Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Shout out to the Saudi Arabian delegation

Hey guys, when you start allowing the women of your country to drive, then you can share your opinions with the rest of the world on global warming.

Until then, just shut it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sad Anniversary

Geneviève Bergeron (1968-1989)
Hélène Colgan (1966-1989)
Nathalie Croteau (1966-1989)
Barbara Daigneault (1967-1989)
Anne-Marie Edward (1968-1989)
Maud Haviernick (1960-1989)
Maryse Laganière (1964-1989)
Maryse Leclair (1966-1989)
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967-1989)
Sonia Pelletier (1961-1989)
Michèle Richard (1968-1989)
Annie St-Arneault (1966-1989)
Annie Turcotte (1969-1989)
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958-1989)


20 years ago the 14 women listed above were brutally killed, simply for being women, by a depraved, damaged man who was brought up to think of women as being somehow less deserving than men. Somehow less than equal. This is backward thinking and hopefully we can quell it with enough time, and enough unrelenting effort at hammering home the vital message:

women and men are equal

I will never forget. And I will do everything I can to ensure my children learn that message.

It saddens me still to think of how these 14 women died so senselessly, except to serve as a tragic example of how we sometimes fail to learn.

May they rest in eternal peace.

- 30 -

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Missing the Canada that stood for human rights

RE: Bureaucrats and other critics often face wrath of Conservatives

It's too bad the Conservative government is so hellbent on political gamesmanship and throwing good civil servants under buses; when they instead could be working to fix a broken situation, take responsibility for errors in the directives provided to our soldiers in Afghanistan, and own up to the fact that we lost our way with our earlier policy of handing prisoners over to known torturers.

There we are, acting just like Bushco, ignoring our obligations under the Geneva conventions.

Canada

I hate when I feel shame for my country. I really wish we could just bail on this pointless mission right now.

- 30 -

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peevey Stevie stimulated by doorknobs?

Tip 'o the hat to Le Daro and Scott Tribe for uncovering this startling fetish of the Canadian Prime Minister. (Okay, perhaps the Libs figured it out first, as reported by the CTV).

I always took him to be one of those boing-y doorstopper guys, but truth is stranger than fiction I guess.

Friday, October 16, 2009

GPC site redesign a huge improvement

Go check it out. greenparty.ca is a whole lot snazzier. Bravo!

To work for nothing

Goddamn you all
Who expect me to give you my labours for free
Goddamn you all
Who go along with this concept that we should be
Grateful for the opportunities
To work for nothing
NOTHING
But the hope that
It could
Possibly
Lead to something
that might mean something
Or at least pay something
That might put food on my table
Mine and my children's
Yes, Goddamn you all
This is not an economy for working people
It is an economy for investment speculators
Bettors
Not my betters
Why don't we learn?

Meanwhile, my labours are not yours to exploit
They have a cost - because they have value
They will not be had for nothing

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eloquence and straight talk - I am missing P.E.T.

Found this snippet of a 1987 interview with Pierre-Elliot Trudeau and remembered what intellectual leadership sounds like:

"I don't think we need special powers in Quebec... Who needs special powers? The politicians. They're the ones who want special powers, naturally, because they're in the power game... That's the game of politics: power.
...I don't need politicians with special powers to protect me because (with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) I am no weaker than you are and I don't need to be more protected than you."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Greenbacked-up as hell and not taking it anymore

Roll out red carpets
Here come the China boys
-- The Payola$ (1979)


A report by Robert Fisk (the only Western journalist to ever interview Osama bin Laden) in today's Independent augurs ill for the continuance of the United States' dominance of world finance - perhaps a body blow to a crumbling empire:
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.
"These plans will change the face of international financial transactions," one Chinese banker said. "America and Britain must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate."

Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.
Well that tidbit of truth is a wee bit disturbing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Denis Coderre: Looking out for #1

After being over-ruled last week on the Liberal nomination in Outremont riding, Denis Coderre spared no bitterness today in resigning as his party's Quebec lieutenant and defense critic (but not as MP):
Coderre said he still has "confidence" in Ignatieff, but he suggested the Liberal leader make changes to his inner circle of advisers.

"Much more fundamental questions are raised by these events: Who should the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada listen to on decisions that strictly affect Quebec?

"Should he follow his Quebec lieutenant while working closely with a credible team? Or to his Toronto advisers who know nothing about the social and political realities of Quebec?"

...

CTV News' Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported earlier Monday that Ignatieff's office was completely unaware of Coderre's plans and said the Liberal leader had not been in contact with his lieutenant over the weekend. However, Ignatieff had left three voice mails on Coderre's cellphone and two emails this morning, all of which had gone unanswered, Fife said.
Coderre certainly has not shone as Defence critic, and the fact he chose today - and so publicly - to resign from the shadow cabinet, proves who he puts first when balancing what's good for the his party and his country, and what's good for Denis Coderre.

Because as impolitical points out, not all of Ignatieff's close advisors are non-Quebeckers. For someone so ostensibly concerned with the over-TO-ification of Iggy's inner circle, an honest MP, loyal to his leader (as he purports to be) might have seen fit to mention that in his all-too-public rant today.

Or perhaps Coderre truly believes that a former Quebec Education minister and a former Quebec Liberal Party president - both with close ties to Jean Charest through three straight electoral victories - really do know "nothing about Quebec".

- 30 -

Being in the "Pre-employment phase"...

...I instinctively know exactly what our Dear Prime Minister means when he speaks of all the projects in the "pre-construction phase".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Outremont est Ouvert: Iggy, Coderre concede to Cauchon

Well! No sooner had I suggested in the comments over on Pogge's excellent blog that the Liberals would be wise to allow Martin Cauchon to try and unseat the NDP's Thomas Mulcair in his old Outremont stomping grounds than the G&M reports that they are apparently taking my advice.
Party insiders say Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has decided to allow an open nomination contest in the prized Montreal riding of Outremont.

Earlier this week, Mr. Ignatieff declared that the riding had been reserved for businesswoman Nathalie Le Prohon.

Mr. Ignatieff made that decision despite Mr. Cauchon's expressed interest in making a comeback in the riding he represented for 11 years before retiring from politics in 2004.

But insiders say Mr. Ignatieff relented in the face of a fierce party backlash and decided to give Ms. Le Prohon another Montreal riding – Jeanne-Le Ber.
Amazingly, I even called the bit about offering up Le Prohon to Jeanne-Le Ber. Cauchon was a Chrétienite whom Paul Martin Jr. didn't want hanging around too long once he became leader. Why he stayed out of politics with Dion's return is unclear, but if the Liberal tradition of alternating english and french leaders continues, then maybe that has something to do with Coderre's earlier reticence at welcoming him back.

At any rate, Cauchon was a fine Justice Minister who fought the good fight on Same-Sex marriage and he deserves to have a crack at winning the nomination in his old riding. And it's good to see Ignatieff has enough grace to admit when a mistake has been made, and then reverse it.

But not so fast, Iggy: what about Stéphane?

(H/T to Mark Francis over at Secion 15)

- 30 -

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Give Unto Woman What is Woman's

A woman must have control over her own body. But the anti-abortionists will never be satisfied with that. I am sickened to learn of this 40-day campaign of self-righteous busy-bodies, bent on harassing women at abortion clinics across the United States and Canada - even here in Montreal.

From Antonia Zerbiasis:
The birds of `pray' who will be targeting women's clinics in Canadian cities for the next 40 days really don't care about saving lives.

If they did, they wouldn't be so much about intimidating the desperate women and girls who are seeking abortions.

That's because, no matter how much they will attempt to cloak their vigils outside two Toronto clinics with solemn vows to "never stop defending life," their true agenda is unveiled by their lack of support for babies once they're born, their often impoverished mothers and the kind of sex education and contraception accessibility that would avoid abortion in the first place.

Nowhere on 40DaysForLife.com is there any discussion of any of these matters.
Of course not. I wonder what these people would have had Mackenzie Phillips do if abortion wasn't an option for her after being impregnated by her own father? There are more than enough unwanted children in this world. And when safe abortion is not an option, the result is that women die. Needlessly.

As for our governing Conservatives, Zerbisias goes on to remind us of where they stand:
There are reports in the blogosphere that Harper will replace Status of Women minister Helena Guergis – who hasn't done much for women, but that's another column – with the anti-choice Cheryl Gallant, who has fought against gay rights and even parental leave.

