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January 2009 Archives

January 1, 2009

Odometer rollover

My last column for 2008: a short consideration of the latest, and most laughable, fake Holocaust memoir. 2009's first: analyzing the logic of the latest PR offensive by Rod Bruinooge and his underground parliamentary pro-life caucus.

January 2, 2009

Shorter Garth Woolsey

The NFL: there's so much parity these days! Except, er, a team went 16-0 for the first time ever last year. And then somebody went 0-16 for the first time ever this year. But that was so crazy, I bet it somehow proves my point! [Falls asleep at typewriter, mashes keys randomly with face]

January 4, 2009

Weekend Google-Print-Search-ology

Recently spotted: A.E. Housman's charming little monograph on a subject otherwise shrouded in mystery until his day—the question of the Latin word for "ass". Apparently it was subject to something like the same problem English used to have concerning the device now called a "toilet".

In English, down to the 19th century, the beast which carried Balaam was generally and almost universally, both in speech and in writing, denominated the ass. It is so no longer: the name ass, except in metaphor as a term of contempt or insult, has disappeared from conversation and from most kinds of print, and survives only in serious poetry and in prose of some solemnity. The name donkey, first printed in 1785 in a dictionary of slang, has usurped its place. It is possible that in Latin, in the 1st century before Christ, an analogous but contrary change befel the usage of asinus...

Heh. Ass.

January 6, 2009

Still fighting the last war

My Tuesday column: maybe the NDP should just try to forget that "illicit" audiotape of their caucus conference call instead of pursuing the half-baked legal arguments against it.

January 7, 2009

The lie I didn't tell

Earlier this month, in a Post column, entitled, "Pro-life absurdity," Colby Cosh ramped up a remarkable attack on Christianity—as if no other religious groups or non-religious groups oppose abortion-on-demand—by making the astounding claim that, "It has only been in the last 40 years that there has been any real controversy about the ethical status of abortion."

For the record, the Roman Catholic Church—and no, I'm not a member—has opposed abortion on ethical grounds since around the year 100, as have most major world religions. -Claire Hoy

For the record, I got a lot of e-mails about this: all were from Christians (almost as if no other religious tradition has a bug so far up its ass about abortion-on-demand) and none successfully explained how these two facts actually contradict one another. I never wrote that abortion hasn't been considered a sin throughout history, though plenty of otherwise friendly commentators took that to be my meaning. I wrote that it has not continually been treated as morally equivalent to premeditated murder—which is what therapeutic abortion obviously is, if a fetus is endowed with the full package of human moral entitlements at the instant the egg is fertilized. It turns out to be rather hard to find Church figures who denounce abortion as deliberate homicide for a period of about 1,700 years of history.

To reassert the context that Claire omits:

It has only been in the last 40 years that there has been any real controversy about the ethical status of abortion. Medieval thinkers generally considered that it did not become homicide until (at least) the first exterior signs of activity in the womb; English common law refused to punish even positive infanticide as a species of murder; and in Victorian accounts of abortion prosecutions, it is clear that the chief concern of the authorities was not with the fate of a child, but with unwed mothers using risky means, ones inimical to the family structure, to conceal evidence of personal misconduct.

If anyone has a factual objection to the bold-faced material in that paragraph, they haven't been successful at making it to me yet.

January 9, 2009

B.C.'s Hail Mary pass

Friday's column sizes up the long-term prospects for Canada's polygamy law to survive Supreme Court scrutiny. They seem very slender, unless the court is willing to inflict grievous violence on established precedent concerning the Charter right to freedom of religion. Of course, lawyers have been telling the B.C. government the law's a dud for nigh on 20 years; any analytical contribution I might make doesn't add up to much in the face of that.

