Mercy or murder?

Robert Latimer, convicted murderer and self-proclaimed mercy killer, has left prison after serving seven years. Still unapologetic for having filled his truck with exhaust fumes, thereby killing his disabled daughter, Tracy, Latimer holds that his act was no crime, but euthanasia.

Opinions range from support for the decision to sheer rage. Latimer’s wife has stated that she’s excited to have her husband home, while various advocates for the disabled protest against his release, which they take as a sign of indifference towards a morally reprehensible act of murder. Craig Langston, president of the Cerebral Palsy Association of B.C., believes that Latimer’s release sends the message that taking the life of a disabled child is an appropriate action. This argument is accurate. There should be a limit to the amount of power a parent has over their child’s mortality.

As Latimer showed no remorse for the killing, Marie White, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, believes his lenient sentence is unfair. “Due process was followed and no one can argue with due process,” says White. “I question if this issue had come up before the appeals board and it involved someone who didn’t have a disability, whether the same decision would have been rendered.”

Tracy Latimer was profoundly crippled with cerebral palsy, exhibiting the mental capacity of a three-yearold and living life, according to her father, in a devastated condition. In a letter written to the Canadian Press, Latimer claimed that his daughter had been suffering for far too long. She required excessive amounts of surgery, and could only take Tylenol to lessen the excruciating pain of her disease. Robert’s sister, Pat Latimer, believes that her brother never should have been prosecuted for the killing, but is happy nonetheless for his release. It is not altogether clear how much participation the family had in Robert Latimer’s freedom, but both Latimer’s wife and sister support the decision of the courts to let him out of prison. The legal process has been a tedious journey, dragging Latimer through a series of paroles, exemptions, and even a visit to a halfway house. Kelly Keyko, one of the jurors in the trial in 1997, said that he would not have voted guilty had he known Latimer would spend seven years in jail.

Cases of euthanasia are commonly hidden under a thick layer of discretion and clinical privacy. What we can know, we understand from the facts—moral complications fall under speculation and uncertainty. Was this euthanasia? Sources do not report Latimer’s daughter pleading for her death. But then again, she was under no mental condition to do so. The severe and debilitating circumstances of the disease itself could represent a silent plea to be released. Is it right to take another’s life into one’s own hands, no matter how shattered or compromised that life may be? Now that he’s free, it gives the appearance that Latimer may have been selfishly releasing himself from the burden of Tracy’s illness.

Freshly Pressed

Hot Chip – Made in the Dark (astralwerks)

I like Hot Chip for a lot of reasons, many of them having to do with the concept of stiff Brits indebted to Prince and brilliant, electro-castrophies with keyboards that were probably stolen from your brother’s bar mitzvah. But on Made in the Dark, the dance nerds’ third in a line of Beta Band-meets-Bangers and Mash-sound, there are seriously some tracks that verge on a Flight Of The Conchords-type MIDI ridiculousness.

Take the instrumental break of opener “Out of the Pictures,” shrieking like a baboon in punctured frenetic beats. Or “Shake A Fist,” featuring a sly Texan’s description of the sounds that can be made in the studio. (Apparently, sonic robots that probably induce seizures.) “Bendable Poseable” takes a ragga reggeton beat with a DJ that oscillates between a falsetto Brit accent, and a faux-rastafarian, repeating the phrases “Bendable/ Poseable,” “wanna knee slide up and down,” and simply, “time delay—time delay,” as bass lines loop around like lazy skipping ropes.

But in Hot Chip’s frantic, text-message-like, jangle of beats, there’s sweetness in their slow-jamz. “One Pure Thought,” “Whistle For Will,” and “We’re Looking For A Lot Of Love” have a modernism that can only be articulated in Phillip Glass keyboards, choruses of “oohs and ahhs,” and spindly backing vocals, barely textured into the mix. On these tracks the lead singer will often adopt a bruised female perspective—an awesome rock n’ roll technique that hasn’t been copped since Whitetown’s “Your Woman.” This record knows its references, including Living Color metal heroics, and glittery-rock pleas for lost love (“Made in the Dark”). Not to mention my favorite irono-lyric, playing up the relation between half—and Willie—nelsons (“Wrestlers”), as wind chimes and U2-single guitars collide in the sweltering blaze.

There are some musicians who are worried that laptop wielders are becoming the new rock stars. Hot Chip takes it one step further: they don’t even want to be at the same parties. Not that they’re invited.

