Monday, August 22, 2011

RIP Jack Layton

I can't help feeling that a light just went out. One more voice of conscience and integrity went quiet. There is one less person who cares. Collectively, we are also just a bit poorer; impoverished in character, leadership and vision. We have lost a true Canadian. One light has gone out, but we have not slipped closer to darkness or chaos, because (regardless of political stripe) someone will pick up the torch, someone will care and someone will lead.

Will it be you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Assange: Free speech or anarchy?

I am undecided on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Clearly, as he posted his bail, Michael Moore is not. I suppose from the perspective of a documentary film maker the jailing of a journalist on what may be trumped up charges, the issue of one of free speech and a free press. I, however, look at the issue through the much broader lens of the public interests. Through this lens, things get a little more cloudy.

At first, I was very supportive of Wikileaks, particularly after the opaque and highly secretive Bush administration routinely massaged and manipulated intelligence and information for partisan purposes with disastrous results. A few timely leaks might have averted war (or landed Assange in Gitmo). But the recent series of leaks has changed my view of Mr. Assange. At this point, he looks less and less like a populous folk hero and more and more like a mud slinger.

In one leaked cable, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioned Embassy staff on the state of mind of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, asking if her state of stress/emotion effected her decision making. But other than embarrassing the US and Ms. Clinton, what public service was rendered in releasing this cable? Likewise, embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders (Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd is a "control freak", German chancellor Angela Merkel is “risk averse and rarely creative”, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is “brilliant, impatient, undiplomatic, hard to predict, charming, innovative, and summit-prone.”). Is it not part of the job of the State Dept. to make assessments of foreign leaders for the President and diplomatic corps? What public service is accomplished in releasing these cables?

Why these releases bother me is that diplomacy is a much preferred approach to international relations than more coercive tools, such as the near omnipotent US military. Diplomacy requires that leaders are able to communicate efficiently and securely with their diplomatic staff without worrying that everything they say or write might end up in the papers. Some secrets support peace and democracy. In my mind, releasing this type of information makes the world a much more dangerous place for democracy. I would much rather have the US Dept. of State getting and giving current, frank and honest intelligence to support diplomacy than having Dick Cheney setting up a war room in the Pentagon to twist and spin stale, inaccurate and misleading "intelligence" from questionable, self serving sources.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Q: What's the difference between a pat down and a feel up?

A: Latex gloves.

To Ezra Levant

Bottoms Up! Levant attacks first nations man over water quality as "grievance monger".

Law and Culture

While federal lawyers appeal the recent Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down three anti-prostitution laws, the public is pretty much left out of the debate. As crown counsel Michael Morris argues, for a single justice to overturn Parliament's laws without a broader constitutional review, would be a "social experiment unprecedented in this country". Hyperbole aside, courts strike down laws all the time and, as defense counsel pointed out, there are examples of jurisdictions where prostitution and solicitation for prostitution have been legalized without eroding the cultural fabric of society. However the existing laws, which Justice Susan Himel has set aside, have not been created in a vacuum, nor have they lacked public input. They reflect society's reasonable efforts to balance a broad range of interrelated social factors not limited to: public health, exploitation of women, harm reduction, homelessness, child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, property crime, substance abuse, mental illness and public safety.

The broader question is, should courts be at the forefront of social change or should they reflect cultural values? In the last century, so called "activist courts" have stimulated social change (Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade), while at other times, social activism has dragged the law, kicking and screaming in its wake (universal suffrage, pay equity, gay marriage). However all social change is not for the better. Populous initiatives to incarcerate Japanese Americans and Canadians, head taxes on Chinese, witch hunts for communists (and more recently terrorists) are examples where both the law and culture got it wrong. But the law can only lead or restrain social change when society is ready to be led or restrained.

I don't believe in Canada there exists a broad based, grass roots, social agenda to legalize brothels, pimps and johns. Quite the contrary, I think I am with the majority in believing that prostitution is an abusive and violent exploitation of young, poor and vulnerable women (and children) by older, wealthier and more powerful men. The existing laws which make prostitution legal, but prohibit the solicitation and commercialization of prostitution, are the result of decades of legal and social reform to shift the burden of the law from the victims to those who victimize. Justice Himel cites the Charter of Rights and her opinion that these statutes put the safety of sex trade workers at risk in her decision. While I fail to see it, there may be merit to her opinion. However due to the broad ranging implications for public policy, this is an issue that the Supreme Court and Parliament should take up rather than the lower courts of the provinces. Therefore, the Ontario Court of Appeal would be well advised to grant a stay of this decision while it is appealed by the crown and law makers and the public weigh in.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

So long Gordo - we hardly knew ye

I'll give him credit for having the self awareness and integrity to recognize when his own ambition to continue as Premier was at odds with his party's and the province's best interests. Too many leaders hang around too long (Vanderzalm) and wreck their party in the process.

