Thursday, August 29, 2013

He's baaaak!

So first I read this headline:
Ottawa looking ‘very carefully’ at marijuana-ticket proposal, PM says
and I thought, WHAAT? Our Stevie? Actually considering doing something that everybody except his base wants the government to do? I must be living in Bizarro World!
Then I read this headline:
Stephen Harper says Justin Trudeau encouraging drug use
and the world snapped back into focus. There's the ridiculous hyperbolic smear of the Harper we all know and love.

Breaking Bad Canada-style

Breaking Bad is a Different Story With Universal Healthcare - Cheezburger:
Breaking Bad is a Different Story With Universal Healthcare

Using sarin gas to show rebels who is the boss

Whenever I wonder about what has been going on in the middle east, I check Juan Cole for the definitive word, and today is no exception:
Rush to Western Strike on Syria slows, but does not Stall | Informed Comment
US intelligence agencies released an intercept on Wednesday showing that after the attack, a ministry of defense official made outraged inquiries from a local commander as to what in the world he had done.
The intercept would be consistent with local Baath chem warfare units routinely mixing a little deadly sarin gas into crowd control gas, killing small numbers of rebels with each deployment, but in this case making an error and getting the mix wrong. Thus, around a thousand were killed instead of dozens. British intelligence seems to have come to a similar conclusion
Apparently there are new, Jordanian-trained, guerrilla forces in Rif Dimashq near the capital that account for the local commanders’ panic and desire to forcefully push them back.
The intercept does not prove that Bashar al-Assad knew about or ordered the chemical weapons attack. It does not, however, disprove that the Baath regime has a systematic policy of low level use of chemical weapons.
It does put paid to the crackpot conspiracy theory, advanced by the regime and the Russians, that the rebels gassed themselves.
So if Syria has been using Sarin gas routinely on its rebels, and then inadvertently used too much, then this is behaviour which the world needs to condemn.
Exactly how is still the question, of course, but the rationale is clearer now.
Oh, and Juan also says that there is not yet international support for missile strikes.   But it was news to me that Syria has been "routinely mixing a little deadline sarin gas into crowd control gas" -- and that's a war crime that demands some response
Or else everyone will start doing this.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Round up the usual suspects

At LGM, Scott Lemieux points out that the list of people who want to start a war against Syria are the usual gang of idiots -- Joe Lieberman, Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Dan Senor, Paul Bremer,, Gary Bauer, Norm Coleman and a bunch of other people who thought war with Iraq and Iran were great ideas, too.
As Lemieux puts it:
I’m not 100% sure that military intervention in Syria is wrong.
But it is true that
    1. al-Assad is terrible
    2. ?????
    3. Bomb lots of stuff!
is a terrible argument
At Daily Kos, Meteor Blades summarizes the problem:
People high and low across the political spectrum in the United States keep saying there are no good options in Syria. When that is the case, how is it that bombing gets moved to the head of the queue as one of those options?
A decade ago, Gary Kamiya wrote in Salon about the upcoming war in Iraq:
. . . we have gone from being in a political moment to a historical one.
I use the words somewhat eccentrically, to distinguish between events that are simple enough to be fully explicable ("political") and those that are too complex to be defined ("historical").
The war against Afghanistan took place in what I am calling the political realm: It had a clear, limited and achievable goal, one understood by all -- and widely supported around the world. The impending war against Iraq, on the other hand, is a historical event. It cannot be explained or defined. When it comes, it will simply exist, with the opacity of history. Its outcome is not foreseeable.
The distinction also has a moral dimension. To exist in history is to have passed beyond the pieties and slogans of the political. History is tragic: politics is not. History is glorious. It is also fatal.
. . . The lesson every government should have learned from the bloody 20th century, one written in blood across the tortured soil of old, very old Europe, is very simple: Avoid history at all costs. History is too big, too abstract, too dangerous. Avoid men with Big Ideas -- especially stupid men with Big Ideas. Take care of politics: let history take care of itself. In a word, don't play God.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why are you persecuting me?

Amazing, isn't it?
We found out today that the Privy Council Office has been persecuted with 23 FOIA requests from journalists for its paperwork on the Duffy-Wallin scandal but not a word was committed to paper in the PCO about it!
Even though we also found out today that Duffy had to be jollied and threatened into paying back the money by Senator David Tkachuk (formerly chair of the Senate internal economy committee) and Senator Carolyn Stewart Olson:
Tkachuk allegedly told Duffy that if he went along with Wright’s bailout offer, the Senate committee would throw out the residency issue and go easy on him in the audit of his expenses.
But wait, there's more.
Another former member of Harper's office also got into the act.
Harper’s former director of communications, Angelo Persichilli, was also putting pressure on Duffy amid the growing Senate spending scandal.
While Persichilli was awaiting his appointment as a citizenship judge in Toronto, he called Duffy to tell him that the Conservative Party would turn against him if he didn’t repay the money.
Persichilli insisted he acted alone and as a friend when he made that call.
“I was urging him to give the money back, but as a friend,” he told CTV News. “Never, never was I told by anyone from the PMO that I had to talk to Mike Duffy.”
Admittedly, Persichilli had been a journalist and, unlike Wright, likely had been friendly with Duffy over the years.
So perish the thought that he was just following orders!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The press gallery should be embarassed

