Sunday, January 29, 2006

Original Song #16

As a testament to how things change, this song was written years before I met the woman I would later make my wife...


You say it's been going like this too long
Don't want to see it go all wrong
Strings lying together, that's okay
Some knots get tied anyway

It ain't broke so why fix it?
I don't believe that it's illicit
And you say we should make it legal
Why do I feel so inveigled?

Your parents grow giddier by the day
They're marking off their Saturdays
The pressure's mounting, I might cave in
Pretty soon they'll be looking for grandkids

It ain't broke so why fix it?
I don't believe that it's illicit
And you say we should make a change
It's just an addition of names
But I know half the time it don't take
Once you cut that wedding cake
I suppose we could "make it legal"
Why do I feel so inveigled?

You've got to promise not to alter anything
If you want to see me at the altar with a ring

- 30 -

Saturday, January 28, 2006


You may have noticed Tattered Sleeve blogging has been scant recently. It's taken a back seat to a nasty bug, working in conjunction with what might be an ulcer (pending test results). It started last Saturday, had me feeling out of the woods by Sunday morning, then came back with a vengeance Monday night.

I can only assume I have a touch of what I will call "Harperitis". Apparently our Prime Minister-designate hasn't been quite up to snuff himself lately.

In the middle of it all, Thursday morning, I had to do a medical test known as a barium swallow. Not too pleasant, but it didn't take overly long. If it could, my toilet would surely be writing a strongly-worded greivance to the Quebec Human Rights Commission after the week we've just had.

Also mid-week, my son Francis had a couple of bouts of diarrhea as well. I have learned that no diaper is a match for such a force of nature. Thank goodness he got back to his usual terrible-two-but-not-even-two-yet self within 24 hours.

But for me, it doesn't appear to be over just yet. And my wife awoke feeling under the weather today too. Fret not. We will return to normal blogging shortly. In the meantime, check this out from Cathie in Canada, and this from Section 15 for my picks for best posts of the week.

And watch out for Harperitis. It's nasty.

- 30 -

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Great Canadian Sell-Out


Dateline: September 27, 2006.

OTTAWA--Political analysts have described it as the most tumultuous and bitter Parliament in Canada's history. L'Affaire Lac Mistassini brought it to a clamourous end today with a vote of non-confidence, meaning Canadians will be going to the polls for a second time in 2006.

Amid raucous shouts from the Conservative bench of "traitor" with every opposition member standing to vote down the minority government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, House Speaker Lee Richardson made several attempts to call for order, but was roundly ignored.

As expected, fledgling New Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff introduced the confidence vote that has been threatening since the french-language Radio-Canada-TVA joint exclusive first reported last month on then-secret U.S. military test bases being planned in the north of Quebec, land that is home to thousands of Cree and other First Nations peoples.

Critics say Lac Mistassini could also derail any future plans to expand Quebec's extensive hydro-electric capacity, since the lease agreement is for 50 years, with the United States holding an exclusive option to renew for another 40 years at any time.

Foreign Affairs Minister Jason Kenney received repeated calls for his resignation from oppostition MPs, and was loudly heckled on Monday when he defended the lease agreement as a victory for his team's "tenacious" negotiations, saying the Bush administration had originally requested a one-time 80-year lease on the land.

Harper, with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Quebec Premier Jean Charest by his side in the Parliamentary Press Galery, yesterday made a last ditch appeal to Bloq Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe to save his government, by sweetening the pot of monetary transfers to Quebec from the lucrative deal cut by Kenney.

"We have a deal. It's a good deal for Canada and it's in our shared interest, in this North American fortress, if you will, to keep normal and productive relations with our neighbours, who I think deserve our humble gratitude for their willingness to protect us," Harper said.

But attempts to quell the outrage over the controversial deal, which would see some 14,000 square kilometres in the north of Quebec used as a testing ground for the as yet unproven Ballistic Missile Defence system, could not match the political weight of popular sentiment in Quebec, where massive union protests effectively shut down the province for three days last week, and over 80% of Quebecers say they are against the idea.

"First we had the Liberals trying to buy Quebecers with their own money; now we see the Conservatives trying to buy Quebecers with George Bush's money," Duceppe said to reporters after the vote.

