Sunday, June 29, 2008

Regrettable Food

Final evidence that Western Civilization deserves everything that's coming to it:



Best of all - it's organic! And in case you think it must be some sick joke... it's not.

Apparently it costs $5.99 and makes about 20-28 pancakes per can. As opposed to the fifty or sixty you can get out of a box of instant pancake mix that costs half as much. But hey, then you'd actually have to go to all that trouble of measuring powder and water and mixing it together with a spoon.

We're all doomed.

...........

BTW, Happy Pride Week everybody! For some reason, every year events conspire to keep me from attending the parade, but I'm there in spirit (unlike some). Have fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fuckers Fire Ed & Red

The evil corporate overlords at what used to be our beloved CityTV have proven once and for all that all the weasel words about "nurturing and preserving" City's "unique and special culture" were only so many small piles of doggie doo.

'Ed & Red's Night Party', the latest incarnation of Canada's longest running comedy show, has been cancelled.

Steve K is being very gracious about it:

"There's no ill will. Things change," said Steve Kerzner, Ed's voice and creator. "We just don't really fit, I guess, as presently constituted, with what they wanted to do with the channel."


Yeah. That's one way of putting it, I suppose. And happily Steve and his lovely Liana K (one of us!!) have had numerous offers from elsewhere. But word from the underground is that the mood over at Rogers-owned CityTV is decidedly grim, and the sword of Damocles is casting its shadow over more than one icon of the Temple of Television.

It's the end of an era, man. But it sure was a sweet ride while it lasted.

My Other Job

In case you didn't know, when I'm not blogging, writing movie reviews, editing newsletters, selling weird stuff on the internet or working at the video store... I sing. Sometimes just for fun, but lately doing paid gigs with a bawdy little group of Ren Fest refugees called Nero's Fiddle.

Here are a couple of tunes from our pub set at Faery Fest in Guelph last weekend - one pretty, one dirty. Not the best sound quality, and our cameraman was juggling a toddler in his lap, but you get the idea.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Talking With Libertarians

For some reason I've been trying to correct some misconceptions about the Liberals' "Green Shift" over at Saskatchewan Liberty Train. I've tried to remain calm and rational and use facts and logic to make my case, but at this point I'm about ready to claw my own eyes out and run screaming from the room.

For example, one person was claiming that $6 billion of the $15 billion was going to fund "Liberal social programs" - including some mythical "child care initiative". To which I responded,
"I'm looking at page 41 right now, and what I see is $2.9 million [should be 'billion'] for the Universal Child Tax Benefit. Is that what you're referring to? Because that has nothing to do with child care. That's a refundable tax credit for ALL families with children that is in addition to (and almost identical to) the one brought in by the Conservatives. Similarly, the refundable Employment Tax Credit would replace the smaller, non-refundable credit introduced by... the Conservatives."

To which I received this response:

Oh goody - more social engineering - more wasteful social programs...this is EXACTLY the type of thing we don't need.

Blink.

AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!

Goodbye, George

I remember the first time I went to the record store to buy my own record with my own money. It was BTO's "Not Fragile". My little sister (I think she was eight) came with me and purchased this:



Our parents made her take it back.

I later accumulated my own rather large collection of George Carlin albums, most of which I still have. And then I got to see him live at Massey Hall in Toronto - an experience I treasure, especially today.

I took a quick peek over at YouTube to find a clip to add to the growing tribute, and ran across this one from 1996. It seemed appropriate.

Garth Turner on 'The Green Shift'

As promised, here's my brief encounter with Garth Turner before he did his requisite blah blah blah at the Milton Strawberry Festival (don't ask - it's a local thing).



I still have a lot more questions, so I hope to have an opportunity to finish my "interview" in the weeks to come.

BTW, I can't help thinking that if we had a Conservative MP here in Halton (ok, other than Garth), that the second he saw some chick with a video camera sneaking up on him from around the corner he would have FLED.

Access. It's all about the access, man.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Green Shift: Questions and Comments

I've been cruising around the blogosphere trying to find legitimate arguments against the Liberal 'Green Shift' plan. It hasn't been easy, let me tell you. Even my buddy Raph has been reduced to comments like this:
Laugh. Out. Freaking. Loud.

$60 in inflation? That's it? Come on Jennifer, you know you are too intelligent to buy that. Can you see a massive carbon tax contributing a mere $5 extra per month to your spending? $5 a day more like.

