Monday, March 31, 2008

Romeo Dallaire: Bring Omar Khadr Home

I don't know of anyone who doesn't have the utmost respect for Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire - as a soldier, as a hero, and as a profoundly and deeply principled human being.

Therefore, when this man speaks out on the case of Omar Khadr, everyone should take note. Even conservatives.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was a 15-year-old child soldier when he allegedly killed a U.S. serviceman during a firefight in Afghanistan. The debate about his return to Canada must begin and end there. That the current and past Canadian governments have failed to secure his release and repatriation is a glaring instance of hypocrisy by this country that prides itself on its advocacy of human rights and adherence to international law.

Child soldiers who are Canadian citizens belong in Canada for due judicial processing and, more importantly, for rehabilitation after having been reared and coerced into extremism and violence.

All other details about Omar Khadr's activities in Afghanistan and the aftermath of his capture by U.S. forces only strengthen the argument for his return. The 15-year-old Omar was in a compound during aU.S. attack and was shot twice in the chest during the raid. After his capture, he was transferred to the U.S.'s infamous Bagram detention facility where he was processed as an adult combatant and very likely mistreated and tortured.

...Canada's Conservative government has demonstrated a sorry lack of decisiveness and effort to bring Khadr home. Our other allies recognized at the outset that Guantanamo was no place for due process, and quickly and successfully pushed for their citizens' release and repatriation. Today, Mr. Khadr is the only remaining citizen of a Western country incarcerated in Guantanamo.

Although Canada has no established system for dealing with child soldiers, we can learn much from nations that do. Rwanda and Sierra Leone, for example, countries we smugly categorize as underdeveloped, use a combination of demobilization, youth justice and rehabilitation on child soldiers who were abused and used to commit unspeakable acts.

If you still aren't convinced, you need to read the Toronto Star's excerpts from 'Guantanamo's Child', cached versions of which can still be found here and here.

As the mother of a fifteen year-old boy, I find the accounts of Khadr's treatment by both his family and his captors utterly sickening. As well, I am disgusted by critics who claim that fifteen is plenty old enough to make independent decisions. I can state categorically and from bitter personal experience that the average fifteen year-old boy doesn't even have enough sense to put on a jacket when it's cold or boots in the snow, let alone take a moral stand in the face of overwhelming pressure from family and peers.

BTW, I did find one error in Dallaire's editorial: Khadr was shot in the back, not the chest. Those holes are exit wounds.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour, John McCain, and the Texas Two-Step

Miscellaneous Sunday blogging:


I don't know how the rest of Milton fared in observing Earth Hour last night, but we of the Milton Choristers did our bit despite the rather awkward timing of the event in the middle of our concert. We turned out all the lights at 8:00, processed back into the church by candlelight, and sang a lovely arrangement of 'What a Wonderful World / This Is My Father's World' along with our angelic-voiced child soloist.

Unfortunately this didn't take up the entire hour, and since we didn't have the Schubert memorized we had to put the lights back on a little early. Still, it was more than Stephen Harper could be bothered to do.



Just when you thought no U.S. politician could possibly be any stupider than George W. Bush, the Republicans manage to find themselves another one.
Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Oh sweet Jesus on a stick.

The Dr. Coburn he refers to would be Senator Tom Coburn, head of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, whose knowledge of science and medicine is only exceeded by his overwhelming ideological fervour in promoting abstinence-only programs, dismissing the effectiveness of condoms in the prevention of STDs, advocating the death penalty for abortionists, and warning us all about the icky icky gay agenda.

I can't wait to find out who's been advising McCain on foreign policy.



The media seems to have forgotten all about Texas after Clinton took the primaries and was declared the winner. However, Texas has both primaries and caucuses, the latter of which have taken a ridiculously long time to calculate given the vagaries of the 'Texas Two-Step' system.

Although preliminary results were released soon after the caucuses were held on March 4th, it was only yesterday that Texas started their caucus conventions to officially sort out their delegate counts. And guess what? It looks like Hillary didn't take Texas after all.

Numbers are still coming in and it is still uncertain how this will all wash out in terms of total Texas delegates. However, most projections are putting Obama 1-3 delegates ahead by the end. Not a big margin to be sure, but then again it's Clinton who has been making such hay out of her "winning all the big states".

Now... not so much.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Come Hear Me Sing - Tonight!

In the interest of Shameless Self-Promotion, I would like to invite all my loyal readers who live within any reasonable distance of Milton, Ontario to attend the Milton Choristers' upcoming concert:

Classics of the Romantic Era
Saturday, March 29th, 7:00 p.m.
Grace Anglican Church, 317 Main St., Milton

We will be performing Fauré's Requiem and Schubert's Mass in G, during which I will have a (very) brief soprano solo. There will also be complimentary refreshments and cupcakes available at the reception afterwards, courtesy of FlourGirls.

Cupcakes! You can't say no to cupcakes!

UPDATE: I would also like to mention that, as an added bonus for all you political junkies out there, I will be CROSSING THE FLOOR from the Alto section to the Sopranos in mid-concert.

Tickets can be purchased through the Milton Choristers website. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

From Da Kos: The Hillary Clinton War Diaries

Again, I had to share:
Things had started going wrong while we were still in the air and only gotten worse from there. So here we were, pinned down, choking on the acrid tang of cordite and the heady scent of human blood. The mission was even simpler now: survive. Whatever the cost, survive.