—Chandler Levack

Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree (Mute)

Goldfrapp’s latest album of whimsical melodies opens with a lilting, acoustic criticism of breast implants, an unexpected subject in a song titled “Clowns,” but naturally, the London duo pull it off. As usual, Goldfrapp’s sensual electronic sounds caress the listener with seductively ethereal sounds and lyrics that run from simple to poetic, to socially conscious to just plain pretty. Perhaps a little too pretty—the sound of this CD is soft and airy throughout, with little if any variation, lacking the intensity of some of Goldfrapp’s previous recordings. But if Alison Goldfrapp (vocals) and Will Gregory (synths) can be criticized for a lack of tonal variation, they’re congratulated for their consistency—at moments, Seventh Tree feels less like a collection, and more like a single song punctuated with pauses, and the occasional tease at a strong beat or change in pace. An excellent album for a romantic evening, or the world’s most relaxed intellectual party, but little to fi nd yourself humming afterwards.

—Rae Matthews

 

Ignoring the truth about free trade

It seems that the Democrat Party suffers from a bad case of amnesia these days. Once a party of international intervention and nation building, its members now call for a hastened withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Lately, on the domestic front, this forgetfulness can be witnessed by the row between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, over their mutual disdain for free trade. Both have proposed to renegotiate NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement—with Canada and Mexico. Both have accused the other of being inadequately critical of the trade deal.

This amusing spectacle also occurred during the presidency of Democrat darling Bill Clinton when NAFTA was signed. In the 1990s, the Democrats modernized their political philosophy to branch out to more middle class voters satisfied with the free market economy. Clinton led this reformation under the branding of “New Democrats,” and the passing of a plethora of other trade deals. In fact, Clinton holds the record for passing the most bi- and multi-lateral free trade deals among all U.S. presidents. This is clearly problematic for Hillary: as then-first lady, she is assumed to have been providing the counsel that led to such decisions. But it is also problematic for Obama and Democrats in general, because it was during Clinton’s terms that the Democrats in congress approved of such bills.

Perhaps more willful ignorance than amnesia, this unilateral proposal to renegotiate a treaty with America’s allies reeks of self-contradiction. In the past eight years, Democrats have hounded President Bush for his UN unilateralism, declaring his Iraq war illegal under international law and his abrasive style damaging for America’s reputation. Yet the international treaties signed with America’s trade partners require principles of legality and cooperative reputation that seem to have flown out the window. If the Democrats have feared America’s image abroad appearing selfish and arrogant, then selfishly and arrogantly ending an agreement because it threatens your interests seems like an odd solution to the problem.

Theoretically speaking, a reformed NAFTA under Obama and Clinton’s currently suggested guidelines would focus on labour and environmental standards. American and Canadian standards are relatively equal and fairly high, so the focus will fall on the poorer Mexico. Both candidates feel America is being “cheated” under this current deal because, in their view of the American economy, unskilled workers are losing jobs to neighbours down south with less stringent work and pay standards. Both would like Mexico to join Canada and the U.S. on an “equal” playing field in a new trade agreement. Essentially, the requirements call for more stringent labour and environmental standards to remove the advantage Mexico has in its trade affairs. It is a form of protectionism that seeks to pacify the competition.

Even if we disregard that net U.S. jobs have increased since NAFTA was signed, these policy suggestions are at best misguided, and at worse, cynical. From a policy perspective, renegotiating NAFTA is clearly a bad idea. The gains, if any, in terms of employment for unskilled American workers are outdone by the increase in the costs of consumer goods. This hurts all Americans, but it afflicts the poor, who spend the greatest share of their income on basics. The only thing “fair” about renegotiating NAFTA would be the equal suffering we would all incur. The jobs that have displaced American workers will be taken away from poorer Mexicans who have lost their cost-effective ability to attract American companies. Liberal concerns of worker exploitation down south sound unimportant when these workers may no longer have a job at all, thanks to a renegotiated NAFTA.

Given how crucial manufacturing bases such as Ohio and Michigan are to swing states, it is hard not to accuse the Democrats of pandering to populist pressures. In their desire to win the election, they have abandoned the government practices they preach, erased from the public consciousness. Democrats have engaged in a blatant act of opportunistic hypocrisy. Most importantly, they have ignored the potential economic and moral costs of a renegotiated NAFTA.

Climbing Black Mountain

In a world of technological blips and computer-manipulated voices, Black Mountain just seems to want to go back. The Vancouver quintet gained notoriety for their 2005 self-titled debut, as part of the 21st-century prog movement that eulogized an era when the smoke was thick and the tracks were heavy. But rather than stare at the past, Black Mountain always looks forward.