It just gets worse.

Last weekend, a prominent American anti-choice activist made a speech at the "Value Voters Summit" where she proposed that abortions be performed "in the public square."

This is the true backlash against feminism, whose second wave became a tsunami after the pill became widely available in the late 1960s.

It's all about keeping women down to those Biblical depths where they are little more than breeding stock, born to serve their masters.

...

No wonder Harper boasted two weeks ago, in a closed-door meeting of the party faithful, that he killed the mechanisms for women to protect their constitutional rights.
Zerbisias signs off her blog post saying she worries about the prospect of a Harper majority government.

Antonia, let me just say this: As a Canadian; as a proud father; as a feminist; as a humanitarian, I couldn't agree more. This is a public health issue, and it's also about protecting women's rights, and protecting the integrity of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That's why we can't get these Harper Conservatives out of power fast enough.

- 30 -

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grow up, Quebec federal Liberals!!!! Cauchon, Coderre, this means you

Getting Harper out of Dodge should be your primary consideration. So make good and figure it out already. If Cauchon wants to run in the riding he took thrice already (with the stated blessing of the riding association), let him run. Cauchon has more talent in his little finger than the entire Harper cabinet. If that threatens Coderre in some way, then he is not being a very good Québec lieutenant for Ignatieff by being subservient to such a self-serving attitude.

Keep your eyes on the prize, people. Infighting disgusts the voters. Grow up. Please.

- 30 -

Harper Priorities: Preserving Canadian D'oh-how

Peevey Stevie, focusing on what he thinks Canada does best:

June 10, 2009:
"Eventually, we anticipate Canada will be out of the business" of making isotopes, Harper told the media today.
Sept. 18, 2009:
...the federal government (has) washed their hands of the sale to foreign interests of a key piece of Nortel, the one-time gem of Canada's high-tech sector...

Some have argued that this is an "Avro Arrow" moment – a reference to the decision of a previous Conservative government, under John Diefenbaker, to scrap a Canadian-designed jet fighter. But that was a cost-driven decision, as the government was financing the project.

In the case of Nortel, it would not have cost the government a penny to intervene in order to keep its wireless unit in Canadian hands. In deciding not to do so, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff declared yesterday, the Conservatives are "wilfully turning their backs on the future of Canada's technology sector."
--Toronto Star


In today's news:
“Tim Hortons’ decision (to re-incorporate in Canada) shows our strategy is working," Prime Minister Harper said.

- 30 -

Monday, September 21, 2009

Im'grints Taking our PENSIONS dagnabbit !

I got an email [origin: vancouver craigslist?] forwarded from a family member who hoped I would become incensed over Bill C-428:
Subject: URGENT ATTENTION About Our OAS pensions Bill C-428 An Act to Amend the Old Age Security Act ( residency requirements) This bill had first reading in the house on June 18, 2009.

When I saw the video on U tube, I heard that it was seconded by Bob Rae. MP Ms Dhalla who introduced the bill represents the riding of Brampton whose population is mainly east Indian. Right now you have to have lived in Canada for 10 years in order to qualify for Old Age Security. She wants the time reduced to 3 years. So you could come here when you are 62 years old, never work or contribute to this county’s tax system etc and qualify for full Old Age Security benefits. Can you believe this. 10 years is a stretch!!

I certainly hope this bill does not get passed and I am thinking it is about time we call our elected MP’s as well as the NDP and Liberal candidates and ask them if they support this bill. This may be one factor to help us determine who get elected in the next election.

I hope this bill doesn't get passed!!!!!!

What Can You Do?

1. Spread the message to family and friends
2. write letters, send emails or call Members of Parliament
If you don't agree, I apologize for wasting your time

Bill C-428, An Act to Amend the Old Age Security Act.( residency requirements ) It is time Canada looked after it's own citizens before splashing OUR money around on people who have no right to this money, never having contributed to it. If a family wishes to bring elderly relatives here and wish to waive their own right to collect these resources in order that the elderly relatives can - fine, otherwise, look after them yourself and do not expect the Canadian people to do it. There are too many people abusing the generosity of the Canadian people, it needs to stop ... NOW!

Here is my reply:

Sorry, I can't muster the outrage, and here's why:

Let's say you escaped war-torn Congo or Somalia or North Korea or Gaza - where you have likely slaved away in harsh conditions your whole life with nothing to show for it but your new-found freedom as a refugee here in Canada - a land of peace and relative prosperity. What are you supposed to do when you hit 65? You probably need social assistance one way or another. So if it isn't a pension it'll be something else, because the sight of such persons starving to death on the sidewalk wouldn't be pretty.

For them to be in this situation, the government must have previously allowed them to come and live here at an advanced age. So Canada implicitly became responsible for their well-being at that point. We obviously can't leave them to rot just because they didn't pay into the Canadian system all those years. Anyway, it's not like this is a whopping huge number of people, sitting pretty and "living off the fat of the land" while you and I are left with nothing. And remember, this does not affect other pension recipients one iota - only tangentially, by possibly adding a few hundred thousand to our $55+ billion deficit. (Is that what Jim Flaherty last pegged it at? I can't keep up).

This email campaign is just a typical baiting tactic of the right-wing political machine meant to get us all fired up over nothing of much import, distracting us from some of the real mis-steps and atrocities of our Harper government (note that we are asked to pressure our NDP or Liberal candidates, implying them as the "culprits"; leaving the Conservatives as the de facto "good guys".)

- 30 -

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Iggy (Ford Prefect) and Jack (Mr. Prosser) Layton star in: "Ottawa Bulldozer"

H/T to the late, great, Douglas Adams...

The excerpt below came to mind while reading Jack the Obstructionist over at Section 15.

Ford stared at Arthur, who began to think that perhaps he did
want to go to the Horse and Groom after all.

"But what about my house ...?" he asked plaintively.

Ford looked across to Mr Prosser, and suddenly a wicked thought
struck him.

"He wants to knock your house down?"

"Yes, he wants to build ..."

"And he can't because you're lying in front of the bulldozers?"

"Yes, and ..."

"I'm sure we can come to some arrangement," said Ford. "Excuse
me!" he shouted.

Mr Prosser (who was arguing with a spokesman for the bulldozer
drivers about whether or not Arthur Dent constituted a mental
health hazard, and how much they should get paid if he did)
looked around. He was surprised and slightly alarmed to find that
Arthur had company.
"Yes? Hello?" he called. "Has Mr Dent come to his senses yet?"

"Can we for the moment," called Ford, "assume that he hasn't?"

"Well?" sighed Mr Prosser.

"And can we also assume," said Ford, "that he's going to be
staying here all day?"

"So?"

"So all your men are going to be standing around all day doing
nothing?"

"Could be, could be ..."

"Well, if you're resigned to doing that anyway, you don't
actually need him to lie here all the time do you?"

"What?"

"You don't," said Ford patiently, "actually need him here."

Mr Prosser thought about this.

"Well no, not as such...", he said, "not exactly need ..."
Prosser was worried. He thought that one of them wasn't making a
lot of sense.

Ford said, "So if you would just like to take it as read that
he's actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub
for half an hour. How does that sound?"

Mr Prosser thought it sounded perfectly potty.

"That sounds perfectly reasonable," he said in a reassuring tone
of voice, wondering who he was trying to reassure.

"And if you want to pop off for a quick one yourself later on,"
said Ford, "we can always cover up for you in return."

"Thank you very much," said Mr Prosser who no longer knew how to
play this at all, "thank you very much, yes, that's very kind
..." He frowned, then smiled, then tried to do both at once,
failed, grasped hold of his fur hat and rolled it fitfully round
the top of his head. He could only assume that he had just won.

"So," continued Ford Prefect, "if you would just like to come
over here and lie down ..."

"What?" said Mr Prosser.

"Ah, I'm sorry," said Ford, "perhaps I hadn't made myself fully
clear. Somebody's got to lie in front of the bulldozers haven't
they? Or there won't be anything to stop them driving into Mr
Dent's house will there?"

"What?" said Mr Prosser again.
"It's very simple," said Ford, "my client, Mr Dent, says that he
will stop lying here in the mud on the sole condition that you
come and take over from him."

"What are you talking about?" said Arthur, but Ford nudged him
with his shoe to be quiet.

"You want me," said Mr Prosser, spelling out this new thought to
himself, "to come and lie there ..."

