January 25, 2013

Canada and the First Nations — separate nations, separate worlds

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:56

In the Globe and Mail, Tom Flanagan explains why the Idle No More protestors insisted on negotiating with the Governor-General:

Actually, native leaders’ focus on the governor-general as the representative of the Crown is based not on a lack of information about the Constitution but on a different understanding of it. They know perfectly well that the prime minister and government of the day are installed by the political process of the nation of Canada, but they don’t see themselves as part of that process and that nation. They see themselves as separate nations, dealing with Canada on a “nation to nation” basis. They see the Crown as a governmental structure above Canada – and therefore the authority with whom they should deal.

Sovereign nations do not legislate for each other; they voluntarily agree to sign treaties after negotiations. The radical conclusion from this premise is that Parliament has no right to legislate for aboriginal people without first getting their consent. Hence the hue and cry about consultation and the demand to repeal those parts of the government’s Budget Implementation acts that allegedly impinge on aboriginal and treaty rights. Today’s claim is that Parliament had no right to amend the Indian Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act before consulting with (read: getting the approval of) first nations. But the same claim could be made regarding any legislation, for all laws made by Parliament affect native people. Enforcement of the Criminal Code arguably affects aboriginal rights by putting large numbers of aboriginal people in jail, and so on.

This indigenist ideology is not new. It started to appear in the 1970s, as a reaction to Jean Chrétien’s 1969 White Paper, which proposed repealing treaties and abolishing the special legal status of Indians. In its usual well-meaning but sometimes witless way, the Canadian political class thought it could deal with the reaffirmation of indigenism through word magic. Adopt the vocabulary of the radicals. Start calling Indian bands “first nations.” Pretend to recognize their “inherent right of self-government” or even “sovereignty.”

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:28

My weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. The January patch is just around the corner, along with the introduction of guesting and the end of free server transfers. All that plus the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction from around the GW2 community.

Cartman Shrugged

The not-so-hidden libertarian streak in South Park:

The genius of Parker and Stone was to see that in our day a new frontier of comic transgression has opened up because of the phenomenon known as political correctness. Our age may have tried to dispense with the conventional pieties of earlier generations, but it has developed new pieties of its own. They may not look like the traditional pieties, but they are enforced in the same old way, with social pressure and sometimes even legal sanctions punishing people who dare to violate the new taboos. Many of our colleges and universities today have speech codes, which seek to define what can and cannot be said on campus and in particular to prohibit anything that might be interpreted as demeaning someone because of his or her race, religion, gender, disability, and a whole series of other protected categories. Sex may no longer be taboo in our society, but sexism now is. Seinfeld (1989–1998) was perhaps the first mainstream television comedy that systematically violated the new taboos of political correctness. The show repeatedly made fun of contemporary sensitivities about such issues as sexual orientation, ethnic identity, feminism, and disabled people. Seinfeld proved that being politically incorrect can be hilariously funny in today’s moral and intellectual climate, and South Park followed its lead.

[. . .]

This is where libertarianism enters the picture in South Park. The show criticizes political correctness in the name of freedom. That is why Parker and Stone can proclaim themselves equal opportunity satirists: they make fun of the old pieties as well as the new, ridiculing both the right and the left insofar as both seek to restrict freedom. “Cripple Fight” is an excellent example of the balance and evenhandedness of South Park and the way it can offend both ends of the political spectrum. The episode deals in typical South Park fashion with a contemporary controversy, one that has even made it into the courts: whether homosexuals should be allowed to lead Boy Scout troops. The episode makes fun of the old-fashioned types in the town who insist on denying a troop leadership to Big Gay Al (a recurrent character whose name says it all). As it frequently does with the groups it satirizes, South Park, even as it stereotypes homosexuals, displays sympathy for them and their right to live their lives as they see fit. But just as the episode seems to be simply taking the side of those who condemn the Boy Scouts for homophobia, it swerves in an unexpected direction. Standing up for the principle of freedom of association, Big Gay Al himself defends the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude homosexuals. An organization should be able to set up its own rules, and the law should not impose society’s notions of political correctness on a private group. This episode represents South Park at its best — looking at a complicated issue from both sides and coming up with a judicious resolution of the issue. And the principle on which the issue is resolved is freedom. As the episode shows, Big Gay Al should be free to be homosexual, but the Boy Scouts should also be free as an organization to make their own rules and exclude him from a leadership post if they so desire.