There was a grunt and a clatter of equipment as Sinbad threw himself down at my side. Sweat glistened on his bare arms, and I could see tendons contracting and relaxing as he squeezed off bursts from his M14. The motion was hypnotic, like a snake about to strike. Perhaps, when all this was over-

No. Concentrate. Focus on the mission. Survive.

Oh yes. It goes on.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. Another lazy blog post. Blow me.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This is your Finance Minister. And this is your Finance Minister on drugs.

Everyone today seems to be wondering what the hell Jim Flaherty's been smoking. Theories abound regarding the logic behind his recent rants against Dalton McGuinty, Dwight Duncan and Ontario in general - everything from a possible run at John Tory's job to punishment for the province's stubborn refusal to vote Conservative ever again.

One popular theory that even I was starting to suspect was true, is that Harper has written Ontario off entirely and is trying to gain seats everywhere else by indulging in Canada's second favourite sport: Ontario / Toronto Bashing.

There's just one trouble with that theory. The kind of people who form Harper's base out west are also exactly the kind of people who don't take kindly to the Federal government sticking its nose into Provincial business. Even the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, even while agreeing that cutting corporate taxes would probably help Ontario, is positively dumbfounded by Flaherty's blatant meddling.

Paul Wells has an excellent analysis over at Maclean's, and may come the closest to explaining just what the Conservatives might hope to gain from all this. For insight, he turns to the intellectual font from which all of Harper's political strategies spring. From the Book Of Flanagan:
"Our appeal followed the time-honoured advice for raising money by direct mail -- make people angry and afraid, and set up an opponent for them to give against."
— Tom Flanagan, Harper's Team

...As for Ontario's chances of becoming an equalization-receiving province, here's Don Drummond of TD Bank saying the biggest culprit if that ever happens will be the Harper-Flaherty government. "They seem to be bent on making Ontario's situation worse at the moment," Drummond says.

Of course they are. For then Harper will have created a bogeyman Ontarians can be angry and afraid of, so he can do some fundraising against them. It's what he does.

Happily, Duncan and McGuinty aren't buying any of it. They, like most of us here in Ontario, remember all too well what happened last time we listened to Mr. Flaherty, and aren't about to let it happen again.
Following Mr. Flaherty's advice would reduce the province's revenue by $5.1-billion. This would include eliminating the annual health premium - which costs each taxpayer up to $900 a year - and cutting the corporate tax rate to 10 per cent.

“You can't take $5.1-billion out and not close hospitals and not fire nurses and not make cuts to education and not give rise to dramatic increases in tuition and not fire water inspectors and not make cuts to social assistance,” [McGuinty] said. “It just can't be done.”

Regardless of all the political motives and machinations at play, what it comes down to is a battle between two fundamentally different approaches to economics: progressive vs. conservative, bottom-up vs. trickle down, Keynes vs. Friedman in an all-out death match.

We've tried it Flaherty's way before and it was an unmitigated disaster. If Duncan and McGuinty turn out to have a better approach to weathering the coming storm, it might just be enough to convince the rest of the country to try it as well.

At which point Mr. Flaherty can get some first hand experience in the ranks of the unemployed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More Musings on Clinton and Obama

So. Clinton. Yeah.

Honestly, I didn't have any particular problem with Hillary Clinton at the beginning of this campaign, other than a sort of lingering doubt over whether she would prove to be as much of a disappointment as her husband. But she seemed smart and serious and tough and had a lot of great policies, so I would have been perfectly happy to see her become president.

In fact, in any other campaign her tone and her tap-dancing approach to awkward questions like the one about mountain-top removal would have just seemed like politics as usual. It's only when you hold her up next to Obama that the contrast becomes glaringly apparent.

Obama on MTR:
"Strip-mining is an environmental disaster! ...We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains."

See? How hard was that?

Now, Barack Obama is hardly the poster-boy for the environmental movement. His support of so-called "clean coal" technology, bio-diesel and ethanol is naive at best. At worst it may have something to do with his being from a state that produces large amounts of both coal and corn. However, there are signs that he is starting to educate himself and consequently modify his stance on some of his more controversial environmental platform positions. That in itself is pretty unusual for a politician.

But back to Hillary.

Another glaring example of political fuckery from Camp Clinton this week was her heart-stopping tale of her arrival in Bosnia in 1996 on her mission to... well, whatever the hell it is she's claiming she did to beef up her foreign policy resumé as First Lady.

"I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Wow! That must have been really exciting and scary. Like something out of a Van Damme movie. Too bad we can't see... oh, wait... do we have... yes, we have video!

Cue the video, Hank.

Hillary must really hate Al Gore for inventing the internet.

And before you ask, yes, that was the only time Hillary ever landed by plane in Bosnia (as verified by her newly released schedules), and yes, that's her daughter Chelsea with her, and no, there was no "running with their heads down to get into the vehicles to get to their base" because the base was right there.

Again, in any other campaign this kind of blatant lie embellishment would be considered business as usual. But somehow Obama has changed all that. Our tolerance for bullshit has decreased. Our sensitivity to political obfuscation has increased. It's like that commercial where the picture looks normal until they peel back the haze and it all becomes so much brighter.

We're Claritin Clear!

