Saturday, June 30, 2007

Glasgow Airport Attack

It seems to have been relatively harmless though undoubtedly frightening. What's painful is watching CNN desperately try to cycle the same bits of info and yet make them sound fresh each time. (A truck crash! Men arrested! We have video of a fire!) BBC World had not, at last viewing, broken into its programming on the tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong handover.

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Virtually a Great City

Apparently Toronto has one of the highest concentrations of Facebook users anywhere in the world. At least we can be a leader in something. Too bad it's not efficient transportation or enjoyable waterfront or evening a winning hockey team.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

How to Stop the Street Racers

Don't nag them about polluting or endangering lives or whatever, just show them this:



It is of course a city so much more than palaces and museums:

...and again:

...of course so was Baghdad, and of course one wrong never justifies another. Let's just be thankful today didn't turn out the way someone wanted it.

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London Bomb Plot Foiled

In another case that surprisingly did not require any Jack Bauer-style torture, alert citizens and a responsive police force seem to have stopped a terror attack in central London.

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Oh the Irony! Turkey/Kurdistan Edition

Remember how the US invaded Iraq ostensibly to limit terrorist threats - something trumpeted as the Bush Doctrine? Remember how Bush said he would not make a distinction between terrorists and those that harbor them?

Well now the Turkish government is accusing US-occupied Iraq of harboring terrorists! By the Bush Administration's own foreign policy doctrine, Turkey is able - nay ought - to invade and occupy Kurdistan to deal with the PKK.

Of course the reality is much more complex than that. The Turkish government hasn't exactly treated its Kurdish minority with the utmost of fairness and the US does regard the PKK as a terror organization. On the other hand the reality in 2003 was more complex too.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

How can you live in a place like that with all the crime?

Apparently that's what those of us living in Toronto and other large Canadian cities should be asking those who live in smaller centres. Sorry for ruining another Toronto stereotype.

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Stabbed in the Back: A Cross-Border Meme

As I'm checking Google Reader today I see that Matthew Yglesias has post on how American conservatism has started attributing military failure to "national will" or rather the supposed lack thereof implied in the "stabbed in the back" meme. Meanwhile Red Tory points out that Andrew Coyne is looking to very same meme to shore up Canadian support for the ongoing mission in Afghanistan. Usually Harper is a couple years behind mimicking the GOP machine, he appears to have caught up.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oh the Irony!

Tony Blair is being put in charge of the one file at which he failed abysmally as Prime Minister. At least that's how I look at his new job being the Middle East peace envoy.

I remember after 9/11 that it was popular to speak of the "death of irony" and all that. Irony isn't dead, it's become darker and more monstrous. I started writing out examples, but really, I'm tired and they are obvious.

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Here Comes Your Man

The Pixies rock on:


Have you no decency, Ann?

Watch this clip and witness the reptilian Ann Coulter called out by Elizabeth Edwards (HT). Ann then goes on to suggest that she could totally defend calling people fat if only she knew the context in which made that sort of personal attack.

I think it's fair to say that Ann is entering her "fat Elvis" stage where people only bring her out to witness a self-parody.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Manufacturing Percent

Pierre Bourque has as one of his headlines today that "Three Quarters Believe Global Warming A 'Natural Occurence.'" Wow. I guess that lots of people don't believe we are causing global warming. But wait, what happens if I click through to the story? Well I read the third paragraph which tells me that:
"The online study [emphasis mine] which polled nearly 4000 votes found that a staggering 71 percent of people think that the rise in air temperature happens naturally."
So this valuable information was the result of an online poll?! Have these people ever heard of freeping? The resulting impression though created in the article and the headline probably falls in one of two categories (neither of which have any indication of being accurate):
  • The average person is ignorant,


  • The theory that global warming is not man-made is gaining acceptance.

Neither of these is supported by the article and its "online study."

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Richard Gwyn discovers the Super-Rich

...and when he does, he comes to the realization that they aren't much like you or me. What's problematic I suppose is where the rest the unwashed masses is comfortable at constraining the super rich. Gwyn seems to be pining for the days of the moderately wealthy CEO, but who determines how much is enough? If you are an orthodox neo-liberal economist I suspect that, in order to be consistent, you cannot say that too much is ever enough. So what's the alternative? A more managed capitalism? Socialism? Or do we just cast our lot with the market and let the chips fall where they may? Let's all pray to the invisible hand!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Who cares about saving one life?

