Sunday, September 30, 2007

Democracy Here & There

I know that most of my blogging energies these days have been devoted to the referendum in Ontario and my support for MMP. I feel remiss though in not having said anything about what's been going on in Burma. We're trying to better elect our representatives, they're trying to get out from under the jackboots of a band of military thugs.

Part of this silence on Burma is my aversion to getting my hopes up when it's students vs. soldiers. Part of it is my uncertainty about what exactly I can say or do to materially aide the Burmese students. I don't know that having noble feelings about a worthy cause whilst ensconced in the trappings of Western comfort makes much difference. I joined the Facebook group, but since the junta seems to have cut the internet I wonder if the Burmese are even aware of our attempts to express support for them.

This is what I have for now, a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi the context of which I am uncertain but which seems apt for these days:
"This is not the end. There's a long way to go and the way might be very, very hard; so please, stand by."
And so we should.

Labels: , , ,

What have we found? The same old fear(mongering)

Apologies to Pink Floyd, but that was my impression reading the Star's editorial on the electoral reform referendum. Once again, there's the old canard about "unstable" minorities under MMP. Too bad that the numbers don't bear that out. They also rehash the bit about how the "party bosses" can appoint the list MPPs, forgetting of course that party bosses can do the very same thing with MPPs in ridings.

Oddly they credit John Tory as a courageous for speaking out against a system that would have offered his party "marginal gain" in the Star's opinion. I say it's odd because another FPTP proponent predicted that the PCs would suffer as a permanent opposition under MMP. Those against MMP can't even decide who would win or lose because of it. There is of course no way to know that in terms of parties. The thing we do know is that voters would win, what with no more wasted votes.

There are the other usual fear-mongering bits in this article too. Things like the old scenario trotted out where a major party would form a coalition with a fringe group of radicals and impose some idiotic policy to satisfy the smaller partner. The idea that any party would do something so politically suicidal and stupid makes me doubtful. The German government has not lurched from one radical policy to another in order to satisfy minority partners. This scenario is one of the more obvious red herrings tossed out by the FPTPers. I know this because they never cite any examples.

I'm convinced that MMP is the right direction for this province. I'd like it if the biggest daily in Toronto would come around and see the light. In other words, wish you were here.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Killing Junkies

Yes, that's a harsh title for this post. But according Keith Martin, that's what Tony Clement will be doing if he kills off safe-injection sites as part of a new rehashing the "war on drugs" philosophy. With regard to the closure of the safe injection sites, Martin says:
“But in doing that they will be essentially committing murder.”
Of course the point of this is not about harm reduction. Rather it's about posturing, being "tough on crime" and of course appeasing those in the US law enforcement that blame their troubles on Canada. Underlying this policy there may or may not be a notion that junkies are "asking for it" when they get diseases from shared needles.

Labels: , , ,

MMP: Hope on the ground

I was out with a few friends last night and when the topic of the election came up (I swear that it wasn't me who brought it up) those that were aware of the referendum question were very much in favour of MMP. It seems to be the case that once people are aware of the referendum as well as the two choices they come around to MMP. The problem though is getting that information out. I have not really bothered looking at the government information sent out, but apparently if you aren't a politics junkie it seems obscure.

I still feel as though ignorance is the greatest threat to MMP, but with the election ever more appearing to be another Liberal win with the only question being whether Dalton gets a majority or a minority, more attention will shift to the referendum. The relatively uncompetitive of campaign of John Tory thus far may, in an odd way, work in the favour of MMP.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't vote for MMP because it can't stop another Mike Harris?!

This seems to be Ian Urquhart's assessment of the matter in his column. He starts by misrepresenting support for MMP as being entirely driven by anti-Harris sentiment:
"The motivation springs from the election of the Mike Harris government in 1995. Harris's Conservatives won a majority in the Legislature with less than half the popular vote (45 per cent, to be exact)."
Nice. Start the column by impugning the motives of MMP supporters. No one cares about democratic reform in and of itself, they all just fueled their fears about another Common Sense Revolution into electoral reform. Odd that the 103 people chosen for the citizens assembly that proposed this change were all alike in their fear of Mike Harris.

Urquhart goes on to compare us to New Zealand:
"Take New Zealand, for example. It used to have an electoral system just like ours, with two parties (Labour and National) trading places at the top and a third party occasionally winning a seat or two.

But in 1993 New Zealand switched to a new system – mixed-member proportional, or MMP, which is the same system on the referendum ballot in Ontario.

Now New Zealand has eight different parties in its parliament, including a Maori party, one that opposes more Asian immigration, and another that wants a hard cap on government spending."

Oh no! Now New Zealand has several additional political parties! Never mind that the two main parties in the old system probably had elements that were supportive of Maori rights, stopping Asian immigration, and capping government spending, now these groups have their own parties! I suspect in Ontario that if you replace "Maori" with "Aboriginal Canadians" you'd probably have the exact same interest groups within the major parties.

Urquhart raises the spectre of regional separatist parties (for the North and Toronto) gaining a foothold too. What strikes about me about this comment is that the Bloc always got way more seats than their share of the popular vote suggested. I find it hard to believe that you would get anywhere near enough votes to send a Toronto separatist to Queen's Park - or a northern one for that matter.