"Yes."

"In front of the bulldozer?"

"Yes."

"Instead of Mr Dent."

"Yes."

"In the mud."

"In, as you say it, the mud."

As soon as Mr Prosser realized that he was substantially the
loser after all, it was as if a weight lifted itself off his
shoulders: this was more like the world as he knew it. He sighed.

"In return for which you will take Mr Dent with you down to the
pub?"

"That's it," said Ford. "That's it exactly."

Mr Prosser took a few nervous steps forward and stopped.

"Promise?"

"Promise," said Ford. He turned to Arthur.

"Come on," he said to him, "get up and let the man lie down."

Arthur stood up, feeling as if he was in a dream.

For the uninitiated, the above is an excerpt from Chapter One of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Watergate Redux (Canadian style)?

Say it ain't so, Peevie Stevie! Say it ain't so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BQ and the separatists' need to forestall a fall election

It's simply bad for the cause. The big cause: Quebec separation. That's why Bloq Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe's MPs will prop up the Harper government and support the upcoming Ways and Means vote on Friday.

That's also why I suspect the Bloc will keep the Conservatives afloat until at least the first week of November (once the Montreal municipal election is over). Because the real reason former Parti-Québecois cabinet minister Louise Harel jumped into the race for the mayor's chair - under the Vision Montreal banner - is so the separatist movement could establish a strong organizational beachhead on the populous island where all the "money and ethnic votes" flourish. And to do that, first they have to help ensure she unseats incumbent Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay - himself a former Quebec Liberal leadership hopeful with strong ties to many in the Charest government.

A little Quebec politics background here: Harel has worked her whole professional life for the PQ and the separatist cause, having joined the party in 1970 at the age of 24. She got elected in 1981, back when René Lévesque was party leader, and went on to serve in both Parizeau's and Bernard Landry's cabinets; including a stint as interim party leader in the National Assembly.

While you won't find a hint of separatist policy (nor any mention of her impressive PQ and separatist bona fides) on the Vision Montreal website, make no mistake about the true motive here: Installing a separatist municipal government with strong PQ ties into Quebec's largest city would serve a similar purpose to the raison d'etre of the BQ: organizational and ideological support that each party can leverage off of between their respective elections.

And any government of Harel's will have at least one eye trained on promoting Quebec separation at any given opportunity. For if the last 40 years of Quebec history teaches us anything, it's that you can take the politician out of the ostensibly separatist party, but you can't take the separatist drive out of the politician.

And with the notable exception of former Vision Montreal leader (and Paul Martin Liberal) Benoit Labonté, who allowed himself to be bumped down a notch from party leader to become Harel's right-hand man, most of the candidates recruited by Harel have similarly strong separatist credentials. For example, yesterday I received a full-colour glossy pamphlate in my mailbox promoting former PQ MNA Elsie Lefebvre as a Vision Montreal candidate for city councillor in the Villeray arrondissement (or district). And how about former Bloq MP Réal Ménard, brought on board by Harel last June to run for mayor of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough?

So how does this all fit in with Duceppe's propping-up of the Harper government? Well, voter apathy in municipal elections - the conventional wisdom goes - is not helped one iota by a concurrent national campaign competing for the public's (and media's) attention.

That said, Harel needs to bring up the issues and stir up voter anger towards her opponent. That's her greatest hope for dislodging him in what has become a two-way race. Especially since her history with the PQ does not in any way endear her to the overwhelmingly federalist and entrenched Liberal-supporting constituency of the island.

Because traditionally, Montrealers return their mayoralty incumbents to power unless and until they get really fed up with them. Getting us fed up should be easy, given the rampant allegations of wide-spread corruption within the Tremblay administration. But if a federal campaign comes along in the meantime, that makes Harel's job a whole lot harder. And if she loses, then the possibility of a new (de facto) separatist government lording over Montreal island becomes that much more distant; with the goal of separating from Canada as elusive as ever.

The over-arching separatist strategy, therefore, is best served spending the next 11 weeks quietly putting all three parties' volunteers and support to that purpose - not fighting another federal campaign wherein they will need to concentrate on helping the Bloq maintain their seat count against the ambitious Liberals and Conservatives.

Simply put, there is absolutely no need for the separatists to bring down Harper's government right now, since it would only serve to hamper the separatist cause (not to mention Harel's personal ambition).

I'm surprised Jack Layton is letting all his party's political capital seep away, given this reality. His base must be furious with him, especially considering the Conservative government is comfortably safe without NDP support ...until November at least.

- 30 -

I was on my way to the Death Star that morning...

h/t to Section 15 for finding this one:



There is comic brilliance, and then there is comic brilliance with exquisite post-modernist satire, done with impeccable execution. Brilliant.

(The real tragedy is that all three brave Stormtroopers pictured here would eventually be killed in the destruction of the second Death Star, just five years later. Contributions to their widows and children are being taken up by the Intergalactic Imperial Loyalist Fund. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.)

- 30 -

Monday, September 14, 2009

What a Find: Schoolhouse Rock pronoun vid

Sometimes it's good to lighten the load a bit. The Schoolhouse Rock series was the epitome of the 1970s' effort to make good use of television's educational possibilities. If nothing else, it brings back fond memories. I was tickled pink to find my personal favourite among a slew of them on youtube:



Maybe ol' Jim Flaherty could look into using something like this for his project to educate Canadians on the world of finance (I heard them musing about it on CBC Radio One early this morning - link anyone?)

Of course, Flaherty might be wise to sign-up the whole Harper cabinet for remedial Finance 101 first (himself included). How big is that deficit projected to be this week now?

- 30 -

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RT @PaulMartinJr - LMFAO: "Transport Canada 'fictitiously' expensing millions"

Methinks that with G&M headlines like these - just in time for Parliament to return from summer - there will be crow on the menu in Ottawa this week.
Federal public servants at Transport Canada are routinely filing millions of dollars in expenses – including overtime, salaries and computers – toward a construction project that doesn't exist.

Further, The Globe and Mail has learned that public servants who object to the scheme are routinely overruled by their managers.

...

Documents released through access-to-information requests list the expenses, which total $10.7-million since 2004. Expenses continued to be billed to the pipeline project this year.

What's more, government documents show Transport Canada managers insisted employees bill all expenses to the fund for any travel that is loosely in the area of the proposed pipeline – listing 23 communities in the Northwest Territories as “Mackenzie Valley locations.” When employees noted their trips to the region had nothing to do with the pipeline, they were told that Transport Canada headquarters approved the use of the fund based on geography.
I imagine Transport Minister John Baird will sadly be sleep-deprived for tomorrow. Pity, because he'll need his wits about him (all two).

Shall we start the scandal naming now, folks? Vote and contribute in comments, please!

1) Pipeline to Nowhere?
2) Pipe-dreamy accounting?
3) Pipescam?
4) Put that on the pipe and smokescreen it?
5) Other (but not Pipegate; too easy)

Wow. Between this and the earlier confirmation that Clement came down hard on Ablonczy to ensure no goddamned faggots unwarranted groups in Toronto or Montreal would receive any Harper government money, this government appears to be floundering worse than the Fraser river salmon. Iggy might as well invite the CTV cameras into his crypt and let his eyebrows grow out if this keeps up.

(h/t to Montreal Simon)

- 30 -

Libs Not Making it Easy Being Green (for May) Anymore

The Green Party's stated electoral goal is to concentrate their efforts on winning a seat for leader Elizabeth May.
Last month she announced that she would not run in Nova Scotia again, and moved her home to the West Coast riding (of Saanich-Gulf Islands).

May has said her party has made her election to the House of Commons a priority and insisted that she run in the riding with the best chance of electing a Green MP.

But her campaign manager John Fryer dismissed the notion she's simply a parachute candidate.

"Canada needs Elizabeth May in Parliament and when we surveyed the country we found this riding seems to be the greenest," Fryer said.
Unfortunately, it's always risky to put all your eggs into one basket - especially when that strategy backfired once already.

Here's hoping for the best, but I have to say, both incumbent Gary Lunn and the new Liberal candidate in May's hand-picked BC riding look like pretty tough competition, even for a party leader with May's profile.

I guess in the end, there is no safe riding for the Greens. You'll recall Kermit the Frog sang about our plight, (way back before he became a Disney stooge).



