Friday, December 30, 2005

Messieurdames?

For her work my mother needs to brush up on her French, so she's got a series of CDs (which she can take home and listen to whenever she likes, very practical. ;) ) The Berlitz Series on learning French. It looks like a brand spanking new package.

There are a couple of things I noticed in the introductory lesson that I'm overhearing that aren't what I learned in school or remmeber hearing on the radio or TV.

First was the use of an expression I'd never heard before, to address a group of people, "messieurdames". It's clearly a contraction of "mes dames et messieurs". This new expression seems very awkward to me, sure teh whole 'les acteurs/les actrices' thing is a bit cumbersome, but are the high priests of the French language going to coin new contractions for every such grouping now?

The other thing I heard was "je vais allez à Québec." I was always aware that you would normally say "au Québec". What gives?

By al - 9:40 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Milk Crisis of ought-five

So basically I'm grasping at what remains of my keys to existance today. I ran out of coffee a couple of days ago and today I used a packet that came in an accounting firm gift basket. Good coffee, and the very last coffee filter to boot. Excellent luck so far. I pour myself a cup, go to the fridge, and naturally, I'm out of milk.

Go to the corner store? pssh. Not while there's a perfectly good carton of egg nog in my fridge, I won't.
al says:
Out of coffee cream. Wondering if egg nog is an acceptable substitute?
1UP says:
oh, yes!
1UP says:
*something about those darn kids these days*
1UP says:
I used ice cream once, it was pretty good.
Somehow I knew I had asked the right person.

Anyway, the end result was kind of bland, like coffee with cream and a little hint of vanilla. So I added some cinnamon and a bit of sugar and ended up with something that was actually kind of good. Then I realized this is probably what those coffee shops sell as 'spiced eggnog' flavour and felt far less like the great food inventor I've had bouts of since I was 4 and figured if I liked chocolate milk and I liked cheerios then clearly chocolate milk and cheerios would be bliss and more like a dork who takes longer to ordera cup of coffee than to drink it.

By al - 8:36 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

It Can't Happen Here

I saw a link last night, in this MetaFilter post, pointing to where you can read Sinclair Lewis' novel, It Can't Happen Here, online for free. Link. I read it all in one go.

Coles Notes version of the plot is that a folksy Southern politician creates all sorts of buzz in the mid-1930s United States with contradictory promises to help the working man and suppress labour organization. A something-for-everyone campaign where having a scapegoat to hang one's disaffectedness on is the common bond of his fervent supporters. In this new leader, rising to a logical position in historically fascist-curious America, we find a uniquely American trait of being too outwardly stupid to be singly frightening. Clearly he wins the 1936 elections and goes about implementing his 15 points, threats to nationalize banks and large industry becoming swords to wave over heads of loyal contributors should they not serve the state with gusto, a provision that expands executive power of the president so it is unfettered by congress or the courts, and points restricting the rights of Jews (who, the leader insisted, were fine human beings, but who lamented the fact that the great international conspiracy was so populated by Jewish intellectuals and financiers.) and coloured people (who served the useful purpose of being the one group poor American white working men still had to look down upon.).

Interestingly, the new phenomenon of the radio demagogue (the real Father Coughlin and fictional others) were the main instruments in the election of this great reformer. Instead of working the miracle of getting the masses to vote against their own best interests, instead every American is promised $5,000. This promise of money in your hand against which people were financing more major purchases left all but the distasteful bourgeois liberal clamoring to elect the newcomer.

Almost immediately after taking power an emergency is declared and the president declares he has powers to suspend civil liberties and the power of congress 'temporarily'.

What I love most about this book is that he puts the liberal, in all his unpopularity, in the position of having to stick to principle and not corrupt his ideals for efficacy. The main character is tempted by communism's organizational ability and faces, interestingly, the exact proposition that Winston Smith is asked when he is pledging to join the resistance to Big Brother: "would you be willing to follow orders and do whatever is deemed necessary for cause of defeating the enemy?" The main character in this novel, a small-town newspaper editor, refuses, and remains uncompromised and unco-opted by the system he's trying to fight.

It had that uniquely American trait of needing to sound hopeful at the end, but only by showing that the system is vulnerable, not telling of its downfall.

Interesting also that he would so nail the sheer incompetence of every level of government the American fascist would operate on, with no post being safe from political crony appointments. Anti-intellectualism rained supreme in the way Universities were reduced to technical schools and literature was not so much feared as ridiculed at first.

Lewis hits on a 'biology of dictatorships' where the key is to make people think that they are free and that criticizing government doesn't happen because of censorship, but because the idea is so distasteful as to not even be considered.

Lewis also takes on the eagerness to which uneducated young men seem to take a taste to wielding violence and getting away with it. The Minute Men (the S.A. and S.S. combined into one) take over the civil service and even start to run their own prisons, away from the inconvenient regulation of the existing institutions.

