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January 30, 2005

The marketer's art

Back when I was a youth, Carling Black Label was the brand associated with skinny ties and spikey hair. Its marketers attempted to differentiate it from the jock beers and the old timer's beers -- as the urban hipster beer. The ads featured fashionably dressed party people grooving to 'New Wave' beats. But New Wave got old, and eventually the beer was discontinued across most of Canada.

But in Quebec the brand continues on, discovering new customers in those that want to get drunk, and don't want to waste any time doing it. The marketing strategy has changed from seducing you with the image of an exciting life to selling you one inexpensive and convenient 40oz bottle you can hold on to until you fall over. They also present you with six different strengths of beer so you can accurately choose your desired level of intoxication:

Regular -- 5%
"I'm driving!"
Forte -- 6.1%
Drunk
X-Forte -- 6.6%
Really drunk
Extrême -- 7%
Wasted
Suprême -- 8%
Shitfaced
Big 10 -- 10%!
Completely shitfaced

Choice is a wonderful thing.

(Thanks to the 40 oz Malt Liquor Database for the photos!)

UPDATE: You know, I'm not really sure what I meant to say with this post. I saw these different beers in the store and thought it was amusing, but the fun has since worn off. I apologize for my lameness and will not let it happen again. I only had one beer last night; I can't imagine what happened to my judgement...

Time to switch gears in Iraq

Dashing the hopes of 'the insurgents' and many in the mainstream media, the elections went well in Iraq today. There was violence, but it was nowhere near the levels threatened by the terrorists or predicted by many of the sour pundits. The turnout was high and there have been no major organizational problems. Hey, maybe this democracy thing could catch on in the Middle East!

But don't think that all this is any kind of victory for George Bush. The press has already worked out how to spin this considerable achievement into a another chapter of his legacy of failure. Just as they amplified the actions of the violent minority of Iraqis and ignored the peaceful majority in the run-up to the election, now they will focus on the anti-American politicians and pretty much ignore all the others. They will create heroes out of those pandering to xenophobic instincts and attribute to them the 'true' voice of Iraqis. The 'growing insurgency' will be replaced by the 'growing backlash' against the United States.

But the failure to acknowledge the victory doesn't change the fact that some real progress has been made. And the fact that 'the insurgents' will have no more legitimacy even to the most anti-American end of the media is the best demonstration of this fact.

January 28, 2005

Stuff & Things XIV

  • I know the blog status bar on the right has said I'm 'occupied by real life', but actually I've been highly avoidant of real life. Mama and I have been sucked into the Buffyverse after having snapped up post-Christmas deals on DVDs. And I've divided the rest of my free time between Half-Life 2 and I am Charlotte Simmons. But the blogging will resume. Sometime.
  • Václav Havel -- who would really make a fine UN Secretary General -- has an op-ed piece in the Miami Herald on the eagerness of the Europeans to obey the anti-democratic whims of dictators. In this case, Cuba's:
    It is suicidal for the EU to draw on Europe's worst political traditions, the common denominator of which is the idea that evil must be appeased and that the best way to achieve peace is through indifference to the freedom of others.

    Just the opposite is true: Such policies expose an indifference to one's own freedom and pave the way for war. After all, Europe is uniting to defend its freedom and values, not to sacrifice them to the ideal of harmonious coexistence with dictators and thus risk gradual infiltration of its soul by the anti-democratic mind-set.

  • Blogging Axiom: warning of a decrease in posts actually increases the number of posts. The Smug Canadian demonstrates.
  • Authoritarian regimes with lots of free cash are dangerous. The Daily Standard looks at how Hugo Chavez is supporting terrorism and destabilization in South America.
  • Air Canada has the absolute worst e-commerce site I've ever seen. I tried for over an hour and a half to order tickets on it and it kept choking at different parts of the process. I wanted to reach throughthe computer screen to throttle someone. I finally went and called them on the phone, and was done in ten minutes -- five of them listening to an automated message by a woman with the world's most irritating voice tell me how wonderful their online reservation system was!
  • Roger L. Simon writes on the 'insurgency' in Iraq and suggests if this is the worst they can do -- if they're really going all-out right now to kill anything that moves -- they're not very powerful. I expect the violence on voting day to be much less than the defeatist media is predicting, and I really hope I'm right.
  • Speaking (writing?) of the Iraqi election, The new Friends of Democracy site is a great place to get news.
  • There's a blogger get-together tonight in Ottawa. I have been granted permission to leave the house and make a rare public appearance. But come early; I will only be signing autographs for the first fifteen minutes.

