Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dirty Pool?

A few days ago I received a flyer in the mail. Just your usual Conservative Party propaganda I thought, until I examined the thing more closely.

Here’s the front:

Inside is the usual blah blah blah, "it’s all the Liberals’ fault but we’re here to Get Things Done" partisan talking points from our friends at the Conservative Party of Canada.

But is it actually from the CPC? Here’s what’s on the back:

Let's see. We have Stephen Harper, MP (as opposed to PM). We have a Conservative Party logo. We have a government website URL and a plug for ‘Canada’s New Government’. Please note that nowhere does it say which of these individuals and organizations is actually responsible for the production, distribution and (most importantly) financing of this little publication.

I emailed the Secretary of the Halton Conservative EDA asking for clarification on this. He told me that he "hadn’t seen the document", and suggested that I contact the EDA President directly since he didn't know anything about it. This would seem to rule out the local Party as the culprit, since presumably the Secretary would be at least aware of if not directly responsible for the publication of such things. I am still waiting to hear from the EDA President, though, so I’ll reserve judgement until I hear his side.

Unless he Googles me first, in which case I suspect I won't be hearing from him at all.

(Edit - apparently the EDA President never received the emails I sent.)

I also emailed Garth Turner asking exactly what the rules are governing this sort of thing, but haven’t heard back from him either. I tried working my way through the labyrinth of the Canada Elections Act myself, and the closest I could come up with is this:

Election Advertising

Message must be authorized

320. A candidate or registered party, or a person acting on their behalf, who causes election advertising to be conducted shall mention in or on the message that its transmission was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or by the registered agent of the party, as the case may be.

Government means of transmission

321. (1) No person shall knowingly conduct election advertising or cause it to be conducted using a means of transmission of the Government of Canada.

I’m no lawyer, but I interpret this to mean that a) if this flyer is from the Conservative Party in general, or from Stephen Harper in particular (since Halton doesn’t have a Conservative candidate yet), it should say so clearly, and b) if it is from the Government of Canada, it is in direct contravention of the Elections Act.

But can it be considered ‘election advertising’ when no election has been called? The Act appears to say no, but I don’t know. I would think that the same rules would apply when a Party is spending money trying to win the next election, regardless of whether that election has been called yet or not. But maybe I’m just na├»ve.

I will follow up if I hear back from either the local Party President or from Turner. In the meantime, I thought I’d share this little tidbit I found on the Halton CPC website, written by Past President Pat Whyte. I'm guessing Pat didn't get the latest memo from CPC Headquarters that global warming is real now:
"Interesting times breed interesting questions and even sometimes interesting answers. Over the last week or so, ever since the Conservatives brought out their new Clean Air Act, there has been a brouhaha over whether it goes far enough (Liberals, Greens and NDP) or whether it goes too far. Of course, this Act is in response to the global warming scare being promulgated by Al Gore, David Suzuki and a bunch of so-called scientists."

It just gets more cynical from there. Enjoy.

(Edit - And now I know what a 'ten-percenter' is. Thank you. If you are visiting here from the Garth Turner Commenters Club, welcome, and please continue on to my follow up post.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Viewing

As an unrepentant TV junkie, summers have always been a difficult time for me. It used to be worse, back when the networks had a set season from September to May and just wrote off the summer months with movies and re-runs. These days they fill the schedule with cheap reality tripe, but they also run a few of their more ‘high concept’ series up the flagpole in the hopes that they’ll catch on with the dedicated few still watching.

It can make for some interesting viewing, but unless you’re a die hard ‘Idol’ fan it’s still pretty slim pickings. Here’s what I’m watching so far this summer:

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
(Thursdays 10:00, NBC)
The deathwatch continues. I find it unbearably sad that they’ve cancelled my beloved Aaron, but at least they didn’t just kill the thing before taking it to the end of the season. The last episode is coming up this Thursday, and if (when) they kill Jordan I will be extremely unhappy.

The Shield
(Tuesdays 10:00, CHCH)
The new season (well, new for Canada) started a couple of weeks ago. Good as always, with Michael Chiklis devouring every scene he’s in. Yummy.