My only beef with this party - which has the best platform of the lot - is that its leader has a nasty habit of painting herself into corners. [gulps] "Quixotic" is definitely not the first adjective one wants people to associate with one's party.

- 30 -

hat-tip to impolitical

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Your Bias is Showing

Some interesting word choices on the part of Globe & Mail reporter Campbell Clark in this piece about Ignatieff ruling out the coalition question:
The Conservatives still insist a coalition is one of Mr. Ignatieff's secret schemes – and it's not yet clear if ruling out will help de-fang the issue for the Liberals, or simply bring more attention to it.

If it became clear in an election campaign that the Liberals might be able to win government, but not a majority, Mr. Harper would use the coalition attacks to argue that only a Conservative majority would stop the NDP and Bloc from gaining a hand in running the country.
(emphasis mine)


Seems like Mr. Clark (or some editor) has the inside track on what the Conservative war-room would do, and is happy to trot out their talking points rather matter-of-factly, as if the numerous "secret schemes" of Michael Ignatieff's were a matter of public record, and the Conservatives are merely insisting this is "one of" them. So where is the attribution for that? Seems like somebody's bias is showing.

- 30 -

The Sound of Conservative Talking Points Fizzling

Blecccch!

Sputter!

Cough!


Retch!

"My cynicism can't keep up"

Mark Francis over at Section 15 seems poised to give Canadian Cynic a run for his moniker with this post on Conservative tricks with crime bills, wherein the Globe & Mail piece he quotes includes this:
“This will be the third election we've had that bill before the House,” said New Democrat justice critic Joe Comartin, complaining that Canada's identity-theft laws are years behind those in Europe and the U.S.

Crime has proved to be such a no-risk political winner that the Harper government has for three years stacked up a long queue of crime bills in Parliament, sometimes letting them sit without debate, and blaming the opposition for stalling them.
Mr. Comartin said the Conservatives are transparently slowing the progress of some crime bills so that they can use it as a political weapon, mainly against the Liberals.

“Pushing the crime button has worked for them fairly effectively,” he said. “They'd love to be able to beat up on the Liberals.”

The pile-up occurs in part because the government introduces its crime bills as small amendments, forcing the justice committee to consider them one at a time, in sequence, often hearing the same witnesses repeatedly – instead of combining them in an omnibus bill.
Mark sums up his post with: "My cynicism can't keep up". You know something Mark? Neither can mine.

- 30 -

What was that about appointing idealogues?

“Imagine how many left-wing ideologues they would be putting in the courts, federal institutions, agencies, the Senate. I should say: how many more they would be putting in?”
--Stephen Harper, in Sault-Ste. Marie, Ontario, September 3, 2009.

Yesterday's news of former Mulroney Tory Pierre Blais's appointment by Peevey Stevie as chief justice of the Federal Appeal Court fell below the radar for a whole slew of newsmakers unable to get their one-track gaze off the "upcoming election" meme. Luckily, the story did not escape the attention of the Canadian Press (view it here, via the G&M), where they know a thing or two about putting perspective into a news story:
Judge Blais was first elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative MP in 1984 and was re-elected in 1988. He lost his Bellechasse seat, just outside Quebec City, when the PCs were devastated by Mr. Chrétien's Liberals in the October 1993 federal election.

Judge Blais served in multiple junior cabinet roles under Mr. Mulroney before replacing Kim Campbell as justice minister in a January, 1993, shuffle. He co-chaired the PCs' national re-election campaign.

Critics of his tenure accused the Quebec nationalist of being more concerned with party politics than with justice policy.

As justice minister, he rejected mandatory anti-sexism training for judges at all levels. He also proposed lowering the age at which the Young Offenders Act applies to 10 from 12 and reducing the age at which adult criminal law applies to 16 from 18.
Clearly, the right-wing partisan appointments are in full swing under a minority Harper government. Patronage is something opposition leaders have been able to make hay with before, of course.

- 30 -

Calling on Decent Canadians to Stand with Jake Raynard

I read about this terrible attack earlier this week from Montreal Simon's blog. I was shocked and angered - as anyone would be - to know that people living in this country, under the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are still subject to episodes of blatantly homophobic violence.

Today, Simon shares an encouraging update:
But luckily for me there are people like Jake, and so many other gay people, to remind me that violence is not the answer, because we are better than the brutish, cowardly, gay bashers who hunt us like animals.

And because we are like that, out of something horrible can come something BEAUTIFUL.

Like this:

Dave Ivany, director of Gender Issues Centre at Lakehead University said that since Raynard’s story has come out, more people are starting to tell their stories about dealing with homophobia in Thunder Bay.
Well I stand with Jake Raynard, and with everyone who wants to see an end to violence, homophobia and hate in general. We must denounce it, loudly and incessantly. I wish you a speedy and full recovery, Jake. And may the justice system do you justice as well.

Also, there is a Facebook group set-up for anyone to join who wants to stand up and be counted as a voice against hate.

Good luck to Jake. And keep up the good fight.

- 30 -

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Word to Red Tory

I was going to blog about Michael Ignatieff's presser from this afternoon, but Red Tory sums it up so well I just have to send you over there.

Icky Yucky Nasty Weasley Peevey Stevie

I saw the report on CBC last night, but it didn't fully sink in how awful Harper's vision of Canada under a majority Conservative government really is. Not until I read impolitical's excellent analysis. Montreal Simon also shares my sentiments. I have nothing more to add at this point - beyond my own considerable nausea.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is that all ya got, Kenney?

It was Sunday evening before Labour Day and the only guy in Canada wearing a suit and tie with no funeral to attend was looking like he knew he was laying an egg, and trying hard not to show it. Jason Kenney delivered this pathetically thin personal attack on Michael Ignatieff in response to the release of a pre-writ ad wherein Ignatieff dons the powerfully Chrétienish blue shirt and waxes all sweet and cuddly about us great Canadians.

(here is the ad - try not to fall asleep watching it):



Still awake? While the ad provides little substance, it does subtley fight fire with fire by extolling the virtues of having a broad international view of the world, negating the silly and niggardly provincial argument that Iggy is somehow a bad Canadian for having lived and worked abroad for much of his adult life. That argument didn't wash and the Cons seem to be realizing it.

So now they want to paint Ignatieff as being phony. And they yanked a bland quote, presumably from somewhere in a 2005 Harvard professors' lounge or some such place - wherein he is telling his then-colleagues that he will have to present himself differently as he enters the world of politics. And the Conservatives think Canadians will find this terribly shocking? As if Harper himself doesn't measure every word and gesture in public? As if we voters are such babes in the woods that we wouldn't be able to conceive of a public official having to act accordingly when espousing party politics, as opposed to ruminating on public policy from an academic perspective?

It's another example of the Cons' small-mindedness, and it appears to play right into the Liberals' game-plan of creating a contrast between an outward-looking, confident Canada we can all be proud of on the world-stage; and a petty, snippy, combative Canada that can't even summon enough respect for other world leaders to show up on time for the group photo-ops.

So Mr. Kenney, if that's all you've got, you ain't got nothing. I think you know it, and I look forward to seeing more of these nervous, desperate Conservatives trying to sell us on their laughably lame lines of attack.

- 30 -

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to Resign Now

Let us not beat around the bush: Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled the world about the seriousness of a breach of secret information under his watch that, it turns out was so major, risked compromising Canada's - and NATO's - mission (on several fronts). It also may have provided crucial information to our enemies, according to the lede in le Devoir reporter Bahador Zabihiyan's explosive front page story in this morning's edition.

Yes, thanks to the Montreal daily newspaper, whose editors waited over a year to receive the now heavily-censored documents under the Access to Information Act, we now know that Stephen Harper was at best, disingenuous and completely lacking in judgment in May, 2008, when he dismissed opposition calls for a full inquiry into the matter.

In lieu of the highly sensitive and broad-ranging scope of detailed information we now know was contained therein, it more than stretches credulity to imagine Harper was unaware of the wide-ranging international security implications of the breach - especially given the fact the documents were in the possession of a woman linked to organized crime, and for a period of weeks, before they were retrieved. At the very least, a breach (and possible cover-up) of this importance requires a criminal investigation by the RCMP, since the information may have compromised national security, not to mention that of our NATO allies.

As you'll recall, then Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier was hastily relieved of his portfolio over the incident - but only once the news broke a month after the actual breach occurred, in May of 2008.