Urquhart concludes with an even more bizarre MMP doomsday scenario:
"So we might end up with another Mike Harris who becomes premier with the support of a pro-life party and/or a northern party that is against gun control and for logging in provincial parks."
Considering that the Family Coalition Party would need to double its vote share to get any seats and the fact that no northern party has been elected in recent memory makes me suspicious of this scenario. If this was the prospect, why on earth does Urquhart think that more progressive parties wouldn't work together to counteract this. In this scenario, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens would have to be devastated for this to happen. And what prevents this massive electoral meltdowns? That's right, it's MMP!

I was worried that Ian Urquhart would rehash some of the standard issue anti-MMP talking points. Instead though he has worked up a set of improbable and bizarre scenarios and tried to scare us with the prospect of more than three parties in the legislature.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh Yeah, They Love Us

I mentioned the other day how The Torch insists that the Afghans really, really want us there based on the comments of four of them. Well today it turns out that 500 of them went out into the streets and told us to go home. They were shouting nice things like "death to Canada" in outrage over some local religious leaders being killed.

Are we supposed to believe that all these people in the street are all hardcore Taliban? Or maybe they are mad about growing civilian casualties? Of course the pro-war types in this country will insist that this is why we need to stay - they hate us, we have to win them over. Sigh.

Labels: , ,

This better be something original, Ian

Ian Urquhart wrote yesterday on the possibility that the referendum for MMP might succeed. He concluded his column with a preview of what he intends to write on Friday:
"A footnote: In my next column, on Friday, I will look at why we should be worried about adopting MMP as our electoral system."
Oh really, Ian? I hope you aren't going to repeat some of the old, shopworn myths that getting trotted out to frighten voters. I hope you aren't going to tell the people that they are getting what they want when they are stuck with a majority elected by a minority. This had better be some really new, earth-shattering discovery of a new, heretofore unknown threat posed by MMP. Your Friday column better be as revolutionary as The Communist Manifesto or On the Origin of Species or else you'll be wasting your time and ours. Otherwise the Star is doing nothing but giving you a higher platform from which to hurl down the same bucket of anti-MMP crap on the voters of this province.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who does David Shiner work for?

If you're a Toronto taxpayer then the answer is "not you"* since he's too busy running for provincial office to be a city councillor. Now it would be bad enough if he were drawing a salary from the city and maintaining his seat on council (incumbency goes a long way in Toronto). But no, now he's using his spot on city council to campaign for the PC party on the council floor! An account from
"In the midst of questioning Mayor David Miller on the cost containment measures, Shiner took the time to remind everyone what John Tory would offer cities before asking if the mayor would show more support for provincial party platforms that provide financial relief for Toronto."
So it's not enough for Shiner to run for another office while drawing a taxpayer salary, he's going to go stump for his party boss while under the guise of a representative of the people of this city! This man deserves to lose. I used to live in Willowdale and I wish I could vote in more election there just to have the opportunity to vote against this self-serving asshole.
*Unless John Tory pays taxes in Toronto, then it's "probably not you"

Labels: , , , ,

Naomi Klein interviewed by John Cusack

This is one piece of Cusack's work where he didn't manage to get a small part for Joan. Seriously folks a 1980s film hero interviewing Naomi Klein is pretty kick ass. It's funny though that right-wingers and Jason Cherniak sort of hem and haw about Klein missing the point or being too radical or something. And yet the right-wingers themselves say the same stuff, witness Tom Flanagan's article in the Grope and Flail:
"In times of perceived crisis, a conservative party can win by positioning itself further to the right, as shown by the victories of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ralph Klein, Mike Harris and Gordon Campbell. But Canadians don't perceive themselves in crisis right now." (emphasis mine)
Thanks to Holly for illuminating that point in my comments section. And now, for all you who clicked on this because I put "John Cusack" in the title:

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rudy, have you no decency?!

This guy talks about how he's got such a great rep as terror fighter and how he's got a 9/12/01 mindset. Except, no one would be so tasteless as to pull this kind of fundraising bullshit on 9/12/01. What a tasteless asshole. I was remaining semi-agnostic on the GOP nominations (though Paul would be a treat), but now I think Rudy officially deserves to lose. He should immediately donate all those $9.11 pledges to a charity for firefighters.

Labels: , ,

The Torch Tortures Logic

In an effort to prop up the mission in Afghanistan and somehow prove it isn't an imperial enterprise, the pro-war Torch insists that we listen to ordinary Afghans on the NATO mission there. After quotes from four honest-to-God Afghans, The Torch rests its case. In a country of 30 million they found four people who like ISAF. Game, set, and match.

Okay, calm down, I'm using a literary device here known as sarcasm. What's really silly is the conclusion that the Torch draws from these four possibly representative Afghans:
"They're asking for our help. That's all they want: a hand up. It baffles me why so many Canadians want to deny them that."
The question that this reasoning begs is whether we are even able to offer the Afghans anything. It doesn't take a great many of them remaining sympathetic to the Taliban to really undo our efforts such as they are. Remaining sympathetic to the Taliban need not be a religious position, it could be interwoven with Pashtun tribal identity. Additionally we risk alienating a great many opium farmers by going along with the American fusion of the war on drugs with the war on terror.