January 25, 2005

Martin has a brief brush with reality

This weekend the Washington Post treated us to an interesting insight into the meeting between Paul Martin and George Bush last month. An 'top Canadian official' relates this exchange between the two on the subject of missile defence:

"(Bush) leaned across the table and said: `I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, Why are we paying to defend Canada?' '' the official was quoted as saying.
And then, after Martin and his handlers went on about the polls, the NDP, and the dangers of negative editorials from the Toronto Star, Bush replied bluntly:
...Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?' "
The Washington Post story (and the story on the story in the National Post) both played up how undiplomatic Bush was to have actually questioned Martin on his position. Bush was 'a bully', according to them. But I think it's great that maybe every year or so, when one of these summits comes around, our Prime Minister gets to talk to someone that lives in the real world.

Bush was rough on Martin over his stand on missile defence. Well too bad, he deserves it. The government's position is a disgrace -- because it doesn't have one. Martin has had more than a year to come up with a policy and attempt to sell it to the Canadian people. But instead he's hedged and dithered and made contradictory statements. The best he's been able to come up with is a slogan: "We are against the weaponization of space." Slogans, posturings, and mission statements are all this government is capable of producing. He's called inquiries into anything that might require a leader's direction, held Oprah-like, 'I-feel-your-pain' ceremonies, and passed on the responsibilities of his office to bureaucrats. The only thing he's managed to take a strong stand on is this gay-marriage issue. That's probably because it's absolutely inconsequential.

Leadership means leading. Paul Martin is not a leader. He makes John Kerry look like Churchill.

January 22, 2005

Shall we dance?

I've gotta get that leering photo of Micro Bill off the top of my page! It's driving me batty! Here's a shot of Max and Samba doing the inter-species tango.

Only one animal was harmed in the shooting of this picture.

January 19, 2005

Bill Gates. Nerd stud.

This was apparently taken from a Teen Beat spread in 1983. He was quite the hottie. But since then he's broken my heart.

God is a libertarian?

P. J. O'Rourke pens an alternative Inaugeral Address by President Bush that makes an interesting theological observation. "Bush" is discussing the Ten Commandments...

And then there is the Tenth Commandment. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." The Ten Commandments are God's basic rules about how we should live--a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law. But then, right at the end, is "Don't envy your buddy's cow." How did that make the top ten? What's it doing there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose as one of those things jealousy about the starter mansion with in-ground pool next door?

Yet think how important the Tenth Commandment is to a community, to a nation, indeed to a presidential election. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't be a jerk and whine about what the people across the street have--go get your own.

The Tenth Commandment sends a message to all the jerks who want redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, more government programs, more government regulation, more government, less free enterprise, and less freedom. And the message is clear and concise: Go to hell.

(via Canadian Comment by way of Spin killer)

Martin gets his photo op

I've been looking for a story on Paul Martin's visit to Sri Lanka that takes the more cynical view. His personal, visible involvement in every aspect of Canada's aid to the tsunami victims is the most transparent posturing I've seen in a politician in a long time. But no, the Canadian press dutifully behaved just as Martin wanted them to, published the photos he wanted them to, and wrote the soft, squishy stories he wanted them to. There really is no mystery why so many Canadian journalists wind up with cushy government jobs later in their careers.

But today's Ottawa Sun has a story by documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, who works with the Canadian Military, that tells what really happened to get Paul his pictures. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but let me quote the relevant sections:

His people from Ottawa, including the RCMP, were pushing people out of the way, grabbing at cameras, and trampling over graves on the beach in order to photograph the PM.

An RCMP guy tried to interfere with my camera, but one of our soldiers intervened.

A couple of women from the PM's office were running around yelling at people.

It got out of hand. It was crazy.

The whole visit was a photo opportunity -- with cameras set-up for the PM in designated spots: Martin on the each looking into the sea, Martin amid the wreckage, Martin with a homeless kid, Martin taking a token drink of water produced by the DART water purifier.

He met with the Canadian commander, Lt. Col. Mike Voith and a small medical team, but didn't visit the camp of the 200 Canadian military people here for tsunami victims.

Martin's handlers wanted no one but their people taking photos. The padre was even shoved out of the way.

And then he was gone -- helicoptered out. Maybe 90 minutes in the area. Embarrassing. I'm in Sri Lanka with the DART men and women and, as Canadian soldiers always do, they're working miracles -- but the PM didn't have time to visit them.