Reading the virtues of liberalism praised instead of apologized for is reminding me to call myself a liberal (small 'l' for God's sake.) proudly and aware of the wavering and caution and lack of easy answers decried by the masses in the novel.

Overshadowed by its political nature is the fact that the book itself is very well-written. (Lewis did, after all, win the Nobel Prize for literature for an earlier work) And one thing I noticed in particular was the predominance of strong female characters who put their heads down and did the hard work when they had to and weren't so vulnerable to hopelessness. I don't know how ahead of its time such notions of strong women were in American literature, but I was pleasantly surprised to find more than the simple female placeholder characters.

This book sits very comfortably in a timeline where it would sit about 50 years ahead of 1984 and as the ancient history to Brave New World's universe, but again with the cracks of American sense of hopefulness setting it slightly apart from the other two.
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By al - 3:57 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, December 23, 2005

Smothered in Hugs + Lenore + Officer Girl

This won't be any kind of full-fledged review because I've written about all these bands before, but I would like to mention that each of the three acts last night put on the best show I'd ever see them do.

This was the show that almost didn't happen. It was the last in a series of CD release parties for the Well Oiled compilation. I missed the first one becaue I'm lame, and the second one was cancelled because of weather, so I was definitely going to make it to the final show, which was supposed to be at Myron's. However some drama or other occurred with the Myron's management deciding they needed to bump the release party down to earlier in the night and putting a band at the top of the bill that isn't even on the CD. They were probably playing it safe and wanting to have a more general crowd-friendly band playing at the end when the random people off the street were more likely to be there (indie rock scares away cougars faster than tiger urine, it'sa scientific fact), but the way they went about changing the bill rubbed enough people the wrong way that for a while it looked like there wasn't going to be a show. But then some brilliant soul arranged for it to be at the Arts Guild and all was right with the world, since being at Myron's, even to see a good show, still makes me want to hang myself by my old and fraying shoelaces.

Smothered in Hats were up first, it was generous of them to go up first considering Lenore were only playing their second show, but Lenore's short set is a good 'in between' fit, so it worked out well. The only other times I've seen these guys were at Brennan's, which has pretty sub-par sound and terrible accoustics, which probably unfairly prejudiced my opinionof them. The Guild's sound set up definitely brought out the clarity of their playing a lot better. Hugs have a very Interpol-type sound to them, with a good smattering of new wave thrown in. The keyboard player provides a lot of the backbone to their melody, and isn't just there to fill out the sound, which is a welcome departure from most keyboard players aroound these parts, though there's one point in a song where the keyboard player drags accross all the keys that is a little too much, replacing that with a little alternating-note descending bridge would reduce the sore thumb factor.

The drumming had a bit of a Cure sound, off in another room but still playing along to the band, with a very clattering quality to it. They must go through at least 3 or 4 highhats a year.

They seem to have a good little fan base growing for them as well, with people cheering for specific songs and knowing which ones were coming up. The last couple of songs they played were definitely the crowd pleasers, with the tightest playing and the catchiest hooks.

Joel Court and the Flushes were up next, with their fairly short new set. They've apparently been playing together for the better part of a year before ever doing a show. Most of the members are older and have pretty high standards for themselves which would explain the long wait and the few songs to start with. That's supergroups for you, I suppose.

Lenore have a very full sound, both guitars have distinct tone and don't step on each other at all. The rhythem section are quick and tight and straightforward, with that 'we've been playing together so long we sound like one instrument' kind of rapport.

I could spend the rest of this review talking about Joel's sweet guitar tone, it stands out and really shapes Lenore's sound. A few weeks ago I saw him play by himself at an all ages show at the Basilica Rec Centre and he was in a class by himself compared with the other acts (who weren't bad at all, but didn't stick out in my memory nearly as much.)

The singing both times I've seen Lenore has been a bit subdued, but I think that's more a product of the sound systems they've had to deal with. The two vocalists thing is a new one, and I haven't heard how it works on the song they've got on well-oiled. Sometimes during the show it felt like they weren't sure how to sing together without bumping into each other. That should come with playing on stage more, as they stretch themselves out and work the kinks from their live show. I don't have a sweet clue in the world what they might be saying or what the songs are about. Not important for me, since I usually don't pay attention to lyrics, but it was frustrating for some others. They're getting pretty monstrous buzz around town, though, and hopefully they'll start playing a lot more shows.

This was Officer dot Girl's last show in Charlottetown before the band picks up and moves to Montreal. I've not seen them do a bad show, and thanks to the sound setup last night and the positive vibe from the crowd I'll remember this last show as their best one. I've already written about them here, so go read that and I won't have to repeat myself talking about their musical style.

