law firms seeking to hire them -- and to be offered bonuses near the $203,000 an associate justice earns each year on the high court, according to several lawyers familiar with Supreme Court clerk recruitment. The "law clerk bonus," as it's known, is on the rise. Compared with judges' salaries, which Congress refuses to bump up, the soaring clerk bonus "devalues the position of the judiciary," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy complained at a recent congressional hearing.

The clerks are benefiting from the realities of the legal marketplace. Each year, there are multiple firms and multiple jobs -- and only three dozen clerks. Law firms pursuing top-flight appellate practices in Washington and other cities will pay a premium for the ability -- and cachet -- that Supreme Court clerks bring. "It's very competitive to recruit the very best young lawyers," says David Ogden, a partner at Wilmer Hale who is involved in the recruitment process. "The process that selects out Supreme Court clerks tends to pick who the best young lawyers are likely to be. There's a limited number of them."

At major Washington firms, the signing bonus comes on top of a salary of about $150,000 per year, as well as any other annual bonuses a firm pays.

i think i'd be lucky if i saw a quarter of that after my clerkship...


Saturday, May 13, 2006



Prime Minister Stephen Harper reflects on his first 100 days in office...


Wednesday, May 10, 2006



just saw the show last weekend... Richard Ouzonian's review is right on the money:

"Even if you've never owned an album by 'NSync, you'll find plenty to laugh at in Boygroove, the 80-minute pop culture romp currently running at the Diesel Playhouse in Toronto. Author Chris Craddock has cleverly catalogued the rise and fall of four feckless young men who become superstars, with nothing to recommend them but good looks and the ability to sing close harmonies. There's bad boy Jon, hot guy Kevin, sensitive Andrew and the, er, gifted one, Lance.

With titles like "You Make My Hips Buck, Baby," composer Aaron Macri's tunes sound almost like the ones you've heard on radio, only with deceptively satiric lyrics. Kay Grigar has provided choreography close enough to the real thing for authenticity, but exaggerated enough to bring the house down with laughter. But what makes this show leave a smile on your face for hours afterwards is the work of the boys themselves. The cast (Matt Alden, Andrew Bursey, Jon Paterson and Scott Walters) are all ace performers. BoyGroove is definitely something to recommend to anyone looking for a fun night out on the town."


Sunday, May 07, 2006

vive la difference!


It all began as a lunchroom dispute over a grade 2 student's table manners, but has now escalated into an international cause célèbre with Filipino authorities accusing a Montreal school board of insulting their country's culture. The case of 7-year-old Luc Cagadoc has become front-page news in his parents' native Philippines and a Quebec-based rights group says it will haul a suburban Montreal school before the provincial human rights commission after it repeatedly disciplined the slight, bespectacled boy because he allegedly "eats like a pig." At issue is the traditional Filipino method of using a fork to mush food into a spoon before swallowing the contents.

The Philippines' ambassador to Canada issued a statement of support for Cagadoc's family and Montreal's Filipino community, which he said was rightly offended by the school's reaction to the way the boy eats using a fork and spoon. "The embassy considers the alleged incident an affront to Filipino culture," Ambassador Jose Brillantes wrote. "To assert one's accepted eating practices, which after all are most proper and which have become part of one's cultural identity is, in fact, encouraged under the Canadian immigration policy on creating a Canadian mosaic rather than a melting pot."

School officials contend the punishment — Cagadoc was separated from his classmates and made to eat alone — had to do with disruptive behaviour, not slovenly eating. The Commission Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, which operates the École Lalande where Cagadoc studies (and the same school board involved in the "kirpan case" involving the right of a Sikh student to carry his ceremonial dagger on school grounds), sent a letter to his parents last month saying an April 12th "educational intervention" was "in no way aimed at the cultural practices of your community. It was very specifically linked to the way your son was ingesting his meal that day and in no way to the method or utensils used to bring his food to his mouth."

