Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

A Dead Judge

Seoul_graffiti

So Judge Antonin Scalia passed away and the US presidential election got even more interesting. The current president still has eleven months to nominate a judge, and really, there’s no reason he shouldn’t. Whoever he nominates of course would be met with opposition from the people on the other side of the political spectrum, but to not nominate anyone would seem like an abdication of duty. It would be interesting to see the opposition and how the president could push the nomination through. Even Megatron, a robot that literally transforms into a gun, would face strong opposition from the right.

Judge Antonin Scalia, in my opinion, was one of the worst judges ever. Sure, there were a few times when he sounded reasonable and his writing style can be amusing, but all too often he was pro-torture, a champion of states’ rights (which in practice meant taking away people’s rights), and a pro-life nut. In many cases involving race, he refuses to recognize the disadvantage of being a colored minority in America. He was backwards when it comes to marriage equality, and has been described by Congressman Barney Frank as a homophobe. He was pro death penalty, even to those under 15 at the time of the crime. He was one of the judges which gave George Bush the presidency, which ironically led the US to Iraq, which led to his son being in Iraq. One of the worst decisions he made was the defense of the Citizens United decision and redefined personhood, free speech, and corruption.

Still, in his death, even some liberals lionized him and praised his brilliance. He was brilliant as a judge, but not as a human being regarding those judgments. It’s like praising Hitler for being a great leader in the most mechanical of senses, but a terrible human being. In the future, I’m hopeful that we’ll see him as being mostly on the wrong side of history.

As ghoulish as it is to look at the positive side of his passing, this is a good opportunity for Americans to finally tip the scales of the political leanings of their supreme court. In some ways, I’m a tad jealous of this. The Canadian Supreme Court has seven out of nine court judges appointed by conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Chief Justice is a libertarian, but she’s currently 72 years old and the mandatory retirement age for judges is 75. The Harper-appointed judges are anywhere from 50 to 68 years-old. Granted, the Supreme Court of Canada hasn’t been as conservative as one would expect. In fact, it often went up against the Harper government that nominated most of its members. The court was against mandatory minimum sentences and protected safe injections sites among some of its more progressive decisions. There were often talks about the Harper government losing to the Supreme Court, especially when it comes to drug cases. But it’s not nearly as progressive as one would expect out of Canadians. (Or perhaps I’m being foolish here and looking at left and right politics in a branch of government designed to ignore such leanings. But that’s just being naïve, isn’t it?)

This is one of those rare cases where I look at the South Korean justice system and see what the Canadian and the US system could benefit from it. In South Korea, judges in the supreme court are not given a lifetime appointment. They’re only given four years. A four year appointment, in my opinion, might make them open to political sway, especially when considering their position after their appointment, much like politicians turning into political lobbyists. However, a lifetime appointment doesn’t insulate a judge from political forces either. Just look at Clarence Thomas. Perhaps a middle position would be wise. Instead of a lifetime or a near-lifetime appointment, maybe a ten-year appointment would be better. It would ensure the regular flow of new blood into the judicial system and not have political legacies continue long after they’re in fashion. Looking at Scalia, he was Reagan’s ghost, a two-term president who extended his influence far longer than his eight years. This seems to be counter to what a democracy should be.

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Fear of the Same Thing

Vishnu

Last week was a good week for Canada. It’s been a decade since we had Harper and the conservatives, and it’s been decade of Canada becoming more and more like its southern neighbor. Canada’s become more polluted and more reliant on dirty energy exploration. Many of our protected lakes are no longer protected and Aboriginal communities continue to be marginalized. There were even talks about abolishing our healthcare system to something more similar to the one in the United States.

And while I didn’t vote this election (I was not allowed.) and would’ve been very happy should NDP have taken control of the government, I’m glad that Justin Trudeau won. It’s still very early and he has not done anything yet, but at least Harper is out of office. This is the same elated feeling back when Barrack Obama won in 2008. We didn’t know what Obama was about back then, but at least he was not George Bush. The anti-Bush sentiment was so overwhelming that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for not being bush (A senseless gesture in my opinion, since Obama is just as pro-military as his predecessor.). I just hope that our new Prime Minister lives up to his promises and not be as empty and as pro-corporation as Barrack Obama.

Canadians woke up from their conservative slumber and decided to get their voices heard and try to affect some change in the country. It was a good week to feel hopeful, to be optimistic about our future. I’m very optimistic as well. But looking down south, it is a cautious optimism.