The sound setup they had last night let you hear each instrument clearly and from a slightly different place, so you had the ability to concentrate on any one of the players. Definitely beats all other venues except Myron's, but they actually pay attention to the quality of sound instead of just throwing their expensive system on 'loud' and letting it take care of itself like Myron's seems to. It was also an island of sensible crowds in the middle of the drunken holiday idiocy flooding the bars around town, so in a way having the show move was the best thing that could have happened.

Officer Girl will definitely be missed, I didn't hear them make a point of saying they'd be back, but hopefully it was implied. Dave Christian / Shoreline, I'm looking at you to do some arm-twisting if need be.

Next step is to get my copy of Well Oiled back from Taylor so I can actually hear the thing.

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By al - 9:49 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

QSC X-Mas Party

Cyn has a good post up mentioning the great little get-together we had last night at the Queen S. Commons. Link.

Christmas at the QSC

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In keeping with workplace Christmas traditions everywhere, we, at the Queen Street Commons, had a Christmas social last night. A good crowd showed up with their deliciously decadent offerings of dips and what nots and we ate, drank, talked and laughed into the night.

...

The shop talk at the QSC, I suspect, is quite different than say the shop talk that might occur at a Christmas party for the PEI's Department of Health. For one thing we are small enough and care enough that we know our SO's first names, so when we do talk shop we can say the person's name if we need to. There is no boss at the next table to talk about, no sucking up, no stress from possibly getting axed in the new year...there is no such thing as getting axed when you're the boss of your own self.
I'm a bit surprised at myself at just how much of How the Grinch Stole Christmas I have memorized. I was whispering right along with the narrator parts when the rest were reading it from the script, which was a nice touch.

Also fun was me slurping down oysters loudly purely because it grossed out someone I had just met who has the same name as me. Also fun was realizing you're being talked about when you first get there and sneaking up slowly behind the person doing it without them knowing.

I think the best indication that we're the coolest kids in town is that people who work at other places came to our Christmas party ;)

I only dropped by after going to see a friend in the hospital so I missed the bulk of it all, but slightly thinner crowds are more my speed anyway so it's all good.

By al - 2:37 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, December 16, 2005

Federal Leaders Snoozefest

They don't allow the leaders to interject or ask each other questions. It lets them pre-script their answers based on expected questions. Not learning anything new.

They get to look tough by turning off the microphones, juvenilely putting their arbitrary debate rules ahead of the substance of what might be being said.

I"m guessing that the parties all insisted on having it be such a non-challenging format, and the TV networks who negotiated the debate format just agreed to whatever they wanted, because they're receiving so much business from the political parties for the ad wasteland post-Christmas.

By al - 10:38 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Swim meet day 1

I took the day off work so that I could watch four of my fourteen swimmers compete at the east cost champions ships (short coarse). This is exciting considering it is my first full year of coaching and the third meet I get to go to is a championship one. I have been asked several times why I would use one of precious days off to do this. Well to be honest, I really needed a day off work. It had become overwhelming there and recently I have realized how much happier I am on the pool deck. But one of the things that makes it most worth it, is when one of the kids has a good swim. All my kids had great swims today. They come back from their race, with smiles, knowing they have gotten personal best times. That moment seeing them come running to you and the High Five is worth more than the money I make at my job.
Today's meet showed that the work I have been doing with them is paying off, watching one girl take 33 seconds off a 400 m freestyle and another take 15 seconds of a 100 free and 14 seconds of a 200 IM swim just gives me confidence in the work I am doing. But the meet also showed what I need to work on.

overall it was a good day. Especially at the end when the parents thank you for the work. That always surprises me.

By Sabrina - 2:56 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Pass the Popcorn

Rick Mercer mentioned this in passing in his blog (Link), but I think it bares repeating: The Conservatives' proposed $1200/year childcare allowance works out to $25 a week, contrary to all the faux outrage on the Conservatives part, won't even pay for a single case of beer. So my question is, what kind of quality childcare are they expecting people to be able to afford from private providers for that amount of money?

The proposed amount is not enough money for those who need it, and is indeed just extra cash in the bank for those who don't (the actual target of the beer and popcorn money comment wasn't irresponsible lower-income parents but upper-income families who didn't need the money.)

So the actual number of people who would benefit from this scheme is some small wedge of people somewhere in the middle, whereas with the Liiberals and NDP's proposals for childcare, everyone benefits equally by a full-fledged system.

In the U.S. the conservatives have let the public school system rot away to such a state to make vouchers look like a viable alternative, but in Canada, fortunatley, we haven't gotten there yet, and the idea still looks ludicrous.

Update: My last post on the subject is here: Link.

