Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And not a keffiyeh in sight!

This particular collection of non-Muslim terrorists are members of a Michigan-based Christian militia called Huttaree who have just been arrested on charges of conspiring to murder law-enforcement officers. The plan was to kill at least one police officer, and then use the funeral as an opportunity to kill even more in the hope that such a violent act would touch off an uprising against the US government.


Apparently these fine-looking human specimens feel that the US government is in league with Satan and therefore must be purged before the apocalypse – or some other such wingnuttery.

As Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post says,

“For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary and anger from the far right.

It is disingenuous for mainstream purveyors of incendiary far-right rhetoric to dismiss groups such as the Hutaree by saying that there are "crazies on both sides." This simply is not true.”

The number of home-grown militias have increased significantly over the past few years, largely in sync with the ramping up of the level of “incendiary far-right rhetoric” in some US media and a certain segment of the population. With that level of anger, assault weapons, and an infallible belief in God’s will, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another Oklahoma bombing.

So perhaps it’s time for the authorities to cast the net a little wider and target those who are inciting these groups. A couple of well-known faces included in the montage above might do wonders to lower the temperature of what constitutes political discourse in the US today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Flim-flam Flaherty’s Fiscal Failings

Just in case you needed any more evidence of Jimbo’s failings as a finance minister, Stock Day went to Parliament yesterday, hat in hand, asking for an extra $6 billion (that’s with a “B”) for “unforeseen costs” incurred in the current fiscal year which ends in 2 weeks.

It’s fair enough that Flaherty and his minions in Finance didn’t anticipate the Haitian earthquake, or the H1N1 pandemic, although one would expect prudent fiscal managers to have some contingency set aside in the event of such “unforeseen costs”. But I guess that’s just a quaint Liberal concept. The $13 billion (with a “B”) left by the Martin government would certainly have covered those costs and then some.

But let’s look at just a few of the other “unforeseen costs” as itemised in the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

$196.4 million for civil service salary increases. The civil service was not a surprise. They’ve been around for a while and their contracts are well understood (or should be) by Treasury Board. Anyone with a calculator and an extra set of fresh batteries could have calculated, almost to the dollar, what the salary costs would be for the year.

$192 million in extra costs associated with Old Age Security benefits. Ditto civil service salary increases. Did we all of a sudden import a few hundred thousand extra seniors eligible for OAS?

$83.6 million for police and security at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now this is but a tiny part of the billion dollars or so (with a “B”) spent on security for the “Canada owes the podium” games. But with a billion dollars (with a “B”) to play with, surely they should have been expected to stay within budget. Or perhaps this was just for the security required by the steady stream of Con MPs looking for photo ops in the hope that some of that glittering gold would rub off on them.

And the biggie: $5.5 billion (with a “B”) to cover the extra costs of providing employment insurance this year. This is a direct result of ol’ Flim-flam’s head-in-the-sand response (as mandated by Harper) to the financial crisis that hit in 2008 – long before the current fiscal year began, and in plenty of time to make appropriate adjustments to the budget. Instead the Cons were singing “Don’t worry, be happy” all the way into a major employment crisis, and are now professing surprise at the cost.

As I write this I am left wondering whether what we’re seeing is incompetence, or a conscious intent to mislead Parliament, and Canadians, by purposely leaving known expenses out of the budget to avoid awkward questions about the size of the projected deficit.  Sadly, with this government it could be either – and is likely both.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let her speak

Let me make one point very clear at the outset. I detest Ann Coulter. She is a hateful person, a shrill harridan, and generally a waste of perfectly good skin. But it’s undeniable that she has a following.

As part of a Canada-wide speaking tour, Coulter will be stopping at Ottawa U. to “talk about political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech”.

This tour is certainly not because she has a deep and abiding love for Canada. Here’s some of what she had to say about Canada back in 2004.

When you're allowed to exist on the same continent of the United States of America, protecting you with a nuclear shield around you, you're polite and you support us when we've been attacked on our own soil. They [Canada] violated that protocol.

They better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."

So it has to be the money – and you know what they say about people who do it for money….

Anyway, the point of this is that, as predictable as rain in April, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa has got its knickers in a knot over her visit. They have denied the organizers permission to put up posters announcing the talk and are now trying to have her blocked from speaking on campus.

Not only is that wrong, it’s also a mistake. People like Ann Coulter should be given a soapbox. It’s only when she opens her mouth that we can see the hatred, ugliness and intolerance that guide her life and the lives of her followers. And that helps us understand the scope of the challenge we still face in trying to develop a progressive, tolerant, caring society, and further encourages us all to redouble our efforts to marginalize the Ann Coulters of the world.

Voltaire had it right: “I may not agree with what you say but I'll fight to the death to defend your right to say it”.

Let her speak.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soudas de-friended?

I’m no fan of Dimitri Soudas, but I have to think it must have been a pretty slow news day for the CBC to think this story warranted any coverage at all.

Apparently some Quebec TV show (Infoman - which, it also seems, had nothing better to do and so let the pre-teens run the operation for a while. And why does it always seem to be a Quebec TV show?) set up Soudas by creating a fake Facebook account in the name of a man wanted for arson in Alberta, and then (quelle horreur!) got Soudas to accept this bogus person as a Facebook friend.

The show then dutifully dragged in Michel Juneau-Katsuya, the spook-under-every-bed, ex-intelligence guy to do his usual scare mongering, leading us all to believe that state secrets aren’t only left in girlfriend’s apartments, but also casually tossed around on Facebook pages along with pictures of family and friends doing family and friend kinds of things.

The end result of this hard-hitting exposé? Soudas kills his Facebook page.

Chalk one more up for gotcha journalism - and add another plank to the Duffster’s platform.

(See Kady O’Malley’s take on this here.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Duz spellng reely mater?

Of course it does!

While I have always been a stickler for accurate spelling I can appreciate the use of shortcuts in this age of texting and tweeting. For that reason I have, somewhat begrudgingly, come to accept the occasional “lol”, or 4 for “four”, or “are you” represented by “RU” in electronic communications as the inevitable result. But I still expect businesses to communicate in a proper, “professional” manner.

So you can imagine my reaction on receiving the following email message in response to a query about a pair of prescription sunglasses for which a new lens was being provided under warranty.

Hello This is (name deleted) im the optician that made your glasses unfortunately i can not just send you lense Du to my safty conserns i must install all lenses in our frames we would be liable if you injured  a eye if the lense wasent installed properly.

Please send your glasses to

The message then continued with a misspelled business name and street name to which I was to send my glasses for repair.

This email was all the explanation I needed as to why my sunglasses were incorrectly made in the first place. Clearly this person takes no pride in his workmanship if he’s prepared to attach his name to such a poorly written and sloppy communication. And if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a warranty repair I would be looking for a new supplier.

Such carelessness in written communications is becoming more and more common (although this is the worst example I have seen personally) and reflect directly, and poorly, on both the author and the business he/she represents. If a business can’t or won’t make the effort to represent itself professionally in writing, why would you think they will take any better care with the product or service you are contemplating purchasing?