Saturday, February 28, 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 to expand the use of coal fired hydro power. Unfortunately that is not the plan up here.

Prentice argues that technology is the answer and that there are ways to improve, the way we produce oil from the tar sands. He believes that the carbon footprint can be reduced. It's investments in technology and he’s planning to work with the Americans to that end. Of course the technology that he is alluding to, as the conservatives have been doing all the way back to their first environmental plan, is CCS technology, Carbon, Capture and Storage which both Alberta and the conservatives believe can be applied to the tar sands.

Alberta which is about to suffer it’s first deficit in 15 years also thinks the cure all for the tar sands is CCS. Even with a forecasted deficit for next year and a $3 billion loss in their Heritage Fund this year, the province is still planning to commit $2 billion for CCS development in their provincial budget and there is no doubt that the federal conservatives would not hesitate to match funds, something Alberta is expecting, if by making such an investment, they could eliminate any embargo from the US.

For our federal conservatives, there could not be a better time to make such a sizable investment by classifying it as a major part of the infrastructure stimulus funds, now set aside. Unfortunately the expectation that CCS technology could be applied to production facilities as large and as isolated as the tar sands is also a lie.

The largest CCS implementation in the world is a Norwegian offshore oil rig that captures carbon produced and pumps the CO2 gases through pipes into caverns deep in the floor of North Sea. One oil rig. The leading Norwegian expert, Olav Kaarstad of StaoilHydro, who developed that project and who are the world’s leading developer of CCS technology, was hired to start a project in Alberta last spring. By the end of July his company walked from the project claiming that the Albertans needed to start on smaller projects, local hydro generation etc. Two problems highlighted were the distance and infrastructure required to transport the captured carbon from Fort McMurray to underground caverns, possibly in southern Alberta and simply that the technology is not available or advanced enough to capture the volume of carbon dioxide being generated by production facilities the size of the tar sands.

Unlike the Obama administration who are pledging $15 billion a year to develop new cleaner and sustainable energy technologies, our oil focused government, in lockstep with Alberta is willing to waste billions of dollars on what is no more than a public relations exercise for at least the next ten years.

Of course, the new justification for this potentially massive investment and what appears to be a new conservative talking point is that the tar sands are our greatest national resource. In other words we as Canadians should not be concerned about the environmental risks, we should take pride in the big black hole that can be seen from space. Certainly a hard sell for some of us, when you consider who owns the oil rights.

The oil companies bought and own development rights, and they treat those rights as assets that they buy, sell and trade amongst themselves. The province and federal government receive royalties on oil produced. Unfortunately if the oil companies don’t want to expand production, nothing that either government does, including wasting billions on a future technology will matter and that is what is happening right now.

The recent string of postponed or outright cancelled projects is not due to a group of US mayors refusing tar sands produced oil, or the increased efforts by environmental activists and certainly not pictures in the latest National Geographic. The price of a barrel oil has fallen back to more normalized levels and with a $40 cost to produce a barrel of tar sands oil, it makes no sense for the oil companies to expand production and will in reality result in further reductions in production.

Which brings us the last mythical argument that our conservatives are trying to stress to the new American administration and the American public at large. Canada is a secure source of oil meaning of course that it is not produced in the desert sands of the middle east. This might be considered a logical argument if it was not for the fact that Iraq is believed to have the world’s largest undiscovered oil reserves, equalling 40% of the world’s existing reserves.

In order words the undeveloped western deserts of Iraq contain the largest source of low cost oil (under $3 a barrel to produce) in the world. After all that was the reason for the invasion and I do believe that all Americans, even democratic ones, think that their country has earned the right (both in dollars and blood) to access that oil.

With the Iraqi oil rights having been awarded to Exxon and others, within ten years Iraq will be the largest producer of low cost oil in the world and probably if required the cleanest since the CCS technology might work on their smaller sized projects.

Sorry Albertans, expansion of the tar sands is dead and this time it is not because of interference from us in the east, or from the tree huggers in the west. It is due to the greed of the oil companies who are content to take a back seat role in all this discussion about cleaner tar sands technology. They have placed all the costs of continuing the development of the tar sands, collectively on our shoulders and will only increase production when it is economically viable for them to do so.

The sooner your provincial government realizes this, the sooner you can end the boom to bust economy that has plagued your province. If the western provinces truly want to lead the country, use your wealth to invest in new industries and new technologies, non carbon based investments. Something that would help the environment and lead Canada into the future.