Hell’s Kitchen
(Mondays 9:00, CITY, Fox)
Most reality shows bore the hell out of me. I’ll still watch ‘Survivor’ out of habit, and the ‘Amazing Race’ is always fun, but the dozen or so versions of The Gong Show currently out there are just tedious. The one exception is 'Hell’s Kitchen', which features a dozen wannabe chefs trying to prove themselves before Gordon Ramsey, a man who makes Simon Cowell look like a kindergarten teacher. This year he’s put one guy in the hospital already, seemingly from stress. Can’t… look… away.

(Wednesdays 10:00, ABC)
This is an odd one, and I’m still not sure how much I really like it. It’s part of the networks’ ongoing efforts to work out a formula whereby they can replicate the success of serials like ‘Lost’ and ‘Prison Break’ without actually being unique or creative. Every once in a while a good one will stick ('Heroes'), but more often than not they stumble upon a promising idea only to cancel it as soon as the initial ratings come in, thus discouraging potential viewers from committing. Except me, of course - I just keep letting myself get sucked in only to have my heart broken again and again. So yeah, ‘Traveler’ is pretty good, but I’d still rather be watching ‘DRIVE’ YOU BASTARDS!

Dr. Who
(Mondays 8:00, CBC)
Hooray! I can stop covering my ears every time my friends talk about the latest episode they downloaded. I miss Rose, but Martha is cool. I’ve heard that ‘Blink’ is the creepiest episode in the series so far - can’t wait!

The Ritches
(Sundays 10:00, Showcase)
Eddie Izzard as an Irish Traveler is just too delicious. The portrayal of this hidden world of gypsies and grifters is fascinating enough, but transplanting a family of Travelers into an upscale gated community in suburban America takes the ‘fish-out-of-water’ scenario to a whole new level. Brilliant.

My husband and I are both self-employed with a teenaged son who eats his own weight in food every day, so we can’t afford fancy things like satellite TV or high speed internet. So this is what I’m reduced to: renting shows I can’t get otherwise on DVD.
~ I’ve already burned my way through the third and final season of ‘Deadwood’. I had wanted to spread out the disks a bit to make them last, but they’re like chips - you just want one more, and then one more, and the next thing you know it’s three a.m. and they’re all gone. Sigh.

~ Season 3 of ‘Slings & Arrows’ is coming out next week, so I’ve been re-viewing the first two seasons in preparation (I own them all). I have decided that the solution to all of the current problems with Canadian television is this: give Paul Gross as much money as he wants to do whatever he wants with.

~ I would really like to see ‘Big Love’ but the video store I work at doesn’t carry it, nor does Rogers. I’ve heard rumour they have it at Blockbuster, so I’ll be checking there tonight. I promise not to eat them all at once.

~ I have a serious David Milch jones on right now, so I am desperate to see 'John from Cincinnati'. I suspect I will have to wait until the fall for the DVDs, unless some kind reader would care to slip me a few episodes under the table. Just to tide me over, you understand.

I am also anxiously awaiting the return of 'The Sopranos' on CTV and 'ReGenesis' on Global, so if anyone knows if these or any other good shows are being aired on channels I can actually get this summer, do let me know.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blind Guides

It was SO CLOSE!
Anglican bishops veto same-sex blessings

A razor-thin majority of Canada's Anglican bishops on Sunday overrode the wishes of their laity and clergy and vetoed a resolution that would have allowed for blessings in church settings of committed homosexual unions.

...It needed a triple majority of bishops, clergy and laity to pass. The laity voted 79 to 59 in favour and clergy voted 63 to 53, but bishops voted 21 to 19 against.

Bishops who voted against the resolution told synod delegates that a yes-vote would have violated the oath Anglican priests take on ordination to remain in communion with “the Church of England throughout the world.” The 77-million member Anglican Communion, Christianity's third largest denomination, traces its roots to the Church of England.

Sure. Sounds perfectly reasonable. They don't have anything against homosexuals - it's just about keeping the international Anglican community happy. Uh huh...

I call bullshit:
Canada's Anglicans won't be sanctioned for same-sex vote

"No scenario could emerge" from this week's Anglican General Synod that would lead to the Archbishop of Canterbury expelling the Canadian church from the 76-million-member global Anglican denomination, says Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion.

