Friday, August 29, 2008

This Just Keeps Getting Better

Harper must have woken up this morning, checked the headlines and wondered, "Is it too late to change my mind?"

Canada squeaks past recession as GDP rebounds

OTTAWA -- Canada's economy limped ahead in the second quarter barely enough to avoid the first recession in 17 years, recording the thinnest of gains after a much worse winter quarter than previously believed.

But with Statistics Canada sharply revising downward it's first quarter tally on gross domestic product to a negative 0.8 per cent, the modest 0.3 per cent gain in the March-June period meant that the economy actually contracted during the first six months of 2008.

It constitutes the worst performance by the economy since 1991...


Ottawa wanted U.S. to accept more lenient meat inspection regime

OTTAWA — The Canadian government strongly opposed tougher U.S. rules to prevent listeria and lobbied the United States to accept Canada's more lenient standards, internal documents reveal.

Briefing notes prepared by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for an April 7, 2006, meeting with the board of directors of the Canadian Meat Council outline how both industry and the Canadian government were frustrated with the increased precautions the United States was demanding.

Specifically, Canada opposed daily inspection visits and the testing of finished products for Listeria monocytogenes.


Walkerton mayor calls for public inquiry on listeria outbreak

OTTAWA — The Mayor of Walkerton, Ont. is calling for a public inquiry into the outbreak of listeria, saying he cannot believe lessons failed to be learned from the tainted water tragedy that killed seven people in May 2000.

Mayor Charlie Bagnato released a statement today decrying the current outbreak as “outrageous” and noting that some of the cabinet ministers who were in the Ontario government in 2000 are now in the federal cabinet.


Tories' arts cuts spark ire in Quebec

The recent Conservative cuts to arts and culture have done what neither the pursuit of the unpopular Afghan war nor the demise of the Kyoto Protocol had accomplished: wake up a sleeping Quebec giant that is now gathering strength for a show of force in the upcoming election campaign.

In the swift-changing Quebec political narrative, the controversy is shaping up to offer the Liberals their best chance to rise from the dead in the province. By putting the axe to a host of cultural programs on the eve of a probable campaign, Stephen Harper's Conservatives may have given Stéphane Dion the kiss of life in Quebec.

Let's see... the Liberals need seats in Ontario, Quebec and BC. All three have active arts, film and television industries. All three have suffered listeriosis cases. Ontario and Quebec are already feeling the effects of a looming recession. Ontario remembers Walkerton. Quebec is full of disenchanted ex-Bloc voters looking for a new home.

Oh, yeah - and urban BCers haven't been reacting at all well to those Conservative ten-percenters about the nasty "junkies". Or to Tony Clement's asinine comments about safe injection sites.

If Dion just keeps picking at those sores while presenting a clear, comprehensive plan to lead us in a new direction, I think the results might just surprise everyone. Then again, anything can happen in 36 days. That's why politics is my favourite sport!


BTW, I found this comment by Harper to be very interesting...

The most common definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of shrinking economic output, but Mr. Harper said this wouldn't worry him because it would only be a "technical recession," while Canada's outlook is strong.

"Even if it's true, I don't think it's a real recession. ... There are job losses, but overall employment is pretty stable."

... especially when you compare it to this statement by John McCain's top economic advisor:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

Don't worry. Be happy.

Tropic Thunder

I've never been a fan of Ben Stiller's movies, and I really wasn't expecting much more from this one. So I was shocked to find myself laughing from the opening fake trailers right through to Tom Cruise's excruciating dance number at the end.

I was still laughing in the parking lot. Even now, I giggle every time I think about Cruise's dance, or the spectacular and completely unexpected demise of... well, I won't spoil it for you.

I think the humour in 'Tropic Thunder' succeeds because it works the edges without going over. It surprises and even shocks the audience, but still stays sharply focused on the targets of its satire while avoiding most of the obvious gags. Even the more controversial elements, such as Robert Downey Jr. in blackface or the infamous 'R-word' conversation, are such intelligently handled parodies that it's almost impossible to be offended.

Some people will be offended anyway, but for the rest of you I'll give it four stars.

(And Murray liked it even more!)

The Speech, McCain's Veep, and... oh yeah, Canada

I had to work last night, so not only did I miss Garth's 'Volunteer Appreciation Pizza Party' (grr!), I missed The Big Speech in Denver and had to watch it online. Which was no easy task given that MSNBC's link was either broken or badly overwhelmed, and CNN's feed is choppy and just sucks. Thank you, CTV!

Here's one of my many favourite parts:

"I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that's to be expected, because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.

If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It's worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me; it's about you."

I think I said that already...


Ever since Obama picked an old white guy for his running mate, I've been joking that McCain will have to pick a young black guy now.

I almost got it right...

You've GOT to be kidding. Does McCain honestly believe that there are really that many disaffected Hillarites out there just waiting to cast their vote for anyone in a tangerine pants suit? Apparently so.

[oh, gods - some Republican pundit just implied that Big Joe Biden might be forced to tone it down and be less of a "bully" if you put him in a room with a woman. Borf.]

Of course it's not ALL about her gender. Perish the thought. She's not just fiscally conservative - she's rabidly pro-life, she's an avid member of the NRA, and she's strongly in favour of the death penalty. [Edit: Missed one - she's also a Creationist.]

Mmmm... red meat for the base...

Here are a few choice quotes from the woman who probably has a better than even chance of becoming president if McCain wins:
As for the prospect of her being vice president, Palin told Kudlow that she could not answer the question of whether she wanted the job “until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day. I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here….”

About the birth of her son with Down' syndrome when she was 44:
"When we first heard, it was kind of confusing,"

"Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome."

And on the death penalty:
During one debate before the primary, Palin said she was in favor of capital punishment in especially heinous cases such as the murder of a child. "My goodness, hang 'em up, yeah,” she said.

