KENNETH WHYTE January 23 2006


KENNETH WHYTE January 23 2006




The triumph of common sense

In the public domain, it is still uncommon enough to deserve celebration. We were doubly blessed last week. A judge in Arizona rebuffed a woman’s argument that her pregnancy entitled her to use a carpool lane reserved for drivers carrying at least one passenger during rush hours. Fetuses do not count as passengers, the judge said in upholding the woman’s US$367 fine: “The law is meant to fill empty space in a vehicle.” Meanwhile, eBay yanked an online auction of jailhouse letters written to a friend by sex killer Karla Homolka. The

letters had been put up for sale by a St. Catharine’s, Ont., woman and had attracted a high bid of $1,625 before eBay pulled the plug. “Those letters clearly violated what is known as our offensive materials policy,” declared Alex Brown, a spokesperson for eBay Canada.

Criminals staying dry

Victoria’s run of consecutive rainy days was in the high twenties as we went to press last weekend, closing in on the record of 32 consecutive days set in 1953. Police said the persistent black clouds have done wonders for

the crime rate. It seems breakand-enters, car thefts and other petty offences are often committed by people travelling on foot or by bicycle. “The bad guys don’t like to get wet,” said a police spokesman.

UNCHR overhaul

Canada has joined the U.S. and other Western countries in calling for a complete overhaul of the United Nations’ discredited Commission on Human Rights. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who is leading the charge, notes that some of the world’s “most notorious human rights abusers” have held seats on the commis-

sion in recent years, including Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, and Zimbabwe. (The United States was unceremoniously dumped from the commission in 2001 for a time.) “The current situation is untenable,” said Bolton, adding that the changes “cannot be solely cosmetic.” United Nations watchers say the clean-up initiative has already run into opposition from a number of developing countries, some of which have joined the UNCHR not to protect human rights but to reduce the commission’s strength and shield themselves from international scrutiny.

Out of control crowd

A vicious blame game followed the stampede that killed at least 360 Muslim pilgrims en route to the holy city of Mecca last week. Muslim critics say that annual Hajj-related incidents like this— the deadliest since a 1990 crush in which 1,462 people were killedhave become all too predictable, and that government authorities should have had stronger security measures in place. But Saudi officials blamed “unruly pilgrims, and a problem of luggage.”

Stupid condom tricks

An Edmonton group encouraging young people to vote in the upcoming federal election has been distributing condoms in local bars. Organizers say the condoms, given to patrons aged 18 to 35, have something to do with their slogan: “Democracy is Sexy.” Or maybe they’ll remind people of that outburst by a Paul Martin aide: “Alberta can **** me.”

More condom tricks

A councilman in Tulua, Colombia, is proposing that people 14 and older must carry at least one condom at all times. The idea is to reduce unplanned pregnancies and curb sexually transmitted diseases. Anyone unable to produce a condom in a public place would be fined $200 or ordered to take a course in safe sex. “I would have to have a condom even though I’m a member of the clergy,” complained Roman Catholic priest Jesus Velásquez.

Wretched redux

First Steve Martin commits sacrilege as Inspector Clouseau in a questionable resurrection of the Pink Panther due out next month. Now, in their own stunning display of hubris, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reportedly plan to remake Butch Cassidy and the

Sundance Kid, taking the roles made famous by Paul Newman and Robert Redford in 1969. And we may be in for a reprise of the Michael Jackson trial. A new civil lawsuit alleges the pop star sexually molested a boy in the 1980s and 1990s while stealing his songs and forcing him to undergo “unnecessary cosmetic surgery.”

Send in the clowns

The confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr. ended with Democrats indicating they will seek to delay the vote in a symbolic protest of George W. Bush’s choice. It’s a fitting end to a ludicrous circus that featured more partisan grandstanding than any real attempt to glean how Alito would judge. Judicial review is an important process, one that Canada might consider adopting. But spectacles like these hearings don’t help anybody.

Stand and be counted

The pre-trial hearing of Omar Khadr, 19, the lone Canadian imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, began before a U.S. military commission. Human rights groups have decried such commissions for denying legal rights normally enjoyed in the West. But where Canada stands remains a mystery. Unlike Britain, which demanded the return of its few citizens held at Guantánamo, Ottawa has said little about Khadr, who faces charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiring with al-Qaeda and aiding the enemy. Is the government afraid to publicly confront the U.S., or does it agree with the way the case is being handled? By neither standing up for Khadr’s rights nor endorsing the handling of Guantánamo suspects, we’re leaving our allies and citizens wondering what, if anything, Canada stands for. M