"Mr. Kenney and Mr. Harper were clearly hoping to slip this in under the radar while people were on their summer vacations. Perhaps they thought Canadians would be happy counting the pennies they're saving here and there from the GST cut. But while it's certainly in Canadians' best interests to work very closely with our American allies, this deal, and the ham-handed way it was handled by this neophyte Harper government, just proved today they simply do not have the confidence of the House. That's why we're going back to the polls." Ignatieff said.

An emboldened NDP leader Jack Layton expanded on earlier remarks that the Harper government is a puppet of the Bush administration.

"Nobody wants to be a sell-out, and that's all this is, really, the selling-out of our First Nations, of Quebec and their future, the future of clean energy in Canada, and Quebecers' opportunities to develop their own natural resources. And for what? To help forward George Bush's plans to weaponize space?

"Quebecers won't take that sitting down. All Canadians won't take that sitting down. And it may have Mr. Harper's signature on it, but this sweetheart deal was never brought before the House, and it will not be binding".

Charest has also been under fire for initially signalling his acceptance of the deal, although he has backtracked in recent days, facing a continued slide in the polls that have now put his government's approval rating below 15%.

Governor-General Michaele Jean is expected to drop the writ upon receiving Prime Minister Harper at her residence sometime tomorrow.

- 30 -

Saturday, January 21, 2006

(Mostly) Original Song #15

Never Leaving Las Vegas

(italicized: lifted from Mike Figgis's adapted screenplay)

Just bought a pack of smokes
It was my first one after the last one
I was ever going to buy
Til my last breath

I'll sit around all night
Watching Nicolas Cage say:
"We could get Prime Rib
They've got it on sale for two-ninety-nine
...I love that dress"

I'm never leaving Las Vegas
Digressing til I regress
I'm never leaving Las Vegas

Between the one-hundred-and-one-proof breath
And the occasional drool
Some interesting words fall
Out of your mouth

You always seem so simple
You always become so difficult
You're on a downward spiral
Chasing a spinning room

I'm never leaving Las Vegas
Digressing til I regress
I'm never leaving Las Vegas

Killing myself as a way to drink
Killing myself as a way to smoke
Killing myself as a way to give
Killing myself as a way to live

Take your pick
Of vices and devices
Smooth your snout, smooth it over
Gin and tonic
Vodka vomit
Smooth as silk

I'm a prickly pear

I'm never leaving Las Vegas
Digressing til I regress
I'm never leaving Las Vegas
I'm never leaving
Never leaving
Never never never never never...

- 30 -

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nothing Irrational about Harperphobia

If you want to read a passionate and witty perspective on what a Conservative victory would (or will) mean to the gay community, look no further than Montreal Simon's excellent site. He has Stephen Harper pegged (and evidently, in his sights as well).

Simon even has an emergency escape plan Obviously the man enjoys a little black humour in the face of doom.

I wish I could say "don't worry", Simon. But I can tell you this: if there's a fight to be joined to protect equal rights for gays and other minorities in this country, we'll be there fighting with you.

No matter what the outcome on January 23rd.

- 30 -

Grumpy Old Mansbridge

Our first entry in "Online Headline of the Year" for 2006 has to be Martin attacks Layton for not Attacking Harper. Will not even the CBC get off the anti-Martin bandwagon? I have to assume Harper has one of two plans for the public broadcaster. Either:
  • starve it of funding, or
  • replace all its apparatchiks with right-wingers and a playbook written by FoxNews owner Rupert Murdoch.
On the other hand, Martin had one of his finer moments of this campaign courtesy of the CBC in one of their "Town Hall" segments last Thursday.

I watched the first of the series, with Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris, last December, and as usual, it was very helpful as a way to see how these leaders do when forced to think on their feet. In short, Harris didn't impress me much.

Last night Layton was on, and Peter Mansbridge, the man who stubbornly insists on having no advertising breaks during his nightly newscast, perhaps with thoughts about Harper's plans for CBC in the back of his mind, seemed particularly crabby. Of course, I couldn't blame him, considering his guest never @&%!ing answers the audience's (or his) questions. Totally ignores the question when he doesn't like it, in fact. So Mansbridge was forced to intervene and cut him off and try to get him to answer the actual question, with varying results.

