Things that I wish were the election issues for 2015


Whenever you hear politicians talk in the run-up to an election, everyone already knows the sorts of things they’re going to say:

“No, you would be a worse fiscal manager! The state of the economy is your fault!”

“No, truly, you would be a worse fiscal manager! The state of the economy has always been your fault!”

What they say is always so disconnected with what I feel is important, that I made a list of things that I wish we could start talking about honestly as a country. These are my “dream election issues,” and with a few exceptions, they’re not the things that politicians (of any party) really like to talk about too much. I’ve divided these things into four broad categories, and I have included a “tl;dr” at the bottom for those who don’t want to read my very wordy ramblings about Canadian politics.

Broadly speaking, I wish that we could be talking about human rights, the state of Canadian democracy, corporate influence on politics, and a guaranteed basic income.

1. Canada’s human rights record, and what can be done to help make things better for our country’s First Nations

The current government is embarrassingly bad at these sorts of issues, despite Canada having a reputation to the contrary.

The Harper Government’s reaction to the Truth and Reconciliation report, for example, was shameful. Canada is a country that literally committed a genocide against a racial group, and the minister in charge of that portfolio decided to stay sitting during a standing ovation for a call for a national inquiry on missing missing and murdered aboriginal women. The lack of movement with regard to an inquiry is inexcusable.

The government’s passage of C-51, with the help of the Liberals, has also recently been deemed a human rights problem by the UN. Naturally, the Tories have shrugged off any such criticism.

And as long as we’re talking about human rights, trans rights are human rights. Considering how smug we as Canadians like to be about LGBTQ+ stuff, (“We have gay marriage, so everything is perfect here, right!”) we’re pretty bad at actually making things better for trans people. A promising trans rights bill was killed by the senate, because … “Meh. Can’t be bothered.”

(Don’t get me wrong, gay marriage is great and all, but if there was such a thing as a Maslovian pyramid of Things that LGBTQ+ People Need In Order To Be Equal To Everyone Else, gay marriage would be pretty much at the top of it. Sure, it makes things better, but mostly for people who have got things pretty good in the first place.)

It would be healthy to finally have an honest national conversation about what kind of a place we want Canada to be. How do we want history to judge us, when they look back at the way that we have treated our First Nations? Wouldn’t it be better if we were talking about the details of an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, or even making plans to help preserve the culture of the First Nations, by making their languages official?

Or maybe we should sit down and talk about what kinds of powers we want to grant to a peacetime government. Do we want to be constantly at war with “terror,” or to have a government that demands 3 terror-related statements per week in order to keep us properly terrified? (How about this for a rule regarding the powers of the police and our country’s spies? If a police officer in 1950 would have probably needed a warrant to get access to that detail about your personal life, spies and polices officers in 2015 aren’t allowed to scoop it up in mass surveillance, or obtain that detail of your life otherwise through electronic means.)

2. Re-establishing some semblance of democracy in Canada

Over the past little while, democracy in Canada has gone downhill, fast. Before some neckbeard tries to say, “We are a democracy. We have elections, and that makes us one,” democracy is something that a country has in degrees. Just because a country has elected leaders doesn’t make it an ideal and perfect democracy. There are a number of institutions, practices, conventions and expectations that all work together to ensure that a country has a government of/by/for the people. The simple fact of an elected government, while a cornerstone of democracy, does not exhaust the meaning of the word.

This means that a number of changes to things that seem to be unrelated to whether or not Canada is a democracy can become real threats to Canada as a democracy. For example, the muzzling of Canadian scientists. If Canadian scientists can’t communicate their findings, or if only findings that can be spun to support the government of the day are released, then that eliminates a legitimate means that Canadians have to make their own opinions about how the country is run, what they communicate to their representatives, how they vote, etc.

Further, our prime minister is inaccessible to reporters and journalists. This is actually a problem for democracy itself. The media exists in part to hold the government of the day accountable, and the less accountable a government is to its people, the less democratic it is.

Same thing goes (in principle) for Question Period. The nearly comic performance of “Crocodile Tears” Calandra wasn’t just an exercise in partisan buffoonery. The whole point of parliament is that one of the mechanisms by which laws are made in our system is by talking about them. This is why omnibus bills are also fundamentally un-democratic. The process by which bills become law is supposed to be one where a government has to answer publicly for why it is making the rules that it is. An omnibus bill skips over that whole process, and is antithetical to democracy itself.

