The Politics of Ethnic Fraud

Guest post by Avigail Eisenberg

When I was growing up, my best friend and I would play what I now recognize to be a kind of ‘Jewish identity game’. We would identify different celebrities and historical figures who were Jewish or partly Jewish. My friend was much better than I at this game. She told me that Goldie Hawn was Jewish as was Sigmund Freud, and Bob Dylan. It wasn’t all good news – she claimed Hitler was partly Jewish as was Stalin (no idea where she got this). But there was lots of compensation for these stains in people like Karl Marx and Sammy Davis Jr! She had a book about Jewish communities all over the world, with pictures of the Chinese Jewish community, Indian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, and many more that I’m forgetting. There was no winning or losing this game (no fact checking or challenging). It was about impressing ourselves about our shared identity by creating a sense that so many people (and especially celebrities like Goldie Hawn!) were part of our tribe.… Continue reading

Voting rights for non-resident citizens

Guest post by Blain Neufeld

So there will be a federal election in Canada on October 19th. I’m a Canadian citizen. But from 2007 to this year I was not able to vote in federal Canadian elections. The reason is that – despite living in Canada on a regular, albeit sporadic, basis (2-3 months every year, depending upon my teaching schedule) – my primary residence was abroad (Ireland until 2008, the United States from 2008 to 2014). Fortunately, my year in Toronto has ‘re-booted’ my residency here, so I will be able to vote in the forthcoming election.  But more than a million other Canadians who live abroad will not be able to do so.Since 1993, Canadians who live abroad for more than 5 years have been ineligible to vote.  Until 2007, however, merely visiting Canada was enough to ‘reset the clock’ with respect to one’s status (that is, after a visit, one would have to be away for another 5 years in order to lose the right to vote).  … Continue reading

The Ghomeshi Affair and the Ethical Power of Consent

The internet is abuzz with reactions to Jian Ghomeshi’s dismissal from the CBC. At this point, it is unclear what exactly Ghomeshi did to whom and how whatever he did could be grounds for his dismissal. There are allegations from three anonymous women that Ghomeshi violently assaulted them during sex and a fourth claims he told her at work: “I want to hate fuck you.” Ghomeshi’s response has been to claim that the allegations of non-consensual ‘rough sex’ are false and that those making the allegations are liars. He does not dispute that he has engaged in BDSM practices with women but he insists that the activities that he has engaged in have all been fully consensual and thus are above reproach. Brenda Cossman, a professor of law at University of Toronto, has already pointed out that in Canadian law consent to violence is not always sufficient to immunize oneself against a criminal charge of assault.… Continue reading

National Daycare? I Feel Good!

Joe recently asked “How do we feel about a national daycare program?” Unlike Joe I am not ambivalent about the NDP proposal to create a national daycare program. Indeed to quote James Brown: “I feel good!” The opportunity to have children and raise a family is highly valued by most people. Similarly, the opportunity to have a satisfying job or rewarding career is valued by most people. It reasonable for the state to adopt policies aimed at ensuring that these opportunities are available to all citizens on a reasonably equal basis. Of course, today Canadians do not enjoy anything like equal access to these opportunities. ‘Fat cats’ like Joe and me have much better access to these opportunities than most Canadians. We have the resources that permit us to readily combine our career projects and our family projects. Lots of people find it much more difficult to combine work and family.… Continue reading

Three Faces of Canadian Homophobia

Thankfully most Canadians find the homophobic bigotry of people like Rob Ford as repugnant and silly as Ford himself. Of course, it remains disturbing that polls suggest that some 20% of Toronto Area voters seemed prepared to vote for Ford even though he has been disgraced and discredited along so many so many dimensions it is hard to keep track. Perhaps some of these people are bamboozled by Ford’s insistence that he is ‘spendaphobic’ rather than ‘homophobic’. But in wake of Ford’s well-known refusal to participate in Pride celebrations, his boozed and drug fueled rants and his petty (and apparently sober) refusal to support a study of homeless shelter space for LGBT youth Ford has become the ugly face of Canadian homophobia. Ford’s variety of homophobia, replete with familiar hateful epithets and evident anxiety about with even distant association with anything vaguely gay, is easy to dismiss and mock. Indeed, Ford himself is such a buffoon that he provides an unwitting performative self-refutation of this variety of homophobia.… Continue reading