Flash forward to the release of their sophomore LP, appropriately titled In The Future. Full of dense grooves and keyboard solos, it harkens back to the glory days of King Crimson and Rush. But keyboardist Jeremy Schmitd maintains that Black Mountain has more than one sound.

“[In the Future] builds on what we established with Black Mountain,” he says, “but it doesn’t stick to any one genre. We have denser arrangements, and the songs are more fleshed out.”

Schmitd is wary of the post-prog label. “I like the tenets of prog rock that were established in the ’70s,” he admits. “I like the wealth of ideas going on then—stretching out the length of songs, divided into more than just verse and chorus.” Still, Schmitd is uncomfortable being grouped in the same genre as other prog-influenced groups like Tool and The Porcupine Tree. “I don’t like contemporary prog rock,” he says. “A lot of bands that have taken on the prog torch are into the virtuosity of it, the busy playing. We aren’t inclined that way.”

The diversity on In The Future proves Schmitd’s point. While the initially murky “Tyrants” is as prog as it gets, vocalists Steve McBean and Amber Webber jerk up the intensity with battled vocals. The stripped down “Stay Free” appeared on the Spiderman 3 soundtrack. Back in 2005, the band was selected by Chris Martin to open for Coldplay.

“We felt a bit out of our element,” Schmitd admits. “It was fun, but it wasn’t our world.” These days, Black Mountain is comfortable playing smaller gigs for an active audience. Their live shows have garnered widespread acclaim, and the band always makes sure to enjoy themselves. “There’s enthusiastic crowds at all our shows,” Schmitd says.

Yet despite their onstage energy, Schmitd claims that overpowering the audience with wicked solos was never their goal. “We never set out to be a heavy rock band,” he confesses. “I think of us as more ambient, with melodic moments strewn through. Heavy music doesn’t always have to be muscular.”

The diversity of the band’s musical taste has also influenced their unclassifiable sound. Schmidt, a fan of everything from Pink Floyd to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood duets, tries not to get boxed in by genre.

“There’s a wide range of musical influence among the five or us that gets filtered into the mix,” he says. “I do like a lot of old prog and psych stuff, but sometimes I want to hear some disco or Sun Ra.” As for current artists, he cites chanteuse El Perro Del Mar, and new wave kids MGMT.

And while Schmitd and his bandmates are flattered by comparisons to legends like Yes, they try not to take it seriously. “We could never be as technically skilled as Yes,” Schmidt admits. “We’re more like No.’”

Whatever they are, critics are eating In the Future up with a spoon. The hype for tracks such as the almost 17-minute-long “Bright Lights,” led to a rush for tickets to their soldout March 5 gig at Lee’s Palace. Next up, the band will continue their tour across Canada with folkies Bon Iver. While they are on their way to rock stardom, Schmidt admits that they are still a bunch of music fans who travel in a van and get excited about highway deer sightings.

If the cost of their buzz has them on the road for a while, Schmidt isn’t complaining. “It can be arduous, moving around a lot,” he admits. “But I’d rather be doing this than working behind a counter.”

Liberals, quit your dithering

Last Tuesday, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty outlined the 2008 budget in the House of Commons. Included in the proposed financial document was the introduction of a tax-free savings account for individuals over the age of 18, changes to the student grant program in post-secondary education, as well as funding for seniors, Aboriginal Canadians, and immigrants.

In actuality, this year’s budget does not benefit many Canadians, paling in comparison to the huge spending and tax-cuts of this Conservative government’s previous budgets. The savings account allows citizens to save up to $5,000 per year tax-free. However, the average family typically spends more than they make in a year, and so this account only benefits the wealthy. Of course, the Conservatives couldn’t care less. This budget suits both their short and long-term goals perfectly.

You would think the Liberals would take advantage of such a lazy and inefficient budget from Harper’s government. After all, like many Commons votes this year, both the NDP and Bloc Québécois will vote against the government. The Liberals could easily vote against this budget, triggering a spring election. So why don’t they? Liberal leader Stéphane Dion claims that the Conservative budget doesn’t challenge the current government. Dion fails to see that this is exactly why the Conservatives provided such a lacklustre budget to begin with.

What about the recently passed crime bill, which secures a minimum sentence for gun-related crimes, and the debate over the mission in Afghanistan? Both are excellent reasons to challenge the Conservative government. The Liberal party, also known as the official opposition, is failing at its most important task. Maybe they have forgotten the responsibilities that the position entails.