Sound mean doesn't it? Sorry, but I'm tired of hearing this refrain every time the cops want some kind of expensive new gadget or draconian new law. In this case the OPP is begging for traffic choppers, but it really doesn't matter what the cops ask for, they always speak in terms of that one life that they might save.

Sorry OPP, but if you're vying for budget resources there's lots of other one-life scenarios that are at least as probable as your chopper business. What about health care? What about counseling services? To be consistent the OPP ought to support all of these things that might save one life. Or they can stick to making grown-up arguments for an expanded budget and avoid a cheap emotional ploy in the wake of a street racing-related death on this province's highways.

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Blame the Soviets?!

According to Eric Margolis the Soviets deliberately caused a panic in Cairo and Damascus with doctored intelligence and that led to the military build-up that caused Israel to... Well, you know the rest of the story.

Margolis posits a couple reasons why the Soviets might have done this:
  • They actually believed that Egypt and Syria could win this type of conflict,
  • They were setting up the Arabs for failure to drive them further into Moscow's arms,
  • Pro-Israeli KGB agents were acting on their own.
Any other ideas? I really recommend the whole article. It also touches on the curious saga of the USS Liberty.

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What Goes Around: Peter MacKay Edition

According to The Toronto Star, Peter MacKay is now being set up to be the victim of a stab in the back. If you've been following the saga of Bill Casey and the federal budget, you know that Nova Scotians are not overly pleased with Harper these days. If you read the whole article you find that people just aren't that into MacKay any more, to the point apparently that this may jeopardize his chances for re-election.

I suppose this is almost karmic justice for what MacKay did to those of the old Progressive Conservative Party to whom he guaranteed there would be no merger with the Alliance. Maybe if he loses his seat the next time around he can borrow the neighbour's dog and look sad in a field again.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Here's a classy "play by the rules" bit where Carl Edwards rams Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of spite. Carl was presumably aware that NASCAR does have a governing body to adjudicate these sorts of things:

Here's another foray into maturity courtesy of Robby Gordon:


Defective, err... defecting Liberals

Joe Comuzzi has gone over to the Conservatives and the overall reaction from Liberals has been to say "good riddance" and remind everyone that this guy has run afoul of several Liberal leaders. It reminds me of the Liberal response to Wajid Khan or David Emerson departing the party. In both cases the MP was dismissed as a weak-willed, idiotic traitor (or however we say that in polite prose).

Fair enough, maybe all these guys are duds, but I have one question for the Liberal Party: How many more dubious members do you have to shed and why do you let them all get elected as MPs?

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Afghanistan Mission: 2001-?

You may have read that Harper is now saying that the Afghan mission won't be extended past 2009 without some kind of "consensus." Red Tory think it's funny that Harper is all of a sudden Mr. Consensus - I reckon though he's just buying more time to brow-beat the opposition by calling them the Canadian Taliban or something tasteful like that.

My enduring impression though is that we can build schools for girls on every block, write a constitution, make Afghanistan a signatory to every international agreement, beat back the opium trade, reconstruct every road and every bridge, buy every Afghan family a goat, drill their new national army like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman would, and buy every child a kite but the whole place would swallow all these reforms and come out every bit as traditional and tribal as it was before. I don't think it would matter if we left tomorrow, 2009, 2019, or 2090.

The Afghans are, I'm sure, capable of change, but they must want it themselves. I do not know if they do. If they want to change, I do not know that they want our help. Until we can answer both those questions affirmatively I fear we are wasting our time, treasure, and most importantly, our soldiers lives.

Okay, I'm done with gloom, go enjoy your weekend!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dennis Perrin on Hillary

She's still the number one pick to win the Democratic nomination, and yet her appeal is a very narrow centre to centre-left slice. Anyone very far to either the left or the right of her has no use for her. So for all of you who don't fit into that narrow Hillary slice of the population, here's Dennis Perrin's take on her campaign song. Enjoy.

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Cabinet Minister to Canadians: Don't think for yourselves!