The right-hand man to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a face-to-face Thursday interview:

"There's no question the Anglican Church of Canada is a valued member of the Anglican communion. There's never been a scenario considered that would lead to the exclusion of the Anglican Church of Canada."

Another telling quote from the Globe and Mail article:
One bishop said that such a “de facto impairment of the communion” would have been a costly choice for the Anglican Church of Canada, which, although it has 800,000 members on its parish rolls, has only about 130,000 adherents who regularly attend worship services.

There you have it. It's not about what the majority wants, or even what's right. It's about pandering to that 60+ core demographic who still show up every Sunday and fill the collection plate.

Do these people read the same Bible I do? You know, the one where Jesus hangs out with prostitutes and tax collectors and lepers and centurions, and berates the 'righteous' who think they can behave like utter pricks to their fellow human beings and still get into heaven as long as they stick to the letter of the law and pay their stinking tithes?

Man. I get it, and I'm not even a Christian.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Black Snake Moan

If you know anything at all about this movie, you probably know that Christina Ricci spends much of it in her panties with a 40 pound chain locked around her waist.

You would think that image alone would have been enough to fill the seats for this Sundance favorite when it was released in theatres back in March. Sadly, like most independent films it suffered from spotty distribution and even worse promotion, and died a quiet death after a mediocre opening weekend. That’s ok, though. That’s what DVDs are for.

Written and directed by Craig Brewer (‘Hustle & Flow’), ‘Black Snake Moan’ takes place in his beloved Tennessee and centres around two very broken people. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is an aging bluesman who has lost both his wife and his passion for living, although not necessarily in that order. He indulges himself by blaming his failed marriage for all of his problems, but his ex and his friend the preacher see things a little differently.

Rae (Ricci) is dismissed by nearly everyone as the town slut, although the reasons for her uncontrolled behavior are gradually revealed. When her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) leaves to join the army, she wastes no time finding someone else to have sex with. After several progressively more dangerous and drunken encounters, she winds up in the wrong car with the wrong guy, and is found bleeding and unconscious in a ditch by Lazarus the next morning.

The relationship that develops between these two is not at all what you would expect, and certainly not the one implied by that image of the girl chained to the radiator. Still, the chain isn’t just there for the poster. It becomes an important symbol and a psychological tool, and serves a similar role for Rae that the blues does for Lazarus.

‘Black Snake Moan’ is drenched in the blues. The music doesn’t just play in the background to set the mood - it infuses and informs every frame of film, from the themes and issues explored by the characters to the cadence of their speech. The blues give voice to their passions and fears, and ultimately heals them all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

But Wait... There's More!

It's amazing what you find out when you actually look into things.

Take this week's Conservative Party photo-op:
Conservative Party Supports Canadian Tire NASCAR Series

June 17, 2007

OTTAWA - The Conservative Party today announced a partnership with Whitlock Motor Sports unveiled at the Mosport Race Track in Bowmanville, Ontario.

The partnership will include the Conservative Party of Canada logo being placed on the hood and front side panels of car number 29 in the Canadian Tire NASCAR Series.

“This is a unique opportunity for the Conservative Party to reach out to Canadians,” said Conservative Party Member of Parliament Jim Flaherty. “The Conservative Party supports Canadians that work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules and those are the same Canadians that watch sports like NASCAR.”

“I am proud to be part of this partnership,” said Whitlock Motor Sports owner, Dave Whitlock. “It is great to see the Conservative Party support an entry into a series that is growing in popularity in Canada.”

The partnership will also include Canadian Tire NASCAR Series races in Edmonton on July 20-21, 2007 and Trois-Rivieres on August 17-19, 2007.

The item made it to the 6:00 news, pretty much verbatim from the above press release (which doesn't seem to appear on the Party website) and subsequently dropped off the radar.

Smilin' Jack mocked the Conservative Party's support of a race car that gets about two miles a gallon when they're supposedly trying to paint themselves green. Eyebrows were raised over the wisdom of financing a stunt that essentially preaches to the choir and further reinforces the image of Conservatives as a bunch of rednecks. Fruity F1 fans everywhere felt slighted.