I may have been a little... short with him in response. But at least he has an excuse - he doesn't actually believe in all this global warming crap anyway.

The LOL thing seems to be a common theme, BTW. Even the Conservative radio ads (which, of course, were written before any of them actually read the plan) are just two people laughing at Dion and his crazy 'Tax On Everything'. As my husband put it so well, their entire argument amounts to nothing more than, "Yeah? Well, you smell!"

There have been a couple of exceptions, mostly from the Progressive end of the pool. JimBobby will be happy to tell you exactly why the Liberal plan is ok but the Green plan is WAY better. And John Murney is very concerned about how this will affect Saskatchewan - it's people, its energy industry, and its hopes of ever electing another Liberal. Ever.

Even in that case, there are assumptions being made that are either a) patently incorrect, or b) unclear from the text posted on the website. Most of the obvious fallacies have to do with the notion that gasoline will be taxed under this scheme, so I'll say it slowly for the hard of hearing: NO. NEW. TAXES. ON. GASOLINE.

As for the rest, yes, there are questions. Questions I'd like the answer to. Here are a few:

1) At what point in the chain will the carbon tax be charged? It sounds like it is going to be charged to the end user of the oil, gas, coal, etc., but it isn't entirely clear. Murney quotes an editorial that claims the refineries are going to have to pay for the gasoline they produce, but I don't believe that's true. Is it?

2) There is a mention of a Carbon Tariff on imports in the plan, but it's all a little vague. One would think that adding a carbon tax to domestic products would only make cheap imports shipped from thousands of miles away that much more attractive - unless the carbon emitted through their shipping and manufacture was also taxed or tariffed. Will this be done, or is it just a suggestion?

3) What about Dion's 'Carbon Budget', unveiled over a year ago in this very town? Does the Green Shift replace that plan or complement it? If the latter, would the $20-$30 levy on the excess CO2 from large emitters be instead of, or in addition to, the carbon tax?

4) How exactly did they arrive at the estimate of $60 - $240 per year per household in increased consumer costs? (excluding home heating, propane and other direct fossil fuel purchases) In my brief debate/cat fight with Raph, I made some attempt to figure out exactly what those added costs might be based on the fact that the average Canadian has a carbon footprint of about 20 tonnes/person/year and stripping out gasoline and home heating. Even for me with my tiny impoverished footprint it still worked out to more, although still much less than the tax savings. What formula are they using?

Happily, I ran into Garth Turner at the Milton Strawberry Festival yesterday and managed to get a couple of answers before we were so rudely interrupted by the bagpipes. I should have the video up sometime Monday.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Great Green Shift Debate

"So, what do you think?", my husband asked.

I told him I hadn't checked all the details, but from what I heard from Dion's speech, it sounded pretty good.

He disagreed. He is convinced that Liberals' 'Green Shift' plan is going to cost us a fortune, especially when the gas bill comes, and he didn't believe me when I told him that almost all of these tax credits were going to be refundable. Which is important for us, given that we are both mostly self-employed and so our taxable income is as close to nothing as we can make it.

So today I checked the details.

First, I did that little "Calculate Your Benefit" thing, and based on our income last year we'd be saving about $1900/year, or $160/month. Looking more closely at the specific tax credits and benefits, it looks pretty accurate, and would certainly be more if we have a good year.

Then I tried to figure out what this all would cost us - and just a suggestion, but the Libs might want to consider putting a "Carbon Cost Calculator" on there as well.

First the gas bill. We live in an old, rickety, poorly-insulated little house, so we go through somewhat more than the 3,000-3,500 ft.cu./year mentioned in the handbook, but even accounting for that we'd only be spending an extra $6.60/month in year 1, and $26.50/month in year 4. But hey, if we actually got off our asses and put plastic film on all the windows in the winter like we keep talking about but never do, we'd save a bundle.

Oh, look - that's exactly the kind of thing this plan is designed to encourage people to do. Fancy that!

On top of that, the handbook acknowledges that most people will incur added costs related to increased transportation, electricity, food and other price increases passed on by business and industry. They estimate these added costs to amount to about $60/year/household in year 1, up to $240/yr in year 4.

Even assuming they are grossly low-balling it, I can't see how it would exceed the money we would save and/or get back in tax credits.