I notice Vice has been doing a lot of stories related to Winnipeg lately. I tend to get very suspicious when news aggregators keep on pushing people and stories to their viewers when they really don’t belong in the headlines (I’m looking at you, Huffington Post! Stop trying to get me to like Trevor Noah!). I don’t mind agenda in journalism, but it gets tiring and disheartening when the agenda is marketing. Anyway, the Winnipeg-related stories, while unusually frequent, seem to tell a common theme of the government marginalizing certain segments of the population. In Winnipeg’s case, it’s the Aboriginal population.

At least that’s what I previously thought. It’s the government that didn’t care. It’s the government that continues to ignore these poor communities. Then I send the videos to a few people. These people immediately got bored. These people weren’t that affected. It’s not the government; it’s a lot of Canadians, even the “progressive” ones.

This brings me back to the elections. And while Trudeau promises to make positive changes to conservative policies that have harmed the country, I wonder if that promise for a better future extends to all of Canada. A few weeks ago, Harper claimed that most cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women are solved. This is typical of many people’s attitudes regarding Aboriginal issues, not just conservatives. “It has already been taken care of.”

Here’s hoping that the government, and most people who claim to be progressive, will be more concerned about Aboriginal issues.

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Art, “Terror,” and a bit about Godaddy

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An art opening, an art opening! Got a gallery show opening this weekend with a couple of other artists. Exciting stuff. It’s always good to meet new artists and see what kind of works other people are into. I also learned that I’m not the only foreign artist in the country who dabbled in making action figures.

Despite Korea being quite small, I’ve never been to this city right next to Seoul where we’re having the exhibition (Ilsan, northwest of Seoul). The place seems quite young and the architecture feels foreign to me. It’s almost as if I’m walking in Japan. I would hang out in Ilsan more if it wasn’t an hour and a half away from where I live. And really, there are far too many bars near where I live for me to wander far in order to get a drink. My neighborhood has made me lazy.

Are we feeling better now, Canada? Are we all good? I gotta say, the overall reaction to the shooting a couple of days ago was far more level-headed than one would expect if it happened down south. No giant panics and no moral outrages. No one is going after swaths of Muslim populations. What troubles me though is the almost too-canadian rumored reaction from our Prime Minister during the shooting: that he hid in a closet. How Canadian is that, eh? “Mr. Prime Minister, a gun man is causing trouble outside, you’d better get inside this closet!” Can’t we at least get a panic room or something?

On a more serious note however, I’m more troubled with Canadian politicians and Americans calling the whole thing an “act of terror.” Glenn Greenwald made a good point about it, and it’s something I always felt was the general bias when it comes to the liberal use of Western force in other countries. The shooter targeted Canadian military. As cowardly in terms of the attack coming out of nowhere as it is, there appears to be an effort not to harm civilians, but only to harm soldiers and those in power. Sure, there was an element of “terror,” but wouldn’t the act of combatants attacking others who are technically combatants be classified as par for the course in war? It wasn’t an act of terror. It was war, and Canada has been at war (against vague terror) along with the United States for over a decade now.

Calling the attack an act of terror, in my mind, does two things. One, it is used as another piece of propaganda for more war, more money for the military, and more kids being sent to fight overseas. What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan? For what purpose are we there for? Couldn’t Canada find a better way to achieve these goals outside of military intervention?

The other thing it does is that it defines the word “terror.” It was an act of terror when a man targeted soldiers and a government facility. I’m not going to argue against that because it definitely was terrible and I do feel for the victim and his family. I’ll give you that. It was an act of terror. He did not shoot civilians, but that poor soldier did not see it coming and did not deserve getting shot that day. But how do we define the actions of the US military when they bomb innocent civilians through signature strikes? How do we define the thousands of deaths in the vague “war on terror?” These are actions which kill not only supposed terrorists, but also civilians. Aren’t the people living in these neighborhoods also terrorized?

Now, I’m not saying that United States is a monster for conducting a terrorist campaign on several nations in what appears to be a disproportionate act of vengeance. What I’m saying is that “terror,” “acts of terror,” and “war against terror” are all horribly vague and maleable terms. They are trump cards which justify horrible actions and push forward shortsighted government policies. Sure, we can call something an “act of terror.” What happened in Canada was an act of terror. But let’s also examine our own terrible actions and see exactly how terrible we have been.

Problems with Godaddy again. Well, I don’t know if it’s Godaddy, Korea’s fickle Internet, or whatever. Ugh!

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From Your Buddy

Reyes_Joseph_Assiniboine_12inx14in

Hey Canada! What’s going on? You haven’t been the same lately. We really need to talk sometime. I know things are kinda shitty right now, but we’ll pull through.

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