Pritchard goes on to relate how the DART team has found plenty of useful work to keep them busy, despite being late for the immediate critical disaster relief.

It's frightening to think of, but the most important consideration on any government action is how it will play to the press, and to those special interests that influence the press. Not how much it will cost, whether it will work, what other consequences the action will have -- just what it will look like. What the spin will be. What it will say about what the government values are. It's how we've allowed an ineffective and massively inefficient gun registry to be established, and it's why we're unable to look at market-based solutions to our crumbling health-care system. And we've gotten so used to it in this country that seeing our Prime Minister cynically inserting himself into a devastating tragedy is somehow not seen as being crass.

UPDATE: Spin Killer finds Pritchard's complete article on the web.

January 18, 2005

Go suck a lemon

Talia and Max just love their fruits. Even lemons. Anytime I cook with lemons they have to have a slice to put in their mouths to suck on.

They like limes too.

Zesty Lemon Tuna Pasta

I sometimes imagine people think I feed these guys nothing but Alpha-getti.  But it's no more than three times a week.  Honest!Sauce: Sauté 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic in a generous splash of olive oil. Add a can of strained tuna, the juice of one lemon, either some chopped fresh basil, some dried basil or a couple tablespoons pesto (best), and a couple dashes Maggi seasoning (my no-longer secret ingredient). Optional: some frozen peas or some lightly boiled, sliced sun-dried tomatoes.

Mix with a pasta that holds sauce well, such as Fusilli or Rotini. Top with grated romano or feta cheese and some toasted pine nuts. CAUTION: Do not attempt to do this alone with two hungry toddlers underfoot or you will go crazy.

January 17, 2005

Stuff & Things XIII

  • This has been widely linked to, but if you haven't read it yet this condemnation of the media's role in Iraq by a soldier is well worth reading.
  • Chrenkoff provides another long post of the good news from Iraq that is mostly unreported.
  • The Washington Post has a good summary of the growing threat of populist socialism in Latin America and the rotten prospects the Bush administration has in dealing with it.
  • It looks like Sgro's accuser has a bit more of a shady past than he let on. Of course if he was prepared to bribe a government minister, nobody should expect him to be a saint...
  • I went ahead and bought Half-Life 2 anyway, despite the fact it makes me queasy. It may be quiet (well, more quiet) around here until I finish it.

January 14, 2005

News for nerds

There's a demo out for Half-life 2. (Only 750 Mbytes! Start downloading now!) For those of you who aren't nerds, this is Christmas's big blockbuster game for PCs. If you were to look for a comparison to it in the movie industry, it would be like a new Indiana Jones movie in its impact.

The demo consists of two parts. In the first, you get to play a powerless drone in a nightmarish alien-controlled totalitarian city. You wander around, get abused and humiliated by human collaborators, and listen to cheery propaganda in a dreary eastern European town. It's very atmospheric, but you don't get to kill anything.

The second part has you in a decrepit factory town trying not to get killed by zillions of zombies and head crabs (think of the face-huggers from the Aliens movies). It's extremely intense and creepy. And quite long -- it took me a few days to get through it.

The graphics are spectacular. These games are getting better and better at imitating reality. When a head crab flies through the air at you and you shoot it with your .45, it can fly backward, strike one wall and leave a green splat mark, bounce to another wall, stick, and slide down it trailing slime. (Not that you're going to see anything like that in reality.) I've got more of a low-end PC now, and it still looks great, which surprised me.

But I don't know if I'm going to buy the full game. I love playing it, but unfortunately it makes me nauseous. Fifteen or twenty minutes is all I can take before I've got that queasy feeling. This never happened when I was younger; I could play these games for hours. What a drag it is getting old.

Now we know what it takes...

...To get a Liberal Minister to resign. You have to offer asylum to an immigrant in order to get free pizza for your campaign -- then try to get the guy deported to bury the evidence!!!

Singh, who is facing deportation next Thursday pending a last-minute hearing, says in his affidavit that he approached Sgro last year to assist him with immigration problems he and his family were having.

"I told her my whole situation and she assured me that if I helped out in her election campaign she would get me immigration in Canada," says the father of three in his affidavit.

Singh, who came to Canada from India in 1988, helped Sgro as she asked, including pizza deliveries to her campaign office, he says in his affidavit.