So, yeah. Looks good, for us anyway. I even played with the calculator to figure out the tax savings for my parents, my sister-in-law, etc, and it all looks pretty straightforward: the tax savings exceed the predicted costs.

Still, I don't want to be schmuck. So I wandered over to the Conservative Party website to check out their numbers. Surely they've had their math wizards all over this thing for the past day and a half, happily dissecting the Liberals' hopelessly flawed calculations and exposing the real costs to Canadians.

Meh. Not so much.

Aside from some broad claims about everybody and everything getting taxed with this plan, there was no reference to the offset tax credits other than to dismiss them as "a trick".

No evidence. No specifics about what they think the real costs will be, or why they dispute the claims that the carbon tax will be 'revenue neutral'. No numbers. No debate. Just mockery.

Oh, and they're calling Dion an "elitist". How very Republican of them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Shift: The Video

I'm not going to get into a point by point analysis of the Liberals' new 'Green Shift' plan that was unveiled today to much fanfare. From what I saw today and have read in the extended lead-up, it looks like a smart approach and hopefully bold enough to make a real difference. But I'm sure there will be plenty of people chewing it up and spitting it out over the next few days, so I'll leave them to it.

What I did want to mention was the video now posted at thegreenshift.ca. It's very slick - downright inspiring, in fact. Nice job. I'm guessing this is going to form the basis for an upcoming advertising campaign. No wonder the Conservatives are scared. I thought it was an especially nice touch including the shot of the Last Spike, given Ignatieff's recent reference to our national railway when talking about an east-west oil and electrical corridor.

Another shot that I found interesting was this one:



I'm pretty sure that's the ZENN Motor Company plant. Nice.

I know you're probably sick of me going on about this car, but I was listening to an interview with company president Ian Clifford talking about the company's plans for the future and their alliance with EEstor, a Houston-based company that is in the final stages of developing a truly revolutionary solid-state energy storage system (not a battery; it's sort of a ceramic super-capacitor). The combination will result in an electric car capable of above highway speeds and a 250-500 mile range on a five minute charge - at a reasonable cost, light weight, and no nasty chemicals in the battery.

Wow.

It got me thinking about that CBC mini-series about the Avro Arrow. Yes, yes, I know, it was all rosy and filled with inaccuracies. It's TV - whatever. But one scene always stuck with me, even though it was obviously created by the writers. The boss has just found out that the Arrow is doomed, and one of his engineers (who doesn't know yet) comes in to talk to him about all these cool ideas he's had based on the technology and design innovations they've developed with the Arrow.

He talks about how, with a little tinkering, the Arrow could be modified for use as a low-orbit space platform. He even pulls out a very space shuttle-like model of a beefed-up Arrow to show how it could roll over with its belly to space to deploy satellites and even, someday, a craft to take us to the moon.

He's obviously excited at the prospect of Canada taking the lead in aerospace technology, and all the while his boss is sitting there with a tragic look on his face, knowing it will never come to pass.

Fiction or not, that scene keeps coming back to me as I read about the incredible potential of this company and companies like it. Imagine if the ZENN was actually supported by this province and this country. What if it really took off? What if EEstor decided to move its operations to Ontario? What if other electric car companies started popping up and moving here, even developing other technologies and products based on EEstor electric storage? What if all those empty truck and SUV plants started producing electric vehicles - 100% Canadian vehicles? What if Ontario became the new Detroit of the electric transportation industry?

Now, what if the Ontario government continues to drag its heels until ZENN just gets fed up and moves to the U.S.?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bloggers Return Fire on the AP

Nothing brings together bloggers of all stripes and political leanings than an attempt by the dreaded mainstream media to curtail our pseudo-journalistic freedom.

The first salvo was fired by the Associated Press when they set up a per word fee schedule for bloggers wishing to excerpt their articles. Now conservative blogger Michelle Malkin has turned the tables. After finding two separate AP articles that quoted a total of 40-odd words each from posts and comments on her blog, she decided to ring up the bill:
According to the AP, it has:
-1,700 U.S. daily, weekly, non-English and college newspapers;

-5,000 radio and television outlets taking AP services; and

- 850 AP Radio News audio affiliates.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that half of all those clients published the AP dispatches quoting this blog’s content without prior usage agreement (which would be 3,775) and let’s apply the exact same fee structure AP wants to impose on the blogosphere ($17.50 for 26-50 words). I calculate that the AP owes me:

$66,062.50 x 2 = $132,125.