It was then that I realized I might agree with the NDP leader on a host of policy issues; I might even vote for him; but the man is not over-loaded with charm. He has good ideas and is sometimes quite good at framing issues for the general public's consumption, but he isn't what one would call inspirational.

Then again, neither is Harper; that's for sure. Turns out after initially telling the CBC they weren't interested in being on a Town Hall special, the Harper camp changed their minds and we'll have a chance to see him on Thursday night (no link yet).

Here' s hoping Mr. Mansbridge is just as tough on Harper as he was on Layton last night. Anything to stop the prospect of a Harper majority horror show in-waiting would be welcome.

Practice that grimmace there, Peter. Good on you.

- 30 -

Monday, January 16, 2006

Original Song #14

The Greater Sloshed

A love this good, this misunderstood
Seems your friends all know, what the hell do they know?
When the great unwashed dis the greater sloshed
What would happen, should they happen?

They say you fight a lot, you’re so overwrought
But something makes you go, something I don’t know
‘Cause again you’re here, and it’s pretty clear
They don’t know you like you know you

He’s a piece of work, he’s the king of jerks
He says he’ll be there, but he’s god-knows where
Again she’s here and it’s pretty clear
She needs you; she believes in you

Well she’s got him in tow and he know it shows
But his happy-go-lucky’s back from happy-go-fucky
Again he’s here and it’s pretty clear
He needs you; he believes in you

Well if you can come up with a better definition
Of what love should be, then I’ll send you out fishing
There’s never going to be another premiere edition
Seems that love exists of its own volition

We don’t know you like you know you
We don’t know you like you know you

A love this good, this misunderstood
Seems your friends all know, what the hell do they know?
When the great unwashed dis the greater sloshed
Look what happens, seems you’ve happened

Don’t listen to the great unwashed
They don’t know about the greater sloshed
Don’t listen to the great unwashed
They don’t know about the greater sloshed

- 30 -

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Carbo back with Habs!

Note: Dear Readers,
This blog is being temporarily interrupted to talk about the latest chapter in the most storied franchise in all of sport. This is only a temporary interruption, and there is no need to adjust your URL. We at Tattered Sleeve thank you for your understanding

And there was indeed great rejoicing.

So that's the end of Claude Julien's career as coach of the Canadiens. GM Bob Gainey made the only sensible move on a team that simply wasn't responding to their coach any longer. Gainey will be behind the bench himself for tonight's game against the Sharks, with Guy Carbonneau back in the Habs' fold as Assistant Coach, replacing Rick Green.

Gainey still has lots of support in the office, what with Andre Savard, his very capable assistant, looking after the daily minutiae of running the club, but La Presse is suggesting he won't be in the coach's chair very long before turning it over to Carbo (who just happens to be the last Habs captain to bring home a Cup). I mean, who can forget Carbo vs. Gretzky in the Cup run of '93?
In the '93 Final, the Habs faced Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings, and in game one the "Great One" had a goal and two assists and the Kings won 4-1. Carbo approached coach Jacques Demers and requested he be allowed to shadow number 99 the rest of the way. Montreal won the next four games.

So mark Carbo's return as an interesting (and welcome) development, as it had appeared up to now that Doug Jarvis (currently staying on as an Assistant Coach) was being groomed for this. Carbo had been an assistant Habs coach for two seasons when Gainey (then the Dallas Stars' GM) plucked him out to bring him back to Dallas.

One thing about the Gainey/Carbo/Jarvis trio: they are three of the sharpest hockey minds in the game today, and all were known for having a terrific work ethic - with several Stanley Cups under their belts - throughout their illustrious playing careers. If anyone can inspire the current team with all its talent to shape up, work hard and follow the coach's game plan, it's these guys.

I liked Julien a lot, despite his habit of putting too many men out on the ice so often it made me question his ability to handle pressure. But the team's been in a tailspin worse than Martin's Liberals. This move had to be done, and bringing the much-respected Carbonneau back will really boost their chances of making a run at the Cup this year.