"I own a pizza store in Brampton and Judy said that she wanted me to deliver pizza, garlic bread etc., to her campaign office in North York. I did this. She also said that she needed 15-16 people to help work in her campaign. I organized this for her as well."

It's been years and years since a cabinet member stepped down. I can't remember any of Chrétien's ministers doing the honourable thing when caught in a scandal. Instead the very effective delay, distract, and deny strategy was used, allowing Chrétien to make the laughable claim that he ran an honest government come election time. Sgro had been closely following this now perfected strategy up until now, but it only works up to a point -- and she has just soared past it.

True, Sgro's accuser could be lying. But personally, I'm more inclined to believe him than her:

"I have been here for 16 years and have no criminal record. My whole family is here and my wife's grave is here. I have worked hard in Canada. What am I going to do if I am sent back to India? I have no one there. My family, my business and all of my property is here in Canada."
There's a lot of angles to this story that will be investigated. There's corruption, betrayal, and ruthlessness -- I'm really eager to see where this will go! I'm almost disappointed that Sgro is stepping down. Seeing her try to twist, gyrate, and wiggle her way out of this would have been hilarious political theatre. But since (theoretically) government is not there just for our entertainment, it's perhaps all for the best. Maybe we'll get a replacement that will attempt to do the important job in the department of Immigration, and not just look to use the authority to get personal favours.

And if this story is true, I really hope Sgro gets charged for this. This is an incredible abuse of power. Shaking down potential immigrants for goodies is reprehensible. It's bribery, and it's extortion. She should be locked up.

UPDATE: There's more info about Singh here. Who to believe? Well, there's a handy rule of thumb I use to help judge trustworthiness in this type of situation: believe the person who isn't the Liberal cabinet minister...

January 12, 2005

Weee!

I've added a randomizer to the sidebar pic and the catch-phrase under the logo. Big excitement, right? Sometimes you feel like writing, and sometimes you feel like fiddling with nerdy stuff...

The slogans are a mixure of old lines from the blog, unattributed quotes from smarter people than myself, lines from songs, phrases from toddler culture, or quotes from the Big Lebowski. I'll add more when I get around to it. The photos are mostly from the history of the blog, but some are just thrown in for the hell of it. Okay, okay, I gotta get to bed...

January 11, 2005

More on the Liberal grieve-fest

Colby Cosh writes a column on the Liberals' public grief-posturing that is so cynical it could never be published. But he's right:

In truth, I can only feel proud that so many of my fellow Canadians stayed home. Until now our prime ministers had foregone acting as popes of the Church of Sacred Emotion. But on Saturday the dignitaries in attendance delivered a familiar Clintonian sermon on the theme of empathy as the greatest of all virtues. (How fortunate that it's also the very cheapest!) The Governor-General, always ready with a quote, told the empty seats that "the key to life" is to "try to feel in your heart's core the reality of others." The obvious corollary--and clearly McRae will go along with this--is that how you conduct yourself matters not at all. But if she could really "feel... the reality" of a hundred and fifty thousand dead in her "heart's core", she certainly wouldn't be up to standing at a podium, channelling Margaret Laurence like some fatuous cocktail-party guest.

Paul Martin dug even deeper. "South Asia's pain is our own," he said. Let me rephrase: he said it to the families of a bunch of people who had been drowned or smashed to death by a giant tidal wave. I mean, fancy that! Most of you may have thought you were encountering, at worst, a negligible sort of gloom at watching the casualty figures mount up. But according to Mr. Martin, you were actually suffering. Of course, he cannot mean it; it would be monstrous for him to claim a genuine share of South Asia's pain, for himself or for Canada, in complete earnest. The statement was intended only to reassure the listener of Paul Martin's cosmic-scale sensitivity and good intentions.

It is hard for me to see why those of us who have actual grieving to do must do it in public. The only interests it serves are those of the people who aren't really grieving at all, but who wish to give the appearance of grieving--who wish to rudely annex the shared aura of the suffering for their own purposes. What might those purposes be in the case of those denizens of Ottawa who did show up? Since I feel able to confess not having had my life seriously interrupted by the tsunami, it falls to me to meet rudeness with rudeness, and point out that South Asians are amongst the Liberals' favourite client groups, and that they carry political weight in this country well out of proportion to their numbers.

UPDATE: Cosh wrote this piece based on a really dumb Earl McRae column in the Ottawa Sun. Today the Sun readers let him have it:

Kathy Kashuba. "Maybe it says people don't want to listen to PM Dithers natter on. Or listen to extravagant GG yatter on. PM Dithers can go to hell."

