Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Blogging Holiday

The Fifth Column will be taking a vacation over the holidays. Blogging will resume early in the New Year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Guns and Tasers - Then and Now

Then

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

Now

Tasers don't kill people. People die after being tasered.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Tragedy and Assumptions

Although very few details about the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Aqsa Parvez are known it has not prevented many bloggers from making assumptions and putting forth their own theories.

What is known is that her father told police that he killed her and he has been charged with second degree murder, indicating the police do not believe the killing was premeditated or planned. We also know their was conflict between Aqsa Parvez and her father, possibly relating to his religious beliefs and her not wanting to wear a hijab.

We know that this happened in a suburban community in Ontario. We know that it is common, and even considered appropriate, for Canadian parents to want to instill their own sense of values in their children, and that these values are often based on religious beliefs, We also know that it is common for parents and teenagers, particularly teenage girls, to disagree over appropriate dress as it relates to “modesty”.

Many bloggers have tried to make that conflict the issue. That is not the issue. Parents and children are going to be in conflict. The problem is violence. No cultural or religious group in Canada accepts family violence. It is completely inappropriate and unacceptable for violence to become part of family disputes whether between spouses or between parents and children.

Friday, 14 December 2007

The Role of the Ethics Committee in the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair

Some people, including Conservative Members on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, argue that the Committee should not be studying the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair because a Parliamentary Committee is too partisan a forum to deal with allegations of wrongdoing against individuals.

However the Committee has a much more important role than simply determining whether people violated the law or ethical standards. They have a duty to recommend to the House of Commons what the laws and ethical standards should be. If the committee finds, as Conservative Members state, that Brian Mulroney did not violate any laws or Codes of Ethics the committee might still find that his behaviour was inappropriate and recommend changes to the ethical codes or legislation.

Indeed, if accepting cash payments of thousands of dollars and then hiding it in safety deposit boxes and not claiming it as income until it looks like you might be caught is not illegal then the law needs to be changed.

The Committee’s most important role may be in recommending stronger ethical standards for public office holders so that individuals could not engage in the type of sleazy behaviour that the Committee is uncovering yet not be in breach of ethical standards, even though it contravenes any common sense interpretation of “ethical”.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Just Say “No”

House of Commons Debates
VOLUME 142 NUMBER 036 2nd SESSION 39th PARLIAMENT
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

[English]

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister well knows that this side of the House did its duty last night.

[Translation]

Since the Chalk River reactor will now be restarted, can the Minister of Health guarantee that Canadian patients will be the first to benefit from the isotopes produced, before the international markets are supplied?

[English]

Would the minister guarantee that worried Canadians will not be waiting in line for isotopes while other foreign contracts for AECL are fulfilled?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I said last night, each hospital and each clinic has a contract that is sometimes with Nordion, AECL or with another supplier. Those contracts would be honoured.

At this time in the House, I want to give our thanks to the medical oncologists and the nuclear medicine specialists who have worked day and night across this country to ensure this particular situation did not create a medical crisis. I think they deserve all of our applause for doing so.
If the answer is “no” just say so. Don’t try to confuse everyone with bafflegab just because you know the Canadian public will not be happy with your answer that translates to “despite the fact that we are putting Canadian lives at risk we are not going to give Canadians priority access to the isotopes produced while this reactor operates in an unsafe manner unapproved by the nuclear safety regulator”.


PS : I wonder how much this had to do with the government’s decision

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Don’t Fuck Around With Nuclear Safety

Sometimes an “expletive” is required and this is one of those times.

A Three-Mile-Island-type of nuclear accident could occur at Canada's Chalk River reactor unless a backup power supply system, capable of withstanding natural disasters such as earthquakes, is installed, according to an assessment by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

It is “essential” that the safety equipment be installed on two crucial pumps before the reactor, which makes more than half the world's nuclear medicines, is restarted, Linda Keen wrote in a blunt letter to two federal government ministers.
It is frightening that we were placed at risk because Atomic Energy of Canada Limited simply ignored safety directives from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who discovered the fact in a routine inspection.
The situation is all the more worrisome because the country's nuclear regulator specifically ordered AECL more than a year ago to take extra safety precautions if it wanted to continue operating the aging NRU.