Which, by the way is what, Jim Prentice, our current minister of energy development should be concentrating on.


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 instance, they push off with their fins and expel water from tiny gill openings to jet themselves forward. That, and an off-centred tail, causes them to bounce around in a bizarre, chaotic manner.

The breed has been named psychedelia, by the university of washington because of its multiple colours, presumably unique behavior and probably because the professor who named him is a boomer.


References and links from and the Telegraph UK

Friday, February 27, 2009

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 to perform at a weekend concert. Standing off stage while House performed Waterman writes that someone grabbed his arm and spun him around. It was a very tall, very serious looking Taj Mahal. I hear what you are Waterman. You take care of the old black men and make sure they get paid. Waterman took it more as a threat than a question or statement of fact.

This is Taj Mahal in 1968 doing Leaving Trunk

And although the video here is just shots of his albums, this is Taj Mahall singing the Stones Honky Tonk Woman from the House of Blues does the Stones CD. This might be my favorite blues recording of all time, it is certainly the best version of Honky Tonk Woman I have ever heard.

So much for my pogge imitation.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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 the end of this century, at which time my grandkids will be older than I am now and they will most likely be trying to make excuses for their grandparent’s generation.

You know they had this depression thing happening about 90 years ago and cutting down forests, to dig up tar ladened sand was all their government leader would focus on. I can’t remember his name, it was really the dark ages for America north.


Cool photo by Bob Strong at Reuters. References from MSNBC here and Reuters via Yahoo here.

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 to release a greater electrical charge that stated, and that the RCMP Commissioner has admitted that firing a Taser poses a risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals, these lobbyist groups in their position paper released yesterday have called for little change in the way police now use Tasers.

Fatino, Ontario’s super cop went further to explain that Tasers are no different, than pepper spray, batons, sidearms or a two-by-four when it comes to subduing a suspect that poses a threat to officer or public safety.

Who knows maybe Fatino, the lobbyists and Taser might be right, its not the gun, its the gunner and the cause of the numerous taser deaths resides with police officers themselves and not their weapon of choice. It doesn’t change the fact that too many people are dying after being tasered, just who we should be blaming for the deaths.

I think the two-by-four reference about sums that up.


Reference The Toronto Star here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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.


Monday, February 23, 2009

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 ridiculous part of this is that the Sudanese who had incarcerated him twice (at least once on our governments bequest) and who are definitely not known for their human rights record, finally released him, stating that they would no longer persecute an innocent man. Yet our government continues to put up road blocks preventing his return to Canada.

Here is the latest one reported today.

As Dawg pointed out this not just a Harper thing, (well maybe the latest bull shit is), this started when the liberals were in power. It is the after 911, the world has changed effect where you are guilty by association and where we as citizens are supposed to just sit back, quietly and accept the fact that our collective rights and freedoms are being secretly taken away for the greater good.

If you are a Muslim living in this country, you are taking your chances if you decide to leave Canada to visit the country of your birth. Hell, even if you are an old, white, atheist, who was born here, you can end up on someone's watch list and never know it. One of the main reasons why I am Just Another Willy Loman.
What can you do for Mr. Abdelrazik, not too damn much. The press has been beating the drum for about a year with the most comprehensive article being this one from the Globe back in April. Even Romeo Dellaire got into the act, but the day before they were to meet in Sudan, Abdelrazik was arrested for the second time. 
There are some deep CSIS and Homeland Security hands involved in this and any politician that gets too close, more innuendos and secret accusations are quietly revealed. That unfortunately is the way that it works or at least on television. Besides it would take the opposition to raise the issue and I have my doubts that the Liberals would really want to highlight their role in this.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

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 .

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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 be). Then again he could have been out in the parking lot, shooting hoops for all I know.

With the mess that Obama has inherited and the all over the map solutions that are being presented, complete with the right wing backlash to every proposal, the best he can do is be a cheer leader for the next four months, while trying to put the wheels back on. He is like a show bunny that you used to hire for your trade show booth. The cute, young girl placed out front to draw the unsuspecting and now enamored buyers inside so that you could work them over, on a deal.

Now that NAFTA is being placed back on the table and Harper is running around, trying to pass himself off as a born again, green, progressive, Canada as a country can end up loosing more of its independence and some of the stuff that make us Canadian, even though they cost us a lot. The last time the Americans wanted Education, Health and Media put on the table and opened up to alternative cross border offerings. I have no doubt that Harper would give away anything that he could politically package and get away with (and he has proven his success at that), if the Americans will continue to buy our black tar from Alberta.

