Friday, April 29, 2005

The blood you spilt on you will fall

On the other hand, there is some good poll news today: guilt by association is dragging the Ontario Liberal Party down. TORONTO -- The McGuinty government is suffering from guilt by association, suggests a new Toronto Sun/Leger Marketing poll that shows the provincial Liberals trailing the PC Party. The poll found support for the Conservatives has increased to 37%, up four points in just a month, while the Liberals have dropped eight points to 36%. The NDP held steady at 19%. Craig Worden, associate VP of public affairs for Leger Marketing, said the decline in provincial Liberal support can be attributed, in part, to damning Adscam testimony affecting McGuinty's political cousins. Now there's an understatement. If only McGuinty wasn't cautiously siding with the federal Tories at the moment, or the first act of the McGuinty government hadn't been to enact scheduled elections that make the next vote on his performance still some ways distant, this might be more comforting...

He never will stray, with a name like the one that he's got today

This was a going concern during the time I was employed at Radio Shack, and it appears to have finally come to a head: U.S.-based RadioShack Corp., which has won a court battle over the use of its name in Canada, is poised to begin an aggressive launch of its own stores under its namesake. The rollout will make it even more difficult for Circuit City Stores Inc. of Richmond, Va., to raise awareness of its new banner --The Source by Circuit City -- after a ruling that its Canadian RadioShack outlets will have to be renamed, observers said. "It's a challenge," said Wendy Evans of retailing consultancy Evans & Co. "RadioShack is such a well-known name. For the average person, there's going to be confusion, for sure. They'll wonder who is The Source by Circuit City." Canadian RadioShack stores are currently run under a licensing agreement by InterTan Canada Ltd. But InterTan was acquired last year by Circuit City, setting off the legal fight over the RadioShack name. Circuit City is the second-largest U.S. electronics chain and RadioShack didn't want its name -- and products -- to help bolster a key competitor. A Texas court ruled recently that the Canadian stores will have to drop the name RadioShack by the end of June. What'll hurt the existing stores, in addition to the corporate rebranding itself, is the problem of existing stock. Most Radio Shack-branded merchandise was replaced, over the past year, to Nexxtech and Centrios labels; in many cases, the product was identical, just rebranded, in order to better share inventory with Circuit City. But the store I worked at still had a considerable amount of older stock, with the older brand names, and it's one of the highest-volume locations in the country. How much stock will smaller, quieter stores have to send back to warehouses to be repackaged? This isn't going to be a good year for InterTan, I suspect.

Never lose hope or lose heart, whatever the form of the storm

I call shenanigans on the latest polls: A new poll shows that if an election was held today, the Liberals and the Conservatives would be neck-and-neck in the race for national support. The numbers show a boost for the Liberals in the past week, indicating a recovery from bombshell news from the sponsorship inquiry. In the total sample of the poll, conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail by The Strategic Counsel, Liberals are polling at 30 per cent and the Conservatives trail close behind at 28 per cent. (That two percent gap is within the poll's margin of error, meaning the parties are statistically tied.) The NDP are at 18 per cent in this new poll, and the Green Party is at 10 per cent. How can the numbers possibly be that volatile? Are Canadians truly that fooled by sweet words and massive bribes from the PM's office? The "Canadians don't want an election right now" mantra has been repeated so much it's starting to be believed, I guess. Nor do the shameless procedural tricks to push back the inevitable seem to be upsetting many; I mean, I know we live in a parliamentary monarchy, not a democracy, but I would have thought there'd be a little more discontent about subverting the Westminster system so. I hope the media notice of increasingly obvious and manipulative Liberal scare tactics keeps making front page news, anyway...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The tiger we were stalking walked on paper feet

I've bought from online retailer Tiger Direct in the past, but they just lost my business: Apple Computer has been slapped with a lawsuit by Tiger Direct Inc. for allegedly infringing its trademark with the new Mac OS X "Tiger'' operating system scheduled for release on Friday. Tiger Direct, which sells computers and related products on the Internet, said Apple's Tiger OS threatens to dilute its trademarked name, according to Bloomberg, which has obtained a copy of the lawsuit. The online retailer also accused Apple of deceptive and unfair trade practices in the lawsuit, filed today in federal court in Miami, Florida, Bloomberg said. "Apple Computer has created and launched a nationwide media blitz led by Steven Jobs, overwhelming the computer world with a sea of Tiger references," Tiger Direct's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. [...] The retailer said Apple's use of the name "is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the general purchasing public." At the root of the issue appears to internet search results. Tiger Direct contends that Apple's use of the name has adversely affected its ranking amongst the Internet's largest search engines, Google and Yahoo, bumping the company from its usual spot in the first three results. Somehow I doubt many are going to confuse a direct-sales retailer with an operating system. That's trademark arrogance on the Monster Cable level. It requires an amazing degree of self-delusion on the name-recognition value of the brand. Nor is their primary claim even true, at least with Google; right now, the top results Googling 'tiger' are (in order) from a site with information on actual tigers, Tiger Direct itself, a big cat sanctuary named Tiger Haven, and only then two hits on the latest iteration of OSX. Conversely, Tiger Direct doesn't even show up on the front page of a Yahoo search. One out of two isn't bad, I guess. (It does tend to undercut the basis of the suit a bit, though.) Moreover, do they plan on suing the non-profit tiger sanctuary for also daring to beat them in the Yahoo rankings, perchance? Or the US and British governments for the project and agency they respectively operate which also use Tiger as an acronym, and are similarly more visible in such a search? Of course, it's not as if this is even the first time Apple has run into a legal bully with a trademarked genericism of a name. Apple Records had kind of a weak case in the likely-to-confuse-customers side of things. It doesn't seem as if Tiger Direct's claim is any less ludicrous - and, as a bonus, trends towards the insulting. (Via Brian Tiemann.)

There are heroes in the world

Why is Donald Rumsfeld having photo-ops with Marvel Comics characters as part of the company's participation in a PR campaign entitled "America Supports You," (including free comic books for troops, and donation to charities that help wounded veterans) as opposed to, say, DC ones? Might Superman's explicit shilling for the appeasement-minded left in recent years perhaps have something to do with that?

As your influence expands to the high financial strata

The Globe and Mail: NDP-Liberal talks went down to wire: OTTAWA -- Tory Leader Stephen Harper's hand was forced yesterday by a tentative deal cooked up between Paul Martin and Jack Layton on Sunday night in a suite at the Royal York Hotel. The NDP Leader arrived on the subway; the Prime Minister came by limousine. Organized labour pushed the deal aggressively, threatening to withdraw its support for the New Democrats if Mr. Layton favoured an early election. Oooh. We're back to the NDP being the explicit puppets of labour, rather than the quiet partners thereof again, are we? That may play well for CUPE and CAW members, but will the rest of the country be so forgiving? If it's clear that this deal was, in effect, between union goons and backroom Liberal bagmen, what are the optics? I doubt there are many people besides union bosses (and those members so hardcore they seem to think they're still in 1919, in an apocalyptic battle royale with top hat-wearing monacled plutocrats) who think increased influence of organized labour on government is a good thing. I suspect there have been too many strikes over petty complaints, too many specific bad experiences with the thuggish side of unions, for even the apolitical centre to be any more charitable than purely indifferent; it is painfully clear that unions have more power than they should, and tend to hold the (country|province|municipalities) hostage whenever they feel like it. I'd be curious to know what NDP sentiment is about Buzz Hargrove jerking them around so. Fear of a Green vote split is getting more evident than last time... (Via NealeNews.)

Tear Me Down

Peter Rempel points to imaginative speculation on what I think is more properly called a 'post-Canada' Canada: What might a grand Canadian breakup look like? Jim Dunnigan and I, in the 1991 edition of "A Quick and Dirty Guide to War," played speculative cartographer and redrew Canada's political map. Here's a thumbnail sketch of that analysis: Say Quebec does become a separate European-style nation-state -- a "people" with cultural, linguistic, religious and historical identity (never mind the objections of Mohawk and Cree Indians living in Quebec). Quebec has the people and resources to make a go of it, though the economic price for its egotism will be stiff. British Columbia also has "nation-state" assets: Access to the sea, strong industrial base, raw materials and an educated population. Oil-producing Alberta might join the United States and instantly find common political ground with Alaska, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. Canada's struggling Atlantic provinces might find statehood economically attractive and extend the New England coastline. A rump Canada consisting of "Greater Ontario" -- with remaining provinces as appendages -- might keep the maple-leaf flag aloft. As for poor, isolated Newfoundland: Would Great Britain like to reacquire a North American colony? Hey, I've got no problem with any of that. (Just so long as I have a chance to move to one of the theoretical states-to-be before everything's finalized, of course.) I have to agree that parts of this analysis seem like a stretch, especially extending New England. Becoming states likely wouldn't be as profitable for the Atlantic provinces as even attachment to a reduced central rump based around Ontario; officially being part of the US is a privilege (look, for example, at the periodic requests of some Puerto Rican politicians for statehood), not something that would or should require continuous federal bribery, which makes economic reasons for doing so seem specious. How much pork could new states really expect their representatives in Washington to bring home? If any provinces were to join the US, my money would be on BC, as an appealingly California-like mini-nation with a similar political mix of left and right. (Via Rempelia Prime.)

