Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looking for leadership

With both parties looking for leaders, Liberals and NDP have an historic opportunity right now to choose individuals who will cooperate for the good of the country, either informally or formally.
Will they see this opportunity? Will they take it?
I'm not optimistic -- the NDP are likely still feeling their oats as the Official Opposition ; they will want to see whether they can find another 40 or 50 seats on their own at the next election. And I doubt that the Liberals have realized that Quebec is not likely to return to their fold, even though Layton is gone. So maybe we'll have to wait until they both lose ground in 2016.
By that time, Harper will have fired another several dozen outstanding civil servants, dismantled another batch of important government programs, trashed more of Canada's reputation abroad and thrown many of Canada's "liberal" traditions into the dustbin.
But stay tuned...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

We hear you now

Jackman Chiu

As well as his profoundly inspirational legacy, Jack Layton's death also served another purpose this week -- one I think he would have approved of.
His passing was such big news that newspaper columnists, bloggers, and broadcast pundits across the country all just had to write SOMETHING about their reaction to his death and their analysis of the nationwide grief it provoked.
And all this off-the-cuff pontificating gave us a rare opportunity to find out just what our media pundits are really made of -- profound and eloquent, or shallow and mean-spirited?
Some rose to the challenge; others painfully flubbed it, and their failure will not be forgotten.
Basically, most of our newspapers and broadcast pundits -- even here and here -- reacted thoughtfully to the death of Jack Layton, showing respect to his legacy and to the grief felt by hundreds of thousands of Canadian.
But some came up painfully short -- they just couldn't resist taking cheap shots, playing political games, jeering at our grief, feeling sorry for themselves and trying to trash Layton's legacy. In other words, acting like jerks.

H/T Dawg and Alison

UPDATE: Ezra Levant also shows his true colours.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's officially fall

Dr. Grumpy has posted his annual nightmare at Staples post:
When Mrs. Grumpy was wondering when she'd have time to get the school supplies, I volunteered. I figured "How hard can it be? Hell, it's just some pencils and a bottle of glue". DUMBASS!!! . . .
An African street bazaar is an orderly affair compared to this! Deranged parents running on caffeine! Kids running amok! Store clerks running for their lives! And all the crazed parents are trying to read off a list, push a cart, yell at kids, text, and scream into a cell phone at the same time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I guess they just can't help it

Every time I start to think that maybe Stephen Harper's government has grown up and become a real Canadian government instead of short-sighted incompetents, we get something like this -- yesterday's idiotic announcement that Canada is too poor to put up a pavilion at next year's Expo in Korea. We're the only G20 country that won't be there.
Really, Steve? This is what you guys think is appropriate for Canada to announce to the world? Just when we're trying to convince the world that we're a sophisticated and cosmopolitan kind of place to invest money, we start talking poor-mouth and looking cheap. What a ridiculous international embarrassment
Hey, I've got an idea -- if we're so broke, maybe Gerry Ritz shouldn't be spending a million dollars shutting down the Wheat Board? Maybe we shouldn't be building new prisons or buying jets?
Of course, the Canadian pavilion at the Olympics was a "$10 million dud" and nobody at the UN was impressed by Harper's Mounties and maple syrup campaign and the Harperites don't think its their job to protect Canadian citizens when they get in trouble overseas, so maybe the Harper Conservatives really don't have the chops to keep up with the big boys abroad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh, please...

Do you think you guys could wait a day or two, maybe until after Jack Layton's funeral, before you start speculating about improbable leadership candidates and concern-trolling the end of the NDP?


