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Busy, busy

You may need the whole weekend to catch up on everything I've done this week... I'm getting tired here just summarizing it. The Friday signed column for the Post is a plea for executive clemency in the Marc Emery extradition case. (As is usual when I write about such subjects, the online notices have been exceedingly favourable and the personal e-mail has been illiterate and vituperative.) A post-Iowa editorial I wrote for Saturday's paper is viewable at the Full Comment page. Here's another Full Comment entry pointing to a New Yorker article I liked. And I also popped up at the American Spectator website this week with a look back at the ever-spreading effect of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing substances in baseball. Which, in turn, spawned an interesting comment thread over at the Baseball Think Factory.


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Comments (21)

I don't think the argument in favor of Marc Emery holds water. The seed law in Canada wasn't a dead letter, it was just not an enforcement priority.

Any argument that it's all about the sovereignty doesn't work for me. They asked, using the proper mechanism, and we held up our end of the deal.

Emery's business was substantially about sending seeds from a lax (but not lawful) jurisdiction to the US itself. He can't use the border as a shield for his illegal activity. And I'm not saying that as someone who cares much about marijuana either way; I'm saying that as someone who is unimpressed by any protestation on Emery's behalf, considering how blatantly he invited prosecution.

Not the point of the hit in the Spectator, but I'll believe that football is more popular than baseball in every way when they start selling tickets to 81 home games annually.

You are perfectly free to argue that it makes sense for us to apply some particular law only when the American government asks us to, and never when it doesn't. (Emery still hasn't been charged with a crime by or in Canada, and the penalty assessed against the only person convicted in living memory of selling marijuana seeds was a $200 fine.) But arguing that this has nothing to do with our sovereignty is like arguing that snow has nothing to do with winter.

None of the critics of my column have bothered to answer the counterfactual question that concludes it. You all know perfectly well what the answer is.


Oh do share some of the illiterate and vituperative... Idiots are the gift that keeps on giving


I think your argument falls down when you state that the crime is commited entirely on Canadian soil. Shipping an illegal substance to another country? What if someone in Texas started shipping assualt weapons considered legal there, but banned here. I think our government would indeed ask for that person to be extradited.

The action has to be an offence on both sides of the border, guy. Since mail-order gun sales were banned in the U.S. in the '60s, it doesn't come up much.

Okay, but I think that, to respond to your counterfactual, the answer is that Canadians would claim that the US had abrogated its extradition treaty obligations.

And they would be right.

The fact that there's a difference between legislative priorities (selling seeds is illegal in Canada) and enforcement priorities (selling seeds is not prosecuted much) is not, as far as I can tell, material.

Emery has reaped what he has sown. I guess I'm too in thrall to all those English lit classes to resist such a perfect image :).

As far as you can tell, there's no relevant difference between the penalty Emery faces here and the penalty he faces in the U.S.? We don't even send fugitive mass murderers south because the death penalty conflicts with our pious liberal values, for God's sake. My argument is that flinging a marijuana-seed vendor into a U.S. federal oubliette with the Unabomber would conflict with our values far more dramatically. And I'd like to add that THIS IS TOTALLY OBVIOUS, because we don't even bother to prosecute these people.

Ryan, the nutjobs who more or less explicitly want Emery to be immured and tortured actually have a stronger argument than you do--they, at least, are expressing their own insane priorities, and might conceivably even be under the deranged delusion that these represent some wider moral consensus of Canadians. The ones, that is, who aren't totally fucking high half the time.

Okay, Colby, now you're on the side of our pious liberal values. I'm not sure I take you seriously any more.

Also, a values-based argument is one that I, essentially, resist at all times. To the extent that Canada has "values" that differ from the US on this issue, I think it is not too much to ask that the legislation reflect that difference.

Sometimes I think I'm the last person in the country who actually pays attention to what laws say.

I'm on the side of people not going to jail forever for victimless crimes. And I'm on the side of Canadians implementing Canadian law according to the will of the Canadian people, not American prosecutors. We shouldn't have to answer to the Americans for implementing it in a hypocritical manner.


> Nor will we be sowing the
> record books with asterisks

Why the Hell not? These drugs move the nature of athletic excellence from a match of natural gifts and individual effort into something completely impersonal... Shouldn't your precious databases acknowledge this? Would a crippled child of the 1920's admire our contemporary fearlessness toward polio, or simply envy our synthetic resistance to it?

> unless we want the actual
> accounting of events to be
> washed away in a sea of them.

When you say "actual accounting" like that, it's almost like you mean something special... Something other than "The odious truth about these 'achievements' interrupts the good clean fun we had during the first 12 decades of the game [last six, if you count since Robinson]. Best to sweep this extra info under the rug."

> The sport did not introduce serious
> randomized screening for performance
> enhancers until 2004.

Don't be clerk-y.


All right, I withdraw "completely" and assert "convincingly."

These drugs move the nature of athletic excellence from a match of natural gifts and individual effort into something completely impersonal... Shouldn't your precious databases acknowledge this?

It's not what they're for.


The decision to extradite is by its nature an exercise of sovereignty. And it is exactly the same exercise of sovereignty to grant extradition as to deny it.