Browsing through the points of interest contained within the 560 pages of classified information, Zabihiyan notes that few global flashpoints are absent:
De l'élargissement de l'OTAN aux pays des Balkans à la contribution de celui-ci dans la lutte contre le terrorisme, des prisonniers talibans en Afghanistan à la défense antimissile, du contrôle des armements au conflit israélo-palestinien, de la situation en l'Ukraine à la présence d'al-Qaïda au Pakistan en passant par la position du Canada en ce qui concerne le dalaï-lama et le nucléaire iranien, tous les grands sujets de la politique canadienne à l'étranger y sont abordés de manière détaillée.
The CBC sums that up in english like so:
The documents include classified information about NATO's plans to expand operations in the Balkans, Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, arms control in the Middle East, security in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan.

Almost every page obtained by the newspaper has large sections blacked out.

The original copies — left at (Bernard's girlfriend, Julie) Couillard's house in April 2008 — were not censored.
Given the seriousness of this breach, there can be no justification for Harper's downplaying of it as being simply a mix of public and confidential material, and briefing notes for meetings, as his government said at the time.

In lieu of the inevitable questions brought up by the scope of the information leaked, the potential damage to Canada's worldwide reputation is incalculable. Our NATO allies must be deeply concerned, with gusts to appalled, that one of their most trusted partners could undermine our collective international security with such flippant disregard for a possibly treasonous breach of secret information - and without any sort of credible investigation having been undertaken into the matter in the 18 months since.

Given what we know today, one imagines that leaders in London, Washington, Brussels, Paris, etc. must be (privately, if not publicly) livid that the Canadians still cannot ascertain:

1) The breadth of the Bernier leak
2) How it was ever possible
3) What was done to mitigate the risk of future breaches (and how come other ministers - hello Lisa Raitt - evidently cannot keep track of their sensitive documents either).

One imagines our allies would be equally unimpressed that Maxime Bernier was allowed to remain in place within the Conservative caucus, then run again for the party mere months later, whence the voters in his riding re-elected him.

So please, Mr. Harper, do it. Visit Rideau Hall and resign as Prime Minister of Canada.

Do it before the Governor-General needs to step in and remove you from power. Because like a chain, NATO security is only as strong as its weakest link. Canada, under the Harper Conservatives, has proven itself unable to live up to its responsibility in regards to its NATO allies' collective security. There may be no way to save our national credibility as a fair partner. But Harper's immediate resignation would be a necessary first step in rebuilding the trust that lies at the foundation of NATO and Canadian security.

- 30 -

Monday, August 31, 2009

Leadership from Ignatieff on medical isotopes crisis - at last

Probably not to be much noticed on a day the Globe & Mail is jumping up and down about a tiny uptick in GDP, it is still refreshing to see that the leader of the Opposition is finally going on record with a "what the Liberals would do" response to a serious crisis. I am also glad he went the distance in spelling out how the crisis is an obvious failing of the current government. (Hat-tip to Impolitical).

Let's see more focus on the Conservatives' dismal incompetence with running the country the past three years. You want examples? Here are your stinking examples.

- 30 -

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day, everyone

This is stellar (and they even apologize for Celine Dion):

"I Know that You Want to be Canadian Please"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Washington Bullets in Iran please

For the very first time ever,
When they had a revolution in Nicaragua,
There was no interference from America
Human rights in America

Well the people fought the leader,
And up he flew...
With no Washington bullets what else could he do?
--The Clash, from Washington Bullets


As usual, historian Juan Cole has an excellent round-up of the latest news from Iran, taking care to attribute his sources, and contextualizing them with his knowledge of the underlying politics. In Cole's words:
Mousavi has thrown down a gauntlet before the Supreme Leader and a battle has been joined. By the rules of the Khomeinist regime, only one of them can now survive. And perhaps neither will.
It doesn't seem like that long ago that Bush's United States was perilously close to invading Iran. Thank goodness this never came to pass. Obama's low-key reaction thus far seems appropriate to me. Let the Iranians find their way on their own and avoid the impression of Washington Bullets dictating the outcome. Because then any reform movement that may come to light will have a chance at being taken as legitimate by the Iranian people and the world at large.



But before we get too excited, we must recall there is always also this possibility.

Meanwhile, we must sit and we wait; and view events from afar with a hopeful (if jaundiced) eye.

- 30 -

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran's existentialist moment of truth?

Now comes the inevitable crackdown from the Iranian regime. Unconfirmed reports of beatings, teargas, killings, and a suicide bomber that blew himself up in an important Khomeini shrine.

But out of all the stuff I've seen from Iran in the past week, I liked this (allegedly from a few hours ago, as the crackdown was getting underway) the most.



This day has a real "moment of truth" feel to it. May Iran find its way to a peaceful outcome with a minimum of bloodshed.

- 30 -

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"They are killing us all!"

There is an incredible and detailed first-hand account at Salon from a Tehran protester whose name was withheld for "reasons of personal safety". It details the swings between a festive mood and outright fear that Iranians are feeling from one moment to the next. The entire account is worth reading, but here are some tidbits that stood out for me: (all emphasis mine)
In the crowd there are families, young and old. One cannot help but notice the large presence of women of all ages. The typical daily life of the capital is out here together, the homes, sidewalks and boulevards abandoned for this shared space. There is word that the crowd is millions strong; we know that it stretches eastward to Imam Hussein Square.
...
All does not end well. Seeing the camera around my neck, several people rush up to me, frantically urging me to go take pictures, shouting, "They are killing us all!" Behind a wall, in an alleyway set off from the road, a confrontation is taking place between one spike of the crowd and basiji forces, holed up in a base. There is the unsettling pop-pop-pop of gunfire, and a plume of black smoke rises into the sky. A crowd is gathering in the alley and men rush forward to throw rocks while others tell them, "Stop, stop, that's what they want!"
...

To stop this now would take a tremendous display of violence and thus far, blessedly, that has not happened. And every day everyone says that in a few days the protests will be stopped, and what's the point of going out, but when the moment comes everyone is here.
...

In the late afternoon and lasting until around dinner time it is a place of peaceful civic celebration, a Disneyland of political action for the whole family to participate. At night, the mood shifts abruptly, and the capital becomes a battleground, a city in which fear stalks on motorbikes mounted in helmeted pairs.

Here in Canada meanwhile, the prospect of getting our apathetic asses to the polls for a summer vote is deemed so dreadful, our Opposition Leader has capitulated completely to a government he himself describes as incompetent. What a pushover. Frankly, I would have preferred this outcome.

- 30 -

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranians Maximizing Tweeter's Potential

I don't know if the revolution will be televised, but it sure as hell is being tweeted to the nth degree. It's pretty amazing to be able to read witness accounts unfolding in real time.

The below video is prefaced with the tweet: "Basijis breaking into homes in Tehran, terrorizing ppl, psychological warfare". I won't say who because other tweets beg us not to publish the names of Twitterers in Iran since government forces are using that to identify them.



Once again, a new communication technology takes centre stage to redefine our world.

- 30 -

BREAKING: Iggy to Cross Floor, Join Conservatives

Background: Yesterday on CBC's The National, Michael Ignatieff was loathe to answer Peter Mansbridge's question on when the last time he and the Prime Minister met privately. Today, Paul Wells cautioned Iggy about Harper's legacy as a master manipulator in these settings. Oh, Iggy, no wonder you were so scared. If only you'd held off a little longer. Alas... ;-)

OTTAWA--In a surprise move that is rattling Parliament Hill to its core, Michael Ignatieff emerged from today's one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to announce that he is resigning immediately as Liberal leader to cross the floor and join the government benches as the Natural Resources minister, replacing MP Lisa Raitt.

It remains unclear where this leaves the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, as well as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in the House of Commons.

All of Ottawa appears to be in catatonic shock, save for the Prime Minister himself. Harper spoke briefly to the press in the Commons foyer with a mute and serene-looking Ignatieff standing at his side, occasionally picking lint off his Master's jacket.

"Mr. Ignatieff and I agree that the best way to avoid sending Canadians into a summertime election campaign that nobody in their right mind wants is for him to subserviently become my dog," Harper told a stunned throng of reporters, and Robert Fife.

"However, since that's not physically possible, he has agreed to this other arrangement, whereby he will be sworn in later this afternoon as the Minister of Natural Resources, as well as the Minister responsible for Destroying All Opposition to Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill. Isn't that right, Igster?" Harper said, shooting a sly smile at Mr. Ignatieff, his fist clenching slightly.

