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Showing posts from February, 2009

A new job assignment for Jim Prentice

From day one as our new environment minister, Jim Prentice has focussed more on the promotion and defense of the tar sands than the protection and defense of our environment and as much as he and the rest of the conservatives would like us to believe that they are the same thing, and that one cannot mention the environment without mentioning the tar sands, that is not the truth. That is the lie.

Prentice was out again defending the tar sands against the recent National Geographic photographic spread showing the Americans what the tar sands look like (a before and after pictorial, so to speak) with the latest conservative rationalization, developed with the election of Obama, being that the US coal fired power plants produce more greenhouse gases than the tar sand bitumen production and therefore …. I guess that means that the Canadians under Harper were not as bad as Americans were under Bush.

Not much of an argument when you consider than unlike our government, Obama is not planning t…

Talking Albert Einstein head and bouncing psychedelic fish

A scientifically ground-breaking robot replica of Albert Einsteins head, that can recognize and respond to human emotions has been developed by a Texas robotics company. It uses 31 motors and a patented flesh-like material called Frubber to make lifelike facial expressions.

Apparently the objective here was to make those Japanese robots you see on TV every now and then look less creepy and as the scientists state in the article this could be the first step to making robots emotionally sensitive, preventing a Matrix-style war between man and machine.

I don't think I trust these supposedly Japanese Texans shown in this video, I find the shorter Albert Einstein somewhat more creepy than say a WALLY and I would also question why they are assuming that the humans started the war in Matrix.

On a happier note a new breed of frogfish has been discovered in eastern Indonesia, off the Ambon Island. The fish has several unique behavioral traits. Each time the fish strike the seabed, for…

Taj Mahal goes to the Blues Hall of Fame

Taj Mahal the 66 year old bluesman is going to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, this May. He started his professional career in 1964 by teaming up with Ry Cooder another bluesman who should be inducted. Since 1968 Taj Mahal has produced 25 studio albums, released 8 live albums and 11 packaged compilations, plus receiving nine Grammy Award nominations and winning three. Being a modern era bluesman Taj Mahal's is known for incorporating musical styles front different parts of the world, calypso, reggae, west indian, even Hawaiian rhythms can be heard in his music.

Above he singing the Robert Johnson standard Dust My Broom.

Mahal had a great respect for the early bluesman and when they started getting work again in the late sixties Mahal went out his to make sure that they were not being taken advantage of again. Even Dick Waterman who is credited with reviving the careers of many of the early blues performers felt a bit of Taj Mahals wrath. Waterman had booked Son House t…

The excuses my grandkids will make

Unfortunately the climate is still changing. Two reports out this week, one from the IPY (International Polar Year), a United Nations research program that has been examining the two polar regions since last March and the second from a group of Oceanologists who have been studying changes in the circulation of the Atlantic ocean.

Not unexpectedly their findings are that the ice and snow at both ends of the planet is declining faster than previously predicted and the resulting increase of salt water in the southern hemisphere when combined with expected increase of colder water in the northern hemisphere, will change the flow and effects of the Gulf Stream, which basically screws everyone.

The direst of predictions include sea levels rising from 1 meter to 1.5 meters, extremely large storms that might previously have occurred once a year, occurring weekly and the changes to the Gulf stream throwing Europe into a mini ice age.

Of course the worst of this is not supposed to occur until …

Its not the gun its the gunner

The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the county’s two largest lobbying groups for our police forces were in Ottawa yesterday making all sorts of claims about how safe the Taser is.

Who knew that our police forces had or needed lobbying groups and who hired them for this PR campaign.

Anyway the groups claimed yesterday that there is no proven link between Taser use and the deaths of more than 300 people in the U.S. and 25 in Canada that have occurred shortly after police jolted them with the 50,000-volt weapons.

In reality, the number of deaths in the US is closer to 360 and Taser has been found partially negligent in one case. A US court awarded $5.2 million in punitive damages to the family of Robert C. Heston who died after being tasered as reported by Taser in a press release about their annual statement here. Of course Taser International is still appealing that decision.