(A substantial portion of that sum would go to commenter SalsaNChips, of course. See? Commenting at MichelleMalkin.com pays! Well, theoretically.)

Now other popular bloggers are coming forward with examples of the AP quoting text from their blogs and calculating their own bills.

Of course, as Malkin points out, none of them would ever think of actually sending AP their bills - because bloggers WANT people to reference their blogs! Quotes mean links. Links mean hits. Hits mean power and influence and (if you carry ads) money.

'Cause that's how it works out here in the intertubes. Enjoy your stay.

ZENN Car Finally Approved... in Quebec

First BC, and now Quebec has approved the use of low-speed electric ZENN cars (as well as Quebec-made Nemo trucks) on public streets with speed limits of 50km/h and under. They still need those orange 'horse-cart' triangles on the back and they're required to stick to the right lane unless turning, but in general they're good to go.

And still, we in Ontario must wait. Wait for Transport Minister Jim Bradley to follow through on his promise last fall to expedite our own pilot program and allow this much needed, environmentally sound, Ontario made vehicle on the streets of our own towns and cities. Wait for a province in the midst of a manufacturing jobs crisis to get off its collective ass and throw its support behind what could become the seed of a whole new, environmentally friendly, advanced green technology-based industry, entirely independent of the dinosaurs of Detroit.

Now. Right now. Before ZENN finally gives up and moves to the U.S. Where people can actually drive their cars.

AP's War on Bloggers

I am about to run afoul of yet another potentially draconian copyright restriction. This time it isn't the Canadian or American government that's telling me I'm being a naughty, naughty girl - it's the Associated Press and their brand new definition of "fair use":

The Associated Press to Set Guidelines for Using Its Articles in Blogs

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

...Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.


Oh dear. That was 142 words. Well, lets go see what AP would want to charge me for that quote... ouch! Fifty bucks. Well, at least it's just in U.S. dollars. That's ok - I could just go for their 'Free Web Post' option that lets me post the excerpt for a month. With ads, of course.

Oh, but wait... there's those pesky Terms of Service:

...You shall not modify, edit, change or alter in any manner the Content, or create any derivative works therefrom, including translation of the Content.

...You may not email, print, or save the content by cutting and pasting it.

...The Content delivered to You by the iCopyright system under this Agreement contains the Publisher's logo, copyright notice and credit line containing a unique alphanumeric number. You may not remove these elements when printing, copying, displaying,transmitting or making any use of the Content and you may not authorize any third person or entity to do so.

And my personal favourite:

...You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content.

Well. I'm just fucked.

I cannot begin to guess what the people at the Associated Press are thinking, but I'll bet it has nothing to do with "the people's right to know".

Saul Hansell of the NYT (who also wrote the article I so shamelessly quoted from earlier) also wrote a little op-ed piece that makes some attempt to see both sides of the issue, and in the process manages to discredit himself as both a journalist and a blogger. Still, he makes a few valid points. Yes, this is an issue that goes way back to the birth of syndicated news. And yes, some bloggers have been known to quote most or all of an article with a minimum of commentary in the "Look what I found!" mode of blogging that we've all been guilty of now and again.

Such wholesale lifting of text is sometimes in response to online articles being firewalled by newspapers, in which case the argument could be made that it is costing them money by distributing for free what they are trying to charge for - however much we cheapskates may object to the practice. More often, however, it is merely a symptom of laziness on the part of the offending blogger. If this is something blogger does on a regular basis, the problem solves itself because nobody reads blogs like that.

In general, though, I have found most bloggers to be very responsible in the use of quotes from articles. They rarely exceed two or three paragraphs, and they invariably link back to the original article, thus increasing readership for the original author and publisher. The ones who don't... well, like I said, they get old pretty quick.

Don't get me wrong. I get the whole 'intellectual property' thing. I do. I'm a writer. I myself have been the victim of plagiarism, and let me tell you - it leaves you feeling violated and used. But let me explain the difference to you:

I am the author of a little self-published, self-distributed book entitled "Raido, the Runic Journey". If you have to ask you probably don't want to know, but suffice it to say it is a rather well regarded book amongst those who care about such things and it sells consistently and well. As a public service, I have even posted about 70% of the book's text on my website - to no detriment to my book sales, I might add.