Ignatieff appeared ready to speak, but meekly nodded his head, smiled and looked down as Harper thanked the press and led him away toward Rideau Hall, where the Governor-General was presumably making preparations for the swearing-in ceremony.

More to come as this shocking story develops.

- 30 -

Monday, June 15, 2009

Finalement, c'est "Anglo à GoGo" pour la Fête nationale - Bon décision, SSJB

That didn't take too long. From the CBC:
Two anglophone bands from Montreal that were cut from a concert on the eve of St-Jean-Baptiste Day after a flap over language issues are back on the roster, the show's organizer said Monday afternoon.

"The Fête nationale is for all Quebecers, regardless of their language or political affiliation," Chantale Trottier, the organizer's president, said in a release.

Last week, Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill were in the lineup for the L'Autre St. Jean concert in the borough of Rosemont but were soon after uninvited.
There is a communiqué up explaining the move on the l'Autre St-Jean site (in French). Bravo to all parties: Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew for showing class in the face of the original snub. And hats off to La Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal (or SSJB, who'd previously been behind the decision to uninvite the anglo bands), for coming to their senses.

Now let's just sit and marvel at how far we've come to see this day where anglophone Québecois bands are looking forward to celebrating our Fête nationale and immersing themselves in French Canadian culture. That's the spirit. When you think about it, there is so much we share; and we are lucky to live in a place where, more often than not anyway, cooler heads can prevail. Moi, je suis ben fier de mes voisins au jourd'hui.

I'll leave you with this really cool video of Malajube's (they're the headliner for the show in question), courtesy of Youtube:



Bon nuit.

- 30 -

How to Look Like a Closed-minded and Xenophobic Society

La Fête Nationale is a civic holiday in Québec. Being a Quebecker (or Québecois si vous préferez) of anglo heritage, it’s my party too and I think uninviting two Québec artists because they sing in English is really small-minded:
La Fête nationale doit être célébrée en français, affirme l'Association culturelle Louis-Hébert, commanditaire du spectacle L'Autre St-Jean, qui confirme avoir exigé le retrait de deux formations musicales parce qu'elles chantent en anglais. Cette décision a été vertement critiquée par des artistes et des membres de la communauté anglophone, mais plusieurs organisations souverainistes l'ont appuyée.

«Ce que nous voulons, ce sont des groupes qui chantent en français le jour de la Fête nationale», a affirmé Mathieu Bouthillier, vice-président de l'Association culturelle Louis-Hébert.
The CTV report sums it up in English like this:
A group of Anglophone musicians has been banned from playing at a St. Jean Baptiste celebration.

The band, called Lake of Stew, is made up of three brothers from the Mile End. They play folksy, bluegrass music - and they sing exclusively in English.

A few weeks ago, they were invited to perform at the first edition of a St. Jean Baptiste celebration called "L'Autre St-Jean".
(Absent from that CTV report was any mention of the other anglo act getting the ax; namely, Bloodshot Bill.) My tax dollars know no language; however they help to sponsor many events meant to bring us all together in a celebration of the richness of our culture.

And today's Quebec is overwhelmingly mature in its openness to different cultures, particularly here in Montreal. So I find it rather strange, this worry that the sounds of English lyrics during la Fête nationale might spark protests. As for the event organizers, it speaks volumes that they lack confidence in their supposedly proud and self-assured fellow Québecois' ability to deal with a little English mixed in with the festivities. In fact, it smacks of intolerance of the reality of the very existence of one culture in particular: anglo Quebeckers. Would these acts have been uninvited if they were made up of francophones (bons gars) who happened to sing all Elvis and Beatles covers?

Besides, does anyone doubt that music forms from many anglo cultures – like American Bluegrass for example – were important influences to francophone Québec acts like les Cowboys Fringants? I know a lot of francophone musicians who write exclusively English lyrics just for reasons of personal preference or aesthetics. There is no need to politicize the language of lyrical content. This bone-headed move is simply a matter of intolerance trumping inclusiveness.

By the way: If you can read French, you'll notice a good majority of commenters on the La Presse story are equally appalled. That's heartening and not at all surprising. The great majority of Québecois are open-minded and generous people, which is why I am proud to call myself one, despite the few yahoos that always manage to make dubious news for the rest of Canadians to muse over.

Tip of the hat to Fagstein; he has lots more on this, including links to the petitions.

Meanwhile: courtesy of youtube, here's a sweet little taste of the hazardously English-singing Lake of Stew:



And the equally dangerously English psychobilly of Bloodshot Bill:



- 30 -

Monday, May 25, 2009

Four and Twenty Assets

Four and twenty assets
Backing every paper
Graded "Triple-A"
'tho lacking pedigree
When they all defaulted
The value flew away
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set for you and me?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on her investments
Devalued be as they may
Along came massive lay-offs
Slapped down upon her
And scared Miss Muffet into pulling out her life savings at a mammoth loss so she could afford a handful of fucking curds and whey

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on Wall St.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the Fed's bailouts and all the Fed's pleas for the credit markets to provide liquidity
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Little Piggy

This little piggy worked at [Company Name]
This little piggy got laid off
This little piggy got his severance pay
This little piggy got none
This little piggy cried: "Oui!" all the way to Normes du Travail

Friday, March 06, 2009

No Free Content for CanWest - Kudos to you J.T.

There is power in a factory
Power in the land
Power in the hands of the worker
But it all amounts to nothing
If together we don't stand
There is power in a union
--Billy Bragg


Being a life-long Quebecker and Habs fan, I have been an avid reader of the Gazette's Habs Inside/Out blog site since its inception a few years ago. They built an excellent and successful online community very quickly by providing informed round-the-clock reporting, together with an open forum for commentary. This was of course all leveraged off the parent newspaper's existing sports reporting infrastructure and access to the club.

Long-time Gazette columnist (and prolific HI/O blogger) Mike Boone was rightly proud of their achievements recently:
Speaking of how hard-working and indispensable we are, Google Analytics calculates Habs Inside/Out had 2,383,333 page views in February – up from 1,180,013 in February, 2008.

That's a 102 per cent increase.

And comScore MediaMetrix credits Habs Inside/Out with 92,000 unique visitors in January – up from 40,000 a year ago. That's a 130 per cent jump.

Are we great or what

Yeah Mike, that's great. But evidently not great enough to actually pay some of the people you've tapped to provide content. One of the regular posters on the site's Other Wing page - one of the people whose content has helped draw up those hit counts - has decided to take a stand on behalf of her profession, and stop providing that content free of charge:
I write here as an unpaid volunteer, and I've been having some serious second thoughts about what that means for others. I've noticed the increase in ads supported by the site, and earlier this week Mike Boone posted stats on the number of site visits, which are up more than a hundred percent over last year. In short, the Gazette makes money from HI/O. So, in an age when my professional colleagues in the newspaper business are struggling to keep their jobs and keep their papers viable, a site like Inside/Out could be an important source of work for them. Therefore, I believe it's wrong for me to undermine the work they depend upon for their livelihoods by providing content for nothing.

Mainly for that reason, I am withdrawing from The Other Wing.
Good for you, J.T. As I wrote in the comments on her final post, there is a difference between providing comments and being a featured (published) poster. As the latter, there is a greater benefit to the publisher, and it competes in the same space as paid professionals. Add to that, J.T. has an established career in media as a CBC radio broadcaster in Newfoundland. Content from a pro like herself has added value based on her training, abilities and experience.

For J.T. to be expected to provide free content is no different from expecting a plumber to fix your pipes for nothing more than positive word of mouth - no matter how much they may enjoy their work.

If you want to send J.T. some love, she has a thoughtful site where she writes on her own terms: The H does NOT stand for Habs.

J.T.: This out-of-work writer salutes you!



- 30 -

Thursday, March 05, 2009

EI came through blessedly early

I almost feel ashamed.

While some have been waiting months to receive any EI payments, mine has gone through in just over two weeks since submitting my Record of Employment (or RoE).

But even though it's less than half my former salary, it couldn't have happened at a better time, since I continue to wait for my final paycheck and severance pay from my former employer.

Meanwhile, a friend tipped me off to a Marcom writing job at my alma mater.

I applied within hours.