— SEAN GORDON, Toronto Star (2006/05/05)

i was born and raised in the Philippines, and came to Canada when i was 9 years old -- i prefer to identify as a Canadian with a Filipino background, rather than as a hyphenated breed... in many ways, i've disavowed a lot of my own culture's practices, being drawn towards and borrowing from other cultures i've been exposed to (both by circumstance and by choice)... as a result, i've often been referred to as a "coconut" (i.e. brown on the outside, white on the inside) or, worse, "white-washed" or a "sell-out"... in that regard, it may not be entirely appropriate for me to pontificate on this issue...

i don't know if this story has simply been blown out of proportion because of the "broken telephone" phenomenon... it could very well be that the kid, as many 7-year-olds have done from time to time, was simply playing with his food and doing certain offensive things... maybe the parents are the type of people who simply like to cause a commotion about every perceived slight against their culture... then again, this same school board's attitude towards minority cultures has been impugned before...

in any case, it's pretty sad that this situation is going to end up being decided as a "legal" issue, what with the parents' decision to pursue a human rights complaint... of course, basic human rights have to be protected, and where there are gross violations of dignity, litigation should be a viable option... but does it have to come to this? do we have to sue over everything? do we have to frame these issues in the language of "rights", instead of simply addressing them as the larger social-political questions that they are?

maybe what all the parties in this case need to do is to simply talk things over at a working lunch or dinner -- hopefully where everyone could use whatever utensil[s] they preferred... as many a business consultant would advise, sharing a meal together would open up lines of communication and, in situations like this, would likely help clear up any misunderstandings... that would probably be a grown-up solution to what seems to be a rather childish dispute... but then again, maybe that's just the Euro-centric "reasonable person" in me talking (reminds me of Melanie Brouzes’ "A Very Polite Genocide")...


Friday, May 05, 2006

what about the victim?


Childs v. Desormeaux, 2006 SCC 18 (per McLachlin CJ for a unanimous Court):
"Social hosts of parties where alcohol is served do not owe a duty of care to public users of highways. The proximity necessary to meet the first stage of the Anns test has not been established. First, the injury to Childs was not reasonably foreseeable on the facts established in this case. There was no finding by the trial judge that the hosts knew, or ought to have known, that Desormeaux, who was leaving the party driving, was impaired. Also, although the hosts knew that Desormeax had gotten drunk in the past and driven, a history of alcohol consumption and impaired driving does not make impaired driving, and the consequent risk to other motorists, reasonably foreseeable.

Second, even if foreseeability were established, no duty would arise because the wrong alleged is a failure to act or nonfeasance in circumstances where there was no positive duty to act. No duty to monitor guests’ drinking or to prevent them from driving can be imposed having regard to the relevant legal principles. A social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest’s actions, unless the host’s conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk. Short of active implication, a host is entitled to respect the autonomy of a guest. The consumption of alcohol, and the assumption of the risks of impaired judgment, is in almost all cases a personal choice and an inherently personal activity. Absent the special considerations that may apply in the commercial context, when such a choice is made by an adult, there is no reason why others should be made to bear its costs.

Lastly, with respect to the factor of reasonable reliance, there is no evidence that anyone relied on the hosts in this case to monitor guests’ intake of alcohol or prevent intoxicated guests from driving. While, in the commercial context, it is reasonable to expect that the provider will act to protect the public interest, the same cannot be said of the social host, who neither undertakes nor is expected to monitor the conduct of guests on behalf of the public."

I have no problem seeing this decision as "correct" in "law" -- as we've seen before, law and equity aren't always co-extensive. What makes this decision particularly unpalatable is the idea that Zoe Childs, on top of being rendered a paraplegic, having her fiancé killed, and being loaded with medical bills, will now have to incur the costs of the appeal.

Chief Justice McLachlin refers to the example of "a hostess who confiscated all guests’ car keys and froze them in ice as people arrived at her party, releasing them only as she deemed appropriate" and, although commending this conduct as "exemplary", demurs that "the law of tort, however, has not yet gone so far." Of course, little mention is made that the "law" of tort is judge-made law and thus, if the Court had the courage this time around, they could have very well moved the law "so far." Unfortunately, it will take another (or perhaps many other) tragic accident like this before drastic steps are taken to deter drunk driving.

Yes, drinking and driving is a personal choice -- one which carries legal and moral responsibilities. Likewise, doing nothing -- taking no action to prevent harm -- is a choice. In so doing and chosing, social hosts who let drunken party guests take the wheel are irresponsible and negligent.