There are so many ways that we can get this badly, badly wrong, there are so many things that we do not know about how to deal with Afghanistan that the idea that this mission is akin to lending the Afghans (or at least four of them) a cup of sugar is absurd. I don't wish to "deny" my "help" to anyone, I'm just not convinced that we have any real, longterm help to offer, I'm not convinced that girls won't be kicked out of school as soon as we leave, I'm not convinced that bans on beard-shaving won't be reinstated. Do we really think that a few years of NATO will undo centuries of tribal culture amongst subsistence farmers in a harsh, remote region?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Harper Getting Ready

The Star says that the Conservatives are prepping their buses for a campaign right after the throne speech. It ought to be apparent now that Harper has chosen this fall as his time to go. The throne speech he's crafting is probably going to walk a fine line between being unsupportable by the opposition but still acceptable to Canada's political mainstream. He'll hem and haw about how the opposition forced him into a campaign, and yet it ought to be apparent by now that he wants one. It's probably the Chretien strategy of hitting the new guy before he gets established, and Harper's going to try to use it to grab a majority.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pave Paradise, Put up a Parking Lot

That's pretty much what the City of Toronto wants to do to the storied after-hours hangout, The Matador. It turns out that the area around The Matador needs more parking:
"We've identified that area as high-demand (for parking)," Toronto Parking Authority president Gwyn Thomas said this week.

Levelling the Matador would create a 20-space lot, he said, handy for people using the West End YMCA at 931 College St., kitty-corner to the club at 466 Dovercourt Rd.

So Toronto, after posturing as a green city, needs to cede more land for cars. If we level the Matador people can drive themselves to the Y to get some exercise?! Am I the only one that finds this solution ridiculous? Here's a clip that has an external shot of the Matador:

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Codes of Conduct

I'm uneasy about Prog Blog's proposed code of conduct (the polite have nothing to fear!) not because I feel I'm so badass that I'd constantly run afoul of the moderators, but because I find it more useful as an aggregator the more it can gather diverse voices. The lawbreaking one could be dealt with by the authorities and the rest of the code is fairly broadly worded.

But maybe I'm wrong, maybe we all need to be more civil, more family friendly. Perhaps I should be more like this wonderful children's show:

What do you think?

Labels: ,

Mark Steyn needs to get out more

In latest Macleans, Steyn is on about how G.I. Joe is based in - shock! - Belgium. He goes on to generally decree the lack of patriotic soldier films (one imagines in the vein of The Green Berets). He goes on:
"When conservatives complain that the movies' dreary biases are not even in the studios' commercial interest, they correctly point out that the U.S. is pretty much a 50/50 red state/blue state split, and there's a huge underserved market waiting for a picture in which Brian D. Johnson's vigilante G.I. Joe born-again Christian crazy kicks Islamobutt from Ramadi to Jalalabad and back. But, back at corporate HQ, the vice-presidents look at the real market, and throw in all the bonus blue states -- Canada, Europe, Asia..."
So Hollywood is nefariously responding to market forces. Uhhhhhh, isn't that what conservatives keep telling the rest us to do? Moreover, has Steyn not seen Top Gun, Rambo, any Chuck Norris movies, The Patriot, Transformers, True Lies or any number of other movies that depict the US security establishment and/or a violent defence of American patriotism in a highly sympathetic light?

Labels: ,

Iraq Can't Expel Blackwater After All

It turns out that the Maliki government needs them too badly. It appears that Iraqis are stuck with the hated private security firms running around the country above the law. This is one more grudge in a country already full of them.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MMP: Good for ideas, bad for the power-hungry

In terms of outcomes for MMP, we've all blogged a great deal about how it is a fairer system in terms of representation and how it lets more diverse voices (Green Party et cetera) into our parliamentary system. I think we are correct and I think these are good reasons to support MMP. The problem is that those against MMP see these things as the dangers of MMP. We the electorate don't do a very good job of giving more than 50% of the vote to any one party, and that makes it difficult for parties to unilaterally implement their agendas for the 35-45% of the electorate that support them.

I like these kinds of checks - the FPTP crowd would rather we give over our government to an elected dictatorship for four years at a time. It's expedient that way. The idea here is that the vast bulk of the electorate ought to be putting its faith in one of two large brokerage parties. As Andrew Coyne pointed out (am I actually agreeing this guy?!) this leaves these parties acting very cautiously:
"...the consequences of losing a few points makes them excessively, almost neurotically cautious, unwilling to take the slightest risk or advocate the mildest change, but each hugging as close as it can to the median voter, the status quo and each other. Hence the dominance of the two brokerage parties, indistinguishable in philosophy -- alike, that is, in the lack of it."
Actually I don't fully agree with Coyne, the brokerage parties will sometimes offer up radical solutions (John Tory's faith-based funding and private clinics). But this is usually only done with a great degree of calculation.

