Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seymour Hersh: Bush's Shifting Rationale for Iran Attack

Prescient New Yorker reporter, Seymour Hersh, appeared today on CNN Late Edition. Hersh contends that the Bush administration is increasingly determined to attack Iran and is actively shifting its rhetoric to justify expanded the war in the Middle East.

In his current New Yorker article, Shifting Targets: The Administration’s Plan for Iran, Hersh argues:

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran.

Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

According to Hersh, the Administration's previous pro-war message, based on "anti-nuclear proliferation," hasn't sold" with the American people or America's allies.

In response, the White House is now opting for what it believes to be a more marketable rationale for attacking Iran - "counter-terrorism."

See the video below of Seymour Hersh with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

(h/t: Think Progress)

These military drumbeats are sounding a bit familiar, aren't they?

With a federal election not unlikely in Canada's near future, I am wondering what Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have to say when Bush assembles his next "coalition of the willing."

With this question in mind, let's revisit his infamous Wall Street Journal op-ed of March 29, 2003, written with Stockwell Day. Still the nation's Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Harper criticized Canada's decision to stay out of Iraq:

Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations.

This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need. The Canadian Alliance -- the official opposition in parliament -- supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values.

Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies and therefore manifestly in the national interest of Canada. Make no mistake, as our allies work to end the reign of Saddam and the brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his regime, Canada's largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds, we will be with our allies and friends. And Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.

But we will not be with the Canadian government.

Modern Canada was forged in large part by war -- not because it was easy but because it was right. In the great wars of the last century -- against authoritarianism, fascism, and communism -- Canada did not merely stand with the Americans, more often than not we led the way. We did so for freedom, for democracy, for civilization itself. These values continue to be embodied in our allies and their leaders, and scorned by the forces of evil, including Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That is why we will stand -- and I believe most Canadians will stand with us -- for these higher values which shaped our past, and which we will need in an uncertain future.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Slayton on Toobin

Philip Slayton (of Lawyers Gone Bad fame) reviews Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court in today's Globe and Mail:

It's the men and women of the Supreme Court who count, but can we count on them? Much of The Nine is given over to the despicable way the Court resolved the 2000 presidential election: "The character of the justices themselves turned that opportunity into one of the lowest moments in the Court's history. ... the justices displayed all of their worst traits - among them, vanity, overconfidence, impatience, arrogance, and simple political partisanship. ... The justices did almost everything wrong. They embarrassed themselves and the Supreme Court."

...Toobin is unsparing in his criticism of the Court's conduct in Bush v. Gore. He writes, "their performance ... amounted to a catalogue of their worst flaws as judges," and he lists those flaws judge by judge. Some of them: William Rehnquist - intellectually lazy and politically partisan; Sandra Day O'Connor - unprincipled and impatient; Antonin Scalia - bullying advocacy in lieu of reasoned analysis, naked bias for the Republican Party; Anthony Kennedy - basic judicial ineptitude compounded by empty rhetoric; Clarence Thomas - sullen withdrawal and reflexive partisanship; Stephen Breyer - favouring muddleheaded compromise. Only Justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter, in Toobin's view, stood apart from the "inept and unsavoury manner that the justices exercised their power." Later, when confronted with criticism of Bush v. Gore, Justice Scalia's terse comment was "get over it."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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American Divorce Rate is Falling: Census Data

Wharton professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have analyzed current US census data, and find that American divorce rates are falling, not rising.

Writing in today's New York Times, they decry the "Great American Divorce Myth," and conclude, "perhaps it is worth stocking up on silver anniversary cards after all."

The story of ever-increasing divorce is a powerful narrative. It is also wrong. In fact, the divorce rate has been falling continuously over the past quarter-century, and is now at its lowest level since 1970. While marriage rates are also declining, those marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable. For instance, marriages that began in the 1990s were more likely to celebrate a 10th anniversary than those that started in the 1980s, which, in turn, were also more likely to last than marriages that began back in the 1970s.

Why were so many analysts led astray by the recent data? Understanding this puzzle requires digging deeper into some rather complex statistics.

... it turns out that a majority of couples who tied the knot from 1975 to 1979 — about 53 percent — reached their silver anniversary.