It's true that the treatment Emery is receiving is completely inconsistent with our normal practise. That would be a good argument if it weren't for the fact that our normal practise is obviously and stupidly wrong. Your position is that because we usually get it wrong, we have forfeited the right ever to get it right, even once.

The real question is, is Marc Emery worth antagonizing the Americans over? Look, maybe he is. I support him, and I don't think the Americans would actually do very much about it if we refused to turn him over. And if they did, they'd do it to Easterners, so who cares. But that's the issue, and red herring appeals to chauvinism don't contribute to its resolution.


We are willing to deny extradition where the defendent will face death, so as a society have no trouble using the severity as punishment as an excuse in some cases. Now that there is precedent we should have no trouble applying this to all crimes and especially those where ridiculous US drug laws are part of the equation.


> It's not what they're for.

The drugs or the databases? Being short and tubby and passive, sports were never a big interest. But growing up in the 60's and 70's it seemed like people who cared about sports could be trusted when they said that games (Olympic and otherwise) really demonstrated something about human nature. It's hard to see how anyone could make that case nowadays. Especially when the persuasion begins with 'Well, things were always kinda dirty....'

You're probably right about the football thing, but I'm not sure that nourishes your larger point. The problem really is with sports guys who take drugs, not with my "schizophrenia." Men risk health as coal miners, too, and we often wish they wouldn't. But they do it for money. It really doesn't teach us anything.

Also, that Cousineau guy is just being a big meany. I still take you seriously... And with that and US$1.56, you can get a cuppa coffee.

Matt: the death-penalty exclusion has always been very specific. Indeed, we routinely extradite criminals for offenses where the US punishments are more severe than the Canadian ones (that includes murder, where life sentences in the US are generally more...life-like...than in Canada).

Crid, you big suck-up (hm, maybe I really am a big meany): I daresay that clean or dirty, games demonstrate something about human nature.

Virtually as far back as the sport goes, cycling has had one or another drug problem. In the 60s and 70s, Eddy Merckx (basically the Gretzky of the sport, only even more of an outlier in terms of raw sport-dominance) was busted for steroids (he said at the time that it was a setup, for what it's worth).

Of course, at the time the penalty was a two-week suspension.

The issue with drugs in sports has several key factors, but nowadays I boil them down to this:

-most banned drugs and processes are pretty harmful to your health

-above a fairly small critical-mass level, users of drugs in a sport will tend to force non-users to convert to users in order to remain competitive. That is difficult to abide.

-it is surprisingly hard to detect abuses through drug testing. The most notable drug busts in cycling have usually involved the cops catching the riders with drugs in their possession rather than with drugs in their system.

If I had to distill my drug-in-sport objection, it is that while there are many human activities where top performers swore by drugs as performance enhancers (mathematician Paul Erdos was an avid user of benzedrine, and if it helped, I'd encourage him), sport is not per-se more "productive" if everyone takes drugs.

More math production (or better theorems) tend to aid the human condition, whether it be more human knowledge, or more fodder for computer programmers so they can make better encoding for whatever (a ton of "useless" pure math got very useful once computers were invented).

Sport, on the other hand, isn't more inspiring if it's incrementally faster. You want to see the best athletes play against the best opponents, but the all-clean event isn't less "productive" of human inspiration than the all-dirty event (the part-dirty event arguably is the least interesting, since you assume the dopers have a distorting advantage over the non-dopers).


Surely the only reason to ban performance-enhancing drugs is that they are, pretty much without exception, extremely harmful to health. Poisoning your employees to make them work harder is obviously unethical. (Poisoning yourself is arguably your right, but it can't be good policy to encourage it.)

But if a performance-enhancing drug could be shown to be perfectly safe, it would presumably be made compulsory, rather than banned.


> Surely the only reason
> to ban performance-enhancing
> drugs is

There are others! 1.) Drugs got nothing to do with the reasons we admire athletic achievement. 2.) Even safe drugs would not be universally available a low prices for every contender to enjoy, particularly in international contests like the Olympics. 3.) Their use needlessly queers the meaning of Colby's record books. 4.) A whole bunch of other stuff that hasn't come to mind without waking up.

Crid is largely right, but keep in mind that "doping" in modern sport includes things like autologous blood doping (where the only "drug" is your own, previously withdrawn blood), and nearly included altitude tents (which were substantially a cheaper, more controllable substitute for living in Colorado).

Gene therapy has been proscribed, but I don't even know if there's been any attempts to use it yet, or if it could be detected.

Drugs are arguably among the cheaper exotic performance enhancements, with stuff like altitude tents, elite coaching programs, and top equipment figuring very far into the cost factor.

In the last few years of Lance Armstrong's career, Trek spent enormous amounts of money developing a special bike that was a bit more aerodynamic than usual. It was tested by Armstrong in some early-season races, but he couldn't get comfortable on the bike, and he never used it in the Tour de France.


> the only "drug" is your
> own, previously withdrawn
> blood

Yeah, sure: If you took every physiological factor from the best moment of my health across a lifetime and set it aside for the competition, then, like, yeah... I mighta done better. But that ain't how it goes. These guys (and gals, Ms. Jones!) are expected to do well at the hour printed on the face of the ticket.


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