Even the pundits have been inspired to pull their heads out of their asses once on a rare while, to step back and ask themselves "What the hell are we doing?!" Like this little exchange on CNN last week between Anderson Cooper, Carl Bernstein and Roland Martin:

BERNSTEIN: Obama has called for an elevated conversation about race. And what are we seeing here, is the bottom- of-the-barrel conversation, a talk show nation hysteria, picking words out.

We need to look at all of these candidates, including Hillary Clinton, including John McCain, in the context of their lives. And the remarks that they make need to be understood in the context of their lives. And the choices they have made in their lives about pastors, about marriages, all about -- every aspect of their lives need to be looked at in the totality.

And, as long as we keep pulling these threads out, we're not going to have any kind of meaningful debate in this campaign…

…COOPER: It's interesting, Roland, because these are not the kind of conversations that -- that television or radio programs -- well, maybe radio does it better -- but, in this heightened atmosphere, does very well, that this is the kind of -- I mean, it's a difficult conversation to have, and it's a very nuanced conversation to have. And we live in an environment which is all about sound bites and -- and people yelling on television.

MARTIN: Yes, but we -- but we don't have to do what they do.

We -- we can call for something different. You know, last year, Anderson, when I hosted three faith specials on CNN, it was amazing the number of people who said, thank you for having a real conversation about faith on television that just didn't deal with abortion and homosexuality.

We can do that. The question is, do we have the courage to do that?

Well no, of course they don't, because then they went right back to pulling threads. But still, how often do moments of clarity like that happen on the newsnets?

I don't know. Maybe I'm seeing a trend here that doesn't really exist. Maybe the small changes I'm noticing are only temporary, and once the real campaign starts it'll be back to business as usual. Probably.

I'll keep watching, though. You never know when some of this new clarity might stick.


UPDATE: Oh, I'm sorry. She didn't lie - she MISSPOKE. Wait... where else have I heard that word recently? Oh yeah, that's right.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

'3AM Girl' Endorses Obama

Oops. I guess Team Clinton should have blown the big bucks for an actual Clinton supporter to appear in their fear-mongering ads, huh?

(H/T to Giant Political Mouse)

And in other Clinton-related news, someone recently had the nerve to ask her what she thought of mountain-top removal coal mining, which I blogged about here. You'd think this would be a no-brainer given that a) it utterly destroys mountains, valleys, entire ecosystems, and the health and homes of any humans living anywhere nearby, and b) it is almost entirely automated, resulting in a 90% decrease in mining jobs in West Virginia.

Hillary's response:

I am concerned about it for all the reasons people state, but I think its a difficult question because of the conflict between the economic and environmental trade-off that you have here.

I'm not an expert. I don't know enough to have an independent opinion, but I sure would like people who could be objective, understanding both the economic necessities and environmental damage to come up with some approach that would enable us to retrieve the coal but would enable us to do it in a way that wouldn't damage the living standards and the other important qualities associated with people living both under the mountaintop and people who are along the streams.

You know, maybe there is a way to recover those mountaintops once they have been stripped of the coal. You know, I think we've got to look at this from a practical perspective.

Aside from once again demonstrating her mastery of the art of political equivocation, she is, in fact, LYING when she says she doesn't know enough about it to form an opinion. Hillary Clinton has sat in on Senate Committee hearings on mountaintop removal since 2002, so she knows damned well what is going on here.

More on this nonsense later - gotta go to work.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Garth Turner Comedy Hour

Love him or hate him, Garth Turner is always entertaining. And as a recent outsider with a unique perspective, once in a while he's right on the money.

Tonight, responding to a new party member on the subject of Liberal wimpitude:

Face it – getting Libs into power was not rocket science while the PCs disintegrated, thanks to the efforts of the wingnuts in the Reform Party, which was basically unelectable. Given that, Liberals stopped being hungry, stopped being aggressive, stopped being insanely partisan, and concentrated on governing.

Meanwhile, Conservatives (which is what those Reformers are now called), evolved in an opposite direction. Unburdened with power, they spent every moment plotting how to get it. They organized the shorts off their membership. They learned how to communicate effectively. They got very good at spin, attack, derision, debate, character assassination, smear, media relations, innuendo, tactics, tour and messaging. They set up a killer data system. They hired a mess of political field operatives. They honed a platform. They learned retail politics. They probed the many weaknesses of the guys in office. They hired tough nuts like Doug Finley and Ian Brodie to run the back shop. They lived and ate and drank and slept and breathed and peed politics. And they won.

Today Stephen Harper is therefore not only prime minister, but in charge of a bare-knuckle brigade of streetfighters who still dream nightly of standing over the torn-asunder carcasses of Liberals, holding aloft their still-beating hearts. Or close. You get my drift, Ian?

Thus, you might imagine the work I’ve been doing for the last few months as a special advisor to Stephane Dion. Feeding him raw steak. Hormone injections. Weights. Anger training. New glasses with hidden electrodes. Bought him a Harley. The works. When the House resumes March 31st, I’ll have the guy so hepped up he’ll rip out his desk during QP and crush Stephen Harper with it like a western pine beetle. Let the Speaker look irritated and call, “Order, order!” Bug juice on the mace. Bug bits everywhere.

Oops. Sorry Ian, forgive me. I had a CPC moment there.

"Crush him like a Western pine beetle." Hee hee hee!