The narrative of rising divorce is also completely at odds with counts of divorce certificates, which show the divorce rate as having peaked at 22.8 divorces per 1,000 married couples in 1979 and to have fallen by 2005 to 16.7.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Saturday Bruce

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band appeared Friday morning on NBC's Today Show, with seven songs performed live, outside at New York's Rockefeller Plaza.

The clip below is Radio Nowhere:

MSNBC video has the entire Bruce Springsteen Today Show concert set, including Promised Land, Long Walk Home, Last to Die, Living in the Future, My Hometown, Radio Nowhere and Night.

C&L also has video from the show, Livin’ In the Future, introduced by Springsteen, as follows:

“This is a song called Livin’ In the Future. But it’s really about what’s happening now. Right now. It’s kind of about how the things we love about America, cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battlin’ Boston… the Bill of Rights [holds up microphone, urging crowd to cheer] … v-twin motorcycles… Tim Russert’s haircut, trans-fats and the Jersey Shore… we love those things the way womenfolk love Matt Lauer.

But over the past six years we’ve had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeus corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and its people, an attack on the Constitution. And the loss of our young best men and women in a tragic war.

This is a song about things that shouldn’t happen here—happening here.”

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Ontario's MMP Referendum - October 10, 2007

Ontario's Provincial Election is rapidly approaching.

On Election Day, Ontarians will vote in a referendum on whether the Province should move to a Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) system of government.

Our earlier post on MMP describes the proposed, new electoral system.

For the undecided, Straight Goods has a good selection of opinion pieces, pro and con:

ONTARIANS HAVE A CHANCE TO CHANGE AN UNFAIR VOTING SYSTEM by Rosemary Speirs Electoral reform could tip established politicians out of their comfy chairs at Queen's Park.

ELECTORAL SYSTEM NOT BROKEN by Geoffrey Stevens Upcoming Ontario referendum on PR is overkill.

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION 101 by Penney Kome Ontario has a chance to bring its voting system into the 21st century.

VOTERS INDIFFERENT TO PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION by Marc Zwelling Not being able to say what will happen with PR is a big problem for proponents.

10 LOW POINTS IN CANADIAN ELECTIONS from Fair Vote Canada Ten examples of how First-Past-the-Post system distorts election results.

While I haven't made up my mind yet, I'm leaning hard in the direction of "No to MMP."

I'll be reading up on this over the weekend, and will have more to say about MMP later.


UPDATE: October 5, 2007:

Our MMP position is now online. We say no to MMP.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Clarence Thomas and Rush Limbaugh

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas starts a media tour this weekend to promote his new memoir, My Grandfather's Son.

Apparently, his media blitz will include an appearance Monday with controversial conservative talk-radio host, Rush Limbaugh.

I find this rather astonishing.

Limbaugh's over-the-top, racially-loaded commentaries are replete and well documented online. Here is but one example:

... Limbaugh referred to Obama as the "Magic Negro" 27 times during the broadcast and at one point sang "Barack, the Magic Negro" to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon."

Beyond that, on Monday, the very day Limbaugh's interview with Justice Thomas is to be broadcast, a resolution will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Mark Udall, condemning Limbaugh for his recent, objectionable comments regarding American soldiers who oppose extended war in Iraq. Media Matters has those details:

During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers."

By keeping public company with the often-distasteful and always hyper-partisan Limbaugh, Justice Thomas does very little to enhance the Supreme Court's dignity or to maintain its critical appearance of impartiality.

This scheduled interview does not reflect a high standard of appropriate judicial reserve. Rather, it demonstrates questionable judgment by the learned Judge.

The Limbaugh issue, however, will quickly pale in comparison to the apparently incendiary contents of the memoir itself.


On to the Thomas book.

The Washington Post describes it today as an angry, lashing out by the Supreme Court Judge:

Justice Thomas Lashes Out in Memoir

Justice Clarence Thomas settles scores in an angry and vivid forthcoming memoir, scathingly condemning the media, the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination to the Supreme Court, and the "mob" of liberal elites and activist groups that he says desecrated his life.

Thomas a detailed description of the confirmation hearings that electrified the nation in 1991 and the sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill that he said destroyed his reputation.