It took the papers until today to actually make note of the driver's name:
It turns out the party logo - a big blue "C" - appears on the hood of the car driven by Pierre Bourque, whose popular Internet news aggregator sells torqued headlines to political operatives.

Bourque's website confirmed the connection Monday, linking to a story by Inside Track Motorsport News that noted his Dodge Charger is the sponsored Tory vehicle.

As the Inside Track story states: "Bourque's popular Bourque Newswatch site is on the daily 'must-see' list of favourites for Canadian news and political junkies."

Research on the business model for Bourque Newswatch suggests the federal Conservative party has just guaranteed itself favourable coverage for the foreseeable future by sponsoring Bourque's hobby.

Not that anyone has ever accused Bourque of being impartial, but this is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that it took 48 hours for anyone to notice the connection.

All of which confirms my conviction that television really is the absolute worst place to get the news. Not including Bourque Newswatch, of course:


Friday, June 15, 2007

Why I Won't Run

As part of my ongoing effort to become more politically involved, I volunteered to help local candidate Peter Haight in our recent Ward 2 Town Council by-election. Peter has always been a vocal supporter of downtown business (he runs an art gallery and framing business on Main St.), and is a relentless critic of how Council has allowed Mattamy and the other developers to dictate the terms of Milton's growth and expansion, thereby turning it into a sprawling mess. All admirable positions that I am happy to support despite his distressingly blue signs.

He also has an awesome mustache.

I’m afraid I wasn’t much help in the end. I spent one afternoon helping him knock on doors and hand out pamphlets, but between work and other obligations that was all I got to do. It was an interesting experience, though, and one that convinced me that I’m really not cut out for politics.

One example. A local group has been pushing for a ban on cosmetic pesticides, so far without success, and one person asked me where Peter stood on the issue. I didn’t know, so I called Peter over. He said that we have too many chemicals getting into our system already without adding more for something as unnecessary as lawn weeds, so yes, he would support a ban.

See, I wouldn’t have said that. I would have said something like, we have far more pressing problems in this town than trying to implement an unenforceable and unnecessary ban on legal products that have been rigorously tested and proven to be safe when used correctly. Like not eating them. But no, this one’s being backed by the same shrieking "That Shit’ll Give You Cancer!!" faction that kept Milton’s water supply unchlorinated and full of microbial goodness right up until the 1990s, and still has everyone in this town convinced that fluoride is some sort of commie conspiracy. Personally, I’m far more concerned with pesticides used on food and the weirdass hormones and chemicals they give to cows and chickens, but hey, that’s just me.

I think this guy liked Peter’s answer better. Good thing he didn't ask me about the power plant.

I am also not cut out for televised debates. Aside from having a face for radio, I really don’t think well on my feet.

This was brought home to me yet again this week when I was asked to give an interview for GlobalNews. Apparently someone ran across one of my famous Letters to the Editor and thought I would have something interesting to say about the state of public transit in Milton. They turned up at my house, hooked me up with the mike, set me up on the sidewalk and started asking questions.

I wasn’t nervous. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say. And yet… I don’t think I did so well. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, and I’m pretty sure I babbled. I would open my mouth and just keep blathering until the guy took pity on me and interrupted with another question. I may not even make the cut when the thing airs June 27th on the 6:00 news. Just as well.

I have considered sitting on a town committee. Traffic Services in particular seems to be in desperate need of someone with a modicum of sense, but I suspect I would end up putting a gun to my head out of sheer frustration. From what I’ve heard, it’s about the same at the DBIA.

Honestly, I think I’m much better in print. I can mull, and edit, and take the time to pick select just the right word to win hearts and minds. Maybe I should be a speech writer.

BTW, Haight lost. He came in a distant third to newcomer Greg Nelson, which surprised everyone who had John Challinor pegged as the front runner. I don’t know a lot about Nelson except that he has somehow managed to be associated with both the Milton Bible Church and the Knights of Columbus without getting burned at the stake. We'll see if he shakes up the old farts at all, or if he's just going to sit there and keep the seat warm.