But there's more at stake than isotopes.

The technical competency of an industry trying hard to win back public confidence is being questioned, as is public safety, national security and the reputation of a company whose message to Canadians has consistently been: "Trust us."

Yet AECL not only failed to install a key piece of safety equipment on the National Research Universal (NRU), Canada's oldest nuclear reactor. When its mistake was discovered, it matter-of-factly camouflaged it in a Dec. 4 press release as little more than a routine maintenance issue.

In fact, an important safety repair had not been made.

On Nov. 19, a day after what was supposed to be a routine five-day shutdown, safety inspectors with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) discovered a significant and mandated safety upgrade -- connecting two heavy water pumps to an emergency power supply -- had not been done.
It is even more frightening that the government, with the support of all parties, is going to put Canadians back at risk.
The emergency legislation introduced by the Conservatives, which would allow AECL to start the reactor immediately and run it for 120 days, was passed unanimously by all parties after four hours of civilized debate.
As an NDP supporter it troubles me that the only party to oppose this was the Green Party. The NDP should be ashamed.

The Prime Minister has disgraced himself by accusing the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting Canadians safety with “obstruction” for doing it’s job.
"There will be no nuclear accident," Harper answered in the Commons. "What there will be … is a growing crisis in the medical system here in Canada and around the world if the Liberal party continues to support the regulator obstructing this reactor from coming back on line."

The operator of the Chalk River reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., had said it expected the plant to be up and running by the middle of this month, but the safety commission was refusing to allow it to restart production until it resolved a host of safety issues.
So it appears that all we have to protect us from a nuclear melt down is the Prime Minister’s word that it can’t happen here.


References:

Globe and Mail: Ottawa thwarts nuclear watchdog

National Post; Emergency bill to resume isotope production off to Senate

Ottawa Citizen: The major safety snafu behind the isotope shortage

CBC: MPs pass bill to restart urgent isotope production

CBC: Green Leader May slams Tories' handling of isotope shortage

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Is it Going to Be Deja Vue All Over Again

As Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien clings to power after Criminal Code charges were laid against him I have a strange feeling that when the verdict is finally in he will follow the lead of another famous Canadian businessman and it will be deja vue all over again.

With extensive public pressure for the Mayor to step aside till the courts rule, as is the normal practice for elected officials in these types of situations, the Mayor claims he has extensive public support and is clinging to power. In online forums on the Ottawa Citizen and CBC websites, as well as a CBC Radio call in show yesterday the public will was overwhelming that the Mayor should step aside.

City Council have also shirked their duty in this matter by shutting down a council meeting to deal with it after receiving some dubious legal advice. While Council should not discuss the Mayor’s guilt or innocence they have a duty to discuss the ramifications of the Mayor clinging to power after being charged with Criminal offences relating to his election. With the Mayor refusing to do the right thing Council must step in and act to protect the integrity of Council’s future decisions and to protect the reputation of the City of Ottawa.

The Mayor, of course, should not have put them in that position. But nothing he has done so far in his term of office has given anyone any reason to believe that he would have done otherwise.

We call upon the Mayor, for once, to do the sensible and honourable thing and step aside until the courts deal with the charges against him.

Monday, 10 December 2007

What Would Larry Do

Does anyone have any doubt what Larry O'Brien would do if a senior official in his private sector company or a senior city staff member was charged with a criminal offence relating to their position. Does anyone believe those people would still be performing their functions in the company or for the city.

Does anyone believe Larry O'Brien will do the honourable thing.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Big Lie About Music Sharing - The Future of Music

We all know the big lie about the impact of free music sharing - that it will kill the music - that no one will make music because they will not be able to earn money doing it.

This big lie is based on two false assumptions - that no one will make music for free and that the only way to make money from music is to sell recordings of it. We all know both of these assumptions are false. People have been creating music since long before anyone was paid for it and people were making money from music long before there was any way to record it.

But the reality is free music on the Internet will not mean people will stop paying for recorded music.

I remember just shortly after CDs replaced records there was speculation on what type of media will replace CDs. Nobody at that time saw that the answer was "nothing". People do not want recorded music that is tied to media anymore. They want music that is portable and that they can use in whatever device they might want to, whether it be a CD player, an MP3 player, their cell phone or simply on their computer. They want to be able to play and use their music any way they might think of, including putting it in custom song lists or slide shows and videos they might create and sharing it with friends.