Oh, yes - and she has a degree in communications and journalism. I look forward to reading her blog.


Back in the REAL race, Harper is now trying to paint Dion as a lefty:

"He is certainly the Liberal leader who's taken his party furthest to the left, at least since [former prime minister] Pierre Trudeau"

I certainly hope so! In fact, I think the Liberals should be running that quote in big, bold letters in Toronto, Vancouver, and every riding where left-wing Liberals are tempted to vote NDP, thinking that Dion is just another Paul Martin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tick Tock Chess: Harper Moves His Queen

Well, that solves THAT problem:


August 26, 2008
Ottawa, Ontario

Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to Represent Canada at the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that His Honour the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, will represent Canada at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, to be held on September 6, 2008.

The Lieutenant Governor will travel to China instead of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada.


Tick Tock

David Akin has the timeline for the next month and a half all laid out for handy reference, and thereby answers the rhetorical question everyone is asking themselves today: Gee, Steve, what's the hurry?

Here's a clue:

Sept. 5 - Latest date Governor General Michaelle Jean heads to Beijing for Paralympics.
Sept. 11 - Governor General Michaelle Jean back in Ottawa (and ready to dissolve Parliament, if need be.)

Not only are those two dates on either side of the by-elections on the 9th, but if you count forward 36+ days from when Harper seems to want the writ dropped (the 5th), and given that an election will be on a weekday, you end up with October 13th or 14th as the earliest election day.

If he doesn't manage to catch Jean before she leaves for China, then we'd be looking at October 20th. What happens between those two dates?

Oct. 14 - Tentative release date for Julie Couillard's autobiography

There ya go. Not the whole answer, but certainly one of the more entertaining scenarios.

New Voicemail Message at Stornoway:

You've reached the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. I'm sorry, Mr. Dion can't answer your imperious summons right now. Please fuck off and try your call again.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And the Candidate is...

For well over a year now, the citizens of Halton Region have been waiting with bated breath to find out who would be squaring off against Garth Turner as the Conservative candidate in what seems to be a now imminent federal election.

Would it be ex-Reformer Rick Malboeuf? Or maybe Charles McVety devotee D'Arcy Keene? Or perhaps some new, fresh face would emerge from the ranks? Whoever it turned out to be, he or she would most certainly be elected by an open, democratic process by the local Conservative Party membership. Right?

Meh... not so much.

Halton riding has a consistent and active membership of around 550 and a significant amount of money in the bank. It has always had a healthy riding association ­ active in many community events and experienced at winning elections. There have been at least three very well-qualified members who have announced their intention to seek the candidacy for the same two years. All the requirements for holding a candidate selection process have been in place. It is axiomatic that the longer a candidate has to work the riding the more likely he/she is to have a positive influence on the outcome of an election.

However, PoliOps has decided to appoint Lisa Raitt as the Tory candidate in Halton...

It is likely that the fuss raised by the newspapers and blogs about the nefarious treatment of the Mississauga East-Cooksville membership caused PoliOps a little temporary concern (see Mississauga South) and sometime in February/March 2008 they told Lisa Raitt she'd have to campaign for the candidacy (like Major Ted Opitz). She flatly refused. She gave the bogus excuse that her position in a government agency didn't allow her to campaign for a political position. This is not true. More likely she was concerned about the optics among Toronto city councillors and/or she simply didn't want to lower herself, or exert herself, to engage in a contest for a position she had previously been assured was hers and that she still wanted to have.

So PoliOps made a tactical shift. The membership in Halton will not be allowed to choose their own candidate. Whenever the writ is dropped for the next federal election, the cover of the call to arms will be used to sneak in Lisa Raitt as the official Party Representative.

Oh yes. This is going to be WAY fun.


As an aside, while I was digging through Garth Turner's blog archives looking for info on his former nomination rivals, I ran across this gem of a quote from the days shortly before he was unceremoniously booted from his own party:

Political parties are shaped by the people who form them. Policies emerge, evolve, mature or disappear. Leaders come and go. Nobody expects new members to throw off their old ideas or principles when they join - the party only hopes supporters will be just that, supportive.

Parties adopt and reflect the people in them, rather than the other way around. Modern Canadian political parties are not mental or moral straightjackets which squeeze out personal belief or questioning analysis.

Given the somewhat upsetting discussions I've been having recently with some of my NDP brethren in the blogosphere over my support of the Liberal Party, I found that to be appropriate and surprisingly heartening.

Well said, sir.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama VP Watch

Today's the day Obama will announce his pick for Vice President. I'm on the email notification list. I'm rooting for Bill Richardson. Just because... I dunno. I like Bill.

That is all.

UPDATE: Stoopid media - they leaked it early! Hmph. Well, Biden's cool. He's old, he's got that foreign policy thing going for him, and he's the guy who said this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Kick Ass! And So Do They

Wow - two in two days! Many thanks to the truly ass-kicking Impolitical AND West End Bob for tagging me as a Kick-Ass Blogger. I am truly, deeply honoured.

My turn... hmmm...

Creekside, for sure. Alison was one of the first kick-ass bloggers I ever read (and all the rest of them at The Beav, of course - but they already have lots of awards).

JimBobby, who is just so dang funny and smart and doesn't post nearly often enough (but kicks ass when he does).

Dead Things On Sticks, run by the ass-kicking Denis McGrath - television writer, industry maven and latter day Marshall McLuhan.

Unrepentant Old Hippie TOTALLY kicks ass.

And... can I? I will anyway... Garth Turner, who was indirectly responsible for changing me from a film and television blogger into a political blogger. I still wouldn't want to see him as Finance Minister, but as a blogger and an MP, he kicks Conservative ass like only a convert can.