This libertarianism makes South Park offensive to the politically correct, for, if applied consistently, it would dismantle the whole apparatus of speech control and thought manipulation that do-gooders have tried to construct to protect their favored minorities. With its support for freedom in all areas of life, libertarianism defies categorization in terms of the standard one-dimensional political spectrum of right and left. In opposition to the collectivist and anticapitalist vision of the left, libertarians reject central planning and want people to be free to pursue their self-interest as they see fit. But in contrast to conservatives, libertarians also oppose social legislation; they generally favor the legalization of drugs and the abolition of all censorship and antipornography laws. Because of the tendency in American political discourse to lump libertarians with conservatives, many commentators on South Park fail to see that it does not criticize all political positions indiscriminately, but actually stakes out a consistent alternative to both liberalism and conservatism with its libertarian philosophy.

The wrong maple leaf forever: the new $20 bill controversy

Filed under: Cancon, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:00

Oh, hang your heads in shame, Canadians: you put the wrong maple leaf on your new $20 bill. The entire rest of the civilized world is laughing and pointing:

The mix-up began a hundred-some years ago when Canada, a small club founded by French misfit children, decided to create its own currency. These bills and coins would function much the same as Chuck E. Cheese tickets at a modern-day Chuck E. Cheese, in that it would be tradeable for goods (and services). It would be valid in all of Canada.

For many years, the system was a success. Canadians used their Canadian money with ease. Every once in a while a Canadian penny or dime would slip down into the United States but that was no big deal because all the coins look about the same and everyone could just leave them in tip jars, like “not my problem.”

Then, in 2011, Canada decided to redesign their banknotes.

“Paper is out and polymer is IN!” Canada exclaimed in an email newsletter that the rest of the world deleted without reading.

The new bills were made out of plastic. They had fancy updated pictures and a holographic whoozy-whatsits and a big clear window to make them harder to counterfeit.

They featured a big ol’ maple leaf.

But not a Canadian maple leaf.

A Norwegian one.

“Big deal,” you say. “Leaves are leaves; who cares?”

The problem is that maple leaves are Canada’s thing. Like how some nations’ thing is communism, or being the world economic leader, or producing generation after generation of beautiful supermodels. Canada’s thing is that there are leaves there.

And they fucked it up.

H/T to David Akin for the link.

Even before “The internet is for porn”, mainframe computers were for cheesecake

Filed under: History, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:47

The very first human image displayed on a computer was a pinup girl:

First human image on a computer

During a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government-defense budget to finance it, a young man used a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a curvy woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and the creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now.

Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn.

She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen.

She glowed.

[. . .]

In early 1959, 21-year-old Airman First Class Lawrence A. Tipton snapped the only known photo of this pin-up program in action at Ft. Lee. The photo shows the tube of an SD console displaying the outline of woman with her arms held high, cradling her head while emphasizing her bosom. She reclines awkwardly, her legs splayed apart in an uncomfortable but provocative pose that smacks of mid-century pin-up art.

“One day I decided to take pictures for posterity’s sake,” recalls Tipton, “And those two Polaroids are the only ones that made it out of the building.” The other Polaroid is a self-portrait of Tipton himself sitting in front of the AN/FSQ-7’s Duplex Maintenance Console. “We used the Polaroid cameras to take pictures of anomaly conditions. When the computers would malfunction, you’d take pictures of those main consoles to diagnose the conditions.”

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