Grayme in Sudbury. "The seats were empty because a national day of mourning is an empty political gesture. Did you see Paul Martin's January 3rd visit to a Markham school to posture and prostrate himself? A more pathetic and misguided performance I have never seen."

Bruce Mills, Dundas, Ont. "The Canadian public seems to have grasped the difference between genuine compassion and a grandstanding, self-aggrandizing photo op. Canadians are fed up with the Liberals telling them what to do."

Stephen Morford. "Canadians have shown their caring and generosity ... they apparently don't feel the need to publicly wallow in fake pity at a political photo op session."

And there's many more. It makes me feel warm inside...

Christmas regrets

I would have traded my gifts from the second, third, fifth, sixth, and ninth days of Christmas for this extremely cool and impractical gift. Even if I had really received them..

January 10, 2005

Keeping up appearances

I haven't written anything yet about the tsunami in Asia. Probably the reason is that is that I'm pretty poor at adopting the correct tone to appear suitably mournful about what happened. I care, of course, and my wife and I have donated money, but I'm emotionally unaffected by the carnage; mainly because I'm innoculated to the horror by the smaller but longer lasting tragedies that go on all over the world all the time. Publicly rending my garments would do nothing to help anyone, and would be hypocritical for me.

Apparently, many Canadians feel the same way. The grand public mourning event, organized by Heritage Canada for Ottawa, had only 400 people show up, when 15,000 were expected. It was stuffed full of profound sentiments and meaningful symbolism and culminated in a one minute, cross-country moment of silence -- which I'm pretty sure was not widely noted.

It's events like this that prove to me that the government's response to the disaster has been nothing but an exercise in media relations. This, and vignettes like Pierre Pettigrew's posturing in Thailand (captured by Jaeger at Trudeaupia):

He flies to an island in Thailand for a photo op with Canadian forensic workers helping out identifying bodies and regurgitates the usual platitudes.

Reporter asks: What other aid is being delivered by Canada in Thailand?

Pettigrew: I don't know.

Glad you flew to the other side of the world for the photo op, Pierre.

Soon Paul Martin will be at the disaster sites. He's probably in front of a mirror right now working on a look that perfectly mixes, shock, sadness, and grim resolve for the inevitable photo on the front of the Globe and Mail.

The response of the government to the crisis in Asia has demonstrated the Liberals' distain for anything except their poll numbers. It's now known that Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team was delayed for two days while polticians debated the types of issues they're most concerned with: optics and money. And when the team finally got there, much of the critical work -- clean water, medical care -- had already been taken care of (story from Jan. 6):

Sunil Dissanayake, chairman of the district branch of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, said the people of Ampara are beginning to get back on their feet, despite 12,000 deaths in the region and hundreds of thousands left homeless by the tsunami.

"It takes years to bring it back to normal, but there's no emergency here now," Mr. Dissanayake said. "Certainly, it's good to get international support ... we have already gotten a lot of support from international organizations."

He smiled politely when told the Canadian team would be arriving sometime next week and bringing with them a field hospital, water purification plant and a platoon of military engineers.

"Certainly, if we had gotten this support immediately after the incident, of course, it would have been more useful. A lot of agencies are now working in the area giving a lot of similar support."

The Finnish Red Cross set up two mobile aid stations yesterday, each capable of treating up to 2,000 patients a day, while the German Red Cross has brought a water purification plant.

"The Canadians perhaps can help us a lot in cleaning the area, and making the environment to resettle people," Mr. Dissanayake said. "Or cleaning wells."

But there's one role in disaster relief that the Liberals have the experience to do well: handing out other people's money. Liberal Cabinet Ministers been highly visible in local communities of people from the affected countries talking up how much cash they're dishing out. I'd be a little more impressed if it all didn't remind me of another dropping-money-from-a-helicopter election campaign. But for most Canadians it seems to be what they want: 79% approve of the Liberals' all surface, no substance approach to disaster relief. We get the government we deserve.

Perhaps I sound a little cynical in this post. But I'm not as cynical as the government that came up with 'synchronized grieving' to replace real action and leadership.

UPDATE: Here's another story of how the DART was just too late to be of any use in Sri Lanka:

DART's main mission was to bring clean water to Ampara, and set up a field hospital. However, CTV's Lisa LaFlamme, reporting from Ampara, said there is still a lot of aid getting in, mainly from the Indian army.

