A Crash Course in Logic with David Emerson

The latest on Emerson in today’s Globe and Mail:

“I actually do think I could probably win an election as a Conservative,” Mr. Emerson said, appearing on CTV Newsnet.

Point: he thinks he could win a election, but won’t support having one.
Logic: rubbing the voters face in it is a good way to make them like you.

“The whole issue of whether a by-election or part of the next general election, of course, is a point of some debate.”

Point: he acknowledges the debate, but won’t engage in it.
Logic: pointing out the obvious is a good way of not emphasizng your own self-interested opinion.

Mr. Emerson said he finds it “a little strange” that there should be specific provisions for his crossing but not for others who have made similar moves in the past.

Point: look people… that was then, this is now…or now is not then, so much as then is not now…or now and then it’s …is now the right time for all this?
Logic: common sense doesn’t live in Ottawa.

“What I’m saying is I will abide by the rules that all parliamentarians agree to abide by.”

Point: look Canada, this isn’t David Emerson’s problem, this is your problem.
Logic: you can have your cake and eat it too.

Written by alevo


Where do Canada’s Prisoners Go?

Canada is increasing its troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,300 next month. And Canada will soon be taking over command of the multinational forces there. Canada will soon be leading the war in Afghanistan.

If that surprises you, you’re not alone. I don’t think many Canadians realize what’s going on there, in large part because our government does not seem to want to talk about it. In fact, although a recent nationwide poll indicated that 62% of Canadians are opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan, and 73% say there should be a vote in Parliament before doing so, the Conservatives have rejected holding such a vote.

There are many unanswered questions about Canada’s participation, and forthcoming leadership, of the war in Afghanistan. The destination of people captured by Canada’s troops is one of them. Where do Canada’s prisoners go?

I looked around on the net to find answers and found little. We do know that Canada has handed over prisoners to the US in the past, and I have not found anything to suggest this practice has stopped. These people most likely end up in Bagram.


The detention facility at Bagram, which is an American air base about 80 kilometres north of Kabul, used to be a machine shop. Bagram was the subject of a recent New York Times piece entitled A Growing Afghan Prison Rivals Bleak Guantánamo:

While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges.

But some of the detainees have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years. And unlike those at Guantánamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as “enemy combatants,” military officials said.

Conditions at Bagram are harsher than Guantanomo. And it operates in total secrecy:

While Guantánamo offers carefully scripted tours for members of Congress and journalists, Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it opened in 2002. It bars outside visitors except for the International Red Cross and refuses to make public the names of those held there. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance.

From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.

Any prison that is “far worse” than Guantanomo, in the words of a US Defence Department official, ought to be cause for significant concern, especially after this report from the depths of Guantanomo by a lawyer for prisoners there, entitled American Gulag:

What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years. It is truly our American gulag.

The article is mostly about the conditions within Guantanomo and his client’s hunger strike there, but he also writes about the treatment that people endured after being captured:

Every prisoner I’ve interviewed claims to have been badly beaten and subjected to treatment that only could be called torture, by Americans, from the first day of U.S. captivity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They said they were hung by their wrists and beaten, hung by their ankles and beaten, stripped naked and paraded before female guards, and given electric shocks

Is this what happens to the people Canada hands over to American forces in Afghanistan?

If Canada’s prisoners don’t end up in Bagram, then perhaps they end up in Pul-i-Charkhi, Kabul’s biggest prison, which is currently in the throes of a massive riot.

Police and troops ringed Kabul’s main jail on Monday after hundreds of inmates led by Taliban commanders and a kidnap gang leader took over cell blocks, including one housing women and children.

More than 1,000 prisoners took over parts of the Pul-i-Charkhi prison on Kabul’s eastern outskirts late on Saturday and inmates said that four of their number had been killed and 38 wounded since.

You read that right: women and children. Bizarrely, women prisoners keep their children with them in the jail.

[Nader] Nadery [from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission], said Taliban suspects, about 200 of whom were being held without trial, were demanding to be tried or freed, and prisoners were also demanding an end to a new rule requiring them to wear uniforms and the removal of cell bars.

“Demanding to be tried or freed”. What a remarkably Western demand. But in America’s war on terror, the people who actually get charged with crimes are the lucky ones.

The Globe and Mail today is featuring a special report today called Should Canada lead the fight in Afghanistan? It features statements from the four major national parties on the issue, and gives readers the opportunity to pose questions to the parties.

I asked the question I’m asking here, so with a bit of luck, maybe we’ll get some answers.


No Imagination

I saw about 4 minutes of Oprah yesterday. The show was about survivors of hurricane Katrina who are still living in appalling conditions in tents, trailers, and temporary housing.