One commenter suggested that Dion needs a new speechwriter. I volunteered, but I think Garth would be equally qualified. Either that or he should go write for '22 Minutes'.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Shorter Jim Prentice on the MacDonald Dettwiler sale: "I don't feel like deciding today. I think I'll decide later, after everyone's stopped paying attention."
Feds delay ruling on sale of Canada's top space firm

OTTAWA -- In the face of mounting domestic pressure, Industry Minister Jim Prentice is holding off government approval of the sale of Canada's top space company and a multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded satellite to a U.S. weapons maker, CTV News has learned.

Government insiders say Prentice has ordered another 30-day review of the proposal sale that has been strongly denounced by Canadian scientists, editorial writers, and Calgary Conservative MP Art Hanger.

Remarkable how many of the comments on that article are drawing parallels with the Avro Arrow. They have some valid points, but I'm looking more at parallels with AECL. There is an emerging pattern of hiving off the most successful and profitable divisions of public companies or (like MDA) companies with significant public investment, and selling them off for a quick profit. Then the government can point to what's left and say, "See? Why should we keep throwing money at such an unprofitable enterprise?"

Kinda like eating all the carrots and croutons and bacon bits out of your salad, and then saying you don't like salad.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to watch Prentice and Harper squirm their way out of this one, because I have no doubt they are determined to see MDA sold, one way or the other.


UPDATE: This bit from the Globe & Mail really says it all, doesn't it?
"Shareholders were expecting a windfall from this transaction. At this point it may not happen," Dundee Securities Corp. analyst Richard Stoneman said yesterday.

The controversy has placed Mr. Prentice in the delicate position of having to balance pro-business considerations with concerns about Arctic sovereignty and military security.

Hmm... shareholder profits versus national security and sovereignty. Profits, sovereignty... profits... sovereignty... the corporation... the country...

Yeah, I can see that being a tough one, Jim. Let me know when you work it out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama and the Elephant in the Room

I can't remember the last time a speech brought me to tears. Wow. Just... wow.

Obama's speech today was only supposed to repudiate the incendiary statements of his former paster Rev. Wright. He did so, but he also put Rev. Wright's sermons into the context of the lingering bitterness and cynicism in the black community over past and present injustices. He condemned the remarks as "not only wrong, but divisive" without completely condemning the man. In one memorable statement, he said that he could no more disown Rev. Wright than he could disown his own white grandmother, who despite her love for him had been known to make racially biased comments that "made him cringe".

Instead of just trying to put out the fire of this one controversy, however, Obama took the opportunity to confront head on the entire history of racism and racial inequality in America. Instead of just dancing around the issue or dismissing it as irrelevant, he explored it and explained it from both black and white perspectives. Then he spoke about how America might finally get past it's history of racial division and bitterness and move forward as one people, by recognizing how unemployment and crumbling schools and crime and poverty are issues that affect everybody of every race which can only be solved by working together.

I cannot begin to do justice to this speech. It was remarkable and courageous, and spoke directly and intelligently to a complex issue that American politicians have been avoiding for decades.

Go read. Even better, go watch. I dare you to stay cynical.


Hilary's reaction:
"I did not have a chance to see or to read yet Sen. Obama’s speech, but I’m very glad that he gave it. It’s an important topic."

Hasn't seen or read it?! Guess what, Hilary: I DON'T BELIEVE YOU! I don't believe Obama got more than five minutes into that speech before someone, somewhere, buzzed your Blackberry with the message, "Turn on CNN. Now."

Three Out of Four Ain't Bad

Aw, c'mon - nobody really expected the Libs to take Saskatchewan.

As of right now, at OMFG in the morning on Tuesday, things are shaping up as follows:

Toronto Centre is Rae's by a landslide, as expected. More importantly, the Green Party's Chris Tindal is so far placing second. SECOND!! Wow! Word is that Chris kicked some serious ass at the last debate, so it's nice to see that sort of egghead stuff actually paying off as votes.

(Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to root for the Liberals. So sue me. No, wait...)

A similar story in Willowdale, although there the Greens are about 250 votes behind the NDP. Still beating the Cons, though. I used to live in Willowdale, which makes me wonder why my father ever wanted to live there.

(aw, shit - Chris just dropped to third again.)

Vancouver Quadra has also gone to the Libs, although only by about a thousand votes so far. Nice to see the Rhinos back in the game.

And then there's Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River. Whatever...

And Chris is back in second again - by TWO VOTES!!! I can't take this anymore!!!

Going to bed. G'night.


And the Liveblogging Wit Award goes to K-K-Kady at ITQ:
"It may be 2am before we know what the results are in Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River, which I am hereby nicknaming DMCR for the duration, since I just can't type that out every time I want to talk Saskatchewan. Frankly, typing 'Saskatchewan' is enough of a fingertrap."

Ctrl-C Ctrl-V, baby.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Two Days After St. Patrick's Day!

In case you hadn't heard, you missed it. The Vatican decided to move the Saint's day back to last Friday this year to avoid excessive drinking and carousing during the sombreness of Holy Week.

The response from celebrants has been, "Pope who?"

So, Happy Real St. Patrick's Day everyone! I was going to sing you a verse of 'Danny Boy', but unfortunately I don't have a mike. Instead, here's a kick-ass version of one of my favourite Irish tunes sung by Cara Dillon, who I am definitely going to have to investigate further.


