Friday, September 24, 2010

Political Integrity

Peter Stoffer.  I assume that everyone knows the name by now.  For the seven people out there that don’t watch any news in Canada (and those of you that can’t access Canadian news at all), he’s the NDP Member of Parliament for the Sackville - Eastern Shore riding here in Nova Scotia who has had a long history (as in his entire political career) of denouncing and calling for the abolishment of the Long Gun Registry.  He’s also the same fellow who voted against scrapping that same LGR on September 22, 2010.  His was the deciding vote, and he’s taking a lot of heat on the issue.

Why did he do it you ask?  His answer is that  62% of his constituents, when polled on the issue, were in favour of maintaining the Registry.

Now, before we discuss Mr. Stoffer’s woes, its time for me to have a little rant.  The LGR cost one billion dollars to set up.  Was there some mismanagement of the set up?  You bet your Canadian butt there was.  Is the final cost of the set up grossly higher than its original projected set-up cost?  Affirmative.  But scrapping the LGR based on the money already spent to create it is ridiculous.  That’s like burning down your house because the contractor’s final bill was higher than the estimate.  In other words, its insane.

Set-up costs aside, the LGR costs four million a year to maintain.  Lets be honest folks, in the grand scheme of government spending, that’s a drop in the ocean.  Four million a year to maintain this registry vs. 181 billion spent in 2009 on healthcare.  181,000,000,000.00 That’s a lot of zeroes.  And our GDP is about 1.3 trillion dollars.

Now, I know what you are thinking, 181 billion for something as essential as healthcare is money well spent.  And you are right.  Universal healthcare (and no, we’re not going to discuss the accuracy of that title, nor the quality of that care) is generally regarded as a necessary issue, but registering firearms is perhaps a bit less necessary.  So let’s compare that to the budget spent, just in Nova Scotia, on registering vehicles.  The Registry of Motor Vehicles (a division of Service Nova Scotia) has an approximate budget of 20 million.  And Nova Scotia ain’t that big folks.  Assuming that is roughly proportional across the country, that would mean we spend about 600 million dollars of tax money to maintain a vehicle registry.  Vehicles, of course, are designed for transportation.  Guns, of course, are designed to kill things. 

Does registering your firearm mean you are being criminalized?  The ever witty Bruce MacKinnon said it best with his cartoon in today's issue of the Chronicle Herald so I won't bother to answer it beyond that. 

A lot of folks, probably all responsible gun owners, argue that there isn’t a lot of use to the LGR.  Yet the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police voted unanimously in favour of supporting it.  They said that police in Canada make approximately 11,000 inquiries a day to the LGR as part of investigating crimes.  11,000 a day.  That’s 4,015,000 inquires a year.  That’s a buck an inquiry.  If even one of those inquiries either prevents a death or solves a murder, that’s money well spent.

Now, back to Mr. Stoffer and his “flipflopping” as has been described in the media.

Mr. Stoffer doesn’t like the LGR.  Still says he doesn’t like the LGR, even though he voted to keep it.  He’s vowed to try and fix it, to make it better.  He still hates it.  But here’s the thing folks - when we elect people to represent us in government, we elect them not to present their own ideology and opinions, but to represent our ideologies and opinions.  And if 62% of Mr. Stoffer’s constituents wanted him to vote in favour of keeping the LGR, then he had an ethical obligation to - wait for it - do his job and represent that opinion.

Was he pressured?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is he lying about the 62%?  Maybe, but I’ve seen no proof of that.   Is the figure skewed in some way?  Possibly, but again, I have seen no proof of that.  And until I do, I just want to say bravo Mr. Stoffer.  Thank you for being the one politician that remembers what his job is.  Thank you for putting your constituents ahead of your personal views.  Thank you for remembering what democracy is all about.  Maybe your example will remind the rest of your colleagues.  And if I ever have the chance to do so, I’ll gladly vote for you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dove, a symbol of peace?

Terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

That’s the definition of terrorism from Websters-Miriam dictionary.

Recently a particular asshat has been in the media, announcing to all and sundry that he and his faithful flock of fifty parishioners (which means that my Facebook "Friends" list has more members than this idiot’s church) were going to engage in a day of book burning. Old news for conservative Christian groups in the US. But this book wasn’t Harry Potter, or Darwin’s Origin of the Species (the aforementioned conservative Christians usual targets), no, this book was the Qu’ran - the holy word of Allah as given to Muhammad - a sacred text to over a billion people on the planet. I’m going to say that again - a billion people.