One man may seem incompetent, another not make sense

I spent some time at the HM's office today, trying to clear up a direct mail print job that's now weeks behind schedule. (It does become kind of obvious that the text was written about a month ago when it fails to mention the ongoing new developments of this week. Anyhow, not my fault, and now I get to save the day by riding in to finish it in Scotty-like miracle-worker time, so huzzah.) On the way back - in the pouring rain, admittedly, so I didn't hang around examining the scene carefully - I ran into a protest on Bank and Queen. For the life of me, I don't know what they were protesting. The signs I saw just demanded "Justice," and condemned "Injustice." (There was a charming sign with a painted bloody handprint, too.) If there was any indication of for whom or what justice was necessary, I didn't see it. That's kind of missing the point of public demonstration, isn't it? You may as well carry a sign saying PUPPIES ARE NICE or WE LIKE ICE CREAM, for all the impact generically being in favour of justice will have. (Of course, if they had one small sign that actually explained the direction of their ire, I retract everything.)

My way, or not at all

I'm pretty sure I've been annoyed or exasperated at previous things San Francisco Gate TV critic Tim Goodman has written, though never enough to blog on it. However, he's spot-on about the smug, joyless, self-righteous goons behind "TV Turnoff Week": You are now soaking in TV-Turnoff Week, one of those eat-your- vegetables, big-vision ideas that turn out, in the end, to be asinine. Really, it's a stupid idea. Unless, of course, you're addicted to television like crack. And since that's the default cliche plastered on TV for 50 years or so, it must be true, right? You're either reading the New Yorker or you're in dirty underwear sitting on a ratty couch completely spellbound by "My Wife and Kids." Why is do-gooderism so annoying? Why is it that people who can't control the universe or be kings or dictators or get through a dinner party without alienating everyone end up fronting groups meant to make you a better person? [...] Where's the responsibility here? Why can't people own up to their faults, their shortcomings? It's the smoking-gave-me-cancer or McDonald's-made-me-fat argument. Calls for personal responsibility, from one of the least-serious column positions in a San Francisco paper? That's just...neat. I remember being forced (well, strongly encouraged) in a high school English course to participate, at one point, writing a series of journal entries with the time not "wasted" on television. I refused, and wrote five pieces on why it was poorly-thought-out elitist idiocy, including a long digression calculating the estimated value of that one assignment on my final mark, in which I declared that losing the .0825% it represented was worthwhile. (That was more than a bit naive, as I ended up receiving full marks anyway, for writing the required number. Silly me; I imagined the teacher was actually reading them.) I resented the self-righteous attitudes of the campaign's proponents then; now, however, they're getting worse, partnering with executive toy stealth remote of sneering jackasses TV-B-Gone. Where the anti-TV zealots used to have to make their case persuasively, now they can do it by the technological equivalent of brute force. Thanks for elevating the debate, guys! (Via TV Tattle.)

No matter what the tongue they speak, their money talks, week after week

I'm curious - why is it that Apple is so reluctant to include Hebrew text support in the iPod? If it's easily added by a third-party-written firmware upgrade, surely it isn't due to technical limitations. I can understand why Apple considers that upgrade to void the warranty, no less than one which attempts to run Linux on it; it's outside code that may cause unexpected results. But why is Hebrew left out? Wikipedia claims there are only slightly fewer speakers of it than Finnish, yet my 3G iPod includes the option to run in Suomi... (Via Gizmodo.)

You've got the wrong man, lady

The National Post has a nicely detailed expansion on precisely why former premier Bob Rae is an inappropriate choice to be holding any kind of investigation into the Air India bombing: On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan appointed Bob Rae as the man who will advise the Canadian government on the merits of a public inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing. The former Ontario premier is the wrong man for the job: Like many Canadian leaders, Mr. Rae has consistently looked the other way when confronted with violence and militancy within our minority communities. The roots of the Air India tragedy lie in our nation's willingness to provide refuge to Sikh militants who sought to pursue their campaign for Punjab independence from Canadian soil. Sikh moderates tried in vain to warn the government that many of those being admitted in the years prior to the bombing were dangerous. Ironically, it was precisely the newcomers' claim of membership in the extremist Sikh organization Babbar Khalsa that was offered as the pretext for granting asylum. [...] If Canadian leaders are to explain what went wrong to the relatives of those killed in the Air India tragedy, they will have to acknowledge that the source of the tragedy lies in muddled multicultural and immigration policies. But there is little evidence any of them will face up to this fact. Indeed, even now, there is a rising tide of gun violence in Toronto's growing Jamaican community, something no one dares speak of for fear of being branded insensitive. This, too, bears Mr. Rae's imprint. While premier, he responded to the problem of black-on-black violence by defining the problem as one of discriminatory law enforcement, setting up the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. As the name suggests, the commission had the advantage of reaching a conclusion before it even started its investigation. Why do I increasingly have the feeling that Rae is going to similarly come to some conclusion here along the lines of "We deserved it, for not being more accommodating?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I've grown accustomed to her face

It's finally happened. I've become used to OSX, and using Command key-combinations for cutting and pasting. I didn't realize it until, while in Windows, repeatedly attempting to copy and paste an URL by what turns out to map to (via my KVM switch) Alt-C and Alt-V, and being momentarily confused by their significant lack of function. Just as well, I suppose - I hardly even use the Defiant at all much any more, even for gaming. Its operation is painfully slow in Windows, compared to the ever zippy-fast performance of Columbia, to say nothing of the increasing comparative ugliness of the GUI. Conversely: I love you so much, O Columbia. I've never before used a computer that so feels almost too good for me.

At long, long last receive your due; long overdue

About friggin' time: AMHERSTBURG, Ont. -- Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper vowed Wednesday to topple the fragile Liberal government "at the earliest opportunity" as he fumed about Paul Martin's "deal with the devil" -- a $4.6-billion budget agreement with the New Democrats. It really shouldn't have taken the Liberal-NDP deal to stop playing coy about whether or not the Tories would bring down the government; he should have been making an outright promise to do so for (at least) the past two weeks. If there's one thing that keeps irritating me about the new Conservative Party, it's that they've been alternately timid and blunt about exactly the wrong things. No one is going to care about the "Canadians don't want an election" mantra once it we're actually into a campaign that'll be over in a few weeks. Now, I'm just worried about the electoral effects of yesterday's deal...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Your help in this matter won't go unrewarded

Oy vey. The Liberals and New Democrats brokered an "agreement in principle" to secure NDP support for the government on the budget vote, and against any efforts by the Tories and the Bloc Quebecois to bring it down. "This agreement is fiscally responsible and it is progressive," said Prime Minister Paul Martin said late Tuesday at a news conference in Ottawa. But the deal comes with a hefty price tag. Martin had to agree to guarantee $4.6-billion in new investment over the next two years. It's not as though I've ever thought much of Jack Layton anyway, but I have to say, I'm disappointed; propping up the Liberals is somewhere south of just plain awful right now. I hope it comes back to haunt him with a vote split to the Greens, or something similar, but I doubt it. On the other hand, at least we now know exactly what the price of buying off socialists is. That's bound to be useful information at some point. Even their getting on-board with missile defense or the GWoT could probably be bought, for the right number of rampantly wasteful social programs...

Murder, murder; can't be undone

What is Landslide Annie thinking? Former Ontario premier Bob Rae has been tapped by Ottawa to serve as an independent adviser on the next step in the investigating the Air-India tragedy. “Significant efforts have gone into investigating the circumstances that led to this tragedy, to transforming our public safety systems and to bring to justice those responsible,” Ms. McLellan said Tuesday, announcing Mr. Rae's appointment. Appointing a former NDP premier to hold an inquiry on a bungled federal terrorism prosecution? In what universe does this make sense? (And why, pray tell, does the Globe & Mail story use neither the words "terrorism" or "NDP," huh? Is this a throwaway sop to Jack Layton that TPTB would like us not to interpret as such?)

The thrill of control

Lileks this morning on a familiar and disgusting iteration of Communist Chic: The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library – a group presumably formed to combat the work of their tireless foes, the Enemies of the Minneapolis Public Library – has a new ad campaign out to hype next year’s opening of the new downtown library. One side of the poster has a big picture of Mao; beneath him, it says, well, MAO. On the other side, a picture of the new library, with the letters MPL, for Minneapolis Public Library. From the Skyway News article on the campaign: “What’s the connection? China sports the world’s third largest economy, while the library claims the nation’s third largest collection of books (per capita.) “It’s a stretch, and a little weird, but it made us look, and that’s the point.” Hmm. I’m curious: how many people do you have to kill, and how many books do you have to destroy, before you’re no longer a benign historical image to be used in a “clever” ad campaign? I'm similarly bothered - idiot student communists with Ché t-shirts, and the like, aside - by the number of people who seem to think it's clever to name a cat "Chairman Meow." Is the lame pun really worth the tacit acceptance and continued normalization of a dictator and murderer? Would you name a pet parrot Ceauşescu, or a goldfish Honecker? Some people are so attached to irony, they can't see the forest for the trees.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Try to live forever, and give up never the fight; you'll need the wherewithal

Bah. I had about twenty minutes of hope between reading this the first time, and the update-and-retraction. Taunts of Arrested Development's claiméd non-doom (convincingly rebutted elsewhere) are a terrible thing.