..."The mob I now faced carried no ropes or guns," Thomas writes of his hearings. "Its weapons were smooth-tongued lies spoken into microphones and printed on the front pages of America's newspapers. . . . But it was a mob all the same, and its purpose -- to keep the black man in his place -- was unchanged."

Describing Democrats who opposed his nomination to the Court at the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, Thomas says:

"As a child in the Deep South, I'd grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult, I was starting to wonder if I'd been afraid of the wrong white people all along," he writes. "My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia, but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony."

(Makes you want to take a second look at his vote in Bush v. Gore, doesn't it?)

On that note, see Richard K. Neumann, Jr.'s 2003 article, Conflicts of interest in Bush v. Gore: Did some justices vote illegally? (Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics):

In the Senate, Justice Thomas was confirmed by the smallest margin in history-forty-eight senators against him and only fifty-two in favor.

Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, voted nay.

Justice Thomas displayed considerable bitterness at the time, describing his confirmation hearings as "a high-tech lynching." Little since then suggests that he has lost that bitterness entirely.

Did it create an appearance of partiality against Gore-for Gore's opposition to Justice Thomas' confirmation-that would have required Justice Thomas to recuse himself under [sec] 455(a)? (emphasis added - GJW)

That is clearly water under the bridge, at this point.

The broader question, however, is whatever happened in America to that quaint, old notion that sitting Judges ought to refrain from public commentaries that might incite unnecessary controversy or foreseeably generate public uncertainty as to the objectivity of the Bench?

More excerpts from the Thomas memoir are here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Congratulations are in order for Annie Noa Kenet on her Call to the Ontario Bar on September 26, 2007 at Toronto.

I am also very pleased to announce that Ms. Kenet has joined Wise Law Office as an associate. She will be practicing with us in the areas of Family Law, Employment Law, Personal Injury Litigation, and Civil Litigation.

Annie Noa Kenet was born in Israel and graduated from the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law, in 2006. She completed her Articles of Clerkship with Wise Law in August.

On behalf of Shashi Raina, Diana Subrizi, Justine Hamilton and Bogdan Makovsky, I'd like to welcome her to Wise Law Office and the practice of law.

We all wish Annie every success in a rewarding, enjoyable career and are looking forward very much to our continued work together.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Separate School Funding: Anachronistic, Discriminatory

While Ontario Conservative leader John Tory has advanced an election promise of public funding for "Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and other faith-based schools just like public and Catholic ones", the Catholic Register reports on lobbying by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to end funding for Ontario's Catholic separate schools:

An open letter from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has called for the a constitutional amendment to defund Catholic schools.

I agree with the CCLA on this issue. Continued public funding of Catholic separate schools alone is simply anachronistic.

While it is constitutionally mandated and well- intentioned, it is unavoidably discriminatory in practice.

There should be either be equal-opportunity funding for all religious education, or for none of it.

Given that choice, I'd say "none of it. "

Ontario's public education requirements would be best met by one non-denominational, well-funded public school system.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Bush on Who Regulates Private Military Contractors in Iraq

Jay Leno he isn't. But he continues to work at it.

Just embarrassing.

Staying with the topic of private military contractors for the moment, T.P.M.'s Josh Marshall has had a number of very strong posts on this recently.

He cites a reader's thoughts about the growing prominence of private mercenary forces:

My colleagues and I would often debate the merits of privatization back at that time as well. I worked in military intelligence, and I think this was one of the first areas to go private. It never made sense to us that the U.S. Government would pay a contractor 10 times (or more) what we were making to do the EXACT same thing and with no guarantees that the results would be on par with ours or better.

From my experience and that of my friends, we also came to know certain contracting operators WERE in fact incompetent. This stemmed from the fact that private companies jumping into the bidding process to get a piece of the pie had never before done the work that we were doing.

He also reports on congressional testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates:

In testimony yesterday, Sec Defense Bob Gates said that one of the issues he's most concerned about is the way that private contractors in Iraq lure away active duty members of the military with promises of much higher salaries -- often to do more or less the same stuff they're doing in uniform. In fact, that problem is so bad that he's looking into whether or not he can get soldiers to sign non-compete agreements to prevent them from getting headhunted by the private contractors who are allegedly there in Iraq working for us.