Our dog Sam died this afternoon -- he just couldn't recover from all the health problems I wrote about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton, Canada's Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior:
Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
...'Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye,
...Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
...Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast:
Who....Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is He
That every Man in arms should wish to be.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sorry for lack of posts

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.
I have had the flu, plus we have been dealing with some health issues for Sam, our black lab (that's Sam in the picture, with Chillou our other lab).
Last fall, Sam was diagnosed with right-sided heart failure, but this summer he started retaining way too much fluid in his belly -- more than the heart failure would explain -- so this week the vet did a laparotomy operation. Turns out the heart is damaged but not as badly as it could be, and the liver is fine, no tumours, but he is in kidney failure. During the surgery our vet took out two gallons of fluid and he removed the renal capsule to see if that will help his kidneys function a little better. Its not a cure, or even a treatment, but may help Sam continue on with a good quality of life for a while yet. Then today Sam's incision was dripping and it turned out he had opened some of the sutures somehow. After six hours in the vet emergency clinic, they wrapped him up and we will take him to our vet tomorrow to get him closed up again, to make sure there is no infection lurking.
So we will have Sam for a while yet, we hope. He is such a loving dog -- we have never had such an affectionate dog. After his miserable day, following a miserable week, he wanted nothing more than to stretch out on the bed and go to sleep next to my husband and finally we were able to help him up and he lay down with a very contented sigh. When I finish this post, I will carefully lie down on the other side of him and there won't be a happier dog in the world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pining for the fjords

Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight...
I like Steve's comments about re-introducing the "Royal" terminology for our armed forces:
. . . in noting the rationalization for the latest regressive move by these Conservatives, I'm struck by the absurdity in logic:
"The country that forgets its history does so at its own peril," said MacKay in Halifax
. . . It's a false distinction, as though without the name somehow the brave sacrifices, victories of the past are lesser in stature. Anyone with a ounce of common sense can see beyond simple labelling to note the "proud tradition", my impression of what Canadian soldiers did at Juno Beach doesn't even digest the relevance of name, nor do I see a disconnect from the bravery displayed in present day Afghanistan. . . . Such bullshit, such dribble, insulting to think we need "Royal" again to fully appreciate our history.
Harper is trying to turn back the clock in Canada:
A broader Harper government strategy to bring back the feelings of the “good old days” is behind the move to restore “Royal” designations to the Canadian navy and air force, according to pollster Nik Nanos.
“It’s about turning back the clock,” the Nanos Research president told The Globe. He believes the Harper government wants to focus on “tradition and national symbols” as a way of igniting feelings of national pride.
That's just pathetic. The only people who remember what Canada was like before Pearson and Trudeau are old guys like me, retired or just about. This is hardly a forward-thinking or positive vision for Canada's future.
It reminds me of the Dead Parrot sketch:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Houses as Art

Thanks to Hooked on Houses I just learned that this year is the 25th anniversary of The Heidelberg Project in Detroit. See the photos posted by AgilityNut (and look around the rest of her great website, too.)
Here's some Heidelberg photos from RoadsideAmerica.com:

This is known as the polka-dot house -- people still live there.

Most of the art on the street is made of found objects, AKA junk.

And here is a video about the Heidelberg artist, Tyree Guyton:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Just because you're paranoid...

...doesn't mean someone isn't really out to get you.
There sure seems to be a lot of talk lately about how the press should ignore "phoney" civil rights and just go along to get along. And the judiciary is supposed to just fall in line with government policies.
Now we're hearing about how authorities should shut down social networks whenever they are being used for organizing riots or other inconvenient actions -- funny, weren't we just criticizing China and Egypt for trying to shut down the Internet to prevent people from organizing?
And not to mention that our government is discovering how easy it is to revise reality by just rewriting webpages -- good catch, Alison.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I've been waiting for this for more than a year.
Finally, a real judge has had the chance to rule on a typical G20 arrest.
And, unsurprisingly, the judge has ruled that it was the police who were to blame for the violence:
“The only organized or collective physical aggression at that location that evening was perpetrated by police each time they advanced on demonstrators,” Justice Melvyn Green ruled on Thursday. He was referring to a demonstration at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. on Saturday, June 26, 2010.
Green stated police criminalized political demonstration, which is “vital” to maintain a “viable democracy.”


