Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…

Oral Sex? Well, I’m not entirely certain that this would qualify, but I think the overwhelming message in this article is: When Hitchhiking, Don’t!

Officials say Evans was hitch hiking down Interstate 30 in Arlington when a white female known only as ‘Angie’ picked him up.

Soon thereafter, the 42-year-old driver invited Evans back to her horse barn just outside of Wolfe City.

When they arrived, the two became intimate, and officials say ‘Angie’ asked Evans to perform oral sex on her.

That’s when they say Evans got quite a surprise.

Can you guess the surprise?

Well, for one, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a woman asking for a strange man to perform oral sex on her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are some out there who would, and as far a reports go, oral is better than “actual” for many women. But still, it just doesn’t fit my narrow-minded/bigoted stereotype of most women. [as an aside, in retrospect of having written this statement, I don’t think I suspect that most men would ask a stranger to perform oral sex on them either… but if one sex were to be more likely to, I’d pick the male.]

Well that’s clue number one. Do we really need another?

Yeah, Angie’s a man. Or was. The entire story is set in the context that police figured all of this out upon responding to a call indicating that Angie had been … stabbed … by her hitchhiker.

The moral lesson to be gained from all of this? Aside from my own very deep statement above, police supplied the public with this:

Authorities warn regardless of the situation that picking up hitch hikers is never a good idea.

They also precautioned that driving drunk is a no-no, and that playing with matches… oh wait, that’s Smokey’s job. Never mind.

[I think that they must have been snickering a bit when they said “picking up.” I know I would have been…]

Birds of a feather can’t flock together

Residents of Hérouxville, Quebec, are a little xenophobic when it comes to Muslims. Yesterday someone implied that women might one day be stoned in Quebec, if precautions are not taken. That’s according to a report in today’s Globe and Mail.

The Government of Quebec is currently holding public hearings to address a contentious issue:  how can the rights of minorities be accommodated within a province that has its own distinctive culture?

It’s a problem. Francophones in Quebec are deeply committed, even militant, about preserving their culture. Muslims are likewise deeply committed to preserving their culture. Birds of a feather, one might say.

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in a politically incorrect moment, said that Quebecers need to get out of the wigwam.1 In other words, they need to engage the big, wide world out there — strive to succeed in the global economy — instead of huddling in a defensive posture lest the world swamp them.

The political winds in Quebec huffed and puffed against Trudeau’s opinion and blew it down. One provincial government introduced a law requiring businesses to ensure that French is more prominent than English on their signs. Another required that immigrants send their children to Francophone schools, to ensure that they are assimilated to the mother tongue. Never mind that English is the international language of business:  many Quebecers are unilingual Francophones.

Whether such measures are justified, I don’t presume to judge. It is certainly true that Quebec has a distinctive culture — one that I find attractive. It is also true that Quebec is surrounded by les Anglais, so perhaps the culture is genuinely at risk.

But measures like the sign law inculcate intolerance toward “the other”. Judges who uphold minority rights inevitably become the enemy:

Several [interveners] said Quebec cannot be fettered by religious minorities invoking the federal Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] if the province is to remain French-speaking and secular.

Canada is now run by lawyers and judges, said Hérouxville resident Bernard Thompson. … “These are the new unelected gods.”

In Hérouxville, the irresistible force (public policy that says Francophone culture trumps all other cultures) is up against the immovable object (a Muslim community that, like a rock in the belly of a snake, will not be digested).

The stupid thing is, there are virtually no Muslims in Hérouxville. It’s xenophobia, pure and simple.

Regardless, the provincial government is feeling a need to respond, for political reasons. Government isn’t always a rational actor, because citizens aren’t always rational actors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1To be precise:

The truth is that the separatist counterrevolution is the work of a powerless petit-bourgeois minority afraid of being left behind by a 20th century revolution. Rather than carving themselves out a place in it by ability, they want to make the whole tribe return to the wigwams by declaring its independence. (From a 1964 Trudeau essay)

Trudeau’s “wigwam” reference wasn’t exactly complimentary to First Nations! It alludes to stereotypes about aboriginals which may or may not be grounded in reality. In any event, Trudeau fancied himself a “citizen of the world” in his youth, and he had no patience for insularity — or Quebec separatists.