This really casts in a sharp, almost comedic relief what's happening in the privatization of our military and what's becoming of what we used to call the basis of state sovereignty -- the monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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See-Through Frogs

AFP via Yahoo News reported on this very cool scientific development today:

Japanese researchers have succeeded in producing see-through frogs, letting them observe organs, blood vessels and eggs under the skin without performing dissections.

"You can see through the skin how organs grow, how cancer starts and develops," said the lead researcher Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of state-run Hiroshima University.

"You can watch organs of the same frog over its entire life as you don't have to dissect it. The researcher can also observe how toxins affect bones, livers and other organs at lower costs," he told AFP.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Law Professor Humour

Alan Childress, Professor of Law at Tulane University Law School, on a hypothical telephone call a lawyer might make to a corporate client after losing big:

That reminded me of the hypothetical game some lawyers and I played back in the 80s: how would that one side of the telephone conversation go (a la Bob Newhart) if you had to make it to the client Texaco to tell them they (you) had just lost a 10 billion dollar verdict to Pennzoil? One answer is, "No. Billion with a b."

Another is, "I have some good news and some bad news: the good news is, you lost the case."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

U.N. - Iran Report Attacks Canada's Human Rights Record

From Winnipeg Free Press:

UNITED NATIONS -- In a bid to discredit Canada at the United Nations, Iran is equipping world diplomats with a 70-page booklet on Canada's alleged human rights violations.

Written by Iran "in the name of God," the document asserts that the Canadian government denies its people food, clean water and the right to work.

"Routine unlawful strip and beatings by Canadian police has been a matter of concern for international community," notes the booklet, entitled Report on Human Rights Situation in Canada, adding that "the practice of police is alarming simply because I it is functioning as if there is no need to have judges."

The publication, which claims its allegations are drawn from "objective and factual information released by authentic and credible international sources", alleges that a range of human rights violations occur in Canada, especially toward aboriginal peoples and immigrants.

"To the great dismay of the international community, it is a great concern that the rights of women are violated, and no serious attention has been paid in promotion and protection of women's rights in Canada."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Nineteen Years Ago

On September 24, 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson established a short-lived world record of 9.79 seconds in the 100-metre run, winning a gold medal at the Seoul Summer Olympics Games:

Johnson was subsequently stripped of the world record and his Olympic gold after testing positive for Stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid.

The resulting scandal led to the establishment of the Dubin Commission of Inquiry Into the Use of Drugs and Banned Practices Intended to Increase Athletic Performance, a Canadian judicial inquiry into the Johnson affair and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by competitive athletes.

The Johnson affair represented the first occasion in which athletic doping attracted a truly global spotlight. Its legacy is the establishment of substance-abuse policies and monitoring in most professional sports.

As the ongoing questions in professional baseball demonstrate, however, we have certainly not reached the point where anyone could seriously contend that professional, or amateur, sports are entirely "clean."

CBC has a great archive of stories and media on Ben Johnson.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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U.S. Spends $720 Million Daily on Iraq War: Washington Post

According to this Washington Post story the United States' Iraqi war effort is costing Americans a staggering $720,000,000 per day.

I'll repeat that: $720 million a day.

The money spent on one day of the Iraq war could buy homes for almost 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children, or could outfit 1.27 million homes with renewable electricity, according to the American Friends Service Committee, which displayed those statistics on large banners in cities nationwide Thursday and Friday.

The war is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, according to the group's analysis of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes.

The Post story also contains this stupefying nugget, in answer to those rather compelling mathematics:

But some supporters of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq say that even if the war is costly, that fact is essentially immaterial.

"Either you think the war in Iraq supports America's national security, or not," said Frederick W. Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"If you think national security won't be harmed by withdrawing from Iraq, of course you would want to see that money spent elsewhere. I myself think that belief, on a certain level, is absurd, so the question of focusing on how much money we are spending there is irrelevant."



For but one example of the way that view of "relevance" translates into actual budgetary policy, see this CNN story:

Bush vows to veto bipartisan kids' health care bill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a proposal Friday that would add $35 billion over five years to the [Children's Health Insurance Program], adding 4 million people to the 6.6 million already participating. It would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

But Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and seems like a move toward completely federalized health care (emphasis added).

There are an estimated 9 million kids in America without health insurance coverage.