"That is probably one of the biggest shocks to us just having arrived here, that there is no obvious need. (It is) oversupplied and there is plenty of clean water," LaFlamme told CTV's Canada AM.

She said some aid workers are already packing up to leave the region because it's actually oversupplied. "There are so many aid workers here that they are actually trying to rush to the next spot."

I feel sorry for the DART workers that had to sit on their hands while the Liberals checked out the angles. Now all they have to do is set up for Paul's big photo op. (via Nealenews)

January 08, 2005

What do we have regulatory bodies for?

The ongoing ban of Canadian beef in the United States has been a major political issue in Canada for some time, with our government claiming they're working diligently to solve the problem. You might expect that that would include using the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce the 1997 ban on using rendering ruminants in cattle feed. It's using these ruminants that causes mad cow disease, and though I personally don't think it's a big worry -- you're much more likely to get killed by E. coli from eating beef than getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- many other nations (particularly the Japanese) are terrified of it. And those that aren't terrified of it find it a useful excuse to set up trade restrictions.

So you might think the CFIA has been on the case, but you'd be wrong. This Wednesday, Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.), and Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), wrote an open letter to Bush's Agriculture Secretary nominee, Michael Johanns, with some interesting news:

In that letter, Conrad and Waxman said they have learned that in the past 15 months, 17 Canadian companies have been blocked from importing products into the United States because the Food and Drug Administration found muscle tissue, animal hair, blood and bones in livestock feed. The prohibited items, considered to be protein products that might carry mad cow disease to other bovines, have been banned in Canada since August 1997.

Eight of the 17 companies remain on import alert status, according to FDA, with three of them failing to prevent contamination of cattle feed. They include Agricore United; Cereales D.L. Ltd.; Dawn Food Products; Landmark Feeds Inc.; Louis Dreyfus Canada Ltd.; Masterfeeds; Ritchie Smith Feeds Inc.; and Unifeed.

There's been a lot of noise in the past few days about a new case of mad cow disease that's been found near Edmonton, but I think the news that Canadian feed companies have been ignoring the rules that were intended to prevent mad cow disease is the bigger story. So where is the CFIA? Well they turned up Thursday and basically said that the Congressmen were right, and they've known for some time:
WINNIPEG (Dow Jones)--Federal tests have discovered that four brands of Canadian cattle feed likely included cattle or other ruminant parts in violation of a ban on animal remains designed to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease, Canada's National Post newspaper reported Friday.

Sergio Tolusso of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in the article that the feed and feed ingredients were sold as being free of animal matter, but microscopic examinations detected animal material in 66 of 110 samples tested between January and March 2004.

Subsequent inspections of feed mills led officials to conclude "there were some cases where it was more likely than others that it could be ruminant protein," said Tolusso, the agency's feed program coordinator.

"We are looking at four cases where we thought it (feed) could be material of ruminant origin," he said.

The story doesn't answer the obvious question: whether there has been any action to shut down these cattle feed companies that are breaking the rules. Instead, the representative of the Canadian government made excuses for the violators:
Tolusso insisted there was little risk that the ruminant remains in the four tainted feeds were infected with BSE because the incidence of the disease in Canadian cattle is low.

Even if the feed did include BSE-infected material, he added, the cattle that might have eaten it "are not all 100% susceptible to disease for 100% of their lives.

"The chances of the disease being transmitted through the system with all these buffers in place are really small," he said, noting the government last year placed limits on the sale of beef brains, intestines, spinal cords, eyes and nervous tissues. Those so-called specified risk materials are the most susceptible to BSE infection.

I'm not so sure the Japanese or lawmakers in the US eager to maintain the beef ban will be quite as understanding as Mr. Tolusso. While he's probably right in his assessment of risk, the issue of mad cow is not governed by reason. Canadian companies broke the rules, and the CFIA knew about it and kept quiet about it until their infractions were discovered in the United States. This is serious.

And even now, when the news is public and the CFIA should be in crisis-mode, the attitude seems to be little more than a shrug:

Tolusso in the article said the four mills pinpointed by the study "responded with voluntary measures to improve the situation" after being visited by inspectors. No feed was recalled because the protein material was not positively identified as bovine.
This is going to kill the chance of getting Canadian beef accepted again into the United States. No matter what kind of 'good relationship' Paul Martin manages to build with George Bush, it won't be enough to counter the ammunition we've handed the protectionists in the US Congress.