World bodypainting festival 2007

Is it art, or is it exhibitionism?

facepainting

Certainly this one is art. It won second place in the World Facepainting Award. By Lucie Brouillard of Canada.
 
bodypaint

Is it art, or is it exhibitionism? … Answer: Yes.

Finally, this one just makes me laugh:

Tony the Tiger?

Rather clever, actually, to notice a similarity between a nipple and a nose. I can’t say that it ever crossed my mind before!

In Linux

So, months and months ago now I announced my intention to fiddle around with Linux. Back then, I ran into a problem that hindered my ability to load Linux on the computer. Since, however, I have managed to figure out certain things, I renewed my efforts a couple days ago!

The amount of angst I suffered getting the Internet running is unmentionable, lol. But it’s done, finally, and thus I am pleased to give you my first post from within Linux!

I’m not going to go into too much detail yet, but expect a first impressions post tomorrowish! :)

The great leveler

Access to the internet is a great leveler of society. The professionals, the experts, are losing their hegemony over people.

I first thought of this when an acquaintance at work told us that she had sold her home. The internet enabled her to cut her real estate agent out of the transaction. She saved more than $20,000.

Her house had been on the market for about six months, and she didn’t feel that her real estate agent was working hard enough on her behalf. So she listed the home on Grapevine, an online service which promises to give you the tools you need to sell your home yourself. Just a few weeks later, her home sold for a good price.

Maybe the timing was just a coincidence. But we know for sure that she saved a substantial amount of money. I can only imagine how real estate agents feel about this, knowing that their professional services are becoming expendable.

What about religious experts and professional clergy? Consider the following example.

Via Jewish Atheist, I came across this fascinating cry of alarm from Rabbi Horowitz:

I’m sorry to put a damper on things, but I just don’t know how to phrase this any other way. We are running out of time. …

I am getting a new wave of parents begging me to speak to their children. The profile is chillingly similar: 13-14 years old boys and girls. High achieving in school. No emotional problems; great, respectful kids from great homes. Well adjusted. They just don’t want to be frum [observant]. Period. They are eating on Yom Kippur, not keeping Shabbos, not keeping kosher; et al.

No anger, no drugs, no promiscuous activity. They are just not buying what we are selling. …

The kids are finding each other via cell phones, chat groups, Facebook and My Space. They are “making their own minyan.” [A minyan is a group of Jews large enough to form a quorum for worship.] Many minyanim in fact. …

May Hashem [i.e., God] give us the wisdom and courage to make the changes that are necessary to reverse these frightening trends.

The key statement is, “The kids are finding each other via cell phones, chat groups, Facebook and My Space. They are ‘making their own minyan.'”

Here again, the internet is the great leveler. Religion maintains its grip on people when they are isolated, insulated from the corroding influence of people who think differently. But no one who has internet access is isolated. The great wide world is only a click of a mouse away.

Erudite religious experts watch as the knowledge they have accumulated through painstaking study decreases in value. Esoteric traditions which have been handed down from one generation to the next, from time immemorial, are now spurned like a would-be lover who is out of his depth.

The conflict between modernity and ancient cultures and religions fascinates me. It doesn’t frighten me, because I’m convinced that anything that is worth preserving will find a way to survive. Call it evolution if you want:  the survival of what contributes to the public weal. Or have a little faith in God:  if your religion is true, God’s will surely cannot be subverted by the internet.

In the meantime, religion can no longer succeed by default — by cloistering another generation of children, ensuring that they never encounter an alternative worldview.

The ‘net is indeed a great leveler. For a person like me, whose instincts are anti-establishment, it’s a welcome development.

He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

What’s the harm?

CIA officials have said that they never tortured the detainees and that they operated within the law.

Ultimately, some of the terrorism suspects confessed. But the coercive techniques made even some CIA officials skeptical of whether their confessions were believable, much less sustainable in any court, one former CIA counter-terrorism covert officer said.

 
Khalid Shaikh MohammedThe LA Times explains that the FBI has been brought in to reconstruct the cases against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and fourteen other accused Al Qaeda leaders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The CIA used “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) to obtain information from the detainees. The FBI has been using other, non-coercive methods to obtain evidence that might actually be useful at trial.