By al - 11:32 AM | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Something to be Proud Of

So the US is getting all huffy about Paul Martin's grandstanding. TorStar Link, but I find it amusing that the US would trumpet a reduction in emissions that they've had as something to be proud of. Did it come as a result of any concerted effort to clean up factories or impose more stringent emissions regulations on cars? Nope. It's from the full-fledged fleeing of the U.S.'s manufacturing base to China. So all of the factories that used to belch out their poisons directly into American lungs now do so on the other side of the earth, employing Chinese instead of Americans.

So the U.S. gets to take credit for helping the environment because no one wants to manufacture anything inside the U.S. anymore. Good job, guys.

By al - 2:29 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Trivia Enthusiast / Bad-Ass M.C.

Trivia last night was a success, according to the people I chatted with afterwards. Everyone liked my questions, which I posted to the trivia blog like usual (a lot easier to copy and paste them then to try and remember them the next day.)

There were a few smartasses who got in the way of my revenue stream by answering the beer questions right away, which is usually my schtick. Someone guessed right away that the Canadian Tire guy was #1 on the most irritating Canadian list that I had. That just goes to show how irritating he is.

g. caught that I had mentioned at least a couple of the questions here on this blog, like Fawlty Towers. If I ever host trivia again I should leave hints in my blog for like a week before just to reward people who are fans of me. Funnily enough my usual team tied for the highest score after round 1 but then got slaughtered in round 2, while g.'s team only had 2 points in round 1 but got among the best scores in round 2.

I had fun walking around and talking to people whom I don't normally talk to because everyone usually sticks to their own table / team. It was also fun giving out the beer and t-shirt prizes to people, especially the ones who aren't regulars and may have been feeling a bit intimidated by the high-scoring teams.

If they need a substitute host again I'd definitely do it. Good times.

By al - 2:59 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not Ready for Prime Time

OpenOffice's crash reporter crashes

Tags: Irony

By al - 9:07 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hippocamp Ruins Everything

Reverent re-mixing and reconceptualizing of a couple of classic albums:

Hippocamp Ruins Pet Sounds

Hippocamp Ruins Sgt. Pepper's

If you listen to these right after listening to the originals you can really get a feel for how much skilled music craft went into each, that they can be effectively shaken up and thrown against a wall and still sound good.

The Sgt. Pepper's one is more recent and clearly more adventurous, taking the very structures of the songs apart rather than just adding to the original melodies and structure.

I usually find a lot of these remixes rather lazy affairs and often the attitude of the arranger seems rather arrogant, which somehow poisons the end product. But these guys clearly consider their source material to be nearly perfect, and their version is meant as an addition rather than an update or a replacement.

By al - 9:33 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Geeks and Wikipedia

I was at a bookstore a few weeks ago and on a whim, I picked up one of those many Star Wars books and quickly read the back. To my surprise, it stated that Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade working on the same side. Well, it's a surprise to me because I haven't read a Star Wars book for years and the ones I did read, Mara was out to kill Luke. After imagining what probably happened in my mind, I thought "Geeks love the internet. I bet wikipedia has an article on Mara Jade that explains everything". I was right. She does end up marrying Luke. . . typical geek fantasy I guess.

By Ming - 3:03 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Hosting Trivia Next Week

(cross-posted to we know stuff.)

So, as some kind of bizarre poetic justice, I've been asked to host trivia at Churchill Arms next Tuesday. I've been a bit of a thorn in the side of the woman who hosts it now, so she said she looks forward to heckling me next week.

Personally I can't wait for any opportunity to be a jerk in front of an audience. And I agreed to do it without even knowing that I'll get paid. The hardest part between now and next week is getting people to stop suggesting questions to me, because I don't want even the appearance that I'm helping either Sabrina's or Gabrielle's teams to win.

I do have a few funny questions stored away now, it's funny my usual head for useless facts is even more finely attuned to them now that I know I'll be needing to use them. I also have a few funny lists that I can use as sources for beer questions.

A beer question is where you think of an obscure but guessable fact or number and get people to guess it, putting quarters into a cup when they are get an answer wrong.

A job where I can show off how much stupid crap I know combined with being able to be goofy and funny for a captive audience should be pretty sweet. Most of the questions are the Jeopardy / Trivial Pursuit general knowledge variety, I'll probably throw in a few movie / TV / sports questions for some variety.

It's at the Churchill Arms on Queen St. in Charlottetown, Tuesday, Dec. 13. Trivia starts at 8:30, but I like to get there around 7:45 or 8:00 to get a table. Bring a team and annoy the regulars and I'll love you.

By al - 7:24 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Impressive

This morning I saw a Tampax commercial where a woman plugs a leak in a boat with a tampon.

"Strong enough for a man" has just been topped.

By al - 12:57 PM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Best Comment to a candidate so far...

I have a friend who lives just down the road from who was recently visited by the Liberal candidate for his riding. As soon as the candidate introduced himself my friend came back with "I would invite you in, but I have loose change on my table and I don't want you to steal it." I guess thats what happens when you campaign in an area that has become Tory Blue.