Because even though it's just a one-year contract, the pickings are too slim not to get excited about it. It's a good thing I have up to forty weeks before the EI money dries up.

-- 30 --

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The New Collection-Based Economy

How bad will it get?

One of the scariest examples of the world economic melt-down is the experience of Iceland. Yes, the tiny but proud country with the Björk-based economy likely did themselves no favours relying on the quirky but prolific pixie-like recording artist for over 45% of their GNP.

(I know that's true cuz I saw it somewhere in an Onion article once...)

All kidding aside, Iceland's real problem was that their banks' finances were way too heavily beholden to the Bullshit Bush financial model, where carefully concealed Bullshit is repackaged to become the investment option of choice for organizations worldwide.

It wasn't Björk's fault the Icelandic banks found themselves holding six times as much debt as real capital to cover it late last year.

The relative health of Canadian financial institutions should be a source of comfort for those of us lucky enough to live here, right? Well, not entirely:

Lost in Traslation?
Apart from the obvious need for political cover, I really don't see the point in Quebec Premier Jean Charest's decision yesterday to haul the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec onto the carpet after suffering its worst year on record.
"As with all other investors, the first element that explains our return this year is the global financial crisis that broke out in the fourth quarter," said Caisse president and CEO Fernand Perreault.

However, he said the fund's decision to delve heavily into asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP)also cost it dearly. The Caisse invested $12.6 billion in the form of short-term debt, making it the largest holder in Canada.

With the market for the debt frozen, ABCP accounted for $4 billion of the Caisse 's total losses in 2008.

Perreault now admits investing so heavily in ABCP was a bad idea.

"In hindsight, we placed too much confidence in these securities …. It was a mistake to accumulate so much ABCP," said Perreault.

"We mistakenly believed that these products were as safe, or almost as safe, as other money market instruments."
Of course, the decision to go so heavily into asset-backed commercial paper can be easily explained by the usual Quebec excuse of the unfair language barrier sticking a knife in our backs. (Mais Jean, c'n'est pas juste! We thought they said "acid-backed paper". We thought it had industrial applications, hôtie...)
[Note to Icelandic bankers looking for some kind of excuse: you're welcome, and don't worry, we won't bill you.]

What knee-jerk Quebec media don't understand is that mammoth funds like the Caisse handles are too big not to be a reflection of the underlying economy on the whole. Yes, Quebec lost 25% of the supposed value of its nationalized pension fund (if you choose the highest benchmark as your relational point), but what else did we expect? Of course the fund managers did the same things as their counterparts worldwide who were using paradigms for risk that assumed triple-a securities were rated accordingly.

From there, the need to get in the game and follow the other lemmings takes over naturally. If everyone else is doing it, it must be okay, right? Over the cliff with us!*

The Bush Trickle-down Bullshit Model
Not if the "assets" on the backs of all that paper amount to utter Bullshit.

It all boils down to the Bullshit right-wing deregulation of the financial markets in the United States. The United States under their Bullshit President and their Bullshit Republican-controlled Congress became a bastion of utter Bullshit generally. And if the right-wing "trickle-down" concept applies to anything, then surely it applies to Bullshit (especially when coupled with governmental leadership).

Because as Bullshit ruled the White House, so did Bullshit rule the way American financial markets were run.

As did it rule the way American companies were run.

Right down to American household economies, where buying a house with nothing down and a 40-year amortization on a mortgage with no principal paid-down in the first few years became common-place. And then, they get a new flat-screen TV and cable and end up watching home renovation shows where the illusion is propagated that 22 minutes later you've got a beautiful, modern kitchen gleaming in the morning sunlight. Add some happily-scrubbed children's faces, munching on microwaved pizza pops and you're in the Promised Land.

So it becomes normal to not just over-leverage your household income, but to dream about over-leveraging it even more (like all the other lemmings in your neighbourhood), and go to that beautiful church-like Home Reno warehouse store and get a Home Reno Platinum Card (fine print showing 28.75% interest, compounded daily, subject to change at the issuer's discretion), and spend, spend, spend to make your own home the temple You Deserve since you don't have any other spirituality to cling to and make sense of your daily existence.

That's what it meant to be a good little consumer in the consumer-driven economy of the Bullshit George W. Bush America.

Dead Stop
And what are we left with? A world where the Bullshit has trickled down world-wide. Hence Iceland. Hence pension funds exposed to have little real value. Hence world-wide panic that filters down to a financial and economic dead stop.

No one is paying anyone for anything unless they absolutely have to. So the new economy is a collection-based economy. At least that is how it appears when I look in my email inbox, where I see the hard-working little application at Workopolis.com has sent me links to the day's new job postings - and more and more of them are related to people trying to lean on other people to pony-up (three out of four today):
Your Job Search Results
We’ve found new jobs that fit what you’re looking for! Click the links below to find out more.

AN UNNAMED COMPANY
Bilingual Customer Service Rep- English/French Required (2/25/2009)

GROUPE MONTPETIT RESSOURCES HUMAINES INC
Collection administrator bilingual - (english and french) (2/25/2009)

HSBC Finance
Collector (2/25/2009)

HSBC Finance
Collector (2/25/2009)
Please, World, Scare me Some More
Meanwhile, with the unknown effects of what's looking more and more like runaway global warming, will all this seem quaintly anti-climactic a generation from now?
Antarctic glaciers are melting faster than previously thought, which could lead to an unprecedented rise in sea levels, scientists said Wednesday.
The warming of western Antarctica is a real concern. "There's some people who fear that this is the first signs of an incipient collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet," said Colin Summerhayes, executive director of the Britain-based Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Sea levels will rise faster than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summerhayes said.

An IPCC panel in 2007 predicted warmer temperatures could raise sea levels by 76 centimetres to 120 centimetres this century, which could flood low-lying areas and force millions to flee.

"If the west Antarctica sheet collapses, then we're looking at a sea level rise of between one metre and 1.5 metres," Summerhayes said.

Researchers found that the southern ocean around Antarctica has warmed about 0.36 F in the past decade, double the average warming of the rest of the Earth's oceans over the past 30 years, he said.

Obama doesn't have a monopoly on change. A complete shake-up of society is upon us.

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*Turns out the meme of lemmings mindlessly running over a cliff to their deaths is another piece of US-propogated bullshit - this one exposed long ago by the Canadian CBC. The staged lemming "mass suicide" part comes just over a third of the way in.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peevey Stevie's ungratiousness not befitting a Canadian

With US President Barack Obama going so far out of his way to publicly thank Canada today for the contribution in effort, monies and blood (he even mentioned our 108 dead in the Afghanistan conflict), would it have been so much trouble for our Prime Minister to say, "You're welcome, Mr. President"?

Canadians used to be known for having good manners. I'm also not impressed with Harper for again playing down the difference between Obama's proposal of meeting absolute greenhouse gas emission targets, and his own government's history of doing virtually nothing and of undermining worldwide efforts to take decisive action on the issue.

Job Hunt: The Craigslist Test

Recapping my situation:

I got laid-off from my job late last month.

Right now, I am still at least five weeks away from my first potential EI check (of unknown quantity) and have gone unpaid from my former job since mid-January, including my severance pay owed. I have every faith in them paying me once they have the cash on hand to do so, but I am not sure when I can count on seeing it.

I know I must resume bringing home the bacon pretty soon or there will be payments defaulted upon, and the dread fear of foreclosure.

Last week, I started aggressively seeking work in my field by creating profiles on job-hunting and job-recruiting sites over the past two weeks.

Quantum.ca
Workopolis.com
Monster.ca
Sapphireca.com

Earlier today, I noticed a randstad.ca office in my neighbourhood, so I dropped by and explained that I am an out-of-work copywriter/tech writer/journalist and what might they have for someone with my skills? Unfortunately, they are more like office clerk/secretary/administrator recruiters. I was told they couldn't help me.

I came back home to review the jobs posted on the four sites above, only to find nothing new in the past 24 hours. I did apply at one place on Monday, but have not heard back yet. I would have responded to other job postings but they either sought skills I lack, or were out of my sphere. The one job that matched me well enough to apply for looks like a lot of sweat, and comes at a 25% (or more) pay cut from my previous job. But I can see myself taking that job enthusiastically.

With no other good news, today I went on Craigslist.com and did four things:

1. Searched for posts of people wanting anything I can viably offer.
2. Posted my resume.
3. Posted a notice for my mandolin/guitar services.
4. Posted an ad to finally sell all those comic books taking up space in my apartment.

