Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canadians support the death penalty?

I had no idea. Here's the article:

US, Britain and Canada Endorse Death Penalty
Most people in the United States, Britain and Canada support relying on the death penalty for homicide convictions, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion. 84 per cent of respondents in the U.S., 67 per cent in Britain, and 62 per cent in Canada share this view.

Since 1976, 1,193 people have been put to death in the United States, including five this year. More than a third of all executions have taken place in the state of Texas. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia do not engage in capital punishment.

Britain began a five-year moratorium on all death penalties from criminal convictions in 1965, and made the suspension permanent in 1969. Execution for any of five military offences—including "Serious Misconduct in Action" and "Obstructing Operations or Giving False Air Signals"—was repealed in 1998, though the last instance of its invocation occurred in 1942.

The last execution in Canada took place in 1962, and the country abolished the death penalty altogether in 1976.

Polling Data

Would you support punishing each of the following crimes with the death penalty? - Homicide (murder)












Not sure




Source: Angus Reid Public Opinion
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,001 Canadian adults, 1,004 American adults, and 1,049 British adults, conducted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16, 2009. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Here's the complete poll.

There are some that question the validity of the methodology of online polling that Angus Reid undertake. I'm not completely convinced myself, but I haven't talked to anyone about it or looked into it very much.

Also in the poll:

44% of Canadians say that, to the best of their knowledge, crime rates in their country have increased on the last five years (though it's fewer than in the US and UK, at 56 and 59% respectively).

Typically, they're wrong. According to StatsCan, crime was down 5% in 2008 (latest years for which there are total numbers), and has been on a general decline since its peak in 1991. It rose slightly in 2003 but has declined steadily since. Not only that, but the severity of crime has followed the same trend.*

62% believe long prison sentences are the most powerful way to reduce crime.

Don't get too alarmed. 79% believe rehabilitation is an important part of crime prevention, and 88% believe the justice system should focus, above else, on preventing crime.

Bit of a mixed bag, I suppose.

*Homicides were one of the few violent crimes to increase in 2008, though they make up less than 1% of violent crime.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Years resolutions - Mozart and my grandfather's cuff links.

I'm not sure I've ever made a New Year's resolution. N and I were discussing what we would like to do differently in the new year, and I came up with one idea:

I'm going to listen to more classical music.

I've largely stopped listening to most forms of music, though I'm not sure exactly why. It may be the demise of the cd; I don't like playing around with iTunes that much to make playlists, and find myself listening to the same thing, or I put iTunes on random and let it go.

This fall, though, we finally hooked up our record player. I've got a decent collection of records, mostly classic rock, and having a working record player is a treat. I also have a small but varied collection of classical: one or two records of each of the greats.

I remember Mozart blasting as my mom and I baked in the kitchen, or read in the living room. So, I've decided to listen to more classical music. So far I'm dong pretty good. I've played Beethoven's 6th a few times, and a mish-mash of Tchaikovsky. Mozart can wait.

I also want to buy a shirt with French cuffs. I have some cuff links that I inherited from my grandfather, and they're just sitting there in the brass box on my bedside table. I almost bought one while in Toronto, but at $150 it was a little pricey. I'll start looking.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Canadians think Stephen Harper is...

A whole raft of things, I'm sure, but "not doing a good job" is right up there. I just subscribed to the RSS feeds for the Angus Reid Global Monitor, a newsletter from the polling firm that deals with almost every political situation around. Here's something you might not have seen about Stephen Harper:

Rating for Harper Drops to 28% in Canada
Fewer Canadians are satisfied with the way their prime minister is handling his duties, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion. 28 per cent of respondents approve of the Stephen Harper’s performance, down four points since December.

And down six points from November. Something is hurting the Prime Minister, and I'm guessing it's not his foreign policy. An Angus Reid poll from the first week of January shows only 19% of Canadians agreeing with Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament. 53% disagree, and 28% aren't sure.

Did Harper think his Conservative party can weather the storm, that Canadians don't really care whether Parliament is sitting or not? That this will be just a blip on the electoral landscape come September, and that by announcing the decision over the holidays and on a (figurative) Friday, that no one would really notice?

David Eaves thinks otherwise. He writes that the anti-Harper/prorogation Facebook group will help to extend the issue. At 200,000 members, the group continues to grow, and as David points out, may help to circumvent the traditional news cycle. This issue isn't going away; even if those 200,000 people don't get out and march, they're still using Facebook to raise awareness of the issue.