By Peter - 9:49 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, December 05, 2005

Daycare Vouchers?

So Harper is trying yet another American Republican policy baby on for size. This time it's the public money for private schools ploy, with plenty of derision of inefficient government-run programs thrown in for good measure. His alternative to the Liberals' childcare plan is to open the public treasury and empty it into the pockets of whoever gets the bright idea to open up a string of barebones daycare centres that charge exactly the amount the government promises to give and cuts costs anywhere they can.

Hooray for the virtues of the 'free' market. Except, of course, that such a market wouldn't be 'free' at all, and the lack of qualified childcare providers should a great number of new parents jump on such a program would drive up the price of spots in the existing daycares, adjusting for the fact that the market suddenly has more demand and a higher ability to pay.

The most fervent supporters of school vouchers (and the code words 'school choice') in the United States are the leftovers who are still sore about de-segragation in schools, and the religious fanatics who object to the idea of biology class.

While in Canada these dark or stupid motivations aren't quite as strong, much of it is still based on the desire to build up a parallel educaton system, now supported by the government, that doesn't have to abide by publicly set standards and curricula.

Now, my Liberal self has little objection to private and religious schools, but there's no way I'm paying for some Alberta family to send their little angel to a daycare where they teach how homosexuality is evil and the earth is 6000 years old.

By al - 6:19 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

How to Not Get Mugged

Conventional wisdom is that those white earbuds that come with iPods are mugger bait. This was my solution to that as posted to HalifaxLocals:

ust bring a shitty $8 wal-mart radio along with you and put it in the same pocket as your ipod. If you get mugged give them that and just confess that you were only trying to look cool.

By al - 4:28 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, December 04, 2005

More on Liberals Having it Both Ways with the US

The Toronto Star just posted an article Ghost Flights Over Canada detailing how a CIA plane used an airport in St. John's, showing that while the Liberals talk publicly about not supporting the US's inhuman foreign policies, they still secretly give them material and tactical support.
It is almost certainly a CIA shell company, existing on paper only, and the turboprop was likely carrying a "ghost" prisoner to a country where torture is used during interrogations.

Such covert flights, known as "extraordinary renditions," became infamous in Canada in the case of Maher Arar, the Ottawa man who was tortured in Syria after being whisked away from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport as a suspected terrorist.

The United States denies it tortures suspects.

There have been five occasions in which suspected CIA-linked aircraft flew over Canada, or landed in Newfoundland or Nunavut, over the past six months.

And the flights are raising the same kind of questions that are being asked in capitals around the world.

Did official Ottawa know of the flights and who might have been on the aircraft?

Did the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) co-operate in allowing the U.S. overflights and landings?

If so, they were breaking international law.
In the end because George W. Bush and his administration only know the value of public perception, such aiding and abetting of torture isn't going to win Canada any points with the U.S., and every study done on teh subject shows that torture is not an effective way to gain information, so even when considered from a purely self-interested standpoint, there's simply no reason why Canada should be helping the U.S. covertly break international law.

By al - 5:05 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Catering to Egos

The PBS station we get here on PEI, WGBH from Boston, is in the middle of a pledge drive. What I've seen every time I've turned to that channel in the last couple of days is an advertizement disguised as a documentary about "Fawlty Towers". I am instantly excited and then disappointed when I realize they're just playing a clip and not the actual show.

PBS seems to realize that the people they want to get donations from are the types who like to think they enjoy British comedy but don't really.

By al - 1:47 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

The Neocon Invasion Continues

Link.

With friends like these ...

The Conservatives better hope this one doesn't get around: Right-wing think tanker Patrick Basham lends his support to the Conservatives in an op-ed -- ''Gift from Canada? -- for the Washington Times:

Why does President Bush hope Christmas comes a little late this year? Because on Jan. 23, Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the Western world. Free-market economist Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, is pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, and socially conservative. Move over Tony Blair: If elected, Mr. Harper will quickly become Mr. Bush's new best friend internationally and the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader.

Now that's something the Liberals should be grabbing for their negative/attack ads.

Basham goes on:

A Harper victory may prove to be the exception to the international rule -- a rare foreign event that manages to put a smile on President George W. Bush's face.

Don't you just love how these AmeriCONS care so much about Canadian taxpayers?

It figures this would appear in the Times, said to be Bush's preferred (and probably only) paper. It's owned by the Moonies.

I'm wondering if the Canadian press will start catching on to Harper's unpopular positions and start asking about whether he will stick to his commitment to "our strongest ally, the United States" and commit Canadian troops to fighting in Iraq? Or, if he believes in smaller government but higher militar spending, which parts of healthcare and education would he sacrifice in order to buy more guns? (My talent for polemic sometimes even scares me.)