But behind that fair façade

Capitalist Lion has an amusingly snarky (and long and detailed!) response to the exasperatingly pigheaded but widespread Canadian belief in the utter sanctity of "free" health care: By far, the majority of Canucks emailing me had but one point to make: The poor get shafted in the US when it comes to health care, while in Canada, they just get shitty care. But at least they can "afford" it. To address this properly, I really need to start off with a fairly macroscopic view of the issue. It's one that many, many Americans understand, and just about all Canadians, Europeans, and Liberals in general do not: It is not okay to be poor. Shocking, I know, but at least read a few more paragraphs before you fire up your email clients. [...] A lot of liberals, europeans, and pseudo-europeans (this means you, Canucks) whine and moan about the poor people who, as they would imply, were hand-selected by the ruling elite to specifically BE poor. This is an unmitigated load of crap. Anyone-- say it with me now: Anyone-- can get a job in this country. Anyone can flip burgers. Anyone can tend bar. Anyone can dig ditches. Anyone can stock shelves. Anyone can bust their asses and earn a living, and use the proceeds of their ass-busting to better their lives. I don't care how deep in the ditch someone is, there's absolutely nothing stopping them from making enough money to put a roof over their heads, food in their gut, and a few night classes at the local community college on the side. Nothing. Not one damn thing. [...] Bottom line here: There is no excuse to be poor. There is no excuse not to be able to shell out a hundred bucks or so a month for decent health care, even if you're flipping burgers for minimum wage, and regardless of the fact that even some of the most menial jobs provide health care or financial assistance of some sort in that way. Read the whole thing. Not that it's a real revelation - I daresay even the most fanatically socialist members of the NDP must understand that our vaunted socialized medicine isn't the Trudeaupian holiest of holies it's reputed to be, every time a federal election rolls around - but it's a very nice conversational precis of the very real advantages of the American health care system.

Was I really seeking good, or just seeking attention?

Howard Dean still can't help himself: Howard Dean may not be running for anything, but his elbows appear to be as sharp as ever. Since taking over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, the former presidential candidate has been quoted in newspapers making unusually caustic remarks about Republicans. Dean has suggested that they are "evil." That they are "corrupt." He called them "brain-dead" during a stop in Toronto -- and while the Terri Schiavo case was still in the news. He has tagged Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a "liar." Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that he mimicked a "drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh" at an event there. Dean was noted for his candid and often unpredictable comments during his campaign last year. Then, as now, many Democrats said they don't mind the former Vermont governor's bluntness. [...] There's bluntness, and then there's the political equivalent of Tourette's Syndrome. In a nearly perfectly divided two-party nation, how can you expect to hike up support with such ugly behaviour? But his counterparts in the Republican National Committee have noticed. "It's odd that Howard Dean says he wants to earn the respect of those who live in the red states, but chooses to not only attack their views but attack them personally," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said. "Americans want to hear an agenda, rather than name calling." Precisely. How is insulting potential supporters supposed to gain their favour? Democrats should be gearing up to present a rational alternative in 2006, not more of the same content-free name-calling that marked last year's elections. Take it from Canada: It's just not healthy when one entire side of the polity manages to marginalize itself for years and years. It wouldn't be too hard for me to find a Democratic candidates appealing, if they could manage both to avoid insulting condescension, and get serious on defense. Where are good, honest, non-equivocating, non-pandering Cold Warriors when you need them?

Name your pleasure, I will sell

Chantal Hebert, in the Star, makes a point I hadn't even considered about the possibility of a Liberal-NDP alliance: Since last week, the Liberals have been nibbling on Layton's line. All weekend, there have even been rumours of a counter offer that would see some New Democrats enter cabinet and the party strike up a coalition government with the Liberals. Even if the NDP was interested — and its strategists are adamant that they are not — that would involve a rather dramatic shift to the left on Martin's part. Over the past month and a half, he has argued that his budget — complete with corporate tax cuts — strikes the right balance for Canada. If he is now ready to rewrite it at the stroke of an NDP pen, his government's quest for affection between now and a winter election will likely know little or no bounds. One way or another, the developments of the next few days will say much about whether the Liberal government, in its desperate quest for a few more months in power, still has a bottom line. As usual, I've been handicapped by the assumptions I've made about the Liberals - namely, that they're so cravenly attached to power that they'd be willing to do anything to stay in office. That making concessions to the NDP would (rightly) be seen selling out on the budget Martin et al claim to truly believe in, possibly at the cost of damaging what little is left of Liberal credibility, hadn't even crossed my mind; of course they'd be willing to do that, if it meant even an extra month or three weeks in control. When your only principles are maintaining power for its own sake, everything but that automatically becomes up for negotiation, no?

Time to pay the price

Hey, look who's suddenly marginally relevant again, pathetic panderer that she is: [Carolyn Parrish] thinks such an election would be a "$250-million joke. "I wouldn't support the government, I don't support the government," Parrish said. "At the same time, I will not vote for an election -- it's a waste of $250 million of the taxpayers' money." Poor Carolyn Parrish; she still doesn't understand the idea of cause-and-effect relationships. You can only push the envelope so far before becoming an embarassment - whether to your party, or the country. How much money has been embezzled, wasted by, or otherwise mysteriously osmosed into the Liberal Party since 1993? $250 million is a small price to pay to get their hands out of the public purse.

Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good

Jack Layton is starting to scare me (Well, more so than before): Prime Minister Paul Martin has until Tuesday to decide whether he will change the budget in order to win the support of the New Democratic Party, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Monday. Appearing on CTV's Canada AM, Mr. Layton said he wants the situation resolved sooner rather than later. “We don't have much time here,” Mr. Layton said. “I want to hear back by Tuesday morning. This isn't a time for overthinking it. It is a question of just simply getting on and moving forward.” Mr. Martin has said he is open to changing the budget. Business leaders, however, have expressed concerns about suggestions that corporate tax cuts could fall by the wayside if the Prime Minister were to strike a pact with NDP in an effort to hold onto power. Mr. Layton and Mr. Martin met Sunday to discuss possible changes. The NDP want the Liberals to remove corporate tax cuts outlined in last winter's budget and replace them with social spending. I had assumed, when the NDP's proposed quid pro quo was first floated, that it was nothing more than a cynical case-building exercise to justify taking down the government; surely, the demands Layton was making were simply too much, and he knew it. That he's still actively pursuing removing the tax cuts - and that the PM claims to be negotiating the issue - is terrifying. The only thing more frightening than a cynical socialist is an earnest socialist. The idea of a Liberal-NDP alliance - even an informal one, not a coalition government - bothers me for another reason. If the NDP is seen as too close to Liberal corruption, they cease to become a 'clean' alternative for the centre-left. Those voters who've switched to them from the Liberals right now over Adscam might decide not to even bother. In the case of (quasi-) coalition government, what's the difference, especially if it keeps the Tories out? Conservative victory relies on splitting that national centre-left vote. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I might actually vote for Ed Broadbent, this time around; better him than whichever party hack runs for the Liberals.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

And he's having some fun now

The NYT's David Brooks ought to do humour more often: The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization. It is the moment when we realize that Mother Nature - unlike Ivy League admissions committees - doesn't like suck-ups. It turns out she doesn't like those body-worshiping, multi-abbed marvels who've spent so much time at the bench press machine they look as if they have thighs growing out of either side of their necks. She doesn't like those health-conscious rice cake addicts you see at Manhattan restaurants ordering a skinned olive for lunch and sitting there looking trim and fit in their tapered blouses while their buns of steel leave permanent dents in the upholstery. Mother Nature, we now know, is a saucy wench, who likes to play cosmic tricks on humanity. If the report from researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is correct - and it is the most thorough done to date - then it seems that Mother Nature has built a little Laffer curve into the fabric of reality: health-conscious people can hit a point of negative returns, so the more fit they are, the quicker they kick the bucket. People who work out, eat responsibly and deserve to live are more likely to be culled by the Thin Reaper. [...] The chief moral lesson I take away from this report is that Mother Nature is happy to tolerate marginally irresponsible misbehavior. She doesn't want you to go completely to seed. If you're truly obese and arouse hippos when you visit the zoo, you could still punch your ticket at any moment. But she does want you to eat the occasional Cinnabon, so long as it isn't bigger than Delaware. She wants you to have that fourth glass of wine, and lecture the dinner table on the future of the papacy based on your extensive reading of "The Da Vinci Code." She wants a little socially productive mediocrity. Also comedy gold: "More people will realize we should all be patterning our lifestyle decisions on those made by Christopher Hitchens." Snrrrrk. Some of the Times' more caustic columnists would do well to pick up a bit of the art of gently self-deprecating humour. It'd be more readable than hysterical screeds about secret conspiracies involving Dick Cheney and the Pope, anyway.