Despite the fact, that some Tasers have been tested and proven t…

Boom goes the dynamite

Did you wonder what Will Smith meant at the Oscars, when he said boom goes the dynamite after screwing up his lines.

Well, meet Brian Collins who in 2004 agreed to fill in for a friend on Ball State University's campus newscast during his freshman year providing sports highlights. When the tele prompter failed and printed copies were not in order, he improvised.

The newscast is now known as the Collins incident in communications classes. Collins now works for a news station in Waco Texas and probably cringed when Smith said the line.


First they came for the Muslims

Following up on Dr Dawgs post of this morning about Abousfian Abdelrazik.

He is a Montreal man who has been, not so secretly harassed, by both the Canadian and US governments, secret police for the last 8 years. He has no charges against him, he cooperated in the successful conviction of Ahmed Ressam, the Millennium Bomber, someone he knew in Montreal.  Yet he is still stranded in Sudan and has not seen his wife and child in over five years.
Here is some background from his page at the Peoples Commission.

Documents obtained under the Privacy Act seem to indicate that Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, was incarcerated in Sudan on the request of Canadian officials. While in prison in December 2003, he was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), despite Canadian doubts about Sudan’s human rights record. Mr. Abdelrazik was held without charge and eventually released. Since his release in July 2006, he has been blocked from returning home to Montreal.

The ridicul…

Eating at McDonalds just got more dangerous

McDonalds has denied workers compensation benefits to a minimum wage employee in Little Rock who was shot multiple times when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant. The employee has since undergone three abdominal surgeries and has incurred over $300,000 in medical bills.

Misty Thompson, a claims specialist with McDonald's insurer, Ramsey, Krug, Farrell and Lensing, said in a letter to the Commission that, we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that the injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment.

So if you ever again decide to go into a McDonalds to eat and some idiot starts beating the crap out of you, don’t expect the kid behind the counter to help you.


h/t Raw Story here.

Harper mania about to hit NYC

Just like Obama took Ottawa by storm, winning the hearts of Canadians, Harper and his cabinet ministers will be heading down to New York City next week in a bid to cash in on the love-in from last weeks visit.

It is important that we continue to work hard on this relationship as we move forward, and that we don't lose the momentum that we gained though this visit," said an aide to the Prime Minister who briefed the press yesterday.

We can assume that Kory Teneycke, Harpers promotionally minded Director of Communications will line up similar media events as Obamas frontmen did up here. Perhaps a New York vendor honoring the Prime Ministers visit.


From the Globe here .

Armed deteriorating old salesman with dementia

I think I am getting too old to get excited about Obama. Watching our political leaders cooing over the new president, even though it was for their own political purposes, seems utterly shallow and somewhat degrading. Obama is an amazing orator, one hell of a politician and probably the best salesperson I have ever seen, hawking a new version of America for the 21st century.

Somehow, though, I miss the old Canadian arrogance of a Trudeau grabbing the mike on parliament hill to ask the booing crowds to calm down and show some respect for the visiting President Reagan. Of course delivered with a grin. Maybe it is that their guy, is now better than our guy, but it was somewhat sickening to see both Harper and Ignatieff acting like infatuated school girls. It was almost worse than Mulroney singing Irish tunes.

Suddenly I have new found respect for Layton, about not making a bigger deal over the Obama visit (or possibly he did and it just was not widely reported, as most things NDP tend to…

Blame Ringo

Blame Ringo is an Australian band. Their name came about because Ringo forced them to change their first name.

Here’s the explanation from their hilarious and very well designed site.
An Australian band originally billed as Goodnight Vienna was forced to change its name in late 2007 after being threatened wit legal action by Richard Starkey Jr. Apparently Goodnight Vienna was the name of Tingo’s fourth studio album and although he thoroughly enjoyed their music he was obligated to dissuade any profiteering which resulted from the use of his intellectual property. What a bastard. After a spiteful name change (and a lot muck raking) the new and improved Blame Ringo are set to have their revenge...Here’s some screen shots from the fully interactive site:

I'm not a big fan of "wussy indie folk-rockers" as they describe themselves, and no idea whether this song is any good. But I really like their sense of humor and marketing skills.