There are those in both the Liberals and the Conservatives who are prepared to take an all-or-nothing approach to power (and there are those who are more principled in both parties). These all-or-nothing types want a majority and they are prepared to risk giving one to the other guys, in each election they go "all-in" as it were. It strikes them as inconvenient to have to condescend to make a deal with some other parties to govern the province. They will scare you with socially-conservative parties (if you're on the left) and environmentalists (if you're on the right).

Why should fear those with whom with we disagree, most of Ontario is fairly moderate and unlikely to lurch one way or the other at the behest of one or two MPPs whose views may not be in the mainstream. FPTPers always present this as a scenario, but if the MPPs of a minor party were being totally unreasonable, I'm sure that the big guys could shake hands and work together for a while. Either way though, it would be because of ideas, not a power-grab.

In terms of outcomes then, there is something else that we can say and that is that MMP is good for ideas and bad for the power-hungry

Labels: ,

Harper's Grand Strategy

Impolitical linked to Tom Flanagan's Globe article laying out what the Conservatives ought to do to seek a permanent majority. Every progressive person, everyone who worries about climate change, everyone who cringes when they hear Stockwell Day slam our Charter ought to read this. These guys have a plan, a plan that isn't particularly new or innovative but one that has worked in several other jurisdictions.

Here's one bit that stood out to me:
"In times of perceived crisis, a conservative party can win by positioning itself further to the right, as shown by the victories of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ralph Klein, Mike Harris and Gordon Campbell. But Canadians don't perceive themselves in crisis right now." (emphasis mine)
This reminds me of John Snobelen line about creating a "useful crisis" in education. In both cases the situation seems to be that conservatives and/or Conservatives know that Canadians wouldn't normally go for the types of policies they have in mind; rather they seem aware that they need to exploit a bona fide a crisis, create a crisis, or create the perception of a crisis. This is the opportunity that the Conservatives are looking for, watch out for them, they are looking to hit the panic button.

In a way it must irritate them to come to power with a balanced budget and a relatively healthy economy in a culture that has so far refused to engage in widespread moral panic over same-sex marriage.

Labels: , ,

They Hate Us for our Mercenaries

Blackwater is back in Iraq, wow that's some sovereignty that the Iraqi government has. BAGnewsNotes has some glamour shots of Blackwater personnel posing in Iraq. The post also has this interesting line:
"What I also can't understand, -- given the average Iraqi's distain for this outfit -- is why Blackwater has the aerial presence in the first place. In reference to the offensiveness, the newswires currently also offer a number of file shots of Blackwater helicopter buzzing Baghdad mosques."
I'm sure if a unit from the US military repeatedly and obviously pisses off the locals for no reason there is at least the hope that a competent commander will reprimand them (though I'm sure some of them just hush things up). With Blackwater it doesn't appear that anything can be done. Is it any wonder that they can escalate their behaviour to shooting at random locals?

Labels: ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Consolation Prizes

Phoenix again:

Now I'm off to bed.


Canada's n00b Government fails on climate change

According to an article in the Star, an Environment Canada panel has given Harper's plan a failing grade. Harper and his government are half-assing this, just as though they were school children made to do over an inadequate project (remember their first crack at this with Rona?) It appears that they stitched together the bare minimum and now they've been caught at it again. I suspect that Harper would rather not deal with "so-called" greenhouse gases and he's irritated that it continues to be an issue.

Labels: , ,

This is still McGuinty's to lose

When you have both the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun agreeing that McGuinty at least survived, it seems to bode well for the Liberals. There would need to be a severe gaffe/crisis/surprise for Tory, let alone Hampton, to have a shot at this election.

Perhaps if the campaign is somewhat dull as it lurches to an increasingly foregone conclusion, more attention will shift to the referendum?

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rock On

My memory of this song was of it sitting very nicely in an excellent mix tape. But I'm dating myself, aren't I? There's nothing to compare dragging and dropping songs in iTunes to making a mix tape. Take it away Sonic Youth:


US Dollars Accepted at Par!

I saw that sign at the Bistro on Avenue on my way home from work. Gold.

Labels: , ,

The debate's on, but my expectations are low

The media, as usual, hems and haws about the importance of a debate in a campaign. Yet there's only been one "knock-out" debate in my lifetime. You know it, Brian Mulroney's "You had an option, sir" line. Video of that moment is here.

Labels: ,

Amateur Hour at Queen and Bay

First Toronto was going to close all community centres on Monday, now they'll stay open. This follows on the heels of re-opening the tax debate and then not re-opening the tax debate. This brouhaha has been rather frustrating to watch. I was excited about Miller in 2003 and I was will to give him another shot in 2006 but I'm quickly running out of patience. One of the problems that has hamstrung Toronto for the past ten years has been funding, yet if these closures were part of a way to put funding on the provincial election agenda, it seems that city council cannot even figure out how to do that.

We look disorganized, we look like we really ought not to be trusted with any more money. I'd probably choose Miller over any number of the right-wing hacks on city council that might run against him, but I feel like he's squandering his mandate.