Now for the rules:
* Choose 5 bloggers that you feel are "Kick Ass Bloggers"
* Let 'em know in your post or via email, twitter or blog comments that they've received an award
* Share the love and link back to both the person who awarded you and back to
* Hop on back to the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky then pass it on!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dion / Turner Show: Video #1

Here's the question I asked Mr. Dion during the Blogstravaganza portion of the program:

And here are couple more that I didn't get a chance to ask but would like to at some point:

1) Philosophically, would you say that your vision of Liberalism is closer to that of Pierre Trudeau or Paul Martin? And no, you can't say "both".

2) Conservative governments on both sides of the border appear to have made it their mission to reduce tax revenues to the point where government can barely function. Do you plan to increase government revenues in order to restore social programs and the public sector, and if so, how?

Dion / Tiurner

Shit. Hit the wrong key. Go here.

Dion/Turner Show: Late Night Photo Dump

Here are some images from this evening's event...

Geez, smile, wouldya? If you hang a Giant Flag, they will come.

Esther is on the job. No mistaking who's sponsoring this event, huh?

There goes CityTV's Richard Madan. City's coverage can be found here.

This would be the tech guy using my laptop to configure the LAN connection that we weren't going to be allowed to use. Grmph.

The Big Blogstravaganza. Try, if you can, to imagine Stephen Harper in a room full of unvetted multi-partisan bloggers answering their unscreened questions. Yeah, that's what I thought.

Did I mention that there was a SHITLOAD of people here? Seriously, you'd need an aerial shot to really get the size of the crowd (CityTV's saying 1,400).

Garth and the Giant Flag. Do you think that if Stephen Harper ever wins a majority, he will try to pass a law to add some blue to the Canadian flag? All that red must drive him bugshit.

The Boss. I think he had fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Later that night, at the pub...

I can now post the rest of my pseudo-live blog, thanks to the superior technology of Zorpheous.

Holy SHIT there are a lot of people here!! They were worried that they might want to block off half the room if only a few hundred showed up, but that doesn't seem to be a problem – there are at least 1,200 people here!! (good guess, Zorph!)

I'm hanging out with Zorpheous, Cam Holmstrom and Impolitical. We're the cool kids.

Someone asked about electoral reform, and Dion came out with a very well thought out response that, while acknowledging that he needs to run stuff like this by his caucus, explained why he supports the idea of preferential ballotting – and then proceeded with a professorial lecture explaining exactly what that is.

And the Deniers are here. Joy. Dion is politely taking him apart.

And the Fetus Fetishists are here too, blathering about C-454 [edit - that should be C-484]. Ah... no. Liberal. Pro-choice. Next question.

More narrowly-focused questions. I'm waiting for them to start asking for plenary indulgences.

People are starting to trickle out to avoid the rush. Time to take down the pipe & drape and off to the pub.

Liveblogging the Great Green Shift Road Show and Turner Town Hall Shindig

Dion/Turner Event

I've just been informed by someone with the Dion camp that the Ethernet set-up they have is for the media only, and that bloggers will NOT be allowed to use it to live-blog.


I have no idea if this applies to Blackberry-type devices, and frankly I'm not inclined to ask at this point. We shall see.

And now I am alone in a room full of REAL media. The half dozen or so bloggers who had been directed into the room have been directed out again. Garth just flew in to meet and greet, and then scold whoever is driving Dion here from Hamilton to get his ass over here.

And we're live! Esther or someone talked some sense into Mr. Junior Secret Service and let us hook up. Garth just did his “Blogging is the Future of Politics” speech and has gone to rescue The Boss from the old media guys.

The questions have started... or should I say, the speeches. Everyone seems to have rehearsed a rather lengthy question focusing on whatever their own personal issue is. And so did I, although I like to think I kept it short and to the point.

Mr. Junior Secret Service is FLIPPING OUT over the number of cameras and camcorders in the room. "How did all these cameras get in here?" he ask me. "We're bloggers. It's what we do", I told him.

Someone asked about the attack adds, and asked how Dion can stay quiet when they're insulting his DOG for Gods sakes! Dion: "I'm a big boy". That one got a big laugh.

Watch This Space

Today's the big day here in Sprawlville! The Great Green Shift Road Show and Turner Town Hall Shindig is coming to Halton, and yours truly will be there with bells on, bringing you the live(ish) play-by-play and (possibly next day) video coverage.

Ok, so Kady O'Malley I ain't, but I'll do my level best.

As if I won't have enough to do juggling laptop, still camera and camcorder, praying the Wi-Fi holds out while I desperately try to film and type at the same time... I have also volunteered to be the event's Official Blogger Wrangler. Yes, Garth Turner in his infinite wisdom has invited every rabble-rouser and miscreant who frequents his blog's blood-soaked comments section to c'mon down and hang out with Mr. Dion a while before the main event.

They still haven't responded to my requisition for cattle prods and a Taser.

Oh, and I have to pick up the pipe and drape this morning. Can't forget.

It should be an interesting event, if only to see how many members of the "Garth is the Anti-Christ" anti-fan club actually show up. Some have been making a lot of noise about staging a protest, but I suspect that actually being invited to attend might have taken a bit of the wind out of their sails. But it sure would be entertaining.

For everyone else, if you are anywhere near St. Vlod's in north Oakville tonight around 7:30, please drop by. Or at least, try to get there at least an hour early and fight your way through the crowds to stake out some standing room along the back wall. No matter what your political inclinations might be, everybody really is welcome to come and ask whatever questions you might have.

Come see me. I'll be the one with the lasso.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Creatively Spinning the Numbers

The National Post ran an article Friday entitled "Conservatives spent more on cultural programs than Liberals". Co-authored by David Akin and Juliet O'Neill, the article refers to a CanWest News analysis of government financial documents showing that the Conservatives have actually outspent their predecessors to the tune of $660 million, shelled out to the Department of Canadian Heritage and its portfolio of departments and agencies like the CBC, the Canada Council, etc.