Of course, the good news is that media got involved. When haven’t they made a potentially explosive situation better by covering it from every possible angle, and broadcasting their generally ill-informed and often ludicrous opinions to a few billion people? Thankfully, this idiot managed to get these right minded and forward thinking media people to take his message beyond his fifty BFFs, and broadcast it to the world. Which had, as you have probably noted, a result.

Denouncements of the plan flew from every possible angle. The US President, our own Prime Minister, heads of state from all around the globe, including both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hammas leader Ismail Haniya, the military leaders of at least four nations that I know of, the Secretary General of the United Nations, movie stars, rock stars, media pundits, and every religious leader, up to and including the Vatican and several prominent Imams throughout the world, along with every single human being on the planet that has any shred of respect and integrity.

On the flip side, the Taliban loved it. They called for an attack on every Christian everywhere, regardless of how they feel about the book burning. The head of a militant Islamic group in Indonesia has proclaimed a death sentence on the idiot, though they note that it is targeted at the idiot himself, not at Christians or Westerners in general - a nice touch on any death threat I think.

So yeah, the moderate world (read almost all of it) is aware that the idiot is, in fact, an idiot, and is begging him not to do it. The extremists out there killing in the name of their perversion of Islam will use it to further their own political aims, and likely manage a few more recruits from the uneducated and down-trodden.

Now it looks like he may have called the whole thing off. That’s the right decision to make, Mr. Idiot. But why has it been called off? The Associated Press (and likely a lot of other sources by the time I post this) have reported that the burning was called off when the imam involved with the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (see Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on how this is incorrect) agreed to meet with Mr. Idiot, apparently to discuss the moving of the mosque to another location. Which of course, is not happening - the imam and the other organizers for the cultural center have been very clear that the location is fixed and they can't be intimidated into moving it.

So lets look at this, and maybe go back and read the first sentence... Here we have an individual, actually a small group of like minded religious persons (the Dove World Outreach Center is ostensibly a church, albeit very ironically named, based on the idiot’s behaviour) who are threatening an act of violence against a particular group, an act which will very likely kick off futher violence as extremists and disillusioned people around the world react to it, and he’ll only call it off if his demands are met. “Move your mosque or I burn these books, and set a fire that will cost human lives!” How is this any different than the actions of the other extremists that we send the military after?

Coercion of this kind is always wrong. There is never an excuse to threaten to kill (or cause to be killed) innocent people to get what you want. And, Mr. Idiot, it doesn’t matter what name you call the Almighty, or which book you preach from, terrorism is still terrorism.

My only real plea here? Media, don’t show up - no matter what. If the burning goes ahead and there is no media coverage, there’s no problem. Why give the idiot and his idiot congregation more coverage? Its not news, its hate. And reporting on hate simply amounts to spreading that message, rightly or wrongly. Just let him have his stupid BBQ, and let him reap what he sows - don’t involve the rest of the world in his idiocy.

And to his supporters (yes, believe it or not there are people who agree with this message of hate) - I don’t actually have words to express how disappointed I am in the current state of humanity. If you are Christian, regardless of flavour, hate isn’t what your God teaches. Jesus preached that one should love one’s enemy as one’s brother (Matthew 5:43-47) and that you should love your neighbour as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). And for those American’s out there in favour of this burning, and who aren’t themselves Christian, remember your own founding father’s words....

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Secular or theocratic, we can all agree that the world would be a better place without the misguided hatred that is being espoused in this issue. So reach out today, and embrace the other. Learn about another culture. Take ten minutes to learn how to say hello in another language. Spend thirty seconds on Google to find out the meaning of Ramadan. Learn what Buddhists think about reincarnation. Read a few pages of Darwin’s Origin or Dawkins’ God Delusion.

Take a minute, just sixty seconds, to reflect on what kind of world you want to live in, what kind of world you want to leave for your children and grandchildren. And then think about what you can do to make it a reality. Because if the idiot has shown us anything, if we can take one positive thing away from this entire situation, it is that one person can make a difference. His is a message of hate and intolerance. What will your’s be?