I have often been asked permission by other websites to re-print some or all of this text, and I have generally granted permission on the condition that a) I was clearly identified as the author, and b) a link was provided back to my website. I eventually stopped granting permission to reproduce because not all of them did (oh, look, there's another one), but in general the whole arrangement was profitable for me and helped put my website at number four when you Google "runes".

Then one day someone pointed out a website that not only contained entire paragraphs lifted verbatim from my book, but was quoting them from an actual, professionally published, dead tree book called "Cryptorunes" by Clifford A. Pickover. Not only that, but this Pickover character was, in fact, a PhD from Yale who really, REALLY should have known better.

In the end there wasn`t much I could do except call him out and insist that he stop using the quotes to promote the book on his website, which he did. I couldn`t prove damages or even afford a lawyer, and I suspect he wasn`t made of money anyway, but he was sufficiently sheepish and did agree to get me in with his publisher if I wanted, so I didn't call Yale. (and oh look - he's got a blog!)

My point (and I`m getting to it) is that this particular case constituted both copyright infringement and plagiarism because a) the offender was presenting my work as his own, and b) he was using my work for monetary gain without my permission. If it had just been some guy who got lazy with a website providing free information, then I'd just yell at them and leave it be. If he had actually put quotes around my words and said, "This part is from 'Raido, the Runic Journey' by Jennifer Smith", then I would have been thrilled to bits for the extra business.

In cases like the ones the AP is all up in arms about, however, AP and its writers aren't losing any money, the bloggers likely aren't making any money, nothing is being misrepresented, and if anything both AP and its writers are benefiting from the added exposure. Therefore, I can only assume there is something else going on here. Maybe it's about money. Maybe it's about control. I don't know.

BTW, in the time it took me to write this post, the article I quoted at the top disappeared behind a firewall, and the only way to access it now is to sign up for "Free Registration" by telling the New York Times your name, age, job title and household income.

Household income?

I think I get it now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Confessions of a Future Copyright Criminal

As Bill C-61 (aka the Canadian DMCA) hits the floor of the House of Commons, there are plenty of smart people doing an excellent job of explaining exactly what the implications are and why this bill needs to be strangled in the cradle. McGrath has an excellent post today, and Michael Geist and Laura Murray have been all over this since C-61 was just a glimmer in Harper's eye.

Me, I'm not a big downloader. I'm a relative newcomer to high speed, I don't own an MP3 player, and I get my fill of movies working at a video store. And yet, under this bill, I would be a multiple offender just because of one project I recently completed.

My husband does props and wardrobe work in the film industry, and I wanted to put together a clip reel for him to show potential clients what he has created for movies like Skinwalkers, Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Saw II-V. So my first offence was obviously going to be transferring scenes from these movies from DVDs that we had bought and paid for onto my laptop in a form that I could edit and play with. This meant that I had to download a utility that would get past the digital lock on the DVDs and convert the files to WMV format. Definitely illegal under C-61.

Even more galling was the process of adding music to the video clips. I particularly wanted Van Morrison's 'Moondance' for the 'Skinwalkers' werewolf sequence, which is an old enough tune that I probably could have found a free copy somewhere. But I was a good girl and spent my 99 cents to purchase the song from ITunes - only to discover that I couldn't actually incorporate the music into the video without downloading yet another soon-to-be illegal utility to get through the digital lock and convert the file. For a song that I bought and paid for!

Keep in mind, this is not something we're going to be selling, nor do we intend to post it on YouTube or even on my husband's website. This is a DVD showing work that he created in the form of a video resume to promote it to people who make movies and TV shows. And yet, under C-61, I would have broken the law many times over to create it and would be charged hundreds of dollars in fines.

The final irony in all this is that my husband is one of the people that copyright laws are supposed to protect. We both recognize the impact that large scale video piracy has had on the film industry and on his livelihood, so we are horrified when we see the open sale of thousands of blatantly pirated DVDs at places like the Pacific Mall. We won't buy them, we discourage our friends from buying them, and we don't understand why the malls aren't fined for leasing space to people who sell them completely out in the open.

But sadly, this bill is NOT about industrial movie piracy, nor is it about protecting the artists and writers who create music and film and television content by making sure that they are fairly compensated for their work. It's just about protecting the profits of the studios and the corporations that produce and distribute that content.