This is serious stuff. I am not yet at the end of my rope, but I sure can see it clearly from here.

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UPDATE: Portions of the original post have been removed to respect the wishes of the person they made mention of.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fun with filling out Employment reports for EI claim

It still irks me how clumsy the Service Canada website is. I find it disappointing that you have to drill down through much silliness to find a link to any useful destination, such as the page I must return to every two weeks to enter mandatory EI reports.

You would think they might offer a quick login function for "epass" right on their homepage, but no. Same for the reporting page for your EI. It's almost as if it was purposely designed to deter you from providing the information you absolutely must provide in order to keep the government from pulling the plug on your money. Are they hoping people will haplessly screw up so they can use that as an excuse to cut them off? I sure hope not, and I don't want that to be my fate, so I am putting up a link here to that bi-weekly EI reporting page.

Also, they didn't design it with the kind of intelligence you might expect. Instead of hanging onto my info (SIN and Access Code, etc.) for the duration of the session, the user has to go and enter it over again for each period reported, then double-confirm various questions separately. Honestly, does the application really think my banking information for direct deposit has changed in the minute or two since I just told them it hadn't changed (including verifying that I knew that I told them it hadn't, and that it was correct)?

Anyway, I have now updated the past three weeks of info since I made my initial application, including the first two weeks with the regular pay my former employer will pay me (when they can, anyway... someday... hopefully...) That and the week ending today with no work entered.

One of the questions one must answer is a yes or no regarding whether you were physically capable of working such and such days of the past week that you just confirmed you did not work. The only thing missing is a built-in admonishment like: "Well what in hell is wrong with you then? You mean you couldn't work anywhere all last week? Anywhere at all?"

Finally, it told me I should return on Feb. 28 to fill in my next report. Looks like I'm all set because when I try to send in a new report it gives me the following message:
Your report is not yet due. Our records show that the period you should be reporting for is the 2 week period from february 15, 2009 to february 28, 2009. The earliest this report can be filed is friday morning, february 27, 2009 at 08:00 eastern time
Note that I am not given access to review my own records entered for the previous weeks. Why not? That's just wrong.

Grumbles...

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Canada's EI - the staff are great but the process bites

Well I'm evidently not the only one left confused by the Service Canada website's process for registering Employment Insurance claims. Another blogger, the Rural Canadian, has had a pretty tough go of it himself, with no action on his claim after 16 weeks - 16 weeks! - of fruitless effort.

That's enough time for any number of financial horrors to befall a family. I know I couldn't hold out that long.

So, no time to waste: I went down to my local EI office yesterday afternoon, and I found it was staffed with courteous, bilingual people and my visit took just 20 minutes altogether, including wait time. The reason for making the trip was simply to produce the RoE (Record of Employment), and since I'd already entered the other info online, the only thing left to do was to stamp my RoE with the date it was received. They then offered to give me a photocopy - which I gladly took since it was the only type of receipt available.

The agent then mentioned the importance of going online or calling in with an update bi-weekly, and how by missing just one, my benefits would be cut-off. So this process begins immediately, and that's the part you have to go through the "epass" login to do. (I swear I could sense she was bracing herself for my reaction to this news, like it was her least favourite part of her job. But I just nodded, having already seen that warning on the website.)

I suppose some people lay into the poor Service Canada employees who are helplessly forced to explain this nasty little policy.

I was also told not to worry about the erroneous End Date I'd initially reported, which I had been forced to enter in order to finish the original application (three weeks ago now). I am not able to correct it myself, they said, and someone in Service Canada would see the true date on my RoE and make the necessary correction.

In retrospect, I notice the webpage for my local office has a fax number listed, so I wonder if making the trip in person was in fact obligatory. Perhaps faxing in the RoE would suffice, but I feel better having a copy that shows a stamp confirming they got it.

I just want to say once again how professional and empathetic the two staff members were (and the woman from the phone centre too). It was truly heartening to be made to feel like a human being, and the understanding they showed reminded me of the sort of feeling you get when you're in the hospital and scared and in pain and - by some stroke of luck - you just happen to get that sympathetic nurse who knows exactly what the term "caregiver" is all about. In short, I left feeling like I knew what I had to do, and the visit was well worthwhile.

Oh, and this was toward the end of the day on a Friday, during what must be the busiest time they have ever seen. Well done, Service Canada employees. I salute you. Now can somebody please tell me why the website is such a terrible mess? And get to work on Rural Canadian's claim, which by all rights should get fast-tracked like nothing else.

16 weeks. I'm still having a hard time digesting that.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

EI frustrations partially explained

Well, about an hour ago, I finally got through to a Service Canada calling queue, and only waited a couple of minutes before speaking with an agent. (Recall that before today, their 1-800 number's outgoing message had been telling me they were too busy to handle my call, and I should try later.)

I found the maze of back & forth using their touch-tone response system was not very productive for my purposes. "All questions must be answered and no response may be entered until the full question is asked. Press 9 for 'no' and 1 for 'yes'. Press * to hear the question again..."

But the woman I finally spoke to was fantastic, helpful and on-the-ball.

She knew about the feature that restricts applicants from going back in and changing the End Date of their employment (or anything else for that matter), and was the first to mention the following bit of information, which I found to be pretty crucial to the whole process:

I have to personally visit my local Service Canada Centre, Record of Employment in hand, during business hours in order to get the ball rolling. And here I had assumed (because there is nothing on their website saying as such, nor in the letter they mailed to me) that I could enter the information online, thus saving a federal employee from carrying out this task manually.

Well, it's too late for me to get there today, but at least I know tomorrow what and how to do, and where to do it.

On the job hunt front, I put my new Resume onto profiles I created on Quantum, Workopolis and Monster, and now it's time to browse their job postings.

To date: Since being laid off, I have six new accounts with usernames and passwords to keep track of, and some that include "challenging questions" (I expect a huge increase in spam). It is indeed an ITIL-defined world after all. Surely someone out there needs a guy who can concoct or update documentation for all these labyrinthine virtual worlds.

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On Resume rewriting and applying for EI

Why does it seem everyone has an opinion on how to write an effective resume (or whether to call it a "CV" instead?) All sorts of opinions sound valid - even when in direct conflict with one other.

In the end, you're playing a fool's game where you try desperately to hit the right tone with every word, so that any recruiter would be inspired to call you for an interview. Will they be offended if I include salary expectations? Did I strike the right balance between confidence and humility? Or do I come off sounding like I'm sickeningly infatuated with myself? Do I mention this blog or will that turn them off? Is it flat-out wrong to go to two-pages? Or to only have one? Does it really matter?

??????????

Worst of all, the presentation and writing on display are particularly crucial for someone going after jobs with "writer" in their titles. That's pressure, because the use of one font or another might be all it takes to dissuade certain recruiters from getting that warm-fuzzy they need to decide to contact you. But then, do I really want to work for someone that hair-splittingly fickle?

[pauses to breathe...]

I have resigned myself to never being completely happy with the damn thing, but at least I now have a basic one that I'm comfortable with. It's designed so I can tweak it a little here or there to meet the specific criteria of one job or another - hopefully without stretching credulity. In a somewhat bold move, I decided to give the thing a headline and an opening summary:

Copywriter with a head for IT and a gift for writing

I offer a unique mix of experience, skill and creativity that enables me to envision the hands-on application of complex technical concepts, then communicate that effectively to both the IT community and the general public. Whether defining ITIL-informed process structure and documentation; writing copy for marketing or technical documentation needs; or journalism of any sort, I am a versatile copywriter looking for an exciting new challenge with the right organization.

Besides that, I just plain really need a Goddamn Job:
Now to get it proof-read by friends & family; then post the long version on Monster, Quantum, Jobboom, Workopolis and any other sites I can find. Then finally: off to a more active job searching.

Meanwhile, I still haven't managed to finalize my EI application, although I did learn there is Access Management in place on Service Canada' site after all: "Epass Canada" they call it. But it's confusing because when I made my initial online application, it gave me a confirmation number and password outside of that (and with no link or explanation of where to use it - plus no mention of either of those things in the letter they sent by snail-mail). It all seems rather disjointed and if it's putting my skills at navigating online services to the test, how difficult is it for the typical non-savvy IT user to get their heads around?

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