Dr. Dawg discusses all the pearl-clutching and tut-tutting about the Li Xue Jiang incident at Harper's press conference and also links to David Hill's lengthy piece which explains how the Harper press gallery works.
It's actually sort of embarrassing that grown men and women are acting this way:, the PM’s aides will tell us ahead of time how many questions he intends to take. If the number is four, the journalists who are present — be it outside Rideau Hall or at G8 Summit in Mexico or in a barn at a mine in Northern Quebec — will gather out of earshot of the PM’s aides and decide amongst themselves what topics we wish to quiz the PM about and then figure out who will do the quizzing.... most of the time, the press secretary calls on the names on the list. That did not happen on Friday in northern Quebec. Though the Chinese journalist’s name was on the list, the moderator, Julie Vaux, the deputy director of communications, did not call on that journalist. That was wrong of Vaux and not in keeping with the practice negotiated between journalists and the PMO over the last few years. But the reaction of the journalist – shoving Vaux or pushing any staff around — is also way out-of-bounds. As I mentioned, the tradition is, if you’re getting shut down by the PMO, just start hollering your questions. The PM will almost never answer anyway to a hollered-out question but you will have put your question on the record.
So the press gallery thinks that China People's Daily bureau chief should just have shouted out his question about Canada's policy on foreign investment?  And been ignored.
And that would have done what, exactly?  
As Dawg concludes:
Now the Canadian media are all about telling power to truth—and Li Xue Jiang found this out the hard way. It must have made him a little homesick.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making prejudice into a Canadian "value"

The PQ "values charter" would enshrine religion as a justifiable reason to discriminate against people in Quebec:
it would promote religious segregation by stigmatizing the devoutly religious, explicitly exclude them from employment in the public sector and implicitly encourage discrimination against them in the private sector.
In the particular case of women from minority religious communities, it would promote not the integration into the workforce that would expose them to other values, but their isolation and impoverishment.
The Globe and Mail describes this as "Putinesque". Don MacPherson at the Montreal Gazette calls it as "sinister, ridiculous and pathetic." A Quebec mayor doesn't want the PQ government to "play petty politics on the backs of citizens".
Though in practice it would be virtually unenforceable -- and ultimately the Canadian Supreme Court would throw it out -- the whole country will be tainted by this idiotic charter, just like we were by the Quebec soccer turban ban mess last spring.
Merci beaucoup, Pauline.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why do people leave early?

I just don't understand it.
 Why do people leave before a concert or a game is over? Why would they deliberately miss something they paid good money to see?
OK, if the score is 50 to 10, yes, I can see it.
But at the Rider game on Friday, my brother said people were leaving after Montreal pulled ahead with 1:47 to go. Did they forget that anything can happen in the CFL, and often does? The people who left missed the most thrilling moment in sports -- a Riders come-from-behind victory in the last 73 seconds of the game.
And at the McCartney concert last week, the one that people paid $300 or more a ticket to attend, we saw people shuffling up the stairs and out of the stadium even before the first encore. They missed, maybe not the best part of the concert, but certainly one of the better parts -- Daytripper, Get Back, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, the Regina pipe band, and the tattoo girl.
Can anybody explain why people do this?
Remember this one -- I wonder how many left at the middle of the ninth?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Binge-watching The Wire


We've been binge-watching The Wire lately -- didn't see it when it first came out, but all the episodes are available on our Shaw box so we've been watching two or three a night. Now we can see why people have said its the greatest TV series ever broadcast.
 Great characters and great plots.
Like Omar.
Season one:

Season four:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It was 49 years ago today....

Back in August, 1964, my sister and I lined up at 6 am at the Trivoli Theatre to see the first showing of A Hard Day's Night.
I'm the dark haired girl second from the right, and my sister is holding the LIFE magazine on the left.
We never ever thought that the Beatles would come to Saskatchewan.
Well, finally, 49 years later, they did -- or one of them at least:

Paul McCartney amazes fans in Regina
Sir Paul put on a terrific show -- his last one in North America on this tour, and he gave it all he had. A remarkably personal concert, too, as he told several stories about John and George and Linda, as he sang songs in tribute to them, and he talked also about his present wife Nancy.  He performed a number of the older songs that hadn't been performed before in concerts.  His voice was pretty good, but even better was his obvious joy in entertaining and interacting with the crowd.
The photo above shows Mull of Kintyre, with the City of Regina Pipe Band -- McCartney made a point of thanking the 10-year-old bagpiper who plays in the band, remarking on how important it was to have young people involved in music.
When he sang Blackbird, he told us that he wrote it in the early 60s for the civil rights movement:

Worth waiting for.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ottawa entitlement syndrome

Was there ever a truer phrase spoken in Ottawa than when David Dingwall told parliament that he was "entitled to his entitlements"?
Its all of Ottawa in a nutshell -- insular, egotistical, disdainful of petty restrictions and ules (except, of course, for refugee dental bills and EI claimants.)
Today we find out that Pam Wallin billed Canadians for more than half a million dollars in travel expenses over four years, and that almost $400,000 of those expenses were spent within the Senate's rules.
What kind of rules allow an unelected politician this kind of prolificacy with the taxes I pay?
Michael Den Tandt looks at the larger picture:
Wallin’s claim is the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting, suggesting that, far from being an outrider, she was adhering to established practice.
And that gets us to the nub of the broader issues now raised. “Senator Wallin indicated … that discussions with Senator Tkachuk early in her tenure regarding various roles she had (such as Chancellor of the University of Guelph) confirmed that travel expenses to such events would be eligible for reimbursement,” the audit reads. “In this regard, we note that we have not assessed or reviewed any travel expense claims by other Senators, and therefore cannot comment on whether activities such as those undertaken by Senator Wallin were or were not undertaken by other Senators… “
It’s an echo of earlier hints, emerging from the Duffy file, that he’d been led to believe, or allowed to assume, that he had carte blanche with the Senate credit card.
As Montreal Simon points out, Harper said that he had personally reviewed Wallins expenses and didn't find anything amiss.
Think about that for a minute -- he thought half a million dollars in travel expenses for an unelected Senator was hunky-dory.
What planet does Ottawa live on?
A note of disclosure:  I have been friendly with Pam Wallin over the years -- at one time I worked on her CBC radio show -- so when she says she was following the rules as she understood them, I believe her.  But only someone floating inside the Ottawa bubble would think these expenses rules actually made sense.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Happy happy joy joy

In spite of claims about how the CRTC's decision on SUN news isn't that bad, really and how SUN news actually got what it wanted, really it gladdened my heart that Canadian cable subscribers won't be forced to subsidize this amateur operation with its childish talking heads. Not just yet, anyway.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Saturday, August 03, 2013

MTL buses - bureaucracy gone mad

Here's a horrible story about a mother fined $219 by Montreal Transit for not having the exact change for a bus fare -- at ten o'clock at night, with her toddler in tow, after spending five hours in the emergency room, kicked off the bus for trying to give a bus driver a $5 bill for her $3 fare.
So why wouldn't he just accept the $5 bill?  Why did he call the inspectors on her?  Why are Montreal bus inspectors driving around at 10 at night handing out fines and kicking mothers and children off buses?
Why didn't someone else on the bus pay her fare?
What is the matter with these people?
Municipal transit companies are always whining about why people don't take the bus more often -- and then they treat their customers this way. This kind of attitude is EXACTLY why nobody wants to take a bus anywhere anymore. UPDATE: A commenter on the Montreal Gazette story provides more details:
My husband Wayne Larsen, and I were on the bus. I did offer to pay her fare to both the driver and the inspectors. I was told by the inspector "No, no, it's ok, it's free." I assumed that meant they were giving her a warning like they did to the other passenger. I thought they would drive her home. I had no idea that this was how the situation ended or I would have stayed. We told the Gazette about offering to pay her fare.
This makes it even worse -- the bus company decided to "punish" her for the effrontery of trying to pay her fare with a $5 bill -- instead of just accepting the fare from another passenger, they wanted to make her wait with her toddler on a streetcorner in the middle of the night for another bus. That'll show her who is in charge around here!

Photos of Canada

Sikh Motorcycle Club in Stanley Park. Vancouver, British Columbia March 2012
This Sikh motorcycle club is only one of Naomi Harris' unique photos of Canada.  More here:  Naomi Harris: “Oh Canada” is a road trip for a Canadian photographer looking to find home.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Compare and contrast

The contrast could not be greater.
Montreal police spend a full day dealing with a demonstrably-violent mentally ill man who shot at them from a house with 180 guns; they finally subdue him with rubber bullets.
A Toronto police officer spends less than five minutes yelling at a potentially-violent mentally disturbed teenager armed with a paring knife; then shoots him nine times. While the other officers at the scene nonchalantly stroll past the bus door.

CBC has an article posted about police use-of-force training -- likely foreshadowing what will be the police defense:
"We teach what courts have said, when it's appropriate to use force," said Fawcett. "The courts have laid down pretty reasonable rules when it comes to the use of deadly force."
"When it comes to making a decision about the reasonableness of use of force, essentially what the courts have said is you have to be a doppelganger or a ghost in the shoes of the officer and see what they saw, not what the video camera showed, not what another witness saw.
"What was the perception of the officer and was that perception reasonable? And of course what the courts have also said [is that] you can't expect cool reflection in the face of an uplifted knife."
It sounds like the George Zimmerman defense all over again -- that the mere perception of danger, rather than the reality, is sufficient to justify a lethal response.