If anyone actually gave a rat's ass about bootleg DVDs or the poor starving musicians losing money to illegal downloaders, a levy system like they have in Europe would have been the way to go. Which is what creative types like the Writers Guild of Canada were pushing for, to no avail.

Alas, money trumps art every time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Border Opens to Anti-War Activists

There has been a new development in the saga of anti-war activists Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright.

As you may recall, over the past year they have been turned away at our border time and time again because prior non-violent protest-related arrests had placed them on the FBI’s National Crime Information Database. In its efforts to 'harmonize' our border security with the U.S., Canadian Border Services has been using this list even though it has been roundly criticized for including misdemeanour offenders like Benjamin and Wright in a database that was originally intended to keep violent felons, parole violators, gang members and sex offenders from crossing the border.

It's too soon to tell, but this policy may be changing. Wright tells what happened when they tried another crossing on June 1st - this time with an MP in the back seat:

On June 1, Canadian parliamentarian Libby Davies, drove to the US side of the border and rode in the same van as Medea and I. Diane went ahead in a different car and was not stopped by immigration despite her numerous arrests. Parliamentarian Davies told the immigration officers that she had knowledge of our peaceful, non-violent protests of Bush administration policies and vouched for our character.

During three hours at the border, immigration officers made phone calls to various offices. At the end of the process, Medea was given a 24 hour visitors permit and I received an exception to my earlier exclusion order, apparently from a high official in the Ministry of Immigration.

The next day, June 2, Veterans for Peace (VFP) national president Elliot Adams and VFP member Will Cover, drove from New York to Ottawa to observe the vote of the Canadian parliament on the non-binding resolution that would allow US war resisters to stay in Canada. After being asked at the border crossing if either had ever been arrested, they both acknowledged that they had been arrested for protesting Bush policies on the war in Iraq. They were further questioned in secondary screening about the character of the protests and arrests, and after two hours, were allowed to continue into Canada. They drove on to Ottawa and attended the 137to 110 Parliamentary non-binding vote to permit US war resisters to remain in Canada.

The border crossing by two groups of high profile anti-war activists with arrest records in a two day period, both dealing with the issue of US war resisters in Canada, may indicate a change in the position of the Canadian immigration service on misdemeanor arrests for political protest in the United States.

We hope so, as we pose no threat to Canadian security and indeed our actions in the United States for which we were arrested seem to reflect the views of most Canadians that the war in Iraq should end and that US war resisters should be able to stay in their country.

It remains to be seen whether this is an actual policy change and not just the result of direct intervention in these specific cases, but all in all it sounds like good news.

(crossposted from Canada's World)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Round-up: Tasers, Tasteless Comments, and the 10-Province Strategy

Again I've been busy busy with real life distractions, so in lieu of a real blog post, here's someone else's that struck me as making a great deal of sense:

Lessons the Canadian Left SHOULD be Learning from Barack Obama

In early 2006, nearly five years to the day after the inauguration of George W. Bush, Canada got Stephen Harper. Like Bush, Harper claims to hail from a western land of oil, cattle, and “cowboys”. Like Bush, Harper is effectively an Easterner (he was born and lived in Toronto for quite some time, not unlike Bush’s residencies in Connecticut and Maine) and, like Bush for America, Harper has little to no regard for the Canadian people. Time and again he’s pandered to demographics perceived as necessary for re-election (Quebec as a case in point) and eschewed useful policy in favor of popular strawmen (what have your GST savings done for you lately?). Like Bush, he took Canada’s multi-billion dollar surplus and whittled it away to nearly nothing on ineffective tax cuts and extravagant military expenditures, leaving the Canadian Arctic unprotected and subject to possible invasion in the meantime. He is dangerous for Canada and Canadian ideals alike, and he absolutely has to go.

But who else does Canada have to vote for? St├ęphane Dion ignored the recent security breach, a perfect opportunity for a successful federal election, with the reasoning that ‘the plan for the election is in the fall.’ Besides which, he has failed to bring any pressing issues into the limelight, opting instead, like the Liberals he most recently succeeded, to attempt not to offend anybody. Jack Layton is rich in idealism but poor in strategy; he has a committed army of diehards in Toronto, but they can never seem to expand effectively beyond Toronto. Besides which, in Ontario, the NDP is still marred by the disaster of Bob Rae’s government, and has yet to make adequate strides to shed the image of the party from FIFTEEN YEARS AGO in favor of a renewed and able leadership, even though Bob Rae is not even a member of the NDP anymore.