At first blush, the numbers are pretty impressive: $133 million more for the CBC, $30 million more for the Canada Council, and the biggest increase for the Department of Canadian Heritage itself - up $273 million since 2006. Telefilm Canada and the CRTC got screwed, but overall the Conservatives come off as exceedingly generous patrons of the arts.

Two things make all this somewhat less impressive.

One is the information at the end of the original article that was somewhat conveniently omitted from the National Post version:

But the Conservative record on cultural spending when measured as a portion of all government spending shows that Conservatives, three years later, support the arts at about the same level that the Liberals did in their last year.

During the final budgetary year of former prime minister Paul Martin’s government, $18.06 of every $1,000 spent by the government was spent on cultural programs. That jumped in Harper’s first year in government to $19.54 but by this year it has fallen back to about where the Liberals were at $18.23 of every $1,000 spent by the government.

Using that measure - spending in one area compared to overall spending in any other area - cultural spending has fared worse than any other program in the three-year Conservative term.

The Tories have seen the portion of all spending they need to make on public debt drop by more than 22 per cent. But they have used the spending room created by smaller debt charges to boost spending, as a portion of all government spending, on security and public safety (up 15 per cent); environment and resource-based programs (up 14.4 percent) and general government services (13.7 percent.)

The second is the way in which the article defines "cultural spending". The article specifically references the budget for the Department of Canadian Heritage (about 1.4 billion dollars) and the budgets for the various agencies and Crown corporations that are included within the department's 'portfolio' such as the Canada Council, the CBC, etc. (another 2.2 billion).

The trouble is, the Department of Canadian Heritage deals with a lot more than just arts and culture. It also covers things like multiculturalism, citizenship, official languages, sport, and a slew of other areas that have little or nothing to do with what you or I would consider "arts and culture".

So, just because the department as a whole will be spending more money this year than it did two years ago doesn't necessarily mean anything for the arts community. And in fact, a big chunk of the budget increases over the past two years had to do with (you guessed it) the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

I'll let former Heritage Minister Bev Oda explain it to you...

The 2006 – 2007 Main Estimates were tabled in April, the first for this new Conservative government.

Resources for the department total 1.4 billion dollars in 2006-2007 and maintains initiatives that were announced in previous budgets and approved by the Treasury Board. A 267 million dollar increase over the previous year, was provided for the Department.

The increases can largely be attributed to increases and new funding in several areas. For example:
* 77.7 million dollars for 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic venues;
* 69.5 million dollars for the enhancement of Canadian sport development, excellence, and participation; and
* $27.4 million for the Aboriginal Peoples' Program.

In 2006 – 2007, resources for the Department's portfolio total 2.16 billion dollars, an increase of 310 million dollars over the previous year.

Increased funding includes:
* 17.5 million dollars for the Public Service Commission, primarily for program expenditures;
* 16.2 million dollars largely for program expenditures at Library and Archives of Canada; and
* 3.6 million dollars for the Canadian Museum of Nature for operating and capital expenditures.
* $50 million over 2 years for the Canada Council, a concrete display of our new governments support for arts and culture.

So, out of a total increase of $577 million for 2006-07, at least a third had nothing at all to do with the arts. And the following year, the budget for the department itself actually decreased by $22 million.

From all this, it's difficult to tell if the basic premise of the Post article is accurate or not. I do know that Akin and O'Neill should have spent a little more time digging into the numbers - or at least fought their editors to keep all of the numbers they did find.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Beyond the Pale

The trouble with engaging in military operations in a big grey area of international law... is that sometimes it comes back to bit you in the ass.

Canada may be powerless to take action in death of Canadian soldier

OTTAWA - The probe into the possible friendly fire death of a Canadian soldier by a private security force falls into a grey area of international law that could end up in Afghanistan's dysfunctional justice system, says a legal expert...

Hendin said if Canadian officials intend to diligently pursue the matter, they'll have some unpalatable and uncomfortable choices to make.

There are sections under the fourth Geneva Conventions that allow countries to prosecute civilians in other countries who wound or kill soldiers during a military operation. But to invoke those provisions the Canadian government would have toss out the claim that it's fighting an insurgency .

It would have to publicly declare Afghanistan to be in a "state of armed conflict" - a international legal definition that places an entirely new set of human rights responsibilities on Ottawa.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Conservatives to Allow Candidates and Agents to Testify

In an abrupt reversal, a spokesperson for the Conservative Party of Canada announced today that the party would, in fact, permit former candidates and their agents to appear before the Commons ethics committee investigating the so-called "in-and-out scheme". However, they indicated that certain restrictions would apply.

Obama vs. McCain as Word Clouds

The Boston Globe ran a very cool thing a week or so ago. They ran Obama's campaign blog and McCain's campaign blog through Wordle (a nifty tool that makes very pretty word clouds from any blog) and compared the results.

The number one word on Obama's blog is, of course, Obama, followed by campaign, senator, change, hope, donate, etc.

The number one word on McCain's blog... is also Obama. And the one word I couldn't find in either word cloud? McCain.

How interesting.

Go try it on your favourite blog - it's fun! I ran Garth Turner's and came up with this:

I couldn't find any Conservative candidate blogs to compare it to, but I did run Stephen Taylor's and... oh, THERE'S McCain!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Will the Real 'Correctional Grunt' Please Stand Up?

My ex-blogmate Raphael Alexander was one of several bloggers who posted about the Conservative government's plans to toughen up Canada's youth crime laws a few days ago. One of the people who commented on his post was an anonymous corrections officer calling himself "Correctional Grunt" who regaled us all with tales of the unrepentant young hoodlums he has to deal with every day and the many ways in which he and his fellow officers have been hamstrung by politically correct government and social policies.

As a youth correctional officer, let me give you guys an insider view of the YCJA, programming, and rehabilitation.