Now there's this noisy rabble, this foreign babble

It's fascinating to see how foreign news outlets are spinning Adscam; they offer a level of removal from the immediacy of domestic politics, but too often miss the point entirely. Like, say, this NPR analysis (audio; RealPlayer required). The host, Scott Simon, seems particularly uninterested in the sheer scale of Liberal corruption, except inasmuch as Chretien left a mess for Paul Martin to clean up. (He also pronounces Chretien with far more affected an accent than most domestic Anglo media types do, which sounds more than a bit silly.) Instead, he quizzes the Globe & Mail's Marcus Gee on just what makes Canadian peacekeeping so gosh-darn spiffy. It's clear he has some kind of utopian vision of what Canada is, and massive corruption on the part of the identifiably more left-wing of the two major parties doesn't fit into that fantasy. The headline "Canadian PM Confronts Problems" only serves to highlight this misconception on NPR's part, seeing the sponsorship scandal and military funding as two equal issues of mild concern, rather than variously shameful manifestations of irresponsible and self-interested Liberal policies. Never once does Simon or Gee mention the terrible poll numbers that have made obvious how significant Liberal corruption has become for their re-election chances, or even the name of one of the opposition parties; no, as far as the casual listener would know, Canadian politics seem barely scandalous at all. But, then, it is NPR. And the host is a self-admitted die-hard fan of the French national soccer team. We know who he - and his employer - are likely rooting for, don't we? It just wouldn't do to be giving them bad press.

Loathing, unadulterated loathing

This is awful. The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader. The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party's head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were "distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party". These included "Michael Howard is a liar", "You can't trust the Tories" and "You can only trust Tony Blair". Mr Black's strongly-worded letter accused the BBC of staging the event "to generate a false news story and dramatise coverage. . . intended to embarrass or ridicule the leader of the Conservative Party". The letter said that BBC staff were guilty of "serious misconduct". At least one of the hecklers was seen again at a Tory event in the North East, Mr Black added. Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a "completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling" and said that other parties' meetings were being "observed". However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair's meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion. [...] The Conservatives have called for an apology and an assurance that no such incident will occur again. It has also demanded that the BBC promises never to broadcast the footage. The corporation said it would investigate "very fully". It and other broadcasters have a statutory duty to remain impartial during election campaigns. The corporation's guidelines for producers state: "Our audiences rightly expect the highest editorial and ethical standards from the BBC." Tory officials became suspicious at the meeting in Horwich, near Bolton, last Wednesday, when they saw BBC camera crew focusing on the hecklers rather than Mr Howard. They twice challenged the two men and a woman involved, and discovered they had been equipped with radio microphones. Erg. Not that I really enjoy the thought of a Conservative ascendancy in Britain - they're more quasi-socialist Paleocons than anything, entirely failing to grasp (as Mark Steyn notes) the One Big Thing - but this is inexcusable. While it's obvious to anyone with a pulse that state broadcasters are rarely the unbiased icons of objectivity they like to pretend to be, this goes further than usual. Officially lacking partisan politics means only that the Right-Thinking can quietly self-select the like-minded in peace, and giggle to themselves over the idiot proles who don't buy the party network line. The CBC is guilty of this same nasty, claimedly-apolitical behaviour, of course, though they've never been quite so blatant either. It's always part of the unrepetantly unfunny comedy lineup, and often involving Rick Mercer, who for some reason seems to reserve the greater part of his bile for Tories and Americans, only gently poking fun at all others. Funny how that works, huh? Last night a BBC spokesman said: "This is a completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling. The programme observes hecklers at other parties' campaign meetings and not just the Conservatives. The hecklers were not under the direction of the BBC and their activities did not disrupt the meeting in any way. The incident at the Michael Howard meeting only plays a small part in the overall programme. However, we will be investigating the complaint very fully and will be replying in due course." The problem here is the very existence of a state broadcaster, which by its inherent nature can't fail to become a partisan body. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but there's no valid reason to subsidize such a broadcaster with public funds, whether in the form of a harshly-administered user fee or out of the general revenue. (Via LGF.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Hollow Men

Of course it figures that Blogger happens to have scheduled maintenance downtime tonight that happened to run later than the projected 7:30. Grr. Most of this was written in real-time, from 6:55 onward. This is the way the world ends, legislatively speaking. Or, at least, how it should. It bothers me that the clips of Martin from earlier today have him seeming so calm. He's not allowed to be calm, right now. The lighting is terrible. So's the focal length of the camera; he appears crushed, up against the wall. "Those that are in power must be held accountable, including me." He claims to be sorry. And reminds us he already apologized. Ass. As long as there's a Liberal government, how do any of these assurances mean anything? That Martin cancelled the sponsorship program on his first day in office means only that he saw how much more poisonous it would be not to. Whistleblower legislation is also toothless, if scandal can't even topple the government responsible. ...That's an awfully bold promise to be making. "At least here, on Parliament Hill," does not recommend him to the average person anywhere else in the country. It demonstrates only that he's as much a living political animal as those he decries. So dissolve Parliament now. The answers will still come out under a Conservative government, and stand a much better chance of actually being acted upon. Thirty days after Gomery wraps up? Just a coincidence that the long, House business-free summer will allow everyone to forget, I'm sure... Yes, yes; we get it. You're among the least repulsive members of the Liberal caucus. Reminding us that his father was a perennial cabinet hack for decades and decades does not help either. He's a career Liberal, as much out of touch with the country outside the party as ever. All in all: Not surprising. And a strategic feint, I'm sure, because there is no way the opposition will wait until next Fall, or even next February. Harper, on the other hand, sounds much more authoritative, and less whiny. That he's live, while PM the PM hid behind the safety of tape delay, also says something; he's not afraid. (Or much better at not letting on, if he is.) Excellent - he's reminding us the PM's now asking us to do as he says, not as he did, in his election timing. "Do you really believe they will ultimately prosecute themselves?" No. And I hope that's been made clear to everyone, by this point. It's not about stability. It's not about process. It's about the One Big Thing, and it's no vice to decide that a government rotten to the core is not worth propping up. "There is no need to save this country. There is only a need to move it forward." In a way, he's wrong; the Canadian polity is clearly broken. But in another, he's bang-on; the break is entirely attributable to the stagnation of Liberal government. They're the party of the past. Duceppe is adequate. Obviously, I'm not his target audience. One thing - when he speaks in English, it's in an understandably terse manner that treats Canadians as foreign as citizens of any other country; that's a good trap to provoke a unity-based Liberal campaign, but it remains to be seen if they're still willing to take the bait. It'd be nice, because that kind of pandering would be even more obvious now. Layton has an uncanny habit of staring dead-on at the camera, which is mildly creepy. Nonetheless, he's doing a good job of justifying the upcoming confidence motion to his single-issue constituencies. Weirder members of the NDP - say, Wiccans - can be satisfied with the notion that even Mother Nature is pissed at the Liberals, even if they're terrified of a Tory minority. Also, his trap - demanding budgetary concessions - is much better than the Bloc's. I was watching this on NewsNet, and Craig Oliver - while usually annoying - made a good point: not only did the PM make a special effort that only seems desperate, but he also, (inadvertently?) gave the opposition leaders the chance to rightly demand equal time. That doesn't seem particularly brilliant, as political Jedi Mind Tricks go.

I've got the feeling someone's going to be cutting the thread

Poor Paul Martin; there goes the plan to preclude lengthy opposition response to tonight's address. I wonder...Did the networks decide to demand the change to 7:00 from 7:45 out of an innate sense of fairness, or because it seemed possible that opposition response would cut into prime time? Or, even more cravenly, because pre-empting the response to switch the feed over to regular prime time programming would be really upsetting? I wonder. On an unrelated note, the government response in today's QP has been more wooden than usual. Even the Big Lie loses some power when Anne McClellan screeches herself hoarse repeating it. Scott Brison also sounds to have been affected by the stress; he's not normally so unable to suppress his accent. Having impending doom dangling over your head can do that, I imagine.