Oh and, Mr. Gainey? I know you're probably busy preparing for tonight's game right now and all, but I was just thinking how you will soon need a new assistant coach for the defence corps... and how a big guy like Mike Komisarek - who hasn't really learned how to use his size effectively yet - could benefit from someone who may have a good idea of how to help him out in that regard. Was I daydreaming or did a not-so-little bird just tell me there's just the right ex-teammate of yours out there, and he's available right now?

This is where the Habs season turns around. Sadly, politics doesn't usually work quite like hockey, even in Canada. Well, we'll take what good news we can get, eh?

We now bring you back to your irregularly scheduled blogging.

- 30 -

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fearful Prediction

It's good to see a Conservative blogger like Dazzlin' Dino ask tough questions of the party he champions. I hope we see more critical analysis in the coming 10 days, especially now that the full platform is out. CBC's Reality Check tonight noted the CPC confirmed that the capital gains exemption would apply to stocks and speculative investments.

I don't know if the Martin team can stop the endless stumbling, but I wouldn't be surprised if we have seen the end of Harper's momentum.

Prediction for final polls before the vote:

CPC: 30 - 34 %
Lib: 28 - 32
NDP: 20 - 24
BQ: 10 - 13
Green: 4 - 6

(Heavy-hearted) prediction for the seat count:

CPC: 130 - 144
Lib: 88 - 96
NDP: 28 - 34
BQ: 46 - 52
Green: 0
Independant: 1

(You always have to have one independant, right? I have lowballed the BQ because I have a funny feeling they will not be able to bring out their voters as well as the other parties. Gomery has more or less lost its ability to get folks hot under the collar. I also presume that, come Jan. 24th, I will look back on this post shaking my head at how wrong I was.)

- 30 -

Speaking of white knuckles...

Yesterday we saw Paul Martin finally baring his white knuckles in this campaign. Well, today it's Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton who are playing hardball.

First, Layton on Martin, per the Globe & Mail:
"Paul Martin has failed the test of leadership," Mr. Layton said. "His term of office as Prime Minister, like his campaign, is about nothing. The issues he and his team are talking about in this campaign are improvised, incoherent and frequently embarrassing when they aren't offensive."

Last week, Mr. Layton suggested the election wasn't over because the Liberals are "the ultimate campaigners."

"I've been proven partially wrong," he said Friday.

And on Harper:
While he questioned Mr. Martin's leadership ability, he offered no such criticism of Mr. Harper. Mr. Layton saved his barbs for the Tory platform, pointing out that the NDP's campaign promises cost less than the Conservative plan with its $45-billion in tax cuts.

"The Conservatives want to increase income taxes on people with low incomes so that they can pay for a cut in the GST," Mr. Layton said. "That's not a tax cut. That's moonshine. And that's always the way with Tory tax cuts. They put some dollars in one pocket and then pick your other pocket to pay for it."

Now this is what I like about Layton. He may seem overly polished (maybe it's that bald pate?) to the point of phoniness at times, but he keeps saying things I agree with 100%. He often gets a"Right on!" out of me. It's like we share the same outlook on most every issue.

Sometimes I agree with Martin too, but usually only after he's wavered on an issue for a spell while figuring out exactly what Very Crucial Stance he should take on a Very Very Important Issue to get a right-on out of me (and by then, as you can see, it's lost its exclamation point).

On to Duceppe. Per the Canadian Press:

Duceppe says the Tory platform doesn't give details on how Harper would address the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces. "Where is he going to get the money?" Duceppe asked.

"If he tells us 'I'm going to deal with it but I haven't planned anything,' that doesn't have much credibility," Duceppe said while campaigning south of Quebec City.

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly white-knuckles stuff, but at least he's in the game and shining some much-deserved light on Harper's multitude of uncosted promises.

And back to Layton, it seems another BC riding is suddenly in play for the NDP. Together with the Zeisman fumble, that makes two presents in two days. At this rate, Layton must be wishing the campaign could go on until summer.

Oh God. That's almost as scary a thought as a Harper majority.

- 30 -

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Martin's white knuckles

I'm not talking about the attack ads. I'm talking about Paul Martin getting right into it on CBC's Townhall Meeting with Peter Mansbridge in Guelph tonight.