Labels: , ,

Reason and compassion win out over moral panic

I had pointed out that a number of Catholic school boards in the GTA were debating whether to offer the HPV vaccine in their schools. I suppose at this juncture I should give credit where credit is due, the Toronto District Catholic School Board has voted in favour of the vaccine. In doing so, they've joined the majority of Catholic boards in the area.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saving Private Tory

John Tory's platform now includes private healthcare?! First it was the schools, okay, I accept that we need to either extend funding to all religions or have just one school, those are really the only two consistent positions, Tory happened to pick the one I didn't really agree with. Now though he's playing footsie with private for-profit clinics.

There exists a real possibility that this may be the theme of a Tory government. The Liberals have exactly undone the Common Sense Revolution in any fundamental way, I doubt that there's further a PC government could go in the direction of tax cuts with serious anger in this province. Tory's going to advance another angle of the right-wing agenda. What next? Finishing the privatization of electricity in this province?

But he's got a "moderate" label and a bit more warmth than Harris, so that's what the Tories are hoping will save "private" Tory.

Labels: , ,

Poor reasons to oppose the HPV vacccine

There are debates going on at several Catholic school boards over whether the introduction of the HPV vaccine will promote promiscuity:
'The board believes the vaccine will give students a signal of support for premarital sex and the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops notes in a Sept. 13 letter to parents that sex is "only appropriate within marriage."'
What vexes is me about this reasoning is that, even for those that don't believe in pre-marital sex, I find it hard to believe that a spectre of a death-sentence should loom over this transgression. More importantly it bothers me that these Catholic boards are remembering that unfortunately, not all sexual contact is voluntary. I'm really hoping that this is not an unconscious a new variant of the notion that rape victims were somehow "asking for it" and should suffer the consequences.

If you want to oppose HPV vaccines on the grounds that the vaccine may need more testing or that that long-term effects are unknown, that's fine reason. Thinking that it promotes promiscuity? That's not going to be a good enough reason for me.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rock On



Someone please pass this on to the publishing industry:

The loonie is now worth something like 98 cents US. Why do books still cost 1/3 more in Canada dollars than in US dollars. It's embarrassing and irritating. I'm going to start buying things from US booksellers online, this is just obscene.

Labels: ,

Girl Talk

I just got this guy's album, a sample:

I'm not much for party albums, but this is actually a great a party album.


John Tory is in trouble

It appears as though the faith-based schools thing just isn't all that popular. One wonders what it is that prompted Tory to make this a centerpiece of his campaign. I mean I had thought that Tory was painting himself as a sort of Anti-Mike-Harris moderate. It's incongruous to that sort of image to announce a further outflow of funds from public education. Perhaps Tory was simply searching for a policy that would differentiate his brand identity of moderate, prudent government from that of Dalton McGuinty's.

My feeling going into this election was that there just isn't a great desire for change in the province, Tory (and Hampton for that matter) were up against that reality to start with. I think Tory was always going to have to run a stellar campaign with a really solid platform to unseat the Liberals. I suppose this is somewhat good news for the NDP as those cowed into voting Liberal in the last couple elections out of fear of the Common Sense Revolution may not now feel the need to do so.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

NY Times no longer partially behind a subscriber wall!

I for one hope that the Grope & Flail quickly follows suit.

Labels: ,

Outremont and the Liberal Party: Plus ca change...

There is this sort of meme now that Iggy is going to really go after Dion for the leadership job. It would be ludicrous if this happened. Part of what undid the Liberals 13 years in power was the sort of fratricidal undercurrent between Martin and Chretien. These new guys though, they can't even wait till they get into office. The party probably does not have enough time to install another new leader before an election. I don't have any strong feelings about the Liberal party, but this sort of infighting is what could potentially put Harper in majority territory.

Labels: , , , , , ,

National Post Should Re-Read the Constitution

Not a newspaper to let facts ruin a tirade against anyone other than right-wingers, the Post came up with this gem this morning:
"In terms of the land holdings at play, the Caledonia crisis is small compared to similar disputes in other parts of Canada. But this is beside the point. The bottom line is that a group of hooligans is openly flouting the government -- and Mr. Mc-Guinty [sic] has done nothing about it except attempt to shift blame to Ottawa."
Leaving aside the characterization of Caledonia's protesters as "hooligans" and the National Post's general (willful?) ignorance of the more complicated historical issues involved in native rights, this is a federal issue! Read the constitution, National Post. The feds have been happy to leave this problem in Ontario's hands for a couple years now, if the federal government stepped in on the original land claim matter, Ontario might have more authority to resolve the issue.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is this what underpins the "culture wars?"