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has said that Canadians should not link the NASCAR Conservomobile to the government's stand on climate change. Apparently Cannon thinks that since the one is an issue facing the government and the other is an act of self-promotion by the governing party, the two have nothing to do with each other and should never be considered together.

Sorry Loose, err, Lawrence Cannon, I don't much appreciate being told when I can and cannot put two and two together. And by the way, if another party did something internally as a party and not as a government that somehow reflected poorly on them, would you, or would you not use it for partisan gain Monsieur Cannon?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dick Cheney is now a branch of the Federal Government

That's right kids! Move over Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, the Cheney branch is kicking ass and taking names! What powers does the Cheney branch possess? Whatever powers it wants. See the picture above? The President can't even tell the Cheney branch to get off of his lawn. It just lurks there waiting to be angry about something. The only thing that can stop the Cheney branch is Wolf Blitzer asking it uncomfortable questions about its gay relatives.


The Future is Sucky

At least that's my prediction if Telus and Bell are allowed to merge. That's what we really need, one giant, bloated telco near-monopoly (VoIP may be our only alternative). Already we have one of the most uncompetitive mobile sectors in the world. It will get worse if this merger happens.

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Who Cares About Yellow Ribbons?

I'm not talking about what the yellow ribbons may or may not represent, I'm talking about the little yellow decals themselves. In other words, until the usual suspects made a big stink about the city of Toronto removing them, did any of the soldiers in Afghanistan actually know or care that the ribbons were on the trucks. Do they care now?

Allow me to be cynical here for a second, are ribbon decals and red fridays used because we actually think that they will really do something for the troops, or are they a cheap and easy proxy for doing something more substantial? I have a relative in the USMC overseas right now and I really can't imagine that a yellow decal really does it for him. I'd rather send him a note or something. Maybe I'm wrong though, but I just think it's all a little bit silly.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Some vintage Psychedelic Furs:


Having solved all other problems, Benedict XVI decides to become the world's ultimate backseat driver

Yes, I suppose that discourteous drivers are perhaps in need of some moral correction. But is this really what's topping Benedict's agenda?


The Economy is Not Homophobic

A couple months ago I wrote this post about anti-gay rights groups suggesting that same-sex marriage was somehow bad for the economy. If you needed any more proof that this is a dumb argument, look at who the Toronto tourism industry is trying to attract. From the Canoe article on the topic:
"Toronto offers a great deal to gay visitors, who tend to travel more often, stay longer and spend more in a destination."
Heck, even Ted Haggard could come here. Oh wait, he's "cured."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Reason to Like MMP

I was reading James Calder's post on some poll numbers and something stood out to me when I read this paragraph:
"The only thing I can figure is that Canadians feel that federal politics is some sort of zero-sum game. If you don't vote Conservative, then you must vote Liberal no matter how dishonest you believe them to be, no matter how much you'd prefer a different party in power.

It's almost a good argument itself for electoral reform. It's sad, though."

The reality is that my riding is exactly that, a zero-sum game. For whatever reasons of demography, the Liberals can win my riding and so can the Conservatives. I'm sure there are lots of other ridings that form up that way. Others might be Liberals-NDP, some might even be Conservatives-NDP or NDP-Greens or what-have-you. Empirically I have just never seen a lot of ridings that have credible three-way races. Of all the two-way combinations, I suspect that the Liberal-Conservative one is far and away the most common.

Back to my own experience: I really only have two choices if I want my vote count towards someone who is remotely electable. I suspect that there are many people in an FPTP system that feel the same way. In other words, it's not almost a good argument, it is good argument.

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Someone take away Scalia's television!

Apparently Judge Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court thinks that the TV show 24 is a good model of jurisprudence! Sullivan is dead on by calling Scalia's remarks to be "a celebration of lawlessness."

This is not some idiot writing a blog, this is not a law professor mouthing off, this is one of the top nine judges in the most powerful country in the world. And he's using a TV show every bit as improbable as anything else on TV as a guideline!!!

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Supporting an illegitimate ruler

Isn't that what the West is doing by suddenly rushing to support Mahmoud Abbas' all-new government in the West Bank? I mean, I'm sure that the Palestinians need whatever help they can get but surely this contradicts the whole Iraq project. Remember all that neocon idealism about democracy in the Middle East and no more support for strongmen just because they might be expedient?


