Wednesday, September 28, 2005

HOMECOMING - "A FEW TROUBLEMAKERS" ?

It was perhaps innevitable in the fallout from Saturday's Homecoming Aberdeen debacle that many in the Queen's community would blame "a few bad apples" for ruining Homecoming for "everyone else."

The student newspaper 'The Journal' and long-time Kingston resident and Queen's alumnus and grad-student Steven Taylor make that argument, amongst others, in attempting to defend Queen's and its students.

But with thousands of people on Aberdeen street on Saturday night, how is it that "a few bad apples" were able to ruin the night? Where were the "global citizens and leaders of tomorrow" confronting "those few" who would cause mayhem? Surely a committed group of responsible Queen's students could have prevented, or at least tried to prevent, some of the destruction of Saturday night. But this did not seem to happen; at least I did not observe it, and there are no reports of such action.

Is this perhpas becasue, as Steven himself has described the situation on Aberdeen, and as it has been described by others, there was a 'mob mentality.' How is it that there can be a mob mentality without a mob? How can a mob be made up of only "a few"?

In the minutes before the Aberdeen car was actually overturned a chant went up throught the crowd of "Flip the car! Flip the car!" How do just "a few" maintian such a laod chant?

When the car was infact overturned it was done so by dozens of people, not just "a few." Now, to be fair, even 20 people in a crowd of 5,000 could be characterized as "a few." But how many people took turns piling onto the car after it was overturned? How many people subsequently overturned the car again and again? And how many people stayed on the street and looked on, thereby providing a willing audience and tacit, if not direct approval, for the more destructive in the crowd?

The Aberdeen party reached a point of dangerous and criminal excess on Saturday night, and while there are cetainly "a few" who are far more guilty than others for the damage and recklessness, all those who attended the party, and particularly those who stayed after it was clearly out of hand contributed to it.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:08 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, September 26, 2005

HOMECOMING MEDIA COVERAGE

Most major Canadian news outlets are now picking up this CP wire piece on Saturday night's Queen's University Homcomeing party gone bad.

The news outlets include:

The Toronto Star.

The Globe and Mail.

CTV.ca.

Macleans.

Sun Media.

There is extensive coverage from the local Kingston Whig-Standard.

The media coverage is pretty uniformily negative, though the Whig has an article on the disgust of some students toward the actions of their peers.

To re-iterate the point I made below, this kind of media attention is exactly the type of thing that university administrators and civic officials hate. I wouldn't be suprised to see copies of the Toronto Star or Ottawa Sun waved around by irate citizens at town-council meetings.

Optimus Crime has another good set of links and quotes regarding the Homecoming debacle.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:42 PM :: (5) comments

QUEENS' HOMECOMING AFTERMATH

There are a lot of different issues that could be discussed surrounding the events of this past weekend's Homecoming at Queen's University.

How to maintain this spirit, while minimizing these disturbances is probably the main issue. The argument between the students, the school, the police and the residents, over who is to blame for Saturday nights events will likely continue for some time.

Right now I am certain of two things.

1. Homecoming will not continue as it did this year.

When your university and town make headlines on news outlets described as the scene of a "drunken street brawl," that is not good. Saturday night's Homecoming events were featured on page A1, below the fold, and A16 of today's Toronto Star; on the hourly CBC radio news this morning; and all day at Bourque.org linking to the Kingston Whig-Standard's coverage.

In an age when branding and public relations are at the top of the agenda for most organizations, not to mention publically funded universities and town-councils trying to attract tourists, this is exactly the type of media coverage that drives administrators and public officials into crackdown mode.

Given the amount of planning and co-operation between the city, police, school administrators and student organizations, in an attempt to avoid exactly what happened on Saturday night a new and stricter approach is almost assurred next year.

The onus will likely first be on the school to re-organize Homecoming. When Queen's vice-president and dean of students Janice Deakin was asked if Homecoming would continue next year her reply was that “All options are on the table.” While I doubt Homecoming will be cancelled the fact that the idea was not summarily ruled out is telling.

If the city and police are not satisfied with how the school plans on approaching the event next year I expect a significant crackdown on any attempt to re-create the Aberdeen party of the past few years. To the many students who I have heard say, "there's nothing the police can do," I seriously doubt that they are familiar with the business ends of pepper spray, tear gas, tazers, truncheons, and a phalanx of police officers in riot gear. No one wants the situation to escalate to that level but after this year I think the police are losing their patience.

2. Saturday's Aberdeen party crossed the line between extraordinary but acceptable rowdiness and dangerous disturbance of the peace.

The fact that a car was overturned, danced upon and lit on fire pretty much speaks for itself. That the car, as I believe, was deliberately abandoned on the street with the intent that it would be used to cause greater destruction serves to emphasize the pre-mediated nature of much of the night's disorder.

When emergency vehicles are impeded and police officers have glass bottles thrown at them there is enough cause right there to bring in a riot squad. That the police didnot attempt to disperse the crowd using methods appropriate to a riot speaks to their good judgement and restraint. As I said already, student's likely shouldn't expect the same treatment next year.

Who is to blame?