Music media is obsolete and that scares the hell out of the recording industry. They know that they are a top heavy inefficient way of recording and distributing music and the Internet scares the hell out of them. They know digital music is going to destroy the recoding industry as they know it but they do not know what else to do but circle the wagons and try to fight the inevitable. The fact is they are not needed anymore.

Actual recording costs have gone down with new technologies, and small recoding studios, or artist's home studios, can replace the big industry studios. They also know that the Internet and music fans networking can do a much better job of promotion than the recording industry can. They know that they are obsolete. The only thing they have left is "ownership" of the music and they see that dwindling away as new artists produce and promote their music independently.

With the elimination of the recording industry recorded music will be cheaper due to the elimination of the cost of media and the high cost of recording industry promotion

Ironically one of the things the digital revolution is going accomplish is a revival of live music as the emphasis moves from industry created superstars to more independent fan supported artists, The new artists know that the fans are not just customers but part of the music community. Artists are going to realize they have to make a real connection with fans if they expect them to pay for their music, and that is done through live performances. We already see a trend among young people to freely download music from the overpaid superstars, while at the same time buying music from the new struggling independent artists.

Artists can now deal directly with their fans selling their work at much lower prices and even giving some of it away as gifts to the fans that support them. The music will be out of control of the recording industry, who only see it as a commodity to profit from, and into the hands of the creators and fans who love it.

Artists realize the new reality, that going to war with their fans to get them to buy music is counterproductive and that, fans do, and will in the future, choose to buy music even as they share it with friends.

Governments and regulators need to see that their role should not be to support the obsolete recording industry but to support music creators and fans, who interestingly seem to be on the same side of the legislative/regulatory battles that are taking place now.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Teddy Bear Blasphemy - The Biblical Punishment

British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, sentenced to 15 days in prison in Sudan for letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammad, was pardoned, as religious extremists called for her execution.

So how would Bible literalists punish someone for the blasphemy of insulting the prophet and the faith.

Blasphemy generally denotes contemptuous speech concerning God, or concerning something that stands in a sacred relation toward God, such as his temple, his law, or his prophet.

The punishment for willful and intentional blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev. 24: 11-16; cf. John 10: 31-33; Acts 7: 58).

Lev. 24: 11-16
11 And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:)
12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.
13 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

1 Kgs. 21: 9-13
9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
10 And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
11 And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.
12 They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.
13 And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
Biblical Reference: Bible Dictionary

Additional Biblical References: Bible Topics; Bible Law

Background from the CBC:

Toy bear blasphemy case 'overblown': Sudan official

Sudan charges British teacher, saying toy's name incited hatred

Teacher to serve 15 days in teddy-bear blasphemy case

British teacher flies out of Sudan after pardon

British teacher 'sorry to leave' Sudan

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Schreiber Speaks The Truth

IMHO, the most significant statement Karlheinz Schreiber made before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics today was not about specifics but a general statement.

In response to a question on whether he expected to benefit from his $30,000 donation to Jean Charest's Progressive Conservative Party leadership campaign he stated, and I am paraphrasing here: of course, that's the way it is. Mr. Schreiber made what we all know very clear, that businessmen do not contribute money to politicians without expecting to get something in return.

That will be the main lesson to be learned from this when everything is said and done.


For further reference the transcripts of the committee hearings will be available here.

Monday, 3 December 2007

At Last A Real Reality Show - 4REAL

4REAL is a TV series that takes celebrity guests on adventures around the world to connect with young leaders. Oxfam Canada is working with Direct Current Media, the shows producers to promote these real heroes and to connect Canadian youth with real ways to make change happen. 4Real will be aired in early 2008 on CTV, MTV Canada and internationally on National Geographic TV.

4REAL is an entertaining, fast paced, adventure series that allows viewers to learn about some of the most pressing issues of our time, but most importantly they tune into some of the most inspiring attitudes and initiatives addressing them. This is 4REAL.

Celebrity guests include Cameron Diaz, Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Mos Def, M.I.A., Casey Affleck, K'Naan, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.