God, just shut up already, Richard Gwyn

Would someone please write a book about John A. Macdonald called EVIL DRUNKEN ASSHOLE? I swear I would run, not walk, to buy this. The myth of Macdonald is (with all due respect to Will Ferguson) still crying out for the frank calumny that is the just reward of every great man. It is not as though an honest polemic against him would lack for material; it's all there in the existing history books, guarded by the bestial excuse that a little corruption, deceit, jingoism, and unjust war must be overlooked in the quest to build a nation. Most of those who dip pen in inkwell to praise Macdonald would never accept the same defences in the case against George W. Bush. But then again, many of those who unthinkingly refer to him as "Sir John A." (a neat compaction of veneration and chumminess that is the eternal shibboleth of the toady) are the same people who snickered at Conrad Black for seeking a knighthood and peddled outrageous historical misrepresentations in the effort to prevent him obtaining it.

He makes a lousy plaster saint anyway. If we were as conscious of our past as we ought to be, the old fight between Macdonald and Laurier would still be alive, alive in the lurid hues of a Jacques-Louis David.

January 13, 2009

The new 'superjuice' also improves self-reported karaoke skills 40%

In today's column, Manitoba Indian bands and legal authorities descend to the level of low comedy. Albeit awesomely great low comedy.

Since I went to the trouble of finding it

Here's the link to that hilarious "Great Overtime Debate" between Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on last weekend's edition of Inside the NFL. In this remarkable clip, Nantz, a good-looking nebbish most closely associated by viewers with the act of whispering over golf putts, grows about 11 feet tall, eats Simms alive, and ends up physically taking over the broadcast from a chuckling Cris Collinsworth.

January 14, 2009


The Hill Times is apparently reporting that Michael Ignatieff recently offered the prime minister the use of Stornoway (the official residence of the federal opposition leader) for the duration of renovations to Harper's ex officio home at 24 Sussex Drive. My question is, was this "sole use", or was Ignatieff offering to have Harper move in with him and form the nuttiest pair of sitcom roommates ever?

January 15, 2009

This should help them overcome that stigmatism

The Daily Mail sends ultra-posh Petsy Wyatt on a social-class suicide mission to an everything-for-a-pound store in ungentrified olde Edmonton (and other London exurbs). You can really feel the relief when she suddenly spots a Pucci scarf. Prize quote: "Where else could you get a mouse mat for £1, you stupid woman?"

January 16, 2009

I've been waiting

A "sicker adult" looks at comparative healthcare statistics in today's National Post (the paper that defies gravity!)

January 19, 2009

How 'bout that

Manx catI always kind of wondered, without inquiring actively into the subject, why cat breeds don't show as much variety as dog breeds even though cats have been domesticated for almost as long. A comment thread at a biologist's anniversary weblog of The Origin of Species suggests the answer: until recently—i.e., after Darwin's own time—breeding cats was considered too difficult to be worth the trouble. The big man writes in his chapter on artificial selection that

cats, from their nocturnal rambling habits, cannot be matched, and, although so much valued by women and children, we hardly ever see a distinct breed kept up; such breeds as we do sometimes see are almost always imported from some other country, often from islands.

Perhaps Darwin was familiar with the curiously tailless cats from the Isle of Man. Come to think of it, they're good little refuters of Lamarckism, since only Manx cats give birth to other Manx cats, and you can't make more by sawing their tails off.

January 20, 2009

A soft touch?

Today's Post column on Iggy and the oilsands is here. A commentator has already derailed another entry to rebut my parenthetical observation that "tar sands" have been the universal technical term for all that goop over the past hundred years:

Oilsands is now the accepted word for the resource NOT tarsands. Yes that was not always the case but terms change—just as rapeseed is now canola and mentally challenged has replaced retarded and imbecile.

The first sentence here is, simply, a naked lie. What he really means to say is that a particular group has decided not to accept the existing term. Not explained: why anyone should give a crap, considering that we have a standing history of educated usage to guide us. Arguments from authority don't carry much weight in disputes over language, especially when, as it is here, that authority is invisible or imaginary.

January 21, 2009

Sometimes a giant conical hat is just a giant conical hat

How could I get through 18 years of school without ever hearing about these things? Clearly the people who wore them are crying out for their own Clan of the Cave Bear.