Bushville, USA

In the 30s they were called 'Hoovervilles': shantytowns filled with victims of the Great Depression set up in Central Park and other public spaces all over America, named for the man who (before this one) was arguably the worst U.S. President in history.

During the 80s recession, tent cities called 'Reagan Ranches' were erected Washington and other cities as a form of protest against Reagan's gutting of social housing budgets. However, some of these tent cities were actually filled with the homeless and the the jobless, like the one that sprang up around Houston as thousands of unemployed workers fled the industrial midwest desperately looking for jobs.

Today it's starting all over again.

Funny how you never see stuff like that on CNN. Or read anything with quite the same odour of raw panic as this item from 'The Independant' regarding the Bear Stearns takeover:
A Goldman Sachs trader in New York said: “Everyone is in a total state of shock, aghast at what is happening. No one wants to talk, let alone deal; we’re just standing by waiting. Everyone is nervous about what is going to emerge when trading starts tomorrow.”

In the UK, Michael Taylor, a senior market strategist at Lombard, the economics consultancy, said on Friday night: “We have all been talking about a 1970s-style crisis but as each day goes by this looks more like the 1930s. No one has any clue as to where this is going to end; it’s a self-feeding disaster.”

Time to buy a horse.

(H/T to Ted over in the the comments at Turner's place for the video link.)


UPDATE: Oh, look at that. CNN is doing a piece on a couple who lost their 2,700 sq. ft. home in Vegas and are now living in their camper. Oddly, the interview seems to focus on how this is all their fault. Hmm.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Art Hanger: Defender of Canada's Public Interest?!

It seems critics of the upcoming sale of Canadian space tech company MacDonald Dettwiler to a U.S. weapons firm finally have a champion in the House of Commons.

Someone willing to stand up for Canada's sovereignty. Someone ready to go toe to toe with Alliant's new politically connected lobbyist. Someone who won't stand idly by and watch the public interest be sold out to corporate greed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Art Hanger.

Yeah. That Art Hanger.

Tory MP calls sale of space firm 'a waste'

OTTAWA - A prominent Conservative MP says allowing Canada's top space company and a multi-million-dollar taxpayer-funded satellite to be sold to a U.S. firm would be a betrayal of the public interest.

Calgary Northeast MP Art Hanger says the Conservative government has the means to stop the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., to Alliant Techsystems of Minnesota.

"It is a waste of your money and a betrayal of the public interest," Mr. Hanger writes in a weekly newspaper in the Calgary area. "It's about time Canada stop playing the nice guy at the expense of our own security and sovereignty --not to mention our own research and development capacity."

I honestly don't know what to do with this. It must be some sort of trick.

Whatever his motives, I'm glad to see somebody in Parliament is taking a stand on this, because it was starting to look like this issue was going to get lost in the frenzy over the ScamGate AffairTM. It's come up a couple of times in QP over the past few days and is being discussed in committee, but by and large it's been ignored on the 6 o'clock news - which is still, sadly, the sole source of information for most Canadians.

Let's hope that Art Hanger's sudden, inexplicable, and very public interest in this despicable deal will inspire Mr. Prentice to get off the fence and kill it once and for all.

(For more background on the MDA / Alliant deal, read the excellent two-part series from the Ottawa Citizen: Sovereignty For Sale and Lost In Space.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

Given the number of ‘chick flicks’ I have seen since teaming up with Murray for this column, I like to think that I am a little better equipped to judge their relative merits than I was a year ago.

Some were terrific. Some were dreadful. ‘Definitely, Maybe’ was… ok.

I actually like Ryan Reynolds when he isn’t doing trashy frat house comedies. He reminds me a little of a young Robert Redford. And the ‘romantic lead with a charming comic twist’ is the perfect type of role for him, even if it does come off a bit like Ryan Reynolds Vehicle #7.

Unfortunately, ‘Definitely, Maybe’ is one of those movies that looks like it was cobbled together by a bunch of producers who told the writer, "That’s great! Now, if you could just write in a part for that little girl from ‘No Reservations’…"

Without the kid, it would have been merely formulaic. With her, it was gimmicky. Two and a half stars out of five.

(Not surprisingly, Murray liked it more than I did.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Of all the snow pictures I've taken this week, these amuse me the most. This was in the parking lot in front of the video store where I work:

For the full effect, you really need to click on the second one to read that white sign in the upper right.

(FYI, the car was gone as of 11:00 this evening)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Surrender Monkeys; or, Why I Haven't Burned My Liberal Card Yet

There are a lot of seriously pissed off bloggers out there today. Progressive bloggers. People I respect. Even little Jason Cherniak is starting to wonder:
Think about the future

I just had a thought.

As Liberals, we should not ask whether people care that our MPs are abstaining. Most people don't follow politics and have no idea what's going on.

Instead, we should ask whether they will care when they find out during an election. Will they shrug it off as political strategy, or will they think "I can't believe the Liberals were doing that".

I'm not sure what the answer is.

Other bloggers have been a little more forthright. Like Dave at The Galloping Beaver:
You can't understand the outrage? Here. Let me explain it.

Some of the Liberal (capital L) bloggers can't seem to grasp the outrage felt by those of us of in the left side of the swamp over the failure of the opposition to meet Bill C-484 with the appropriate action.

