Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wintry thoughts from Ottawa

The snow continues. Wet, gummy snow. Mr. 0%, aka Hizzoner Mayor Larry O'Brien, is demanding a $50 "snow tax" per household to cover the unforeseen costs of snow removal in the city of Ottawa. Seems he spent the reserve set aside for just this kind of thing to plug some holes in the city budget, during his bootless quest to fulfill his campaign promise of a 0% tax hike. Maybe we can pay it in snow.

The windrows are simply mountainous in my neighbourhood and elsewhere in the city. At this point we are approaching the snowfall record--if we don't make it, I for one am going to feel ripped off. The streets are impassable, many down to one lane. The runoff this spring is bound to flood basements. Oh joy, oh rapture.

And to top it all off, we can't blame it on Bush. The cold icing on the cake.

Times like this are best spent indoors. Thoughts turn gloomy, but at least it's warm and dry in here. The bad news recently has been like the snow: relentless, grim, without end. A few scattered observations:

  • The Omar Khadr case. Turns out that things were worse than we might have imagined. Child torture by sadistic American guards; the Harper government's active interference in the case, attempting to withhold relevant documents from Khadr's defence team; the callous behaviour of Canadian officials; and now, it seems, he might not have done what he was originally accused of anyway. This has all been too much even for some Canadian conservative commentators. Jonathan Kay refers to the US military tribunals, one of which will soon be faced by Khadr, as "kangaroo courts that are operated as conviction machines."

  • Sunny Mexico. For two years, Brenda Martin has sat in a Mexican jail, without a trial. She is currently on suicide watch. She is a Canadian citizen. Roused from its torpor, the Conservatives are sending down a team of MPs, including the serviceable Jason Kenney, to meet with her. Martin isn't fooled by this exercise in optics; neither are we. "Tell Kenney not to come here," she said. "If he is not coming here to take me out, then tell him not to come. They can ship me home in a fucking casket because I have had it."

    It seems that she could have been home 72 hours after her arrest, but for the initial indifference of Canadian consular officials. Move over, Franco Pillarella-- you've got plenty of company.

    Meanwhile, our compassionate conservatives come up with this sort of thing: "
    Finally, why is one hysterical women important enough for the Prime Minister to intervene with the President of Mexico?" (H/t). Nice.

  • Chinese social colonialism. I don't hold much of a brief for the former Tibetan regime, run by monks whose transcendental ecstasies were supported by a huge army of ill-treated serfs. The Dalai Lama is the happy-face of feudalism. But China's subsequent brutal colonization of Tibet--Lhasa, the capital city, is by now half Han (Chinese)--is nothing less than criminal. This policy has been in force for some time: declared Zhou Enlai in 1980,

    The Han are greater in number and more developed in economy and culture but in the regions they inhabit there is not much arable land left and underground resources there are not as abundant as in the regions inhabited by fraternal nationalities.

    (Zhou, Enlai, "Some Questions on Policy towards Nationalities," Beijing Review, v.34, no.9 (1980), 16.)

    What we're seeing today is another dreary episode in the history of yet another colonial state. The parallels with Israel and its annexation of the West Bank are inescapable: settlement, military occupation, resistance, and religion as an ethnic marker and rallying-cry.

  • We are, we are, we are the engineers. I can remember when there was only one woman enrolled in the faculty of engineering at McGill, and the boyz elected a shy and gentle man as Homecoming Queen, har, har. But despite the high proportion of women now enrolled in engineering across Canada, stupidity like this continues. What is it about learning to build bridges and skyscrapers that is so indissolubly linked to misogyny?
Aw, enough. Time for a good breakfast. Maybe I'll light a fire in the fireplace and pretend that I'm roughing it in the bush. My mood and my country: quelques arpents de neige.

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