As for the Liberals, they managed to find a way to help the US fight the Iraq war while fooling Canadians into thinking they were opposed to it. Canada dutifully doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan as soon as the US wanted to move their resources to Iraq. George Galloway, the British Respect Coalition MP who famously bulldozed U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, was being interviewed on CPAC a few weeks ago and he said that to the rest of the world Canada's Iraq position is that it is trying to achieve the state of being a little bit pregnant. (link goes to an article with similar comments but not from the same interview.)
An MP for the Respect Party in Britain, Galloway pointed his finger at Canadian politics during his recent stop in Toronto. "I'm not going to let the Canadian Government off the hook," he said.

Galloway spoke at Convocation Hall in Toronto on September 16th, the only Canadian stop on his eight-city tour of the United States. Internationally known as a fearless opponent of the war in Iraq, it lost him his seat in the Labour Party in 2003, which he had held for 16 years.

Undiscouraged, Galloway struck up his own party called Respect – The Unity Coalition. At 20 weeks old and working under "a total media black-out," his party defeated the pro-war Labour Party incumbent. It was an unprecedented success story, and the first time in 60 years that a "left-of-the-Labour" party had won a seat.

Canada was not spared in his scathing criticism of the UK and North American governments for their involvement in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There's a certain myopia in countries like Canada," he said. "You can't send 1000 soldiers as 'peacekeepers' and claim to be neutral. It's like saying a woman is a little bit pregnant. You're either neutral or you're not."
So basically it's the same thing again, the Conservatives say they'll do something, the Liberals beat the drum and sound horrified in the campaign, and then go and do by half measures what the Conservatives were after all along. But "campaign like the NDP and govern like the Tories" has been a long-time Liberal theme, so who's surprised?

By al - 10:34 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Times They Do Change

Harper today:

Harper Promises to Get Tough on Drug Offenders



MICHELLE MACAFEE, Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) - In what has become a trend as the first week of the federal election campaign winds down, the Conservatives lept out early Saturday to set the agenda by rolling out a key part of their law-order platform.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper. (CP)

During an early morning stop in Burnaby, B.C., Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised mandatory minimum sentences of at least two years for the most serious drug offenders.

He said a Conservative government would also ban conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious drug crimes and raise fines for dealers and producers.
I wonder what it says about us that my gut reaction was "that doesn't seem very Canadian".

My socialist self and my liberal self are torn between looking to where some friends of mine live in South Korea and other Asian countries with very, very tough drug penalties and genuinely safer cities and looking to Europe where we hear stories of casual drug acceptance and what a paradise it is but where we see a lot of ugliness swept under the rug.

My thinking on drug policy is similar to my thinking on abortion policy, i.e., I'm not affected personally, so I'm a little more detached and really haven't thought overly hard about it.

We have definitely decided as a society that some drugs like alcohol, caffeine, the perscription-on-demand anti-depressants that are flying off the shelves, are acceptable, and for historical reasons others are not. This is the foundational contradiction pointed to by those that want to see so-called 'soft' drugs legalized. But the other side of that is that addiction is about the most powerful destructive force to a person's life, and if we can decide that in our society we don't accept certain things we deem unseemly, why can't we democratically decide we won't accept them? (ooh, there''s al the populist. It's getting crowded in here.)

Like the GST thing, this is probably something where I can't so quickly dismiss a Harperism because he's unwittingly being a socialist, but I don't think it will help him win the election.

By al - 6:14 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, December 02, 2005

Buzzword-Compliant Tax Cuts

This post at freelantz which discussed the Conservative Party's proposed 1% cut to the GST. Link. In the post the idea is floated that a consumption tax is 'more fair' because it is an 'opt-in' tax, i.e., if you choose not to buy things, then you pay less in taxes.

This is the comment I left below the post:
Consumption taxes are inherently regressive, because someone with a lower income is forced to spend a higher percentage of his or her earnings on the necessities.

A consumption tax hits someone who lives paycheque to paycheque much harder than someone with significant extra income.

As for the politics of this particular promise by the Conservatives, I don't know if it will have the impact that they are hoping, with many Canadians receiving a GST rebate cheque a few times a year, they might see that it isn't killing them to the degree that was feared when Mulroney first brought it in.

Another point: the GST was introduced in order to pay the interest on the national debt. Because of it Canada has actually managed to put a dent in the debt over time, instead of chasing a moving target.
Progressive taxation is one of the ways to try and slow the seemingly powerful tendency towards an increasingly large gap between the rich and the rest of us. And, as discussed in this excellent collection of essays, inequality itself seems to lead to poorer quality of life, regardless of any absolute measure of a population's wealth.

By al - 8:11 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

I Hate Christmas

Did I mention already that people are stupid?