...The outrage is not just at the Liberals' obvious failure to properly interpret this bill and then meet it head-on. The outrage goes deeper - much deeper.

And Rational Reasons:
Blogging Angry

...There is only one thing worse than the CPC right now and that is the Liberal Party of Canada and their spineless milquetoast leader, Stephane Dion. He has allowed the CPC to rule for as thought they have a majority, while desperately trying to tell us how bad they are.

And Apply Liberally:
The Liberals have lost me

I’m not exactly a powerful blogger. I’m not exactly a powerful member of the Liberal Party. I’m also not exactly a big financial donor. I have, however, considered myself a staunch supporter of the Liberals for almost the past two decades.

I attended the last convention in Montreal, paid my dues and have used new media like this blog to defend and promote the party. My frustrations run deep now and I’ve decided I will no longer consider myself a Liberal supporter.

And Canadian Cynic:
Dear Liberals: Do you have any idea?

In all seriousness and addressed to any diehard Liberals out there, do you have even the remotest idea of the teeth-grinding fury you've provoked amongst Canada's progressives? Really, is the uproar over this latest exquisite fuckery of yours coming up in conversation in your little get-togethers? Because it should be. Because we. Are. Fucking. Pissed.

Believe me, I totally get the outrage. I SHARE IT. I am sick to death of the abstentions, the capitulations and the endless lame excuses for why the Liberals aren't quite ready for an election just yet ("but just you wait!"). It's not just embarrassing - it's causing irrevocable damage to the party and it's chances of keeping the Harper Conservatives from doing to Canada what George W. Bush has done to America for the past seven long years.

What I cannot understand is why some of these fine, principled people are just throwing up their hands and deciding to stay home the next time there's an election because none of these asshats are worth voting for. Because that sounds a lot like... what's the word... ABSTAINING.

If the past few weeks have taught us anything, it is that not voting is the one sure way to guarantee that nobody will ever give a rat's ass what you think or want ever again.

Believe me, I am not suggesting that anyone should just vote for the 'lesser of two evils'. I'm saying that if you don't like any of the options in front of you, then change the options.

If you honestly think that throwing your support behind the NDP or the Greens will succeed in kicking the asses of the Cons and Libs, then by all means do so. I'll tell them to expect you at the next meeting. If you think they are all beyond help and we need a completely new Progressive party in this country, then great. Start organizing. I'll be there.

If you believe (as I do) that the Liberals can still be saved from themselves by dragging them kicking and screaming back to the left side of the centre line and purging them of the complacent, centrist assholes who are largely responsible for the party's current cowering paralysis, then get off your sorry blogging ass and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Communicate with your MP and/or opposition candidate. If they don't respond, mock them on your blog and send them the link. They'll get the picture. Write letters. Real letters, to actual newspapers. If you really want to make a difference, join a party. Any party. Go to riding meetings. If you join the Liberals and you think the problem is Dion, then work towards getting somebody better in charge. If you think the problem is with the entrenched, corporatist old guard, then work on empowering a new guard. Or (Gods forbid) consider running yourself.

Subvert. From. Within.

A lot of people think its hopeless. A lot of people don't know history, and the enormous transformations that have occurred on both the liberal and conservative sides of the Canadian political spectrum over the past hundred years or so. I'd recommend reading 'Lament for a Nation' and John English's biography of Trudeau for some insight into how radically our major political parties have changed just over the course of my lifetime. Often rather suddenly. Often due to one person being at the right place at the right time in history.

If you need a more recent case study, take a look at what's happening south of the border. The U.S. Democrats have spent the past seven years playing surrender monkey, shucking and jiving and using their House and Senate majorities to support every bullshit Republican measure that has passed their desks. Why? Because the party establishment were so busy trying to position themselves for re-election as inoffensive centrists that they somehow forgot that they were supposed to be DEMOCRATS.

Now all of a sudden they are energized and idealistic and ready to kick some Republican ass. They're going to get the fuck out of Iraq. They've got specific plans for universal (if not entirely public) health care. Depending on who you believe, they may even be questioning NAFTA. Most importantly, they actually stand for something again.

And it isn't all because of Obama. It's because what passes for the left wing of the Democratic Party finally reached critical mass and started actually GETTING INVOLVED instead of just bitching about how lame their party had become. They got organized, and they informed the party bosses and the Blue Dogs that hey, it might actually be in your best interest to start listening to us. And if you don't, well, we're just going to throw our support behind some nobody Senator from Illinois with a funny name and a way with words who actually represents what WE want.

How all that will end is anybody's guess. But it's exciting, isn't it? Want some of that up here? Then start thinking about ways to make it better instead of just complaining.



Oh. I see. It's the SDA tour bus from Harperville.

I'd like to welcome our Conservative friends to Runesmith's Canadian Content. Feel free to look around. Try not to break anything. Enjoy your stay!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bill C-484: The Rogues Gallery

By now you probably know that the 'Unborn Victim of Crime Act' narrowly passed its first vote in Parliament yesterday and has gone on to committee. Much to my disgust, Stephane Dion was glaringly absent from the vote. Why? It seems he was too busy attending his wife's fancy schmancy International Women's Week soiree.

Oh, the sickening sweet stench of irony.

Thankfully, Garth Turner voted against the bill. Otherwise I don't think I'd ever be able to SPEAK to him again, let alone vote for him. But even he went through some changes over this and had to actually do his homework to get past the snow job that Epp and his anti-abortion buddies have been pushing, trying to pretend that none of this has anything to do with abortion.