Based on the Washington Post estimates, the annual medical expenses for every one of them could be paid with just a bit over three weeks of the war's allocated budget.

Not a bad trade-off at all.

But that's not how it goes in Washington: see Team Bush Wants $50B More for ‘08 Military Budget.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Dear Mr. President

Pink, Live at Wembley Arena.

No additional comment required.

(h/t: C&L)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Saturday, September 22, 2007


From the people bringing you Bob Dylan's new "Best Of" compilation (click here or click the pic):

Viral marketing genius at work.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Saturday Music Video - Bruce Springsteen

Home video of Bruce Springsteen, playing The River 'out on the street' in Copenhagen.

One of those You Tube rarities you stumble upon, these days.

I don't know who the excited guy playing along is, but:

Memo to Bruce Springsteen:

If you're able to stop off before your concert with the E-Street Band at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on October 15, I wouldn't mind jamming a bit, too.

Maybe at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton, after work?

I do mean versions of Thunder Road and Fire, by the way.

It'd be fun no?

Yah, me and Bruce.

That would be fun.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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What Exactly is Going On at Macleans Magazine?

We thought their Lawyers Gone Bad edition was a problem.

Well, the current cover of Macleans takes bad taste and irresponsibility to an entirely new level.

Aside from noting it as offensive, dumb and particularly unoriginal, one has to wonder.

Is this the only way to increase circulation?

Or, shall we just concede that the magazine is no longer to be considered journalism, and leave it at that.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

UPDATE: The always witty Wonkette comments:

Chimpy Mchitler Dept.: Country That Doesn't Even Have President Mocking Ours: Now that their “dollar” is no longer worth less than a real dollar (but they still have to pay more for our hardcover books, suckers!), the Canadians are getting uppity. The October cover of their cute “political magazine” Maclean’s portrays our President as a (distinguished gay British army general) Saddam Hussein. Shocking! And kinda funny! Look, they gave him a mustache! Spy probably did this already but do Canadians know what Spy is? It seems like they might not have enough bloggers. Also our northern neighbors are praying for poor Britney Spears

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Piling On the Goalie

After allowing an unremarkable (but certainly not embarrassing) three goals in his first exhibition game in the blue and white, new Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Vesa Toskala awakened to these headlines Friday morning:

Talk about being initiated by the hometown press.

Welcome to Toronto, Vesa.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Marcia and Jan

Breaking on the newswires.

I'm still dealing with it. Go read it for yourself.

UPDATE: Publisher denies internet rumour - Verifies it is "not true."

In related news, Hillary isn't.

And some people think Condi may be.


Thank you.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Chattin' Cheatin' Spouses

Cyberadultery gone very wrong, from Australia's The Daily Telegraph:

Online couple cheated with each other

A married couple who didn't realise they were chatting each other up on the internet are divorcing.

Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names "Sweetie" and "Prince of Joy" in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, reported.

The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing each other of being unfaithful.

"I was suddenly in love. It was amazing. We seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriage. How right that turned out to be," Sana, 27, said.

Adnan, 32, said: "I still find it hard to believe that Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years".

Awww, that's a shame. In the movies this tale of love renewed would have had a much happier ending, don't you think?

(h/t: Andrew Sulluvan)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Facebook Saves Lives

Finally - a tale that dispositively answers all the Facebook naysayers.

This true Toronto story is from Canadian Press:

Public health department uses Facebook to trace woman exposed to rabid bat

TORONTO - Some people use Facebook to keep in touch with old friends, others to make new ones. And at least one grateful woman has used the website to find the son she gave up for adoption.

But Toronto Public Health officials have put the online social network to what may be a new use - locating a woman who needed rabies shots because she had handled a rabid bat.

The department's manager of communications, Mary Margaret Crapper, said Toronto Public Health had explored all the traditional methods of trying to find the woman before turning to Facebook.

"Telephone book. Google. In situations like this we even went to the police to see if they may be able to assist. So yeah, we try a lot of different sources of information," Crapper said.

The department had even issued an advisory to the media. Several Toronto radio and television stations and newspapers alerted the public about its search for a woman who had dropped off an injured bat to the Toronto Wildlife Centre in early September. But no one stepped forward.