Christmas proclamation under fire from Jewish group

A motion proclaiming December the Christmas season in the town of Oxford, N.S., has drawn criticism from members of a Jewish group in Atlantic Canada.

"I'm somewhat taken aback that the town councillors felt they had to legislate in this manner," Jon Goldberg, executive director of the Atlantic Jewish Congress, said in an interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald on Thursday.

"I can't help wondering what is next. Are they going to legislate that everyone has to go to church on Christmas Eve?"

Oxford town council also decreed earlier this week that Christmas would be the only name used to describe the holiday season because "the holiday originated from the birth of Jesus Christ."

Deputy mayor Leonard Allen, who introduced the motion, said he hoped other towns would follow suit. He also said he'd like schools to go back to calling their holiday concerts Christmas concerts.

"the holiday originated from the birth of Jesus Christ." This makes me want to punch people. Especially ones who claim to be Christian but don't know the history of their own religion.

From Wikipedia: Link.

Connection to modern Christmas

Many of the symbols associated with the modern holiday of Christmas such as the burning of the Yule log, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe, etc. are apparently derived from traditional northern European Yule celebrations. When the first missionaries began converting the Germanic peoples to Christianity, they found it easier to simply provide a Christian reinterpretation for popular feasts such as Yule and allow the celebrations themselves to go on largely unchanged, rather than trying to suppress them. The Scandinavian tradition of slaughtering a pig at Christmas (see Christmas ham), and not in the autumn, is probably the most salient evidence for this. The tradition derives from the sacrifice to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations. Halloween and Easter are theorized to have been likewise assimilated from northern European pagan festivals.

English historian Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Ecclesiastic History of the English People") contains a letter from Pope Gregory I to Saint Mellitus, who was then on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the heathen Anglo-Saxons. The Pope suggests that converting heathens is easier if they are allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while recasting those traditions spiritually towards the one true God instead of to their pagan gods (whom the Pope refers to as "devils"), "to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God". [1] The Pope sanctions such conversion tactics as Biblically acceptable, pointing out that God did much the same thing with the ancient Israelites and their pagan sacrifices.

Also from MetaFilter: Link.
"This is their holiday, I hope they enjoy it"?

Well, the obvious reason is that it's also a secular holiday. The pagan ritual of bringing in an evergreen and singing joyful songs and getting together with family & friends in the darkest time of year is still celebrated by many, including many christians. Some christians also celebrate the christian incarnation of the holiday - midnite mass & the ceremonial birth of jesus. But to suggest that a midwinter festival requires a belief in a particular ancient prophet's claims is just silly.

It isn't a "war on xmas" but in the public realm the inclusive holiday is more polite. If you're technically christian, you do technically believe that non-christians will go to hell, so there's kind of an undercurrent of nastiness in a christian wishing a non-christian a happy xmas. But anyone can have fully positive wishes for a joyous holiday season...

Or if you told me, "I hope you have a nice winter solstice" why would I get upset because you believe in it and want me to enjoy a time.

but there's nothing to believe or not believe in when it comes to a winter solstice. It's the darkest, coldest time of the year, and someone is wishing you well, to have a warm, cozy, homey place to spend it, to make it feel warm & enjoyable in spite of its objectively being the most depressing part of the year. A real fundy Christmas is not like that - christmas, technically, is asking the person to celebrate the birth of the man-god prophesied to cast all unbelievers in a lake of fire. If the person is not christian, it's not really that nice a thing to say.
posted by mdn at 3:47 PM AST on November 30 [!]
I don't have much to say on the subject beyond pointing out that these so-called Christians seem to be fighting for the continued commercial corruption of Christmas. I'm trying to tell them they have egg on their tie.

And anyway, the concept of the separation of Church and State was that it was for the protection of both, and one look at the drop in religious observance in European countries that have an official State religion vs. the United States should tell you that it works.

And as for people saying "well, most people are Christians so what's wrong with celebrating it in schools?" I will point out my own experience, which is that Jehovah's Witness' children, who were forbidden from taking part in any celebration, were singled out and picked on by the other kids for not conforming.

Anyway, 'holidays' is derived rather obviously from 'Holy day' so it really isn't any great loss to have a 'happy holidays' sign hanging in Wal-Mart as you carry out your consumer's duty and spend money on violent video games for Jesus's sake than if the sign said 'Merry Christmas'.

What I really object to is the idea that I should be happy or merry at all. This goes against my right to be moody and despondent.

Update: James Wolcott fights the good fight of the secular progresive cabal against Christmas:
Scenes from the War on Christmas
Posted by James Wolcott

Today this nice saleslady handed me the blue Tiffany box she had tied with a ribbon just so and, with a twinkle in her smile, wished me a Merry Christmas. So I socked her.