Seeing these numbers, the opposition may take a run at Harper when Parliament returns in March. With a 28% approval rating and only 19% in favour of prorogation, Harper looks weak right now. The only question is whether the opposition parties feel strong enough to challenge him at the ballot box.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review: Geist magazine Fall 2009

I bought the Fall issue of Geist magazine a short while ago, forgot about it, then picked it up to read on the bus the other day. I am very impressed. In short, it's a brilliant collection of news, features, interesting tidbits, and short fiction, not unlike Harper's. Alberto Manguel has a good piece on Dante and torture, Robert Everett-Green of the Globe tries to transpose Iraqi deaths to Toronto, there's some excellent travel stories, and a look at Western Sahara that kind of blew my mind.

Did you know that there is a 2700km rock and sand wall that runs the length of Western Sahara, separating Saharawis from Moroccan occupiers? Here's a map to help you out:
That squiggly line is the wall, labeled "Berm" in this drawing.
The dotted lines are international boundaries.

Morocco invaded in 1975, and has occupied parts of Western Sahara since. The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991, and peacekeepers are still there. Marcello di Cintio's Wall of Shame (for some reason there's no link on the Geist site) is a truly wonderful piece of journalism. My friend Rob also wrote about the situation in this unfortunately titled but otherwise excellent article for the Angus Reid Global Monitor, Thinking Outside the Box in Western Sahara.

Also included in this issue is a compelling and informative photo-essay on the history of the Fraser Valley, Memory and the Valley. It's always interesting to read about where you live from a new perspective, and this piece does it brilliantly:
In the mem­ory of those whose fam­i­lies have lived here through the ensu­ing 350 gen­er­a­tions, the story that begins with Simon Fraser is one of loss: first there was small­pox, then the land was taken and their chil­dren seized. For the mil­lions of us who moved here after Fraser, the story is one of gain: trees the cir­cum­fer­ence of ten men, rich black soil, ocean views. Throughout the val­ley, these oppos­ing nar­ra­tives are writ­ten in the rocks and flow­ing in the river.
Stave Lake, reaching north into the Coast Mountains from the Fraser just west
Mission, was logged then dammed in 1911.

Finally, there's an opinion piece by Stephen Henighan (also no link on the Geist site) calling on Canadians to not support our troops in Afghanistan because politicians have squelched debate by using the Support Our Troops slogan. This sloganeering is a symptom of a larger issue, the general lack of reasoned debate in this country. It's an interesting and valuable position that the author undermines by asserting that we shouldn't be in Afghanistan anyway, as any rational, informed person would conclude.

Just to be clear: We need more debate about Afghanistan, but any debate is a foregone conclusion? Well done. The author goes on to make the case (or fails to, rather), that without debate, we should resort to counter-slogans. So, the debate is closed and let's chant slogans? That's an odd place to end up at given the original position of the author.

So it's not all brilliant and insightful, but for the most part, Geist has me hooked. I paid for a year's subscription (a mere four issues, unfortunately), and I'm eagerly anticipating the next issue. It's a local magazine, published right here in Vancouver, and I'm proud to support our Canadian magazines, thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Professor Peter Ladner

Ever wonder what Peter Ladner is up to these days? It recently came to my attention that he is teaching urban studies for a semester or two at SFU, for their notable Semester in Dialogue program:
The Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue addresses what we believe is the principal challenge for contemporary education: to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility, encourage their passion to improve Canadian society, and develop innovative intellectual tools for effective problem solving. Each semester we develop an original and intensive learning experience that uses dialogue to focus student education on public issues.

This is from the SFU release from October:
Under the project title Planning Cities as if Food Matters, Ladner will teach in the spring 2010 Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue program Finding Space, Understanding Place: Redesigning our Region for Resilience.

He will also be researching and writing a book of the same name and participating in related workshops and dialogues.

It's probably a good fit for the former councilor and mayoral candidate, who championed community gardens as a councilor. Not as soft a landing as Larry Campbell, but a lot more clear than what Sam Sullivan is up to.

PS. I'm trying to upload a photo but my lovable laptop, aftera bout with sickness, is refusing to cooperate. I really wanted a photoshopped image of Mr. Ladner in a straw hat.