Perhaps you never heard of treason

"Lobbyists urge Cda. to back U.S. army deserters:" There's good news for the approximately 100 American soldiers who have quit the U.S. military to start a new life in Canada. A group of lobbyists is taking up their cause in Ottawa. Retired U.S. Senator Tom Hayden will meet with NDP Leader Jack Layton and members of the Bloc Quebecois. He'll bring up cases such as those of Jeremy Hinzman -- a former U.S. soldier who went AWOL before being shipped off to Iraq. Oddly not mentioned by CTV: Hayden is a bona fide loon (not to mention a pathetic agéd hippie), one of the Chicago Seven and a founder of the SDS, as well as husband to Jane Fonda when she made that propaganda visit on behalf of the Vietcong she's still rightly being derided for. Also not mentioned: He was only a State Senator, in California. In short, he's further left than much of the NDP, and a mostly irrelevant, national nonentity to boot; that's not exactly the most convincing spokesman for deserters, unless his goal is to more thoroughly convince us Hinzman and any other deserters are morally equivocating cowards. But he has similarly reprehensible allies with him, too: Celeste Zappala is also taking up the cause of U.S. soldiers escaping to Canada to avoid the war in Iraq. Her son was killed fighting in Baghdad last April. "I believe that this war in Iraq is a betrayal of our military, and of the noble causes that they have fought for," she said. Zappala adds that young U.S. soldiers who have decided they won't fight in Iraq deserve support -- and that Canada is a good place to get it. What they deserve is to be shot at dawn, but that kind of thing doesn't happen very much nowadays, sadly. It's still an option, though, which is heartening. "I've always admired the Canadians for the human rights positions they've taken, for that conscience that they have always displayed," she said. She also said she admires people like Hinzman who take courageous positions. "It's difficult for our soldiers to say no," she said. What? "Difficult?" There's no longer a draft, you dizzy bitch. Enlisting during peacetime and deserting once it appears that there just might be a little bit of risk involved in the job is the furthest thing from courageous. Deserters likely face only imprisonment, rather than battle. Running away for the safety of a jail cell is nothing short of disgusting. When is the institutional left going to realize that Iraq isn't Vietnam? Even Vietnam wasn't the Vietnam they imagine in their little teenage rebellion-slash-revolutionary fantasies... (Via NealeNews.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

You'll be the front page rage of the age, just wait and see

Now this is intriguing: Martin to address nation Thursday night. With all signs pointing to the Liberal minority government's defeat sometime in May, Prime Minister Paul Martin is set to address the nation Thursday night to discuss the sponsorship program and the paralysis in Parliament. [...] Such a broadcast is rare, but with the opposition blocking the Liberal legislative agenda, Martin is taking a chance at explaining the current political situation to Canadians directly. The PM would be advised to steer far clear of the phrase "I am not a crook." How sad is this, really? While even the usually Liberal-friendly media has been abnormally rabid over allegations coming out of the Gomery Inquiry, they've been nowhere near as hostile as they could justifiably be. The usual media gatekeepers at the CBC and Globe & Mail, along with their quasi-allies at Canwest et al, have been at times transparently attempting to downplay the story; scandal sells, but there's the ultimate loyalties and antipathies to think about, after all. So what does it say that Martin's advisors have decided a direct address to the country is their only hope? Bypassing increasinly futile media spin would seem to imply - yet again - not only fear, but utter desperation.

And how can one measure the infinite pleasure

Angry in the Great White North suggests a Blogging Tories self-audit of those topics Kinsella the Great and Terrible finds Doubleplusungood to bring up: For those of you who, like me, are fed up with "Blogging Tories" - you know, the guys who use their "Blogging Tory" web sites to (as I have noted previously) defame feminists, gay marriage, the United Nations, bilingualism, immigration, anti-tobacco laws, liberals, fluoridation of water, the metric system and the Satanic subliminal pro-Stalinist messages used on episodes of The West Wing - it's time for a little payback. Hmm. Let's see how I stack up. Though I'm often exasperated by The West Wing, I do enjoy it, and have been known to quote from it. Like I do, in fact, in this post on same-sex marriage. I think Warren means leftism in general rather than the Liberal Party, which I have decried. As for the rest: The UN? Yup. Feminism and immigration? Uh-huh. Bilingualism? Oh my, yes. Smoking bans? here, and to a lesser extent here. Sadly, I've said nothing about fluoridation (no objections; sorry to not live up to the tinfoil-hatted stereotype), or the metric system (again, no real opinion; I tend to think in metric for very large lengths or distances - metres or greater - as well as for weights and volumes, and Imperial measures for anything else). Still: 8 out of 10. Woo! (And broadly in favour of four, as well as passively neutral on two. Fascinating, huh?)

Of this sneaky conniving and slimy contriving

Jane Taber has an interesting behind-the-scenes story of Monday's shameful Liberal shenanigans: OTTAWA -- Government House Leader Tony Valeri went to his cabinet colleagues late last week with a strategy aimed at buying time for a government teetering on the brink of defeat. But Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had concocted a strategy of his own, one that anticipated what Mr. Valeri had up his sleeve. The result was yesterday's showdown over who controls the timing of the government's defeat. It appears that Mr. Harper and his Tories won the first round, and could force an election on May 19. However, they know the fight isn't over yet. "It's going to get ugly," Conservative House Leader Jay Hill said yesterday. "They are desperate to cling to power . . . [they are just] buying day by day, like a drowning man gasping at that last breath of air." Worried that the opposition would try to force an election in early May, Mr. Valeri, according to a senior Liberal source, had proposed to his cabinet colleagues that he cancel the NDP's opposition day on May 5. They would then push it, and the five other days allotted to the opposition parties, to late in May or early June. Opposition days are regularly scheduled days that give an opposition party a chance to set the agenda, putting forward a motion of its choosing for debate and a vote. The government is worried the opposition parties will use their days to trigger the election. So Mr. Valeri's strategy gurus went to work, feverishly trying to come up with ways of maintaining the government. The strategy they developed was one that would give the Liberals time to shake the "Dithers" label, bombard the country with a series of positive announcements about everything from immigration to foreign policy and give Canadians a reason to vote for them in the event of an election. The strategy is also designed to scare Canadians, telling them that if an election were held now all the good things announced in the budget could fail. Did I say shameful? I meant shameless. Especially if Liberal wonks are now openly admitting that their strategy is a campaign of fear, and nothing else. However, on Monday night, Mr. Valeri was forced to execute his plan earlier than anticipated when his Liberal spies got wind of the counterattack by the Tories to try to control the government agenda. And so Mr. Valeri announced during a hastily called press conference that he was pulling the Conservatives' opposition day, scheduled for today. He did this after he found out that the Tories, with the support of the Bloc, were proposing a motion for that day that would give them the power to schedule next month's opposition days. There are six days left. Mr. Valeri's parliamentary secretary, Dominic Leblanc, referred to the Tory's motion as an "opposition day trick." How dare they. Everyone knows only the government is allowed to pull procedural dirty tricks, don't they? It was a trick thought up by Mr. Harper. "His mind never shuts off," Mr. Hill said. Mr. Hill said they had a "gut instinct" that the Liberals would use their power to push the opposition days into June, and take away one of the opposition's tools to call a non-confidence motion. Mr. Hill said that could have left the opposition with the "unfortunate situation of having a mid-summer election." Faced with that, the Tories went back to the drawing board and came up with another plan. At yesterday's procedure and house affairs committee meeting, the Tories tried again to have their motion passed, one that would give them an opposition day in May and an opportunity to trigger an election. The Liberals tried to filibuster while Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who had cancelled an international trip to appear before the committee on other matters, sat for two hours and listened to the wrangling. Finally, the Tories and Liberals agreed to deal with the motion tomorrow. It is expected to pass; the opposition has the majority of members on the committee. But the Liberals are claiming a moral victory. I know this may not have sunk in for members of the government just yet, but it's been a long time since they've been able to credibly claim any kind of moral victory. Monday's schemes only prove it'll be a good while longer before they can again, if ever. "We have no illusions that they have the numbers if they want to force this," Mr. Leblanc said. "But what is unusual is that they are trying to sneak in the back door with a crowbar to change the standing orders, and at least now they are going to come in the front door and take their shoes off." "Sneak in the back door?" Minority governments can be defeated in the house. That is, by and large, their primary distinguishing feature. It's neither underhanded nor immoral for the opposition to do so, though I can imagine how it might seem that way to a self-righteous member of the Natural Governing Party. And still, the Tories are suspicious the Liberals might have another procedural trick up their sleeves for tomorrow's meeting. "It's like watching the Gong Show," said a veteran Liberal about the political games now being played out on Parliament Hill. "What Canada is witnessing right now is raw, unabated . . . undisciplined, savage politics. It's war." I really hope the public remembers all this: the Liberal antipathy to one of the genuinely democratic features of parliamentary monarchy, the transparent appeal to voter greed, the disdain for having to act like the minority government they are. I've got a feeling they won't, though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And when I see how sad you are, it sort of makes me happy

Warren Kinsella (surprise, surprise) plans to sue over yesterday's spin from the PMO on his Paul Martin-damning testimony. Schadenfreude this tasty has to be fattening. Now, where was this latent instinct towards self-destructive, intra-party catfighting last year, when it could have made a difference? For the 1,000 folks who just called and/or emailed: yes. I AM going to sue former Earnscliffe employee Scott Reid. And he's going to have pay out of his own pocket, like I will. Oh Warren. You're a nasty, vindictive little man. But, for the moment, you happen to be a very useful nasty, vindictive little man. I can forgive a lot of smug Tory-bashing, for that.