There is no joy in Mudville.

Friday, August 12, 2011

End of the road

I don't suppose the Canadian Wheat Board ever thought there was really any hope.
But they're going ahead and doing the responsible thing by holding a plebiscite on whether farmers support the Wheat Board or the open market for selling their wheat and barley.
And I don't suppose anyone really believed Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz when he insisted the Board would survive.
But now there's proof that it ain't gonna happen. Glen MacGregor at the Ottawa Sun has discovered a new procurement notice:
It announces the government intends to seek an auditor to check the books and “provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the dissolution or winding up of the CWB after the final pooling periods (expected to be July 31, 2012).”
And if they're wrapping it up by the end of July next year, there won't be any of the usual announcements in July about initial payments for the 2012 crop year. The initial payments announced this year were more than twice as high as last year, reflecting improving grain prices. And I wonder what is going to happen to the Advance Payments Program and any other early payments for next year's crop -- or if there are going to be any.
The Harper Conservatives act like we can sell our grain by Googling it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Showing the rich people we can do what we want

Booman notes this BBC interview with two young English women looting a liquor store and he discusses what America should learn from the England riots:
Different countries chose different ways of responding to the economic catastrophes of the 1920's and 1930's. The Russians became totalitarian. Europe succumbed to fascism. We chose a New Deal. It was a middle road. It provided a safety net and tolerable working conditions. It created a huge middle class. It didn't arouse the far right or far left instincts of the nation, but put them into sleep mode.
Now we're back to 1920's level of income disparity. Conservatives are attacking every aspect of the New Deal. What rich people seem to be forgetting is that the opposite of the New Deal is not some idyllic paradise of free-market bliss. The opposite is rampaging mobs who light shit on fire just to show you that they can do whatever they want. Eventually, that can include burning down your business or your house, or, maybe, even taking your life.
And it's not just income disparity that's a problem. Consider how this all started. A bunch of smart people set up a kind of scam using complex financial instruments that no one can understand. They got rich beyond all imagination, while the rest of us lost our jobs, lost our retirement money, lost, in some cases, our homes. And then we were told that there was no money for our cops, no money for our firefighters, our nurses, our teachers. And next we'll be told that our Social Security check will be smaller and we'll have to wait another year or two to get our Medicare. Meanwhile, the rich, represented ably by the Republicans, refuse to pay one dime in extra taxes.
With that kind of attitude and that lack of accountability, it's not hard to see why some people might start losing hope and might start losing respect for "the system." If the rich don't wise up quick, the scenes from England will be coming to America. Bet on it.
Emphasis mine. Its a lesson that applies to Canada too.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Pot, meet kettle

Isn't it priceless that after all the harrumphing and pontificating on the part of the Conservatives and their media supporters about how awful that Nycole Turmel accepted a leadership position in the NDP without admitting her supposedly secret separatist past, we now find out that Transport minister Denis Lebel was also a Bloc member while Tourism minister Maxime Bermier worked for the Parti Quebecois.
And it looks like we're finally approaching the Godwin's Law stage in the Turmel affair.
Questioning Turmel's past association with separatists is now "close to McCarthyism" according to NDP MP Pat Martin -- for sure somebody's going to start talking about Nazis next.

Sounds like something weird is going on in Brazil

This is beyond bizarre.
First, Canadians are reading about how Harper locked himself in a bathroom and wouldn't come out until the speech schedule was changed to his liking at a presidential luncheon. That one hit the Washington Post.
Then there apparently was an unseemly tiff between the media staffs about when photos would be allowed of the two leaders.
And Dimitri Soudas has provided an incoherent "denial" of the bathroom incident (emphasis mine):
Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, said the plan was always to do the toast off the top and denied any problems with the Brazilians over the timing.
“I wasn’t engaged on such an issue and I usually am when there is one,” he said. “I’ve checked. This story is false. Bottom line guys, when these things happen it’s because the team is fighting for you guys so you can get access.