During my increasing recessive workload this week (you know that inner panic, that you better work harder and not necessarily smarter), I ended talking to some of our American clients about the excitement their guys visit was causing up here. What struck me was that even though there was the expected, conflicting, opinions about Obama based on party affiliation and geographical colour scheme (Dallas versus Boston), there were similar doubts and apprehension about whether Obama could pull it off.

Their bottom-line regarding their businesses, their employees and their families, (and not surprisingly in that order) was hey, we’re on own here, its up to us, the big money is going to the big guys and rest us have to do the best we can. However it would be a good thing, if we were not as hated everywhere else in the world, just in case I can afford a vacation again. What is the weather like in Canada?

It is the same up here. Even though I want our government to wisely spend money with major industries if there is a job tag applied to the investment and I would like to see an increase and extension of unemployment benefits that reflects the gravity and expected duration of this recession, it doesn’t really help me sell more stuff next week.

Maybe if the Business Development Bank could provide money to small businesses at less than a 13% interest rate or if the banks were forced to lower the interest charges on credit cards, especially at time when we are all being asked to spend more money, more of us might get some benefit from the much heralded stimulus. However like the majority of Americans we are pretty much, on our own, up here too.

If all fails, I am heading to the woods with my unregistered, pump action, twelve gauge, and wait for my grandkids to visit every now and then. That was the armed part of the post.

As for the dementia I forgot to mark the 500th post, this is post 512. Well, maybe 593 if you include the videos posted here.

Thanks for dropping by every now and then.


Friday, February 20, 2009

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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tree Power by Sheep Film

From Sheep Films check out his site.


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 will you accept the Prime Ministers apology?

Mr Obama, when can we expect Omar Khadr, the child soldier that has been imprisoned in Guantanamo, to be repatriated to Canada and Mr. Harper will you apologize to the Canadian public?

Mr Obama since 60% of Canadians would of voted for you in the US election and 62% of Canadians did not vote for Mr. Harper, what are your plans for winning over the remaining 2% of the progressive Canadians and Mr. Harper you do not need to answer this question?

One just for you Mr. Prime Minister. Now that the audio experts have found that the Zytaruk tape was not altered. Can you please explain whether you authorized your party’s attempted bribe of an independent member of parliament, who also happened to be dying of cancer?


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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.


SIGNS by Radical Media

A 12 minute movie about communication by Radical Media a self described multi-disciplinary integrated media company, according to their web site, which is a fun place to visit if you are into cool movie intros, commercials and other recognizable multimedia projects.


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 the first federally managed marijuana mines.

Of course there could be a less altruistic purpose behind this somewhat over the top move by the the DHS, TV ratings. Personally I blame this on the CBC and their move to portray the Canadian west as some kind of Mecca for multiculturalism. Damn the Little Mosque on the Prairie. Apparently Fox is planning to run a US version of the show. Although the new show may not be competing in the same time slot, it will most certainly be competing with DHS in theme and basic messaging to the American public.

Just trying to connect the dots.


Monday, February 16, 2009

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 protecting the environment will take a national view when assessing the downwind, downstream effects or the protection of Canada’s shared wildlife and habitats, when approving the projects for the industries and corporations that are important to their province. Isn’t that right Mr. Stelmach.

Every recession has its silver lining and now the conservatives can pass all those pesky environmental questions on to the provincial level and Harper can move another step closer to creating the perfect, resource focussed, free enterprise system. One that is free of another federal restriction. The NCC must be so proud.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

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, failing to get quoted on the number of jobs this project will provide, for what I assume is the cash strapped highway construction industry in Alberta.

I am assuming these new photo op announcements by Harper and team are partly in answer to a Liberal release last week, reporting that the conservatives failed to deliver on any or at least next to any, of their spending and development promises made in their much heralded, at least in conservative circles, Building Canada Fund. Spending announcements that of course were accompanied with the same bravado and noise as we have witnessed this week.

In reality, the conservatives had a reason for not delivering on their past spending promises, they were already heading towards a deficit. One that they didn’t want to tell us about. Now, with the stimulus flood gates open, and enough polls showing that they have no other choice but to move into a deficit position, we are going to be plagued with a second round of photo opportunities, laced with conservative economic leadership messages, because keeping on message, well except for Prentice every now and then, is something that the conservatives do well.

Any day now I expect to see our new Mississauga, conservative MP out there following the road repair crews on Burnhamthorpe Road claiming that this pot hole is being filled by the conservative government.