Mohammed has claimed that he was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

During the more than three years he spent in CIA custody [Mohammed] boasted that he had killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and orchestrated more than two dozen other terrorist plots. Several senior counter-terrorism officials said they believed that Mohammed falsely confessed to some things, including the Pearl slaying, under duress or to obscure the roles played by operatives who might still be on the loose.

U.S. authorities are worried that Mohammed might win the right to a trial. If that happens, the prosecution would not want to rely on evidence obtained through the use of torture. Such evidence might be declared inadmissible and might expose CIA agents to legal jeopardy. Moreover, the techniques themselves would likely become the focus of public attention during the trials.

Federal law enforcement officials believe they have gathered enough admissible evidence to try the high-value detainees. “We’ve redone everything, and everything is fine,” one official said. “So what’s the harm?”

Elections [Not] Forthcoming?

It is common speculation lately amongst Canadians to muse over how and when Stephen Harper will manage to trick the other parliamentary parties into putting into motion another federal election. The question — one that arose immediately after Harper’s victorious campaign but dwindled soon thereafter due to Harper’s conservative (both in style and in fact) approach to politics — came into play far more vigorously as this year’s throne speech approached. Much like when Harper announced his first budget, rumours abound circulated concerning Harper’s intention to throw the vote, making such outrageous demands that oppositional parties would have no choice but to turn him down.

Let me be the first (ha, not likely!) to suggest that perhaps Harper’s intention is not to force an election, but rather to implement his policies as if he were in a majority government.

And the most recent update on the opposition suggests that his tactics are nothing short of brilliant!

There are two aspects to Harper’s governing tactics that I would like to highlight as particularly effective.

The first is evidenced throughout the entire article. In fact, the entire scenario playing itself out in government right now is evidence of my first point. Simply put, Harper has managed to place the onus on other parties. By laying out his nefarious ultimatum, Harper made it clear that if other parties disagreed with his policies, they would be pushing Canada into an undesirable election. By building up hype that his bill would thus be outrageous, placing the opposition between a rock and a hard place, Harper managed to place himself in the role of aggressor.

However, the Prime Minister had no intention of blowing the vote. Rather, he made propositions that were reasonable enough for the opposing parties to accept. Suddenly, the onus really is on the other parties. While on principle they may have been willing to vote against him in order to take away his power, suddenly Harper has a shield around him!

The second is the traditional (but oft-misused) divide-and-conquer technique:

The showdown over the Conservatives’ much-ballyhooed omnibus crime bill fizzled into a debate over technicalities yesterday as the government introduced a bill that opposition parties largely support.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election ultimatum over the crime bill, the second in a parliamentary session that is only three days old, will not lead to any quick confrontation with the opposition.

And it appears unlikely that the crime bill will trigger an election even when it comes to a final vote – possibly months from now – because almost all of its provisions already had enough opposition support to pass.

Last night, the government passed its first confidence-vote test on its Throne Speech when a Bloc Québécois amendment was defeated by all three other parties. And Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s decision to have his MPs abstain on the final vote on the speech means that also will not defeat the government.

I have added the emphasis to draw out my point. Harper has managed to present a bill that — though primarily composed of ideologies of his own party — has a “bone” for each opponent. While I am afraid I have failed to verse myself deeply in the bill itself, I suspect that this will be a scene that becomes stuck on “repeat.” One party will find some detail they would change, only to have it revoked by the other parties who see the issue as either irrelevant or in their favour. It has been mentioned before that the Conservatives’ greatest advantage currently is that they are the unified “Right”, while the “Left” has two or three different factions amongst whom the vote is dispersed. Well, in this case the divide works in his favour in that each of the Lefties has slightly different preferences, and a good statesman should be able to pander to each of them, without really giving in to any.

Unless I miss my guess, Harper will do just that.

By placing a shield around himself in order to ascertain his vote would be passed, and by preventing over-amendment by playing oppositional parties against one another, Harper has ensured his present victory. Suddenly his minority government — theoretically crippled by the need to cooperate with others — is able to maneuver the way they want, when they want.

Genius!

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