I am one of many Correctional Officers in a Young Offender facility in Ontario; or at least we USED to be. During the last Government's tenure we saw our job titles changed to "Youth Services Officer". That tells you exactly what our current and former provincial and federal Liberal Government's attitude was and is towards young offenders; that they are to be "serviced".

We are are not even allowed to refer to them as "young offenders" when we write and report them for in-facility infractions and incidents. Now they are "young persons", or "clients" and the word "criminal" or "offender", which is exactly what they are, is forgotten for fear of damaging their already tender sensibilities and self esteem.

It goes on and on like that, for fourteen paragraphs, and sounds like a sincere, if somewhat angry and one-sided, first person account from the front lines of our youth justice system. In fact, Raph was so impressed that he re-posted the comment in its entirety today, claiming it had changed his mind on the whole issue.

The trouble is, it all sounded so... familiar.

One person mentioned another blog where an anonymous commenter had posted the exact same comment a week earlier - right down to the same typo near the beginning of the fourth paragraph. So I decided to do a little digging.

Unfortunately, the comment sections of most blogs don't get picked up in a Google search, but just by looking for blog posts about Canada's youth justice system it didn't take long to find more recipients of Correctional Grunt's insightful, if repetitive, commentary.

The Turner Report
, July 2008
Joanne's Journey, January 2008
Blue Like You, January 2008 (that one splits it up between two comments)
Kitchener Conservative, October 2006
Small Dead Animals, April 2006

The one on SDA was the earliest incident I found, and was also somewhat shorter with slightly different wording, which makes me think this might have been the original version.

A couple of these actually had follow-up comments from 'CG', so it may well be that this is, or was, a real person - if a somewhat unimaginative one. Then again, what kind of person keeps a copy of something like this for almost two and a half years just so they can paste it into the comments section of every blog post they find that mentions our youth justice system? And how often has the identical 'comment' been sent to newspaper editors or pasted into newspaper comments sections?

So. Just to satisfy my curiosity, would the real 'Correctional Grunt' please drop me a line? I promise not to reveal your Secret Identity - I would just like some evidence that you really are who you say you are.

And if anyone else has seen this comment appear elsewhere, or knows where it came from originally, please let me know. It would be nice to know if it is actually the same person posting this thing hither and yon, or if this isn't just the blog version of the classic conservative chain letter.

Conservatives Send Left-Wing Writer to Talk to Commies

This just keeps getting better and better.

Mr. Dyer told The Globe and Mail that a Foreign Affairs official at the Canadian embassy in Cuba called him and asked him to speak in Havana, promising to cover his travel expenses. He said he was given $3,000 in cash to cover his airfare, hotel and expenses in Cuba, and that he had never heard of PromArt until last week.

"It suggests to me this is the gang who can't shoot straight. My surmise ... is that they didn't have a pot of money that they could easily fit this into, so a little creative bookkeeping was done ... and you take it out of the PromArt budget," he said.

Wow. I got nothin'.

So, who do you think is getting fired over this one?

UPDATE: Here's Dyer's letter to the G&M explaining exactly what happened and why he went to Cuba.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Inspector Clouseau Does Digby

I just love those politicians from down east - they have such a colourful way of expressing themselves. That, and their low tolerance for bullshit.

The Liberals knew right away who the stranger was - Michael White, 28, a long-time senior communications aide to Government House Leader Peter Van Loan who recently joined the Harper PMO as a media officer.

"He's wandering around looking like Fifi hit Paris in Digby," Saint John MP Paul Zed said

Mr. Zed said Mr. White was "pretending to be a tourist" but did not get into any meetings or attend receptions.

"This is like Richard Nixon and the dirty tricks department of Donald Segretti," Mr. Zed said. "I mean it makes no sense. If the guy wanted to come into the room, all he had to do is take off his secret squirrel outfit.



On another topic entirely, RealNews has this excellent video explaining the many ways in which "clean coal" is an utter fraud. If you are an American and a Democrat, could you please forward a copy of this to Barack Obama and BEG him to remove this nonsense from his energy platform? Thank you.

Stephen Harper's War on Culture

The Canadian Culture Wars continue with the cancellation of the PromArt program, which provided travel funding to artists, performers and organizations to promote Canadian culture abroad. To justify their actions, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson cited the usual nonsense about "fiscal restraint", even though the program costs a mere $4.7 million a year - an amount so small that I couldn't even find anything in the 2006 budget that was that small.

It's, like, a buck from everyone in the GTA.

Then, of course, came the requisite list of deviant, left-wing, shit-painting, obscenity-spewing "artists" the program has funded in the past.

"Certainly we felt some of the groups were not necessarily ones we thought Canadians would agree were the best choices to be representing them internationally," she said.

Pressed for an example of those who failed to meet such a requirement, Howland cited a Toronto-based experimental rock band.

"I don't even want to say it (their name) on the phone," she said. "Holy F---, that was one that was flagged."

Holy F---'s second album was nominated for a Juno award and the group has been shortlisted for the $20,000 Polaris Music Prize.

Gee, sounds like the title of a certain movie, doesn't it? But 'Holy Fuck' weren't the only ones singled out, of course. A Conservative talking points memo dug up by David Akins at the National Post also lists:

... $16,500 to send Tal Bachman, a best-selling recording artist and the son of The Guess Who's Randy Bachman, to South Africa and Zimbabwe for music festivals... "I think there's a reasonable expectation by taxpayers that they won't fund the world travel of wealthy rock stars..." [ok, hands up everyone who has a Tal Bachman CD?]

... $5,000 to former CBC broadcaster Avi Lewis, who now works for al-Jazeera and who is described in a Conservative memo as "a general radical" [that would be Gemini Award-winning broadcaster Avi Lewis, son of known radical Stephen Lewis}

... Gwynne Dyer, who received $3,000 to help him travel to Cuba for a series of lectures... the Conservative talking points say Mr. Dyer is "a left-wing columnist and author who has plenty of money to travel on his own." [I'm sensing a theme here]

... The North South Institute, a nonprofit foreign policy think-tank, which received $18,000 in federal travel assistance so its representatives could attend a conference in Cuba... The North-South Institute is "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank," the Conservative memo said. "Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-Western conferences in Cuba?" it asked. [that would be this North-South Institute, whose Executive Committee is filled with a bunch of commie left-wing... corporate executives].