Nice try...

...but despite the best casuistic efforts of one clever law professor, Barack Obama will probably still go down in history as the first black American president.

January 22, 2009

Tomorrow's news today

Latest Post column: how real is that big bad debt monster in the distance? I venture intrepidly behind the headlines.

January 28, 2009

Pointed question of the day

Surely Aaron Wherry is using the word "reasonable" ironically—isn't he?

January 29, 2009


Penner chokes GuiteI guess I should link to my Post column from Tuesday, even though I wasn't totally happy with it; I started it late, intended to devote a great deal of it to the revived NHL Fighting Question, and lost heart somewhat because I have very little to say that is new, per se, and was somewhat intimidated by Chris Selley's column taking the meta angle on the debate (while at the same time fearing that I might provoke myself into a violation of his orderliness rules).

Selley rightly asks why we should polemicize, and descend so easily to ad hominem, in the absence of genuinely compelling evidence concerning what effect the abolition of fighting would have on the regular-season game. Of course, this raises the political question whether social experimentation is wise where its consequences are unforeseeable, and conservatives and (modern) liberals are defined by canned answers to that question. The conservative says "The consequences are always unforeseeable, and where the existing order or way of life is a contingent achievement built on the wisdom of many generations, experimentation is inherently more likely to inflict more harm than benefit." The liberal says "Progress is impossible without experimentation: defending the status quo means, precisely, defending the results of past experiments, so why should we feel hesitant to perform them in our time?" And both are quite right.

The reason I'm not a liberal, in this sense of the word, is not that the liberal premise is wrong. The reason is that experimentation cannot be justified on the liberal premise if we are not willing to abandon failed experiments, and liberals never do abandon them. Even where the failure is quite palpable, as with cookie-cutter no-fault divorce or monopolistic public schools, their only answer is to shriek "SO YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO THE BAD OLD DAYS, DO YOU?" This is the clue that they are not really liberals, but utopians smitten with the romance of revolution.

The parallel conservative failing is, of course, to defend the indefensible. I do not mind much when conservatives do this—but you will notice if you observe me closely that it does raise my hackles when they defend order by the liberal means of introducing preposterous novelties, such as "creation science" in the classroom, or the notion that any therapeutic abortion is ipso facto murder. To me, this makes them worst of all: dangerous utopians without the flimsy excuse of good intentions.

Anyway, there's not too much left about fighting in that column. And, really, the most important point I made was the one about the CFM's dubious grocery list of "shovel-ready" projects. What's the earliest that ground could possibly be broken on the LRT NAIT extension—about the year 2012? We could have cold fusion and personal jetpacks by then, you horseshitters.

January 30, 2009

Stand back, he's going contrarian

Friday's column explains my refusal to get worked up into a libertoidal frenzy over the budget. It's attracting less wrathful mail than I expected; the consensus in my Inbox actually leans closer to "Thank goodness someone made these points." Maybe people are just happy I finally aimed another steel-booted toe at Ignatieff, after praising him for his take on the tar sands (and denouncing linguistic revisionism by oilpatch hirelings). Maybe it's just real hard to tell exactly how many "conservative" parties we have in this country right now: zero, one, or two.

Shorter Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness report

You'll be glad to hear that we can end homelessness in Edmonton. We just have to buy homes for all those homeless people. It'll cost a billion dollars.

There, wasn't that easy?

January 31, 2009

In tomorrow's Globe, a follow-up from Robert Wagner

Dr. EvilClearly this breaking story about a Canadian bank CEO's shocking compensation package demands to be read with a Dr. Evil inflection. "Bank of Montreal chief executive officer Bill Downe received just under... six... MILLION... DOLLARS last year." Wowee wow, that's a lot of cabbage. Why, with that kind of money you could take an injured astronaut left barely alive and rebuild him better, faster, and stronger! We have the technology!

About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to ColbyCosh.com in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

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