But perhaps a lack of ego (or personal charisma) has been his issue all along? He has never been personally very popular, nor has he been a very good at the whole vision / communication thing. But he is the first BC Premier since Bill Bennett to leave office without being forced out by fraud or scandal (Bennett's involvement in the Doman scandal came to light 2 years after he left office).

Now what we need is a new leader of the BC Liberal Party who is actually, maybe, a little bit ..... liberal?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

As promised.

Jack saves the gun registry by - shootin' down bad legislation.

A Photoshop tribute.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Plato or Plant

Finance Minister Flaherty (probably unwittingly) referenced Plato's Republic with his "ship of state" rant in Ottawa yesterday in which he likened the Liberals and opposition parties to pirates (arrgh). Liberal finance critic Ralph Goodale was probably too kind in terming Flaht's rant an "unusual performance". It was outright bonkers.

Did Cap'n Jim pull out the wrong metaphor? Did he perhaps mean a different ship?



After all this is the government that doesn't rely on climate science to inform climate impacting public policy. This is the government that doesn't rely on crime statistics to inform public safety policy. This is the government that has a Treasury Board President who believes the world is only 6000 years old. This is the government that tried to scare rural Canadians into believing that they (the government) would take their (rural Canadians) guns away if they were registered. This is the same group that wanted to follow George W. Bush into Iraq (or Iran - sometimes they get confused).

Plato or Plant? You tell me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brothers in Arms

Conservatives at war are kind of like conservatives at sex, go in hard, shoot early and pull out soft and wet.

For the record, I support our mission in Afghanistan. We went in for the right reasons, carried more of the load than most of our NATO allies and are only pulling out now that it is clear that many of our larger, and more militarily capable allies have no intention of honouring their obligations to the alliance. Additionally, I will give the Conservatives some credit for trying, on the fly, to give our troops the right tools to do the job. Few peacetime forces are really well equipped, structured or prepared for the "next" conflict. The emergency procurement of mine resistant vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks saved lives. While it could be argued that CH-47 heavy lift helicopters should have been a priority over C-17 strategic airlifters, these decisions were dictated by a broken DND procurement process that no government has been able to reform.

No, my issue today is over the way our Afghan veterans are being treated. For a party that has invested so heavily in the military and has advocated a more forceful, American foreign policy (remember, Harper and McKay desperately wanted us to go into Iraq), the cheap and frugal approach to veterans benefits is disgraceful. The fact that our Afghan war veteran are having to petition this government to renew Col. Stogran's appointment and listen to his recommendations is beyond shameful.

Under a banner of transparency, they appoint a veterans ombudsman, and then like so many supposed independent ombudsmen, regulators, auditors and overseers, they push Col. Pat Stogran out when he does the job he was appointed to do. After the Second World War, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) under Dr.'s Dunlop and Warner, and with the support of MacKenzie King established the Veterans Charter and one of the most progressive and comprehensive veterans benefits programs in the world. Do our Afghan veterans deserve less? The lump sum payment being offered by the government is an actuary's wet dream. Our veterans deserve better.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alain Vigneault speaks out on Quebec City hockey rink

From the Vancouver Sun.

Another son of Quebec says if the federal government is going to fund hockey rinks in Quebec, they should instead look at the sorry condition of the community rinks around the province.

Personally, I have no problems with the Feds investing in public infrastructure anywhere in the country. As a taxpayer however, I agree with Alain Vigneault; if we are going to invest in sports facilities, we get a far better return on this investment in building facilities for youth and amateur sports. Let profitable professional teams fund their own facilities. If we can get our sedentary children away from the gameboys and Xboxes and out playing hockey or soccer or swimming, the future payoffs in reduced obesity and related chronic illnesses will be well worth a few hundred million in today's money.

Vigneault says that Quebec community rinks are "desuet" - which is translated as "antiquated", "quaint" or even "worm eaten" compared to facilities in BC communities where the Canucks have had training camps (Penticton and Vernon). Smaller communities in BC and most of the suburbs have wonderful public recreation facilities (and I don't begrudge them these) that are the envy of many of us here in Vancouver. While the ice rink situation (with the new Trout Lake and Hillcrest rinks) in Vancouver is improving (at least in quality if not in quantity), the soccer fields and swimming pools are, well ... desuet.