Abbas is seen as marginally easier to deal with than Hamas, so he gets propped up with a government that the Palestinians never voted into office. Like I said before, if it puts bread on the table in Ramallah and elsewhere I'm sure that not too many in the West Bank are complaining, but make no mistake, the West has always, always preferred strongmen to democracy as an expedient for governing the parts of the developing world where it has strategic interests.

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Christian Government? No thank you

Some folks that I read from time to time have stumbled on this site called Christian Government. Mike (among others) said some stuff about them and now the Christian Government types are warning their readers that they are being attacked secular humanists. Apparently all secular humanists are Marxists who contradict what CG calls,
"...the Christian vision for a free and democratic social order and a civil government committed to the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law. Tyranny never could survive against liberty and justice."
Oh boy, I guess the CG people don't do much consulting of their history books. Let's not forget that absolute monarchs used Christianity to justify their rule in earlier centuries. This is one simple example, there are more of them out there for you to find. Christianity and indeed every other religion and some secular ideologies (Marxism, I'm looking at you) have been used to justify every rotten, tyranical government one could imagine. It reminds me of The Merchant of Venice where Bassanio says,
"...In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts"
Maybe appealing to Shakespeare is to secular for the CG types, okay, here's a noted Christian thinker's opinion of theocracy. C. S. Lewis, bring it home:
"I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber barron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication."

You need not be an atheist to appreciate the value of secular government. I wonder what Tim Bloedow will do with that?

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Black, Rumsfeld, and the "Ostrich" Defence

On the way into work this morning I heard on the radio that the judge in Conrad Black's trial has said that Conrad cannot use the Ostrich defence in his trial (i.e.: his lawyers can't plead that he had his head in the sand about this whole thing if he was deliberately ignorant).

Meanwhile it appears that Rumsfeld is attempting the very same thing when it comes to the issue of torture at Abu Ghraib. It now appears that he deliberately made a show of not looking at photographs of what had happened. Andrew Sullivan writes:
"The most plausible inference is obviously that he covered his tracks and feigned ignorance and did not look at the photographs to create a record of complete deniability. The incompetence comes from ordering torture at Abu Ghraib and not realizing that evidence of it would spread and disseminate through new media that Rumsfeld probably wasn't that familiar with."
One wonders whether Rumsfeld will get away with this defence for what amounts to a war crime when Black has been denied this defence in a white collar crime trial.

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Who watches Canadian NASCAR anyway?

I have a confession: I used to like auto racing. A lot. I went to races, I knew the names of a ridiculous number of drivers. I could rhyme off all kinds of stats, results, whatever. One thing stands out though, I never cared about Canadian stock car racing. The sad thing is, I cannot figure out who does. There are other smaller series that may lead someone onto greater things (Formula 1, Indy stuff like that) Canadian stock car racing is not going to be one of those things though, never has been.

As a hobby (aside from the emissions implications) it's fine. I'm sure it's fun for the drivers, the crews and their friends and families. It is not, however, anything that remotely reaches a wide audience. So who exactly is being reached by the Conservatives with this approach? If I recall, it's probably a pretty conservative bunch of people. In other words, how does this expand their base? Even race car fans, for the most part, would probably rather watch the Nextel Cup on TV than go over to a racetrack and watch the Conservomobile rumble around.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Late Night

I got nothing, so here's a robot falling down:

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Psst... Ahmadinejad is a failure at home

It looks like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is, well, a bit of dud with folks in his own country. According to this Star article, he's now getting blamed for stuff that wasn't even his fault. That's usually a sign that the public is really fed up with a given leader. For the all the hyping of this guy as the next really vicious monster on the world stage, he's really fizzled. Notice how no air strikes were needed.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

"The peace candidate always wins"

This is an interesting bit of commentary from Ron Paul. There is lots that I would undoubtedly disagree with if I sat down and studied Ron Paul's politics, but the man has talked more sense than anyone else on Iraq and terror in the '08 campaign. That's why he has this buzz now.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

A Question for Petro Canada

Every time I fill up with gas, I see those "Understanding Gas Prices" stickers on the pumps. When the started doing this a few years ago, they depicted "profit" as only 1% of the total pump price. Now leaving aside the fact that I'm sure the vague section called "refining and marketing costs" leaves ample room to hide additional profits (these are vertically integrated companies), this made the oil companies seem to be rather modest.