I know that this very minute has history in it

David Frum has a fantastic column today - in the NYT, no less - explaining Liberal corruption to an American audience largely unaware at what cost Trudeaupia was built. Most of it is background, but this is a point I don't think I've seen made lately: Unlike their supposed analogues, the Democrats in the United States or Great Britain's Labor Party, Canada's Liberals are not a party built around certain policies and principles. They are instead what political scientists call a brokerage party, similar to the old Italian Christian Democrats or India's Congress Party: a political entity without fixed principles or policies that exploits the power of the central state to bribe or bully incompatible constituencies to join together to share the spoils of government. As countries modernize, they tend to leave brokerage parties behind. Very belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be arriving in Canada. Americans may lose their illusions about my native country; Canadians will gain true multiparty democracy and accountability in government. It's an exchange that is long past due. There could just be real political hay to be made out of this idea. The Liberals are the party of the past, the last tie to the old boys' club of chummy faux-democracy that should have been left behind with the 1931 Statute of Westminster, being as they have been a coherent organization for most of Canada's history. Conservatives, on the other hand, aren't burdened in the same way, thanks to more recent fracture and re-establishment. Look forward, Mr. Harper, and relegate the old parti rouge to the history books, where they belong... (Via Instapundit.)

Bigotry has never been exclusively white

More on apologists for the anti-Semitic David Ahenakew: Terry Nelson offered Jews a "total and unconditional" apology yesterday for comments he made recently but warned he will not remain silent if media members -- "Jew or otherwise" -- attack aboriginals. Nelson, chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, sent a letter to media outlets on April 9 predicting aboriginals would become more violent against police and hate Jews more if David Ahenakew -- a Saskatchewan native leader on trial for making anti-Semitic comments -- is convicted. "Jew or otherwise?" I don't think the man quite understands the notion of apology, let alone what he's done wrong. "I realize now that my approach, tone and some of my comments were deeply hurtful and offensive to some members of the Jewish community. Today I wish to apologize to the Jewish people of Manitoba and Canada for any offence, anger or hurt I may have caused. Had I not been out of the country last week attending the National Indian Gaming Association convention in San Diego, I would have gladly made this apology sooner," said Nelson. [...] The letter questioned the portrayal of aboriginals in media outlets owned by Jews. He claims to have been accidentally anti-Semitic because he was so busy, attending an Indian casino trade show? If that's not a self-parodizing joke of an explanation, it probably should be. What's really interesting, though, is CBC's take on the story, especially in the headlines that show up in Google News, to say nothing of failing to report on the most inflammatory elements of the abject non-apology itself: WINNIPEG – The chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has apologized to Jewish people across the country for a letter he sent to the media last week. "I realize now that my approach, tone, and some of my comments were deeply hurtful and offensive to some members of the Jewish community," Chief Terrance Nelson said Monday. "Today, I wish to apologize to the Jewish people of Manitoba and Canada for any offence, anger or hurt that I may have caused." Nelson issued a press release last week saying media coverage of David Ahenakew's hate trial in Saskatchewan will increase aboriginals' hatred of Jews and make the former leader of the Assembly of First Nations a martyr. In the three-page release, Nelson also made critical comments about news organizations owned by Jews. Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, expressed concern that the release would incite violence against Jewish people. Gee, it's almost like they were trying to bury the lede, or something. But surely Mother Corp wouldn't lie to us for the sake of protecting the reputation of a racist, who happens also to be a member of an officially favoured ethnic minority...right?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Burn bridges once they're crossed; don't stop to say goodbye

Crikey: OTTAWA (CP) - A minority Liberal government teetering on the verge of collapse moved to wrest control Monday over the timing of its own demise. The Liberals choked off an opposition attempt to control the timetable for possibly bringing down the government. They cancelled a so-called parliamentary opposition day on Wednesday in a move foes called a desperate attempt to retain power. The Conservatives hinted they would no longer help the Liberal government remain afloat. "When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern," said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Tory House Leader Jay Hill went further. He said his party will no longer display the type of co-operation that allowed the federal budget to pass a critical vote in the Commons. Hill even hinted his party could topple the government. "We will be looking at any tools that are available to us to consider holding this government accountable," he said. "We have been endeavoring to work in a co-operative manner with this government . . . But now the gloves are off." The dispute erupted suddenly late Monday. That's desperation. Random-flailing desperation. I'd assumed that the government would take this morning's seeming overture from Jack Layton as the meaningless publicity stunt it was - his demands required for cooperation being quite a lot, considering, and thus unlikely to be accepted - but this seems like wild overreaction to their current situation. They could have played along for another day with conciliatory gestures before laying out the nuclear option. Monday's announcement raises several possible scenarios: -The government could allow opposition days to resume after next week's parliamentary spring break. -The opposition could topple the government some other way, perhaps through an upcoming budget-implementation vote. -The government could push back all eight opposition days to the end of June. The Liberals could then prorogue Parliament two weeks early, suspending its operations and table another throne speech in the fall. Or they could challenge the opposition to topple the government and trigger a rare mid-summer election. I have a horrible feeling they're going to try option #3a, and try to forbid entirely the one saving grace of parliamentary government. If the Liberals can change the rules so they can no longer fall to a confidence vote, is there a point to maintaining the Westminster system at all? Every day, in every way, Canada becomes a little bit more of a banana republic. (Via Andrew Coyne.)

You know exactly who's to blame

Does it even need to be pointed out how delicious it is to see Warren Kinsella be made to give testimony which may further help to topple the Liberals? I almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. (At least we know now where all of his recent bile is coming from. It's got to be no fun for a die-hard party hack like himself to be involuntarily made yet another source of Conservative talking points on the government's perfidy.)

Remote intransitory convolution

Spiffy. There's finally something I can justify buying, to make use of Columbia's on-board Bluetooth. If only it didn't come to somewhere in the CAN$350 range... (Via TUAW.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

His glamour increases

Paul Martin is winning the personal popularity polls - party preference aside - by only one percentage point? Ouch. That just might be the Team Martin signs ruled out this time. Maybe even the personal-friends-of-the-PM candidates, too - which is a shame, because last I heard Richard Mahoney had planned to run in Ottawa Centre again, and it would have been fun to see him crushed again. (By Ed Broadbent, admittedly. But a Tory hasn't won this riding since 1978, and you take your vicarious thrills where you can find them.)

Overly malicious, a bunch of brutes

More worrying news from the Calgary Police Service: CALGARY - Calgary police are trying to curb road rage with a controversial new method: instead of writing tickets, they're writing letters. Road rage is endemic in virtually every large Canadian city, but may be more of a problem in Calgary, where the number of commuters has rocketed as the city's population boomed in recent years. More drivers had been calling police on cell phones to report dangerous driving and incidents of road rage – but officers were often unable to pursue the complaints because they couldn't prove who was driving the vehicle. [...] "The letter idea was really to ensure that there is accountability for motorists who in a sense fall through the cracks because there isn't enough evidence to lay a charge," Staff. Sgt. Brian Whitelaw, of the Calgary Police Traffic Section, told CBC News. "The matter needs to be followed up in some way." No, it doesn't. When there isn't enough evidence to charge a suspect, nothing should be done, period. No Big Brotherish 'friendly reminder' letters, no public shaming on the mere word of anonymous tips; not for mere traffic violations. Have the Calgary Police so lost sight of our legal traditions? "The law is not an instrument of any kind. The law is a causeway upon which so long as he keeps to it a citizen may walk safely." Unless the law is changed to lower the standard of evidence required to make road-rage charges - a job for Alberta's legislature, not police bureaucrats - this is unnerving overreach. Some groups have applauded the idea. Art Price, of the Alberta Motor Association, said he finds value in anything that draws drivers' attention to the fact that "they aren't getting away with this all the time." Others have expressed reservations. "There are privacy problems with it," said Stephen Jenuth of the Alberta Civil Liberties Association. "There are also problems with retention of that information, how that information is used, and how complaints like this can be abused." Calgary police say they won't act on anonymous complaints and won't use the letters in future investigations. That's not very comforting or believable an assurance, given the recent revelations of personal vendettas now being exercised by Calgary Police leadership, under the aegis of the public good. If Chief Beaton decides in the future that anonymous complaints would be just dandy for justifying persecution of his enemies, what's to stop him, once they start being thoroughly catalogued under this program? Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with something like this. But we're now only one story away (of an odd, mildly-authoritarian scheme by this police force) in the space of a week from suggesting a trend, and that's unsettling.

