Monthly Archives: September 2006

One silly card game

Hello, all you idiots. Ready to do some dumb Christmas shopping?

Oh dear. You don’t like being talked to that way? Then you’d best have a word with the Ontario government, which is poised to ban retail gift cards with expiry dates because YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO READ THE FINE PRINT.

According to the Sept. 25 Citizen, Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips will bring in a law banning gift cards that eventually expire, as those sold by most major Canadian stores do in 18 to 24 months. For some reason no other jurisdiction in Canada has yet taken this step. Mr. Phillips, according to a related Globe and Mail story, added: “In our opinion, when consumers purchase gift cards for their families and their friends, they do so assuming that they are like cash and they won’t lose their value. Consumers deserve to get what they pay for.” Continue reading

Gun bans benefit the violent criminal

Last week I thought it too soon to draw lessons from the shootings at Dawson College, the shock and grief too fresh. Now I want to try to draw them using old-fashioned “if/then” reasoning. I feel lonely on both counts.

So sit down and listen to a story from the Sept. 25 Maclean’s: “Deron Johnson is in hospital in New York City after allegedly trying to snatch a gold chain from a wheelchair-bound woman. Margaret Johnson, 56, was on her way to a shooting range at the time, and when her chain was removed, Margaret pulled out a .357 pistol. Deron is now being treated for a gunshot injury and faces a charge of robbery. ‘There’s not much to it,’ Margaret says plainly, ‘Somebody tried to mug me and I shot him.’ ” You go, girl.

If you successfully ban guns, then life gets a bit scarier for all those not well-placed to engage in fisticuffs with the young and the ruthless. It’s not a conclusive argument for concealedcarry laws. But it will not do to claim that gun bans enhance public safety, then shudder at the vulgarity of counter-arguments that if every fourth biddy packed heat then muggers would be more cautious. Continue reading

Nothing floats a boat like a good joke

Ahoy, me hearties. ’Tis almost talk like a pirate day. On Sept. 19, let’s all say Arrr!

Any lubbers not adequately conversant with this terminology (that means “Huh?”) can tack over to for a few pointers, including a video on the Five A’s explaining how the vital term “Arrr” can be employed to convey anything from obsequious acquiescence to contemptuous defiance to drunken incoherence.

Some of you may be thinking Short John Lack-of-Silver had best ease off a few points on the rum, talking of fripperies instead of advising us how to make that Osama bin Laden walk the plank or stop methane bubbling up from the sea like pitch between deck planks in the horse latitudes. But belay that talk while ye clap your spyglass on two points that line up to guide us into harbour. Continue reading

Save us from windbag intellectuals

My colleague Susan Riley just returned from summer vacation dismayed that nothing had changed in Canadian politics. To be fair, we have sunk a few more inches into the mire, and at least we avoided sudden disaster. But our politics do seem to be suffering a peculiar vapourlock that, as so often, gets filed under “Ideas have consequences.” Or, in this case, the absence of ideas.

Consider Jack Layton’s recent call to bolt from Afghanistan, negotiating with the Taliban as we flee. It looks bold and controversial, but it’s just politics, crafted to attract media attention and play to his base. And tragicomically, it’s bad politics. If the NDP is ever to move beyond its 18-per-cent electoral support, it has to make arguments, not demands. Only its core supporters thrill to unconstructive negativity. Everyone else cringes.

Mr. Layton could have said his party is so committed to gender equity that it supports the Afghan mission despite the other concerns. Or so committed to pacifism that it supports withdrawal despite the Taliban being homicidal homophobes. He could then have explained what possibly painful implications either line of reasoning had for, say, Darfur. But he produced no line of reasoning at all. Continue reading

The real meaning of green

It wasn’t really my preference to see Elizabeth May defeat David Chernushenko as Green party leader. I’m not sure she has the right stuff. But as a deepish ecologist, I hope my fears prove unfounded.

I mean it. I’ve dined out on one-upping David Suzuki, when he confessed to having a TV at his cottage, by haughtily saying that ours has no electricity. To me the saddest scene in The Lord of the Rings is when the hobbits return to the Shire and find the trees cut down, the river polluted and factories spewing filth. I could vote for a real Green party with a real Green philosophy.

That means a radically different “small-is-beautiful” way of looking at the world. It has more in common with freemarket economics than most supporters of either like to think about. For instance, in principle neither likes huge impersonal systems that treat society like a machine and humans like cogs. But then both should loathe central planning. Continue reading