These are similar to the issues which faced forlorn American liberals four years ago, which have now, to the shock and surprise of the world, seemingly been overcome. In a clean fell swoop, Barack Obama challenged popular perception and proved that with a winning combination, democracy can overwhelm corruption. His strategy has been multipronged and aggressive, qualities Canadian liberals desperately need.


There's more. Much more. Well worth a thorough read.

_____________________________

Pity poor petite Pierre Poilievre. Just when it looked like Steve could trust him to open his mouth and spout nothing but the most refined iteration of the Conservative Party Line, he goes and puts his foot in it:

Conservative MP says sorry for 'hurtful' remarks

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has apologized for saying Canada's Aboriginals need to learn the value of hard work more than they need compensation for abuse suffered in residential schools.

Poilievre made the comments during a radio interview Wednesday, just hours before Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for abuse Aboriginal children endured in once-mandatory residential schools.

..."Now along with this apology comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years,'' said Poilievre, in a clip circulated by the Liberal Opposition, of which members called for his resignation.

..."Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask: 'Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?'

"My view is that we need to engender the values of hard work and independence and self reliance. That's the solution in the long run -- more money will not solve it."


Honestly, I think Steve is just going to have to start installing little speakers inside the mouths of his minions so he can just speak directly through them without any of them actually having to fire any neurons.

Screw you, Pierre. Not. Sorry. Enough.

_______________________

And speaking of the party line, it looks like yet another independent quasi-judicial body is getting a good talking to, this time from Stockwell Day.

Government delays Taser report

OTTAWA -- A final report on the RCMP's use of Tasers, scheduled to be released today, was cancelled at the last minute at the request of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

Paul Kennedy, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, was supposed to hold a noon news conference to release the report. However, he was asked to hold off until Mr. Day, who is currently in Japan, has a chance to discuss with him the findings of the report.


Discuss? Discuss what, exactly? Gee, Stock, you wouldn't be trying to... influence the wording of the report, would you? Hmm?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gas Pump Attack Ads: Epic Fail

Gee, and here I was really looking forward to registering my objections when I filled up this evening:


Tory attack ads may never air at gas pumps

OTTAWA — The Harper Conservatives' plan to run anti-Liberal attack ads on mini-television screens at gas pumps in Southern Ontario is backfiring because the company that was to place them is refusing.

The 15-second ads, featuring an animated blob of grease criticizing a yet-to-be released plan by the Dion Liberals to put a tax on carbon, were to begin running Tuesday until July 7.

Conservative Party spokesman Ryan Sparrow said the company, the Fuelcast Network, refused to take the ads Monday morning.

...Fuelcast said it became aware of the political nature of the ads only on Sunday, when one of them was broadcast on CTV's Question Period. The company has said it reserves the right to not play an ad with a political message.

...

BHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

The Conservatives, of course, are threatening to sue. It's going to be one helluva summer.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Iron Man

Hollywood has produced a lot of superhero movies over the years. Some are good, a few are great, but most are just formulaic money-making machines designed to separate undiscerning teenagers from their cash.

What makes Iron Man rise above this crowded pack can be summed up in three words: Robert Downey Jr.

The plot conforms to the standard superhero creation myth, and while the special effects are spectacular, that isn't terribly hard to achieve these days. But Robert Downey Jr. chewing up the screen as Tony Stark is truly a wonder to behold.

There are other deft touches that make this an outstanding film. The relationship between Stark and the lovely and alliterative Pepper Potts is a nice departure from the norm, and the transformation of Stark from weapons tycoon to defender of peace is completely convincing.

But again, none of it would have worked without Downey Jr.

Let's hope he can stay out of rehab long enough to do the sequel. In the meantime, he and Iron Man get five stars.

(Murray's response when I told him of my choice this month was "yuk!", so I can only assume that... wait... hold on a minute... what's this? He loved it!?! What the hell? When was the last time we agreed on a movie, anyway?)

Livin' in Canada's World

I am happy to announce that I have been accepted as a blogger on 'Canada's World'. Today I made my first post, which is also reproduced here.

And yes, mom, I finally found somewhere that will pay me to blog. Not a lot... but it's a start.