Blame for Saturday night's events falls in various degrees on many different heads but all who went to the Aberdeen party contributed to its excess, including myself, simply by attending. Allthough in past years Aberdeen may have been a technically illegal but relatively harmless mega-party it has gone beyond the 'technically' and 'relatively' categories. Queens' students need to privately and publically condemn the actions of those who engaged in specifically illegal activities but also assess the seemingly prevalent attitude that being a student at homcoming is an excuse for generally careless and reckless behaviour.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:18 PM :: (1) comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THE FALSE HOPE OF PR

Declan of CAtO is up on the old hobby-horse advocating proportional representation as a solution to Canada's governing problems. Actually, its more of a defence of PR in response to a Jeffrey Simposon article but Declan has always been a big proponent of PR as opposed to First-Past-the-Post.

I posted a lengthy comment in response, but I'm re-posing it here becacause, first, there has not been much content here lately, second, and more importantly, my comment begins to address what I think the principle problem of Canada's political system is and why PR does not adequately address it, in fact will likely make it worse.

Herewith, my comment (edited for typos):

There are two principle problems with the Canadian political system and I do not believe that any form of PR will adequately address them.

These problems are:

1. The Executive branch is subsumed within the Legislative branch and the separation that existed between the two in the early nineteenth century is no longer recognized.

2. Rigid party discipline as a result of #1.

Our federal Parliament has evolved to the point where it is believed that the Opposition party is supposed to check the government party, but this is not the way the parliamentary system was intended to work.

The Cabinet (the de facto Executive branch) is supposed to be checked by all non-Cabinet members, that includes members who are of the same party that make up the Cabinet.

However, enforcing party discipline makes it easier for the Cabinet to maintain the confidence of the house if a majority of their members are elected. Why bother appealing to other party's members if you have a majority bloc of members you can coerce to voting for you because of their party affiliation?

So rather than the give-and-take of the Cabinet vs. all-other-members, which is the way the system was designed to work, we get the Cabinet enforcing discipline over their own members and the Opposition members having little influence.

The result is that citizens end up voting for a party, in most cases, rather than an individual because voting for a party is more effective, given all of the above.

PR is an attempt to adapt the voting system to a broken legislative system. Where FPTP over emphasizes the importance of the individual candidate at the expense of representing party power, PR would over emphasize the importance of party at the expense of voting for an individual. Both are equally bad in the same, but contrasting way, because we have lost the original parliamentary tradition.

Under a PR system we would get a Parliament much more representative of the public's party divisions. However, this would once and for all confirm that individual party members are required to be largely interchangable with other members of the same party, except perhaps for the leader and a few key top-ranking or celebrity members.

The more important problem, but much bigger challenge, is to reform Parliament and its workings to re-empower the individual member, not to accept that party executives are actually the people shaping our nation's policies.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:26 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, September 18, 2005

PROFESSOR CREIGHTON WOULD BE PLEASED

The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence is reviving.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:36 PM :: (0) comments

INFLATION

Has anyone else noticed the price of stuff going up lately? I have no idea what the national numbers on inflation are, and I won't be bothered to check, but here are some things I've seen increase in price in the past two months.

Laundry: In my apartment building the cost of a load of washing increased from $1.00 to $1.25 and the cost of a load of drying went up from $1.00 to $1.50. This is still cheaper than what I paid when living in Montreal but a 25% and 50% increase nonetheless.

Snacks: Chips and chocalate bars in the vending machines on campus at Queen's increased by ten to twenty-five cents for items of a $1.00 or $1.50. Having to pay $1.10 instead of $1.00 for a bag of chips isn't so much expensive as it is simply annoying.

Pizza: The "carry-out special" at the local Dominoes pizza increased from $4.99 to $5.99. A 20% increase.

Milk: One of the real markers of inflation, the price of milk at the convenience store across the street last week went up from $3.99 to $4.24. An increase of 6%.

I'm no economist but I suspect the price of gas has something to do with this. Which is why I shake my head when I hear non-drivers say the price of gas doesn't affect them.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:28 PM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

FRUM CALLS OUT IGNATIEFF

I happened upon a print edition of the National Post this morning and decided to read David Frum's column as as I seldom have the opportunity to do so.

The short version is that Frum asserts that today's Candian Liberalism stands for nothing, has no ideas and no vision (admittedly, that's not the most radical assertion to make). He then reminds the reader of Prof. Michael Ignatieff's speech at the last Liberal Party convention suggesting Igantieff appeals to old school Liberals who hanker for another Trudeau. But, Frum says, today's Liberalism is intellectually hollow and has nothing to offer Canada, and that Ignatieff has nothing of substance to add.

Then in the last two paragraphs Frum actually challenges Ignatieff to a debate. I no longer have the paper in front of me but to paraphrase, he says: "wouldn't it be great if an institution like UofT or Global News were to sponsor a debate between the two of us. I would quickly show Ignatieff the hollowness of today's Liberalism. I would be happy to debate him at any time."

Wow. That's a contest I would be interested in seeing. Frum and Ignatieff could perhaps remind us of what a serious political debate looks like. Will Igantieff take the bait?

Note: If you subscribe to the post you can read Frum's column online here.

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I have a big deadline for my thesis on Friday (namely, it has to be finished), hence the lack of blogging over the past two weeks, not that there are too many of you left reading. Hopefully there will be more consistent (though not necessarily more quantity) of blogging by next week. For now, I can say I have just as much quality and quantity as the CBC. (Zing! Easy CBC joke).

Posted by Matthew @ 12:22 PM :: (2) comments