It's not about aptitude, it's the way you're viewed

Vivid Imagery alert: OTTAWA (CP) - NDP Leader Jack Layton appears determined not to get caught in the cross-fire of another Liberal-led fear campaign targeting Stephen Harper's Conservatives. In fact, with a series of national polls showing the Tories surging ahead of the scandal-wounded Liberals, Layton has signalled every intention of being able to work with a Harper-led minority government. "We've shown we can work with any political party on a good idea," Layton said matter-of-factly in an interview with The Canadian Press that was dotted with benign references to the Liberal-designated Great Satan. "Great Satan?" I realize it's being used derisively, but: guh? I thought AP was the wire planning to introduce the option of a comically overblown narrative style, not CP. That said, it's edifying to see Jack Layton finally realize it's in his best interest not to join the Harper-bashing party this time around. There are few - David Orchard's crazies aside - whose vote is equally contested by both the Conservatives and NDP; it's pointless to unwittingly help Liberal scare tactics, if they serve only to help the Liberals. Helping to take Paul Martin down, and keeping his damn mouth shut on the "hidden agenda" nonsense, might just put the NDP in third place, if the vote splits fortuitously. It seems socialists can be taught common sense, occasionally, if they're practically beaten over the head with it. (Via Bourque.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

It's ridiculous to throw a fit; that's the way things are

Engadget, just asking for the most loonball, esoteric demands, solicits comments for future revisions to the iPod. I think this one best satirizes the species: 1) Scratchproof screen 2) fingerprint proof back 3) local fm transmitter* 4) am/fm radio receiver* 5) TiVo-like recorder w/built-in mic. (option for external mic.)* 6) flip-up USB2 connector (aka thumb drive connection) 7) adapters for #6 to connect to camera 8) avi format movie playback (including output via cable) 9) camera* len forstill & video pics 10) airport 802.11G* (sync & playback) 11) Bluetooth2 (sync & playback) 12) can display/control presentation formats (ppt etc) 13) interchangeable battery 14) larger (Newton size) color screen 15) lighter (it floats!) 16) and finally, all of the above AND the iPod are FREE, of course ;-) * built-in instead of add-ons! If they did all of that AND made it work Mac-ONLY, everyone would flip-flop back to the Mac, once again. Too easy! It will never happen. Why is that funny, you ask? Up until #15, there's nothing out of the ordinary (compared to the rest of the thread) to give away that the writer is joking. There are definitely interface issues that need to be dealt with. Since the last firmware upgrade, my 3G 15gb won't remember which playlist it was last using, after synchronization. That's annoying, as I usually only ever use the one while out and about. Crossfade would also be nice, if the hardware could handle it. A user-serviceable battery would also be welcome, perhaps as some kind of Apple Store-marketed kit with giant EXPERTS ONLY warnings, though I know that's seriously pushing the bounds of probability. But, as usual, the Ogg Vorbis fanatics and their allies in the portable-video-everywhere brigade have to muddy the waters with crazy-ass ideas of what the iPod should be - ideas that in no way reflect the reality of the portable audio market, or the company. The iPod has cachet for its simplicity and style as much as its bare functionality. Add flashy Korean-OEM-alike OLED screens, FM radio, and voice recording, then what makes it any more desirable than the ugliest of iRiver models?

Just a little filthy lucre buys a lot of things

Heh. It couldn't happen to a more deserving turncoat: [...] For more than a year, Public Works Minister Scott Brison has been asked to provide receipts or invoices to the Kings-Hants Conservative riding association to account for a $4,400 cheque given to him in 2003 while he was a Tory MP. "It's still not properly accounted for," said Debbie Janzen, who sat on the board of Brison's old Conservative riding association. The cheque, which Brison assistant Dale Palmeter said was used to help pay down debts from his failed bid for the PC leadership in 2003, was made out to Brison on July 31 that year. But it wasn't cashed until Dec. 11 -- the day after he defected to Paul Martin's Liberals. His official explanations aren't too satisfying, either: [Brison aide] Palmeter says the money was used to help pay down debt Brison incurred in his failed bid for the Tory leadership in 2003. He said there were no paper receipts because it was applied to the overall debt. The cheque was deposited into Brison's personal bank account in Wolfville, N.S., and the contribution does not show up on a list of contributors to his campaign. Palmeter said Thursday he could not explain why the cheque to Brison on July 31 was not cashed until Dec. 11. How convenient. Lordy. Brison has gall, to tell tall tales about Liberal integrity. He himself seems to have been schooled in Questionable Accounting 101 on his very first day sitting on the other side. Who says travel - across the floor of the House, anyway - isn't a learning experience? (Via Gull Chased Ship.)

Tell the rabble to be quiet

This seems worrying: CALGARY - A website critical of Calgary's police chief and his senior managers has been shut down, after the chief used a rare legal tactic to seize a computer from a private home. Chief Jack Beaton obtained a civil court order this month to enter the home of a civilian police employee and seize the computer. Russ Brown, a legal expert at the University of Alberta. A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed. CBC and other city media are arguing against that order. Russ Brown, a legal expert at the University of Alberta, says the method Beaton used "is the most extraordinary civil remedy that can be issued pretrial." Beaton says he isn't able to discuss the case. However, Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, says Beaton acted properly. "I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act," Burrows said. "I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim." Does the good alderman realize the terrible precedent this would seem to set? Any speech that negatively affects the morale of any public institution, in any way, should be shut down? Jeebus. If the site in question (www.standfirm.biz and its continued form at www.code200.com - so far as I can tell, the very names aren't doubleplusungood, not yet) is actually libelous, or injurious to public safety, then it might be justified to muzzle the operator. Lacking evidence of that, it seems Beaton's gone a bit Captain Ahab, with the Calgary municipal government as accomplices. StandFirm/Code200's mission statement doesn't seem to make him look much better than is obvious: First of all, this is who we are not! We are not a bunch of disgruntled cops looking to sink our Service. We are not a group of whiners or rogues; we are not trouble making misfits, criminals, or mental cases that are bemoaning our fates. We are the people that protect other people. We are the police, the communication officers, the administrative staff and other police service members and employees that have either been victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc; or we know someone who has. We are the friends, family, colleagues and supporters of these victims, and we are here to provide moral support, comfort, legal resources/referrals, first hand knowledge and advice on how to deal with certain predicaments that members and employees may find themselves in. We have traveled these paths and are here to offer insight and knowledge. As things stand...sorry, bucko, Google's cache (ahem) routes around your thug tactics. And, interestingly, its server farms aren't in Canada. Neither are those of Archive.org's Wayback Machine. Funny thing, that. Remind me how well these publication ban things work, in such circumstances? (Via NealeNews.) UPDATE: Well, dang. Captain Ed said it better, three two hours earlier. Good to see our American point man on it right away...

I'm the school bully, the classroom cheat, the nastiest play-friend you ever could meet

The always ever-so-charming Warren Kinsella thinks Winnipeg Sun columnist John Gleason is an "arsewipe" (pretentiously pseudo-British and faux-edgy much, Warren?) for daring to suggest, in addressing a Texan correspondent, that Canada might possibly not be paradise for the rugged individualist: Many Canadians, of course, will ridicule Lee's brand of down-home swagger, completely missing the tongue-in-cheek delivery and ignoring the earnest warning at the heart of it. Some will even say the gun culture he lovingly describes is currently the source of the greatest evil on the planet. These are the same people who live in a country where almost one in three voters would elect a criminal dynasty to govern them; where freedoms are being eroded daily in the name of trumped-up "rights;" where citizens are taxed at more than double the rate Pharaoh levied against his slaves -- because brainwashing them costs money. Who live in angry denial of the fact that their "evil" neighbour provides their defence, fuels their prosperity and beams in most of the culture that they actually enjoy. They really shouldn't look down on the Texan. "As a western Canadian," I said, "I have long felt disenfranchised by our eastern liberal elite and the smugly weak-kneed society it has rammed down all our throats. Some Westerners feel greater kinship with our cousins south of the 49 since after all we share the same continent with the same mountain ranges, vast prairies, forests, etc. "Some of us, when we can't take it any more, even make a run for the border." Sounds reasonable to me. Trudeaupian idealists might disagree, and defend the overweening arrogance of the state as being in everyone's best interests, but there's certainly nothing obscene or despicable about Gleason's column. I think it's just great that (his notably commendable work reporting on the domestic neo-Nazis and the like) Kinsella is so reliably nasty as a Liberal partisan, whether as a thin-skinned bully or random name-caller. It's a handy reminder of what the Liberal Party really stands for - and, more importantly, of the juvenile expressions of contempt reserved for all those who dare to disagree.

Weighty affairs will just have to wait

Ew: CHARLOTTETOWN – Check the toy box, a rifle made in China and sold on P.E.I. has been recalled because it poses the threat to the environment. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday that soil encased in the toy's handle is a threat. Soil is contained in a bag in the handle to act as a weight. The CFIA said it could spill out and "release destructive insects, microscopic worms, fungi or bacteria that could spread into Canadian crops and forests." Microscopic-worm-containing soil for weight? Whatever happened to good old plain, wholesomely poisonous lead?

I'm their product, it's vital you sell me

Angus Reid has some interesting new poll numbers on Paul Martin's personal approval rating. April 2005 sees only 36% satisfied with "the performance of the federal government headed by Paul Martin," with 56% dissatisfied and 36% satisfied, compared to 45-48 respectively last November. Just for contemporary comparison, consider that George Bush last week hit a historical low approval rating for his administration, at 44%. (Which is still nothing, compared to the low approval ratings many presidents of the 20th century endured - his father had a record low of 29% - but that's not the point.) Could PM the PM possibly be in just a bit more trouble than we thought?