3. Corporate influence, intellectual property and protecting the public domain

As long as we’re talking about omnibus bills, let’s talk about what the Tories slipped into the last one and hoped we’d never notice. Up until recently, recordings were protected by copyright in Canada for 50 years after the death of the artist. Harper has quietly upped that figure to 70 years after the death of the artist. There was no debate on this issue. I have never heard a good justification for it. But now it’s law.

For books (at least for the time being) copyright still only extends to 50 years after the death of the writer, and after that point it falls into the Public Domain. (In the US and the UK, it’s already 70 years for books.) The fact that books eventually become Public Domain is why Project Gutenberg can exist. Project Gutenberg is an initiative to make available online—for free—books whose copyright has expired. You can download them, share them, edit them, make fanfiction, whatever. The books are free in every sense of the word.

The fact that copyright expires 20 years earlier in Canada is why Project Gutenberg Canada can exist. Authors like Ian Flemming, CS Lewis, George Orwell, etc., who died more than 50 years ago, but less than 70 years ago, can be downloaded legally for free in Canada, since there are no laws here protecting their copyright. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

There is absolutely no reason, other than corporate greed, to extend copyright after the artist has died. I mean, if copyright is protected for 70 years after the artist has died, everyone that artist ever loved or ever knew would also likely be dead before the copyright expires. The rationale, I take it, for copyright is to encourage new creative works. I am extremely sceptical that the profits of recording or publishing companies, decades after an artist’s death, is a motivating factor for any artist.

Copyright extensions are just one fairly minor issue, but they are like the canary in a coal mine. Copyright extension laws don’t try to pretend to be about the public good. They are absolutely not about the public good, and they are so transparently against the public good that they have to be snuck into law through the use of omnibus bills. The reason they are being legislated is because of corporate influence on our politics. There is no other reason. And that’s why they should be opposed—not just because I like free books (although there is that too), but because as a law that has absolutely no basis in the public good, they stand as a really simple metric for how corrupt our politics are.

4. Guaranteed basic income for all Canadians

I would love to see a guaranteed basic income as a part of a party’s election platform. To me, the phrase “make a living” is absolutely abhorrent. I just can’t justify in my mind the idea that if a human being doesn’t contribute enough to our economy, then that person literally deserves to die of exposure or starvation.

We act like poverty is an intractable problem that we can never solve. Meanwhile, the city of Medicine Hat recently eliminated homelessness by just … giving houses to those who need them. It’s supported in principle by the current mayors of Edmonton and Calgary, and by economists from all political stripes, including ones as far to the right as Milton Friedman. Basic income is not some lefty fantasy.

A few decades ago, Canada didn’t have socialised medicine, and now it’s a point of national pride that no Canadian has to stress about going broke from a healthcare emergency. I would love to see a party campaign on a promise to introduce a guaranteed basic income for Canadians, so that in a few years, it’s a point of national pride that no Canadian has to stress about going broke, ever.


The things I’d love to see become “election issues” for Canada in 2015 are the following:

  • Missing and murdered aboriginal women
  • First Nations languages as official languages of Canada
  • Trans rights
  • The powers of a peacetime government against private liberty
  • Muzzling of Canadian scientists
  • The legality of omnibus bills
  • Copyright extensions as a proxy for corporate political influence
  • Guaranteed basic income

Edit (2015 July 27): Added item #4, basic income.

Cross-posted to:


    title = {Things that I wish were the election issues for 2015},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
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    date = 2015-07-25,
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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Things that I wish were the election issues for 2015" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 25 Jul 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jul 25). Things that I wish were the election issues for 2015 [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Short story prompt for Lojban enthusiasts: la cizra mensi


Short story prompt: la cizra mensi

The hero of your short story has found a way to summon the Weird Sisters of Macbeth fame to inquire after the future. Worried that the witches will try to trick your hero by giving a prophesy that can be favourably and plausibly read one way, but that also has an alternate, surprising and terrible interpretation that is consistent with the words of the prophesy, your hero finds a way to force the witches to speak in Lojban.

