January 9, 2013

What does “status” mean in the Canadian First Nations context?

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:23

If you’re confused by the current debate over First Nations people and their relationship with the Crown, you’ll probably want to read âpihtawikosisân‘s explanation of “status” and other terms-of-law that are used in these discussions:

It has been my experience that many Canadians do not understand the difference between Status and membership, or why so many different terms are used to refer to native peoples. The confusion is understandable; this is a complex issue and the terms used in any given context can vary greatly. Many people agree that the term ‘Indian’ is a somewhat outdated and inappropriate descriptor and have adopted the presently more common ‘First Nations’. It can seem strange then when the term ‘Indian’ continues to be used, in particular by the government, or in media publications. The fact that ‘Indian’ is a legislative term is not often explained.

As a Métis, I find myself often answering questions about whether or not I have Status, which invariably turns into an explanation about what Status means in the Canadian context. The nice thing is, as time passes, fewer people ask me this because it does seem that the information is slowly getting out there into the Canadian consciousness.

To help that process along, I figured I’d give you the quick and dirty explanation of the different categories out there. Well…quick is subjective, I am after all notoriously long-winded.

H/T to Andrew Coyne, who retweeted the link from @romeoinottawa.

Will Defiance channel its inner Firefly?

Filed under: Gaming, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:17

Massively looks at the new trailer for MMO-and-TV-show Defiance and senses some Firefly DNA:

As you’re probably aware, the company’s Defiance MMO shooter is entering beta later this month. As you’re also probably aware, the game is being developed in concert with the TV show of the same name, both of which will debut in April.

Yesterday, Syfy released a slick new teaser for the show, and while it doesn’t feature any game footage or really mention the MMO at all other than in the closing tag line, we squeed a bit at the Firefly-esque music and the general awesomeness on display.

The root problem with all self-help programs

Filed under: Books, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:26

In New York magazine, Kathryn Schulz explains why self-help programs are so popular … and why they are so difficult for most of us:

In The Age of Anxiety, W.H. Auden observed that we human beings never become something without pretending to be it first. The corollary is more prosaic but, regrettably, at least as true: We humans never become most of the things we pretend we will someday be. Nevertheless, last Monday, you and I and several billion other incorrigible optimists raised our glasses and toasted all the ways we will be different in 2013.

It’s easy to understand why we want to be different. We are twenty pounds overweight; we are $20,000 in debt; we can’t believe we slept with that guy; we can’t believe we didn’t. What’s harder to understand is why transforming ourselves is so difficult. Changing other people is notoriously hard; the prevailing wisdom on that one is Don’t hold your breath. But it’s not obvious why changing oneself should present any difficulty at all. And yet, demonstrably, it does.

The noted self-help guru Saint Augustine identified this problem back in the fourth century A.D. In his Confessions, he records an observation: “The mind gives an order to the body and is at once obeyed, but when it gives an order to itself, it is resisted.” I cannot improve upon Augustine’s insight, but I can update his examples. Say you want to be skinny. You’ve signed on with Weight Watchers, taken up Zumba, read everything from Michael Pollan to French Women Don’t Get Fat, and scrupulously recorded your every workout, footstep, and calorie on your iPhone. So whence the impulsive Oreo binge? [. . .]

This is where the cheerfully practical and accessible domain of self-help bumps up against one of the thorniest problems in all of science and philosophy. In the 1,600 years since Augustine left behind selfhood for sainthood, we’ve made very little empirical progress toward understanding our own inner workings. We have, however, developed an $11 billion industry dedicated to telling us how to improve our lives. Put those two facts together and you get a vexing question: Can self-help work if we have no idea how a self works?

Australian heatwave attributed to Gaia’s anger at mankind’s sins

Filed under: Australia, Environment, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:14

Brendan O’Neill surveys the gleeful coverage of Australia’s current weather as a divine retribution by “Mother Nature” for the evils mankind has wrought:

There is something very ugly about the commentary on Australia’s heatwave. There’s almost a palpable sense of glee among some green-leaning commentators that this coal-exporting, climate-change-denying nation is now being punished with fire. The message seems to be that Aussies deserve this scorching weather; they brought the hotness upon themselves through their temerity, through daring to exploit their country’s myriad natural resources and, even worse, daring to question the gospel of climate change.