The Liberals should be ashamed of themselves. In refusing to oppose this budget, they have forfeited their reputation as a financially responsible and authoritative government. They have lost the respect of many Canadians for accepting a Conservative budget that fails to significantly increase funding for environmental projects—something the Liberals have claimed as a high priority.

Allegations that the Conservatives attempted to bribe independent British Columbia MP Chuck Cadman in 2005, and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was aware of it, has prompted demands that the RCMP investigate the matter. The Liberals are once again discussing the possibility of a spring election.

We’ve heard this posturing before. More and more, Dion appears to be all talk and no action. It all depends on whether the Liberal leader sees bribery of a politician (an offence under the Criminal Code) as worthy enough to oppose the current government. The Liberals should consider finding a new leader if they ever hope to sustain the support of Canadians.

Hot Ironside strikes Blues

The Varsity Blues took home the silver medal at Varsity Arena as the powerhouse Laurier Golden Hawks defeated the home team 1-0 in the OUA women’s hockey championship. The Hawks, losers of only two regular season games, needed two games to clinch the title in the best-of-three series, beating the Blues 2-1 in overtime in the opening game. Third-year forward Andrea Ironside was the hero for the Hawks, netting both game-winning goals en route to Laurier’s fifth consecutive women’s hockey title.

No one should be surprised to see these two teams in the final. They finished 1-2 in the regular season standings and went undefeated in the playoffs until the championship. “We’ve had lots of U of T-Laurier finals,” said Blues head coach Karen Hughes. Both squads boast potent offence, tied for a league-high 3.59 goals per game, while allowing very few goals thanks to strong defence and goaltending. A combined total of four first and second team all-stars were dressed for the final.

OUA first team all-star goaltender Stephanie Lockert had another outstanding game for the Blues in the final tilt, and faced almost twice as many shots as her Laurier counterpart, second team all-star Liz Knox. The only goal came in the second period when a Toronto defender blocked a shot by OUA player of the year Lauren Barch and Ironside picked up the loose puck, firing a high shot past Lockert.

The Hawks carried the play for most of the game, allowing few scoring opportunities. It didn’t help that the Blues were handed almost twice as many penalties, which Hughes felt was a trend in home games. “We get all the penalties here,” she says. Toronto did not allow a power-play goal in eight times shorthanded, but it’s still difficult not to be hurt with so much time spent in the penalty box. Forward Annie Del Guidice had a few breaks, but there were no other Blues players to pick up the rebounds. Rookie Amanda Fawns set up some scoring chances but the Blues couldn’t bury them. The team’s best opportunity came late in the third period, when the puck squeezed through Knox’s legs and dribbled towards the goalline, but the Hawks’ defence scooped it away.

Laurier was able to stifle Blues offence in both games, allowing only one goal in the series. “They’re pretty aggressive and physical so that worked well for them,” said coach Hughes about the Hawks’ ability to shut down her team.

While an enthusiastic crowd equipped with noisemakers made for an exciting atmosphere in the final game, Hughes was disappointed in the behaviour of a few rowdy Laurier fans who taunted Toronto’s players from behind the bench. “That’s pretty bad sportsmanship,” she said. “It’s unfortunate to have that in a university game.”

In game one, played at Laurier, Brenley Jorgensen opened the scoring for the Blues in the second period from Laura Foster and Emily Patry, but Kaley Powers evened things up in the third period. Ironside potted the overtime winner 2:16 into the extra frame, assisted by Barch and defenceman Kate Psota. The shots were nearly even in periods one and three, as each team registered only one shot in overtime, but Laurier outshot Toronto 13-6 in the second and held a 34-14 edge overall.

While the Blues would have liked to claim the top prize, their season has still been a success. “[It was] a good season as a whole, so I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of. We did well,” said the coach, who also had praise for Lockert, graduating forwards Laura Foster and Emily Patry, and rookies Lindsay Hill, Karolina Urban and allrookie team defenceman Kelly Setter. It was also a good year for Janine Davies, who won the OUA scoring title. “It’s great for Janine Davies to win the scoring. We haven’t won the scoring in years,” said Hughes.

Lockert, who played her final game on Friday, also had a positive assessment of the season. “As a whole, what you want in a season is to peak at the right time, and I think we did… We were always making progression,” she said. “I thought we let [game one] slip away, but I went home and I thought about what I wanted to end my career on, and that was a good game as a team. We struggled putting a team game together in our game one, but we accomplished that today,” she added.