My kids are competitive swimmers, so I am most ware of the pool situation. Even with the addition of the new swimming pools at Hillcrest park and Killarny, the city is woefully short of pools and many of the pools do not support lanes. With the opening of Hillcrest Park, the Parks Board also chose to close Percy Norman and Mt. Pleasant pools. Sunset was closed 2 years ago when they built the new community centre (but neither Sunset or Mt. Pleasant supported 25m or 50m lanes). Hillcrest is a beautiful new $40M facility, and it is fine for training purposes, but it was intentionally handicapped so that it can't really host a swim meet. It has an adjustable depth shallow end that goes from 0 to 5 foot depth. The FINA minimum depth standard for sanctioned events is 2 meters. There is no space for any spectator seating, no starting blocks, no score boards or wiring for them, no anchors to install backstroke flags, and the pool can't be configured for 2x 25m short course pools. The 40 year old Vancouver Aquatic Centre is the only facility that can host a swim meet (it gets by the FINA 2m depth rule because of its age) and it is on borrowed time with a leaky pool tank.

The City's soccer fields are likewise - desuet. We have lots of the poorly maintained and improperly drained/graded gravel lots that are euphemistically called "all weather fields" but very few facilities that anyone would recognize as a soccer field. And baseball/softball parks - don't even go there. The City/Park's Board's official policy with respect to competitive athletics is that Vancouverites should "utilize existing facilities within the region" or more bluntly, leach off of the suburbs. Youth athletics teams and groups are not considered a part of the community rather are "elite user groups" who should look to the suburbs for facilities. A picnic in the park, feeding the geese and skunks or splashing around in whirlpools and water slides does not encourage a life long active lifestyle. Amateur youth athletics does.

While Federal funding for community recreation facilities across the country is worthy of consideration, I am not expecting the Feds to pony up to fund new pools, soccer fields or community centres in Vancouver. Vancouver just got a whack of Federal money for Olympic venues - we have got our fair share. It was the City that chose to build a community pool (and Olympic Curling rink) that doesn't support life long athletic activity. But if the Federal government is determined to build arenas in Quebec, they should focus on providing recreation facilities in smaller communities and let Quebec City use its own money to attract an NHL team.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gun Registry - Libs in the cross hairs now.

I've been fairly outspoken in saying (and photoshoping - yes, that's now a verb) that Jack Layton needs to lead the NDP on defending the gun registry. If reports are to be believed, Jack has the votes to defeat Bill C-391 in the House. Apparently there is more than one way to whip a vote. If Jack delivers the NDP vote, I might just have to honour him with a somewhat more flattering photoshop job.

Now it's Michael Ignatieff's turn. If Bill C-391 passes because a handful of Liberal MPs are mysteriously absent or break with caucus and vote for it, Iggy's going to have some 'splainin to do. This is now an acid test of a united Liberal party. Rural Liberal MPs take note, if you don't support your leader on this, as the saying goes, it's time to kick ass and take names.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ToewsDeMort

What ever the leader says, I stand behind the leader.

(AKA - more fun with Photoshop)

Monday, September 13, 2010

More scientists muzzled by Tories.

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that once again, the Conservative Government is trying to muzzle scientists.

Apparently, NRC scientist Scott Dallimore needed ministerial clearance to answer a reporter's questions on a study he co-authored about a flood that reportedly occurred near the end of the last ice age (about 13,000 years ago). We can only imagine the political ramifications if Dallimore had been allowed to answer the reporters questions without pre-approved and vetted responses on this highly sensitive and timely issue.

I would be inclined to attribute this to the Tories having cabinet ministers who believe that humans and dinosaurs co-existed and who think the Flintstones is a documentary. A more likely explanation however, is that this is yet another symptom of the Tories disdain for science and fear of information that they don't spin or control. This government does not want public policy that is informed and guided by scientific evidence or reliable census data. They prefer to look to think tanks like the Fraser Institute to cherry pick research questions and manipulate or spin the findings. And why not, most people don't know the difference between academic research and cruft that these think tanks churn out.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The problem with Faux News

What should progressives think about Faux News North?

Why are progressives so alarmed about SunTV? Liberals and progressives support free speech and a broad diversity or views. So why so much angst over SunTV - which if they really do follow the Faux News model, much of their vitriol is little more than fodder for humourists and their supposed logic is readily debunked?