If Harper was black, they would be twins

According to Harper on his CBC interview last night, he and Obama are exactly the same and their 33 minute leader to leader meeting was much more special than Ignatieffs 30 minute meeting. Not to mention that Obama calls him Stephen.

We’re both middle-aged guys from middle-class backgrounds with young families, Harper said. There's a kind of conversation you can have about issues in that context that you can only have with another leader; perspectives and concerns that only each other can really understand. It's not just about what are our policies, but why you think the way you do, what are your hopes and aspirations for your own family and ultimately for your country.

Well not exactly the same Steve, the majority of Americans agree with Obama’s hopes and aspirations for their country. Up here the majority of Canadians don’t agree with yours.


Reference: CBC here.

Harper tries to step up his game


The Obama Gamma Beaver Tale

Herr Prime Minister the media nazi

The Prime Ministers Office has laid down strict rules regarding media access during the Obama visit, limiting the length of Obama’s meetings with our Head of State and the Leader of the opposition. Our Governor General Michaelle Jean will meet with Obama for 15 minutes in an airport bar and the leader of opposition has had his originally scheduled 30 minute meeting reduced to a shorter 15 minute meeting in an airport hangar. The media will not be allowed to televise those meetings.

Teneycke, Harper’s director of apparently non-communication has also threatened to cancel the press conference if, at any point in the day, a Canadian reporter shouts out a question without being invited to do so. Although it is not much of a press conference, as the two leaders will only take four questions - two from each country's media.

Hmm 4 questions:

Mr Harper are you going to apologize for your interference in the Ohio primary when your government slagged Mr. Obama over NAFTA and Mr. Obama wil…

Latest tar sands ad goes national today

Here’s the full page anti-tarsands ad that was placed in USA today by the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations who are both based in Fort Chipewyan, which is downstream from the tarsands developments and they are dying of cancers..

Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight said Alberta is a leader in protecting the environment and Ed Stelmach doesn’t like Alberta and Canada being the pictured that way.

Neither do I, Ed, and it’s not the first nation’s fault.

More info at Forest Ethics here.


Protecting the US Heartland

The US Department of Homeland Security fresh after the launch of their new TV series DHS and one day before the new Obama administration takes over control, has launched their first unmanned, drone, called the Predator, to protect the North Dakota border from the influx of weapons, cocaine and drugs pouring in from Manitoba.

Where most Canadians would question the purpose and cost of such highly technical surveillance of the Manitoba farm lands and swamps that span the once unprotected border, it is quite evident that the DHS has been paying close attention to recent media releases (a quick google search of Marijuana Manitoba will result in almost 64,000 hits, while a similar search for Ontario nets 12,000).

How wide spread is the drug trade in Manitoba? Consider Dauphin, Manitoba a small town of 7,200 Canadians where a drug bust this summer netted a cache of over 8,000 very small joints, at least one joint for every person in town. Not to mention that Manitoba was also the home of …

Harpers plan to deregulate the environment

In the next few weeks the conservatives are going to be coming out with new environmental regulatory rules or in reality new deregulatory rules, that should eliminate about 90 per cent of federal environmental assessments.

On Saturday, John Baird our minister of transport, infrastructure and communities, explained that the federal government will begin relying more on provincial assessments for joint projects rather than having both levels of government do the same work and thus bogging down the process.

Only in Harpers Canada would we have the minister of the environment, Jim Prentice in Calgary announcing major energy projects on the same day that the minister for infrastructure is in Toronto making major environmental announcements. Although in a way it does make sense, since Harper and company have never really had their heart in this environmental thing, anyway and what is the worse thing that could happen.