Wild Inaccuracies in Anti-MMP Tirade

In the Star yesterday there was a column by George Taylor as part of a pro-vs-con section on the Ontario referendum. Mr. Taylor, in concocting his argument put up some wild inaccuracies. How about this:
"The present system is understandable, workable, enjoys voter satisfaction and historical tradition, as well as resulting in the representation voters want."
Really, so the 53.6% or so of Ontarians that voted for a party other than the Liberals actually wanted a Liberal majority? Over half of Ontario evidently did not want the Liberals to win, or were they just too stupid to check the right box in Mr. Taylor's opinion. He goes on:
"Both federally and provincially, large landslides or defeats usually have meant that the voters wanted one group out or the alternative in. Brian Mulroney's huge 1984 majority and Kim Campbell's devastating 1993 defeat, or Trudeaumania in 1968 followed by a Liberal minority in 1972 were obviously what most voters desired. Minority governments usually mean voters are ambivalent."
Uhhh. The voters are not the borg from Star Trek, George; they do not have a collective will. Only 45% or so were swept up with Trudeaumania and Mulroney's monster landslide was the will of only 50% of the voters. Over half of the electorate wanted someone other than Trudeau running things. Mulroney, if his seat total had represented his support would have had maybe a razor-thin majority.

It get's better, err, worse:
"Even the present system under which party leaders have the power to reject or appoint candidates has not managed to balance gender or diversity, so don't expect it from MMP lists controlled by the party. Contemplate Canada's unrepresentative, unelected Senate as an example of the impact of appointment. MMP, with 30 per cent of the Legislature selected from party lists, would diminish local democratic representation by giving control to party leaders and hacks. List candidates would owe their allegiance only to the party not to local voters."
In other words: leaders can appoint candidates as it is, but if you vote for MMP leaders may be able to appoint candidates!!! I think you shot yourself in the foot with that one, George. He then goes in for the usual myths about shorter-duration governments et cetera. This is another shaky attempt to scare voters away from MMP.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

John Tory: Government Revenue is Magic!

Andy Barrie just asked Tory how he'd pay for his increased investment in private schools and MD recruiting and his reply was that government revenue will grow by $5 billion every year (and presumably all other expenses will remain constant). This guy was in business? More detail, please Mr. Tory. Also explain how this will happen as our manufacturing sector continues to slide.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rock on

There's been a lack of music around here. Anyway, this is a little Rufus Wainwright gem:


Barbara Amiel is a Horrible Person

As if you needed more proof. It seems that anyone wealthy person prosecuted by the US government is an object of her empathy and commiseration. This seems to include the reprehensible Michael Vick. From the mere fact that he's being prosecuted US government she is able to extrapolate that maybe dogfighting isn't so bad anyway. She's not even sure if it should be outlawed as its simply an attack on the proletariat's way to enjoy animal cruelty while the aristocracy might indulge in fox hunts unencumbered. Gee Barbara, I wonder what other solutions we might employ to restore class equality?

While Amiel asks how we can judge dogfighting, she doesn't apply her moral relativism to all aspects of the law. What we can know is that RICO laws are objectively bad. I don't know Barbara, maybe you don't personally like federal attorneys or RICO laws, but who are you to judge if what they are doing is right?
Picture: She-Ra the Chi-Pom will fuck you up, Barbara Amiel!

Labels: ,

Even Harrisites are Doubting Tory's Faith-based Plan

According to the Star, former Harris-era education minister, Diane Cunningham is expressing concerns about Tory's plan:
"He has kind of got himself into something. ... He may go down on this but he will go down as a straight shooter,"
She continues:
"I am hearing more and more people say that religion should be taken right out of the school system,"
In other words, Tory is going in the opposite direction from that of the electorate. There is a fairly narrow band of people who would surely like to see faith-based school funding, but the fact that Tory wants to bring these schools under the auspices of public boards makes them suspicious. Tory took a major hit just by mentioning creationism, but beliefs like creationism (among many, many others you wouldn't see in a public school) are the very reason why there are religious schools.

Tory is going to have to accept - even embrace - the reality that faith-based schools are going to be teaching, well, a faith-based curriculum. What this does not only to science class, but also to, say, history class is going to be significant. If Tory wins (a prospect that I'm so far not bullish on) you can bet the opposition will go through every faith-based curriculum in an attempt to embarrass the government.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

MMP Referendum Fairness

There was a news release from the No MMP side that Cherniak quoted rather sympathetically where they were up in arms about the government run website:
"Elections Ontario has refused an official request from NO MMP to remove the Citizens’ Assembly website from, a website meant to inform Ontario voters about their choices in the referendum."
First of all, the website in question is hardly a one-sided propaganda machine for MMP. Secondly, I'd remind the No MMP types that MMP requires a ludicrous super-majority to win. I don't know about every MMP supporter, but I'd take down the government website in exchange for needing only 50%-plus-one to carry the referendum. Under FPTP you can get a majority government with less than that.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There's a great deal that can strike one about this day. That bin Laden is still taunting the West through his video releases is perhaps the most significant detail. So many people were convinced that he'd have been captured or killed by the end of 2001. Now instead he's metastasized as sort of extremist folk hero to those that buy into his world view. He can't accomplish much directly, but he's now a symbol, an idea. He cannot set up a large-scale terror-training regime, but he doesn't have to.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

....and we're off!