12.01.05 10:46PM
Update 2: Daily Kos points to more Bill O'Reilly racist idiocy disguised as 'defending Christmas'.
In honor of the increasingly repugnant O'Reilly, we shall repeat below a post on the subject from last year, featuring great moments from Henry Ford, David Duke, and other voices who similarly explain the origins of the so-called War on Christmas. As well as a few hits from Bill O'Reilly himself, last year.

By al - 2:24 PM | (5) comments | Post a Comment

Teasing a Reluctant Liberal

I've mostly been picking on the Conservatives the last couple of days, so to make up for that I started IMing items from the list of 199 Liberal party scandals to a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous who is a loyal Liberal party volunteer but who secretly wishes for an NDP government.
1. Cancelling the Sea King replacement
2. Sponsorship scandal
3. Gun Registry
4. HRDC boondoggle
5. Problems with Transition Job Funds program
6. Tainted blood
7. Radwanski Spending Affair
8. Pearson Airport
9. GST Flip Flop
10. Airbus Investigation
al says:
that's pretty damning and that's jsut 5% of them
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
there's good things too!
al says:
you have to admit 16. 16. Alfonso Gagliano being appointed Ambassador to Denmark was pretty ballsy
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
hahaha that was Chretien wasn't it? He's crazy that's nout Martin's fault
al says:
http://soapbox22.blogspot.com/2005/11/dubious-day.html full list
al says:
37. APEC Inquiry i figured that should be higher
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
PLUS better the Devil that isn't THAT bad than the Devil that wants to to change the human rights so gays can't gte married
al says:
ndp my man
al says:
"change you can trust"
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
. . . . . . don't joke around
al says:
"and we won't pepper spray you for protesting against torture"
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
did you forget what province we
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
re in?
al says:
64. Shutting down the Somalia Inquiry

i forgot how mad that made me
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
Chretien!!
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
you don't blame Jerry Seinfeld cause Jesus was killed by the Jews!
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
same philosophy!
al says:
106. ACOA Minister Joe McGuire canceling ACOA loan and grant to ABL Industries Inc. because it would compete with company in his riding. (Fredericton Daily Gleaner, July 17, 2004).
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
see above! actually that may have been Martin
al says:
112. A Liberal Party of Canada fundraising letter signed by Paul Martin, asking potential contributors to offer $7,000, $7,100 or $7,200 in contributions – far in excess of donation limits passed by the very same Liberal government
al says:
everything after 86 is martin
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
After 86!
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
hey look if you wanna re-do the 80's cause you wanna make a point about bad Liberals be my guest, some of us are swallowing our pride
al says:
124. Paul Martin taking Challenger jets to Liberal fundraisers
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
IT COULD HAVE BEEN ATTACKED BY TERRORISTS
al says:
133. Man convicted of fraud against government hired to teach ethics course to public servants (National Post, October 20, 2004).
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
hahahahaha come on that's pretty funny
al says:
142. Revelations that the program to bring in foreign exotic dancers was created under pressure from organized crime (National Post, December 18, 2004)
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
oh yeah I forgot you wanna make organized crime mad at you, that worked well for Jimmy Hoffa
al says:
158. Canadian flag lapel pins being made in China. Only under pressure, Scott Brison flip flops and agrees to have them made in Canada again.
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
China will rule us all eventually anyway might as well get reay, Scott Bryson is cutting edge
al says:
164. Government knowing about details of torture and murder of Zahra Kazemi back in November and still sending ambassador back to Iran
al says:
165. Government knowing about details of torture and murder of Zahra Kazemi back in November but doing nothing
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
that's not true!
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
they CAN'T do anything, what can they do!?
al says:
see 164
My Heart For a Shipwreck, Your Legs Left Down Below says:
we took him away for a while! That doesn't do very much

By al - 1:34 PM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

My Antonia

If you aren't reading Azerbic, Antonia Zerbisias's Toronto Star blog (she's the media columnist for the star.), you probably aren't getting your required daily dose of snark.

As an introduction here's a video of her taking Bill O'Reilly to school and delivering a swift paddling, and here's where she talks about asking Bob Woodward some very tough questions about why he's now a White House shill.

And here's an interview she did with the Independent's Robert Fisk about the media's caged-up existance in Iraq. (found via Matt Good's blog, Link), another surprisingly good source of (rather more angry) commentary on politics and international issues.

Mostly her blog's focus is on Canadian politicians, and also she does a lot of spillover and followup from her media column talking about the incestuous world of Canadian newspaper personalities. Very sharp writing is somethign Canadian blogs tend to lack.

By al - 8:21 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Campaign Finance Christmas

So apparently because this federal election campaign straddles two calendar years, political parties will be able to accept twice as much money in donations from individuals over the course of the campaign.

Expect nothing but January elections from now until the end of time. And twice as much advertizing and stunts.

Lovely.

By al - 8:43 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

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