Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So where the hell is Dion?

Apparently the Conservatives have a callow disregard for democracy as evidenced by their positioning of an unelected member of the public, Sharon Smith, as the person citizens of the northern BC riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley should approach in order to have a direct connection with the federal government. Duly elected, very popular, and effective NDP MP Nathan Cullen apparently doesn’t count.

Elections Canada is investigating the Conservatives for
election spending irregularities. It's alleged they laundered some money through local riding organizations to avoid exceeding their allowable election spending limits. All sorts of high-priced lawyers will be fighting this one out for some time. Meanwhile hizzoner Steve Harper is pretty silent on the whole issue, no doubt because it’s all the Liberals’ fault for starting this whole sleaze in government thing in the first place (and if that's the case, the Cons have shown themselves to be pretty good students, thus denying the old adage that you can always tell a Conservative, you just can't tell him very much).

So St├ęphane Dion and the Liberal Party are sitting on a couple of gold mines here but seem unable or unwilling to get any traction from either of them. It doesn’t take much to imagine the OUTRAGE, the RANTING, the BLEATING, and the cries of SHAME, SHAME if the roles were reversed. Why it would be absolutely deafening. So where is the Liberal high dudgeon now that the Conservatives have shown themselves to be fallible on a couple of high-visibility issues? It doesn't come packaged any sweeter than this but - nothing. Hizzoner must be laughing like a fool at a Liberal leader and a party that can’t even get a “WE’RE PISSED OFF AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO” message out to the public.

When the Liberals lose the next election it will be because they didn’t show up. Fools.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Flatulent moose and 30,000 rounds of ammo? Isn't it obvious?

After all the ranting, raving and high dudgeon expressed in the blogosphere this week over the Montebello “crisis”, it’s time for something a little lighter.

Every so often one comes across a couple of news stories that individually don’t amount to much, but taken together result in one of those eureka moments.

First the London Times publishes a
story on the environmental damage done by flatulent moose in Norway, and, presumably, Canada. In part the story says:

... scientists have claimed that because of their burping and farting, the placid moose is an eco killer. During a single year, according to new research, a full-grown moose expels – from both ends – the methane equivalent of 2,100kg of carbon dioxide emissions. That is said to be as destructive for the atmosphere as the emissions released by 13,000km (8,000 miles) of car travel.

“To put it into perspective, the return flight from Oslo to Santiago in Chile leaves a carbon footprint of 880 kilos,” said Reidar Andersen, a biologist. “Shoot a moose and you have saved the equivalent of two long-haul flights.”

Interesting in a kind of off-beat way.

Then comes this
story out of Ottawa.

Police seized 30 guns and over 30,000 rounds of ammunition from a west-Ottawa home, authorities said Friday.

Several of the guns found were inoperable, police said in a statement, but among the cache were a number of machine guns including an AK-47, UZI, MP-5, Sten Machine guns, semi-automatic handguns and a few high-powered long guns with bipods.
A 48-year-old Ottawa man, Siva Yogi Shanmugadhasan, is facing weapons and firearms related charges. He is expected to make a court
appearance Friday.

Clearly this is all just a terrible mistake as Mr. Shanmugadhasan is sure to claim that he is just one of John Baird’s own “coalition of the willing” who are taking direct action to deal with climate change in their own way. 30,000 rounds will generate a lot of carbon credits.

It's not just the weather that's cooler in Canada

The following editorial, which appeared in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 30 July 2003, has just now come to my attention. And while some of the article is dated, due in part to our “new” Conservative regime and the passage of time, I think it’s worth repeating as it offers a pretty succinct view of who we are as Canadians, and partially explains why so many of us are resistant to the neo-con ideology of Messrs Harper and friends.

It's not just the weather that's cooler in Canada:

You live next door to a clean-cut, quiet guy. He never plays loud music or throws raucous parties. He doesn't gossip over the fence, just smiles politely and offers you some tomatoes. His lawn is cared-for, his house is neat as a pin and you get the feeling he doesn't always lock his front door. He wears Dockers. You hardly know he's there. And then one day you discover that he has pot in his basement, spends his weekends at peace marches and that guy you've seen mowing the yard is his spouse.