Unfortunately for the hero of your story, a witch’s prophesy can backfire in unexpected ways that still respect the letter of the prophesy itself, even if it’s delivered in a language that’s syntactically unambiguous.

Macbeth 1.3

In the spirit of this short story prompt, I have rendered the first part of Macbeth, act 1 scene 3 into Lojban for your enjoyment. Corrections and suggestions welcome. :)

termafyfe’i 1: [1] .i doi lo mensi do pu zvati ma

termafyfe’i 2 .i lo jai bu’u lo nu catra lo xarju

termafyfe’i 3 .i doi lo mensi do zvati ma

termafyfe’i 1 .i lo fetspe be lo blopre pu cpana be lo galtupcra ku ralte lo narge

[5] gi’e omnomo gi’e omnomo gi’e omnomo .i lu ko dunda fi mi li’u se cusku mi .i lu ko cliva doi lo termafyfe’i li’u lo zargu citka cagna cu se krixa .i lo nakspe be lo se go’i pu klama la .alepos. gi’e bloja’a la .tirxu. .i ku’i ne’i lo julne mi lo te go’i fankla

[10] .ije mi simsa be lo ratcu poi claxu lo rebla ku co’e gi’e co’e gi’e co’e

termafyfe’i 2: .i mi dunda do pa lo brife

termafyfe’i 1 .i do xendo

termafyfe’i 3 .i mi co’e pa lo drata

termafyfe’i 1: [15] .i mi ralte ro da poi drata .i je’a lo blotcana cu bifca’e ro da poi farna be fi lo makfartci pe lo blopre ku’o zi’e poi se djuno .i mi ba simsa be lo sudysrasu bei lo ka sudga ku rincygau

[20] .i lo nu sipna ku ba canai lo donri ku .a lo nicte ku dandu za’e lo galtu dinju canko gacri .i zo’e ba dapma renvi .i ba ca lo tatpi jeftu be li so pi’i so cu jdika lo ka stali .e lo ka pacna .e lo ka gleki

[25] .i zu’u lo bloti to’e pu’i se daspo .i zu’unai lo go’i vilti’a se renro .i ko viska lo se ralte be mi

termafyfe’i 2: .i ko jarco fi mi .i ko jarco fi mi

termafyfe’i 1 .i mi nau ralte lo tamji be fi lo blosazri

[30] poi ca lo nu zdani klama ku bloti janli morsi

[.i ne’i damri]

termafyfe’i 3: .i damri .i damri .ua .i la .makbet. je’a tolcliva

ro da poi termafyfe’i: .i lo cizra mensi noi xance jgari simxu zi’e noi klama be fo lo xamsi .e lo tumla be’o sutra

[35] cu klama fi’o tadji tu’a di’e .i ciroi klama lo tu’a do .i ciroi klama lo tu’a mi .i ciroi ji’a klama .iki’ubo krefu fi li so .i ko smaji .i lo makfa cu bredi

[.i nerkla fa la .makbet. .e la bankos.]


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    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Short story prompt for Lojban enthusiasts: la cizra mensi" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 01 Jul 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jul 01). Short story prompt for Lojban enthusiasts: la cizra mensi [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Warboy Nux is Gonzo the Great [Mad Max spoilers]


I saw Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) last week. I wasn’t planning on it, but then I heard that a bunch of Men’s Rights-type dudebros hated it for attempting to undermine the patriarchy or something, so I kinda had to. I didn’t remember it until after the fact when my little sister pointed it out, but the vain cry of “liberal brainwashing” also seems to have been the reason I went to see The Muppets (2011). Apparently the ire of conservative loud-mouths is all it takes to get me to go see a movie. Take note, Hollywood.

Warboy Nux and Gonzo the Great

“Oh what a day! What a lovely day!”

This is not the only parallel I found between Mad Max and The Muppets. Warboy Nux is Gonzo the Great, reimagined as a brainwashed member of a post-apocalyptic automobile cult.

Like Nux, it would not be out of character for Gonzo to stand on a moving vehicle, throw an exploding spear at something and cry “Witness me!” as he performs a stunt that is very likely to kill him. Gonzo and Nux are both creatures of the extreme. This is why we like them. They are interesting because their characters feel things so deeply, and the storytellers, in both cases, know that the way to highlight this depth of feeling is by making them care—and care strongly—about things that seem absolutely strange to us.