January 06, 2005

Karma

Bill Gates shows off what his operating system is really like at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Welcome to my world, Bill.

(via Wizbang)

January 05, 2005

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Why? There's no kids here right now. I would like to thank the taxpayers of Quebec for subsidizing the friendly, 'organic', and 'natural' day-care that has agreed to look after Max and Talia for two days every week. (And since the rest of Canada subsidizes Quebec, I guess I should thank all Canadian taxpayers. Thanks. I really appreciate it.) It costs me 15 Canadian pesos a day (each) to warehouse the kids there each day. Normally, the standard subsidized price is C$7 in Quebec, but apparently it's legal to tack on some extra fees for extra services -- in this case, organic food (groan...) and 'educational activities'. Whatever. I'm not complaining; the few remaining wisps of my sanity are worth the price.

Now that I have no little people grabbing my legs or fighting about toys in my presence, I have some time to describe what they're like these days. Flipping a new picture up every now and then is nice, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

They're pretty funny little people. They're developing real imaginations and putting things together in their heads -- though not always accurately. Here's a picture from a game they made up recently:

They take all the chairs in the dining room and line them up to make: a train! Then they climb aboard and make their train noises. Woo-woo! Ch-ch-ch-ch! They work together to do this and receive no encouragement from any adult. They also climb under their high chairs and pretend they're in a car. (Beep beep! Brrrooomm!) When I ask them where they're going, it's always, "Oma". They have other games that we can't figure out, like the Dup Dup game. In this game they follow each other around with a funny walk (for example, Talia slowly nodding her head while taking big steps as Max does a quick-paced, high-stepping jog) saying, "Dup-dup! Dup-dup!"

Their mobility is incredible. They can push a chair into the kitchen, climb up it, and be fiddling with the dangerous items on the counter in no time. Max has deciphered the mystery of the door knob (Talia could have too -- if she could reach them) and is always looking for new places to get into.

They talk a lot to each other. When they wake up in the morning, they don't cry like they used to but instead have a chat with each other. It's not loud enough for me to understand them, but there's lots of giggling. Max doesn't talk as much as Talia, and is not quite making sentences yet. But Talia has quite the vocabulary and is quite a chatterbox. Max has just begun to say his own name, which is odd, because Talia's name was one of her first words. Talia still calls Max 'Taxi' and can't be convinced otherwise. We were looking at a picture book yesterday and pointed at a car and called it a 'Taxi'. She pointed at it and said, "Taxi's car" and looked at Max. I said no, this is a taxi and this is Max. She looked at me like I was stupid, and pointed at Max and said, "dat's Taxi!"

I could write for a few hours on all the funny things they do now, but I have to run out and pick them up. I'll leave with a couple of photos of Max being a good boy and eating his vegetables.

January 03, 2005

Despair is the agenda

Here's how the Globe and Mail summed up events in Iraq yesterday:

Insurgents exposed the vulnerability of Iraq's security forces again yesterday, killing 18 National Guardsmen, five police officers and several civilians in separate attacks with the election of a national assembly just weeks away. Prominent Shia leaders called for unity with Sunnis wanting to delay the vote, but insisted it be held despite the violence.

Also, the U.S. military sent new forces to counter the threat in Mosul, centre of a worrying rise in car bombings and raids in recent weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated past warnings of more violence ahead of the Jan. 30 election, and the guerrillas have made good on those fears with tragic ease. Iraq's poorly equipped security forces usually have far less training than U.S. troops, and attacks on them usually result in far more casualties.

But something else happened yesterday, that involved 'Iraq's poorly equipped security forces':
1. At 1 am Iraqi National Guard (ING), the Mahmudih division, arrested 217 individuals suspected of being terrorists and confiscated a large cache of light and heavy caliber weapons and ammunition.

2. At 2 am the same ING division arrested Hatem Alzobaae, a suspected terrorist cell leader.

3. At 2:30 am ING in Hillah arrested the terrorist Ali Mehsan Ghnajar. In his possession were 19 grenades, three 28mm mortars.

4. At 4 am, based on a tip that he had returned from Syria, the criminal Ali Latief was arrested by the ING. Four men who are part of his cell were also arrested.

5. At 4 am 10 terrorists were arrested after returning from Mosul by the ING Mahmudiah division.

6. At 4 am ING raided the Hai Alaskari area based on a tip. As a result of the raid the ING arrested 10 terrorists one of which resisted and was wounded and arrested.