Then the idea of using Facebook was raised. One of Crapper's colleagues sent messages to a number of women on Facebook with names similar to the person they were seeking.

And Facebook delivered.

"Once we tried a few different spellings on Facebook, we had the individual within an hour," Crapper said.

(And no, I will not be making any "Crapper" jokes)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Another Ontario Lawsuit Challenges Universal Health Care

This Ontario Superior Court action was reported in the National Review of Medicine:

Ontario's single-payer healthcare system is on trial.

A new lawsuit, filed in Ontario Superior Court by two brain-tumour patients on September 5, alleges Ontario's injunction against private healthcare violates the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"If Ontario is not going to provide timely care in the public system it must not prohibit people from using their own resources to get care," says their lawyer, Avril Allen.

Using precedent established by the Supreme Court of Canada's controversial 2005 decision in Chaoulli v Quebec, the lawsuit challenges Ontario's laws against direct billing by physicians, private health insurance and facility fees for patients using MRI clinics. "Ontario has the most draconian prohibitions and penalties," says Ms Allen. In all other provinces, doctors can elect to opt out of medicare. "Our goal is to have the prohibitions invalidated. [Then] companies could start offering private health insurance, doctors could go out and start billing patients directly, and it could be the beginning of a private healthcare system.

Read On...

This case follows our September 9 update, Universal Health Care Challenged in Ontario Court, on another lawsuit commenced recently that seeks to change the way our health care system operates.

In both cases, Plaintiffs ask the Court to allow private, direct-fee clinics to operate and opt out of Ontario's public medicare system.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prof. Alan Young: Supreme Court of Canada Gives Carte Blanche to Police

Osgoode Hall Law School's outspoken law professor, Alan Young, is highly critical of of what he sees as the Supreme Court of Canada's continuing expansion of unchecked police search powers in Canada.

Writing in the Toronto's weekly Now Magazine, Young discusses the Court's approach to road-side spotchecks, and contends:

Like an old dog that cannot learn new tricks, the Supreme Court repeated its mistake this summer by giving its seal of approval to police roadblocks without setting any real limitations on the power.

... When a court grants carte blanche power to the police, it is effectively giving the police the tools to begin dismantling our Constitutional rights.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court will probably not notice until a police roadblock is set up at the entrance to the courthouse parking lot.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Cell Phone Class Action Certified in Saskatchewan

CBC reports on a pending class action suit by consumers that challenges the system acccess charges levied monthly by Canadian cell phone carriers:

A Saskatchewan court has certified a class-action lawsuit against Canada's cellphone companies for their "system access fee," which could ignite a struggle over billions of dollars consumers have paid to wireless providers for the monthly charge.

The suit, lodged by Montreal-based lawyer Tony Merchant, alleges that Canadians have been misled by the carriers into thinking the access fee — typically between $6.95 and $8.95 a month — was a tax by the government or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, when in fact it was simply extra revenue for cellphone companies.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Cornell University Daily Sun writer Tony Manfred, in The Obligatory Facebook Bashing Column:

...The problems blamed on Facebook are almost universally problems not with the system but the people within the system. If a high school kid has a picture of himself drinking at school posted on Facebook and he is suspended ex post facto, that is his fault for being an a idiot, not Facebook’s fault for allowing it. Giuliani’s daughter joining the Barack Obama Facebook group doesn’t make Facebook destructive; it makes Giuliani’s daughter destructive. Facebook is a medium through which young America is able to exhibit its aloofness and stupidity. Believe me, if you take that medium away, our stupidity will find another outlet. Columnists say that Facebook is ruining lives and destroying families because they refuse to accept that it is we who are the destroyers. In this culture of victimization Facebook has become the defendant-- a scapegoat for the inadequacies of the guilty.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Ontario Adoption Disclosure Law Struck Down

Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba has quashed Ontario's new Adoption Information Disclosure Act, holding that provisons of the Act contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Fredoms.

In Cheskes v. Ontario (Attorney General), the Court considered the constitutional validity of provisions that retroactively opened confidential adoption records maintained by the Province, and allowed birth parents and adopted children to access identifying information about each other without the consent of the person being identified.

The new law had been in effect for only two days before this ruling

As noted in this Toronto Star report, the Court struck the statute "because it violates the privacy of adoptees and birth parents who want their records to remain sealed."