The casualness with which observers have made a link between Australian people’s behaviour and beliefs and the current heatwave, as if alleged moral turpitude makes the weather, is striking. Even before any serious scientist has had time to assess the nature and origins of the heatwave, one of the Guardian‘s green reporters described the hotness Down Under as further evidence that “global warming is turning the volume of extreme weather up, Spinal Tap-style, to 11″. Taking his cue from the Middle Ages, when weather was also frequently given sentience, treated as the punisher of wicked men, the reporter says climate change, and its enabler climate change denial, is “loading the weather dice”. It is no coincidence, he says, that “the two nations in which the fringe opinions of so-called climate sceptics have been trumpeted most loudly — the US and Australia — have now been hit by record heatwaves and [superstorms]” — because apparently it is “shouting from sceptics” that prevents “clear political action to curb emissions” and which therefore unleashes yet more floods, storms, and presumably locusts at some point in the future.

The only movie awards that really matter: The Razzies

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:03

The BBC gives us the highlights of the nominations for the Razzies:

The final instalment of the Twilight saga has dominated the shortlist for this year’s Razzies, which single out the worst movies of the last 12 months.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, which made $814m (£507m) at the box office, has 11 nominations in 10 categories, including worst film and worst sequel.

Its stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are also listed in the “worst screen couple” category.

Critically-reviled blockbuster Battleship received seven nominations.

Among them was worst supporting actress for pop star Rihanna, who made her acting debut as a US Navy Seal in the film, which was based on the classic grid-based boardgame.

Other notable nominations included actor-director Tyler Perry, who was cited for worst actor and worst actress — thanks to his cross-dressing role in Madea’s Witness Protection.

Comedian Adam Sandler won both categories last year, for playing a twin brother and sister in Jack and Jill. His latest film, bad-taste comedy That’s My Boy, picked up eight nominations in this year’s shortlist.

Why stop at a mere trillion dollars?

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:59

Zero Hedge on the trillion dollar platinum coin nonsense:

A year ago, out of nowhere, the grotesque suggestion to “resolve” the US debt ceiling with a platinum dollar coin came, and like a bad dream, mercifully disappeared even as the debt ceiling negotiations dragged until the last minute, without this idea being remotely considered for implementation, for one simple reason: it is sheer political, monetary and financial lunacy. And yet there are those, supposedly intelligent people, who one year later, continue dragging this ridiculous farce, as a cheap parlor trick which is nothing but a transparent attempt for media trolling and exposure, which only distracts from America’s unsustainable spending problem and does nothing to address the real crisis the US welfare state finds itself in. And while numerous respected people have taken the time to explain the stupidity of the trillion dollar coin, few have done so as an integral part of the statist mainstream for one simple reason — it might provide a loophole opportunity, however tiny, to perpetuate the broken American model even for a day or two, if “everyone is in on it.” Luckily, that is no longer the case and as even Ethan Harris from Bank of America (a firm that would be significantly impaired if America was forced to suddenly live within its means), the whole idea is nothing more than “the latest bad idea” straight “from the land of fiscal make believe.” We can only hope that this finally puts this whole farce to bed.

[. . .]

Taking these sorts of actions would almost certainly worsen, not ease, the coming battles over the spending — a second reason to be skeptical of the idea of the trillion dollar coin. As we have noted before, the debt ceiling is just one of three brinkmanship moments looming in the next few months. The across-the-board spending cuts that constitute the sequester have only been delayed for two months, and absent new legislation, will start in March. Even more troubling, on March 27 the latest continuing resolution ends and, absent new legislation, all nonessential government programs would have to shut down for lack of funding.

Third, throwing the trillion dollar coin into this mix would not only intensify these two other fights, it would likely poison the well even further in future budget negotiations. With split government, fiscal policy making requires bipartisan agreement. The cliff compromise earned support from both parties, marking a welcome — if brief — respite from partisan politics. The last thing Washington needs is a further escalation in gamesmanship.

Finally, there is a slippery slope from avoiding the debt limit to outright debt monetization. Although proponents see it as a technical fix to a problem that, in their view, never should occur, it means the Treasury would have established a precedent to thwart Congressional limitations on spending and the debt ceiling.

Outside of the legal questions, nothing precludes the Treasury from issuing a coin to pay down the full $16.4 trillion in debt in one fell swoop: true monetization. A trillion dollar coin also would subvert the whole budget process, undermining already fragile public confidence and spooking financial markets. And based on the criteria put forth by the rating agencies, it would represent a stunning failure to devise credible political processes to resolve the longer-term budget issues for the US. A downgrade would very likely follow, in our view.

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