Modestly Resisting Political Amnesia

Catherine recently posted a reminder that the Harper’s government’s scandalous and wholly unfounded attack on the Chief Justice of Supreme Court has faded from public view without any satisfactory resolution of the matter. On May 1 2014, Harper impugned the integrity of the Chief Justice by falsely suggesting that the Chief Justice had wrongly tried to contact him to discuss possible problems with his proposed appointment to the Supreme Court. Despite being pressed by hundreds legal academics and lawyers to set the record straight, Harper has steadfastly refused to even acknowledge that his remarks were inappropriate, let alone apologize for them. Regrettably, Harper’s decision to stubbornly carry on as though he has done nothing wrong is a reflection of some cynical but probably accurate calculations about the half-life of this kind of political scandal. My guess is that Harper and his political advisors have calculated that the controversy about disrespecting the Chief Justice will be forgotten before it has the chance to do any real political damage.… Continue reading

In LNG We Trust

Here in BC, the government has become a strict adherent to the LNG faith. (If you live in BC you’ll already know what LNG stands for. But for the rest of you, it means Liquefied Natural Gas.) The Liberal government believes that development of a massive LNG industry in the province is the best way to secure heaven on earth or at least future economic prosperity. So it is orientating a great deal of public policy toward devout pursuit of the promised salvation of LNG. I venture no opinion here about whether the gospel of LNG is sound economic policy. My concern is how the narrow evangelical focus on LNG is having a deleterious effect on the government’s understanding and approach to higher education.

The government says it wants “re-engineer” education to orient it directly to providing job training. This re-engineering is intended to ensure that there will be a suitably skilled labour force ready to fill the thousands of new jobs it anticipates the LNG venture will create.… Continue reading

Political Assholes

Aaron James, a philosopher at University of California Irvine, has a wonderful short book entitled Assholes: A Theory (Doubleday 2012). The title may suggest that it is a silly pop philosophy book aimed at titillation rather than illumination. But it’s actually a highly insightful and persuasive analysis of what it means to be an asshole as opposed to a schmuck, bitch, or psychopath. Crucially for James being an asshole involves a specific kind of moral failing and it is the character of this moral failing that makes assholes both infuriating and destructive to valuable forms of social cooperation. The theory in a nutshell has three components. The asshole: “(1) allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically; (2) does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement; and (3) is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other”.  (James offers a brief summary of his theory here.Continue reading

Voter suppression in Quebec

I honestly cannot believe that I have occasion to write about the ugly politics of voter suppression in Quebec. Until recently, I assumed that all political parties in the province were committed to respecting the integrity of the electoral process and would not engage in political rhetoric designed to disenfranchise legitimate voters. But a desperate Pauline Marois has decided to play the democratic theft card. She has been quoted as saying: “It makes me sick to my stomach to even think that someone would try to cheat the democratic system”.  

One might assume that her queasiness was occasioned by the recording of a McGill PhD student being denied the right to vote by an official in St. Henri. But no. Apparently, her nausea was created by the thought that citizens whose political support she cannot count upon might be granted the right to vote. Marois’s putative concern was echoed by Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud who raised the specter of voter fraud when he asked: “Will the Quebec election be stolen by people from Ontario and from the rest of Canada?” Marois and St-Arnaud clearly don’t want Anglophone students residing in Quebec to have the right to vote in the Quebec election. … Continue reading

I’m Not A Real Journalist But I Play One On TV

On Sunday evening I watched 60 Minutes. One of the pieces featured the Canadian journalist Morley Safer examining new ‘drone’ technology that permits remotely controlled model aircraft to fly around neighborhoods with digital cameras. The episode was not exactly hard hitting journalism but it did raise some issues about technology and privacy. Soft as the piece was, I assumed that Safer was presenting a news story and not a piece of fictional entertainment.

Then I turned on the Netflix series House of Cards and who did I see? Morley Safer playing himself as a hard-hitting journalist from 60 Minutes pressing a fictional Vice-President of the United States about an alleged political scandal. Safer is not the only journalist who has had a cameo appearance on House of Cards. Kelly O’Donnell, NBC News, Ashleigh Banfield, CNN, Candy, Crowley, CNN, Sean Hannity, Fox News, Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, Chris Matthews, MSNBC, Chris Hayes, MSNBC, Morris Jones, ABC 7, Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News, Major Garrett, CBS News and Scott Thuman, ABC 7 have all ‘played themselves’ on the hit show.… Continue reading