National Post also has the story:

Adoptees and birth parents will no longer be privy to the personal information contained in adoption records after Ontario Superior Court Wednesday struck down nascent legislation that allowed past adoption records to be opened. ... Wednesday's ruling, issued by Justice Edward Belobaba, quashed that legislation.

..."The applicants object to the fact that their identities will be disclosed to persons that they would least want to have this information. Whether or not contact actually takes place in breach of the no-contact provision is a secondary concern," he wrote.

The ruling found parts of the legislation dealing with access to birth registration information unconstitutional.

"People expect, and are entitled to expect, that the government will not share [confidential personal] information without their consent," said the court. "The protection of privacy is undeniably a fundamental value in Canadian society, especially when aspects of one's individual identity are at stake."

The full text of Justice Belobaba's adoption disclosure decision in Cheskes v. Ontario (Attorney General is here.

For other press coverage of the decision, see:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Touchgraph is fairly new Internet toy that allows surfers to graphically "explore the connections between related websites." Currently, there are browser applications for Google and Facebook.

The Google version displays a visual representation of websites that link to each other. After the user enters any url or search term, a diagram is generated that depicts the site's (or search query's) interconnectness with other websites online.

And naturally, the Facebook version displays a graph of connected people and their posted photos.

By way of illustration, here's what part of Wise Law Blog's touchgraph looks like (click to enlarge):

This is, of course, yet another interesting way to enjoy your "spare" time (and impress all your friends).

(h/t: WebProNews)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maryland Court of Appeal Nixes Same-Sex Marriage

Appeal Court: Marriage is Between A Man And A Woman

From Reuters:

Maryland's highest court ruled on Tuesday that marriage is between a man and a woman, overturning a lower court ruling and dashing the hopes of nine same-sex couples who wanted legal protection for long-term partners.

The state's appeals court, in a 4-3 decision, said the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining heterosexual marriage as the institution that allows procreation and the traditional family structure.

"Our task ... is to determine whether the right to same-sex marriage is so deeply embedded in the history, tradition and culture of this state and nation that it should be deemed fundamental," the court wrote in a 244-page opinion. "We hold that it is not."

The full text of the same-sex marriage ruling of the Maryland Court of Appeals in Frank Conaway, et al. v. Gitanjali Deane , et al is here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Quebec - Federal By-Elections

Results are here.

Liberals were shut out, losing one seat, while the Tories, Bloc and NDP each claimed one victory in the three Quebec by-elections held yesterday.

Not good for Stephane Dion

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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College Newspapers Respond to Facebook Changes

Universities and colleges are back in session, and student newspapers are turning their attention to the changes now overwhelming their beloved, and once-exclusive Facebook.

And they don't like it.

At all.

But they're not talking about boycotting - or heaven forbid, leaving altogether.

Except this student.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Hillary Clinton's Health Care Plan

Hillary Clinton launched her US health care reform plan yesterday.

Branded as the "American Health Choices Plan," Clinton's proposal calls for mandatory purchase of health care insurance by all Americans, with federal subsidies to be provided to individuals and businesses to ensure affordability.

A summary of Clinton's health care proposal is now on her campaign website. The full plan is here.

According to the Clinton website:

Hillary Clinton unveiled the third part of her plan to ensure that all Americans have affordable, quality health insurance. Building on her proposals to rein in costs and to insist on value and quality, her American Health Choices Plan will secure, simplify and ensure choice in health coverage for all Americans. This Plan covers every American - finally addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured and the tens of millions of workers with coverage who fear they could be one pink slip away from losing their health coverage - with no overall increase in health spending or taxes. For those with health insurance, the plan builds on the current system to give businesses and their employees greater choice of health plans - including keeping the one they have - while lowering cost and improving quality.

To the spoiled eye of this lifelong beneficiary of Canadian universal health care, the Clinton proposal looks to be far more complicated than is truly necessary. Nonetheless, Clinton's plan provides an immediate, pragmatic solution to the tragic problem of the millions of Americans who are entirely without health insurance.

As the U.S. election cycle now begins its swing into full gear, it will be very interesting to see the health care alternatives offered by each of the candidates.

For full press coverage of the Hillary Plan, see:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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