Almost not worth getting the pot hole filled.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

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 from a dying man and that he as our prime minister may have lied under oath when giving his testimony in the lawsuit, Harper still hasn’t put a muzzle on his personal parliamentary secretary.

Fortunately if Poilievre keeps this up, Tom Zyraruk just might get the legal assistance he needs to defend his reputation and that would be just.

Keep barking Pierre.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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 battleground next time around (Ontarians as a rule like believing they are special).

Unfortunately the opposition is having less success in revealing the conservatives economic mismanagement over the last two and half years, that has worsened the effects of the recession that we are now entering. The fact that Flaherty had already moved the country into a deficit position has been obscured by the stimulus spending package and the much lamented deficit budget.

However it is not for a lack of trying on the oppositions part who continue to highlight the flow of negative reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. Even Paul Martin got into the act yesterday by placing half of the expected deficit right on Flaherty's shoulders.The problem here is that the real numbers, at least until the March year end, remain obscured and besides most Canadians are more worried about their personal budgets.

All in all a good couple of weeks. We now have a functioning opposition and a prime minister who has gone into hiding. Although you really can't blame Harper, as he is unfortunately in a position where he has to learn new skills.

After two and a half years of ideological partisanship riding on the remains of the former right of center Liberal government's fiscal policies, the recession is now forcing Harper to play a more humanistic, non partisan role. One where he must demonstrate his concern for Canadians who have lost their jobs, regardless of the fact that they live in areas that Harper does not necessarily like. He should also demonstrate some humility for his pompous and arrogant proclamations throughout the fall, about how Canada would be sheltered from the harsher effects of a world wide recession.

Obviously, these new skills do not come easy to Harper and now with the glaring comparison to Obama's persona, south of the border, you can understand why he might be taking a time out from parliament's question period, maybe to get some professional help or possibly an offsite workshop on emitting empathy.

Of course it could simply be the fact that he dropped his law suit against the Liberals over the Cadman tapes and even though they might not be able to question him about what he meant by those remarks, I'm sure the NDP or Bloc would like to.

I for one, would like to hear his explanation, again.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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.


Monday, February 9, 2009

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 programs during the election:

Ottawa believes the new program will increase Canada's economic competitiveness. With nearly full employment, an aging population and skill shortages, there is an immediate need to ensure Canadian employers can access the skills they need, Ottawa said in a statement on the changes

In reality the two fold purpose of the changes was to halt the influx of whole families moving to Canada (brothers, sisters, grandparents and the like) that would not necessarily add to the work force but instead place additional strain on our social programs and just as importantly for the core conservative base, provide laborers to meet the specific needs of targeted industries and regions of the country. In other words cheap labour for the western provinces, to back fill the holes created by the high paying oil industry jobs.

Well a year later all that has changed.

The energy boom is rapidly going bust and there is simply no longer a need for all that extra manpower and the temporary workers are the first to go to ensure Canadian jobs are protected.

Somehow using the adverb simply to describe the situation that these temporary workers now find themselves in, doesn't seem to fit, when you consider the destructive changes that this government has made to our immigration policies and our international reputation, just to provide low cost labor for the energy sector.

Temporary workers, can not collect unemployment insurance (even though they pay towards the fund). When laid off the unskilled laborers can not just go and apply for another job (move from one construction company to another, or apply at Tim Hortons). They have to find another employer that has permission to hire foreign workers and apply for a new work permit, a process that can take up to three or four months. In other words they are screwed, because the new employer has to prove that there are no Canadian workers available to take the job and right now that is not likely the case.

However the unskilled laborers can at least get a plane ticket home paid for by their former employer. Unfortunately for the skilled professionals who are also being laid off they don't get a plane ticket. But they are allowed to apply for other positions, after all they have skills (engineers and the like) and there are always jobs at Tim Hortons or maybe driving cabs at the airport.

Do you notice that Harper seems to be getting more Bush like as each month passes by? Every new program he creates always seems to end up with the opposite result of what it was intended to do and somehow you knew it would when you first heard about it.

I think this conservative government has finally jumped the shark.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

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 necessary to plan and implement major projects.