First, I have to admit I tuned in a bit late. But luckily not too late to see Martin answer a woman's question about the wisdom of his sudden promise in last Monday's debate to do away with the Notwithstanding clause, at least as far as Ottawa's power is concerned. Why should an unelected group of judges have final say over elected representatives?

Suffice it to say, the man had a ready answer.

He prefaced it by pointing out that sometimes majority governments are voted in by less than 40% of the voting public (as in 1997), and that in a country made up of minorities, the Charter is the only protection we have to thwart a bullying majority from enforcing its will against them.

He then explained his reasoning by planting a seed about the Harper braintrust's true intentions, referencing Stockwell Day's anti-abortion stance, and the CPC President's road-map for enacting legislation against minority rights, (in particular, taking away a woman's right to choose). He didn't even have to mention Cheryl Gallant, saying that the plan is for a private member's bill to be brought to a vote in the House, which a Conservative majority would then enact, making abortion illegal (even though doing so is not a part of their official platform; and like so many other controversial items on the well-known right-wing agenda, Harper's stock answer is that he categorically has "no plans" to do so, or that it isn't part of party policy.)

Then it would be: hey, what do you know, we made abortion illegal (my words, not Martin's).

Connecting the dots, Martin went on to say that court challenges would likely follow, and eventually, the Supreme Court would be asked to decide on the constitutionality of the legislation. (All this time - presumably years - the law of the land does not include a woman's right to choose, remember.) Assuming the SC eventually struck down the new law, the government could then use the Notwithstanding clause to overrule the Court (and the Charter) to stop women in Canada from "being able to choose" as he put it. And this could be done for many other rights protected by the Charter, of course.

Hence, as a true believer in minorities' rights, he has concluded the Notwithstanding clause must not be a tool for the federal government.

So he as much as said a Harper majority government would result in abortion becoming illegal in Canada. The look of the faces on the women in the audience was telling - you could see they were thinking this all through, that a seed had been sown. And I actually found myself cheering Martin on - both for his deft answer and for his new willingness to clearly spell out what Harper and the wingnuts on his team are hoping to achieve.

The polls aren't looking good for the Liberals right now, but if Martin keeps putting in performances like this, I'm not ruling him out yet. The gloves are indeed off.

- 30 -

Big time "Tip o' the hat" to Dave at The Galloping Beaver

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Notes on the leaders' Debates

'Fraid I missed the entire first hour of tonight's french language debate due to a mix of parenting duties and my sacred responsibilities as Al Goulem's biggest fan.

Duceppe was on his home turf and coasted through masterfully as usual, making scathing points about Martin (a talk-the-talk but not walk-the-walk kind of guy, in his estimation), and saving the occasional shot for Harper as well.

Harper was, basically, as scintillating as a big tub of margarine (official Quebec-grade, extra light yellow) that breaks into a disturbingly forced little smile at the end of every sentence. He framed virtually every response as a question of the federal government not over-stepping its bounds into provincial jurisdiction, and stifled his giddiness at labeling Liberals as criminals with an entitlement complex. He was clearly trying to turn on the charm (which just gives me the willies), but I have to say his command of french does seem to have improved since the last debate.

Martin was wearing a bright blue shirt with a crimson tie, the two of which conspired to give the impression his wardrobe was attempting a hostile takeover of their host. It made it hard to concentrate on what he was saying (but he stuttered less than yesterday, and seemed more "on"). He looked somewhat wan as he listened to Duceppe and Layton reciting statistics of millions of Canadian children still living in poverty despite years of Liberal governments' heartfelt promises to Put an End to this, Once and For All.

Martin's best moment was when he layed into Harper, telling him it's not very Prime Ministerial to go on American TV and slam your own country for not joining in on the Iraq invasion. (Good move reminding Quebeckers of this fact - we were considerably more negative on that war than the Canadian average).

Layton was less repetitive than in the english debate (thank God) and his command of the issues was strong. He used his "winning conditions" for Quebec within Canada line from last night's debate (which does sound nice - more so in french; but where's the beef?) Then he tried to frame last year's NDP-revised budget as a response to the fiscal imbalance while painting Harper and Martin with the same brush: as fat cats favouring tax cuts for big corporations over money for social programs. Layton also blasted Harper on his promised GST cut, asking what's to keep commercial outlets from cynically raising their prices and negating any savings for consumers?