The problem with Faux News is not with the message it's about the volume and persistence of the message. It's like that whack-a-mole game, you can't squash all of the lies. It's not just SunTV. It's the National Post, the Fraser Institute, the Manning Centre, the Sun newspapers, etc. The one thing they are good at is staying on message. By pushing the same lies out through multiple channels with dogged persistence, the right ends up controlling the language, and when that happens the battle is won. Look at the 2004 Presidential campaign in the US as an example. How did John Kerry's heroic military service end up being a liability against an opponent whose daddy pulled strings to get him out of active service? Kerry couldn't talk about Bush's cowardly wartime conduct without being constantly hectored by swiftboat lies. So in the end, he just said "we both served honorably".

Is it much ado about nothing? I mean Brian Lilley, Margarette Wente, Ezra Levant, Krista Erickson, David Aikin and Co. pale in comparison to the pundits the US has to offer. And no one really gives much credence to what the likes of Rush, Glen Beck, Bill O'Reily, Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter have to say. These extreme views however end up framing the issue. By staking out ground on the far right, it makes it more difficult, from that perspective, to distinguish the centre (or center) from the left. It's also not what they say - it's how often and persistent it is said. The average consumer of news and analysis is bombarded by the extreme right. If you repeat a lie often enough, regardless of how completely it has been discredited, it gets embedded in the popular consciousness.

If you mention global warming, someone will without fail bring up the "hockey stick" as if the Mann/Bradley/Hughes study was actually ever discredited and as if it were the only study to ever show the dramatic rise in global temperatures in the last century. We have our own example in Canada - a boatload of Tamil refugees shows up off the BC coast and most Canadian now believe that this represent a dangerous and massive influx of refugees (who must be terrorists). On average, over 100 refugees PER DAY arrive at airports across Canada. And refugees are not "jumping" the immigration queue. There are no queues or quotas for refugees. According to international conventions and treaties, each case is dealt with on its own merits with due process.

Unfortunately, it is not in the nature or character progressives to stay on message the way the right can and does. We embrace diversity, and with that comes a diversity of issues, concerns, priorities, and messages.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Long Guns and Deregulation

If the LGR falls, it will be yet another sector where the public interest has been sacrificed over fear of "big government". Fear of "big government" has caused more harm than any "big government", at least a democratic one, has ever done. Deregulation was so in vogue in the 1990's that even democrats, 3rd way socialists and liberals were rushing to deregulate everything.

Not that I'm a fan of large bureaucracies, wasteful programs or over-regulation, but where there is a vital public interest and where market forces or self regulation are insufficient to achieve the public good, regulation is required.

We saw this happen with the US financial markets. Actually, this last financial crisis is the 3rd one in 20 years resulting from ill-advised deregulation. But many are too young to remember the S&L crisis of the late 1980's and the dot-com/Enron debacles of 2000. How long will we have to wait until the conservatives start pushing to deregulate the Canadian banking and financial sectors again?

IF you are a little fuzzy the S&L crisis, or the Junk Bonds debacle you have probably never even heard the short term fall out from airline deregulation in the late 1970's. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 - while probably a good idea, led to the air traffic control strike of 1981 as an explosion of new airlines and cheaper air travel took its toll on the inadequate and antiquated ATC infrastructure and over-worked controllers.

Deregulation is partially responsible for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and was contributory to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Meanwhile, some of the deepest offshore wells ever conceived are being planned off the Canadian Atlantic and Arctic coasts. Of course the oil companies are saying that a Deepwater Horizon type of catastrophe couldn't possible happen here, so there is no need to pre-drill relief wells or require better blow out protectors.

Deregulation of energy markets (under democrat Governor Pete Wilson) drove the richest and most populous state in the US to the brink of insolvency. I lived in California while utility rates shot up 1000% for some users and the State practically bankrupt itself trying to buy over-priced gas and electricity futures.

Energy, transportation, education, healthcare and public safety (gun registry) are areas of vital public interest. The government has an obligation to be involved. Those pushing the anti-big-government agenda need to stop with the fear mongering.

The 80% of Canadians who live in urban areas are well served by a long gun registry. The burden of a fairly lightweight (operationally) and unobtrusive service on the 20% of rural Canadians who bear this burden is not so high that we should allow the LGR to be dismantled.

Jack Layton should act in the public interest and whip the NDP caucus on this crucial up coming vote. This is not a hill he should sacrifice his principles on.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

OMG



I used to be this smart.

More Caption this.

What ever the problem is, apparently it's growing.

Missed it by that much.

Stockwell Day - Un-reported Mime.

Caption This.

Make up a caption in a comment - best one sticks.

I'll start.

One of these days I'd like to leave a press conference with this much credibility intact.