Allow me to introduce Canada. The Canadians are so quiet that you may have forgotten they're up there, but they've been busy doing some surprising things. It's like discovering that the mice you are dimly aware of in your attic have been building an espresso machine.

Did you realize, for example, that our reliable little tag-along brother never joined the Coalition of the Willing? Canada wasn't willing, as it turns out, to join the fun in Iraq. I can only assume American diner menus weren't angrily changed to include "freedom bacon," because nobody here eats the stuff anyway.

And then there's the wild drug situation: Canadian doctors are authorized to dispense medical marijuana. Parliament is considering legislation that would not exactly legalize marijuana possession, as you may have heard, but would reduce the penalty for possession of under 15 grams to a fine, like a speeding ticket. This is to allow law enforcement to concentrate resources on traffickers; if your garden is full of wasps, it's smarter to go for the nest rather than trying to swat every individual bug. Or, in the United States, bong.

Now, here's the part that I, as an American, can't understand.
These poor benighted pinkos are doing everything wrong. They have a drug problem: Marijuana offenses have doubled since 1991. And Canada has strict gun control laws, which means that the criminals must all be heavily armed, the law-abiding civilians helpless and the government on the verge of a massive confiscation campaign. (The laws have been in place since the '70s, but I'm sure the government will get around to the confiscation eventually.) They don't even have a death penalty!

And yet ... nationally, overall crime in Canada has been declining since 1991. Violent crimes fell 13 percent in 2002. Of course, there are still crimes committed with guns - brought in from the United States, which has become the major illegal weapons supplier for all of North America - but my theory is that the surge in pot-smoking has rendered most criminals too relaxed to commit violent crimes. They're probably more focused on shoplifting boxes of Ho-Hos from convenience stores.

And then there's the most reckless move of all: Just last month, Canada decided to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. Merciful moose, what can they be thinking? Will there be married Mounties (they always get their man!)? Dudley Do-Right was sweet on Nell, not Mel! We must be the only ones who really care about families. Not enough to make sure they all have health insurance, of course, but more than those libertines up north.

This sort of behavior is a clear and present danger to all our stereotypes about Canada. It's supposed to be a cold, wholesome country of polite, beer-drinking hockey players, not founded by freedom-fighters in a bloody revolution but quietly assembled by loyalists and royalists more interested in order and good government than liberty and independence. But if we are the rugged individualists, why do we spend so much of our time trying to get everyone to march in lockstep? And if Canadians are so reserved and moderate, why are they so progressive about letting people do what they want to?

Canadians are, as a nation, less religious than we are, according to polls. As a result, Canada's government isn't influenced by large, well-organized religious groups and thus has more in common with those of Scandinavia than those of the United States, or, say, Iran.

Canada signed the Kyoto global warming treaty, lets 19-year-olds drink, has more of its population living in urban areas and accepts more immigrants per capita than the United States. These are all things we've been told will wreck our society. But I guess Canadians are different, because theirs seems oddly sound.

Like teenagers, we fiercely idolize individual freedom but really demand that everyone be the same. But the Canadians seem more adult - more secure. They aren't afraid of foreigners. They aren't afraid ofhomosexuality. Most of all, they're not afraid of each other.

I wonder if America will ever be that cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Surete du Quebec owns up

As published in the Ottawa Citizen on-line edition.

Quebec's provincial police acknowledged in a statement Thursday that their agents had infiltrated protesters demonstrating during the recent North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que., but denied that they acted as "agent provocateurs".

"They had the mandate to spot and identify violent demonstrators to avoid the situation from getting out of hand," the Surete du Quebec said in a statement. "The police officers were identified by demonstrators when they refused to throw projectiles."

Full story here.

Okay all you cons who claimed this was nought but a massive left-wing conspiracy theory – the crow buffet is now open.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Most unlikely quote to ever appear on the Progressive Conservative Party’s web site

My vote for the quote most unlikely to ever appear on the Progressive Conservative Party’s web site: "And it just so happens that Mexico and Canada have renewed themselves with the election of two right-of-center leaders who see the world a lot like Bush does." (italics mine)

This according to Roger Noriega, Bush's former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, as quoted in the Washington Post

My Friday night ..... too old for this

First let me say that I like music - all kinds of music. And I really like live-music concerts. But last night’s Kris Kristofferson concert at the Ottawa Folk Festival was the last outdoor concert for me.