Duceppe, Layton and Harper all went after Martin for his surprise announcement yesterday that he wants to take away the option of using the Notwithstanding clause for federal lawmakers. They all seemed bewildered, and either made cogent arguments for keeping the constitution as is, or used it as a prime example of Martin's lack of vision, pointing out that the things he believes in Very Very Dearly is constantly changing.

Of course Martin used that as a pretext to shoot back at Harper for being a turncoat to his own deeply held convictions over the past 20 years, what with all these new policy announcements.

So there was a lot of excitement tonight, and from what I saw I'd say it was the best debate of the four. I'm taping the Radio-Canada newscast right now while the wifey watches Gilmore Girls. I can't wait to see Bernard Derome's take on it; he can always tell when Rory is heading for a romantic disappointment.

He may even have something to say about politics too.

- 30 -

Why did Montreal cops kill Mohamed-Anas Bennis?

When you live in a city with a murder rate this low, it's always troubling when one of those less-than-weekly killings was carried out by a police officer on a man with no criminal record. Doubly so when the victim is a member of a visible minority. The official line of our police is that Cote-des-Neiges resident Mohamed-Anas Bennis was shot and killed in self-defence after he attacked them with a knife - while on his way home from morning prayers at his local mosque last December 1st.

Fellow Montrealer kersplebedeb over at Sketchy Thoughts has been following this questionable situation - and the shamelessly marginal coverage of it by our local media - with a keenly jaundiced eye. Go have a look.

- 30 -

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Weirder than Fiction

Is she weird?
Is she white?
Is she promised to the night?
And her head has no room
--Pixies' Is She Weird

I have been tagged by Dazzlin' Dino to come up with five things that are weird about me, myself and I.
  1. As the above picture of my son Francis suggests (seen here last month at just under 20 months), I believe strongly in the need for enforced child labour. And perhaps weirder still, my son loves the idea. While his grandparents inundated him with plastic beeping, whirring toys, still nothing beats the fun of vaccuuming (which I have every intention of reminding him about once he's in his teens and refusing to clean his room).
  2. I was was born with a bifid uvula (scroll down, it's near the end of the article).
  3. I have lived in La Belle Province my entire life yet my grasp of French is still intermediate at best.
  4. I graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications over ten years ago, and was once the co-editor of a University newspaper but have still never been paid one red cent for any copy, stories or songs I've written.
  5. For chrissakes, I'm a blogger! What could be weirder than that?
Okay, now to pass it along. Take it away folks:
Mark[Section 15]
CathieFromCanada (who seems to have ignored Dave's tagging, naughty girl)
Pretty Shaved Ape
Ivan Prokopchuk (who probably won't stop at five, ...or ten even - that crazy cat)

Cheers all.

- 30 -

Screw you, Scott in Montreal: Harper

Now it all makes sense. Harper said yesterday a Conservative government would repeal the recent Liberal tax cut people like me just started benefitted from.

“We will be doing our tax plan, not the Liberal tax plan,” (Harper) said, singling out the Tories’ promise to cut the GST to five per cent from seven per cent as the centrepiece of the initiative that involves selected personal and business tax cuts. “We can’t do both. And our tax reduction will save a lot more money for Canadians than the Liberal plan.”

One of the measures implemented from the Liberals’ November mini-budget reduced the marginal tax rate for persons earning less than $35,595 to 15 per cent from 16 per cent. At the time, the Liberals promised further cuts in the income-tax rates down the road.

So instead, I'm supposed to make do with paying 1% less on the GST. I know they always try to get it played as a 2% cut, but I note that only the first 1% cut would be enacted this year. The other half would come at some time over five years (in other words, towards the end of his mandate, at the point he would call us back to the polls again.)

So basically, this is a big screw you to working families like mine, who can't benefit from any capital gains tax cut on donations to charities because we are struggling just to keep up with mortgage payments and other bills. It's a pretty meagre portion of my paycheck that goes into non-grocery purchases, let me tell you. At least Jack knows the score on this, and I thought he had the best take on it:

"I was shocked to learn that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives apparently are willing to increase the income taxes on the lowest income people in our community in order to pay for all of their other tax cut promises that they have been throwing around. This to me is shocking and the fact that this has come forward should give every Canadian citizen pause as to what kind of an agenda is here and certainly it is the wrong way to go."