In 2005 the profit level rose to 2%, still meager, right? Now in the latest stickers I see that it's 3% of the price you pay at the pump. It still looks like a narrow slice, but then I thought about it, doesn't that mean that profit per litre has tripled in the last few years all else being equal?*

*Of course all else has not remained equal as gas prices have risen since they started this practice.

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"Me, I'm with God and a bag of flour."

So says a man known only as "Yousef" in Gaza today (he was afraid to give his full name). The same man comments about Hamas' Gaza victory by saying,
"Today, everybody is with Hamas because Hamas won the battle. If Fatah had won
the battle, they'd be with Fatah. We are a hungry people; we are with
whoever gives us a bag of flour and a food coupon
This is important to keep in mind when the inevitable images of Gaza draped in Hamas-green get spewed out on the news networks. Hamas sustains its popularity by being more adept at social services than Fatah ever was. Now long-term Hamas may not be the wisest choice for the Palestinians (they are something of an international pariah), however hungry people do not have the luxury of long-term thinking.

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The Invisible Hand Job of the Market

Among the many, many bad news stories coming out of Iraq, Juan Cole reports (third item) that unemployed factory workers have started protesting the fact that they are, well, unemployed.

It seems that the occupation shut down these factories in the hope that capitalism would magical restart them in a matter of months (weeks). So far it has not happened. The magical market fairies have not descended on Iraq to fix things up.

I think you can make a case for market economies, but the neocon architects of Iraq do not appeal to the market as an economic mechanism, rather they entreat it as it were a god.

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Newspeak Alert! Bush is on the "front lines" in Iraq "every day"

Tony Snow made that claim to the press the other day (HT). Being in an office thousands of miles away does not constitute being on the front lines. It does matter if you are politically responsible for the outcome, you are not on the front lines.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

A song for our favourite ordinary guy

You know, just the sort of man who puts on a leather vest and grade four art project gone horribly wrong cowboy hat, puts his cats in their carrier and wanders down to Tim Hortons to tell all the guys that his wife finally took his name.

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Glen Campbell!

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The Poor Man vs. Scooter

The Editors have a hilarious breakdown of what exactly happened so that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby ended up in jail. Maybe Robert Novak will do this again:

We can only hope so.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ethanol is Farked

Those ads by Canadian Renewable Fuels Association with that guy who looks like Harold from the Red Green Show always seemed suspect to me - at least where they claim that ethanol is great for the environment. Here's another example of the reality of ethanol: the production of these fuels is ruining water and air quality. (HT)

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The Federal Government Hates Toronto

This is the only conclusion that I can draw from their continued endorsement of the detestable Lisa Raitt as head of the Toronto Port Authority. She continues to foist the useless Island Airport on this city. Harper, when I think of this, and for your general disrespect for the wishes of Torontonians, I cannot imagine any part of our electoral map turning blue any time soon.

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Note to Stephen Taylor: When did the PM start having a "first family?"

Stephen Taylor of the Blogging Tories has written a post insisting that the Harper family is "ordinary" while Stephane Dion's family is not. As is fitting, this has been ridiculed as, well, a bit silly.

Let's set aside how completely stupid Taylor's main points are (Dion's wife kept her maiden name!) and consider Taylor's use of the term "first family" in discussion of the Harpers is well, a bit weird. When did we have a first family in this country? None of the prime ministers that I recall used this terminology. Mulroney didn't use it, neither did Chretien. If anything the "first" terminology is usually reserved for the head of state. Harper is the leader of the government, not the head of state.

Those who recall their civics lessons know that Lizzy Windsor is the head of state. I'd venture to say that Dion's family and Harper's family have a great deal more in common with each other than they do with Canada's real first family - those crazy Windsors.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Atlantic Canada: Pretty Relentless for a "Defeatist" Region

I wonder if Harper's comments about Atlantic Canada are in the back of Rodney MacDonald's mind, you know, these ones:
"There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism."
Either way, the guy seems pretty persistent about this thing as he makes his way around Ottawa looking for MPs to vote against Harper.

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Here's some poetry, as it was meant to be enjoyed:

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Putin Drives Sarko to Drink?!