Picture several hundred people in an open field under lead-gray skies, dressed in everything from sleeping bags to winter parkas and mitts as they braved 10 degree temperatures, stiff north winds blowing across the Ottawa River, and periodic drizzle. Sound appealing so far? Now add in too few porta-potties, exorbitantly priced concessions, and an aging 1960’s troubadour whose voice has seen better days, who periodically forgets the words to his songs, and frequently discovers at the most inopportune time that he has the wrong harmonica in his holder.

You’d think I’d know better by now. Last year it poured rain as I listened to Steve Earle mumble his way through some of his original material and a few more recent creations. The year before that it was almost as cold as last night and I shivered uncontrollably through Emmylou Harris with chattering teeth accompanying her otherwise fine performance.

Yup, been there before, but I’ve always been a slow learner. Not this time though. About midnight, after being out in this crap for about 5 hours and just before I turned into a popsicle, I decided that’s it. I’m too old for this Birkenstock, tie-died t-shirt, sit on the grass stuff. I want a comfy chair, a heated room, and a sound system not drowned out by the wind howling through the trees or the uncontrollable giggles of 50-somethings high on hippie lettuce when I listen to my favourite tunes. And if I have to pony up extra $$ for the privilege, so be it, it will be well worth the money. So Folk Fest, Blues Fest, Jazz Fest and any other outdoor music Fest, so long, it’s been good to know ya.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Canada refused U.S. requests to accept Guantanamo detainees? Good!

CBC News reports:

"The Canadian government balked at several requests from Washington to provide asylum to men cleared for release from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, say newly released documents.

The material, obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, indicates the U.S. administration asked Canada to accept detainees of Uighur decent from China's Xinjiang region who were deemed to be no threat to national security.

The U.S. was not prepared to resettle the men in its own territory, but could not send them back to China for fear they would face persecution."
(full article).

Now let me see .....

The US detains these people in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever, ships them to Guantanamo for interrogation, decides they’re no threat to national security, then expects Canada or another uninvolved, third party country to take them in as refugees?

No way. I’m sure there’s somewhere in the good old U S of A where a grand total of 17 people could be resettled without totally destroying US society or causing the demise of the Republican Party. It’s your problem, you created it, you deal with it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Canadian citizenship - a matter of convenience?

The issue of dual citizenship and the whole “citizenship of convenience” issue is not going away any time soon.

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, columnist Randy Boswell reports on a study done by one of Canada’s leading cultural researchers (italics mine) which suggests there’s “no evidence that membership with two nations diminishes a person’s attachment to Canada”.

“Jack Jedwab, director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, says data pulled from a landmark 2001 StatsCan survey refutes the notion that dual citizens are more prone to divided loyalties or a weakened commitment to Canada – key claims among critics who prompted a review of federal policies last year after Canada’s $100-million rescue of 15,000 Lebanese-Canadians from Bierut during Israeli attacks on Hezbollah.”

The researchers further claim that the data shows that “about 80% of dual citizens feel a ‘strong’ or ‘very strong sense’ of belonging to Canada”, thus dispelling (at least in the researcher’s mind) the myth that people with dual citizenship aren’t as 'Canadian' as those holding only a Canadian passport.

However there’s one major flaw in this line of reasoning – one that actually raises the question of whether the Association for Canadian Studies qualifies as a “leading cultural researcher” – and that is the census data compiled by Statistics Canada only includes people who were resident in Canada at the time the census was taken. It does not include those with Canadian citizenship who choose to live abroad which, according to published figures, could be as many as 3 million or more of the estimated 4-5 million Canadians currently holding two passports.

Those 3 million or so include many who hold Canadian passports as simply a security blanket, and they are the ones Mr. Jedwab really needs to poll to understand dual citizens’ commitment to Canada.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cody's Cuddlers

While we bloggers spend hours indulging our narcissistic need to see ourselves online ranting about politicians, road rage, the vet bill for our pampered cat, or the latest feminist/sexuality/linguistic/religious/insert-your-favourite-cause-here slight, there’s a 12-year-old boy in Kemptville who spends his time doing something that is truly significant.