I am glad it wasn’t Challinor, though. He has Republican hair.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tories go red

OTTAWA (BS News) - The Conservative Party of Canada today announced plans to change the traditional ‘Tory blue’ to a more Republican red in an effort to further harmonize Canadian regulations and standards with those of the United States.

Under the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), the Conservatives have agreed to change the colour of all their logos, signs and fonts from blue to red in order to avoid confusion south of the border.

"Some Republicans apparently thought we were a bunch of pinkos just because we were blue" said an unnamed spokesperson from the PMO. "Plus, the whole ‘red state / blue state’ thing was really confusing to our western caucus members", some of whom have apparently been making crank phone calls to the governors of North Dakota and Idaho.

The Minister for Trade and Integration defended the colour change as essential to good relations with the U.S., and insisted that it is in no way a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

"It’s just a color. What’s the big deal? There’s nothing sinister going on here."

When asked if the decision was made in response to a recently leaked memo from Washington suggesting the change in livery, the Minister replied, "Thirteen years of inaction on the part of the Liberals has left us in this mess, and now it’s up to us to remedy the situation".

It is still unclear how the change might impact future election battles with the still-red Liberal Party, but the opposition leader’s office has reportedly been receiving anonymous colour swatches in the mail along with notes suggesting a nice teal would bring out Dion’s eyes.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Knocked Up

I don’t know if ‘Knocked Up’ is intended to be autobiographical, but writer / director Judd Apatow looks a lot like the film’s hero Ben Stone (Seth Rogen). Both are geeky, unattractive schlubs who look like they haven’t bought a new T-shirt since high school.

And yet, somehow they both end up with a gorgeous blond.

Such pairings rarely happen in the fantasy world of movie romance, where even the ugly ducklings turn out to be beautiful swans once they put on some make-up and a dress. In real life, we all know these people. We know the married mom who still wants to go clubbing, and the husband who sneaks out to hang with his buddies, and the roommate who will do anything on a bet.

That’s what makes ‘Knocked Up’ so refreshing. It’s populated by real people with real flaws who are shocked and unprepared to find themselves loved in spite of everything.

It’s also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a very long time. Four and a half stars.

(Oddly enough, Murray disagrees.)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Garth Gets a New Chew Toy

Maybe old dogs really can learn new tricks.

After months of being poked, prodded and cajoled on the issue by myself, 'Charles', 'Bill-Muskoka' and a few other regulars on his blog, Halton MP Garth Turner has finally started to look seriously into the implications of SPP and Deep Integration.

Glory Halelujah!

He is starting cautiously, refusing to take a firm stand one way or the other until he can gather more credible information. And who can blame him? After all, the administrations and 'stakeholders' involved have been exceedingly careful to put the most non-threatening face they can on their little project. It's only when news items surface about relaxing standards on pesticide residue on food, or the adoption of a Canadian no-fly list that isn't likely to work any better than its American counterpart, that the real agenda behind the 'Security and Prosperity Partnership' is made apparent.

It also doesn't help that the whole thing now has every right-wing 'World Government' conspiracy nut on the web positively foaming at the mouth (please, guys, don't take our side, ok?).

I'm not sure if Garth is actually going to be able to put aside decades of received conservative economic wisdom long enough to really fight against this threat to our society and our sovereignty, but he seems to be getting the point:
For a century and a half, we have resisted the siren song of wealth and influence and cultural assimilation that union with the United States would bring. We have stubbornly set our own course, even when it meant paying more in taxes, doing with fewer innovations and making the costly and difficult choices of being a bilingual, multicultural, tolerant and largely pacifist nation.

Is that now changing? Not with a bang? Not even with a whimper?

As I indicated, I do not know what to make of SPP. That alarms me.

My voters did not send me to the capital to worry about railway crossing safety, the crab fishery, ABM fees or appointment terms for senators, while the independence of our nation was being silently and steadily eroded by the unelected. My job is not to jump to conclusions, or raise false alarms. It is simply to defend my country. It may well be time to do so.

It may indeed.

I truly hope that Turner takes up this cause with the same vigour as income trusts and pension splitting. Because once our little pit bull gets something like this in his teeth there won't be anything left of SPP and it's supporters but a few bloody scraps.

Go get 'em, Garth!