The federal government should take a leadership role here and not only release their share of the funds directly to the municipalities, if need be, who in some cases have the plans and resources or start directly providing federal funds for the planning process and required expertise. The whole point of the planned infrastructure expenditures is to quickly get unemployed Canadians and struggling Canadian businesses, working again

Additionally his federal government has a major role to play in providing direct support to the newly unemployed workers until they get their lives back on track (because that is really what you have to do when you unexpectedly loose your job) and should immediately realign the inequality of coverage where over 25% of the newly unemployed are unable to receive assistance. Use the EI surplus if necessary.

The federal government spent $13 billion in IE benefits in 2007, they will most likely spend $18 billion this fiscal year ending in March, just to cover the increased number of unemployed. Another $10 billion for expanded IE coverage through to March 2010 would of done more to help the hardest hit Canadians than the tax breaks or Home Depot rebates to those of us who have managed to keep our jobs.

Instead Harper, appears to remain in denial, that this recession is going to get a lot worse and spends his time looking for an inroad to the Ontario voters by quipping inane ramblings about a bull market.

Get real Harper and start doing your job.


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 Chief Economist at the RBC), before he decided to became a professional politician. Really not one of your rolled up shirt sleeved, man of the people, type of politicians, though. However, when you delve a bit deeper into McCallum’s history you see that he was also socially progressive with a strong nationalistic view of the country (debating with Parizeau back in his days as a McGill professor, about national unity).  .

With the recession now being on the front burner and a new confidence being displayed by the Liberals under Ignatieff, McCallum is starting to gain some strength in his parliamentary voice, painting the conservatives into ownership of this mess.

Noting that January’s job losses were three times worse than predicted, Liberal finance critic John McCallum reminded the House that the prime minister assured us mere months ago that if Canada were facing a recession we would already have had it.

He is also being placed to front of the pack and becoming the Liberal's voice on the economy.

Stephen Harper consistently told Canadians they would have a surplus as late as the November 27th economic update,” he said. And yet here we are – our starting point going into this recession is a $13-billion deficit. This government was headed into the red but was not upfront with Canadians. These political games have simply got to stop. They’ve got to start thinking about the people – protecting their jobs, their savings and Canada’s future prosperity, McCallum said.

And just as important for us average Canadians, McCallum is also gaining some confidence before the cameras. When asked by Robert Fife on the CTV National, about Harper dropping the Cadman suit, McCallum stuck to the party line that it was now behind us, but his grin and then smirk said it all.

All in, it is a good thing that McCallum is starting to get his act together, the country needs to have confidence in it's finance minister and since the Liberals have to best chance to become the next minority government, McCallum's role will be the most important.

But then again Flaherty has not set the bar too high.


Friday, February 6, 2009

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.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

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 oilmen. Mississauga needs you.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

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 Calgary and 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 campaign.
MacLeans came out decidely in Ignatieffs camp including quotes explaining the move and attacking Harper.
This is not just about Newfoundland and Labrador, this is about the way Stephen Harper runs this federation,Ignatieff said. This tendency for unilateral, surprise action is damaging to the national unity of our country. Tonight, they will have a one-time vote against the budget in order to send a clear signal to Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of the country that this is no way to run a federation.
The CBC also provided the opportunity for Ignatieff to explain why he was allowing the NL MPs the option and not the Quebec caucus.
Ignatieff defended his decision when asked by reporters why he won't allow Quebec MPs to vote against the budget. The province has also expressed frustration over changes to the equalization payments. The Liberal leader said the situation is different because Quebec was informed last year about the changes and that those changes affect the whole federation. Ignatieff said the cuts announced in the budget single out Newfoundland and Labrador.
Even CTV came out with a short piece featuring the one of Liberal NL MPs, attacking Harper.
Mr. Harper is a divider. He is a divider, and the only way to take this man on, to counter punch what he is doing - not only to the entire country, not only to Newfoundland and Labrador, but to the very fabric of our federation - is we need to be united and stand together.
All in not a bad move for Ignatieff as he got to plant more seeds about Harpers biassed and distorted view of the country, as well as Harpers spitefulness and tendancy for political payback.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If only it was still so

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.

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 grant political or any other form of autonomy to. Similar to the Tibetans, the Muslim Uighurs, live under constant oppression from the Chinese government and are routinely denied basic civil, religious and political rights. More than 90 percent of 12 million Uighurs live below the poverty line.
Uighurs are - almost without exception - the only ethnic group in China to be routinely executed for political offences. Since September 2001, China has used the US-led “war on terror” as an excuse to oppress Uighurs with impunity, persecuting many who have peacefully protested their treatment.