For those of you who still don't get it, Dave at The Beav does his usual brilliant job of explaining why it does - slowly, in small words so you can follow along.

While Epp might be speaking truthfully when he suggests that this amendment would not be used to prosecute women or doctors in the case of an abortion, (although I don't for a minute believe that's the case), he has neatly avoided discussing the one thing that would plant a ticking bomb in Canadian law.

A definition.

The long title of the bill, according to my lawyer friend, contains the time bomb. (emphasis mine)

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence)

There's the bomb.

Epp and his gang of anti-choice crusaders regularly refer to the bill by its short title, Unborn Victims of Crime Act, quietly sidestepping the clarity of intent in the long title. If it wasn't so underhanded it would be ingenious.

If this bill moves out the House and goes to committee the amendment will require more than just the rewording of section 238 of the Criminal Code. It will require a written definition of an unborn child.

The current offence specifies "in the act of birth".

It is the definition this crowd is attempting to insert into the Criminal Code. By doing so, if this bill goes anywhere other than the garbage bin, they will have provided a counter argument to the Supreme Court decision in Tremblay v. Daigle in which the court specified that a fetus has no status as a "person" under the common law.

Get it now? Epp can put all the 'provisions' he likes into his bill to preclude its being used directly to prosecute cases of voluntary abortion, but the fact remains that it will provide a legal precedent for the recognition of a fetus as a person with inherent rights, and thus unravel all the legal arguments supporting a woman's right to choose.

And that, as we know, is the whole point.

Now for The List.

There has been a list making the rounds on various blogs today of Liberal MPs who voted in favour of C-484 yesterday, as well as those who were no-shows (including their illustrious leader). It seems to have originated on On close examination, I found several errors in this list that need to be corrected before anyone goes harassing the wrong people. Specifically,

- Gord Brown is a Conservative, not a Liberal
- Liberal John Maloney also voted 'yea'
- Scott Simms did vote, and he voted 'nay'

The corrected list, based on Hansard, is as follows:

Raymond Bonin; John Cannis; Hon. Raymond Chan; Hon. Roy Cullen; Sukh Dhaliwal; Hon. Albina Guarnieri; Hon. Charles Hubbard; Hon. Jim Karygiannis; Derek Lee; Hon. Lawrence MacAulay; Hon. Gurbax Malhi; John Maloney; Hon. John McKay; Hon. Joe McGuire; Hon. Dan McTeague; Hon. Shawn Murphy; Massimo Pacetti; Francis Scarpaleggia; Hon. Raymond Simard; Lloyd St. Amand; Paul Steckle; Paul Szabo; Hon. Robert Thibault; Alan Tonks; Roger Valley; Tom Wappel; Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Stéphane Dion; Bryon Wilfert; Joe Volpe; Hon. Paul Martin (who is always absent); Nancy Karetak-Lindell; Hon. Mark Eyking; Ujjal Dosanjh; Denis Coderre; Brenda Chamberlain; Gerry Byrne

And then there was the NDP's Peter Stoffer, who broke ranks with his party to vote 'yea'.

Phone numbers and email addresses for most can be found here.

I found a couple of interesting things when I was going though this list. One is that all six Scarborough MPs (all Liberals) voted in favour of the bill. Weird. Apparently Scarborough is a hotbed of crypto-conservatism.

Another curiosity is that almost all of these names are also found on the list of Liberals who voted against same-sex marriage back in the day. This suggested to me that most of them are probably anti-choice as well, and are therefore not likely to be swayed by evidence that C-484 might re-criminalize abortion.

Then I found a better indication of their positions on abortion here.

I would suggest that those who wish to write to MPs on this list focus their efforts on those who are pro-choice or undecided who may have simply been fooled by the 'just protecting pregnant women, nothing to do with abortion here' rhetoric.

Don't yell at them. Educate them. Explain it to them. Convince them that there is more going on here than meets they eye, and that they have an obligation to consider all the ramifications if they allow this Trojan Horse bill to become law.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

And You Thought Harper Hated the Press

I spotted this Time blog post quoted on DailyKos and just had to share.

This has got to be a first. Here in Austin, on the night before that make-or-break Texas primary, the Clinton campaign has set up a filing center for the traveling press corps ... in a men's room. Insert metaphor here.

UPDATE: According to the schedule, we will be here in the men's room for the next five hours. Someone will soon have to declare a moratorium on the "down the toilet" jokes.

UPDATE2: Hey, Jay: Is it true Obama has put his press corps in the Golden Door Spa tonight?

UPDATE3: There's also dinner and a television in here. I really wish I had Ana's little camera thing-ee, so I could share.

UPDATE4: CNN has a photo.

UPDATE5: A wider shot (wider stance?) from my own cellphone is posted two entries above this one. A gentleman just wandered in, expecting to use the facilities, and looked very startled to see three dozen reporters typing away on their laptops.

Sheesh - the least they could have done is put them up in the ladies' room so they could have couches and new age music and the smell of vanilla lavender soap instead of, you know, urinal cakes. One commenter wondered aloud what the Health Department would have to say about a bunch of reporters being served dinner in a public washroom. Ew.

And Clinton wonders why the press seem to hate her so.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Stephen's Silver Hammer

Stephen Harper has finally lost his mind. (Oh, crap - am I going to get sued now?)