Even Stephen Taylor sounds like this sort of blatant political button-pushing has left a bad taste in his mouth.

What I find even more distressing is the list of funding recipients that the Conservatives have chosen not to mention - particularly those in the "Film and Television" category, as that one happens to affect my family financially. Because not only did PromArt pay to send Canadian film makers to sell their films at festivals like Cannes and Sundance - it paid to bring foreign buyers to our festivals. All for the bargain price of $350,000.

Here are a few that stood out:

$35,000 To allow the Banff Television Festival Foundation to invite foreign buyers to the Banff World Television Festival.

$15,000 To allow the Festival international du Film sur l'Art to host visiting foreign buyers during the 25e Festival international du Film sur l'Art in Montreal, Quebec.

$35,000 To allow the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival to invite foreign buyers to The Documentary Forum.

$10,310 To allow the Northern Visions Independant Film and Video Association to invite foreign buyers to the Images Festival 2006.

$80,000 To allow Film Circuit International to organize tours of Canadian films internationally.

$12,000 To allow the Toronto International Film Festival to invite foreign buyers to the Sprockets, Toronto International Film Festival for Children.

$53,500 To allow the Toronto International Film Festival to invite foreign buyers to the Toronto International Film Festival.

This isn't some street mime making a pilgrimage to Marcel Marceau's grave. This isn't some performance artist piercing her labia on stage in Munich.


Yes, for the price of a few plane tickets and a VIP suite, the government can actually sell some of those partially subsidized film and television projects they keep griping about to foreign countries, thus turning a profit on those productions while simultaneously keeping a bunch of long-haired artist types like my husband employed and off the streets.

My husband is a member of IATSE, one of the two big film & television technical workers unions in Canada. Today he showed me the "In Production" list for Toronto for the month of August. It had four items on it. Only one was an actual feature film.

Meanwhile, the much anticipated Toronto FilmPort opened two months ago and is still standing empty. And now there's word that the new Michael Cera movie, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" - which is actually set in Toronto - might be filming in New York. Because it's cheaper.

Much as I'd like to, I can't blame the Conservatives for all of this. The threat of a SAG strike, the rising Canadian dollar, and the inexplicable refusal by the McGuinty government to offer competitive tax incentives in Ontario have all inflicted mortal wounds on the film and television industry here.

However, as far as I can tell, Stephen Harper is the only one who is actively trying to kill it.

(h/t to Stephen Taylor for digging up the full list of recipients)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tony Speaks from the Wrong Orifice Again

And it ain't the one in his head...

Public supports shutting injection site, Ottawa says

MEXICO CITY -- Ottawa is determined to shut down Vancouver's safe-injection site because it's necessary to "draw a line" about which public health measures are acceptable, Canada's Health Minister says...

"You have to draw the line somewhere and we feel we're drawing the line in a place Canadians are comfortable," Mr. Clement said in an interview in Mexico City, where he is attending the 17th International AIDS Conference.

Now, granted the headline of the Globe article isn't quite what he said, but he certainly does seem to be implying that he has some special insight (pardon the pun) into public opinion in Canada regarding safe injection sites.

Eh, not so much...

Two-thirds support safe-injection site, poll says

VANCOUVER - Only a quarter of people in the Metro Vancouver region support shutting down the city's precedent-setting supervised-injection site, according to a poll done this week by AngusReid Strategies.

The poll of 400 residents showed that about a third of people overall oppose its operations, 10 per cent aren't sure and almost 60 per cent support the site, which is the only one of its kind in North America.

But hey, that's just those dirty hippies out in BC, right? I'm sure if you asked all Canadians what they thought...

Majority supports safe-injection sites
Ipsos Reid poll shows 55% of Canadians think centres like Insite 'a good idea'

Most Canadians say it's "a good thing" heroin addicts in Vancouver have a safe, legal place to shoot up, according to a poll conducted this week for Canwest News Service and Global National.

An Ipsos Reid poll made public yesterday found that 55 per cent of Canadians say the Downtown Eastside centre Insite is "a good thing" and 54 per cent say it should remain exempt from the country's drug laws, despite a Conservative government appeal to shut it down.

Yeah, but I'm sure those hardworking rural folks are all totally against it, right? Or maybe the results are skewed by those bastards in Eastern Canada...

Quebecers were the most likely to say safe injection is "good," with 66 per cent of the province agreeing, followed by Alberta (58 per cent), Atlantic Canada (55 per cent), British Columbia (54 per cent), Ontario (49 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (45 per cent)...

The poll also found a split between rural and urban populations. Those in urban settings (57 per cent) have a higher tendency than those in rural settings (50 per cent) to agree that Insite is a "good thing."

I think what really annoys me about the Globe article isn't the headline - it's that they didn't spend the same ten minutes I did looking up past poll results to see if Tony actually had a point, or if he was just talking out of his ass again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dear America: Congratulations on your Upcoming Divorce!

Dear America,

We, your friends and family, are all thrilled to bits that you're finally dumping that asshole you married seven and a half years ago.

I know, we probably should have said something before. Believe me, we wanted to because honestly - we always thought he was a moron. Some of us tried to drop some subtle hints, but by then you were so gaga over the guy that there was just no talking to you.

The trouble is, we've heard that your ex has been sniffing around again, and that part of you has actually been considering getting back together with that son of a bitch. I find that hard to believe, but I have to tell you that if it's true then there really is no hope for you at all.

I know, I know. He says he's changed. He says he's a different man. He tells you he loves you, and promises to shower you with gifts and make all your problems go away and to never, ever hurt you or your kids ever again.