According to Paul Wells, that's what Belgian TV says here about the French President's state in this clip:

Drinking with Putin, eh? I'd be careful if I were you, Nicholas. You don't want this to be from his "Litvinenko" collection.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

...and then the Western-based protest party did WHAT?!

Danny Williams, Bill Casey, and now Rodney MacDonald seem to have stumbled on something unpleasant about the new Conservative party - it's really just the old Reform party inhabiting a somewhat more electable brand-name. The contempt for Eastern Canada is still there in myriad ways. Oh sure, they talk nicely to Maritimers or even people in urban parts of Ontario when they want our votes, but deep down this is a party that caters to a certain strain of Western alienation. This is the only conclusion that I can draw about the ongoing saga of the disappearing oil revenue agreements.

Actually, I don't even know if it's alienation as much as it is contempt that the Reformists cater to, but whatever it is, the new colours and the new name don't do away with it. Why do I say contempt? Well the issue here is not so much that there are disagreements on equalization - hell, I'll admit that I'm not certain what constitutes a fair deal here, what is at issue is that the Conservatives seem to have simply torn up the old agreement. No negotiation, no consultation, nothing.

*Note to Western Canadian readers: Please don't misconstrue this as a tarring of all Westerners, I'm just talking about the Reformers among you. There are alienated, parochial right-wingers in Ontario too, they just haven't had the organization to start a protest party yet.

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COPS! ...on Facebook

Some kids were going to hold a bush party in Tillsonburg, unfortunately for them, they decided to announce it on Facebook. Guess what happened.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Doing the Dalton or How Not to Steal from Your Opponent's Playbook

As Ontario heads for another election the principle critique of McGuinty's government is that he promised quite a bit and did not deliver as much as he said he would. The main areas of concern in this regard are probably the health tax (if you lean right) and/or the coal plants remaining open (if you lean left).

Well, I guess it's time for the opposition to roll out a more modest, achievable platform. Uhhh, not quite, at least if you listen to what John Tory is saying.

I'm starting to think that by the time October rolls around the bullshit will be piled quite high in this province.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

A Nuanced View of Iran

Peter Hitchens has written about a trip he took to Iran a while ago in the American Conservative magazine. It is really worth reading this article before buying into Cheney's showdown fantasy. There's a lot in the article, a lot that I could quote here, but I'll limit myself to this conversation that Hitchens had with a group of high school students,
"The students were not in themselves hostile to the West—like almost all Iranians, they yearned to live there. They were personally friendly and open to me. But they warned that an attack on Iran would drive them closer to their government."
I get this sense even here among the sizable Persian community of my city. Most of them despise the current regime yet I have little doubt that they would be aghast if the US attacked. How much more is this surely the case back in Iran itself.

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What I learned at the G8 (about our leader)

Well, I didn't actually go there, but wow, Harper comes off as a total bush-league politician (pun semi-intended). What a petulant, small-minded, anti-social man we have to lead our country. Ideological fellow-traveler Nicholas Sarkozy goes for a stroll with Harper and starts shaking hands with the public. Harper will do no such thing because some of the people in the crowds might be *gasp* media.

Now it's not like Sarkozy is Mr. Warmth, he looks like a character actor who tends to play grim detectives - Law & Order Paris if you will, and yet Harper makes him look like Bill Clinton when it comes to working a crowd.

Harper played the petulant child part when the matter of carbon emissions came up. All of his posturing was essentially "We are different, Alberta Canada needs special treatment!" One doubts that he would similarly demand special treatment for Ontario's manufacturing sector or the East Coast fisheries.

Now it comes out that he will not meet with Bono. Apparently this is in part because Bono has had the audacity in the past to meet with Liberal governments. Maybe they should send in The Edge instead?

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ghost Detainees

According to a report on CBC tonight there are at least 39 US-held detainees for which there is no accounting. These are people that were taken into custody by the CIA and who have simply vanished. Considering what we know is happening to prisoners we know about, what is happening to the ghosts? On what basis were these people snatched off the street?

Think about what happened to Maher Arar, a man whose friend's brother had signed a lease for some guys that were suspect, or something like that, he was sent to Syria. What is the utility of ghost detainees. I mean I'm sure that Al Qaeda or whoever they allegedly work for has noticed that they don't show up to meetings or call or write much any more. I'm sure that they can surmise that the CIA is one of the likeliest groups to have picked up their people. So it's not like this is some kind of security issue with protecting info from the bad guys.