Today is the day that we expect Dalton McGuinty to have David Onley to dissolve the Ontario legislature. It's odd though, because it seems like we've in the midst of an Ontario election for at least a month, I've even seen campaign signs in places (though I'm not sure that's legal). If there's a drawback to fixed elections surely this is it. The campaign appeared to start over the summer this time, but next time it could be the spring. This will of course make things cost an ever greater amount.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Osama bin Laden Emboldened

I think that's certainly one of the interpretations that you can make of his speech in light of Barnett R. Rubin's analysis:
"Bin Laden is no longer just seeking to lead Muslims in a jihad against "Crusaders and Zionists"; he is proclaiming to the whole world that the genuine revolutionary alternative to imperialism, capitalism, global warming, genocide, moral decay, confused sex roles, the decline of the family, commercialism, and whatever else ails us is Islam."
Maybe this explains why he's been silent for the past three years - it's all been a rebranding exercise. This is the new al Qaeda brand image. Along the way he's screwed over anyone critical of any of these aspects of our society. (An aside: Since these issues spread over the conventional liberal-conservative spectrum I don't know that anyone should be gleeful about this.) I wonder if this is an overreaching by a desperate man who's been cut off from his organization or the confident proposal of a man sensing the ascendancy of his philosophy and tactics among Sunni Muslims.


Harper Setting Up Next Election

This is what I'm thinking when I read this story on the Toronto Star website:
"The Conservative government will not ask Parliament to vote on the future of Canada’s military in Afghanistan unless it is assured it will win the vote, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper."
This case after Harper made non-denial denials about the mission continuing beyond February 2009. In the article Harper attempts to put the ball firmly in the opposition's court:
"Harper challenged the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois to put forward a clear view of the role they want for Canadian forces that would allow Canada to fulfil the objective it had when it accepted a combat mission in the southern province of Kandahar."
I thought Harper had been branding himself as the strong leadership guy. Now he wants the opposition to propose Afghan policies. I suspect what he really wants is to expose some sort of division in the Liberal party between the more hawkish elements (Ignatieff) and the rest. Either that or he wants the opposition to propose something that he can attack as "not supporting the troops" or "surrendering to the Taliban." He will then let the government fall and go into an election on that basis (if the polls are right).

In either scenario Harper is engineering the Afghanistan question in a way to hand himself a political victory.

Labels: ,

Hemingway Update and Naivete

I posted about my new kitten here. She continues to eat, sleep, and act in cute/destructive ways. Weirdly though, she seems unimpressed by Bill Maher, mashing the keyboard while I was watching a YouTube clip of Maher's show and causing Bill Maher to disappear. It wasn't even a bad clip of Maher (who can be irritating or sanctimonious at times) rather it was his discourse with John Mellencamp on naivete in US politics:

If you watch the clip, one of the things that they touch on (but not quite) is the power of narrative and of image in US politics. Fred Thompson has a pickup truck! That in itself is not a reason to vote for or against Thompson, but it is a marketing ploy trying to convince anyone who can't be bothered to follow the issues that Thompson is someone to whom they can relate as opposed to man who has spent his life around power and money in Washington and Hollywood and Washington again (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Interestingly, there is less of an aspect of this narrative in Canadian politics. Perhaps this is because our current Prime Minister has been a career politician/policy wonk and our previous Prime Minister was a shipping magnate.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

John Tory's Education Minister?

Too bad that "Dr." Kent Hovind is in jail:

Labels: , ,

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People in Afghanistan

There is going to be a show on CNN called Narco State: The Poppy Jihad. As an aside CNN seems determined to ensure that no one can accuse them of not being more alarmist than Fox News. The problem, at least in the angle that CNN is promoting is that the Americans and their Afghan proxies are fixated on eradication. Additionally, they seem to equate the farmers with the Taliban.

Here are some thoughts: I don't imagine that there's much that grows in Afghanistan, it appears to be fairly hostile terrain in the pictures that are sent back here, what else are people to do in rural areas? If you have to farm, and poppies are the most (only?) profitable crop, what are the farmers reasonably expected to do? If the US or Karzai will not allow them to farm, from whom would they seek protection?

In other words, is it even remotely surprising that farmers are growing poppies and that they are doing so under the protection of the Taliban?

If the West is only going to eradicate poppies, it will lose the mainstream rural population in the poppy-farming areas Afghanistan. It's really that simple.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Rick Hillier Mucking Up Armed Forces

According to the National Post Hillier's reorganization projects for the military are taking personnel out of important frontline roles and creating needless duplication. I know that a great number of conservatives and Conservatives like how Hillier talks tough and so on, but if he can't manage the overall structure of the military he should get out. His title is General, not Trash-Talker.

Labels: ,

Back Catalogue

Big Time Sensuality was the song that introduced me to Bjork. I like the video because she acts like an excited seven-year-old:


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Left and Leaving

(with apologies to The Weakerthans) Dennis Perrin has a pretty good critique of why left/progressive ideas have trouble gaining traction among those who might benefit the most from them. My favourite bit:
"American consumer culture has many working people believing that maybe, someday, they too will be rich, and besides, there are more important things to worry about, like keeping queers from recruiting their kids, or making sure that the Mexicans stay on their side of town, and don't you know that you can save money by shopping at Wal-Mart?"
I wonder to what extent any of us can counter the consumer culture narrative of life consisting of a serious of stages of purchasing power with the prospect held out to all that the highest level is within reach. And if it isn't, don't you know how easy it is to get a subprime mortage... oh wait... Sigh.