While Gonzo is less likely to be actively trying to hurt someone with his antics, even Nux seems to be less motivated by malice than by a heartfelt (albeit misguided) desire to live a life that is remarkable and meaningful. These characters both have an exterior of explosions, chrome and spectacle, and it takes barely a scratch to reveal an interior of adorable, sometimes-pathetic, but utterly non-ironic, earnest longing. In The Muppet Movie (1979), the most touching moment is Gonzo’s I’m going to go back there someday. If you’re going to cry during The Muppet Movie, this is when it will happen.1 Nux’s whispered “Witness me” in his final few seconds is similarly and unexpectedly emotional. Nux gets a finale that’s as climactic as he could have ever dreamed of. And most heart-wrenching, after an earlier failure in the eyes of his god, he expresses his redemption among his new friends in the language of the cult he came from.

I think that’s what’s so great about Nux and Gonzo: They feel, believe and act in extreme ways. They don’t do things by half-measures and they don’t try to hide their passions under a layer of irony or sarcasm. This makes them very vulnerable, and this is what makes them great.

1 Recommended reading on the subject of Gonzo the Great: Joey Comeau’s Lockpick Pornography.


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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Warboy Nux is Gonzo the Great [Mad Max spoilers]" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 25 Jun 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jun 25). Warboy Nux is Gonzo the Great [Mad Max spoilers] [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Gotcha! This is why piracy happens



This summer, I took a two-week long course on systematic reviews and meta-analytic techniques for which there was some required software, in this case, Stata. As a McGill student, I was encouraged to buy the student version, which was about $50 for “Stata Small.” Not bad. I’ve paid more for textbooks. So I got out my credit card, bought the license, installed it on my computer, and ran the very first example command of the course. I immediately got a string of red letter error text.

The error message was telling me that my license did not allow me enough variables to complete the command. I checked the license, and it said I was allowed 120 variables. I checked the “Variable manager” in Stata, and I had only assigned 11 variables. (I checked the variable limit beforehand in fact, and made sure that none of the data sets that we’d be working with had more than 120 variables. None of them came close to that limit.)

So I emailed Stata technical support. It turns out that the meta-analysis package for Stata creates “hidden variables.” Lots of them, apparently. So many that the software cannot accomplish the most basic commands. Then they tried to up-sell me to “Stata SE.” For $100 more, they said, they would send me a license for Stata that would allow me to run the meta-analysis package—for realsies this time.

I asked for a refund and decided that if I really needed Stata, I would use the copy that’s installed on the lab computers. (Now I’m just using the meta package in R, which does everything Stata does, just with a bit more effort.)

For the record: I am perfectly fine with paying for good software. I am not okay with a one-time purchase turning me into a money-pump. I thought that the “small” student license would work. All their documentation suggested it would. If I had upgraded to “Stata SE,” would that have actually met my needs, or would they have forced me to upgrade again later, after I’d already made Stata a part of my workflow?

It probably would have been okay, but the “gotcha” after the fact soured me on the prospect of sending them more money, and provided all the incentive I need to find a way to not use Stata.


A few years ago, I bought a number of pieces of classical music through the iTunes Store. I shopped around, compared different performances, and found recordings that I really liked. This was back when the iTunes store had DRM on their music.

I’ve recently switched to Linux, and now much of the music that I legally bought and paid for can’t be read by my computer. Apple does have a solution for me, of course! For about $25, I can subscribe to a service of theirs that will allow me to download a DRM-free version of the music that I already paid for.

This is why I won’t even consider buying television programmes through the iTunes Store: It’s not that I think that I will want to re-watch the shows over and over and I’m afraid of DRM screwing that up for me. It’s because I’ve had some nasty surprises from iTunes in the past, and I can borrow the DVD’s from the Public Library for free.

For the record: I do not mind paying for digital content. But I won’t send you money if I think there’s a “gotcha” coming after the fact.

I’m really trying my best

People who produce good software or music should be compensated for their work. I don’t mind pulling out my wallet to help make that happen. But I don’t want to feel like I’m being tricked, especially if I’m actually making an effort in good faith to actually pay for something.