I have to hand it to Oprah. She keeps the spotlight on things that a lot of people wish were invisible: 650 people living on a ferry that used to shuttle people from Maine to Canada. The 12,000 homeless survivors living in hotel rooms that FEMA cut off funding for on February 13. The rubble and debris of trashed communities so thoroughly destroyed they are still unsafe to travel in.

The question that everyone asks, as usual, is why? There are lots of reasons. At the top of the list, I think, is lack of imagination.

The people responsible for helping the survivors of the disaster can’t, or won’t, imagine what they are suffering through. George Bush doesn’t imagine it. The other officials in his administration don’t either. It seems as though there isn’t a single person alive who has both the power to help and an imagination.

Some might argue that the problem is a lack of compassion. “President Bush doesn’t care about black people,” said Kanye West. The real problem is that President Bush can’t imagine being a black person. Or a poor person. Or an Iraqi.

The problem with having no imagination isn’t just that it removes the impetus to act. It also removes the ability to act. If someone cannot imagine a way to deal with a problem, they are reduced to analyzing it, which is a great way to think of reasons why it can’t be done, or why a certain process needs to be followed. This means red tape.

I heard an appalling story today about a woman who divorced her abusive husband and moved into her own place. The terms of their settlement included the continuation of her benefits under his employer’s insurance coverage. Or so she thought.

When she actually tried to claim a prescription under her benefits, the insurance company informed her that they would cover her prescription costs – but that since her ex-husband was listed on the policy, the cheque would be sent to his house.

The insurance company expects her violently abusive partner to helpfully provide the claim cheques they send her. This utterly ridiculous situation is their “policy”, they unhelpfully explained.

This insurer, from the unhelpful customer “support” representatives at the bottom to the crafters of company policy at the top, does not imagine the circumstances of the people they are meant to serve. The real needs of human beings are subjugated to processes.

And so people are reduced to struggling against authoritarian structures instead of getting on with their lives. Structures that shuttle them from one useless conversation with a faceless representative to another. Policies that dictate they spend endless amounts of time on the phone, writing letters, filling out forms, and getting absolutely nowhere.

Robert and David Green lost their mother and a granddaughter to hurricane Katrina. Their mother drowned after falling through a hole in the roof, where they were clinging to try and stay out of the flood waters.

“The last image I had of my mother was [of her] laying on her back with a leaf in her mouth. Dead from the water that went in her lungs,” Robert said.

In the months that followed they kept calling Louisiana authorities to see if they had been able to recover her body. They gave them her exact location. They were told that numerous search parties had looked for her unsuccessfully.

Eventually, they got tired of the process and decided to look for her themselves. They found her in their first five minutes of searching, lying in full view.

When the structures that are supposed to serve us do nothing, they ought to be dismantled.

When those in power can’t imagine the lives of the people they are meant to serve, let alone imagine what needs to be done to serve them, they ought to be dismissed.


Are Men Really Getting the Shaft?

“Study: Men Getting the Shaft” read the headline on Bourque. I’m a man and I find the word shaft pretty titillating, so I clicked it.

The article, whose actual title is Has bias pendulum swung against men? (the shaft part is in the byline: “Fewer college-bound, higher suicide rates, shorter life spans suggest males getting shaft”) begins with this:

Watch network sitcoms and you will find the dolts are usually men.

In TV commercials, it’s always the kids or the mothers who know the real score, not the fathers.

Affirmative-action programs by definition mean women get preference in hiring, school admissions, contracts and promotions.

While some social scientists may see these facts as harmless – or possibly even necessary reconditioning of society to correct past injustices against women – others are beginning to conclude that men are the real victims of discrimination so virulent it is shortening their life spans, causing them to be self-destructive and suicidal, crippling their educational opportunities and destroying a generation of fatherless children.

The article cites a number of facts that apparently support the hypothesis that men are getting royally screwed. Among them, that “boys have inferior reading and comprehension scores and lower graduation rates than girls”, and that the “suicide rates for boys, young fathers and older men range from four to 10 times higher than for their female counterparts.”

But most disturbingly, “Men, whose average life expectancy was formerly on a par with women, are now dying 10 years earlier.”

But is this because of “virulent” “discrimination” or due to other factors?

According to Life Expectancy, an article on About.com, “women almost always have higher life expectancies than men”. But it tells a different story than Shaft, first about the stats, saying the difference is “four to six years in North America and Europe to more than 13 years between men and women in Russia”, and second about the reasons:

The reasons for the difference between male and female life expectancy are not fully understood. While some scholars argue that women are biologically superior to men and thus live longer, others argue that men are employed in more hazardous occupations (factories, military service, etc). Plus, men generally drive, smoke and drink more than women – men are even more often murdered.