I am sure every province, despite the differences in their approach to p…

Conservatives fixing Canada one pot hole at a time

The conservative government that silently hid the fact that they had already spent their way into a deficit , prior, to their return to parliament last month, at which time they announced they were now being forced to move the country into a deficit for the next five years, has now decided that they should at least get full credit for every one of our tax dollars they spend to pull the country out of a recession.

A week ago Harper was talking about hockey rinks and on Friday he was in Montreal, announcing a $330 million contract for flight simulators, that will keep 330 people employed for the next 3 years and another 50 new jobs at a military base in Ontario, for the next 20 years.

At the same time Prentice our not necessarily environmentally focussed, environment minister was in Calgary announcing a $130 million widening of the highway running through the Banff National Park. Of course in typical Prentice fashion and as he has done before, he forgot the main purpose of the photo op…

Keeping lying dogs awake

Yesterday parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre repeated the accusation that Tom Zytaruk, doctored the Cadman interview tape,. The one where Harper admits that he knew about the offer to buy Cadman's vote.

It is proven that the tape was doctored, but happily the issue is resolved now, Poilievre told the Commons.

Of course making the accusation in the House of Commons, where parliamentarians have immunity, Poilievre cannot be sued for anything he says. When challenged by NDP member Joe Comartin to step outside the chamber and repeat the claim, Poilievre slipped out the back door and avoided the waiting press.

Unfortunately Tom Zytaruk, who taped conversation and continues to have his reputation besmirched by these attacks cannot afford the legal fees to go after the conservatives for defamation of character.

Yet regardless of the facts, that the tape was not doctored, (at least according to audio experts appointed by both the court and Harper), that his party tried to buy a vote…

New Conservative logic

Since American coal burning power plants are dirtier than Canadian hydro power plants

Canada can have the dirtiest oil in the world. At least that is the latest argument laid out here, from our Environment Minister (to just clarify, our environment minister) Jim Prentice. One that he is planning on using with Obama to combat the latest obama2canada campaign from the environmental groups.

It is starting to look like the conservatives believe, that just because the black holes and the huge tailings ponds across the top of Alberta can be seem from outer space, the tar sands are somehow the 8th wonder of the world.

And despite all of the problems that Canadians and Americans are presently facing it will be the main topic that Harper will want to discuss with Obama on his visit to Canada.


Credit: Tar sands flag from Oil Change here.

The opposition rallies as Harper struggles with new role

The opposition parties are gaining some success in painting the conservatives with the stench of pork barreling by favoring conservative ridings with funds, grants and projects.

It started last week when Gerard Kennedy revealed that more than three-quarters of funding handed out since 2007 went to ridings held by Tories. And again yesterday, when Moore the new Heritage Minister got worked over before the heritage committee, by Charlie Angus of the NDP calling the new $100 million fund for festivals, just more pork-barrel photo-ops.

This is a good strategy on the part of the opposition, because it is easy to prove and is indefensible for the conservatives. All the expenditures are there in black and white. It also plays well with the provinces that have been accusing Harper of politicized exclusion for the results of the last election, specifically Quebec and Newfoundland Labrador and could bode well in preventing further conservative gains in Ontario, the conservatives chosen battleg…

Buy Canadian rhetoric

Two union presidents, one for auto and one for steel were out in front of the press today wasting everyone’s time. They have joined Jack Layton’s call for a Buy Canadian policy for the infrastructure spending.

Last week the union leaders were protesting a similar Buy US policy. Ignoring, the fact that there are no Canadian auto or steel companies left, just foreign subsidiaries, do they really think that the federal government, or any provincial premier is going to bring in foreign workers to fix the hockey rinks or whatever projects Harper ends up approving.

No, the politicians want to be elected again, something these two presidents should be concerned about if this the best they can come up with to justify the existence.


High Five Escalator

This is one of over 80 different missions Improv Everywhere has executed over the past seven years in New York City. Others include Frozen Grand Central, the Food Court Musical, and the famous No Pants Subway Ride, to name a few. Visit their website to see tons of photos and video of all of our work, including behind the scenes information on how this video was made.