Since DRM is almost always fairly easily circumvented, it only punishes those who pay for digital content. And this is why I’m sympathetic to those who pirate software, music, TV shows, etc.


    title = {Gotcha! This is why piracy happens},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-05-22,
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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Gotcha! This is why piracy happens" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 May 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, May 22). Gotcha! This is why piracy happens [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Time to set your clocks forward and feel terrible again


Everyone’s gonna write an article about how we should drop Daylight Savings Time. That’s all well and good, but I say it doesn’t go far enough.

The 12 hour clock has got to go

We should outlaw the 12-hour clock. Why on earth do we have a convention that has a really obvious ambiguity built into it?

“We’re meeting at eight.” What does that mean? Without clarification, you don’t know. It’s not that hard. Make the switch today. There’s no reason to re-use numbers. It’s not like we’re going to run out of them.

It’ll take you about 2 days before you’re used to it.

Time zones too, then!

We should also eliminate time zones. Have you ever tried setting up a telephone meeting with someone who lives in another time zone? It’s terrible, and it’s even worse when it’s around the time that DST ends or begins. And it’s not like the sun is directly overhead at 12:00 with the system we’ve got anyway.

Being able to instantly know that 9h00 means “mid-morning” regardless of the geographic location of the speaker isn’t that big of a thing. In fact, we have another way to express that idea: by saying “mid-morning.” We should use numbers to designate times when we want exactness and the ability to coordinate. We should use short phrases when we want to give general impressions regarding the position of the sun in the sky relative to the speaker. Trying to get our numbers to do both makes them less able to do either, and I say we should let numeric times do what they’re meant to, namely, helping us to coordinate ourselves with other humans around the world.

So everyone, reset your watch to UTC. For those of us in Montreal, that means go 5 hours ahead. From now on, a typical workday in Montreal will start at 14h00 and end at 22h00, which might look confusing, but then most of you were using the 12-hour clock and so you didn’t have associations with those numbers anyway. You can get used to it at the same time that you’re getting used to not using the 12-hour clock.

More you say?

Now that you mention it, 24 hours in a day is a weird number of hours. Let’s round that up to a good solid 25. We’ll call them “metric hours.” If we divide each day into 25 metric hours, each one would be 57 m 36 s long. That’s great! No one will even notice the missing 2 m 24 s we took from each hour.

Also, a metric decihour (5 m 45.6 s) makes for a good, natural division of time, as does the centihour (34.56 s). We just need to get used to saying things like, “Your presentation must be between 1-2 decihours long,” or “Steep your tea for 6 centihours.”

Even better, we can do away with the 7-day week in favour of the 4-day hectohour (25 hours x 4 days = 1 hectohour). That way each week has a nice round 100 metric hours in it. Of course, we would have to alternate between 1- and 2-day weekends, in order to ensure that we don’t lose any weekend time, but that would mean a nearly 10% increase in weekend time. Perfect!

To wrap up

  • Daylight Savings Time is evil
  • 12-hour clocks are stupid
  • Time zones cause so many problems
  • Screw it, nobody actually wants the system to make sense


    title = {Time to set your clocks forward and feel terrible again},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
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    date = 2015-03-6,
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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Time to set your clocks forward and feel terrible again" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 06 Mar 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Mar 06). Time to set your clocks forward and feel terrible again [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Yes, it’s racist


Judge Eliana Marengo recently told another human being that she had to be stripped of her identity and publicly humiliated in order to have her case heard in a court in Québec. That is to say, the judge refused to hear the case while she was wearing a hijab.

For clarity, Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec make no reference to headscarves. This was just one judge’s decision to make life harder for another human being. And it was racist.

Wait, how was it racist?

This is a point that people keep refusing to understand. I have written previously about how you can be substantially racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. without ever actually making reference to a person’s race, sex, orientation, gender, etc. This is exactly the same thing.

A policy that makes life harder for one group of people is discriminatory against that group, regardless of how obliquely that group is singled out in the wording of the policy itself. And it’s still discriminatory even if that policy contains an ostensibly non-racist/non-sexist/etc. counter-example to ward off suspicions of racism, sexism, etc. (Cf. the Charter of Values and conspicuously large crucifixes).