Signs of the times

From a Manchester sandwich shop today:
"Due to the imminent collapse of society, we regret to announce we are closing at 6 pm tonight."

And a flyer of advice to the people that the British press are describing as "yobs", apparently now being distributed in London:

Saturday, August 06, 2011

‪I love the internets

Here's a little corner of the internet I'll bet you didn't know about -- a bunch of people apparently learned how to play guitar on the Google Les Paul Doodle and they have been posting the songs they made.


Shorter Boris:
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

Gonna get along without you now

After the Berlin Wall fell, the world thought that the United States had won.
So did the United States.
Reagan talked about the shining city on the hill. Bush the Elder talked about a thousand points of light. Al Gore invented the internet. They elected Bill Clinton who got their deficit under control for the first time since WWII.
They were on a roll.
But they just couldn't stop electing Republicans.
So the world watched while Clinton was impeached over a blow job. Then we watched them electing Bush the Younger. Twice. In the last ten years the world found itself following America into three wars in the Middle East. American politicians sabotaged international consensus on dealing with climate change and on trying to make progress with the Palestinian issue. The final straw was seeing the United States jeopardize the world economy twice in the last four years, by letting Wall Street run wild, and by turning the debt ceiling vote into a six-month debacle.
And its not just the Republicans' fault. The perception of the world is that, if a lot of Americans didn't agree with what the Republicans are doing, they wouldn't keep electing them.
Now the American media is freaking out because Standard & Poor cut America's credit rating. Though the political basis of the S&P action is evident, the downgrade is also a signal that the rest of the world is getting tired of these shenanigans.
An opinion piece in Der Speigel sums it up:
The name "United States" seems increasingly less appropriate. [Hate] has become routine in American political culture . . . reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country's highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fact that Barack Obama is the country's first African-American president may have played a role there, too.
There's no deliverance in sight.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The US government shutdown which won't happen now

With all the criticism of that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Obama debt limit deal, there is one aspect that the critics seem to be missing.
The deal that Obama signed included a "deem and pass" for the 2012 federal budget.
So let's speculate -- if the debt limit had been raised in December, or if Obama had implemented the 14th Amendment option, then what would have happened in September?
Instead of taking the debt limit hostage, the Tea Party Republicans would have taken the federal budget hostage. They would have refused to pass anything and the federal government would have had to shut down.
At least with the debt limit issue, their Wall Street supporters and the conservative pundits were screaming at these guys to get off their butts. Even with that pressure, look how juiced they were to indulge in soap-opera brinksmanship and look how difficult it was to convince them to take yes for an answer and raise the limit.
If this bunch had had the opportunity to grandstand on refusing to approve a federal budget, they would have jumped at the chance. They would have thrown tens of thousands of federal civil servants out of work without a minute of hesitation. And I'm not sure how that would have ended.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


It's creepy.
A while ago I ordered some shoes over the Internet.
few days ago, I was looking up various table lamps and lighting fixtures.
And I also checked out some new knobs for the kitchen cabinets.
Now when I check my usual websites, I am constantly seeing ads for shoes. And lamps. And cabinet hardware.
Somebody really is watching me.

Shooting themselves in the foot?

Steve is right that the Nycole Turmel story speaks to the emerging media narrative that the NDP are cynically trying to be popular in Quebec by pandering to separatists.
By letting this story blindside them, the party has also reinforced the other emerging media narrative about how the NDP is an "immature" political party -- just a bunch of amateur do-gooders and looney leftists who aren't ready to take on the role of Official Opposition.
I think both narratives are profoundly incorrect, but this won't stop the Conservatives and the press from promoting them -- though I would change my mind if it turns out that Turmel was so naive about Ottawa politics that she didn't make sure the NDP caucus was aware of her Bloc membership before they selected her as interim leader.