In Canada, men have narrowed the life expectancy gap with women to just 4.9 years, according to another article also on About.com, which cites Statistics Canada for the numbers.

So what the heck is with the Shaft article? Where are they getting their numbers? Russia? And who are “they”, anyway?

I can’t answer that last question, since the article is not attributed to anybody. Whoever wrote it isn’t stepping up the plate to claim it. For all we know, the person who wrote the article is from the commission whose findings the author relies on: the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men.

I didn’t spend much time on the Commission’s website, because I clicked the Resources link and boy oh boy, what a treasure trove of information I found, mostly on domestic violence.

We’ve got Man beaters behind closed doors – “Domestic violence by women is rising as the balance of power in the home shifts their way” – by Melanie Phillips:

[Research] reveals a remarkably different picture from the feminist stereotype of patriarchal bullies and female victims.

[W]omen are more likely than men to initiate violence against their spouses or companions and are more likely to be aggressive more frequently. Most violence is tit-for-tat. Nor is it the case that women attack men only in self-defence. Among female college students, for example, 29% admitted initiating assaults on a male companion.

In line with all this research, the British Crime Survey reported in 1996 that an equal proportion of men and women, 4.2%, had said they had been physically assaulted by a current or former spouse or lover in the past year. Only 41% were injured, and although more women than men were hurt, the difference was not that great: 47% of women injured compared with 31% of men.

There’s The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence: Male Victims:

The most controversial finding, as it would turn out, was that the rate of adult female-to-adult male intimate violence was the same as the rate of male-to-female violence. Not only that, but the rate of abusive female-to-male violence was the same as the rate of abusive male-to-female violence. When my colleague Murray Straus presented these findings in 1977 at a conference on the subject of battered women, he was nearly hooted and booed from the stage. When my colleague Suzanne Steinmetz published a scholarly article, ”The battered husband syndrome,” in 1978, the editor of the professional journal published, in the same issue, a critique of Suzanne’s article.

And then there’s Time to Dispose of Radical Feminist Pork, a stirring little piece that says the US Violence Against Women Act has benefited no one “except the radical feminists on its payroll”:

The Violence Against Women Act’s gender-specific title is pejorative: it’s based on the false, unscientific, unjust and blatantly offensive premise that men are innately violent and abusive toward women, making all women victims of men.

Feminists staged tantrums at the suggestion of innate math-aptitude differences between men and women, but the whole premise of the Violence Against Women Act is that men have an innate propensity to violence against women. It’s not because some are bad individuals or drunks or psychologically troubled, but because men want to keep women subservient in an oppressive patriarchal society.

I don’t have the time to examine each of these articles in depth, but each paints a similar picture of domestic violence: women are just as likely to physically abuse their partners as men are. But even in some of these articles, glimmers of a picture that is wholly painted over by articles like Feminist Pork can be seen:

[A]lmost all studies of domestic or partner violence, agree that women are the most likely to be injured as a result of partner violence.

And this, from a scholarly article called Surveillance for Homicide Among Intimate Partners – United States, 1981-1998.

The risk for death from [intimate partner homicide] among males was 0.62 times the risk among females.

Approximately one in three homicides of females is committed by current or former spouses or boyfriends, a group collectively referred to as intimate partners. Among male homicide victims, 5% are killed by intimate partners.

To me, this last quote is especially illustrative. In the United States, men have a little more than half as much risk of being killed by an intimate partner than women. Since one in three murders of women are committed by an intimate partner, you’d think that the statistics for men would work out to around one in five murdered by a partner, or perhaps one in six.

Instead, the rate is one in twenty. In other words, if a man is murdered in the US, there is a one-in-twenty chance it was his partner. If a woman is murdered, there is a one-in-three chance it was her partner.

The abuse and murder of men by their partners isn’t something to be taken lightly, even if the incidence and the seriousness of the abuse is significantly lower than for women. And other issues, such as declining academic performance in boys, also deserve serious consideration.

But blaming discrimination against men for their lower average life expectancy is ridiculous. If we stopped drinking, smoking, eating too much, working too hard, and above all, stopped trying to kill each other, we’d probably be able to give women a pretty good run for their money.


Digiyak 3

My third Digital Kayak column, which examines video games, has been published in Raise the Hammer, so take a look if that interests you.

This issue of Raise the Hammer has some great articles, including one that is simply hilarious. Ten Words Ben Hates lists a number of words the author finds offensive, many of which are used regularly by friend and regular Ade commenter Ryan:


Hey Ryan! How’s it goin’, man? How are the kiddies? Good? Great! Yeah I really liked that last piece you did, etc., etc. Okay, the buttering up is over: Ryan! Why do you use this word, man? You’re killing me!

Read the full article to get Ben’s opinion on segue, play date, implosion and others.

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
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