Next year’s edition of the Varsity Blues won’t look a lot like this year’s team, since a number of the team’s core players are graduating. Coach Hughes is hoping that younger players who showed improvement this year will be able to continue to progress next season. “The younger girls are going to carry the team,” said Lockert.

Varsity Centre is an invaluable resource to students, one that’s worth our investment

In another great stride towards improving the student experience, the University of Toronto spent $25 million to rebuild the historic Varsity Stadium, equip it with the best all-weather turf in the world, and enclose it in winter with an air-supported, heated dome, scheduled primarily for student use. The new facilities were built at students’ requests, and planned with student input every step of the way. When the doors were opened, students came in throngs to cheer on their sports teams, participate in intramurals, to hit golf balls, to run, and to compete against other schools as the Varsity Blues.

Unfortunately, there are some students opposed to the notion of paying for the operating costs of the Varsity Centre. Most of these students base their opinions on inaccurate hearsay. Currently, we foot the bill for the Varsity Centre’s operational costs. The purpose of the plebiscite is to estimate whether students wish to continue paying for operating costs through ancillary fees. Regardless of the outcome, athletic fees will increase by about two per cent per full-time St. George campus student, due to inflation. In case you are wondering, we cannot vote on inflation.

UTSU VP university affairs Michal Hay’s recent comments regarding the Varsity Centre are incredibly misleading. First, the 2002 referendum differs from this year’s plebiscite. In 2002, students voted No to a Varsity Centre proposal that asked students to fund both the capital and operational costs of the Varsity Centre. Since 2002, the Faculty of Physical Education and Health has worked to raise the funds to cover all capital costs. Students benefit from a world-class athletic facility only having to contribute to the operational costs.

I find it duplicitous that Hay is currently a member of the No Levy campaign. Remember the plebiscite for the student commons? It asked students to contribute both capital and operational costs through a student levy. Michal was a supporter of the Yes campaign at that time. Considering his position as VP university affairs on UTSU, Hay’s public support of the No Levy campaign impairs UTSU’s ability to run a fair and unbiased plebiscite. It also undermines the integrity of the upcoming vote.

The obvious facts are still apparent: these athletic facilities are used by over 10,000 intramural participants, tens of thousands of students, and over 800 varsity athletes. Unquestionably, the facility is not used by everyone, but neither is Hart House, U of T Health Services, or Student Affairs. The funding of these services is based on the democratic principle that services are more equitably accessible when the costs are shared amongst the population. Students lobbies for reductions to the cost of education are created through taxpayer-funded government subsidies. I hope that I am not the only one who sees the hypocrisy of some of the Varsity Centre naysayers. Support your fellow students, and vote Yes to keep the Varsity Centre an equally accessible space for all.

Steven Greening is the Equity Officer and C.A.R. Representative on the Physical Education and Health Undergraduate Association

Event listings for week of March 3

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ON-CAMPUS

ART NIGHT AT ST. MICHAEL’S COLLEGE

Celebrate the U of T arts festival by channeling your inner Picasso.

MARKETS: FROM THE BAZAAR TO EBAY

Symposium sponsored by the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

ENVIRONMENTAL CAREER DAY

Interactive cooking demonstrating with practical tips.

REEL CHANGE: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S WEEK

Free film screenings all week long!

WISE: LIFE AFTER GRADUATION FOR ENGINEERS

Learn from leaders about how to find your career path.

MOSAIC RE-BOURNE MULTICULTURAL SHOW

Music, dance, and food from around the world, presented by New College.

  • Sat. March 8, 7pm. Free!

  • William Doo Auditorium (45 Willcocks Ave.)

  • ncrc@utoronto.ca

DYLAN MURRAY CONCERT

Soulful reggae with a relaxed, positive spirit.

ATOM EGOYAN LECTURE

Renowned filmmaker launches the U of T Festival of the Arts.

  • Tues. March 4, 7-10pm. Free (tickets required).

  • Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St.)

  • www.uofttix.ca

FREE FRIDAY FILMS: CASINO

1995 Scorsese masterpiece about mobsters and greed.

OFF CAMPUS

CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK

Over 500 Canadian bands in 4 nights. Can you do it?

GROWNUPS READ THINGS THEY WROTE AS KIDS

Silly readings in front of complete strangers.

THE GUERILLA GIRLS AT RYERSON

Guerilla artists promoting women and people of colour.