Some may be saying the same about this decision of the Supreme Court.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

on illegal immigrants...



Monday, May 01, 2006

when some things stop being funny


Dear Mr. Leno,

My name is Jeff Whitty. I live in New York City. I'm a playwright and the author of Avenue Q, which is a musical currently running on Broadway. I've been watching your show a bit, and I'd like to make an observation:

When you think of gay people, it's funny. They're funny folks. They wear leather. They like Judy Garland. They like disco music. They're sort of like Stepin Fetchit as channeled by Richard Simmons. Gay people, to you, are great material.

Mr. Leno, let me share with you my view of gay people:

When I think of gay people, I think of the gay news anchor who took a tire iron to the head several times when he was vacationing in St. Martin. I think of my friend who was visiting Hamburger Mary's, a gay restaurant in Las Vegas, when a bigot threw a smoke bomb filled with toxic chemicals into the restaurant, leaving the staff and gay clientele coughing, puking, and running in terror. I think of visiting my gay friends at their house in the country, sitting outside for dinner, and hearing, within hundreds of feet of where we sat, taunting voices yelling "Faggots!" I think of hugging my boyfriend goodbye for the day on 8th Avenue in Manhattan and being mocked and taunted by passing high school students.

When I think of gay people, I think of suicide. I think of a countless list of people who took their own lives because the world was so toxically hostile to them. Because of the deathly climate of the closet, we will never be able to count them. You think gay people are great material. I think of a silent holocaust that continues to this day. I think of a silent holocaust that is perpetuated by people like you, who seek to minimize us and make fun of us and who I suspect really, fundamentally wish we would just go away.

When I think of gay people, I think of a brave group that has made tremendous contributions to society, in arts, letters, science, philosophy, and politics. I think of some of the most hilarious people I know. I think of a group that has served as a cultural guardian for an ungrateful and ignorant America.

I think of a group of people who have undergone a brave act of inventing themselves. Every single out-of-the-closet gay person has had to say, "I am not part of mainstream society." Mr. Leno, that takes bigger balls than stepping out in front of TV-watching America every night. I daresay I suspect it takes bigger balls to come out of the closet than anything you have ever done in your life.

I know you know gay people, Mr. Leno. Are they just jokes to you, to be snickered at behind their backs? Despite the angry tenor of my letter, I suspect you're a better man than that. I don't bother writing letters to the "God Hates Fags" people, or Donald Wildmon, or the pope. But I think you can do better. I know it's The Tonight Show, not a White House press conference, but you reach a lot of people.

I caught your show when you had a tired mockery of Brokeback Mountain, involving something about a horse done up in what you consider a "gay" way. Man, that's dated. I turned the television off and felt pretty fucking depressed. And now I understand your gay-baiting jokes have continued.

Mr. Leno, I have a sense of humor. It's my livelihood. And being gay has many hilarious aspects to it — none of which, I suspect, you understand. I'm tired of people like you. When I think of gay people, I think of centuries of suffering. I think of really, really good people who've been gravely mistreated for a long time now.

You've got to cut it out, Jay.


Jeff Whitty


Saturday, April 29, 2006

president Harper?


Much has been made about the new style of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. He is different from several immediate predecessors in how he conducts himself and how he relates to his cabinet and Parliament. The clue to his behaviour may be that Harper really wishes that he were president of Canada. Harper seems to take the U.S. presidency as his model, where the president is both head of government and head of state, and has a power and deference unknown and inappropriate to parliamentary governments.

Bush is the executive, he is not a legislator. He picks his cabinet and they are responsible only to him. Harper is also the executive, but he gets that position by being the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons, our legislative body. He picks his cabinet and they are responsible to both him and to Parliament. The Prime Minister is really just another parliamentarian, responsible to the Senate and the Commons.

I wonder whether Harper gets it.

We didn't elect him, the voters of his riding did. He is the leader of his party and the Prime Minister, but we don't want or need a president. The greatest danger to our constitutional development is if the style that Harper has displayed in the past several months actually becomes accepted practice for him and future prime ministers. Then we will lose something of our political identity, as both the cabinet and Parliament get much weaker and much less important than anyone should want them to be.

— Arthur Haberman, Toronto Star (2006/04/19)