The croakers all say we'll rue the day; there'll be hell to pay

The Globe & Mail likes to pretend there's a veritable firestorm of intra-party naysaying on Conservative electoral prospects: Mr. Harper and his party are involved in a difficult backroom debate about the timing of the minority government's fall. Deputy leader Peter MacKay said yesterday that the party is getting mixed advice from both inside and outside the caucus on election timing. Of course, a lot of the comments from outside are coming from the media's self-anointed political experts, many of whom would like nothing more than to sabotage the Tories by portraying them as opportunists unwilling to listen to sound advice. It's humble of BellGlobeMedia not to mention that, don't you think? "This public inquiry and the evidence that is being disclosed daily is still washing over people," he said. "Understandably, people need to digest this and we need to gauge their reaction to it." That reaction has shown some positive results for the Tories. However, Hugh Segal, once chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, commented: "It is fascinating that the Conservative Party is really no strongerin the country today than it was on the last day of the last election." I really wish the media would quit taking Hugh Segal seriously. He's a Red Tory. He doesn't represent the party now, and barely represented it in the mushy-centrist 80s. He endorsed Ed Broadbent for my riding last year, for crying out loud. That he was once high-up in the old federal PCs makes for some nice sleight-of-hand in implying that he's still a voice of authority; but, really, he's not a hard man from which to get a doubtful quote on the current Conservative Party. Certainly, there's going to be a lot of debate about the merits of now vs. later at the caucus and riding association levels, but I somehow doubt it's going to be coming from as negative a place as Segal is.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Well, I won't back down

Conservative support is still six points up. And this from a CBC-commissioned Environics poll. Maybe the National Unity card really is all played out, huh? Now, granted, Ontario is still being stubbornly paranoid, at 30-26 Liberals, so I'm still not holding out hope for anything beyond a Tory minority, if that.

The canonization of the norm, the triumph of the uniform

Amazingly, that silly private member's bill at Queen's Park proposing it be made illegal for any product or service (no matter how incomparable) to be priced differently for mens' and womens' version has made it to a second reading: The legislature approved in principle a Canadian first: a bill that would fine merchants up to $5,000 for asking more to trim women's hair than men's or more to dry clean a blouse than a shirt. "It's something that makes common sense, to charge the same price to women or to men for the same good or service," said Lorenzo Berardinetti, a Liberal government backbencher who proposed a private member's bill he says mirrors laws in New York, Miami and California. [...] It would make Ontario's Human Rights Commission the channel for complaints by women who feel they were discriminated against at the cash register. "The commission can actually investigate on its own, and it has a whole process in place for doing that," said Berardinetti. The Opposition Conservatives say the commission has more important issues to deal with than determining if a blouse is the same as a shirt or if a man's short-back-sides is the same as a woman's up-do. But that didn't stop politicians from all stripes debating Thursday how a ban on gender-based pricing would work. Some critics warned that it could result in higher prices for everyone, an idea that Berardinetti rejected. Why is it that some people think enforced equality in the form of penalizing all equally is an accomplishment? This kind of thing always reminds me of the short story Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut. (Read it. You'll see why.) If it's passed, when prices go up across the board - and it's clear Berardinetti is no economist, or he'd realize that there's no reason why they wouldn't, in a yet semi-free market - to comply with the new law, at least we'll know who to tar and feather. Thanks a lot, you ass.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And he charged off the cliff, howling mad, and he died

I've been noticing for the past couple of months that Arrested Development, probably doomed for a long time now, has been written more or less off a cliff, with incredibly outlandish (hilarious, but still damnably odd) and in-jokey plots. I'm not the only one. On most sitcoms, it would be notable for one major character to lose an appendage. This year, on Arrested Development, Fox’s brilliant, Emmy-winning, and perpetually imperiled comedy, it seems like everyone’s become an amputee. Buster, the Bluth family’s simpering youngest son, had his hand bitten off by a crazed seal; he’s spent most of the season with a hook. His older brother, Gob, had two fingers lopped off in an errant magic trick. In the same episode, Michael Bluth, the show’s main character, had his calf muscles shortened by an incompetent surgeon. Arrested Development’s been staving off cancellation since its debut in 2003, but it now seems like the show’s producer, Mitch Hurwitz, is dismantling his creation piece by piece. Starting with the characters. If it survives to the 2005-2006 season, it'll be an amazing trip out of the corner the writing staff has forcefully and intentionally painted themselves into. Sadly, I doubt we'll get the chance to find out. (Via TV Tattle.)

Last time I saw you, we had just split in two

I'm not sure how good a strategy "national unity" is this time around: OTTAWA (CP) — Liberals will revive the national-unity debate as a campaign theme and paint their opponents as twin partners in the dismantling of Canada. Top party strategists have indicated in recent days the long-dormant issue will return to the forefront if there’s an election this spring. Outside of some fuzzy-headed Trudeaupian idealists in Toronto and Montreal, who still maintains absolute, unquestionable national unity as their drop-dead election issue? That is, how many voters are there who are willing to extend any necessary amount of federal largesse to Quebec to maintain the current composition of Confederation, and all other issues be damned? I'd be willing to wager there'll be a lot fewer of those people this time around. The purported threat seems a lot less urgent, but more importantly, the constant demands of revenue and special privileges extracted from the rest of Canada are getting just a bit old. The predictions rang true Wednesday when Prime Minister Paul Martin, his deputy prime minister, his cabinet, his party’s MPs, and top strategists all sounded the same alarm bells. One senior government official warned that a Liberal defeat would help propel Quebec towards independence. "Our opponents aren't just against health care, and sunshine, and puppies; they will destroy the country!" Yeesh. Not that giving up on that particular battle wouldn't be an idea to pursue, though. I'd be happy to see an indepedent Quebec. The separatists get what they want, and can then go fend for themselves. No more federal job creation grants for questionable golf resorts in rural Quebec, no more preferential treatment for Francophones in federal hiring, and especially no more of an entitled-feeling minority periodically holding the other provinces - with which they have between little and absolutely nothing in common - hostage. A Liberal defeat would be the impetus for the long-overdue secession of Quebec, you say? Faster, please.

Desperate to win, just like it's always been

I caught part of Question Period while working out at the Y this afternoon, and it was even more surreal than this description sounds: The issue of sponsorship spending being diverted to Liberal-friendly firms dominated Question Period in Ottawa again Wednesday, in spite of Mr. Martin's repeated efforts to switch the debate to health care. In just one such exchange, Mr. Harper asked whether Mr. Martin had had lunch with a specific person related to sponsorship spending and Mr. Martin responded by accusing the Tory Leader of mistreating health care. “Only this leader thinks that health care is a joke,” Mr. Martin charged, drawing roars from the Opposition benches. Tomorrow's Hansard will have the exact transcript, but that's not the half of Martin's wonky character assassination. To respond to an accusation of maintaining a bit too cosy of a relationship with scandal-ridden Liberal hacks with the rhetorical nuclear option of OMG!!! TORY SECRET PLAN 2 PRIVATIZE HEALTH CARE WTF!!! shows that Paul Martin isn't just concerned for his current position; he's downright terrified. That's the kind of values-based attack - implying that anything but enthusiasm for the current state of socialized medicine is nothing less than un-Canadian - that usually isn't dredged up until the campaign actually starts. Hopefully he'll continue in full, ranty, Philosopher King mode long enough to make a few more Ontarians realize the depth of Liberal sleaze, and how business-as-usual such random casting of FUD is for the party.

We'll pay you in silver, cash on the nail

In my inbox: notice of a site dedicated specifically to bashing turncoat Scott Brison. Not a bad idea, I think, considering how completely he seems to have sold out whatever principles he may have had left in the past couple of weeks, with wholly improbable defenses of the government...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

You twinkle above us

I would say that the CBC firing their entire publicity department is a positive development, except for the obvious next step: Hired less than a year ago, Bozzo was asked to operate the promotion department "more efficiently and effectively," he says. He was given a target of $1.7 million in cuts to his department. Even after factoring in the new cost of outsourcing publicity, Bozzo says these moves will still save the corporation $864,000. The full $1.7 million, he says, is being reallocated to programming. Bozzo hopes to announce exactly which firm has won the outsourcing contract in a few weeks. He said he hopes some of the fired employees land jobs with the private firm. Outsourced, you say. Perhaps to some Liberal-friendly ad agency, maybe? Where oversight of public funds wasted by Liberal Toronton media cronies will be even less? Honestly, it's like they're just taunting us, now. (Via NealeNews.)

It's from the rear you'll hear, I ain't down yet

Now that seems more likely, as poll numbers go, even if not nearly as appealing: Here are the figures for all five major parties (February 15-17 results in brackets): * Liberals: 27 per cent, -10 (37) * Conservatives: 30 per cent, +4 (26) * NDP: 19 per cent, +2 (17) * Bloc Quebecois: 12 per cent, +2 (10) * Greens: 7 per cent, 0 (7) Still. Ipsos-Reid is confirming a similar trend, even if their numbers aren't quite as dramatic as Ekos' yesterday.