Cody Clark is a giver. While by almost any measure, he and his mother could use some help themselves, his unselfish acts speak volumes about the character of this young man, and indeed of his parents who raised him to be the person he is.

This is an amazing and heart-warming story.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Queen to Ph.D.

From the Associated Press: “Brian May is completing his doctorate in astrophysics, more than 30 years after he abandoned his studies to form the rock group Queen.

The 60-year-old guitarist and songwriter said he plans to submit his thesis, "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud," to supervisors at Imperial College London within the next two weeks.”

As I’m sitting here listening to “The Very Best of Queen” (Fat Bottomed Girls – a favourite) and browsing the blogosphere it strikes me that I wouldn’t expect to see very many current celebrities and sundry airheads (Paris Hilton being but one example) even getting a Baccalaureate, never mind a Ph.D. And to do so in such an arcane field after a lapse of 30 years is even more remarkable. Wow!

Kudos to Brian May, and may your thesis be as successful as your music.

Kryptonite - Only in Canada you say?

Back in April, on what must have been a slow news day, there were reports out of the UK that a team of scientists had discovered a rock that was composed of the exact same minerals that the Superman movies attributed to Kryptonite. Holy Batman! Or whatever. Kryptonite, the real thing, right here on earth and discovered by the Natural History Museum in London, England.

Well, not quite. Now it turns out that the rock in question did originate with the Natural History Museum, but it was a Canadian team of scientists, working in our very own National Research Council labs, who discovered the formulation in fact matched the fictional Kryptonite of Superman fame. Anxious to make the announcement, the NRC was then held up by the Privy Council Office who, in its inimitable bumbling bureaucratic way, prevented the NRC from making the announcement because they weren’t given the requisite five days needed for approval. That’s right, they needed five days to review and approve something as trivial as this. It’s a good thing it wasn’t important. Imagine if the PCO was in existence on November 11, 1918 – we’d still be wondering if the war was over.

If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

It’s way too easy – a cop-out really – to chalk this sort of thing up to incompetence or stupidity, but it’s deeper than that. It’s what happens when you encourage a bureaucracy to follow process and written guidelines rather than common sense and intuition. No one at PCO is incapable of reading a half-page press release and giving it a quick thumbs up (I assume), but the rules say five days so for four days, 23 hours and 50 minutes it sits in someone’s in-basket waiting for the clock to tick over.

I know, I know, our civil service is the envy of the world – professional, competent, effective. But that’s compared to other countries’ civil services! Instead, compare the day to day functioning of any level of government – municipal, provincial, federal, or even your condo board – to any successful business and the problems become very obvious very quickly. Bottom line, in many (most?) departments there is no incentive to succeed, let alone excel. No matter what you do, especially if it involves dealing with the (gasp!) public, there are rules that tell you how to do it, when to do it, who needs to be informed (or as they say, kept in the loop), how not to do it, etc. ad nauseum.

How mind numbing. Just like Superman under the influence of Kryptonite.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dereliction of duty

I admit to having been remiss in my blogging of late. I could blame it on the great golfing weather, or the fact that I’ve been busy configuring a new computer, but the truth is that nothing has really got my juices flowing until this news item from today’s Ottawa Citizen.

“A Canadian soldier who refused to leave his bed during an insurgent attack on a Canadian base in Afghanistan has received a 21-day sentence and harsh criticism from a military judge.”

Apparently said “soldier” decided that, during a rocket attack on the base at Kandahar last year, he was best able to serve his country and fellow soldiers by staying in bed rather than reporting to his assigned place of duty. He further compounded the severity of his offence by trying to convince another soldier to do the same.

Cpl. Paul Patrick Billard, a 13-year veteran who was due for promotion to Sergeant, has said he is going to appeal the judgement.

Appeal his sentence? He’s lucky he wasn’t slapped in the stockade for a couple of months and then dishonourably discharged. Regardless of your views on the war itself, Afghanistan is a theatre of operations where his fellow Canadians are fighting and dying, and anyone who would let the team down like he did deserves to receive the full force of military justice.

Sometimes we’re just too nice.