And what about the people who are not bad guys, just in the wrong place at the wrong time? What legal protection do they have? None.

Disappearing people is a very dangerous sign and threat to any free society.

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What Bill Casey's situation can teach us about MMP

Despite Peter MacKay's assurances that no would be "fired" for their budget vote, Bill Casey is now out of the Conservative caucus. Casey was first elected in 1988 and was one of the veterans in Harper's caucus. I'm not sure what will become of Casey now, presumably he will sit as an independent unless or until he joins another part or the Tories forgive him.

The one part of any party's electoral platform that I now regularly distrust is anything to do with giving backbenchers a greater roll. Everyone talks about it, it doesn't get done. Backbenchers are, for the time being, simply cattle to be herded into the Commons for a vote.

Interestingly, one of the principle critiques of mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) is that the "list" candidates would be entirely beholden to the party. How does that differ from the state of affairs in the House today? On matters that the parties consider important, MPs are not allowed to vote their conscience as it is. A "list" MP could just as easily be booted and find a home in another party or as an independent. Come election time, s/he could attempt to get on another list or stand as an independent. Same difference.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fox News Boss Compares FNC to Al Qaeda

Yes kids, that's right, Roger Ailes himself said,
“The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda,”
One can only what this means for the future of Fox. Such shows as Hannity and bombs, O'Reilly's No-Fly Zone, and John Gibson blows up some bridges somewhere. Okay, so maybe the last title won't really fly, but that one is still in development. Seriously though, not wanting to be bothered participating in an event that is hosted by what is essentially your political opponents' propaganda arm hardly means that you can't create or implement an effective security policy.

The US must attack Iran to save Israel's tourism sector!

That is the assertion from Noah Pollack. Or at least that's what it seems to be if you endeavour to unpack his lengthy post on what to do about Iran. Here's the money quote:
"A nuclear Iran allied with Hezbollah to the north and Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the Southwest and East would dramatically embolden Israel's enemies, suppress foreign investment and tourism in Israel, and over time would cause the economic and psychological attrition of the Jewish state -- with no bombing runs over Tel Aviv necessary."
Well, I suppose if you work in the Israeli tourism industry, this is a concern. It is probably not the sort of problem that requires an airstrike. As for Israel's economy, my impression was that it was generally focused on arms production, so, um, wouldn't this help that sector?

Moreover, having a nuclear backer in the form of the Soviet Union really didn't help Israel's enemies in the 1960s or 1970s, did it? Pollack concedes there will be no "bombing run" over Tel Aviv, yet thinks potential damage to Israel's economy or tourism should warrant a mass assault to attempt to cripple Iran's nuclear program.

Pollack goes on about the delicate balance that the US has constructed in the region. It is of course the atomic equivalent of two fat kids sitting on one end of the teeter-totter. Oops, well, I mean one has a paper bag on his head since Israel doesn't "officially" have nukes.

I am not a fan of more states going nuclear but I do not think it any more possible to stop Iran than it was to stop Pakistan and India. The attempt to stop Iran though would unleash hell in one way or another. In Iran you have an extremely ideological regime that is not terribly well supported by the public (though many would be reflexively patriotic in the face of a serious international threat) and an economic policy that is not working out terribly well.

Is it not time to think in terms of a stern, credible but ultimately peaceful engagement in the mold of engaging the Warsaw Pact nations in the 1980s instead of the psychotic, demand-an-immediate-showdown mode of the Iraq debacle?

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Having solved all other problems, Canada's Newest Government EVAR tackles garage sales

According to Buckdog Health Canada has released a warning to garage sale shoppers. It goes on long enough that it's probably a good page in length if you bothered to print it out. All they are really saying is that stuff sold at garage sales might be old and/or broken and therefore dangerous. Maybe Harper should create a Minister of the Obvious to handle future issues like this.

In the meantime let me issue my own warning to garage sale shoppers: When you look back on your life will you really feel that your weekends were well spent taking up parking on residential streets and blocking traffic in order to look for "deals" on broken children's toys, inexplicable grade 8 shop projects, and ill-fitting old clothing? Statistically speaking you will NOT be the one to find the hidden Paul Cezanne masterpiece for $5.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Omar?