Uighurs have been jailed for reading newspapers sympathetic to the cause of independence. Others have been detained merely for listening to Radio Free Asia, an English-language station funded by the US. Even the most peaceful Uighur activists, if they practise Islam in a way that the authorities deem inappropriate, risk arrest and torture.
Anyway Canada is the destination of choice for these three Uighurs, since there are existing Uighur communities in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. One of their US lawyers believes there is good chance that the Canadian government will approve the relocation as the three have Canadian sponsors and “Canada is a bit of a leader from a human rights perspective”

If only it was still so.

Obviously their lawyer hasn’t heard of Abousfian Abdelrazik stranded in Sudan or the Uighur’s fellow prisoner, nor I guess Stephen Harper.


Monday, February 2, 2009

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 spending and not enough tax cuts, and that Ignatieff now has Harper over a barrel with the quarterly report cards. At any time Ignatieff could pull his support and force an election.

How stupid do these transparent party hacks, think we are.

Tasha, as you already know, tax cuts do not stimulate the economy they extend the government deficit. Check out the results from the latest experiment in the UK and as far as the Ignatieff support thing, we do have a parliamentary system of governance and Stevie still doesn't have a majority.

So I guess Harper could follow Flanagan's idea and make a law where we can lock up teenagers as adult terrorists and throw away the key. No wait we are already doing that here and here.

No these two party spokespersons just come around to spread strategic bull shit that there is some sort of conservative backlash aginst their boy Steve. Don't believe it folks, he is still the poster boy for the right wing.

And BCE do us favor, shut down this faux news organization.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

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 for in two elections) became, that I too would feel obligated to become an apologist for party strategy and with a budget that is so packed with programs extending the support of conservative ideology, you are immediately faced with the red herring argument when criticising it, of then, why did your party support it.

Unfortunately the answer because it was the best thing for the party at this time, sounds too callous, or that it was the best thing for the country at this time, somewhat negates your criticism.

I even thought of joining the Dippers, albeit for a short time. The problem here is that I’m really not a very good socialist. Lot’s of empathy for the homeless, workers, womens rights, daycare, a strong social net, decriminalization of marijuana et al, but I have spent too many years trying to make a buck, working for large corporations, or running my own company that I even have empathy for CEOs and their corporations (not so much for CFOs and Harvard MBA types though, they are the plague of the waning years of the 20th and so far all through the 21st centuries).

Besides the NDP reactions to the passing of the budget now seem as transparent and self serving as the Liberals conditional support. I mean if you had advertising dollars why didn’t you run ads to counter the conservative’s coalition attack ads, that have been on air since November and why waste your dollars now, attacking the Liberals. No I just don’t think I would make a good party member, as I don’t see things in black and white, everything to me is unfortunately 256.

The budget offers up a menagerie of spending programs designed with some intent, as most conservative programs have been, when it comes to spending our tax dollars, to buy regionally strategic influence that favor their party's long term objectives. The collapsing economy and good gonvernance be damned, the elusive, majority, mandate is always the focus.

The ill advised at least in this economy selling of yet to be disclosed assets (look out CBC), the reversal on pay equity , a half hearted attempt to assist the unemployed (no expansion on eligibility or rates ), outright, arrogant, political payback to Quebec and NL for the last electoral result, while at same time setting your sights are the now suddenly important Ontario voter. Oh and my personal favorite, an environmental PR investment of $375 million in carbon capture and storage technology for Alberta.

Yep, why not use a recesssion with its built in excuse for deficit spending for the good of the party. It ‘s the coservative way. Refunds on Home Depot rennovations, though I guess Loews benefits too. And tax cuts to the down trodden middle class, who still have a job and are not yet forced to try and sell their home in this market.

It looks like the conservatives think that those of us in the surburbs won’t loose our jobs in the next two years and are not concerned about the future cost of paying for these expenditures with the eventual claw back of funding for social services and benefits.They forget that we have lived through that before. Except this time it will be worse, at least as long as this neoconservative party still exists.

No I can’t join a party, but I have made a donation to two of them. For me it is still ABC (anyone but conservative) and where I presently reside, that means that the Liberal candidate would get my vote. If I move somewhere else in Ontario before the next election it could be the NDP that I support or if I moved to Quebec, a passing thought every now and then, I would even have an additional choice.

I am not trying to be holier (heh heh) or more rightgeous than the bloggers that have come out for one party or the other, it is just that right now, we still have a common foe here and a hopefully a common objective.

Get rid of Harper.


I guess Mound was right

Every major global climate record was broken last year and 2024 could be worse, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday,...