It is laughable that Marengo invoked equality to justify her racist abuse of power. She deigned to instruct us in righteousness by telling us, “The same rules need to be applied to everyone.” To get an idea of how the rules are applied to everyone in Québec, I have compiled Table 1, below.

White people do religious stuff in the public sphere in Québec all the time. Nobody minds. Nobody gets upset. Certainly nobody refuses to give them the basic justice that all humans are due. But when one private person of colour wears a hijab to court, suddenly a) it’s fair game to publicly humiliate them and strip their identity, and b) it’s hitting below the belt to call it “racist” when it happens.

Table 1: A convenience sample of conspicuous religious accommodations in the province of Québec, indexed by race

Religious thing Private or public? Who did it? (Race) Is it okay in Québec?
Prominent crucifix in legislature Public White Okay!
Giant cross overlooking biggest city in province Public White Okay!
Big white cross dominating the provincial flag Public White Okay!
Nearly every street and city named after a Christian saint Public White Okay!
Private person wearing hijab in court Private POC “This is unacceptable! Religious people are always demanding more and more accommodations. This is not about race at all!”


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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Yes, it’s racist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 27 Feb 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Feb 27). Yes, it’s racist [Web log post]. Retrieved from

I’m just gonna throw it out there—vaccine denialism technically fits the Canadian Criminal Code’s definition for “terrorist activity”


I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not a lawyer, and this post is meant more for comic effect than to be an actual attempt at a serious legal analysis. With that caveat firmly in place, maybe we can use some of these terrible new anti-terrorism powers that the government has given itself to combat vaccine denialism?

Section Quote from Criminal Code Does it apply to vaccine denialists?
83.01 (1) “Terrorist activity” means …
(b) … an act or omission, in or outside Canada … Failing to vaccinate one’s child, or advocating against the vaccination of children counts as an act or omission committed in or outside Canada.
(i) (A) … that is committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and … This definitely counts as “political” and “ideological.”
(i) (B) … in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act, whether the public or the person, government or organization is inside or outside Canada, and … While the intention is not to intimidate anyone with regard to their security, advocating for a position that denies the clear consensus of the scientific community with regard to vaccine safety certainly does have the intention of compelling a person to refrain from an act, namely, vaccinating a child, which meets this definition. There are also other actors (doctors, teachers, etc.) who are also targets of this movement.
(ii) (C) … that intentionally … causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public Vaccine denialism does cause a serious risk to the health and safety of the public.
Source: Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46


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Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "I’m just gonna throw it out there—vaccine denialism technically fits the Canadian Criminal Code’s definition for “terrorist activity”" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 06 Feb 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Feb 06). I’m just gonna throw it out there—vaccine denialism technically fits the Canadian Criminal Code’s definition for “terrorist activity” [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Thoughts on “The Imitation Game”


If you want a historically accurate portrayal of the life of Alan Turing, The Imitation Game might not be the film for you. The major contours of Turing’s life are covered, which is to say, you will get a story with roughly the following plot:

Mathematical genius and figure widely regarded as the father of modern computer science provides invaluable military intelligence that leads to victory in World War II by breaking the German Enigma code. He is criminally prosecuted for homosexuality and commits suicide.

However, once you get past those, the similarities between the actual Alan Turing and the one portrayed in The Imitation Game start to break down.

The overarching theme of the whole film is a sort of analogy between some police officer’s evaluation of Turing, and the Turing Test (“The Imitation Game”), which is a famous problem in philosophy of mind and computer science. The idea is that Turing was giving an account of his life to this officer, and from those responses, we were supposed to judge what sort of thing Turing was—machine, man, etc.

I suppose this is why they played up Turing’s social awkwardness as much as they did. They wanted to shoehorn the whole film into an analogy to the Turing Test. I suppose it also introduced some conflict, and they thought they could sell movie tickets with Cumberbatch doing his “I’m a terrible person but you like me anyway because what I do is so useful” routine. (C.f. BBC’s Sherlock, IT WORKED ON ME I GUESS.)