Omar Khadr is not going to be tried under a military tribunal - at least not for now. It is reassuring that a process run by military officials did not simply seek the first opportunity to avenge their comrades' deaths. I'm sure that the judges as well as the defense attorneys have probably endangered their careers by acting this way.

So now what do we do with Khadr? First of all, it's never been clear to me why he was even having to face a murder charge. This was after all in the middle of a war in Afghanistan. Yes the Taliban/al Qaeda have a terrible ideology, but certainly not any worse than that of the Nazis. The underage soldiers (Khadr was 15 at the time this took place) charged with defending Berlin as the Soviets rolled in were surely not defending anything better than what the Khadrs were defending. Yet even those soldiers who fought under the most despicable flags were not charged unless they were actually guilty of war crimes (e.g.: SS concentration camp types).

If the US government wants to build the case that a 15 year old was part of al Qaeda's command and control, they are free to do so. I don't know if anyone will be buying it though.

The soldier killed by Khadr was obviously dealt a terrible fate, but surely no more terrible than the fate that struck down countless soldiers fighting under every flag since time immemorial.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Who's afraid of Iran?

Juan Cole writes today about the threat (or lack thereof) that Iran poses to the US:
"Polling shows that the percentage of Americans who view Iran as the number one threat to the United States has risen to 27 percent now. I think it was only 20 percent in December 2006. First of all, how in the world can a developing country with about a fourth of the population of the US, about a $2000 per capita income (in real terms, not local purchasing power), with no intercontinental ballistic missiles, with no weapons of mass destruction (and no proof positive it is trying to get them), with a small army and a small military budget-- how is such a country a "threat" to the United States of America? Iranian leaders don't like the US, and they talk dirty about the US, and they do attempt to thwart US interests. The same is true of Venezuela under Chavez. But Tehran is a minor player on the world stage, and trying to build it up to replace the Soviet Union is just the worst sort of fear-mongering, and it is being done on behalf of the US military industrial complex, which wants to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. It is propaganda, and significant numbers of Americans (a 7 percent increase would be like 21 million people!) are buying it."
The only thing that I would add is that the typical response of those that would have Iran as the number one threat is that Iran could also project force through asymmetrical means (i.e.: terror attacks). The original critique holds though as there could be no doubt that the response by the US to an Iranian terror attack on US soil would be overwhelming.

This is the part where Iranophobes will mention Ahmadinejad's eschatological outlook. Aside from pointing out that a fair number of Christians think the same way if you replace "12th Imam" with "Jesus Christ" in the rambling speeches, it is worth remembering though that Ahmadinejad does not hold authority over the armed forces and really does have a limited amount of power under Iran's constitution.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Terminate the Terminators

The NDP has tabled a sensible piece of legislation on the banning of so-called terminator seeds. There is simply no reason to bring such seeds into being other than to enrich the agribusiness giants at the expense of farmers.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Architecture Corner

This is one of a couple shots I took of the ROM crystal. The, uh, party that they threw to open it was a really terrible bolting together of random elements of CanCon. Here's some opera! Here's Sean Cullen! Here's some R&B singer! Here's the Governor General! It's almost ironic because the crystal succeeds because they kept one architect's vision, but the event appears to be designed by committee.

It doesn't matter though, I like the crystal, I think it succeeds as a work of art as well as saying something about we approach the sort of stuff that you find in a museum.


Hockey Night in Canada

Tonight is really the last chance for the Senators to credibly get back in the Stanley Cup. So far it looks like they have just prolonged their playoff choke. This is like tantric choking.

UPDATE: Okay, so not just yet...

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White Chicks and Gang Signs

If I go downtown tonight, to the club district, what are the odds that I'll see these poses any time a camera comes out?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Using Harper's Logic...

Cherniak has posted on Harper telling Dion that Dion's opinion on military matters is "irrelevant" because Dion has not served in the military.

By that logic, no one but teachers may comment on education, no one but police may comment on crime, no one but doctors may comment on healthcare, et cetera, indeed perhaps Harper will next suggest that only other Prime Ministers can critique him. What a stupid, stupid, cheap rhetorical trick.

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