Layton said his party's tax policy calls for no increases in taxes, supports an increase in the basic personal exemption and a reduction in the lowest income tax rate that is now coming into effect.
(emphasis mine)

That's a turnaround from conventional wisdom for you: the far right-wing pledging to raise taxes at a time when the government is awash in money, and the left-wing pledging to lower them. Of course we can see that it depends which rung you find yourself occupying on the social ladder. As one of the families Layton is talking about, I assure you the proposed GST cut would be felt very little in this household in comparison with having my income taxes bounced back up.

Plus, with the currently hot economy, it's the wrong time to take measures designed to increase consumer spending anyway. With interest rates already on an upswing to cool down the economy, cutting the GST could therefore put even more upward pressure on interest rates; this at a time when Canadians are overwhelmingly more indebted than perhaps ever before.

There is no doubting it: Harper would look out for those who are already better off. That's the only segment of the population he really cares about (as long as they don't want to marry their same-sex partner, that is).

- 30 -

What's Going on in Haiti?

This is more than a little disturbing:
Found wearing boxer shorts and sandals, Lt.-Gen. Bacellar apparently killed himself as the multinational force is under increased pressure to curb violence in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. The security situation has been unravelling in past weeks, with a rash of kidnappings hitting the capital. International election workers, journalists and ordinary Haitians have been among the victims.
...Lt.-Gen. Bacellar, who had served in Brazil's armed forces for 39 years, became commander of the multinational force in September, replacing Brazilian Lt.-Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, who had the force since its deployment to Haiti in June 2004.
...Election officials recently postponed the Jan. 8 election, blaming security problems and delays in distributing voting materials. It was the fourth such postponement of the vote. No new date has been set. It was not immediately clear what Lt.-Gen. Bacellar's death would have on the planning for a new election timetable.
...(He) is survived by his wife and two children.

Sen. Romeo Dallaire tried to commit suicide post-Rwanda, but that was after witnessing a terrible genocide he felt powerless to stop. Which leads to the question of just how bad is it in Haiti, anyway?

Of course, the commander's death is still under investigation, so yes, what appears to be a suicide at first may yet prove to have been a murder. But one way or another, this can't be the kind of situation Bush had hoped for when he helped oust Jean-Bertrand Aristide back in 2004. And this incident surely does not inspire confidence that the country is stable enough for a peace-keeping force to have a useful presence. (Right now Quebec has around 100 police and a couple dozen ex-cops down there, ostensibly to train Haitian police.)

Aristide was popularly elected and still hasn't conceded his presidency from exile. There are elements that want him re-instated, and they are kicking up a fuss. Depending on the resolve of the UN (and let's not forget Brazil and the other countries supporing the mission), this could be the type of shock that leads to the country falling into civil war.

One can't help but wonder what the Haitian-born Governor-General of Canada's opinion is, and if she might eventually become moved (and daring) enough to speak up about it; or at least to discreetly pick up the phone and give the Prime Minister her 2 cents.

One thing seems certain: Haiti did not get any closer to knowing peace today.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Item: Short Jewish New York Comedian to Host Oscars

No, Billy Crystal isn't back. This year's host is none other than Jon Stewart.
The producer of the Oscars show said Stewart has many of the qualities of previous hosts.

"Jon is the epitome of a perfect host -- smart, engaging, irreverent and funny,'' producer Gil Cates said.

I couldn't be happier about this development if I was Jude Law. Damn you, March 5 for your incorrigible not-here-nowness! How relentlessly you tease us, o cruel, toyful Lord.

Yeah, this should be a good one.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Impeccable (Cynical?) Timing, Mr. Prime Minister

That erstwhile gentleman Conservative blogger Dazzlin Dino of Blogging Party of Canada dropped by in the comment thread here yesterday and left this tidbit as food for thought:
You two do realise that EVERY taxcut the Liberals have ever offered ends up as the renegotiation of future increases, have you ever seen a tax reduction while a Liberal government was in power? No you haven't.