If you haven't been by to check it out, Canada's World is dedicated to generating dialogue about Canada's role in the world, through organized face-to-face dialogue sessions, resource guides, and through their blog. It's associated with the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, and one of the members of their advisory committee is Michael Adams. MICHAEL ADAMS!!

You can practically smell the respectability around here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lorne Gunter should read his own paper

Notorious climate-change curmudgeon Lorne Gunter produced another brown op-ed today for the pages of the National Post:


In lean times, green fervour fades


If truth is the first casualty of war, then environmental concern is the first casualty of economic recession.

Surveys of Canadian voters showed the environment to be their first or second concern in 1989-90. At that time, though, the economy was booming, pumping out tens of thousands of new jobs a month.

A year-and-a-half later, with the economy locked in the worst recession in 60 years, government finances were imploding, jobs disappearing and foreclosure wolves circling, the environment vanished from the top 10.


He goes on to claim that governments in Europe who had gone with “fashionable left-wing political ideas” like carbon taxes are finding their pro-active stance to be far less politically expedient than it once was as economic hard times take hold.

In other words, the environment isn't politically sexy any more, so Canada shouldn't bother.

As usual, Gunter is ignoring one overwhelming reality: the age of cheap oil is over. Not because of European carbon taxes, not because of government policies regulating emissions, but because oil production has peaked and the price of oil and gas are about to go from expensive to unaffordable.

If Gunter won't take the word of a bunch of carrot-munching eco-nuts, he might want to take a look through the business pages of his own paper:

Market best way to fight greenhouse gases


Turbine makers generate profits

GM closures were inevitable; High gas prices causing truck demand to drop


Continental cuts 3,000 jobs; says airline industry is in crisis

I would suggest to Lorne Gunter that there are two courses that Canada can choose to take in the face of the dual realities of climate change and peak oil. We can continue to stick our heads in the oil sands and cling desperately to the status quo until the oil runs out or the planet becomes unlivable (or both). Or we can do what major manufacturers are already starting to do: re-tool our industries and put Canada at the forefront of the post-petroleum economy.

That's not some "fashionable left-wing idea". That's just good business.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This is the End

After a bruising, exhilarating and unprecedented six months of Democratic primaries and caucuses, our neighbours to the south have finally run out of states. And despite what Terry McAuliffe is saying right now, it looks like sanity will prevail in Hillaryland and she will concede and move on rather than burn the party to the ground in her naked quest for power.

I feel kind of sorry for Clinton's supporters. Watching them weep and scream and tear their clothing in grief after the DNC's decision on Michigan and Florida, it seems to me that the Clinton campaign has done them a great disservice. They set up Hillary Clinton as a historic figure who represented the only hope for America to see a woman in the Whitehouse (thus casting their opponents as misogynists), and have worked her supporters into a frenzy based on a series of politically expedient lies.

They tell them that Clinton is leading the popular vote, even though that is both untrue and irrelevant. They go from supporting the exclusion of Michigan and Florida's delegates to invoking the nightmare of 2000 by painting the voters in those states as disenfranchised victims of a rigged system. And week after week, long after it became obvious that Obama was going to be the nominee, they continued to string these people along with the false hope that somehow Clinton could still win IF ONLY life was fair and wishes were horses and they all continued to support her to the bitter, bitter end.

Even now, as Clinton campaign workers are being told to get their affairs in order and donors and supporters are being called to New York for an important speech by Clinton - EVEN NOW her campaign chairman is calling up CNN to vigorously deny that Clinton plans to concede tonight and admit that the race is over.

Most of us can see this for what it is: a calculated, strategic effort to appear to go down fighting while positioning one's candidate for the best possible spot in the Obama administration. But to those poor women at the DNC meeting (and they were all women as far as I could tell), this all appears to be a sincere effort by Clinton to claim her rightful place in history despite all she has suffered at the hands of the male-dominated party establishment.

They sincerely believe everything the Clinton campaign has been telling them, even though Clinton obviously doesn't believe it herself.

They say that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line, and to a large extent this sort of passion is one of the great strengths of the Democratic Party. But to continue to lie to these people, to continue to breed false hope and righteous fury among one's ardent supporters while using their dreams and passions as a political tool is not only damaging to the party - it's downright cruel.

Stop it. Stop it now.