Harper files notice of libel over Cadman allegations

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has filed a notice of libel against Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and other top Liberals over allegations they've made about him in the Chuck Cadman affair.

Robert Fife, CTV's Ottawa bureau chief, told Newsnet that Dion was served this morning at his Stornoway residence in Ottawa.

"The prime minister is not only suing the Liberal leader, he's suing the deputy leader, Michael Ignatieff; Ralph Goodale, who is the House leader; and the Liberal Party of Canada," he said.

"Mr. Harper's notice of libel says they've accused him of knowing about Conservative bribery in the Cadman affair," he said.

Harper said the allegations, made outside the House of Commons and on the Liberal party's website, are false and misleading. He is asking for an immediate retraction, Fife said.

Forgetting for the moment that the articles in question simply quote what was said in the House of Commons and are therefore immune from accusations of libel.

Forgetting the hypocrisy of suing the Liberals without also suing the Cadman family or Tom Zytaruk.

Forgetting even the horrifying precedent of a sitting Prime Minister responding to political attacks through a civil law suit.

What I find truly astonishing is that he would take this outrageous action when the Cadman affair was just starting to fall off the radar, and it was becoming apparent that after their initial fit of bluster the Liberals were probably going to just let it slide.

I am beyond angry. I am actually starting to become afraid for my country.

But when she turns her back on the boy,
He creeps up from behind.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

'The Tin Drum' Revisited

One of my earliest memories of a cultural and political controversy where I felt compelled to pick a side was when the Ontario Censor Board (later re-named the Ontario Film Review Board) banned the critically acclaimed German film 'The Tin Drum' for a single scene implying oral sex by a minor.

The fallout from that decision resulted in a radical restriction of the powers of censorship boards across the country and a general shift in the perception of Canada, both inside and outside of the country, from that of a nation of prudes to a country where freedom of expression and creativity was actively encouraged. The result has been a flowering of unique, challenging and provocative film and television productions that have been recognized and lauded around the world. In many ways, Canada has become the 'HBO' of North America.

This is what progressives refer to as "progress".

This is what religious conservatives refer to as "Canada's rapid descent into decadence and Godlessness".

Thanks to Charles McVety of the Canada Family Action Coalition, most people are now aware of the implications of Bill C-10 and the true intentions of the related 'update' of the Heritage Ministry guidelines that would result in a return to the kind of censorship we used to have here in prudish Ontario. If you haven't been keeping up, writer Denis McGrath over at Dead Things on Sticks has done some excellent coverage and analysis.

It should be pointed out that the specific clause in Bill C-10 that has caused so much anguish among both progressive bloggers and pretty much everyone in the Canadian entertainment industry is, on its face, completely innocuous. Out of a 600+ page income tax amendment bill, all it says is this:

(3) The definition "Canadian film or video production certificate" in subsection 125.4(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

"Canadian film or video production certificate" means a certificate issued in respect of a production by the Minister of Canadian Heritage certifying that the production is a Canadian film or video production in respect of which that Minister is satisfied that

(a) except where the production is a treaty co-production (as defined by regulation), an acceptable share of revenues from the exploitation of the production in non-Canadian markets is, under the terms of any agreement, retained by

(i) a qualified corporation that owns or owned an interest in, or for civil law a right in, the production,

(ii) a prescribed taxable Canadian corporation related to the qualified corporation, or

(iii) any combination of corporations described in subparagraph (i) or (ii); and

(b) public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy.

Hardly surprising that it passed by the House and the Senate without anyone connecting the dots.

It's that "public policy" provision that's the real kicker, because it just so happens that the Heritage Ministry has a rather detailed and draconian set of guidelines for establishing what might be against "public policy" all drawn up and ready to go. Worse, it allows Heritage and Justice to withdraw a certificate and thus disqualify a production for tax credits even after production is well underway - meaning that investors could suddenly find their investment to be not such a good investment after they've already committed and spent the money.

The chilling effect this would have on all Canadian film and television productions - not just the naughty ones - would be utterly devastating.

Happily, the true import of this seemingly innocuous bill has finally surfaced above the fold and made the nightly news, largely due to Charles McVety's inability to conceal his glee at what he considers a vindication of his anti-smut, anti-homosexuality agenda. The Governor General's office has been inundated with calls and emails, and the bill is now back in Senate committee for another look.

If you would like to encourage them to slam this loophole shut, please contact the senators from your province. And while you're at it, toss off a note to the Heritage Minister, and maybe join the Facebook group as well.


MORE COVERAGE: Even the Globe & Mail's Margaret Wente thinks this is a bad idea. I especially enjoyed this passage:

We may just have to say goodbye to sex, violence, and Viggo Mortensen cavorting with Russian gangsters in the nude. Instead, we'll have to settle for "films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country," as Conservative MP Dave Batters put it. David Cronenberg will be reduced to shooting remakes of Anne of Green Gables. Juno will be recast as the heartwarming tale of a plucky girl who realizes that if she has premarital sex with her boyfriend, she'll go to Hell. As for Young People Fucking, a new movie coming soon, forget about it. It will have to be reshot as Young People Starting an Abstinence Club.

(H/T to we move to canada, where you can find more text from the editorial in case you, like me, can't get past the !@#$% G&M firewall.)