Well, I just got my first pay stub of 2006 and couldn't help but noticing a little more than I expected is reaching my bank account. I compared the deductions to my last stub from 2005 and wouldn't you know it, the amount deducted for federal tax went down by 10% and my EI contribution went down 20%.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Sorry to have to make you eat crow there, Dazz ;-). Cynical timing to be sure, but this is one Liberal tax cut everyone in the country will both see and feel on at least two occasions before casting their votes. The question is: will this be a useful ploy for them to counter the Harper GST reduction promise and the CPC's current momentum?

And will it be the breath of fresh air the Liberals need to cover up that smell?

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More Big Time Blarney on Healthcare

So Martin has spelled out his healthcare proposal and it's almost the same as Harper's plan, except the feds will pick up the tab when they schlep us around to wherever we can get timely care (and the U.S. is not an option under the Liberal plan). I don't see how that would provide any incentive for the provinces to improve their wait times. And isn't it just more stampeding on provincial turf?

Because in the end it's the provinces that decide where to allocate the real money on health care delivery. When Lucien Bouchard made his cuts in the late nineties as Quebec premier, he closed hospitals and drastically reduced the number of nurses. The feds didn't have a say. Of course the primary reason he did that was in response to massive cuts in transfer payments from Ottawa for healthcare. It was deficit strangling time all around.

Now we have a very strained system where family doctors are working long hours and turning new patients away. Nurses are over-worked and many opt for cushier jobs at better pay in Alberta or south of the border. We aren't graduating enough new doctors, nor keeping enough here either. We have fancy new machinery but not enough trained technicians to run them or decipher the results. Anesthesiologists are in short supply as well.

It's like the NHL trying to put a better product on the ice by tweaking the rules. You still have too many teams and not enough skilled players. The product is just as watered down.

So here we have the people running for Prime Minister telling us they can make it all better. In the end, they really can't and they shouldn't be expected to. Our provincial premiers have that job.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Is Harper Getting a Free Ride from the Media?

Damn Harper. The sly old dog's doing a good job campaigning this time. The media's allowing him to control the topic of conversation every day it seems, and on his terms. He will have to pray he keeps getting this treatment however, because at the root of it, his policies and priorities are not good for this country. (Sorry to sound like Martin there, but that other sly old dog isn't off the mark on that call).

For example: Throwing a check at parents of toddlers sounds great, but most Canadian women would prefer affordable daycare they can trust instead of having to watch their careers go down the toilet for four years while they're forced to stay at home full-time as the primary care-giver.

And his proposal for the three icebreakers is a dud. Put the same money into aerial surveillance and you would at least have a chance of it being effective. Too much geography up there for just three clunky ships.

All in all, there isn't much meat on the bones of his policy proposals. I for one, have been watching Harper for awhile and doubt he's suddenly changed his spots. I don't think he would eventually keep many of these promises.

I also don't want the Christian Right to have a strong hold of the ear of the PM (and several others who would be ministers). I don't want another vote on SSM. I don't want a federal government with no Quebec MPs that will fuel the separatists here. I don't want a leader in bed with Bushco, ready and willing to go along with Missile Defence and whatever wars they choose to prosecute illegally.

I am really hoping something breaks his current momentum because he will remake Canada into a far-Right winner-take-all screw-the-poor nation if given the chance, and that would be a bloody shame.

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Update: Fixed the last link. BTW, I forgot to say, tips of the hat to (in order): Dazzlin Dino at BPOC, Cathie from Canada and Dave at The Galloping Beaver.

Original Song #13

We Have Our Voices

You own the presses
You own the airwaves
You own the publishing rights
We have our voices

You own the lawyers
You own the pollsters
You own their questions
We have our voices

You have opinions
And you can share them
But it’s not convincing
When you enforce them

You have the unions
Right where you want them
Just lay them off now
And then contract them

Ideas may get bought and sold
You can try to suppress them
But they still take hold

You own our pensions
Dictate our choices
Of politicians
We have our voices

You’ve got the airlines
You’ve got the phone lines
You’ve got the pipelines
We have our voices

You own the mountains
You own the oceans
You own the buildings
We have our voices

You can have the earth
You can take the sun
You can claim the stars
But you won’t have won

We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices
We have our voices

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