You cannot possibly be that stupid. You know he's lying, right? You know that as soon as he's back in your house that it's just going to be the same old shit all over again, right? Just because he's comfortable and familiar, or reminds you of your dad, or whatever the hell the appeal is, is no excuse for you to keep going back for more abuse again and again.

Please. I know you're torn, but you just can't put us all through this again. Just dump the chump for good and try to put it all behind you.

With love and respect,

The World

(P.S. - We all really like that new guy you've been seeing. I think he'll be good for you.)

Tony, Tony, Tony...

I don't know about you, but I for one am getting tired of our government's ministers embarrassing us abroad.

The latest Harper minion to trip over his own shoelaces on the world stage is Tony Clement. Seems our Health Minister spoke at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico yesterday and used the opportunity to once again slam safe injection sites like Vancouver's Insite, even calling the policy "a form of harm addition".


While the minister's views on Insite are well known, Mr. Clement repeated them Tuesday at an event where he was endorsing and promoting a new WHO “how-to” guide on battling the epidemic, which promotes needle exchange and safe injection sites. The Health Minister's comments left officials from the agency flummoxed and red-faced.

Teguest Guerma, associate director of the HIV-AIDS department at the WHO, who was clearly uncomfortable about the exchange between the minister and reporters about the apparent contradiction in Canada's position, would only say: “The WHO supports harm reduction.”

Canada's Not-So-New Government: Making Us All Look Like Idiots Since 2006.

(H/T to Rolling Back the Tide of Extremism)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Sundries


A B.C. man has filed a human rights complaint alleging religious discrimination after a TV comedian flew a plane pulling a "Jesus sucks" banner over Toronto. Dean Skoreyko of the northern B.C. town of Coldstream filed the complaint against Kenneth Hotz and Showcase TV. Mr. Skoreyko, who viewed the stunt online, said in a form filed with the B.C. human rights tribunal "my Christian beliefs and upbringing were publicly ridiculed."

Mr. Hotz is half of the Kenny vs. Spenny show, which turns on two rivals' attempts to compete with one another. The offending stunt was part of a contest between Mr. Hotz and co-host Spencer Rice to see who could offend the greatest number of people. Mr. Skoreyko, who once sought the federal Conservative nomination in Okanagan-Shuswap, told the National Post he filed the complaint on behalf of the silent majority that would object to such antics. He said he wanted to make the point that the human rights system applies double standards, favouring only minority interests.

When I first read about this stunt, I suppose I expected indignation from those sensitive types who had somehow managed to read the banner from the ground while on their way to church with their binoculars. And I suppose there's a point in there somewhere about minority vs. majority rights, although it has always been my understanding that the rights of the majority are automatically protected by the fact that they are... well, the majority (i.e. would this guy have been offended if they had flown a banner saying, "White Guys Suck"?)

But to claim that you were shocked and offended by a video on the internet that you would have had to have gone out of your way to find and download? Pulease. But hey, good on him for defending the sensibilities of those who would have objected. If they had seen it. Which they didn't.

Seriously, if this is the most offensive thing this guy can find on the internet, or for that matter on Kenny vs. Spenny, then he obviously isn't trying hard enough.

(and anyone care to bet on how long it takes for Charles McVety or his pals to point out that KvS gets Canadian tax credits?)



While Gerry Ritz and the entire Conservative free-market propaganda machine continue to try to convince western farmers that "marketing choice" will make them far more money for their crops, this rather inconvenient bit of news makes it into the media:

Canadians got more per bushel than U.S. farmers, wheat board says

Prairie farmers earned a record $7 billion from grain sold through the Canadian Wheat Board in 2007-08 — a 57 per cent increase over the previous year, the agency said Thursday in its annual report. [...] Western Canadian farmers got better prices than many U.S. farmers who sold their grain before prices spiked earlier this year.

Stupid facts.

(h/t to Buckdog)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Worst. Headline. Ever.

There's article today in the New Brunswick Times & Transcript talking about a Green Shift Road Show meeting between Liberal MPs and representatives of New Brunswick's agricultural community.

Here's how it went:

Yesterday's discussion was certainly lively, as the Liberals' plan was met with its share of criticism by the gathered agricultural community.

"What farmers are facing as a result of the Green Shift is a considerable increase in input costs, whether it's a result of fuel that farmers use or even as a result of how much their input costs may go up as a result of this carbon tax," says Bob Friesen, CFA president. "What we're basically saying is look, agriculture already provides a lot of carbon sequestration, farmers have done all kinds of things to create more carbon sinks... We're saying, look, there's got to be some calculations here that agriculture provides this -- they're the solution providers, so why tax them?"

Easter says a carbon tax exemption isn't likely to happen.

"I was on a series of meetings in the farm community last week and had farmers say to me if there's an exemption made for us we would be looked down on by the rest of society," Easter says. "Let's find the way of recognizing the cost impact on the farm community of this program and ensure that on the benefit impact at the end of the day there's economic opportunities for farmers and they receive their just due."

Easter says the platform will include other incentives for alternatives such as carbon sinks, biofuels, anaerobic digesters and wind power.

Despite his concerns, Friesen says he was still pleased the Liberal MPs came to speak with the industry.

"I think it was a positive thing that they came here and are prepared to listen to the farm leaders across Canada and they are prepared to go back and to analyze where they could improve (the plan) for agriculture," he says.

And here's the headline:

Agriculture industry opposes Green Shift

Groan. Honestly, did anyone even read the article before coming up with that one? Or maybe someone was just trying to put their own spin on things.

The effect of a carbon tax on farmers concerns me as well, but the fact is, modern agriculture just isn't as 'green' as people like to think. Large industrial farms go through a huge amount of oil and gas for both equipment and fertilizer, not to mention the negative environmental effects of excessive irrigation and pesticide use, soil depletion, etc., etc. Smaller farms are better, but are still frequently at the mercy of hybrid seed suppliers pushing sterile seeds that require massive amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides just to survive.