A great way to start your day in a New York subway.


Harpers temporary workers become the permanently unemployed

About a year ago Harpers government put all new applications for immigration on hold. The stated purpose at the time was to halt the growing backlog of applicants and introduce a new fast track program that would help to bring in skilled immigrants in as little as six months.

The contentious Bill C50 gave the then Immigration Minister Diane Finley the power to reject existing applications even if they met all the criteria, and to instruct officials to start cherry-picking immigrants based on labour market needs. The program consisted of two programs, one for unskilled labour, where the employer could sponsor the immigrants and one for skilled professionals (engineers and the like) where the provinces could sponsor the immigrant. After two years of employment, the skilled professionals could apply for permanent residence. However the unskilled laborer required provincial approval under the Provincial Nominee Program.

Or as the conservatives said in August when selling their new program…

Bull market my ass

Harper spent Saturday out in the hustings working a couple of ethnic celebrations, something he has done on a regular basis. While celebrating the Chinese New Year in Markham he quipped that this Year of the Ox will also be the year of the return of the bull market.

A better metaphor would be a continuing year of bullshit from his conservative government.

Harper has shirked all responsibility of wasting a surplus through targeted partisan funding, to gain votes from groups similar to the ones he visited this weekend. Harper still doesn’t realize that there is a required sense of urgency in funding the back to work infrastructure programs. Something beyond improving recreational community centers in key ridings.

By setting the matched funding requirement for infrastructure projects, the cash strapped provinces who need the most help, can’t react fast enough to get the work started. They are mired with their own budgetary shortfalls, let alone providing the financing for the resources n…

McCallum is starting to get his voice

Never was a big fan of John McCallum… It had nothing to do with his performance as a minister in previous Liberal governments or due to any particular political gaffe he committed as the Defense Minister (a strange posting for an economist to begin with) nor any of the other posts he held.

I just didn’t like his persona on television interviews. Might sound trivial but unless you are a so called political junkie, regularly watching CPAC or spending your time digging through news releases and Wikipedia listings, the only impression that the average Canadian can form about their politicians is how they handle interviews on the evening news. McCallum at best seemed professorially boring, way too polite and well, in over his head at least in the political arena.

Although most of that could probably be attributed to his academic background (professor of economics at a string of Canadian universities from 1976 to 1994) and a short stint in the corporate world (Senior Vice President and Chie…

Fixing Canada one hockey rink at a time

Commenting on the January unemployment numbers Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to stay the course, refused to be blown off and spoke of the need to pump money into recreational facilities

After all when you now have 129,000 Canadians with so much free time on their hands you might as well keep them busy on something they can use. And in the summer Steve can give them all Frisbees and have them clean up our parks.


Reference: The Edmonton Sun here.

Time to embrace this depression

Maybe a line of depression styled clothing, Long overcoats, a multitude of stylish hats, much like the JAWL 2009 header at the top. Its features a tall thin look that I think would be popular in todays market. It’s a good look and practical during the winter months. Sort of a Grunge grows up type of statement.

The depression theme could also spread into our music and movies. We need some depressing, solidarity type tunes. Something like: 50 Weeks on the Dole, Bushwhacked by Harper, Here I Am Conned Again or All We Need is Food. You get the idea. Of course back in the thirties the movies went the other way, with flicks featuring Fred Astair as a dancing millionaire, but I cannot see our more media savvy generation falling for that (but then again there is Slum Dog Millionaire).

Canada lost 71,000 jobs in November (seasonally adjusted), 34,400 jobs in December (also seasonally adjusted) and now 129,000 last month in January.


Want real money become a conservative cowboy

I am not sure that Gerard Kennedy is right about this.

Gerard Kennedy accused the Conservatives of rewarding its political supporters with federal infrastructure money. Apparently $1 billion and 21 of 26 Building Canada Fund projects dispensed so far went to ridings that elected conservatives.