Jealousy, thy name is Mulroney

Everyone is talking about Mulroney's rather nasty attack on Pierre Trudeau. The irony of this is that it shows why Mulroney will be remembered in the same way that Trudeau is. What sort of petulant little man would unleash this sort of tirade on a deceased former Prime Minister? I suspect that Mulroney hates how Trudeau is a national icon while he is viewed as a mediocre prime minister at best (if not still outright hated). Mulroney must ponder why his fellow-traveler, Ronald Reagan was so well loved by so many in the US, and why an ideological opponent is so well loved here.

These sorts of stupid outbursts reveal the brittle high opinion Mulroney has of himself, something he can only maintain through the slagging of others.

Labels: ,

It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurence of such events

When I heard about this event on the radio, I wasn't exactly heartened. It's heartening to know that this is how secure the world's most advanced nuclear arsenal really is. No word on whether fluoridation was a cause of this mishap.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

John Tory's "Stanfield" Moment

That's what I call what he did today with his teach-what-you-want approach to science in the newly taxpayer-funded religious schools of this province. Many religious schools may want to dispute evolution but now that taxpayer money is involved, it's a different story. Moreover what if Scientology sets up a school teaching children that Lord Xenu dumped a bunch of alien souls in volcanoes and that's where we came from? I'm sure there are other examples and indeed ones that just about anyone would not want to be supported by their tax dollars. John Tory this is your Robert Stanfield fumble. Not as spectacular as telling people not to vote for Chretien because he's ugly, but pretty bad nonetheless.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Standardized Tests: The Ultimate Political Football

Standardized tests in Ontario's schools have come under fire from John Tory. This is interesting firstly because the conservative position in North America has usually been to support these kinds of tests.

Standardized tests are great for politicians. If a jurisdiction lacks them, then you can call for them to be implemented. If there are standardized tests, you can rail against the inequality of the tests. You can use them to reveal all sorts of idiotic "facts" about the school system too. Example: "Half of all schools below average in standardized testing!" (Think about that for a second.)

That said, there are a great deal of parents and teachers who would be happy to see the end of these tests. That is not, however, what Tory is proposing.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hey World! Send us your nuclear waste!

Apparently there is work being done on some kind of US-led nuclear power agreement. From the Star article:
"The initiative, called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, proposes that nuclear energy-using countries and uranium-exporting countries band together in a new nuclear club to promote and safeguard the industry.

Central to the plan is a proposal that all used nuclear fuel be repatriated to the original uranium exporting country for disposal.

That should be big news in Canada, the world's largest uranium producer."

Oh, I feel good about that. Best of all, the article says that Harper is being characteristically tight-lipped about this. Perhaps he hopes that no one will notice that we are signing on as a nuclear waste-dump. A great deal of Canada's economic history has revolved around harvesting resources, exporting them to other countries that add value, and then buying back the value-added final products. Now we may be agreeing to harvest resources, export them to other countries who add value and then we will be forced to take back the waste. Stand up for Canada, eh Harper?

The Galloping Beaver has more.

Labels: , , ,

New Holiday?!

It appears that the Liberals are promising us a new holiday if they are re-elected. I'd agree that we need a day off in February - it is the most miserable time of the year - but calling it Family Day? It seems like they just picked the most politically safe name possible. I suppose Month-When-Most-Leafs-Fans-Start-To-Realize-It's-Futile Day was rejected as too Toronto-centric.


Labels: , , ,

Back Catalogue

I thought that I'd do another one of these posts, this time it's "Friends of P" by The Rentals. The Rentals were a project of Weezer's first bassist, Matt Sharp, after he was fired from Weezer. I think my favourite thing about this song was the Russian (?) subtitles:

Labels: ,

Whatever you do, don't talk to them!

Juan Cole has linked to an article that states that the Bush administration is pressuring Iraq leaders not to have the Iranian president visit them. Real leaders never talk to their enemies, right Ronald Reagan? Oh... Never mind.

Labels: , , , ,

Good weather for airstrikes

That's a translation of viðrar vel til loftárása, a song by Sigur Ros, and it's something that occurs to me today as the air show roars on overhead. I've seen an F-16 go right over my place and I wonder how many other places in the world greet this sort of sight without some kind of terror. We are lucky here, extremely lucky.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 01, 2007

MMP Still Below the Radar

According to the Star today, some 70% of Ontarians are "not familiar" with the referendum. There is admittedly an aspect to this that does smell like a nerd fight, but still, for those of us that believe that MMP is a worthwhile proposal - at least an improvement on the status quo - we need to raise awareness about this topic. I fear that ignorance is the friend of that no-to-MMP crowd.

And of course, here's an example of a nerd fight:

Labels: ,

Back Catalogue

I was going through old CDs last night (which seems to be fast akin to going through old LPs) and I came across this little gem from the summer of 1996:

That would be "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand" by Primitive Radio Gods. Both the weird filter effects on the video and the reverb-y drum section date this song a great deal, otherwise their's a sort of quality to this song that makes it hard to date. Probably because the vocal is performed in a very Lou Reed sort of way.

Labels: ,