Overall, I am glad I saw it, and I recommend it. It was entertaining. Cumberbatch’s Turing was likeable, and I felt like (inaccuracies aside) it honours the memory of Turing in its own way. It’s somewhat historically inaccurate, and it’s tied together with a fairly hamfisted attempt to unite the story to Turing’s theoretical work, but that might be okay. I feel like modern movie-goers have an easy time separating what they see in the cinema from what they take to be true about history anyway.

One last note about accuracy: At the end of the film, the captions on the screen seem to indicate that computers used to be called “Turing Machines.” This is not quite the case. Turing Machines are abstractions that exist in thought experiments for philosophers and computer scientists. That said, I would be okay with it if we did start calling computers “Turing machines.”


    title = {Thoughts on “The Imitation Game”},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-01-29,
    url = {}


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Thoughts on “The Imitation Game”" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 29 Jan 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jan 29). Thoughts on “The Imitation Game” [Web log post]. Retrieved from

James Bond is super-sketchy and homophobic toward lesbians


Quick summary of how racist James Bond is

I recently finished reading Goldfinger, which is in the Public Domain in Canada, and thus free and legal for Canadians to download from Project Gutenberg Canada. Before I get to the homophobia, I think it’s relevant to report that Bond refers to Oddjob or other Koreans as “apes” or “lower than an ape” on no less than five different occasions—for the interest of those keeping score at home.

James Bond and Lesbians

There are two female characters in Goldfinger: Tilly Masterton and Pussy Galore. Masterton doesn’t reciprocate Bond’s sexual advances, which is explained as follows.

Bond thought she [Galore] was superb and so, he noticed, did Tilly Masterton who was gazing at Miss Galore with worshipping eyes and lips that yearned. Bond decided that all was now clear to him about Tilly Masterton.

So it turns out that both the female characters are Lesbians with a capital L. (Seriously, he capitalises the L every time.) Tough luck for Bond, right? Not so fast! In my previous blog post, I consider the possible meanings of the following quote from chapter 17.

Bond liked the look of her. He felt the sexual challenge all beautiful Lesbians have for men.

Which I understand might be a reference to the rape myth—the idea that if you force yourself on someone, they’ll eventually like it.

Unfortunately, during the action scene, Masterton didn’t stay with Bond as he told her to.

The girl’s hand tugged at him. She screamed angrily, ‘No, No. Stop! I want to stay close to Pussy. I’ll be safe with her.’

Bond shouted back, ‘Shut up, you little fool! Run like hell!’ But now she was dragging at him, checking his speed. Suddenly she tore her hand out of his and made to dart into an open Pullman door.

This was a bad life-choice for her—trying to find her Lesbian love interest at a time of crisis. And we learn how much of a bad choice it was only 10 paragraphs later.

The little figure still lay sprawled where she had fallen. Bond knelt beside her. The broken-doll angle of the head was enough. He felt for her pulse. He got up. He said softly, ‘Poor little bitch. She didn’t think much of men.’ He looked defensively at Leiter. ‘Felix, I could have got her away if she’d only followed me.

If only she had stayed with Bond! The gentle but firm hand of a man was what she needed. Not some Lesbian. So I guess Goldfinger is supposed to be a cautionary tale? “Don’t be too capital-L Lesbian, or you’ll end up dead?”

Anyway, after the action is all over, Galore throws herself into Bond’s arms, and the creepiest pillow-talk imaginable happens:

She lay in the crook of Bond’s arm and looked up at him. She said, not in a gangster’s voice, or a Lesbian’s, but in a girl’s voice, ‘Will you write to me in Sing Sing?’

Bond looked down into the deep blue-violet eyes that were no longer hard, imperious. He bent and kissed them lightly. He said, ‘They told me you only liked women.’

She said, ‘I never met a man before.’ The toughness came back into her voice. ‘I come from the South. You know the definition of a virgin down there? Well, it’s a girl who can run faster than her brother. In my case I couldn’t run as fast as my uncle. I was twelve. That’s not so good, James. You ought to be able to guess that.’

Lesbianism explained! Galore’s uncle turned her into a lesbian, and now Bond will turn her straight again with the sexytimes that she always wanted. And the book ends with Bond’s “passionate, rather cruel mouth waiting above hers,” and Bond’s mouth “ruthlessly” coming down over hers.