My Mississauga riding elected a conservative Bob “The coalition is seditious” Dechert and we have not received a dime yet. Now to be fair, Bob is new and he probably knows as little about pork barreling as he does about how a parliamentary democracy works.

So Bob check out the Albertans, and try to emulate Ed Stelmach. Look what Harper gave him for xmas. $800 million in infrastructure funds. Sort of a last minute xmas gift, just in case, you know, the Liberals decided to coalesce upon their return last week. Well, they didn’t and now Ed is lining up at the trough again for the Carbon Capture Storage funds.

So come on Bob give it a try. Buy a cowboy hat and try to look more oily. Harper like oilme…

Sowing seeds of discontent one media outlet at a time

Apparently, the Globe and Mail is conerned about the break up of the Liberal Party because Ignatieff is showing weakness by letting the six NL MPs vote against the budget.
But, it is a sign of weakness in the brutal world of politics and will create problems in the longer run. Harper would never do something similar, said Mr. Flanagan, now a political science professor at the University of Calgaryand of course also a former Reform Party campaign manager and Harper confidant. (emphasis added).The Post on the other hand used the opportunity to defend Flahertys decision to single out NL.
We are calling on all provinces to be reasonable, that the growth in equalization payments will be equal to the rate of growth in the economy without exception, including Newfoundland and Labrador, said Flaherty.

Of course both Manitoba and Nova Scotia were allowed exceptions to adjust during the transistion to the capping of equalization payments. And likewise their Premiers didn’t run a successful ABC ca…

If only it was still so

Three Uighur, Guantanamo Bay detainees have applied for resettlement in Canada.
They are part of a total of seventeen Uighurs being held at the Guantanamo prison, who were all cleared of charges way back in 2004. However the US government has not allowed them to be released into the States . Nor can they be returned to their homeland in the Northeastern province of China.

Although China would like to get its hands on them.
The Uighurs are an ethnically Turkic Muslim people who have lived in what is now known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) for over 4,000 years. Unfortunately for the Uighurs, Xinjiang province represents 16 percent of China’s landmass, although only 1.6 percent of its population and it contains a large percentage of China’s mineral resources, including 38 percent of its coal reserves and 25 percent of its petroleum and gas reserves. It is also the region where China tests it’s nuclear weapons.

All in, not a region that China would likely give up or gr…

Conservative Television

Two conservative spokespeople visited CTVs Question Period on the weekend.
Tom Flanagan, apparently also know as the Prince of Darkness claimed that the core supporters of Canada's conservative party (in Flanagan’s mind those would be the former Reform Party Members) are riled up about the budget and are angry at his close friend Stephen Harper.

They are emailing him, a lot and he believes that Steve needs to do something to prove that his direction is fundamentally conservative. Possibly something outside the budget, things like criminal justice where he can make some accomplishments that the Conservative core supporters will appreciate.

Anyway the other visitor Tasha Kheiriddin the director of the Fraser Institute’s Montreal office and a co-author of a right wing revival manual, agreed. People are upset and she thinks it's definitely a feeling of betrayal in the sense that this budget has very few conservative principles in it.

Her big problem is that there was too much spe…

Party Politics remains ABC to me

I have held off posting about the conservative’s budget, the disolution of the coalition, the Liberal party’s supposedly tepid recomendations and the NDPs not so tepid and somewhat over the top reaction or at least that is the way it seems after reading the many articulate, analytical and in some cases, angry posts on ProBlogs, all this week.

The reason for the delay, in my case, was that although anticipated, the end of the coalition was disappointing and the changes proposed in the budget so wide spread that it really took a while to comprehend the full ramifications, which admittedly I still don’t think I have fully grasped.

Surprisingly, even to me, my first response after the Liberals announced that they would back the budget, albeit with some provision(s) was to join LibBlogs. You know commit, pick a party, work for change and all.

However as I continued to read more posts throughout the week, the problem in committing to the Liberal Party (one that I have locally canvassed fo…