(Yes, I confess - I'm in the middle of reading "The End of Food". Shut up.)

But really, the industry needs to find a better way. It needs to go smaller, with more diversification. It needs to get off this obsession with "yield" and recognize the true costs of the Monsanto school of farming. The cost of carbon, the cost of fertilizer and pesticide, the cost to the land, and the cost to the actual nutritional value of these so-called "high yield" crops, which is making them bigger but almost completely devoid of nutrients.

Putting a price on carbon is a start, but there needs to be a far more comprehensive plan to transform agriculture in this country and wean it away from the current unsustainable system. Not necessarily promoting full-on "organic" farming per se, but certainly a program of incentives towards the more traditional family farm would be in order, and would ultimately be financially beneficial to the farmers themselves.

That would be a real "Green Shift".

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Dark Knight

There is so much to say about 'The Dark Knight' that I find myself wishing for unlimited space to write about it (oh, wait - I have a blog! well, maybe later...).

First, everything you have heard about Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker is true. His performance is profoundly disturbing, partly because of his extraordinary acting abilities and partly because writer/director Chris Nolan has quite purposefully provided him with conflicting back stories and omitted any hint of a motive, making the character less of a human villain and more an elemental force of chaos. The result is chilling and truly Oscar worthy.

If you have ever seen Nolan's earlier films ('Following', 'Memento', 'The Prestige'), you know that this is a man with a twisted and intricate mind who tells stories in a way that no other filmmaker does. If anything, he is even more deserving of an Oscar that Ledger, both as a director and a writer.

I have to stop now, but please - go see this movie. If 'Iron Man' was worth five stars, this one is a six.

(And Murray thought it was too long. Meh.)

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Punk & Thug Edition

The latest Conservative promotion of their 'law and order' agenda seems to be meeting with a rather lukewarm response. Except, of course, from the likes of Sun columnist and global warming curmudgeon Lorrie Goldstein:

Today let's take a break from the BS we're being fed about global warming to examine the BS we're being fed about crime statistics.

Specifically, about how "low" they are today compared to the past, how anyone who believes otherwise is paranoid and how the best way to make the crime rate even lower is to go even softer on criminals than we already are.

First, let's examine what the crime rate actually is compared to years ago, as opposed to what we've been told it is.

Here are some figures you probably didn't see widely quoted in the media earlier this month when Statistics Canada released its 2007 data on falling Canadian crime rates.

- First, violent crime is up 320% since 1962, when modern records first started being kept.

- Second, property crime, which many victims don't even bother to report anymore, is nonetheless up 75%.

- Third, the overall crime rate is up 152%.

Shock! Horror! And of course the fact that crime rates have been going up around the world for one hell of a lot longer than that is quite easy to dismiss when you've got a point to make - and when you pick a rather convenient year to measure against.

Happily, the Fraser Institute has a handy chart of some of those 'pre-historic' crime statistics:

Damn those Depression and Eisenhower era hoodlums!

But ok, sure, let's look at those post-1962 numbers in a little more detail, shall we?

Apparently things are a little more complicated than Goldstein's simplistic analysis. Violent crime had been on a slow but steady increase until 1991, when the trend reversed itself and began an equally steady decline. Property crime, on the other hand, has gone through some pretty wide swings over the past 45 years, with huge spikes in '81 and '91 and lesser jumps in '71 and '75. Gee. What could it possibly mean?

Yes, Lorrie, those grey bars there are economic recessions. Which would seem to indicate that there just might be a link between socio-economic conditions - like poverty - and crime.

Ya think?

Then there's also this bit of information that Goldstein has conveniently left out:

The rate of violent crime increased at essentially the same pace as rates of property crime between 1962 and 1983. Thereafter, following a comprehensive expansion of the laws against assault and sexual assault, the rate of violent crimes known to the police continued a sharp growth that peaked in 1992 but have since declined.

And yet, Goldstein professes bewilderment at these trends. Which doesn't stop him from blaming (you guessed it) weak-minded, 'soft-on-crime' policies.

Whatever happened, the hug-a-thug crowd today uses the relatively small post-1991 drop in the crime rate to argue that since crime is going down, we don't need to toughen laws or impose stiffer sentences. In fact, they say, we should do the reverse.

Nonsense. One could just as easily argue the skyrocketing crime rate we experienced throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to levels which essentially still exist today for violent crime, was the result of the soft-on-crime attitude of both federal Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments.

Yes, one could argue that, were it not for the overwhelming evidence, from both sides of the border and even on the Government's own Justice website, that "getting tough" on youth crime by increasing sentences and funnelling them into the adult system, actually increases recidivism rates. But I'll let Rational Reasons tell you all about that.

None of this makes even the slightest impression on Lorrie Goldstein of course, nor on his political idols. Because it's not about facts or a rational understanding of cause and effect - it's about ideology. It's not about the truth - it's about how we perceive the truth. It's about our rosy, dimly remembered view of the past when compared to the oh so dreary present. And first and foremost, it's about making people afraid so you can do... well, pretty much anything you want to them.

Perhaps Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said it best.

"We don't govern by statistics in our government. We're governing by what we told and promised Canadians."

Good for you, Rob. We wouldn't want to let a few facts get in the way of the Relentless Implementation of the Conservative Agenda, now would we?

In the grand scheme of things, it might actually be a good thing if Harper were to put his "tough on crime" laws into practise as soon as possible. Because if that chart of economic trends when compared to crime rates is any indication, we are probably in for a rather sharp uptick in crime - particularly property crime - sometime very soon. And if that happens on Harper's watch, especially if it's after he's purged the justice system of all those namby-pamby Liberal policies, then that just might bring his whole ideological house of cards tumbling down.