7. At 4 am terrorists attacked the Hadbaa police station and were repelled with 2 terrorists killed and their weapons confiscated.

8. At 5 am ING started a security clean sweep of Bab Shams. They confiscated a large number of hand grenades and mortar weapons and rounds.

There's a bit of good news at the end of the Globe report -- that Shia leaders are publicly reaching out to Sunnis and urging restraint and tolerance -- but news that progress against the 'insurgents' is being made by the Iraqi forces is never mentioned. It doesn't fit the narrative. Instead, an opinion piece elsewhere in the paper makes this claim:
It makes perfect sense to build up the Iraqi police and other security forces to repress crime, but these groups have conspicuously failed to be of any help in dealing with the Sunni insurgents who keep attacking U.S. forces, or with the Mahdi militiamen of the Shia rabble rouser Muqtada al-Sadr. At best, the police remain neutral when any Iraqis attack foreign troops. At worst, they join in the attacks, or give their uniforms and vehicles to the attackers, sometimes allowing them to surprise coalition troops with deadly results. Iraqi police have even failed to pursue with any real energy the insurgents who have targeted the Iraqi police themselves. Such behaviour is inevitable because Iraqi policemen and their families live among the population at large, at the mercy of the very insurgents and militiamen they are supposed to control.
Calling those who risk their lives to wear their new nation's uniform cowards and traitors is pretty vile, but that's what passes as sophisticated commentary in these crazy times. Arthur Chrenkoff has this summary of the works of the 'neutral' Iraqi Forces:
In recent security successes: "Iraqi Security Forces defeated two separate attacks in Mosul by anti-Iraqi insurgents as they attempted to ambush an Iraqi National Guard patrol and seize a police station in northern Iraq"; the capture of remote-controlled rockets smuggled in from outside Iraq for use against election infrastructure; the capture of two senior al Qaeda operatives active in Iraq; seizure of another significant arms cache near Ar Rutbath; and the defeat by Iraqi security forces of an attack on a police station in Mosul ("This is the sixth time since Nov. 10 where insurgents have tried but failed to overrun police stations"). In addition, 353 foreign terrorists are currently in custody in Iraq. This total includes "61 Egyptians, 59 Saudis, 56 Syrians, 40 Jordanians, 35 Sudanese, 22 Iranians, 10 Tunisians, 10 Yemenis, eight Palestinians and five Lebanese, among others."
I don't believe that everything is peaches and cream in Iraq, but the notion rooted firmly in the public's conciousness that the situation is hopeless is certainly not correct either. Though the terrorists began the post-war period with many advantages -- hidden weapon stores, money, support networks and a command structure -- these are being systematically dismantled and destroyed. Each attack they make weakens them, and each day those they oppose grow stronger. They can't win, yet the press continues to root for them. They trumpet their successful atrocities, and bury or ignore their many failures. Someday, when Iraq is a thriving, free nation, I hope they have the awareness to feel ashamed of themselves for what they did.

January 02, 2005

Prediction for 2005

A new year is the ideal time to look to the future. I foresee the return of the great tradition of string art to it's rightful dominant position in the visual arts.

January 01, 2005

And the winner is...

I've been in an extremely unbloggy mood for the past few days, and it may continue for a little while longer. I've been keeping off the net and trying to get some things organized around the house. I've also got a bit of the post-Christmas blahs. But it's January 1st, and the Most Annoying Canadian competition is over; I must interrupt my break to make this announcement:

The winner is:

Antonia Zerbisias!

(clapclapclapclapclapclap...)

Unfortunately, this win is somewhat tainted. I'm pretty sure it's the result of someone stuffing the ballot box somehow. I've been monitoring the counts, and votes for her came in large batches all at once. My referer page didn't indicate any bulletin boards where some campaigning was going on, so I can only assume all those votes came from one person. Who? I dunno. Believing a columnist for the Toronto Star (which no one is forced to read) to be the most annoying person in this country is pretty odd. Maybe it's her husband.

I'll have to give Jimmy Carter a call next time to make sure this thing doesn't happen again.

Anyway, I did say anything goes in this competition, so the result still stands. But I don't think I will be able to convince anyone that Antonia Zerbisias is really the Most Annoying Canadian, so I'm a little disappointed. And I'm not sending her a trophy.

Better luck next year, Sheila. Keep those self-congratulating columns in the Post coming and I'm sure you've got a great chance at taking the big prize.