So, there we go. Somebody wanna write some good non-racist and queer-positive fan-fiction to get this taste out of my mouth?

In other news

I think there’s a typo. In chapter 20, it should be “Cary Grant” instead of “Gary Grant.”


    title = {James Bond is super-sketchy and homophobic toward lesbians},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-01-23,
    url = {}


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "James Bond is super-sketchy and homophobic toward lesbians" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 23 Jan 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jan 23). James Bond is super-sketchy and homophobic toward lesbians [Web log post]. Retrieved from

James Bond is super-racist


I have always been a big fan of the Public Domain. For works that are still under copyright, I feel like I am (and legally speaking, I think I might be) just renting them. This is unsettling to me for a few reasons.

First off, there’s always the possibility that publishers could claw back books from my e-reader that I rightfully paid for, by doing something like deleting them remotely. This is unlikely, but it has happened before.

Also, I don’t generally write fan-fiction, but I like the idea of fan-fiction. Some of it is better than the original even. While I don’t write much of the stuff myself, I do make cultural references either in conversation, or writing or blogging, and there’s a difference between making a cultural reference to a non-Public Domain thing and making a cultural reference to a Public Domain thing. When you draw an analogy to a Harry Potter character, for example, it comes across as corporate. Like you’re an advertisement for Warner Brothers. You know that for anyone to “get” your reference, they have to have lined the pockets of either WB or Bloomsbury Publishing. If I make reference to Moby Dick in an essay, though, it doesn’t have that same “corporate sell-out” flavour.

And that’s why I was so excited by the fact that this January, James Bond himself entered the Public Domain in Canada. That’s right, Ian Fleming died on August 12, 1964. Since he’s been dead for 50 years, that means that in Canada, there are no laws protecting his intellectual property anymore. Of course, the movies, the soundtracks, and everything else associated with James Bond will be under copyright forever, but the original novels by Ian Fleming and the characters within them, including James Bond, are now fair game.

So when Project Gutenberg Canada announced that Goldfinger is available for download (free and legal for Canadians), I got myself a copy. I was prepared to a certain extent for the novel to be a … umm … product of its time. After all, Bond is a fast-living, smooth-talking, hard-drinking, womanising secret agent man. That’s kind of his thing.

Then I got to this description of Oddjob:

He was a chunky flat-faced Japanese, or more probably Korean, with a wild, almost mad glare in dramatically slanting eyes that belonged in a Japanese film rather than in a Rolls Royce on a sunny afternoon in Kent. He had the snout-like upper lip that sometimes goes with a cleft palate, but he said nothing and Bond had no opportunity of knowing whether his guess was right. In his tight, almost bursting black suit and farcical bowler hat he looked rather like a Japanese wrestler on his day off.

Which was unsettling. But then it got worse:

‘Here–‘ Goldfinger took the cat from under his arm and tossed it to the Korean who caught it eagerly–‘I am tired of seeing this animal around. You may have it for dinner.’ The Korean’s eyes gleamed.

Those two were pretty bad, but I think par for the course for 1950’s racial sensitivity. The next quote takes it a bit further than the last two.

Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Oddjob and any other Korean firmly in his place, which, in Bond’s estimation, was rather lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.

It’s not just a casual statement of implied inferiority. He’s explicit about exactly how he feels about Koreans. And in case you thought that Bond was just being angry because he got beat up by Oddjob, he doubles down on the whole “ape” thing later on.

There’s only one way out of here and Oddjob, that Korean ape, is guarding it.

I haven’t quite finished the book, although it’s pretty short, so I imagine I’ll be done tomorrow or the next day, depending on how my métro ride goes. I may have to update this post with more Ways In Which James Bond Is Super-Racist. For right now, I’ll leave you with this weird homophobic thing:

Bond liked the look of her. He felt the sexual challenge all beautiful Lesbians have for men.

I really don’t know exactly how to interpret that. Maybe a straight guy can fill me in on what sexual challenge it is that all beautiful Lesbians have for men?


    title = {James Bond is super-racist},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-01-22,
    url = {}


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "James Bond is super-racist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 Jan 2015. Web. 29 Mar 2017. <>


Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Jan 22). James Bond is super-racist [Web log post]. Retrieved from


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